Get real…

January 31, 2022

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Generations will scarce believe that such a man (as Gandhi) ever in flesh and blood walked upon the Earth.”  (Albert Einstein)

I can’t believe that I was able to use a picture of Gandhi two posts in a row.

It is hard to understand how some people are able to disbelieve something happening or the existence of someone just because they did not see it for themselves. Some instead believe something that they heard from someone else or saw misrepresented somewhere else (mainly on the Internet).

I do remember Gandhi and the news coverage of him and his movement to free India from British rule. The first U.S. President that I can recall being aware of was Harry Truman at the end of his term in office. I remember what a newsworthy event it seemed to be when his daughter Margaret entertained guests in the White House. I remember when Dwight Eisenhower became President his love of golf made coverage of his golf outings a news event. I was in college when John F. Kennedy was President and remember vividly the day when he was killed. Trust me, those people all lived and I remember them – I saw them for myself (mainly on TV).

Not many people deny that those people existed, even if they were not alive at the time. Many events in history, on the other hand, seem more open to people believing or not believing that they ever took place, even those that have been well documented. Incredibly there are those who choose to believe that the Holocaust never happened, that was all made up somehow. Others believe that the landing on the moon never happened, that it was all an elaborate Hollywood studio trick.

Now we have people spouting all sorts of theories and false claims about things like COVID-19 and the 2020 election, which an unfortunately large number of people choose to believe. Those who buy into those theories and claims live in an alternative reality. So, we are all faced with living in what seems like a never-ending episode of that old Rod Serling show – The Twilight Zone. I remember the opening line – “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.”

So here we are, watching nightly news casts of people shouting and carrying signs against restrictions for a disease that they don’t believe exists or against the best medical advice, which they believe is a giant conspiracy somehow launched to try to control them. We see otherwise seemingly intelligent people continuing to rail against the official results of a long over election because their reality is different from what the facts (and several courts) indicate. We hear about complex conspiracies launched by hidden forces or people that aim to control our minds and our daily lives – alternative realities as far fetched as the Hollywood moon landing theories.

It seems to me that too many people never get past the question, “Is it possible…?” and don’t ask themselves the question, “Does it make sense…?” None of the currently popular conspiracy theories stand up to the cold logic of answering that question honestly. Theories that depend upon “someone, somehow, somewhere…” without identifying and verifying any of those variables just don’t hold water.

So, take the time to examine and question what you see on the Internet or hear from someone else before you let it settle into your mind as a belief that will guide your future behavior. Gandhi did walk the earth and men did walk on the moon and COVID-19 is a real disease that can kill you. That is the true reality. Don’t get trapped in the Twilight Zone of theories and lies. Get real.

Be a better you…

January 26, 2022

Today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog contained this quote – “Our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim and a Christian a better Christian.”  (Attributed to Gandhi)

In essence all are praying to be a better person and that’s a good thing. At their core all religions believe in and worship a supreme entity that rules the world that they know. Christians call that entity God. The other religions have their own names for the supreme being, some even using the word God in their beliefs, too.

Most religions also have written documents that define and codify the beliefs of the followers. All of those documents and books were written by followers, with most of the authors themselves being held in great reverence by the faithful. In most of those religious books that I know of, or have heard of, there are instructions given to the followers about how to be a better person by emulating the characteristics of the supreme being. In other words, there are instructions on how to be a better you.

As a Christian, I am reminded of the little bracelets that were embossed with WWJD.  In the 1990s a youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, named Janie Tinklenberg, began a grassroots movement to help the teenagers in her group remember the phrase; it spread worldwide in the 1990s among Christian youth, who wore bracelets bearing the initials WWJD – What Would Jesus Do.

Certainly, holding oneself up to the standard of Jesus is a tall task and likely impossible; however, stopping to think about that phrase before acting in any situation is both worthwhile and beneficial. It can help you be a better you.

In most cases being a better you means doing what is right, just, and honorable. But right, just, and honorable by what standards? That is where one’s religious beliefs come into play. They provide a set of standards by which we can measure ourselves. You should stop to think, “When this is all said and done, will I be proud of how I acted?” Proud by what standard? By the standards that you believe are set by your religious beliefs. If you are a Christian and what you are about to do does not meet the WWJD standard, then you will feel the guilt of failing to meet that standard. That feeling may be enough to deter you from that action (or inaction).

So, take the advice of Gandhi to heart and add to your prayers the request that God help you be a better Christian/Hindu/Muslim/Whatever, a better you. And, if you are a Christian, remember to stop and think WWJD. Be a better you.

