Are you making progress?

January 31, 2018

In a recent post to his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – Jack used this interesting quote – Pablo Casals“Cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90.  ‘Because I think I am making progress,’ he replied.”  (Seattle Opera post). Jack went on to write about his grandmother who was still reading her Bible at age 92, even though she needed a magnifying glass to do so. She was still learning about God and Jesus and making progress in her relationship with God.

Life is a journey of discovery during which we accumulate knowledge (which one hopes eventually turns into wisdom) and we form relationships. In almost all fields of knowledge, we eventually reach the end of human understanding of that topic and conclude that only God knows the rest of the story. It is at those intersections that we begin to hunger for more knowledge about this God, who apparently is the source of all things. We desire a relationship with Him and look for some guidance on how to meet gods-hands-2Him and form that relationship. That guidance is contained in the Bible. Fortunately, for us, the Bible tells us that we have also been given a guide. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

One of the great dichotomies of life’s journey rages between the concepts of faith on the one hand and our own ego on the other. Faith demands that we let go of the quest for understanding and just believe; yet, our egos pull us in the direction of continuing to try to understand everything. We are driven by our egos to try to dissect things down into smaller and more elemental pieces that we can “wrap our brains around.”  Faith says, “Let it go and just believe” while our ego says, “there must be a way for me to understand this.”

At the root of that problem is our human tendency to see things and try to understand them only within the context of the physical world that we already understand. We god-micelangelo-sistenechapel-creative-commonsexpress this ego-restricted view of the world in our religious art, which always depicts God in our own image. We have a hard time conceiving of something that we cannot depict in a material way.

The leap of faith from relating to the things we can see and touch to accepting a God that we can neither see nor touch is the last chasm that separates us from Him. Jesus came to earth to provide a bridge so that we can make that we can jump that chasm in our “leap leap of faithof faith”. Jesus beacons us to jump and trust that He will catch us and take us the rest of the way.

So, why keep reading the Bible after years of doing so? Why keep going to church every week, after years of doing so? Why keep praying to a God that we cannot see or touch, after years of doing so? Why do we continue this never-ending journey to meet our God? Maybe it is that little bit of faith that we have already achieved that is providing us the hope that Pablo Casals expressed, “Because I think I am making woman-prayingprogress.” It is a journey that I realize that I will not finish on this earth; but, I hope that I get enough done here to be able to continue the journey in Heaven.

Are you making progress, too?

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Nature or nurture; which will rule your life?

January 29, 2018

Jack Freed had a post in his Jack’s Winning Words blog recently, which featured the quote – “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  (John Bradford)

Jack went on to write about what separates those who commit heinous crimes, such as we have recently witnessed on many fronts; from those who restrain themselves and don’t do the wrong things. In his post, Jack posed the question of whether it is nature or nurture.

I’ve always been fascinated by the surprise and consternation expressed when someone in what we think of as a “trusted” position, such as a policeman or doctor or leader policeman(business or political) violates that trust to their own advantage. It’s as if we somehow suspend disbelief in human nature for those people until they prove that they don’t deserve our trust. That is probably a cynical view of the world, since it presupposes that those whom we trust don’t, in fact, deserve that trust.

A less cynical view of the world, which places unreserved trust in those in positions of power and authority, which might be called naïve; but, it is a more pleasant place to live in than the world of the cynic. In that world, everyone is assumed to have had the nurturing and teaching of the difference between right and wrong and to have embraced right over wrong in their lives. For Christians, that nurturing and teaching is based upon the lessons of Jesus in the Bible.

Perhaps it is modern society’s lack of embrace of religion that is at the root of many of the heinous acts that we see happening in the world today. Children who spend Sunday mornings playing sports, instead of attending Sunday School, are not exposed to the teachings of the Bible that might ground them properly in an understanding of right and female soccer playerwrong. Instead of the nurture of faith they are exposed to the nature of competition and, in some cases, a winner takes all attitude about sports and life. In too many cases, they are exposed to adults in coaching positions of authority who demonstrate to them some of the worst human traits of anger and selfishness. All too many of those youth coaches teach a win-at-all-costs outlook on life.

