Take a new look thru the lens of faith…

December 31, 2021

A couple of quotes that I’ve had laying around for some time just seemed to go together this morning to make a point.

“If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror.” (Shane Koyczan)

“Success is personal, so stop comparing your apples to their oranges.”  (Yohance Salimu) 

Many people have a hard time appreciating themselves. They tend only to see their faults or failures when they look at their life in their mental mirror. They also only see other people’s oranges of success and fail to see their own apples of success. A good deal of that lack of self-appreciation is based upon our tendencies to compare ourselves to others or to envy what we see as the success of others when compared to our own lives.

Many times this tendency starts in childhood when a parent or adult may say something like , “Why can’t you be more like (insert brother or sister or any other person here)?” We pick up on the fact that others may be comparing us, or our successes, to others as children and we let that become an internal measure also, Our view in the mirror becomes distorted.

Men, in particular, seem to adopt a competitive comparison model as a measuring stick for their lives, constantly evaluating where they are in life compared to others and perhaps not liking what they see in the mirror when they make those evaluations. What changes as they grow up are the yardsticks by which they measure their successes and position in life – money, power, position and possessions. That is a game in which one can never really win or be satisfied.

The society that we live in feeds this competitive battel by constantly barraging us with products commercials that claim to make you better than you are now, if only you buy and use their products. After all they claim, one is never as beautiful or successful enough, when compared to whatever model or spokesperson that they are using.

Both of the quotes above recommend changing the way you look at things. They both point to appreciating yourself as you are and where you are in life as the key to happiness. Perhaps you can start appreciating yourself by accepting the fact that God loves you just the way you are and where you are in life. God sees your beauty, even if you can’t, and He accepts your life as is. In fact, he has already forgiven you for any mistakes that you have made and opened the door for you to forgive yourself.

A focus on faith also frees you to put things in your life in better perspective. It allows you to celebrate your wins in life and not worry about comparing them to the wins of others. So, get a new lens of faith and see the beauty that God sees in you. Once you start seeing your successes in life through a faith lens, the successes of others become something that you can celebrate with them rather than being envious of them.

Now you have a better view in life’s mirror.

Don’t turn resolutions into pressure…

December 27, 2021

It’s that time of the year when people think about New Year’s Resolutions – things that we think we want to do or accomplish during the coming year. It is a good idea to have goals – things to work towards achieving in the new year. Unfortunately, for many, those resolutions and goals almost immediately are turned into pressure. Pressure to achieve and reasons to beat oneself up over missed deadlines; deadlines which were self-imposed in the first place. Don’t go there.

Rather than set deadlines, perhaps you can establish review points where you assess the progress that has been made on your journey towards your goals. Then you can adjust both your approach to achieving those goals and maybe even to the goals themselves. Taking this approach can help you turn what could have been a session of disappointment or negativity into a positive time to congratulate yourself for any progress that you have made and rethink both your approach and your timetable. There is no need to add pressure to your life over your personal goals. Find ways to add rewards for yourself for what you have accomplished.

A good way to make resolutions without adding pressure is to define your resolution in terms of a journey towards a goal, rather than a hard goal. Instead of a resolution that says, “I will lose 40 pounds by June 1, 2022”, maybe you can resolve that, “I will change my personal eating and exercise habits such that I lose weight by this summer”. The first resolution provides no path to accomplishing that goal, while the second sacrifices a specific amount of weight loss, but, if accomplished, will lead to a much better overall result.

So, think about what you accomplished this year and what you would like to accomplish or things that you want to change in 2022 and put some thought into how to construct a resolution that defines a positive and supportive approach to achieve those things, rather than just setting hard goals that you will likely just turn into more pressure and disappointment in your life. It’s not a contest with winners and losers, it’s an exciting journey. Use your New Year’s Resolutions to define journeys that you want to take towards those goals and then step off onto those journeys.

Have a happy and pressure free New Year!

Enjoy these moments…

December 25, 2021

Today seems like a good time to use this quote from Joan Didion – “In theory mementos serve to bring back the moment. In fact, they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.”

Joan Didion was an influential modern writer who wrote essays and books shedding light and insight on events in the 60’s and beyond. She recently passed away at the age of 87.