At least pull the trigger…

January 25, 2022

A quote that I saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog inspired this morning’s post – “I learned a long time ago that there is something worse than missing the goal, and that’s not pulling the trigger.”  (Mia Hamm)

Mia Hamm has been a long-time star on the Us Women’s soccer team and related the many times she pulled the trigger on scoring attempts that failed on her way to the record setting successes that she had. She expressed no regrets on having tried and failed. Her quote shows that a strong and consistent commitment to taking action is preferable to being paralyzed by fear or indecision.

I have another quote that I saved from Jack’s blog that goes well with Hamm’s – “Don’t plan it all. Let life surprise you a little.” (Julia Alvarez)

It is in the tendency to over plan life that many become bogged down in paralysis by analysis and end up doing nothing, not pulling the trigger. Allowing life to surprise you every now and then is essentially taking a chance and pulling the trigger without taking time to consider all of the potential outcomes. That does not have to be as reckless as it might sound. I am not espousing doing really dangerous or stupid things – things like one might see on the show Jackass – but rather that many unplanned or surprise things turn up in life may well lead you in new directions without involving excess danger. You will never know unless you try them. At least pull the trigger…

The most simple and common example of life’s surprises is meeting new people. One encounters people every day that you may not have met before. At that moment you have a choice to make. Do you smile and say hello, in hopes of getting a response or do you lower your eyes and hurry past them in hopes that they do not notice you? If you never pull the trigger on those occasions, think of how many interesting people you will never meet. Sure, you may end up meeting a few jerks or people that you just wish you could get away from – those are the misses that Hamm talked about. But what a pleasant surprise when you meet someone with whom you can have a nice conversation and maybe even begin a friendship. At least pull the trigger…

The same is true of things like trying a new restaurant or a new store or going to a new place for vacation. Too many times we allow the safe comfort zone of the places that we know stop us from trying those new places. In today’s fast-paced world of high technology, many older people have resisted embracing new technologies, sometimes out of fear that they will look stupid while trying to learn. Those who embraced new communications technologies were much better prepared to ride out the restrictions on personal meetings imposed by the current pandemic; unlike those who allowed themselves to become isolated because they would not learn how to use Zoom or other methods of sharing time with others. At least pull the trigger…

So rather than let fear of the unknown or the need to plan everything out prevent you from trying new things, meeting new people and journeying on new adventures, let life surprise you a little and at least try them. Embrace the Nike motto and “Just do it”. Instead of stopping yourself, by thinking that it would be reckless or dangerous to proceed, try thinking of it as a grand new adventure full of wonderful possibilities. That positive attitude will help you get over any initial rough spots and enable you to enjoy the benefits of new knowledge, new experiences, and new friends.  At least pull the trigger…

You’ll be glad that you did.

First things first…

January 24, 2022

Let’s get the day and the week off to a great start with this quote – “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” (Lucille Ball)

Self-depreciation is alright as a comedy routine. Rodney Dangerfield made a great living off self-depreciation and was very funny doing it. For most that takes the form of humility and that’s OK, if not taken too far.

Start off by saying to yourself, “I know who I am, and I love who I am.” Doubting yourself or trying to be like someone else is a waste of time and self-defeating. Acknowledge yourself as you are and accept that God loves you just as you are. Then, having accepted God’s love for you, love yourself.

walking man

The kind of love for oneself that Lucille Ball was talking about takes the form of self-confidence that bolsters and supports our efforts in life. Even in the face of setbacks, people who love themselves and are confident in themselves will quickly bounce back and forge ahead.

A secondary benefit of loving yourself is that it allows you to love others and for them to return that love. People who love themselves and exude self-confidence also attract followers and supporters who help them achieve what they set out to do. People who are down on themselves seldom travel with an entourage.

So, let’s all start the week off by acknowledging ourselves and loving who we are and where we are and then set out to get things done with confidence.  You’re going to love what happens when you love yourself first.

Are you aware?

January 22, 2022

I am inspired today to ask the question above by a quote that I’ve been saving for some time – “Let us not go back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.” (James Thurber)

It seems to me that way too many people are spending their time being angry about things that have already happened and which are in the past or they are fearful of the future without just cause. Perhaps they have based where they are going upon something that they saw on the Internet or something that they heard from someone else. If, in either case, they did not take the time to become aware of the source and veracity of that “information”, then they may be headed off in fear or anger in the wrong direction.

What does awareness mean? I think it at least means that one takes the time to think about and question things that they hear, see, or read before accepting them and acting upon them. We all need to ask questions like, “What is the source of this information?” or “What proof is there that this information is correct and accurate?” The phrase, “I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true” is both laughable and yet prevalent in today’s world of misinformation, conspiracy theories and outright lies.

Unfortunately, the source that most use for their news and information about what is happening in the world is also the biggest source of bad information – the Internet.  It’s a shame is that so much of that bad information is purposely planted there by people to cause the resulting confusion or anger or both. The real shame is that it works all too often.

