Which group do you belong to?

July 30, 2021

Pastor Freed’s blog, Jack’s Winning Words, once again provided the inspiration for today’s post – “At the end of the day, I’d rather be excluded for who I include, than be included for who I exclude.”  (Eston Williams)

Are you included in groups with labels like bigots, racists, homophobes, or misogamists?  Perhaps you better identify with groups who identify with terms like caring, inclusive, justice  or equality. It is ironic that many of the members of those first groups also claim to be in a group that they call the “moral majority”. They make some claim (indefensible as is may be) to a moral high ground for their exclusionary position. In fact, their position is neither moral nor a majority. It doesn’t take long, once one starts excluding whole classes or groups of people, that you find yourself in the minority.

Another sad truth about taking an exclusionary position in life is that it limits the experience of life and the knowledge and wisdom that can be gleaned from those experiences. Once you confine yourself to the small box that exclusions put you in, you become trapped in that box, just like a mime. Your world closes in around you the more that you exclude others and the experiences that they bring with them. The world can become a lonely, colorless and boring place once you have excluded all of those who, “aren’t like me.”

So, at the end of your day look back and ask yourself, “Did I exclude anyone or any group today?” Then ask why. Was it out of some unfounded fear that you apply to a whole class or group of people?  Was it out of ignorance or misunderstanding? Did you just react to exclude based upon something that you heard or saw somewhere (maybe on a social media site) and just accepted as the truth without thinking about it or investigating it for yourself? How do you rationalize your exclusions? Is it just that- rationalization?

At the root of many decisions to exclude (or avoid) are unfounded and unchallenged fears. Mostly they are fears of the unknown – things or people that you have not experienced before. Perhaps before you start out today, you can pray for the strength and bravery to allow yourself to experience all of the people that you meet today, excluding no one. If you do that, you will soon find the world to be a much more interesting and colorful place, with opinions and points of view on things that you never knew existed. If you can appreciate them and internalize them a whole new realm of knowledge and wisdom will open up to you. You will find that some of the old “truths’ that governed and restricted your life fade away. At the end of that day, you will feel much better about including all those people.

Which group do you want to belong to?

Making life-or-death decisions…

July 29, 2021

Most people don’t get involved in making life or death decisions, especially about other people, unless it involves decisions that they have to make about relatives in hospice care. Many people, however, do get involved in making life or death decisions about their pets. While we euphemistically call it “putting them down”, it is basically a decision that one makes to cause the death of their pet. I had to do that yesterday with my bog- Sadie.

Sadie was a Blue Tick Coon Hound – a cross between a German Shorthair and a hound of some sort and she was a great dog who was a part of our family for over 10 years. It was a tough decision but one that I know that I had to make. Sadie had developed cancer and it was eating her up. She had lost over 10 pounds and was so weak that she could barely stand at the end. Yet she was loyally and valiantly trying to please us right to the end. She was the perfect representation of unconditional love, and we will miss her dearly.

I was overcome by the weight of the decision that I had to make, but I know that it was the right one for her and for us. The vet who has been caring for her said that we had done everything that we could for her and that it was time to let her go. I knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier. We stayed with her through the process. I don’t often cry, but I cried then and I am crying as I write this. Making that kind of life-or-death decision is a gut wrenching experience and one that I would not want to go through again, if I could avoid it. And yet, I probably will have to again sometime in the future.

We have always had dogs in our family life. Looking back over the years of our marriage we have had 10 dogs (sometimes 2 at once) over half of which had to be put down at the end. A few just passed away at home, but most just got to the point where a vet recommended ending their misery through euthanasia. It was never an easy decision to make and never easy to go through, but I find some comfort in remembering the good times that we had together with Sadie – the long walks, the trips to the dog park and the love that we shared.

My wife often told the story of how Sadie actually picked us. We had lost our lost dog Odie, a Black Lab, a month or so earlier and decided to go to an Adopt a Friend event event at the Detroit Zoo that was being run by the Michigan Humane Society. We were there to search for another Black Lab when Sadie walked up and leaned on my wife’s leg, wanting to be petted. That was that and she went home with us. She turned out to be the best dog ever.

Goodbye, Sadie. You were a good dog.

What do you know about you?

July 28, 2021

I saved this quote about a month ago – “Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort.” – Fred Rogers

As I’ve looked at it over time, my thoughts on it have changed a few times. I’m not sure that I like the word “discovering” at the beginning. Perhaps accepting or dealing with would be a better way to start, but I suppose the revelations we make about ourselves as we become more conscious of our thoughts and actions could be classified as discoveries.