Many of us fail to appreciate the moment when it is here, because we are too concerned about the future or maybe about the past and not focused on the here and now. There are all sorts of “live in the moment” quotes that admonish us to stop and live in the present. It is too bad that we think of them after the fact (or after the moment has passed).  Tourists in foreign lands often spend so much time buying mementos and souvenirs that they miss taking in much of what is there to experience in the moment.

Christmas can be like that for many. We get so wrapped up in buying and giving the gifts and arrangements for family gatherings that we fail to take the time to enjoy the family while we are together. We may look back on pictures that were taken at the time and ask ourselves, “Where was I when this was going on?” Sadly, you may realize that you were there but that you were consumed by worries over the food or the condition of your house or other things and not just enjoying interacting with the people who were there.

So, today, just forget the other stuff and appreciate and enjoy the moments together that you will have with family and friends. Don’t just be in the moment, savor it. Then, when you get the chance to look at the pictures that someone took, they will conjure up fond memories and not troubling questions.

Merry Christmas…enjoy these moments.

Right headline…wrong picture…

December 20, 2021

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we do away with the image of Santa for Christmas, just that we move it into the background and put more emphasis on the real reason for the season.

We have allowed almost everything else about the Christian religion to be pushed out of our lives and to be replaced with secular things. Christmas itself has become more about decorations and presents and Santa than about the birth of Christ over 2,000 years ago that changed the world.

So use the headline, just change the picture in your mind. Let us never forget that and never stop believing.

Don’t try to hide from life…

December 16, 2021

A couple of quotes that I’ve had laying around from some time seem to point to the same thing – that one cannot and should not try to avoid the hardships in life but strive to overcome them.

“A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”  (Helen Keller)

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”  (Dolly Parton)

Those who spend their lives avoiding anything that might bring hardship often end up living really boring and unsatisfying lives. They never try things that they fear – a fear created by their own imaginations most of the time – and thus miss out on some of life’s great rainbow moments of success and pleasure.

Many people interviewed after overcoming great adversity or mastering some great challenge report that they have never felt “so alive” as in those moments. Whether you attribute that to an adrenalin rush or to the flush of success doesn’t matter, they are rainbow moments in their lives.

A life carefully crafted to avoid hardships becomes bland and seamless. Instead of a mantra of “we shall overcome” they follow the rule “we will not participate”. One cannot even achieve contentment living such a life because they must always be on guard to avoid imaginary confrontations, dangers, or hardships. They are hiding from life rather than living it. For them the rain never stops, and the rainbow never appears.

Sure, the rain will fall in the lives of those who do participate; however, those who chose to overcome the hardships will get to see the rainbows in life. So, maybe, one should not pray to God to help you avoid life’s hardships; but, rather, pray that God give you the strength and perseverance to overcome them and show you the rainbows.

With God’s help, master the hardships life throws at you. Live a happy life. See the rainbows.

Just get up and dance…

December 15, 2021

I got this quote in an email of inspirational quotes that I get each day –

“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.”  – Martha Graham

People often use dance as a placeholder for life, especially in quotes. The advice in this quote holds quite well for life. Too many people get hung up on perfection or get too concerned about what other will think of their efforts, to even try things in life. They allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear of failure or ridicule from others, so they don’t even try. Just get up and dance.

Martha Graham believed that you should just let go of your inhibition and experience the joy of moving to the music. In life we must learn to let go of the fear of failure and experience the joy of doing and trying. There is often more pleasure to be found in striving towards a goal than in finally achieving it. World-class athletes often report after having set a record or achieved a significant win in competition that it is often a letdown compared to the pleasure that they found in the focused and intense training leading up to that moment. Just get up and dance.

So, rather than sit and watch life go bye out of your own doubts or fears, get in the game. Let go of your inhibitions and fears. Stick out your hand and meet new people. Try new things, find new adventures, savor new tastes. Don’t be worried about what others may think of you or your efforts. Just get up and dance.

Maybe this advice from the 1987 song “Come from the Heart” by Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh sums it up well –

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money

Love like you’ll never get hurt

You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’

It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

The important message in all of this is that nothing happens until you – Just get up and dance.

Be thankful for home…

December 14, 2021

Most of us probably have an idealized view of home, much as presented in this picture above. Home is belonging and safety. Home is warm and comfortable. Home is a happy place.

But lest we forget, not everyone has a home to retreat to and for far too many homeless people, home is just a memory or maybe a dream.

