Coming off the long Memorial Day weekend, I thought we should all start the week with a positive attitude. I found this quote to be just the thing that we need right now – “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” (Pope John XXIII)
It is all too easy to wallow in self-pity and negative thoughts. Some find comfort in admitting defeat and in deciding to quit trying. Giving up on hopes and dreams feels to some like a respite from the struggle. But settling into that frame of mind can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and is never satisfying.
Better on this first day of the rest of this week that you heed Pope John’s advice and switch over to a positive frame of mind. Rekindle your hopes and dreams and rededicate yourself to achieving them. Learn from your failures so that you do not repeat them. Put aside your frustrations and instead use your imagination to see new approaches to achieving your goals. Focus upon your future and not your past.
Use what’s left of this week to renew your dedication to achieving your dreams. Take steps to fulfil your potential and focus on what is still possible. Instead of becoming frustrated with any setbacks that occur, use them as teaching moments and feel good that you will not make those same mistakes in the future. Everything that you want in life is still ahead of you and all of it is still possible. How exciting it that?
In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote today from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius – “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Freed reported that Aurelius is often referred to as the last “good” emperor of Rome and his thoughts were captured in a book on his Meditations that Freed studied in his philosophy class.
We live in a world in which taking the time to think about life as Aurelius advised is rare. The fast pace of modern life and the overload of information that we are now inundated with in any given day gives us little time to appreciate the privilege of another day of life. It is only when lives are abruptly ended in incidents like the recent mass shootings that we take the time to appreciate how fragile life is and how thankful we should be for each day.
It is also in those moments of grief and sorrow that we realize how many opportunities we missed to enjoy life and to share our love with others. Story after story coming out of life ending tragedies come from people relating the last time that they talked to or hugged the person that is now gone and how they wish that they had done that more often.
If you stop each morning and think about how precious life is, you might be incented to make sure that you find a way to touch those that you love each day. It may not be an in-person visit, but a call or writing a letter to them is still a touch.
So, stop and think this morning and every morning about how precious life is. Be thankful that God has given you another day and think about how you can make the most of that time. Stopping to think about the preciousness of life each morning also puts you in a better frame of mind to make decisions during the day. It helps you set your priorities and gets your focus on interpersonal relationships and not upon things like money or power.
Another of Aurelius’ sayings seems also appropriate once one has stopped to appreciate life – “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.” There are two simple rules to live by that will make the day better.
One of life’s toughest tasks may be becoming comfortable just being yourself. Most of us spend a good deal of our lives (some spend their entire life this way) trying to be something or someone that we are not, usually to please someone else. These charades begin in childhood when we are constantly told by our parents to act in certain ways, ways that may not necessarily be how we want to act. We go along to get along.
As we age, we become more cognizant of how others are acting and how they react to us, we start playing the games of emulating the look or actions of others in order to “fit in”. The fact that we can never actually be like someone else leads to frustration and, in some, can lead to depression. The fact is that we have not become comfortable just being who we are.
As I was thinking about this topic, I did what we all do these days and “Googled” the topic of self-confidence. I stumbled upon the quotes of Craig D. Lounsbrough in that process. According to his biography, Lounsbrough is an Author, Speaker, Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Professional Life Coach, Ordained Minister. Here are three of his quotes that I especially liked –
“You are greater than you can possibly imagine, if you would only free yourself up to imagine.”
“In time, we become who we believe ourselves to be. And if who we believe ourselves to be is less than who we are, we will live a life that is less than what it was supposed to be.”
“Maybe one of the greatest accomplishments that we can achieve is coming to understand what we can achieve. On second thought, maybe it’s not understanding as much as it is believing.”
The main takeaway for me in these quotes is that are holding ourselves back. I believe that a big reason for that is the tendency to be more concerned about being something that we are not, to please others – to be like someone else. We need to stop that and start getting comfortable with being ourselves. If you’ve ever encountered people whom others describe as “self-confident”, you have met someone who is comfortable being themselves.
So, how does one get more comfortable with being themself? You can start each day with being happy with the clothes that you picked to wear and the look that you achieved before you set out into the world. Take a moment to stand in front of a mirror, put a smile on your face, and tell yourself, “This is how the world will see me today and I’m happy with that”. You are beginning your day self-confident, and the day will only get better as you build upon that confidence throughout the day.
As you go through the day there will be countless instances when something or someone will demand a reaction from you – an action or a response. Before you act or respond, put aside any tendency to think about what others might think of your response and focus upon your initial and natural reaction. That is the real you trying to get out. It may be that your initial reaction is inappropriate for the situation, and it is OK to stifle that response and then think about why you reacted in that way. You are learning and growing as a person. When that happens, you are making adjustments to who you are for the future. The more that you learn to trust your internal responses, the more comfortable you will become just being you.
