Life is lived somewhere in between…

June 22, 2017

“Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.”  (Winston Churchill) – as seen on a recent post to the blog Jack’s Winning Words.

Life is full of ups and downs. We have times when we are viewing the world from the mountain peaks of a success and other times when the world looks pretty dark from the deep valley of a failure or disappointment. Usually, though, life is somewhere in between and perhaps not as memorable as the thoughts that we have from the mountains and the valleys of our lives.

For reasons that I can’t explain that thought also made me think of the song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Their lyrics were about love and begin with the one that you love. I suspect that there could have been cover of that song by God, because there is nothing that can keep God from your life and Hreaching goale is sure handy to have around when you enter one of life’s valleys. Have you also noticed how many great athletes take the time to thank God right after they have reached a sports mountain top – a home run, a touchdown or a goal.

But, as the headline for today’s post says, life is mostly lived in between the mountain tops and the valleys. It is lived on a fairly level plain, with little of the drama of the mountain top or valley experiences. It is easy todepression3 become complacent in everyday life and forget to call on God or to thanks Him for the everyday small things that He does for us. I catch myself every now and then saying something like, “Boy I got lucky with that” or maybe “Wow I’m glad that didn’t happen.”  Then I stop and think about it and take an opportunity to thanks God for either my good fortune or for protecting me from a misfortune.

So, as we live our boring little, somewhere-in-the-middle, everyday lives; let’s not forget to thank God for being with us in the middle as well as when we need him at the bottom right-and-wrongin our valleys or thank Him at the top of one of our mountains. Personally, I don’t usually start the day asking God for anything in particular, but I do quite often just say,” God, help me make good decisions today.” Really what more can you ask for?

I’ll see you somewhere in between.


Grow up, be happy and look for the open doors…

June 20, 2017

Recently I was rummaging around the Internet looking for something and came upon one of those sites that featured someone’s list of 50 great quotes. The two quotes below were not together in that list, but they seem to naturally go together.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” —John Lennon

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” —Helen Keller

There are some people whose natural state seems to be unhappiness. They are the sad looking manperpetually disgruntled nay-sayers that you run into from time to time whose mission in life seems to be to try to bring all of those around them down to their level of unhappiness. If these people held the winning ticket in the lotto they would be unhappy that the prize wasn’t bigger when they won.

Then there are those who seemingly have nothing and are still smiling and happy, just to be alive. When we are very young, most of us didn’t know what unhappiness was, other than that frightened feeling when we lost sight of mom or when we fell and hurt ourselves. The kind of unhappiness that many adults feel is a learned response to the world around us. It is a feeling that somehow others have more, were given more or took more than we have. It is a child’s response to understanding the word “mine” and having whatever it is taken away. We learn to stare longingly at the door that has closed, instead of looking for the other door that Helen Keller reminds us has just opened.

We tend to look at our relationships with others in life that way, too.  All relationships eventually end, some due to circumstances and mistakes that we make and some due to death. While it is certainly OK to harbor fond memories of the times and relationships sorry 3gone by, it is not good to fixate on those closed doors rather than looking for the open doors and relationships that are still available. Ruing the day when a mistake that you made caused a relationship to go bad will not change the fact that it has changed and perhaps ended forever. Learning from that mistake will help you avoid souring other relationships in the same way in the future. Learn and move on through the open doors to happiness that are still available to you.

The thing that I like about Lennon’s quote is that is has nothing at all to do with possessions or success in business or winning at some endeavor. It is really about maintaining a state of mind throughout life that promotes being happy with what you have and where you are in your life.  I suspect that the people who live in that state of woman-prayinghappiness have first come to understand their relationship with God and have accepted that He has a plan for their lives that will take care of them. They have surrendered their egos to the will of God and have found happiness in His embrace.

Too many of us tend to measure ourselves by what we have or don’t have in relationship to others. It is this comparative measurement that causes us to be unhappy. Oprah Winfrey put it this way – “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” For many there is never enough, because they are always comparing themselves and what they have against others and their possessions. The open door that God always keeps open for you is to share what you have with others who have even less.