I also think the focus should be more on what we do about those discoveries than just about making them. How does one come to grips with discovering racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or anti-Semitic bents in one’s thinking? How does one deal with fears that are unfounded and based on biases or bad information that was instilled in us as children? When one is confronted with irrefutable evidence that a “truth” that we had long held is false, what are we to do?

Facts and beliefs have always coexisted in an uneasy mix in our minds and our perception of ourselves has always been made up of that same uneasy mix. Perhaps that is why some may have a tough time having love for themselves – they don’t really like some of the things that they see in themselves, yet they are unwilling to change what they see.

Discovering or getting to know yourself requires time to think and reflect on the thought processes that drive the decisions that one makes in life. How many of your decision are based upon real thought and how many are just knee-jerk reactions, based upon long held, but perhaps baseless biases or prejudices? When you recognize those poorly based decisions, what do you do about them? It’s a conundrum.

Without going to far down this rabbit home, there are a couple of passages from the bible that provide some guidance and hope for dealing with these issues.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2


“Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.” – Proverbs 19:8

Some people wear those little bracelets that have WWJD on them – What Would Jesus Do? Asking that question whenever you hit one of those knee jerk moments may help you at least stop to think about what is driving your reaction to the situation. So long as you are uncomfortable with the answer there is hope. Stop and try to discern the will of God – what is acceptable to God.

You may discover truths about yourself that you don’t like and that is OK, Discovery is the first step to recognizing and correcting them, it is the start to discerning what is good and acceptable and perfect. You may never get to perfect, but you can sure get further away from those old bad habits and reactions. As Mr. Rogers said, “It is worth the effort”.

What do you know about yourself and what is driving your decisions? Think about it.

Don’t be a pretzel…

July 27, 2021

Weeks ago, Pastor Freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Life makes pretzels of us all.”  (Sarah Bird)

Life has a way of taking unexpected twists and turns that can tie us into knots and make pretzels of us all. I suspect that a big part of the impact that life’s surprises have on us is our inability to just go with the flow of life. Instead, we deny, avoid and fight against the unexpected changes that occur in life, choosing to hold on to our goals and plans instead of adjusting and formulating new ones that fit the situations in which we find ourselves. Don’t be a pretzel.

It is man’s ego that really causes the issues. We refuse to admit that things are beyond our ability to control. Rather than focusing upon our reaction to events, we continue to try to influence the events themselves.  But we cannot change what has happened and what is yet to happen. In the present, we cannot really influence what is happening so much as how we are reacting to what is happening. Many times, instead of turning a failure into a learning experience, we continue to rail against it and look for others to blame. Don’t be a pretzel.

However, life is not a big conspiracy against us and we have no one, other than ourselves, to blame for any failures or disappointments. Perhaps, we did not train or practice enough to succeed. Perhaps, on this day our opponent was just better than us. Perhaps we did not appreciate the size and complexity of the challenge and did not plan our attempt to conquer it well enough. Perhaps instead of visualizing success, we saw failure in our future and we let that vision came true. Whatever the reason, things didn’t turn out as we had hoped. Don’t be a pretzel.

What are we to do about the twists and turns of life to avoid tying ourselves up in knots and becoming a pretzel? We can begin by letting go of the notion that we have the ability to control things – we don’t. A good way to get in the right frame of mind to allow yourself to flow with life, instead of becoming a pretzel, is to start your day with the simple prayer, “Not my will but Thy will be done.” Accepting that God’s will, and not yours, is in control of things allows you stop wasting your time railing against the inevitable and start focusing instead on how you can best react to what is happening. You can turn your natural “fight or flight” reaction to the unexpected into one of learning and adapting.  Don’t be a pretzel.

So, will you be able to avoid life’s twists and turns? No. But you don’t have to let life tie you up into a pretzel. When life throws a twist in your way; right after you say to yourself, “I ‘didn’t see that coming”, pause and ask yourself, “I wonder what God has in mind for me in all of this?” That pause and question will put you in a frame of mind to start thinking clearly about how you should react and adjust to the situation, rather than just letting the fight or flight response take over your life and make a pretzel, out of you. Don’t be a pretzel.

Start each day with that simple little prayer and ask God to give you His peace in the face of the day’s twists and turns. God’s peace, which passes all understanding, will keep you from becoming a pretzel. Don’t be a pretzel.

Find happiness in today…

July 26, 2021

I have been saving this quote for a while – “Never forget yesterday, but always live for today…because you never know what tomorrow can bring, or what it can take away.”  (Tiny Buddha)

Of course, it came from a post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, my favorite source for quotes.