So, today free yourself up to just be you and get comfortable with it. Believe it and you can achieve it.
In his post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog today, pastor Freed used this Sir Francis Bacon quote – “In order for the light to shine brightly, the darkness must be present.”
That quote seemed to fit nicely with a graphic that I recently received –
Darkness seems to be forever linked with bad things happening, but is may just be an indication of how someone is reacting to things going on around them. The world can seem to be closing in on them, blocking out the goodness (the light) that is still there. They focus on the darkness and don’t see the light.
Jack wrote about his experience with seeing the impact of a single candle in the complete darkness of a huge cave. If you know someone who seems surrounded and overcome by darkness, Jack went on to write – Perhaps you can be “that light” to someone today. “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!”
But how do you become the light in someone else’s darkness? The first step is to recognize that the person is hurting somehow and to just be there for them in their time of need. Just having someone to talks to can often be the difference. Sharing a disappointment or a defeat, or maybe the pain of the loss of a loved one, is cathartic in and of itself. If you can summon words of hope and encouragement, so much eh better; but just being there for them is a big help.
One doesn’t always have to become embroiled in big, life changing moments to become a light in someone’s life. Let your light shine through the little things, too, like saying, “Hello, how are you” to some one that you encounter or maybe holding a door open for someone. Those small gestures shine your light into what may have been the darkness of loneliness in that person’s life. Even a smile as you pass someone on the street is an acknowledgement that you acknowledge that person’s existence ands for some that is a light in an otherwise dark world.
The line from the song “This Little Light of Mine” also impacts you. If you approach each day as an opportunity to let your light shine in someone’s life you might soon notice your own life becoming better. You will feel better about yourself. You will have more friends. You will be more sought after. The darkness in your own life will fade away in the reflection of your own shining light.
So, let your light shine today. Be a light in someone else’s darkness.
Pastor Freed had an interesting quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, this morning – “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.” (Saint Augustine)
My initial inclination was to add two words to the last part of the quote to make it read “what we think we know about nature.”
The second though that I had was that we are pretty good at suspending disbelief to enjoy movies like the wave of superhero movies of late. Perhaps, we would enjoy life more and experience more miracles if we suspended our disbelief in them and just let them happen.
Mankind’s ego is what drives him to try to explain and understand the things that are happening all around him in life. Rather than just letting life happen and enjoying it, we find the need to understand why something happened, what caused it, and figure out a way to control that cause in the future. So, for most, it’s all about control or trying to seize control of the future.
Since trying to control the future is a futile cause to begin with, we are constantly frustrated and perhaps even angry about how things unfold. What are we to do? The Bible tells us – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
So, suspend your disbelief and relinquish control to God. Use the little prayer that I so often mention – “Not my will but thy will be done”.
You will immediately experience a lifting of the pressures that you have been putting upon yourself trying to control the future. Then you can focus upon controlling yourself and your reactions to things that happen in the present. Once you are at peace with yourself, you will starting noticing that wonderful and sometimes miraculous things happen in life.
Suspend your disbelief and let miracles happen in your life.
I have had that graphic sitting on my desktop for weeks and it just felt like it was time to use it. I think it is important to be about to put the past behind you, no matter what happened then, and move on and seize the new opportunities of today and the rest of this week.
Perhaps another graphic that I just got will help with that…
Moving on from the past often involves learning from our mistake or failures. Rather than letting them drag us down, we should take the time to learn from them and use them to help us adjust our path forward. One gains nothing from beating oneself up over past poor decisions or actions; however, one gains wisdom by learning from them. In fact, some of the wisest and most successful people in history were people who failed often but learned from those failures.
It is often overlooked that a key component of failure is the fact that an attempt was made in the first place. Someone tried. They may have failed, but they tried. Too many never even try, often out of a fear of failure. Don’t allow yourself to become trapped in the sad world of “coulda, woulda, shoulda”.
It’s a new week. There are new opportunities for you. Get out there and try. Learn from your failures and move on.
A line in a story in the Morning Brew news feed that I get each morning caught my eye – “You need to get busy with the present, not the past or the future. Here and now is what counts.” (Walter Orthmann)
(Excerpted from the Morning Brew) The story is about Walter Orthmann, a 100-year old Brazilian who recently set a Guinness World Record for spending his 84-year career at a single company. At 15, Orthmann started as a shipping assistant at the textile company Industrias Renaux S.A. That was in 1938, the same year Hitler invaded Austria and the ballpoint pen was invented. Eventually, Orthmann climbed the ladder to become a sales manager, and he’s stayed in that position ever since with no plans to retire. When asked by the Guinness people why he kept working, today’s quote was part of his answer.