Is it any wonder, then, that we hear so many stories of college and professional athletes being caught up in bad behavior. They were on the athletic field on Sunday morning and not in church or Sunday School. They did not get the nurture of a religion-based understanding of right and wrong; they only get the human nature lesson of win or lose from their coaches and in some cases, a sense of entitlement grew out of their athletic successes.

Certainly, not all coaches are too obsessed with winning to try to teach their young charges some values for life. There are valuable life lessons that can come out of competing in sports and most good coaches will tell you that. However, most of thoseWWJD lessons need to be positioned within a moral context that might be lacking because of a lack of any religious nurturing. Few coaches have the time or take the time to worry about that aspect of their athletes lives.

What will rule your life and the lives of your children – nurture or nature? Every sports parent thinks that they are doing the right thing to support their child in youth athletics. But, is it more important for your child (who is statically unlikely to grow up to be a professional athlete) to be out on the athletic field on Sunday morning or in church and Sunday School; where he/she might receive the nurturing exposure to religion and the concepts of right and wrong? They look to you for that leadership. What will you choose for them?

Nature or nurture, which will rule your life and theirs?


Be a beautiful human being today…

January 26, 2018

“True beauty is about who you are as a human being, your principles, your moral compass.”  (Ellen DeGeneres) – as seen in a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

You may have heard someone described as being a beautiful person and you could tell from the context that it had nothing to do with his or her physical appearance. Beauty is a perception and the way that people act towards each other may be perceived as eitherhandshake being ugly or beautiful. Which impression will you leave with the people that you encounter today?

Looking at Ellen’s quote in inverse order; if one has a strong moral compass based in faith in God and a good set of principles that build off that moral base, then it should not be all that hard to be perceived as a beautiful human being because of how you treat others.

One of the most basic principles that our faith teaches us it to treat others, as we would want to be treated. Very few of us probably sees someone else and thinks, “I hope that they snub me, because I’m going to ignore them.” Recognizing and acknowledging others is one of the most basic tenants of our social structure. We all want to be recognized and, hopefully, we enjoy recognizing others. There is a beauty and a joy in the exchange of recognition when you meet someone that you know.  There is also anticipation of futurecompliment joy when meeting someone new.

I’ve written here in the past that one of the key things that governs how you view the world and other is becoming comfortable with yourself. Love who and what you are first and then you can love others. In Jack’s post he went on to quote further from Ellen DeGeneres – “You’re unique.  You’re not supposed to be like everyone else.  Promise to be kind to people, to brush your teeth every day and to floss.”  I’m sure the last two pieces of advice were just Ellen’s way of being funny. The first part of that quote is really about getting comfortable with yourself and the fact that you are unique. It is that uniqueness that makes meeting you interesting. It gives you something to share. It is the beauty thing that is within you.

woman-prayingSo be a beautiful human being today. Greet and interact with others. Share the experiences and outlook on life that make you unique and beautiful. You don’t need to look in the mirror before you go out into the world; just check your moral compass with a little prayer and ask God to give you the courage to let your unique  beauty shine through to others.

Now that’s a beautiful thing.


No worries, no regrets…

January 22, 2018

The little phrase “No worries, mate” became popular when the Crocodile Dundee movies came out and it is still widely use, albeit without the “mate” part. In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack reports on an article that he read – An article in Psychology Today asks, What is the worst emotion you can imagine?  Sadness, or maybe, fear, anger, frustration?  The P.T. writer claims that it’s, regret.  How often have you said, “If only..?”

How sad it would be to go through life constantly saying “If only I had…” If only I’d triedturtle that. If only I had said something. If only I had introduced myself. If only…

 

 

Resolve today to overcome your fears of trying or doing and get more out of life. Life is meant to be experienced, not just thought or worried about. The time that you spend worrying about possible bad outcomes could have been spent enjoying a new friendship or having fun doing something that you’ve never done before.