I decided to use it today because of the stories over the weekend of various Olympic athletes who have had to withdraw from the competition because of testing positive for the COVID virus. Imagine how disappointing it must be for someone who has trained for 5 years for their opportunity (the extra year because of the delay of the games in 2020), only to be denied the chance to even compete at the last minute.

For one competitor, it must have been especially disappointing. John Rahm was at the Olympics to represent Spain. Rahm, you may remember, was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Golf tournament just a little over a month ago because of testing positive for COVID. He came back to win the US Open in his next outing and has been ranked number 1 or 2 in the world for some time.

In some of the interviews with disqualified athletes the disappointment of the moment had passed and they were already in the mode of training for the “next time”. For them, living in the moment means finding happiness in the small successes and improvements that come from a daily training routine and from knowing that they were doing their best.  Rahm expressed such an attitude after his withdrawal from the Memorial tournament.

We must all learn to accept and build upon the past, whether that is to continue improving or to learn from a failure and move on. It is OK to have goals and dreams that are out in the future. That helps motivate us. However, it is really important that we focus on living for today, doing the best that you can in the time that you will have today. Tomorrow may never come for some. For others tomorrow may provide nothing but setbacks or may prove to be a time of breaking through to a new level.

So, if we cannot change the past and we cannot control the future, that leaves us with just the present in which to find happiness. What we do with today is all that really matters and we can control that, or at least make good decisions as the day unfolds. Living in the moment means paying attention to the things, people and events around you as you encounter them. It means finding fulfilment and joy in what you do. It means being happy just to be alive and finding peace within yourself and with others.

Perhaps you can get into the proper frame of mind to live in the moment if you start with a little prayer thanking God for giving you another day. You woke up this morning and that is a great start to the day. After you thank God for another day, ask Him for His help to make this a great day; a day that you live to the fullest. You don’t have to forget yesterday, just put it where it belongs – in your past – and you shouldn’t spend too much time thinking or worrying about tomorrow – it will get here when it gets here.

Rather, let yourself become immersed in today. Take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of today. Relish the opportunities to interact with other people. Become more aware of what new things you are experiencing or learning as the day progresses. Savor the day, for it is all the time that you really have. At the end of the day, you can take time to thank God for being with you and helping you enjoy the time. That would be a good time to ask Him for another day.

What will you do with today? What happiness will you find in today?

Lighten up and waste some time…

July 25, 2021

I saw this little quote on a web site recently and thought how appropriate for a weekend post – Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. – Marthe Troly-Curtin

Very few of us have time to waste during the work week; life has just become too fast-paced for that. All too many of us don’t use the weekend to slow down and maybe enjoy wasting a little time. We fill the weekends getting stuff done that we didn’t have time for during the week or we turn our weekend sports activities into competitions that are anything but relaxing.

Sometimes you just have to lighten life up and waste some time doing something that is not meeting some goal or winning some competition, something that you just enjoy doing. Non-competitive sports, activities or hobbies can provide those opportunities. There are many sports that are individual in nature, rather than being team oriented and most of them can provide that solitary thought time that may seem time wasting to others, but which is actually an enjoyable and essential component of participating in the hobby or sport.

Most hobbies are very oriented towards the individual and some even require that you get off by yourself in order to participant in them. Many hobbies and spots require what I call “fixin to” time – time spent before hand to plan what you are thinking about doing. I often tell my wife when she asks what I’m doing , that I’m “fixin to ” get started on something. She understands.

For many women and some men the activity of going shopping is the thing that they enjoy, sometimes even more that actually finding and buying the item that they might have been shopping for in the first place. Men tend to be too task and goal oriented to enjoy eh process on shopping. They just want to find and buy what they came for without wasting time. For many women shopping is not wasting time, it is an enjoyable pastime. For many men, taking care of a favorite car may provide them with hours of enjoyable time spent that their wives may see as a waste of that time.

The real point is that you need to have those things in your life to spend time on without necessarily having a goal in mind or a set timetable. These are the things that you just enjoy doing, no matter how long it takes you. The best hobbies and sports are those that allow you to learn and grow in skills and capability the more time that you spend on them. You will always be challenged to get to the next level in them and that only adds to the enjoyment of them.

So, lighten up. Find the individual activity, sport or hobby that you can enjoy spending time doing, without the pressure of competition. You will find that you are really competing only with yourself, to set new personal bests or reach that next level and you will find that you enjoy wasting time doing it because it is not really time wasted at all. It is time that you spend with yourself and we all need to make some time for that.

Now, where did I put my new welding helmet? I bought a hobby welder and I’m “fixin to” learn how to weld.

Are you ready for chance?

July 24, 2021

Today’s quote come from a post of quotes that I saw recently on the Internet. I’m not sure what you will think about when you read it, but I immediately thought of pilot Sully Sullenberger being prepared when his plane lost both engines shortly after takeoff.

“Chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur

During interviews following the incident, Sullenberger said that he had been preparing all of his life for just such a chance occurrence and that this mental preparation just kicked in when it happened. I wonder how many other airline pilots spend much time thinking about what they would do if their plane was suddenly disabled? I suspect that quite a few have thought about that scenario since Sully landed his plane in the Hudson River.

I have posted here before about being ready to deal with the unexpected things that can happen in life. A major part of that preparedness is having the ability to not panic, to give yourself time to think, to analyze the situation and to formulate a proper response. That sounds like a lot to do in a split-second situation, but the prepared human mind is capable of amazing things.

We are told that a natural response to a threat is “fight or flight” to lash out in defensive response or to duck or run. Perhaps the better way to phrase the response choices is “react and then think” or “think and then react”. If you can train yourself to have the latter response to chance you will make better decisions and fair better when the unknow happens to you.

Chance happenings don’t always involve unexpected bad things. Sometimes chance puts us in a position for good things to happen and we must be ready to take advantage of those things, too. There are those who believe that good things happen to those who go through life in a positive frame of mind. There is probably something to that, but it may be because those people were already looking for the chance to have good things happen. They actually take some of the chance out of the picture by moving towards the good things.

So, how does one prepare their mind for the randomness of chance? It begins by having confidence in yourself and developing a pattern or system for dealing with problems in life. Some may call it their coping mechanism. For many that coping mechanism is based upon their faith. Faith may also provide a solid foundation for self-confidence. Faith provides a moral foundation for making quick decisions that can guide our reactions to various situations – the right and wrong of that decision making.

Faith may also allow us to make the quick call on whether the situation at hand is even one that we can actually  try to handle or whether it is “in God’s hands”.  We can waste a lot of time and energy trying to fix or react to something that is beyond our control or our ability to control.  The sooner that we come that decision the quicker we can refocus upon the only things that we can control – our reaction to the event.

Maybe before you start out each day (your take-off, so to speak), you can ask God to help you be ready for the chance occurrences of the day, to think before you react and to give you the wisdom and courage to deal with whatever occurs. Maybe just asking Him to be with you during the day will put you in the right frame of mind to deal with chance in your day.  Remember what we have been told – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

Chance really cannot stand against those who have prepared their minds through prayer. They can say with confidence, “Bring it on, I’m prepared for you.”

Are you ready for chance?

There’s no BandAid for…

July 23, 2021

In the post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words , today, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Sweat dries, blood clots and bones heal.  Suck it up, princess, this is softball.”  (Unknown) 

Jack went on to write – Anyone who’s played competitive sports knows about injuries.  Some can be serious (for sure), but most tend to heal on their own.  I’ve also noticed that a stop at the DQ after the game helps alleviate the pain.  Sometimes when we grow frustrated with the hurts of life, a trip to the ice cream shop with a friend might help? 

The bravado world of sports always seems to glorify the thought of sucking it up, shaking it off and getting back in the game. Recent medical and scientific evidence has shown that trying to shake off a concussion is the wrong thing for athletes to do. Most sports have adopted concussion protocols to deals with the seriousness of “getting your bell rung.”

We tend to adopt sports phrases and advice when trying to cope with life, telling others to suck it up or shake it off and get back in the game. But for those suffering from mental illnesses or depression there is no way to shake it off, there are no BandAids for the hurts that take place in the mind.

I posted here back in 2016 about what Autism feels like – See Trying to understand others without a frame of reference. That post resulted in quite a bit of feedback and eventually led to another post – What does depression feel like. In both cases I was writing blind, from the point of view of someone who had little to no first-hand experience with either of those hurts. Both contained links to blog posts or web sites suggested by readers who had dealt with the issues.

 Those and other mental conditions are examples of hurts in life to which we cannot just say, “Suck it up” or “Shale it off”.  While there are no BandAids for most mental illnesses, many do have treatments that can help. As with physical hurts, it is important to recognize when someone has a mental hurt that needs attention, usually the attention of a professional.

One could add to the list of life’s mental hurts those who are addicted, whether to alcohol or drugs. They tend to hear lots of advice to suck it up and quit cold turkey, but that seldom works. There are effective support programs to help with the pain (real and imagined) of freeing oneself from addiction.

Some mental conditions are temporary, but many are permanent and the best that can be done is to manage them and the effects that they have on the life of the sufferer. There are treatment plans that take into consideration that there are no BandAids for many of these conditions, but there are plans that can improve and seek to maintain a better quality of life for the sufferer.

