What will you change today?

November 29, 2021

You woke up this morning. Great. Now what? It is a new day and a new chance to make changes in your life. It is a chance to forgive yourself for some past mistake and heed the advice of that great philosopher Alice Cooper, who said – “Mistakes are part of the game. It’s how well you recover from them, that’s the mark of a great player.”

The changes that you make each day don’t have to be big ones. In fact, trying to make huge changes in your life often leads to failure. However, making small incremental changes each day can alter the course of your life over time. Even seemingly inconsequential things like changing your route to get to work can have an impact by providing you with a different perspective on things. Wearing different clothes than you would “normally” wear puts you in a different frame of mind. Talking with someone that you would usually just walk by without acknowledgement may provide new insights into the seemingly ordinary things in life.

You do not need to just be focused upon correcting mistakes in your life. Many times, just finally acknowledging that you made a mistake and taking ownership of it is a difference maker. Sometimes, when you think about a mistake that you made in the past, you realize the impact that it had on the course of your life and can consciously decide if you want to get back on that original course. Career decisions are sometimes made that way.

Aside from dealing with mistakes, giving some thought to what you might need to change in your life is a positive thing. No one is perfect, so there may be little things that you can pay attention to, in order to improve. For many people, it is just resolving to make the effort to be more open and friendly to strangers that can open up their lives to a richer and more satisfying existence. For some is might be heeding the advice of Martin Fraquhar Tupper – “Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”  

The point is to make the decision to change something in your life today and see where that decision takes you. It is bound to be somewhere you would not have ended up if you had not made that change. If it turns out to be a mistake; well, that’s what tomorrow’s change can address. That is what makes life interesting.

What will you change today?

What’s around the corner for you?

November 25, 2021

There is certainly the possibility of something different around every corner or over every hill. The optimist sees exciting opportunities ahead while the pessimist sees nothing but danger. What do you “see” when you are approaching a corner or a hill in your life?

All visions of the future are formed in our imaginations. You can imagine great and wonderful things to come, or you can foresee painful disasters, and both can come true. If you could choose, which would you prefer? The thing is that you can choose, at least for the imagining part.

Optimists aren’t necessarily born with a smile on their face. They develop a positive outlook on life as they mature by making positive choices and consciously deciding to live with a positive attitude. A big part of arriving at a positive state of mind is having a strong faith upon which to base that optimism. People without faith have nothing upon which to stand in the face of opposition or hardship; however, those with faith turn to God for strength and reassurance.

Not everything may be going right just now, but there is another bend or hill ahead and those with faith know that God will be waiting on the other side, and everything will be alright when you get there. Even if the curve or hill ahead is death, people of faith know that there is something wonderful on the other side for them.

What’s around the corner or over the hill for you? You can approach those changes with confidence when you have faith in God.

Gratitude or entitlement, which are you teaching?

November 24, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Fred shared this Thanksgiving prayer sent to him by one of his followers –

“Put gratitude in your attitude!”  (Sent by Carol Retan)

A suggested Thanksgiving Table Prayer for you to use:

For food in a world where many walk in hunger,

For faith in a world where many walk in fear,

For friends in a world where many walk alone,

We offer our humble gratitude, O Lord.  AMEN

In our society, many seem to have moved away from being thankful for what they have to a selfish attitude of entitlement. Perhaps much of that results from our tendency to try to give our children all of the things that we might not have had. While that seems like a worthy goal on the surface, it may actually be an attempt to enjoy life through our children and it teaches them the wrong lesson. There is very little “value” associated with things that we don’t have to work for to achieve, and that is true for our children, too.

A recent survey found that the majority of parents say that their children are not thankful for all of the things that they’ve been given. Well, DUH! If they didn’t have to do anything to get those things, how are they supposed to assign a value to them and be thankful for them. We have created generations of young people who feel entitled to everything, rather than grateful for what they have.

So, what are we to do? It’s never to late to start teaching the right things and gratitude is certainly one of those things. Insisting that children write a letter/card or call those who give them things to say Thank You, is a start. Don’t allow just a text message or a post on Instagram to suffice. When children achieve a goal or have a major accomplishment, they should be encouraged to thankful to any and all who may have helped them, and they should thank God for giving them the patience and perseverance to prevail.