How much fuller your life would be if you occasionally had to say, “Well that didn’t work out like I hoped, but at least I tried and I learned something from having tried”; rather than constantly regretting that you didn’t even try and wonder how it might have turned out.

handshakeSo summon up the courage to try this week. Finally say hello to that person that you cross paths with every day and have always wanted to meet. Try somewhere new for lunch, maybe that little place that you have always wondered about trying. Take advantage of that free trial offer at the gym to see how working out might be for you. Accept that invitation that you’ve always turned down to join in an activity at your church or in your community. The key is doing it and not just thinking about it.

We use the phrase “I’m in a rut” to describe our lives sometimes and sometimes that rut can get so deep that it’s hard to get out of, hard to try new things. Break out of your rut this week and see if your life doesn’t become a little more interesting and enjoyable. You’ll never know if you don’t try and then you’ll just regret not having tried. At least if you try you’ll have some new memories to think about and learn from. You won’t regret having tried.

Take the chance and try this week.


Look within for verification and satisfaction…

January 17, 2018

 

This little quote from a Jack’s Winning Words blog from not too long ago, started me thinking about how much better the world would be if we took a hint from the Special Olympics and rewarded everyone who tries their best, even if they don’t “win”.

“If you try the best you can, the best you can is good enough.”  (Radiohead)

We have obsessed as a society on the concept of winning and being a winner. In the process, we created the secondary concept of losing and losers. We created a zero-sum game view of the world, in which it is as important to be able to identify those who lost, as it is to give accolades to those who won. We walk around taunting those who did not win by making the letter “L” on our foreheads with our hands. It is sad that we do not pecial olympics 2take the time to also recognize the effort that the people who did not win put into whatever it is. In the Special Olympics games, every contestant is rewarded with a medal for for trying their best, even if they did not come in first.

Perhaps that also begs the question of why so many, so-called winners seem to require the adulation that comes from being first in order to have some satisfaction and for verification of their efforts. I’ve noticed that those who are more secure and one might say more mature, seem able to find satisfaction and verification within themselves. They are the ones who when interviewed after the race are happy that they may have achieved a personal best. They tried their best and that is good enough for them.

Life doesn’t always work that way, especially in the business world, where trying your best often isn’t good enough to get that promotion or raise. I guess I see that as a management problem. If you have employees trying their best every day and management doesn’t see that as good enough, perhaps they have the employees in the wrong jobs or they’ve hired employees with the wrong skills for the job. Of course that would require that they admit that try their best, they weren’t good enough in their hiring practices and management hates to admit that.

Getting back to the more personal level; you know if you’ve tried your best; and, if you have, that should be something that you find a sense of satisfaction from. If not, then admitting it to yourself should at least provide motivation for a better effort the next time. You really don’t need someone else’s opinion of your effort. After all, how would they know if you had tried your best or not. Perhaps the only other who is in a position to know whether you have tried your best or not is God; if not, you may hear God voice in your own conscious, which is His way of motivating you to always be your best and to give your best effort in life. In the end, God will decide if you tried your best. If you gave life your best effort, that is good enough for God.

Try the best that you can today. God is watching and that will be good enough for Him.


A life well lived? Defining success…

January 16, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this bit of life advice –

“Have faith, hope, and charity; that’s the way to live successfully.”  (Dale Evans)  Jack went on to write  – Dale and her husband (Roy Rogers) were both very religious people.  Her quote is from a song she wrote, called, “The Bible Told Me So,” based on 1 Corinthians 13:13.

man reaching for starTo me, the most interesting word in that little saying is the word “successfully”. That begs the question of who is measuring the success of one’s life and by what standards? Too many people measure themselves and their achievement of success in their lives by what they think others will think of them or how they think others measure success. For those people, success equates to the accumulation of what they see as the three “P’s” of success – possessions, power and position.

Many things in our social environment seem to point to fame and fortune as the keys to success and thus to happiness. Yet there are also many indications that tell us, in the tragic, drug-related deaths of thosedepression3 who we admire and believe have achieved those things; that just achieving fame and fortune may not be the answer to happiness in life. How often we hear their stories of loneliness and insecurities after their deaths. All too often, we find out that they suffered from depression and turned to drugs as a refuge from a life of fear and torment. They seemed to have had it all; but, did they really live a successful life?