So, grow up and be happy. Share what you have and let God show you the open doors.


Will you be satisfied when you look back?

June 10, 2017

From a post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this thought provoking quote, which begs the question that is today’s headline. “To be able to look back upon one’s past life with satisfaction is to live twice.”  (Lord Acton)

The obvious question is to assess what you will see when you look back over your life and whether you will be satisfied with what you see. One must start with an understanding of the term satisfaction. The dictionary defines it as a noun that means – fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this. Youbored can easily substitute words like hopes, goals or dreams into the definition. There will always be things that you might wish had gone differently in your life and maybe a few things (let’s hope just a few) for which you have regrets; however, if you can look back over your life and be pleased with what you see, then it was a life well lived.

If you ask older people what they are most proud of or satisfied with in their lives you most often might get a reply that points to having successfully raised their children.  A long and loving marriage is also a very common answer. Some might point to success and achievement in the business world, but that is seldom the measure that the common man holds his life up to, in order to measure his satisfaction with his life. Some might recall the satisfaction of having given service to help others and some might point to their relationship with God and its impact on their lives.

I believe that the search for satisfying moments in your life will yield many more instances of things that involved other people than occasions when you acquired some great-jobobject of your desire – a new car or a boat or a house. True satisfaction come from sharing moments and events and achievements with others. It is not necessarily a moment of personal recognition but more one of shared joy, of shared accomplishment and of shared satisfaction.

You really don’t have to wait until you are old to look back over your life so far and seek out those moments of satisfaction in your life. Relive those moments and let them help you set your priorities for the future. Let those moments help you realize that it is seldom the “me” things in life that are truly satisfying; it is the “we” times that make you the happiest. Whether they are the intimate moments shared with a loved one or the praying-togethergroup happiness of a shared effort, they will help you realize that it’s not “all about me”, it’s about working with and serving the needs of others that creates memorable and satisfying events in our lives.

So, I ask the question that makes up the headline above – “Will you be satisfied when you look back at your life?” The good news is that there is still time to change the ending, still time to refocus your life on the really important things – the people in it – and still time to make memories that you can look back on with satisfaction.

I’ll end today’s post  with a little song that talks about the alternative – I can’t get no satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. Don’t be dissatisfied with your life when you look back.


Turn the other cheek instead…

May 31, 2017

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog gives good advice on how to deal with those who might verbally disabuse you – “Never wrestle with pigs.  You both get dirty, and the pigs like it.”  (George Bernard Shaw).

pig in mudThose who verbally bully others or who’s overt disparaging remarks seek to hurt you are the pigs in your life and they love it when you react to their attacks – when you wrestle with them. Those types of people do what they do in hopes of “getting a rise out of you.” They want you to come down to their level and wrestle in the mud of hate or prejudice with them.

In Matthew 5:39 we read “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

I suppose that this verse could be interpreted literally; however, it is useful in a figurative sense also. Turning the other cheek to those who have verbally caused you harm is choosing not to wrestle with pigs, not to get down in the mud with them.

It is difficult to resist the reaction of lashing back at someone who has just hurled anbully.png insult at you; however, if you can bring to mind Shaw’s advice, there will likely come a smile to your face as you imagine wrestling with pigs. Nothing disarms the would be verbal bully like a smile in response. They just can’t figure out how you can take the abuse and respond with a smile. Resist the urge to throw in a little “oink”, even if that comes to mind.

Remind yourself that the taunts or hurtful remarks are coming from a negative person and heed the advice of Hugh Dillon – “Life is too short to spend in negativity. So I have made a conscious effort to not be where I don’t want to be.” Think about it. Do you really want to be down there in the mud, wrestling with pigs?

Instead, perhaps you can focus upon the words of Dr. Martin Luther King – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It is sometimes hard to love thine enemies as we are instructed to do; smiling womanbut nothing that I’ve ever tried to do in response to some personal attack has worked better than showing forgiveness and love to those who tried to drag me down into the mud with them to wrestle in hate.

So figuratively turn the other cheek today and find it in your heart to forgive. Once you have stopped the urge to get down and dirty with the pigs, you must find the strength to forgive them.  H. Jackson Brown, Jr. put it well when he reminds us – “Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness.”