Gratitude is based upon humility, whereas entitlement is based upon hubris. Which are you teaching your children?

Just beyond reason and logic…

November 22, 2021
Portrait of U.S. statesman, inventor, and diplomat Benjamin Franklin as he looks on one hundred dollar bill obverse. Clipping path included.

I seldom see quotes from Ben Franklin that I disagree with, but this is one – “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

Perhaps Franklin meant to advise us not to let reason get in the way of faith. Many great scientists and thinkers, including Albert Einstein, have resolved any conflict that they might have had between faith and reason.

“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” (Einstein)

I prefer to think of it this way. Faith lies just beyond the boundaries within which reason and logic try to constrain our imagination. Hope also lives in that nether land that is, by definition, beyond our ability to comprehend using logic and reason. In fact, it is hope that brings faith into focus and allows us to see what we do not need to understand to believe.

I think that one can use reason and will logically arrive at Faith as the only answer to the great questions of life – the Why’s and How’s and What happens next questions. At some point one accepts that there are no earthly answers to those questions and realizes that all logical paths lead back to the same place – faith in something that we cannot comprehend but which must exist in order for us to exist.

At the beginning of each episode of the TV show The Twilight Zone the narrator said – “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!” Faith goes well beyond the twilight zone because takes us beyond the limits of our imaginations.

So what Franklin might have said, instead, is, “The way to see by faith is to look beyond what we can see with the eyes of logic and reason and to use hope as your lens to focus upon what is important.”

Open your eyes to faith. See your future through the lens of hope.

It’s the same with people, too.

November 18, 2021

Pastor Freed used this quote in his post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog today – “When you look at a strange animal, that animal also thinks that a strange animal is looking at it.”  (Mehmet Murat ildan)

Did you ever wonder at the zoo what all of the animals that you walked around and looked at thought of you? Some may have seen you as potential prey and a tasty meal, which is frightening, but the majority of the animals that you encountered probably were either curious about you or a little frightened by you being there.

There is a similar experience on both sides of any encounter with other human beings. Most of us probably immediately notice any differences between them and us – maybe a different skin color or hair style and color, or maybe the way that they dress. If they speak to us, we note any differences in speech, such as accents. We are at the same time evaluating similarities and trying to find common ground between us; that is, if we are not so fixated upon the differences.

It is important to make an effort to not let immediate impressions dictate how we react upon meeting someone and to take control of our own appearance and mannerisms. Most people are not aware that their “at rest” mien (the face that you are wearing when you are not aware that you are wearing a face) can be very intimidating. It takes a conscious effort to smile and most of us don’t walk around making that effort. The result is usually an at rest face that may look angry or sad or anything but happy and inviting. Sometimes their reaction to your appearance will put them into a guarded mode, which makes it even harder to interact well enough to really get to know them.

So, what is one to do? You can start by adopting the old “innocent until proven otherwise” saw and assume that everyone that you encounter will be someone that you’d really like to get to know better. Some may not prove to be people that you’d want to be BFF’s with; but, you’ll still be better off for having made the effort to “see” them beyond your initial impressions. Unlike at the zoo, there is no little information placard for you to read to learn more about the person that you’ve just met. Taking the time to talk with them is the only way to learn more about them. And remember to smile.

Encountering people who are significantly different from you and your normal circle of friends should be seen as an exciting opportunity and not as a threat. It is through exploring and understanding different points of view and different sources of knowledge that we grow as human beings. You may realize that you’ve never event thought of some things the way that a different person sees them and that may change your perspective, or at least broaden it.

As you wander through this “zoo” that we all live in, take the time and make the effort to really understand those strange other people that you encounter, realizing that they, too, are trying to figure out the strange person in front of them. And remember to smile, you don’t want to scare the strangers off before they’ve even met you.

Hi, how are you?

No overnight successes…

November 16, 2021

A quote that I saw recently caused me to think about life and a TV show that I occasionally watch. The quote was – “In most things success depends on knowing how long it takes to succeed.”  (Montesquieu)

Montesquieu probably mentally added, “and having the patience and perseverance to get there”.

