What’s in you?

October 30, 2021

A daily quote that I get from somewhere (who knows how one gets on these email lists) struck a chord with me yesterday –

All the ill that is in us comes from fear, and all the good from love. (Eleanor Farjeon)

One needs to think a bit about the broad generalizations in Farjeon’s statement. There are lots of emotions or feelings that one can have about things in life, but they do all boil down to either fearing or loving whatever it is that has evoked those reactions. Even the strong negative (ill) emotion of anger is motivated deep down by fear.

It is a worthwhile exercise to explore and try to identify the root causes of regret, anger or anxiety in your life. Why? Because it forces you to confront those fears and allows you to overcome them. Cutting through the emotional layers of fear allows one to focus upon the thing that is driving the fear – the upcoming decision or event or, maybe, the person that we fear facing.

Then, instead of allowing your imagination to explore all of the possible negative outcomes (something that it is very good at), you can instead use your imagination to visualize the desired outcome. Professional golfers use that visualization technique all of the time to “see” the successful outcome of their next shot. You don’t imagine that they stand there “seeing” their next shot going in the water or into a trap. No. Instead they “see” their shoe landing softly on the green and rolling towards the cup. Why would you spend time visualizing failure rather than “seeing” yourself being successful in whatever challenges you are facing.

So, where is the love (the good) in all of this? Using the same logic as I espoused for analyzing the fears in your life, you can backtrack the love side to find its core, too. If you have been able to visualize your success in whatever is facing you, it is easy to take the step of loving what it is that you see yourself doing. From there it is a small, but important step to love yourself for having the courage to be successful. If you can love who you are and what you are about to do, you can then admit to yourself that you could not have done it alone and acknowledge and embrace the love of God that gave you that courage.

So, at the heart of the love in your life is God’s love for you and all the rest of the good (the love) radiates out from that core, like the ripples in a pool of water when you toss in a rock. For at the core of all fears is the fear of death and those who believe in God know that Jesus has saved us from death and promised eternal life. Allow me the latitude to paraphrase Romans 8:31 – “If God is with us, what is there left to fear?”

Love God, be fearless and life will be good. What’s in you?

Be at peace…

October 29, 2021

I have written about being at peace a few times in this blog, but two quotes that I saw recently inspired me to visit that topic again.

“If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.”

– Thomas Watson

“As we pour out our bitterness, God pours in his peace.”

– F.B. Meyer

We live within a worldly environment that too often surrounds us with trouble or tries to provoke us into anger, bitterness, or despair. It’s all to easy to get swept up and swept away by events over which we have no control.

I have mentioned Milford United Methodist pastor Doug McMunn in few posts in the past, because he often uses the phrase “Be at peace” when greeting or talking with people. If you meet Doug you will appreciate very quickly that he is at peace with himself and the world around him. Perhaps that is something that we expect of pastors; but not all are at peace. How do we achieve that same peace for ourselves?

If you read those two quotes above, there is one precursor implied in both that is critical and that is that you allow God into your life. Once there, as Watson says, God can create peace. As we accept God we pour out our bitterness, we forgive others, and ourselves, and allow God to pour in his peace.

The storms that Watson refers to are all the distractions and seeming emergencies that life can throw at us. If we allow those distractions to accomplish their goal, we drift away from God and focus upon the impossible task of trying to be in control, trying to resolve life’s conundrums. We are not at peace because ewe have not accepted the peace that God offers us.

We often let ourselves become to intensely focused upon things that are not really all that consequential in the grand scheme of life. Few of us ever are faced with decisions or tasks which involve life or death situations. However, I think of the pressure that healthcare workers in COVID wards are under, or which they put on themselves, because in that case people do die. Too many of them have been unable to find peace in the fact that they did their best to provide care and tried their best to make their patients as comfortable as possible in the face of death. It was not their fault, yet they fault themselves. They must pour out their bitterness and disappointment and let God pour in his peace.

As you finish each day, try to put behind you the things that you so fiercely focused upon during the day. Take time to touch base with God again and let Him calm the storms of your life and give you His peace. In the morning, touch that base again so that you can start the day at peace. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much calmer the storms around you will seem during the day when you carry God’s peace with you.

Be at peace.

