See the opportunities…

February 25, 2020

Today, Pastor Freed used this quote in his Jack’s Winning Words blog – “If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities.  If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.”  (Wayne Dyer)

There are lots of “don’t worry, be happy” sayings out there that don’t address the reality that there is a problem, an issue or a setback. Life is not such that we can just ignore what happens to us and be happy; however, we can control how we react to issues or setbacks. It becomes an issue of either believing that the situation has the best of you or that you’ll get the best of the situation – I got this vs. this has got me.  

Being able to see the opportunities in the face of adversity is not just about your own self-confidence; it is also about believing in something much higher than that. In the Bible we see this –

1 Corinthians 10:13 –

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Note: The Greek for temptation and tempted can also mean testing and tested.

Therefore, the opportunities that you see is God providing the way out, so you can endure it. Perhaps, when things are at their darkest, you need to ask God for a little help to see the opportunities – the way out.  It is not being able to see a way out that leads people into depression and some into suicide. If you believe in God, you will believe that things will work out and you will start looking for and seeing the opportunities.

Even if you are not in the midst of a crisis, it is a good idea to start each day with a little prayer asking God to stay with you and show you the opportunities, rather than the obstacles, throughout your day. I think you will find that your day goes a whole lot better if you spend it looking for the opportunities that God is providing you to deal with whatever you encounter.

Don’t worry, it will all work out. God is with you. You got this.

Blissfully ignorant or willfully tolerant?

February 20, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “I have a feeling that I’ve seen everything, but failed to notice the elephants.”  (Anton Chekhov)

The phrase “elephant in the room” is oft used to refer to something or someone that should be too big to be ignored. It may be an unspoken prejudice that causes someone or everyone discomfort. It might be the presence of someone unexpected or unappreciated or perhaps who stands out from the rest of the crowd. Perhaps it is the introduction of a controversial conversation topic into the room. Whatever it is, there is a difference between failing to notice the elephant and ignoring the elephant.

One may be forgiven for being so blissfully ignorant of the situation that they fail to see the elephant in the room; however, tolerance of the elephants of hate or prejudice or fear of those who might be different is a willful act that cannot be forgiven. If one wallows in the mud bath with those elephants, they too get muddy.

The thing is that if you recognize those elephants in the room that you just entered, you are no longer blissfully ignorant and have to make a choice on how you react. Silence in the face of those elephants is usually seen as acceptance or willful tolerance of the behavior and the elephant splashes mud on you. At a minimum, distancing yourself from that situation or those people at least removes the threat that you could be association with their behavior or opinions; however, that is a very passive way of protesting or showing your true feelings.

There is another common saying that actually speaks to the same subject; it is when you say that you are “treading on egg shells.”  What that saying refers to is someone who recognizes that the elephant is there but who wants to avoid discussing it or dealing with it. Perhaps it is avoiding talking with someone about a health or life situation that you know they are going through. You don’t want to bring it up, because you don’t want to acknowledge that elephant or get involved in helping the other person deal with it or perhaps just don’t feel like listening to their story. In that case, you are being willfully intolerant of their elephant.

What are we instructed to do about the elephants that we encounter?  Certainly not to willfully ignore them. Jesus did not ignore the elephants that he encountered. He healed the sick, raised the dead, ate with the sinners and spread the word of God. He also left us some simple advice –

 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – (Galatians 6:2)

Do you see the elephants of hate, intolerance or fear around you in your everyday life? When you encounter life’s elephants in the room, you are called, not to ignore them; but to do what is right.

Have a great day and watch out for the elephants.

Be flexible, not ignorant.

February 19, 2020

Jack Freed used this quote recently in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words  – “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape.”  (Unknown)

In football one often hears the phrase “bend but don’t break” to describe a defense strategy of being flexible, but no allowing the runner or pass receiver to get past the defense.

It seems these days that there is a lot less flexibility in people, especially where politics is concerned. People tend to get bent out of shape, rather than have the ability to bend a bit to see the other person’s point of view. The political side have become much too rigid in their stances on the issues. Compromise – the political equivalent of bending rather than breaking has become a lost art.

Jack used another quote today that seems appropriate to add here – “Nothing is worse than active ignorance.”  (Goethe)

Were Goethe alive today he might label the current political situation as being representative of active ignorance. The two sides are so rigid in their positions that they refuse to even try to see the other’s point of view, especially where the solutions to the problems are concerned. It’s not so much that they disagree upon the problems, just on the best approach to fixing them.