The second major source of bad or suspect information is politically biased coverage on so-called news shows. The influence of the political views of both the right and left are evident in the choice of words that both sides use in their newscasts to re[port on events. Awareness of that bias towards either side will help one correctly assess the news content from the political views of the presenters. The weather portion of the news shows is about the only part that has not been highly politicized, except for comments sometimes thrown in on global warming.

So, approach each new day with an open but questioning mind and awareness that you need to evaluate everything that you hear, see, or read before allowing it to influence your reaction or direction. Instead of starting a conversation with the phrase “everyone knows”; start the conversation with, “here’s what I believe”, because you have taken the time to evaluate things and to form your own opinion. Just being in a state of mind to question and evaluate first will make you a more aware person and probably a more interesting one, too.

Go around in awareness.

Being silent on things that matter…

January 18, 2022

It is the day after Martin Luther King, Jr day and for many that means time to forget and move on with life. Yet King’s words in this quote still resonate today – “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

There was much consternation and condemnation of some Republican politicians who used King’s words in Tweets or other pronouncements yesterday, while at the same time voting against the voting rights act now before the Senate. Yet not all Republican Senators may be against strengthening voting rights in the face of some changes in voting laws in several states – they just chose to stay silent on the matter. Remember them.

I have a yard sign that I put out in the summer months that has this quote from Dr. King – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” While the quote does not specifically say anything about political lives, perhaps it should. A politician who is so consumed with remaining in power that he/she will compromise their integrity and the trust that was placed in them by not taking a stand on this issue should see their political lives end. Remember them.

I am not solely advocating for the current wording on this bill, but for the ability of all politicians to seek compromise in order to further the intent of the bill – that all people be allowed to vote. We do not see that in today’s political environment, where the two sides dig in to hardened positions on most issues and lob insults at each other. These are people who choose to fight rather than to seek compromise and they are on both sides of the aisle. Remember them.

I think the important message to get across to members of both parties is that we chose them to create laws in the best interest of all of the people and not to adhere to the extreme positions of radicals on either side. If they are unable to stand up to the pressures of extremists within their own parties, then they are unable to put our collective interests before their own. Remember them.

It is telling that efforts by the leadership of either group in Congress towards compromise for the common good are attacked by extremists members of their own party. It is also telling that those attacks most often result in the gesture towards compromise being withdrawn and positions are allowed to harden into stalemates. Remember them.

We have the opportunity to change all of this when we vote on the serving members of Congress. We have an obligation to look at the performance of the people running for reelection from both parties and determine what their position on important events has been and whether or not they made those positions known or decided to stay silent on things that mattered. Remember them.

Follow the Pooh…

January 15, 2022

Cartoonists quite often dispense sage advice through the voices of their characters. Such is the case today when we are told –

“I always get to where I am going by walking away from where I have been.”  (Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne))

Often in life we arrive mentally at a place that we really don’t like or in which we would rather not be. That is when the advice of Winnie the Pooh should be headed – just walk away from it. Leave it behind. Get to where you are going.

Maybe you have arrived at a place of sadness, caused by the loss of a loved one. Maybe you have just broken up with someone that you thought you loved. Perhaps you just lost a job or didn’t get a promotion that you thought that you deserved. It could be that you made your best effort at some pursuit in life or in sports but fell short of your goal. Whatever the reason that you have arrived at a bad place mentally, it is important to walk away from there and towards where you want to be.

Perhaps the words of another quote that I saw recently will help –

Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.  (Steve Maraboli)

It is important to have that cathartic cry, to give in for the moment to the emotion. It is also critical to forgive yourself (see my post if you think the mistake was yours. Then, it is just as important to turn the moment into a learning time, to glean from the event knowledge that will help you avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Finally, it is important to join Pooh in walking away from where you are and towards where you want to be.

The imagery of your tears (that good cry) watering and nurturing your future is a powerful way to let go of that past place and head towards a new and happier place.

So go ahead and let it out. Get it out. Then take a moment to forgive yourself and create a little bit of knowledge from the situation and move on. Walk away from where you have been. Get to where you are going.

Have a great weekend. Follow the Pooh.

You don’t have time to bore yourself…

January 13, 2022

Two quotes from dramatically different source just seem to go together to provide some good advice.

“Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

“The trouble is you think you have time.”  (Buddha)

Every now and then one meets a person that we might label as a “free spirit” – a person who is doing what they want in life, seemingly indifferent to what someone else might think of them. Have you met people like that? Were you somewhat envious of them? You don’t have time to bore yourself.