Take the first step…

October 28, 2021

It is interesting that the graphic with the quote from J.P. Morgan seems to be showing a way out of a dark place. Many people find themselves in a dark place. It really doesn’t matter how they got there; what matters is how they can get out of that place and go on with life. The other interesting thing is that Morgan’s quote is that it places the responsibility for getting out of that place squarely on the shoulders of the person themselves – they have to decide that they don’t want to be there anymore. That may seem like a no-brainer decision; however, some people actually like being miserable, or so it seems.

So, if you have grown tired of being miserable or depressed and decided to get out of whatever dark place you have been in, how do you do that? For one, make sure that you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes that have kept you there for this long. There is a saying that equates that repetition with an expectation of a different outcome to insanity and you aren’t insane – just frustrated and perhaps out of options that you can think of to resolve your dilemma.

Here’s the first secret to finding your way out – it’s not your fault. In fact, it’s not your responsibility to solve whatever conundrum is confronting you. Your responsibility is to find the best way to live through that conundrum. Not being able to resolve or control all of the problems that life throws at you does not constitute failure. The failure that leads to those dark places is not being able to deal with that truth and move on.

Now, here’s the other secret to finding your way out – you are not alone. The feeling of being alone in that dark place and having no one to turn to is frightening. But you have never been alone, and you are not alone now. God has been with you all the time, standing right behind you and waiting for you to ask for his help. There is a line in the confessions of faith that we use every week in my church that says, “There is nowhere that you can go that God cannot find you.” No matter how far down you have fallen and how dark the pit seems to you, God will find you there if you but ask.

Asking God for his help does not have to involve long elaborate prayers. I’ve mentioned the line from many sports situations that goes, “A little help here.” That works when earnestly said to God. I also have posted here several times the little prayer that works for me, “Not my will but thy will be done.” That’s works, too. The real secret is asking and then embracing God’s help in your life. Use either one in an earnest appeal to God for help and see if the weight isn’t lifted from your shoulders.

You may ask, “Is it really that simple? I ask God for help and then my problems go away?” The answer is that it is really that simple and then you start dealing with your problems. They don’t go away you just move through them and past them and go on with life.

So, like the graphic above says, decide that you don’t want to be in that dark place anymore and take the first step – ask for God’s help. You will see the light and the way out.

A little help here.

Give it away and you’ll get more back

October 26, 2021

A couple of quotes that I’ve collected just seemed to go together today –

“Happiest are the people who give most happiness to others.” — Denis Diderot, French philosopher.

“Happiness never decreases by being shared.” –   Gautama Buddha

Your own happiness is something that you can share without it decreasing at all. In fact, it will increase as it is reflected off those with whom you have shared it. Have you ever noticed that, when you make someone else happy, you feel happier too? First it makes you feel good to share your own happiness and then you get to see their happy reaction and that makes you feel even better.

One could substitute the word “love” for happiness in the above statements and they would still work and be true. In fact, happiness may just be the externalization of love – love of yourself and others. Love does not make one disgruntled, sad, or angry. Love brings a smile to one’s face, not a frown. So, when you share your happiness, you are sharing your love.

The observation by Gautama Buddha is also true of love. You do not decrease your happiness by sharing it with others.  In fact, sharing your love with others is additive because you also get to enjoy some of their love in return. In the case of marriages, the effect is even more pronounced, and the impact of that shared love is even greater than the sum of the two. That love grows exponentially when the marriage produces children.

The first thing is to get yourself in a happy frame of mind. A good way to do that is to start each day with a little prayer thanking God for giving you another day, accepting His forgiveness and love, and asking Him to be with you throughout the day. That ought to make you happy.

Then, see if you can share some of your happiness with others today. See if what the quotes above have stated isn’t true. Could you feel the happiness that you gave to others coming back to you? Did sharing your happiness with someone else make you feel any less happy; or did it in fact add to your happiness?

There’s a little children’s ditty that goes, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”. You probably know the other verses too. Well, today let a new verse rattle around in your head, “If you’re happy and you know it, share with others.”

Try it, you’ll like it. Be happy. Share your happiness. Don’t worry about running out, you receive happiness back. Have a great and happy day!

Monday, Monday…

October 25, 2021

Monday’s get a bad rap as being the worst day of the week. I remember the Momma’s and Pappa’s song, Monday, Monday, in which they said the Monday’s leave them crying all of the time. Do Monday’s make you sad? Or, maybe you just dread having to go back to work on Monday. Maybe you just see Monday’s as “just another day” and dismiss them as unimportant. Here’s a thought –

“There’s no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.”  (Alexander Woollcott)

Perhaps, if you approach Monday’s (and really every day) with both thankfulness that you were given another day and anticipation of what will make this an important day in your life, you will recognize the hand of God in your daily life. Every day is full of opportunities to make decisions or take actions big or small that impact your life and the lives of others.