Goethe’s term “active ignorance” alludes to the inability (inflexibility) to learn and change, especially from one’s mistakes in life. Sometimes people can become so entrenched with their beliefs that not even overwhelming proof that those beliefs are wrong can change them. Global warming immediately comes to mind.

Sometimes people who have a change of heart and mind find that they are still trapped and categorized by memories of their past, at least by others. It’s not that they have not been flexible enough to learn from their mistakes and change; but, rather, that others refuse to see the change in them and relegate them to their past positions. I remember when George Wallace proclaimed that he had  realized the mistakes of his racist past and changed his mind and heart on topics of race. Almost no one believed him. As a four-time governor of Alabama and a four-time Presidential candidate, Wallace was the personification of racism and resistance in the South to integration. Then in 1982 he changed -“We thought [segregation] was in the best interests of all concerned. We were mistaken,” he told a black group in 1982. “The Old South is gone,” but “the New South is still opposed to government regulation of our lives.” So, ,he was still inflexible on some things.

More recently, Michael Bloomberg has been held up to scrutiny for his past actions as Mayor of New York; specifically his “stop and frisk” campaign against violence in the city that was primarily aimed at blacks and Latinos. Bloomberg has admitted that he was wrong and stated that he has learned from his mistakes. Goethe might have been proud, but his Democratic opponents need something negative to say about him and are not yet ready to move on. They remain bent out of shape.

So, how about you? Are there things that bend you out of shape? Are their prejudices that you just can’t let go of? Are there pre-conceived notions about people, places, or things that dictate how you live your life? Are you willing (or do you even try) to see the different points of view that you might encounter in a day or do you “hunker down” in the shelter of your closed beliefs. Are you flexible or rigid? Do you do the intelligent thing and seek knowledge of the situation before making a judgement or remain actively ignorant? If you at least think, before you act that is a starting point that Goethe might be able to appreciate.

 Be flexible, not ignorant. Have a thoughtful day.

Advice from Ben Franklin…

February 18, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote that is attributed to Benjamin Franklin – “Those who in quarrels interpose, must often wipe a bloody nose.” 

Franklin was probably referring to those who stick their nose in where it doesn’t belong, or to those who jump into arguments seeking to be peacemakers. It often happens that the anger that was being vented between the arguing parties becomes refocused onto the peacemaker. We sometimes see on the nightly news that some would-be peacemaker in a street argument ends up being shot or injured by one of the parties to the argument.

While being a peacemaker is sometimes dangerous or difficult, it is a role to which we have been called. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Perhaps suffering the occasional bloody nose is the price that one must pay to be a peacemaker. Peacemakers are the “first responders” in life’s brouhaha’s . Defusing a disagreement that could get out of hand requires that one jump in, separate the parties and stop the progression of the situation. Once the escalation of emotions is halted; the peacemaker can determine a course of action by listening to the two sides. Often it is a misunderstanding of what has been said or the words that were used. Sometimes just helping one or both parties understand what it is that they are disagreeing upon is enough to calm things down. Sometimes not.

In some cases, the best that the peacemaker can achieve is détente, a pause that one hopes will lead to a more permanent understanding. Even that may be looked at as a win, since the situation was calmed to the point where it didn’t boil over into physical conflict. Perhaps  the bloody nose that the peacemaker might have suffered that provided the outlet for the anger that was driving the situation.

Whatever the situation, it is better to act, to interpose as Franklin put it; than to sit by and do nothing, even if there is an element of danger involved in acting. Why? Because you know, it is right to do so.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17 )

And, what if you don’t act? Maybe Franklin would have put it this way –

Those who sit by and do not act, most often regret it after the fact.

Do the right thing! Be a peacemaker. Your nose will heal and you will be better for having acted.

Peace be with you.

What is your religion?

February 13, 2020

“When I do good, I feel good.  When I do bad, I feel bad.  That’s my religion.”  (A. Lincoln)

Those were the words of wisdom from today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write that Lincoln was not a member of any organized religion, but he certainly did a lot more good in this world than many of his era that were church goers. Religion is sometimes defined as the practice of one’s faith, what one believes in. One would be hard presses to find a better example than Abe Lincoln of someone who practiced what they believed in.

So, the question, “What’s your religion”, really boils down to what do you believe and do you practice what you believe? Churches tend to build complex sets of rules and rituals for the practice of beliefs, turning them into dogma which cannot be challenged. Disagreements over that dogma has lead to the splintering of churches or religions, not matter what beliefs  they were originally based upon. That is why we have so many different faiths and denominations and sects within faiths. At their core, most are defined by a belief in a supreme being (God in whatever name is used). Once you get past that simple core belief, one begins to encounter the hand of man in the accepted practices of worshiping that God. Let the dogma begin. Most practitioners of religion eventually find a set of dogma that they can accept and settle into one of these groups, secure in their knowledge that they are practicing the one, true religion, while all others are doomed.