I occasionally watch the TV show, The Voice. I usually watch only during the initial blind auditions because they feature the backstories of the contestants. It is in those backstories that one sees the patience and perseverance of these artists, many of whom are in mid-life and still waiting their big break in life. Just being on the show can provide that break and certainly winning it assures a different life from that point forward. The main take away from most of these stories is that these people continued to pursue their goal of becoming a professional singer through hardships and setbacks.

Life is full of things that take time and patience, plus perseverance to accomplish. Many people continue to struggle because they don’t have that patience or perseverance. They keep moving on to something else before they even get close to succeeding at the first thing.

From time to time we also see the emergence of a backup player in sports (maybe the quarterback, but it could be at any position in any sport) when they finally get their shot at filling in for an injured starter. Most of these backup players labor away in obscurity year after year, practicing for an opportunity that never comes.

It is important in life to recognize those situations in which success is a long-term thing. And to adopt a mindset of patience and perseverance, rather than being disappointed at the lack of immediate success. There are also some things which are on-going and for which a daily goal of success is required, with the patience and perseverance to accomplish that goal every day. Marriage comes to mind. It isn’t as if there is some goal of “success” out in the future that one can strive for. Successful marriages happen because the parties make a conscious effort every day to make them successful. Parenting is also a long-term effort, but with at least some milestones along the way that allow one to feel successful.

Every now and then in life, it is wise to stop and take stock of where you are, where you’ve come from and where you are still headed. You can take a moment to feel good about what you’ve accomplished and rededicate yourself to the tasks still ahead to achieve those goals.

So, take a pause today and think about where you are going and why. Be realistic about what it will still take to get there, but also be resolute in your patience and perseverance to achieve those goals and you will be successful.

Have a great day on your journey to success. Maybe I’ll see you along the way.

Just be kind to each other…

November 12, 2021

Pastor Freed used this quote today in his blog , Jack’s Winning Words“There are three things that are important in human life.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind.  The third is to be kind.”  (Henry James)

The three areas where we can all display kindness are in our thoughts, words and deeds. If we were all kinder in those three aeras of our daily lives the world would be a better place.

Freed made no mention of it in his post, but tomorrow, November 13 is World Kindness Day. I looked that up online and found this explanation –

World Kindness Day is a global day that promotes the importance of being kind to each other, to yourself, and to the world. The purpose of this day, celebrated on November 13 of each year, is to help everyone understand that compassion for others is what binds us all together. This understanding has the power to bridge the gap between nations.

Who knew that their was a day to celebrate kindness? There is also a great web site worth visiting – https://kindness.org

On another web site I found this guide to how to celebrate World Kindness Day – https://inspirekindness.com/blog/world-kindness-day-2021-your-complete-guide

One shouldn’t need a reminder to be kind to others; however, things like World Kindness Day help put some focus upon being kind, especially to others.

So, tomorrow, World Kindness Day, and every day – be Kind out there!

What to say on Veterans Day…

November 11, 2021

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Many people, including Pastor Freed in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, wonder about the best way to say thank you to veterans for their service. Certainly, uttering the simple phrase, “thank you for your service”, is always appropriate and appreciated; however, what many stories in the news have pointed out lately is the need for the country to recognize the unintended consequences of sending its young men off to hostile environments in foreign lands. A recent story on a newscast stated that more veterans of the Gulf Wars have died by suicide, due to PTSD, than those who died in actual combat situations. Perhaps we need to add to the end of our message of thanks, “How can I help you?”

I am a Viet Nam veteran, not just of the era, but of actual service in Viet Nam. There were certainly the same kinds of stress in that war, but we had yet to invent the term PTSD for those returning from service there with indelible scars on their psyche. In fact, the public sentiment against the war was so strong that returning soldiers were not celebrated, they were reviled. People were as likely to spit on a returning soldier from Viet Nam as to praise them for their service. Returning soldiers were encouraged to keep their problems to themselves.