The simple act of holding a door open at a store for someone that you don’t even know may be the key to changing their day and putting them in a better frame of mind. That same act puts you in a better frame of mind too, since it forced you to get outside of yourself and your own thoughts and to recognize and act upon the needs of others. In most cases a verbal exchange of some sort will also happen, which further gets you out of your shell. The simple exchange, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” bring importance to your day.

Occasionally, you might be presented with one of life’s big opportunities to do something highly important, like saving someone’s life. We see that on news shows from time to time, when some “normal” person, just like us, happens to be at the right place at the right time to pull someone from a burning car or house or maybe to apply the Heimlich maneuver at a restaurant. They probably weren’t having a significantly important day prior to that incident, but it will remain in their memories as an important day the rest of their lives.

The most unimportant day of your life is yesterday, so don’t spend a lot of time revisiting it. The next least important day is tomorrow, since spending time worrying about what might happen then seldom has any impact other than to waste time today. Rather, spend your time focusing upon the most important day of your life, which is today, even if it is a Monday. God has important things for you to do today, so don’t miss the opportunities.

Hey, can I get that door for you?

Life is like…

October 21, 2021

Don’t you just love all of those “Life is like…” sayings? Remember that Forest Gump’s mom told hinm that life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are gong to get. I liked this little graphic with its “Life is like…” piece of advice because it fit so well with my own philosophy of life.

The bicycle analogy has one other aspect that that was not highlighted in the little saying above. When you learn to ride a bike, in addition to keeping moving, you are taught that if you start to lean one way or the other, turn into that direction and the bike will right itself again. If you either stop moving or you were to turn away from the direction that the bike is leaning you will fall over.

Life throws all sorts of things at us that may make us lean one way or the other – problems, unexpected turns of events, personal losses, or setbacks.  We can’t let those things stop us and we must turn into them and face them or we will fall down. We cannot deny or turn away from life’s challenges if we wish to remain upright. We cannot stop living and must keep moving forward. But, how?

Look at the picture again. Now take the analogy to the next level in your mind. In the picture the little boy’s father is there to help keep him moving forward and to help him turn into the leans and stay upright. If you imagine that you are the little boy, who do you think can be the father figure in your life helping you stay upright and moving forward?

If you guessed that it is God, you are probably already pretty good at life’s bicycle ride. However, if you spend more of your time falling down and having to pick yourself up or perhaps you are stopped and feel stuck; maybe it’s time to let God help you learn how to ride the bicycle that is your life. God has always been there, right behind you, ready to help if you let Him.

You don’t get training wheels with life’s bicycle, but you won’t need them if you let God give you a little push to keep you going and some advice about turning into the leans that life throws at you. There are prayers that I could recommend for you to use to ask for God’s help, but just saying to God sincerely “A little help here” is as much as you need to say.

Accept God’s help in your life and then set back and enjoy the ride.

Finding your Happy Place…

October 20, 2021

Go on-line and Google “Happy Place” and you will get tons of responses, most of them very upbeat if somewhat vacuous. There is a big difference between being able to recall times and places where you were happy or had happy experiences and actually finding a place (mentally) where you can be at peace and happy.

Dr. Livingston – Wikipedia

For many people one physical place in which they find happiness is their church. But, again, it is not really the physical place so much,  but rather the state of mind that one gets into that defines a happy place. Perhaps that is why being in churches work for so many.

Dr. David Livingstone, a late 19th-century Victorian era Scottish physician and pioneer Christian missionary with the London Missionary Society, was an explorer in Africa, and one of the most popular British heroes of the era. He put it well when describing where he found his happy place – “There is one safe and happy place, and that is in the will of God.” When one is in church it is easier to get to accept God’s grace and peace and get into that state of mind.

I saw another quote somewhere that says – “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment.” – Lao Tzu

You can’t change the past and worrying about the future will not change it either, so that leaves you with making the best of the present. Putting your mind at peace and finding your happy place in the present is as easy as saying the little prayer that I’ve recommended over and over here – “Not my will but Thy will be done.” Try it and see if Livingstone wasn’t right. See if surrendering to God’s will doesn’t put you at peace and in a happy place. That can be your happy place going forward.