Use your resources today.


What happened to Sundays?

May 29, 2017

While I was at church this past Sunday, at least one of my grandsons and his dad were at a little league game that started at 9 AM that morning. It’s quite probable that another of my grandsons had a game, too. I thought back to when I was growing up and how baseball glove and ballSunday was a day dedicated to church and family time, and not a day filled with organized sports or other activities. In fact, when I was a kid in Illinois the state still had “Blue Laws”, which made it illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays and illegal to open retail stores. We used to drive across the Mississippi River into Missouri to shop on Sunday afternoon (after church, of course).

Now, I’m certainly not advocating a return to the Blue Laws days; however, I do find it both disappointing and somewhat offensive that Sundays have been turned into sports days. It seems that every little league sport of any sort now views Sunday mornings as fair game for practices or actual games. If it’s not baseball, it’s soccer or hockey or basketball or whatever. Our children are not only lured into these things, but are now actually forced into them by the pressure to start competitive sports at younger and younger ages. II have seen articles that blame the passage of the Title 9 laws back in 1972. Those laws encouraged (some might say mandated) the creation of programs to educate and keep baseball playerchildren busy (and off the streets). Out of that start more and more “little leagues” for all sports grew, until we have what we have today – seven-days a week sports activities that not only keep our kids off the streets but out of churches as well.

Why is that so important? I believe that a case can be made that the teachings that children used to get by attending church and Sunday School were a critical part of their development into responsible adults. It was, and still is, the primary place that focused upon establishing a moral base for adulthood, through the teaching of right and wrong as defined within religious doctrine. It was a rite of passage on the journey to adulthood that we have largely abandoned as a society and we are much the poorer for that.

I believe that another thing that the usurping of Sundays has caused is exhaustion in both the children and the families. We no longer have a day that we set aside for relaxing andlistening toi music.png rejuvenation. Instead we are on the go rung to and from activities seven days a week. Not only don’t modern children get bored, they don’t get any rest either. There is less time for reading and play, because they have to get to the next game or to rehearsal for an upcoming recital. There is no time to just be a child; one has to get ready for the next competition. We are teaching them that it’s a win-lose world, a zero sum game in which the one who works the hardest wins. What a shame that they are no longer exposed to the win-win world of Christianity in which making the effort and helping others is more family grroupimportant than winning every time.

All of this could be avoided, if parents just took the stand that Sundays (at least the mornings) are not for sports, but for family time and for church. Unfortunately, the current generation of parents is among the first themselves to largely abandon organized religions. Perhaps that is the fault of the religions themselves, which were slow to change and recognize the needs of younger parishioners. The growth of modern, non-denominational churches sprung from the recognition of those needs and a willingness to change in order to fill them.

However, not all churches can make the change to so-called “modern” services, with praise bands and video productions and other attractions/distractions to lure the young and the bored. Hopefully, for those churches, God will find a way to bring back the folks churchwho have wandered away to watch a Sunday morning game. Sometime, somehow, in the back of their minds God will plant the seed that they are missing something in their lives and that the best place to fill that void is in church. Let’s just hope that the churches can hold on long enough for them to have a place to go back to when that happens. I’ll be there to welcome you back if that happens to you.


In God We Trust…

May 26, 2017

Seen on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog was this saying that Jack said he saw on a protest sign somewhere – “In God we trust; everyone else must cite their data.” 

We live in an era were claims of “fake news” shake our confidence in what we see, hear and read. It is also an era where the so-called “Scientific Method” is under constant attack from those who choose not to believe the data cited by scientists on a variety of In God We Trust on Dollartopics from global warming to the lunar landings. Yet we still print “In God We Trust” on all of our money and pay at least lip service to that motto.

What I think the protest sign was trying to convey is that our belief in God marks the line between things that we say (or think) that we can prove using what is called the scientific method of devising tests in order to prove or disprove a theory. Scientists recently were successful with a test to prove the last great unproven theories that Einstein proposed when he did his work on the nature of time and space – the existence of gravity waves.