What we now call PTSD was not the only health issue (mental or physical) to come out of that war. It wasn’t until years later that the government even acknowledged that the defoliant “Agent Orange” that they sprayed on everything and everyone on the ground from the air is a highly toxic health hazard to those who served in country. The combination of serious health issues and PTSD has taken a huge toll on the warriors of that war, too.

We have also seen the specter of PTSD within the ranks of our First Responders, especially following 9/11 and other horrific events. During the current pandemic awareness has increased of the PTSD environment created within the healthcare workforce as hospital staffs struggled with the overload of patients and the number of people who have died while in their care. We now have national holidays to say “thank you for your service” for those on the healthcare front lines, too.

Saying thank you to all of those who served is good and appreciated; however, what is really needed is a bigger effort to recognize and treat the PTSD cases that can come out of all of these instances of service. It needs to be a more pro-active effort. Waiting for those impacted by PTSD to come forward and admit that they need help is often too little, too late. As a society, we must also make changes to how we view the people who are affected by PTSD. It should not be viewed as a stigma, but with empathy and a willingness to help through counseling and other programs.

Perhaps in the future we will send our young warriors off to fight accompanied by counselors equipped to identify and treat the effects pf PTSD in real time. Even better would be to find a way to live in world harmony, so that we do not need to send soldiers to war. We don’t go around on this day saying “Happy Veterans Day”; but, for now, let’s at least say “thank you for your service” and maybe “how can I help you.” Then encourage your congressional representatives to enact laws that do more and sooner to deal with PTSD.

Be a leader…get out front

November 10, 2021

I saved a quote that I saw on-line recently because I thought that it deserved comment here.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”  (John C. Maxwell)

We see or run across people purporting  to be leaders in various aspects of life every day, from so-called political leaders to business leaders to religious leaders. Not all of them meet all three criteria that Maxwell used to define true leaders in his quote.

Some actually don’t know the way – the right thing to do – but they urge people on in the wrong direction anyway. Many conspiracy theories originate from people like that; however, some originate from people who do know the right way but point others in a different direction because that serves their purposes better.

Some know the right way but don’t go that way because of fears or because the right way appears to be too hard. Fear of failure often prevents the attempt by these people. Others are overwhelmed by life’s challenges and prefer to withdraw rather than meet those challenges.

A few actually know the way and go the way, but selfishly keep it to themselves. They are the “I got mine, get your own crowd.”

True leaders, whether it be in business, politics or religion, get out front because they know the way and have gone the way and then they reach back to show others that same way.

Be a leader. Get out front and show others the way. The way to what? If you are happy, share that happiness and show others how they can be happy, too.

Christians were shown the way by Christ and were given the task of spreading the good news and showing the way to salvation. One does not have to stand on a soap box on a street corner preaching to passers-by in order to show the way. You know the way. Live your life in that way and you will be showing the way to others.

Be a leader. Get out front.

Take control of you…

November 9, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote –

“Life was made up of things you couldn’t control…Life wasn’t what you made it.  You were what life made you.”  (Sara Zarr)

There is certainly a lot of truth in that quote. But, I would submit that it is rather defeatist in tone. Life throws unexpected twists and turns at you; things that you can’t control; however, you do control how you react to those events, and it is in those reactions that one finds out who they really are. The events of life do not make you anything, they just present opportunities for you to learn and adapt and grow as a person.

It usually takes a person many years to realize that they can’t control things in life and to let go of that “need” to try to control things. That realization is part of the “wisdom” of older people. Once one stops trying to control the events of life, they are better able to take control of themselves and can focus more on their reactions to those events.

The opposite of believing that you can control everything is the thought that God controls everything, and you are just along for the ride. A healthier middle ground is to believe that God allows everything in life to happen, but he also gives us the faith and strength to endure those events.

While you cannot control the events of life, you can take control of you and your reactions to those events. You can ask God to strengthen your faith to help to endure and persevere through those events. We already know that God will help, for he told us in Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Armed with faith in the promise of God’s help, one might look life in the eye and say “Bring it on, I’m ready.”  In that case, it makes sense to change the last line of Zarr’s quote to read – “You are what you made of life.

With God’s help, take control of you.