Then we can recall the story of Mother Teresa in India or closer to home of Father Solanus CaseySolanus Casey , the Capuchin Franciscan from the Detroit area who was recently elevated to the level of Blessed by the Catholic Church. They certainly didn’t accumulate great possessions, nor were they in positions of power or great prominence; yet who would say that they did not live successful lives. By what standards were their lives judged? I would submit it is by the standards that Dale Evans was espousing.

In the final analysis, the only two judges that matter in evaluating the way you lived your life are you and God; and God has the final vote. As one analyses their life, which makes one the more successful – self-esteem and arrogance or Faith in God; a sense of entitlement or hope for the future; giving a small portion of one’s great wealth (and asking for a receipt for tax purposes) or giving all that you can and wishing you could give more? I would submit that the person who does the latter in those cases is living the more successful life.

As you start a new year, resolve to live life according to the measure of success that DalePinterest Wayne Dyer graphic Evans recommends and not by that old Malcolm Forbes hack, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Inspirational writer and speaker, Wayne Dyer, put it nicely in this quote that I saw on Pinterest.

At the end of the day, will you be able to look back in satisfaction on a life well lived through faith, hope and charity or will you still be dissatisfied that you haven’t quite accumulated all of the possessions and power and position that you believe will make you happy?

How happy or sad I will be for you.

 


History lived through has more meaning…

January 15, 2018

I started thinking this morning that Martin Luther King Day for me and others that lived through the events that are being honored today somehow has more meaning than it MLK image over DOwntown MIlforddoes for those who have just read about it or watched old new footage of the events leading up to his death. Thus who were alive in those days remember the context of the events that we now memorialize. We remember the nightly news casts showing black protest marchers being attacked by police dogs and being dragged away by police officers.  We remember the speeches and the great gathering on the Washington Mall. The memory of Martin Luther King being shot  at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968,  also provokes memories of where we were and what we were doing five years earlier on the day that President Kennedy was shot, Friday, November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, Texas. It also will be forever linked in our minds to the fatal shooting of Bobby Kennedy just two months later. Those were tumultuous times.

I’m not trying to say that those who weren’t there can’t have an appreciation of the events, the people involved and the consequences that followed; just that they will forever see it from a different perspective from those who lived through those times. It is less abstract and more personally meaningful, if one can recall how it affected us at the time.

History is also full of great breakthroughs and inventions that can leave one wondering how we ever got by before those things were available to us. Some diseases that were a fact of life back then are almost unheard of today and medical science has advanced so much that survival of what were life ending events is now possible. Even as we take these things for granted today, it is possible to look back and wonder about “the good old days.” How did we make it through those days?

Our nest big parade of the year in Milford is the Memorial Day parade in May. I have watched from my spot in the Viet Nam Veterans group of marchers as the ranks of WWII and the Korean War thinned over time. I have few, if any, personal memories of those days, although I was born during WWII. I do recall Harry Thurman and Dwight Eisenhower as the first two Presidents, of whom I was aware. I remember the glow of the short-lived Camelot Presidency of Kennedy and the turmoil of the Viet Nam War years. Those years provided the backdrop for the emergence of the civil rights movement and the leadership role that Dr. King played in that movement. They led up to my own time serving in Viet Nam at the turn of that decade.

So, Martin Luther King Day for me brings back a torrent of memories and images and emotions from my past. The day does not pass quietly by, unnoticed. It is not something abstract to me; it is something that I lived through and that has more meaning. I will go MLK Day parade in Mlfordto the MLK Day parade in Milford later today. It will be cold, as it always is this time of year. As I march, I will be reliving the memories of not just a day; but, of an era in our history at once brilliant in the ideals that it sparked and sad in the aftermath of the attempts to douse those hopes and dreams. Yes MLK’s dream is alive, but so too are the dreams of JFK and RFK and the many others of that era who envisioned a brighter future in America for all of its citizens.

Maybe I’ll see you there.