At least the religion that Abe Lincoln professed has very simple and straightforward rules – do good and feel good about it or do bad and feel bad about it. Jesus put it that we should love others as He has loved us and do unto others as we would have them do to us.  I suspect that you would end up doing good if you accepted that as your religion. Leave the dogma stuff to the people who are more concerned about perpetuating their institutions than about the faith that underpins their religions.

Perhaps you can reinforce your religion by saying a little prayer each morning asking God to help you practice what Jesus preached – love one another. Another of Jack’s posts came to mind as I am writing this. As much of a reach as it may be to see the connection here that quote from Emily Post was this –

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” 

If you are sensitively aware of the feelings and needs of others and do something to help (do good) you have good religion, no matter what church (Sect/group/denomination/etc.) you worship in. Just keep the faith and all else will take care of itself.

What is your religion?

Imagine success…

February 10, 2020

In a today’s installment of the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Pastor Jack Freed used this quote –

“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited about what could go right.”  (Tony Robbins)

I’ve also posted here a few times about not wasting your time worrying about all of the bad  things that might happen .

Robbins’ advice isn’t so much about not worrying as it is about completely refocusing your thoughts. Many professional athletes (especially pro golfers) use a technique called visualization to “see” the result that they desire before they even swing the club. They do not stand there worrying about how to get out of the sand trap next to the green. They have trained themselves to see and get excited about what could go right. In their mind’s eye the ball will gently land on the green and roll right into the cup. They imagine success, not disaster.

As you face a new day and a new week, there are probably challenges ahead that you already know about, at work or at home. You could spend your time fretting about what could go wrong or you can visualize how you are going to make things go right. Visualizing success does not completely discount any challenges that may be there, but it does “see” how you are going to handle and overcome them. It give you the confidence to face them, because you have already dealt with them in your mind and see the positive outcome.

Many events that you may be visualizing will have some unpleasant moments – moments of sadness or fear or anger. It is the fear of an unknown outcome that paralyzes many people. Visualizing how you will handle them and get through them allows you to “see” the desired outcome at the end of the event…it removes the unknown from the equation and allows you to imagine success.

Perhaps the best way to “see” success is to first visualize that God is there with you, giving you the advice and help that you need. Pro golfers have their caddies right there with them, helping them determine the right club to use and where to aim. You can visualize yourself walking into the situation ahead with God at your side to give you the strength and advice that you need to succeed. Start your day out with a quick prayer to ask for God to be with you throughout the day. Then visualize what the two of you can do together. Imagine what God can do to help you.

It’s going top be a great day and a great week ahead. Imagine success!

Thinking of selling…what should I do? Start with the 3-C’s.

February 9, 2020

As thoughts of spring start to creep into people’s minds, some start to think about selling their current home. For some, maybe it’s time to downsize. For others it may be time to make the move up from a starter home. Whatever the reason for the move, most quickly start thinking about what they should do to get their house ready to sell. Below are my thoughts on that, based upon almost 20 years as a Realtor°.

Many people think that the time to sell is the time to finally get to those  major updates that they have been putting off (for years). The short answer to that is DON’T DO IT. While a brand new kitchen or bath will help the house sell faster and for more, investing $30-40-50,000 in the house just as you about to move is not a wise investment. Sure, you may get more than half of the money back by getting a better sale price; but, who makes any other kind of investment with the hope of getting just half of it back? There are much better ways to spend a lot less and still help your house sell faster and for the most that it will bring.

The items that I stress with would be sellers are the three-C’s – Clutter, Condition. and Cleanliness.

The first thing that I tell would-be sellers is to spend time decluttering – getting rid of stuff that has accumulated in the house over time. Most people have too much furniture, too many accessory and accent pieces – just too much stuff. People who aren’t hoarders save lots of stuff because they think that they may need it some day or that they will give it to their children someday. I have news for you. They don’t want your old stuff. You may have 1-2 items that truly qualify as family heirlooms and have enough real or sentimental value for them to want them; however, most of your treasure would likely end up in the dumpster if you suddenly were gone. Ask the family about anything that you are keeping for  that reason and go ahead and give them the items now. Get it out of your house. Clutter is a major turn-off for buyers.