So, what is one to do, if you know someone who is in pain from one of life’s many painful mental conditions?  Advising them to Suck it up and Shale it off is not the answer. Showing compassion and understanding is a start but helping them recognize that they cannot resolve it themselves and advising them to seek professional help is the best thing that you can do. Just as they cannot heal themselves, you are not the answer either (unless you happen to be a health professional in the mental health field). What you can be is a friend, a supporter during a tough time and maybe a facilitator (offer to drive them to the appointment) of the treatments that will help.

Resolve to be a part of the solution for the pain in your friend’s life. Instead of yelling “Suck it up” or “Sake it off”, quietly ask “How can I help?” Perhaps being that caring and compassionate friend in their time of need is the trip to the DQ that they need most right now. There are no BandAids for the hurt that they are suffering, but there is you.

Be there for them. Be the BandAid that they need.

Live it & own it.

July 22, 2021

I saw a car commercial last night for the Hyundai SUVs that had the tag line – “It’s your journey. Own it.” I thought what a great tag line for life.

All too often in the journey of life we allow ourselves to think as if we are victims, that life is out of control, or out to get us. The “poor me”, “why me”, “stuff always happens to me” victim mentality can be a trip into depression for many.  Don’t go there. Live it & own it.

Sure, things that are out of your control will happen to you, through no fault of your own; however, you do control how you react to those events. If you “own it” you accept that it happened and take steps to react, recover from it and learn from it. Live it & own it.

Sometimes, when you look back over the events that have just happened to you, you can see places where you made poor decisions. Learn from that revelation. Sometimes you may see nothing that you could have or should have done differently. In those cases, just reflect on how you reacted and whether there was a better way to deal with the situation. Live it & own it.

Accepting responsibility for your own actions and reactions to events is the most important step to dealing with them. It’s OK to say that you had no control over the things that happened, unless you did make the decision to do something really stupid that put you at risk. In that case, hopefully you had someone capture it on video so that you can submit it to the Jackass show or America’s Funniest Videos. That is one way to live it & own it.

For most, the passage from childhood to adulthood involves the acceptance of personal responsibility. In the Bible we are told –

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

Children may be forgiven for not understanding why and how things happened to them and for reacting badly when things go wrong. As adults, we are expected to react in a different way, a more reasoned way, to the happenings in our lives. We are told in Galatians 6:5 – “For each will have to bear his own load”. God is there with us to give us the strength to persevere through our trials, not to take them away from us. We are expected to live it & own it.

Perhaps if you start your day with a prayer, not that God prevent anything bad from happening to you during the day; but, rather, that God be with your during those events and give you the strength and peace of mind to deal with them, your day will unfold differently. Yes, the bad things may still happen, but you are ready for them. You have God at your side. Live it & own it.

So, as you start out on today’s leg of your journey through life, remember the Hyundai tag line – It’s your journey. Own it.

Never stop dreaming – Never stop flying

July 21, 2021

I happened upon today’s quote while searching for something else recently.

1936 photo by Carl Van Vechten

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
by Lanston Huges

[From Wikipedia] James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

It is hard to imagine what it must be like for a bird that cannot fly, because of a broken wing. When flight comes as natural to you as breathing, to have that suddenly taken away must be a frightening and confusing thing. The bird is still alive, but not really “alive” because it cannot fly.

If we cannot dream of a better tomorrow, we become like that bird. Perhaps we lose all hope because we cannot see that better tomorrow in our dreams. People suffering from depression experience that feeling because they can see no way out of the situation that they find themselves in. They sink into despair because they have lost the ability to dream of a better time. They cannot fly on the wings of their imagination.

Most of us don’t sink into despair, but we may occasionally get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that we don’t take time to dream – we lose sight of our hopes for a better day tomorrow. I saved this quote from a cartoon character and it seems to fit –

 “Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”

— Charlie Brown, from “Peanuts,” on pacing

Maybe Charlie Brown could have added something about taking time to dream while you are resting.

Rest is certainly important, so that we don’t burn out physically; however, taking time to dream, to have hopes for tomorrow, is also important so that we don’t burn out mentally.

Taking time to pray each day can provide a great setting in which to take that break from the stresses of your day-to-day life and set aside a moment for yourself to dream of a better tomorrow. Then you can ask God for the perseverance to never lose sight of those dreams and continue to pursue them. Perhaps that prayer will be the only step you take today towards realizing those dreams, but it is a step in the right direction and it keeps the dream alive.

So, don’t allow yourself to become like a broken winged bird. You can still dream. Keep your dreams alive. Keep your hopes alive. Keep your faith alive.

Take some time to pray and dream today. Someday soon you will fly again.