Most of us tend to limit ourselves in the things that we try or the people that we meet for reasons of fear or maybe fear of what others might think of us. In the end we may well become very boring people, boring even ourselves. You don’t have time to bore yourself.

A big part of that problem for most is that, like Budda said, we think we have time. We tell ourselves that we’ll get around to doing things someday in the future. The trouble is that the “someday” never comes and we may settle into a safe, if somewhat boring, lifestyle. You don’t have time to bore yourself.

The truth is that we don’t have time. Life is finite and the things that one puts off today will likely forever reside in the Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda bin.  Don’t let the opportunities for something new turn into regrets for things not tried. You don’t have time to bore yourself.

Now, I’m not advocating for doing stupid or inherently dangerous things; rather that you stop letting the fear of what others might think of you if you try something or putting off trying new things or meeting new people because you say to yourself that you’ll get around to that later. There’s a good chance that the things that you put off or that person that you pass up meeting, will not be there in the future. Don’t pass up opportunities like that. You don’t have time to bore yourself.

You don’t have to be a “free spirit” to try new things in life; however, you might find that your spirit feels freer when you stop limiting the new things that you try out of unfounded fears or concerns for how trying them night appear to others. There is no time like the present to change your life and start trying those things that you were putting off. You don’t have time to bore yourself.

So, stop spending your time thinking about reasons why you can’t or won’t do new things or meet new people and start thinking about how much fun it will be to have new friends and new experiences. As the Chevrolet TV commercial says – Find new roads. You don’t have time to bore yourself.

Help me get through this…

January 8, 2022

A quote that I saved from a post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog serves to illustrate how our faith helps us get through the trials of life.

“God didn’t remove the Red Sea; He parted it.  God doesn’t remove our problems; He makes a way through them.”  (Jack’s Winning Words – Sent by Kathy M)

Quite often we might initially pray for the wrong thing – for God to remove whatever trial or hardship is in front of us. However, as Kathy M pointed out in her quote, that is most often not how God works in our lives. Instead, God gives us the strength to get through whatever it is; or, rather, our faith in God gives us that strength.

Perhaps a better thing to pray for is for God to strengthen our faith so that it strengthens us. In the end, no matter how grave the circumstance may seem, our faith has already assured us that we shall have everlasting life thru Jesus.

 Faith is the bedrock upon which the KCCO phrase is based – Keep Calm and Carry On. Our faith calms us when frenzy might overtake us, and it allows us to move forward and carry on with life. The little prayer that I often use – “Not my will but thy will be done” – has an amazing calming effect in the midst of crisis and immediately opens the door to a better future. It does not resolve anything in and of itself, but it removes the burden of what is at hand and give it to God. It frees you to carry on. Try it the next time that your life is in crisis.

So, what have you got for us, life? Bring it on. We will get through it with God’s help.

Do you know that you don’t know?

January 6, 2022

I believe that these two quotes both came from the Jack’s Winning Words blog, but I know that the last one did because it was from today.

“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” (James Thurber)

“The greatest enemy of learning is knowing.”  (John Maxwell)

Both quotes point to the danger and foolishness of thinking that you know it all. In fact, most of us haven’t even scratched the surface of the questions, much less finding the answers.

Many readers may know someone who is a “know-it-all”, the person with all of the answers. Not surprisingly most of what that person “knows” is wrong or based upon bad information, or even worse upon bad assumptions.

Instead of concluding that you know all there is to know about anything, it is better to spend some time asking yourself what questions about the topic remain unanswered. A good place to start when considering any “fact” is where did that fact come from – what is its source. Most of the so-called conspiracy theories have no basis in fact and no real source other than rumors or conjecture. Any argument that starts with “I heard that…” should be immediately challenged by “Heard from who or where?”

But enough about current events and politics, let’s focus more generally upon how one learns and creates their knowledge base. It is upon that base that wisdom is eventually built.

One grows in knowledge by continually questioning. What just happened? Why does something happen?  What causes something to happen? How does that something happening affect me and do I need to do something about it? Is this something new? If not, how can I make sense of it by connecting that something and my understand of it to anything else that I might already know (note: that turns understanding into knowledge)?

All of those questions and the thought processes that go with them are important to increasing your knowledge and wisdom. That is why shutting down those processes by thinking that you already know everything dramatically decreases your learning. Accepting without questioning is the cornerstone of building conspiracy theories.

So, always ask yourself, “what don’t I know about this?” Keeping that question in mind will mean that you keep learning.

Even in the realm of religion there is always room to learn more, as Pastor Freed mentioned in his blog today (follow the link about to read the blog post). Instead of trying to know all about God, start by knowing God through Jesus.

Now, what are your questions? Refer to your textbook (the Bible) for the answers.

Keep learning because now you know that you don’t know.