The condition of the house is next. This involves getting all of the little (or large) repairs jobs done. Most people get used to walking past that missing electrical wall outlet plate or dealing with the missing cabinet handle or pull. They are so used to seeing the chipped or dirty paint on the doorways that thyey don’t notice anymore. They see the dirty grout in the shower, but they just don’t have time to do anything about it. And those nail pops or drywall tape lifts are just what it is. So they conclude that would be buyers will overlook them, too. Not so! Poor maintenance is a huge turn off, even on small items. The buyers make the assumption (most of time they are correct) that if you haven’t maintained these small items, you probably let the big things, like the furnace, go unmaintained, too. They thought is reinforced if you also haven’t done updates in the last 10 years. In fact, the noticeable lack of maintenance heightens their concerns about the lack of updates.

Once you get the first two C’s handles, take care of the third “C “and give the place a thorough cleaning. Buyers will look differently at some of the other failures of the house if they think it is clean. It needs to look clean and smell clean. That may be hard in a basement area; however, a dirty and musty smelling basement is a huge turn-off and can sink and otherwise acceptable house. Cleaning includes doing something about that brown or black grout in the baths and making sure that the tubs, sinks and toilets don’t have rust stains or rings. Sometimes it is worth the cost to have a professional; crew come in and deep clean the house. It is certainly worth having all of the carpets cleaned. Also power washing the exterior, any decks or porches and the driveway (if it is concrete) is worthwhile. You might also wish to hire a window washing company to clean your windows. Do a good job on cleaning and you won’t have to worry about burning a scented candle during buyer visits. Buyer tend to think that you ‘re trying to hide something with those candles anyway. If you have pets, the visitors should not be able to tell that you have them by the smells or from pet hair all over.

So far, you haven’t spent big money and could, in fact, do all of those things yourself.  So what about the upgrades – the new kitchen or bathes? Leave those for the new owners. Yes, they need to be done and, yes, it will impact the sale price that they are not done; but now is not the time to sink big money into those updates. You should  have always been updating your home as you lived in it, so that you get to enjoy those updates. You didn’t; so, rather than beat yourself up over coulda, woudla, shoulda’s, accept the fact that your home is worth less on the market than it might have been worth had you done them and get on with life. Your Realtor might still suggest a fresh coat of paint for the interior, especially in high usage areas and maybe new carpeting or flooring in high traffic areas. There’s a cost for that, but still well below the cost of major remodeling.

Work with your Realtor to come  up with the best price for the house in the condition that it is in and then work to help him/her sell it for that price by keeping an eye on those 3-C’s while it is on the market. If your house is priced correctly to reflect its condition and the market in which it is competing, it should sell quickly to someone who will come in and do those major projects themselves. You’ll still have all of that money in your pocket and be ready to move on to the next phase of your life.

Most good Realtors are willing to go through your house and give you advice on the things that may need attention before the house goes on the market. Listen to their advice.

What makes you laugh?

February 5, 2020

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog got me to thinking about what makes me laugh. Jack posted this bit from Steven Wright – “Right now I’m having amnesia and deja vu at the same time… I think I’ve forgotten this before.”

I remember really liking Wright’s humor and his ability to deliver it deadpan. Here are examples of some of his best routines –

I grew up on a different kind of humor, the monologues and routines of Milton Berle, Sid Caesar and Red Skelton come to mind. Of course there was also George Burns, who used deadpan delivery and Groucho Marks, who off-hand and sarcastic remarks I found funny. One of the earlier wordsmithing comics that I remember was George Carlen, who could take a single word or theme and turn it into a whole routine. George suffered through the period in TV where the sensors restricted what he could say or at least what we could see of what he said. Here’s some of his best routines.

 I especially like comedians who play with words or whose humor forces one to think about what was just said and consider why we thought that was funny.

Some people prefer physical comedy, with prat falls or other visual things that tickle our funny bone. All of the early, silent film humor was based upon visual humor, since we couldn’t hear any funny lines. The Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello,and Martin and Lewis were more modern comedic teams that still relied quite a bit on the visual aspect in their humor. On the Carol Burnet Show, the humor of Tim Conway really came through when he was portraying the little old man shuffling as fast as he could from place to place. He always broke up Harvey Korman with that routine. Me, too.

Here are some of Tim’s best routines from that show –

I think we all need a little humor in our lives. Being too serious all of the time is a sure formula for health problems. Laughter allows us to break the tension of everyday life and, just for those few moments, get back to the innocence that we had as children. So find something that makes you laugh and take some time each day to go there and let go – laugh.

What makes you laugh?