It is OK during this Holiday season to curl up by the fire with a cup of cocoa and appreciate the warmth and love of your home, but don’t forget to share what you can to help those who do not have a place to call home.

Thank God for your home and then thank God for the opportunity to help those who don’t have a home.

Be the difference…

December 11, 2021

You can add to the message of the graphic that it not what you say but what you do that makes a difference. Knowing that something is wrong and even saying that something is wrong does little to change things. Taking action to bring about those changes is the only thing that counts.

Very often the things that may bother us as being wrong are much larger than just something that we can personally fix or right, and there is a tendency to let that put us off doing anything at all. Your actions may take the form of joining a protest march or writing a letter to authorities or maybe to your local paper. Change is often brough about through educational efforts to point out the wrong and making suggestions for fixing them.

The important things is not to let the size of the problem overwhelm your inclination to help. Food insecurity (we used to call it hunger) and homelessness are big, widespread problems, but they manifest themselves locally in smaller groups that you can impact by your own actions. Volunteering at your local food bank or at a local shelter helps with the problem in your neighborhood. If every neighborhood had groups and volunteers working on the problem, it would certainly be less than it is. At least you can be a part of the solution instead of just knowing or talking about the problem.

The next time you find yourself thinking about (or talking about) something that need attention or help, ask yourself, “So, what can I do about that?” Then don’t let yourself be put off by the size or pervasiveness of the problem. Keep thinking smaller and smaller until you think of something that you can do and do it. When you see a person in need, take action, not pity.

Be the difference…

Achieving peace in your time…

December 8, 2021

“Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.” (Jack Kornfield) Jack Kornfield is an author, Buddhist practitioner, Spirit Rock Meditation Center founding teacher, and one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West.

I love Kornfield’s quote because it so simply and straightforwardly expresses the truth. The belief that we can control things that happen in life is a futile illusion that we allow to drive us to frustration and, in some cases, to despair. It is only through letting go of that illusion of control and focusing instead on how we react to, or recover from, the things that happen to and around us that we can truly be at peace.

Some people don’t like the use of the word surrender. They equate it to giving up, to quitting, to being a loser. There is an old comedy routine where a man goes to his doctor and, twisting his arm back and forth, says,” Doc it hurts when I do this, what can I do?” The Doctor looks at him and says, “Stop doing that.”

Well, if your attempts to control things in life have continually failed, stop doing that. It was all an illusion anyway. If instead you surrender to God’s will by saying the little prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”, you are only surrendering the illusion that you were in control. You will find an immediate sense of relief and calm if you surrender your life to God’s will and God’s peace will descend upon you.

But, you may say, “I feel like I’m giving up and failing somehow.” Well, you are giving up a futile effort, but you should feel good about that. Plus, it is not really a failure if you did not achieve something that was not possible to begin with; however, you may need to forgive yourself for taking so long to come to the right conclusion to put your trust in God.

Surrender the illusion. Let God be in control. Achieve peace in your time.

Grabbing at the cloud…

December 4, 2021

I don’t remember where I saw this quote, but I saved it because it is so true – “Creativity is just one of those strange, elusive things.  It’s like trying to grab a cloud.”  (Danny Elfman)

Being a blogger means being creative, or at least trying to be, on a fairly regular basis. Some days the thoughts and the words come easily, but some days I just sit here grabbing at the cloud and coming up empty.

Many times, I will write for awhile and then erase everything that I’ve written because the train of thought that I was following went nowhere. On other days I will realize at the end of a spurt of writing that what I was writing made no sense or came to a conclusion that I can’t support. Those get erased, too. In those instances, the creativity turned out to be more like cotton candy – I took a big bite that dissolved away when I tried to chew on it.

I like this quote from Steve Jobs because it sums up a lot of what I do when I’m in my creative mode –

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

It is that ability to take a few things (or ideas) that may already exist and put them together in a way that no one else has seen that can end up creating something new or solving that intractable problem. On those days that I struggle with the creative process, I might end up making no sense at all. Those are the days that I hit the erase button.

Yet, even on my good days of creativity the words of Julia Cameron ring true – “Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage.”

Pursuing a creative outlet, like writing or painting or other creative things, can be a satisfying activity. In the end one gets to look upon something that they have created that didn’t exist before. So, let your creative side out. Find that creative activity that you can pour your passion into and take that leap of faith.

Grab for that cloud.