When it comes to God, proving or disproving His existence defies any scientific testing and requires that last giant step into the world of just believing. There have been, of course, many cases throughout history that have been well documented of so-called miracles that purportedly occurred because people who believed in god prayed for Him to intercede and change the expected course of the future. The Catholic Church documents at least 3-4 such miracles of intercession with God by candidates for man prayingSainthood; however, that is less of a planned and scientific test than it is a recording, after the fact, of an event in which someone believe that God had a hand. The scientific part may be that the original condition of the person receiving the miracle was well documented and the resulting condition after the miracle is well documented, but the occurrence of the miracle itself remains a mystery.

Perhaps that is as it should be. Even scientists accept that there are things that cannot be explained; things that cannot be tested, which must just be believed. Scientists have long struggled with the answers to the simple questions “what came before that and what caused that”; until they get to the point where the only answer is God.

In our daily lives there are many things that we wrestle with and expend energy on trying to solve or resolve. Many of them can be handles with just good problem solving techniques and I’ve posted about that here before – see https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/03/05/problem-solving-101/ as an example. Some things are beyond our ability to solve for others or for ourselves and that is when we should turn to God. I’ve written about that, too, as recently as this month – https://normsmilfordblog.com/2017/05/04/consider-the-alternative-and-turn-to-god/

In reality it is God acting through us that makes either approach work. So, perhaps a woman-prayinggood way to start each day would be to take out your wallet and look at the back of whatever bills you have in it and read the motto – In God We Trust. If you don’t have any bills, look at your coins; it’s printed on them, too. The point is to take that motto to heart and start the day with the thought in mind – In God I Trust. You’ll have a great day, no matter what happens.


Teetering on the seesaw of life or mastering the winds of change…

May 23, 2017

“The world is an eternal seesaw.”  (Montaigne) – as seen on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Life is indeed full of ups and downs, of good and bad things, of friends and those we believe wish us no good, and of threats and rewards. No matter what state your life is in currently it is bound to change sometime soon. No matter how hard we try to grasp it we cannot hold on to the past and are forced to deal with the changes that are occurring in the present with little real insight into the future.

Intime for change order to avoid being run over by change, one must embrace change. One cannot stop the flow of change, but like a surfer riding a wave, one can get on top of change and enjoy the ride. One might even be able to effect the changes that are in motion so that they take you in a direction that you want to go, rather than just sweeping you along to some unknown destination

Perhaps the most important thing that one can do is to approach all things in life, including the changes that are happening all around us, with a positive attitude. It is all too easy, when the winds of change appear to be blowing against you, to let a negativedumb blob guy and defeatist attitude take over your life. Maintaining a positive attitude is key.  Brian Tracy pout it well when he said – “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”

Good sailors know how to use the winds that are there, no matter which way they are blowing, to take them in the direction that they want to go. In order to sail in any direction other than with the wind, sailors need a centerboard (or keel equivalent) and a good rudder. In life we need that positive attitude as our centerboard and, I would sailboatsubmit, we need faith as our rudder to sail against the winds of change and the ups and downs that come with change. Sailors also study the stars and their maps to guide them, just as we can study the bible for guidance in our lives.

Change is inevitable, as are the ups and downs of life, but if we keep a positive attitude at our center and let our faith act as our rudder to guide us against the winds in life that seek to blow us off course, we will not only weather change but thrive in the midst of it. I love a quote that I found from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon – “What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.”

I particularly like the last four words of Jeff’s quote. For some people complaining isn’t so much their strategy as it is their response to change. Those people not only accept that bad things will happen in their lives, they come to expect them and many adopt a defeatist attitude that eventually morphs into “why even try; I know I’m going to lose”. Try to stay away from those people because like a drowning swimmer they will try to drag you down with them.

Your walking manresponse to change based upon a positive attitude as your centerboard and your faith as your rudder will allow you master change and not let it get the upper hand on you. You will control your direction and your destiny, no matter which way the winds of change are blowing. Perhaps Sherrie Eldridge put it best when she said – “The remarkable thing we have is a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude”

How will you react to the changes that you encounter today?