All of us should adopt Walter’s philosophy instead of spending time lamenting things that happened in the past or worrying about thing that might happen in the future. Living in the present means that we can let go of the past and that we accept that what will be will be. It means admitting to ourselves that we cannot control things that happen to us. We can only control how we react to them in the present.
The present as I write this post is Cinco de Mayo for 2022. The holiday commemorates the defeat of French forces by the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. I found it interesting that the holiday is much bigger in the US than in Mexico itself, mainly because U.S. consumer products companies, such as beer companies, seized upon it as a marketing ploy to sell more beer and other products. It doesn’t take a whole lot of reason in the U.S. to hoist another beer.
So, whether you really care about the Battle of Puebla (the past) or the hangover that you will wake up with tomorrow (the inevitable future), enjoy today and celebrate the proud Mexican heritage that Americans of Mexican decent celebrate today. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Don’t drink and drive.
“Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.” (Advice from the Old Hillbilly)
Given the current focus upon political correctness, Freed had to immediately clarify that he was not using the term Hillbilly in any derogatory way. He then opined that he believes in the advice.
I often like to combine quotes that I have collected over time, because they seem to make more sense of something when combined. Such is the case today. An earlier post to Jack’s blog used this quote –
“That’s the way things come clear…all of a sudden…And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along.” (Madeleine L’Engle)
I think the “all of a sudden” part doesn’t necessarily mean that the realization takes place quickly, just that, when the light bulb comes on in your head, it feels like it just happened. In many cases it may have taken years. During that time, it wasn’t necessarily that you didn’t see the obvious, but rather that you were in denial of the obvious. That can be especially true in cases of prejudices that are driven by fears. One can go years declining the opportunities to meet new people because they are “different”. Maybe there are places that you “just don’t go” because you have unfounded fears of dangers that you can’t really identify.
Then, one day, you take that chance to talk to someone who is different or go to that place that you would never go to. Suddenly you realize that that person or place is very interesting and that talking to them or going there was a pleasure. You bang yourself on the forehead and think, why was I denying myself this experience all this while? You realize that is was unfounded fears holding you back and life becomes richer for having overcome them.
Perhaps if take the advice from the Old Hillbilly and invert the order things will look and be a lot different for you. If you stop trying to control everything (an impossible task anyway), and leave it to God, you will be free to do the rest of those things that the Old Hillbilly advised.
A quick and easy way to do that is to start each day with the little prayer that I like to use – “Not my will but thy will be done.” Then you can go on to say, “Bring it on God. I’m ready to Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.”
The Chevrolet division of General Motors has been using the tag line, “Find New Roads” for a while now and in life it is always exciting to have new experiences – to find new roads. Even more exciting I think is to make new roads. This quote that I’ve had in my “use in the future” file defines one way to make new roads. “Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.” (Lin Yutang)
Hope also creates the paths in our lives that lead to our future. Sometimes it looks, or at least feels, like there is not a path to the future, but hope continues to drive us to forge that path if none existed before. Hope leads us to the thought that Hannibal expressed centuries ago – “I will either find a way or make a way.”
Making new roads is never easy and sometimes one pursues a path for quite some time before discovering or realizing that it is a path up a blind alley leading nowhere. In those cases, it is necessary to backtrack and start again on a different path. It is not necessary to give up the hope that is driving you, but it is necessary to recognize and admit that the path you were on isn’t going to allow you to realize your hope. In that case, a modification of the Chevrolet slogan makes sense – Make new roads.
There are many collective experiences of hope that involve many people walking on what are new roads. The last two years have found many people walking on the newly created road of hope for a cure or an answer to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are hopes for peace in the world, especially now with the war in the Ukraine. Make new roads.
You might think that hope based upon faith would be a wide and well-traveled road that is clearly marked by signs erected by the various religions of the world. For many, however, their personal faith is a new path that is not always clear or easy to walk. They may join others once a week on the highways of religious beliefs; but, on Monday the road may seem to narrow to a path or sometimes less. Sometimes hope points to a path never traveled before and that is when you must commit to your faith more than ever. Make new roads.
So, if your hopes are taking you down paths you’ve never traveled before, take a moment to get your faith bearings and put your trust in God’s will for you. Hope gets you started, but faith clears the way. You may soon notice that others of faith are walking along similar paths. Together, you are Making new roads.