Learning from experiences…

October 18, 2021

Every now and then I’ll see a sign or ad somewhere that says, “Now hiring experienced (fill in a job here)”. I thought of that when I recently saw this Oscar Wilde quote – “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” Wilde had a great, if somewhat biting, sense of humor. So, I surmise that the employer is looking for someone who has already made lots of mistakes… somewhere else.

Of course, we can learn from successes as well as mistakes; it’s just that we tend to stop and give more thought to our mistakes and hopefully try to learn from them. Not everyone learns from mistakes. Many try to blame their lack of success on someone or something else. Denial of mistakes, or not taking personal responsibility for them, delays or prevents learning from taking place and dooms one to repeated failures. Eventually, most even learn from that, too.

Often a consequence of suffering a setback in life is that it may not set you back into the same place that you were in before it occurred. That is certainly true of life events like divorces or being fired or laid-off. Perhaps through no direct mistake that you made your life has taken a dramatic change. In some cases, the “mistake” was that you didn’t see it coming, because you weren’t paying close enough attention to what was happening around you. I those cases the “mistake” was not taking steps to get prepared for what was coming. We lament later that we should have seen the “handwriting on the wall.”  We do not move forward from the same place that we were in before; but we learn from that.

Like many other things in life, one can make learning from our experiences an integral part of life by establishing a pattern or habit of taking the time each day to reflect on any mistakes that were made or setbacks that occurred. The goal should be to analyze what you did then and to think about a better approach or reaction in the future, should a similar situation arise. I find it helpful to start with a prayer. Praying, being thankful for being given another day and accepting God’s forgiveness for things that one might have done or left undone puts one in the right frame of mind to learn from the event s of the day.

So, whatever your mistakes may be, learn from them and turn your experiences into wisdom. As Confucius said – “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Some of us may take time for reflection before acting and some may choose to imitate the right person to be successful; however, for most of us, our experiences will be the bittersweet road we take to wisdom.

Let us all learn something today.


Start with you…

October 15, 2021

Most people do not wish to be unhappy all of the time, yet there are some who never seem to be happy or content. Perhaps it is not that they are angry or sad, just that they don’t seem to be happy and that unhappiness sometimes manifests itself in their interactions with others – they are just not pleasant people to be around. Maybe you ae one of those people. It usually starts with not loving or being comfortable with yourself.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.” – Lucille Ball

I’ve posted here a few times on this topic, but when I saw that Lucille Ball quote recently it inspired me to write about it again. Insecurity about yourself or perhaps self-loathing puts one into a defensive frame of mind that discourages reaching out to others. There is a downward spital that starts with the belief that nobody likes me and progresses through the thought – I don’t even like me. It is a destructive, self-imposed loneliness which can lead to depression and worse.

The advice that Lucille Ball gave in her quote is a key step to break out of that mental state of self-hate, but there is a precursor to that step – accepting God’s love for you. Take a moment to think about and accept God’s unconditional love for you. It’s a love so strong that he gave his only son to die on the cross to save you. You cannot hide from God’s love. You cannot refuse God’s love. You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. You just need to accept it.

Once you accept that God loves you unconditionally, you can move on to the thought that, “If God can love me, I can love myself and who I am.” Then, as Lucille Ball said, “everything else falls into line.”

There is a sign in front of a church in Milford that reads, “Make God Smile, Accept his Forgiveness.” The sign could have said “accept his love” and made the same sense. God’s love for us was shown in his forgiving our sins through Christ on the cross and promising us everlasting life. So maybe the title for this post should have been “Start with God…” and then you can take of you. Everything else will fall in line.

Go for it…

October 14, 2021

So, don’t just stand there…go climb that mountain!

Potential is defined as “latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness”. Those qualities or abilities will stay latent unless you develop and use them. There is perhaps nothing sadder than coming to the end of your life still saying I “coulda, woulda, shoulda been something – if only”. The main “if only” reason for many is that they didn’t try.

Fear of failure holds many back from exploring their potential. Failure is certainly one potential outcome of trying, at least temporary failure; however it is the only outcome if you never try in the first place.

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky said – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Michael Jordan is quoted as saying, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Both Gretzky and Jordan are considered to be the GOAT’s of their sport because they kept trying and trying until they realized their potential.

What about you? Will you just stand there staring at the mountain in front of you, thinking about how you might fail if you try, or will you take your shot and keep taking shots until you succeed. Get started. Realize your potential.