It’s not a struggle; it’s your purpose…

December 29, 2022

I got this quote in an email this morning –

The struggle, like life itself, should be joyful. (Miriam Miranda)

From the same email – Miriam Miranda has dedicated her life to protecting the culture and land of the Garífuna people in Honduras. Throughout her 30 years of on-the-ground activism, she has faced threats, attacks, and imprisonment; still, she fearlessly advocates for preservation. To her, the harshest opponents — big business, real estate, and tourism development, to name but a few — are no match for the power of a woman fighting for a bright, sustainable future, and a better social safety net for the younger generation. Her continued efforts are nothing if not optimistic — and even, as her words here suggest, a joyful struggle.

The word “struggle” has negative connotations which makes it hard for me at least to associate with the word joy. If one is poor and homeless life itself becomes a struggle. We see on the nightly news the immigrants at our southern border struggling just to survive, most after having struggled for months just to get here. Most of us, however, are not struggling just to survive. Our struggle (our purpose, if you will) is most often based on some personal decisions that we make to take actions to better ourselves or the lives of others (quite often our families).

Quite often on the nightly news we see stories of people, some quite young, who have embarked on a mission to help others. They may have made it their purpose to collect coats for the cold or food for the hungry or toys for needy children at Christmas. Some may be providing shelter for the homeless in their area or perhaps a safe haven for victims of domestic abuse. Those stories on the news might often cause you to stop and think about what you might do or maybe think about what you are not doing. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the thoughts of how big of a task doing something like what was covered in the story would be to take on. We “struggle” to think of a purpose or mission that we could tackle.

The truth is that we don’t need to embark on some “holy grail” quest or mission. If you have the time and/or resources to take on something like forming and operating a charitable non-profit, more power to you and good luck; however, few have that luxury. Instead, look about you for already established non-profits in your community and volunteer at one or more of them. There are food pantries and homeless shelters and many other very worthwhile organizations in almost every community – most hiding in plain sight. If you go to a church, find out the things that your church is doing to help in the community and join in the efforts. You will find a sense of mission, purpose, and joy from joining any of those efforts.

 If putting yourself out there in a volunteer community service role is not for you, maybe just taking on the task of being a better person will provide you with the challenge (purpose) that you need to find joy in life. Making a mindful decision to be a better person gives you something to shoot for each morning and something to evaluate and be joyfully proud of each night. Even if you find little to be happy about at the end of any day, that evaluation provides you with even more incentive to do better tomorrow.  Forgive yourself for today’s failures and resolve to do better tomorrow. If today’s failures were caused by the actions of someone else, forgive them and learn from the experience. You will get another chance to do better tomorrow, and you will be wiser then.

Seeing life or the issues that you face as a struggle is a negative way to look at things. If instead you accept the challenge of overcoming the setbacks or obstacles that may come your way as part of your mission and purpose in life, then you will be able to pause and celebrate (be joyful) when you have met those challenges. You will have fulfilled your purpose.

It’s not a struggle; it’s your purpose…

Don’t Struggle…Make good decisions…

December 27, 2022

I recently saved a quote by Will Smith that I saw somewhere, even though I disagree with it –

“In all honesty, everyone is struggling.  Some are better at hiding it than others.”  (Will Smith)

I really don’t believe that everyone is struggling; however, I do think this quote by Martha Beck is true –

“Life is full of tough decisions, and nothing makes them easy.” (Martha Beck)

What Will Smith might see as a struggle is more often than not just a decision point in life, a place where a decision must be made, maybe a tough decision. Many times those decisions involve a right or wrong choice from a moral point of view. Oft times they also involved a conflict between our own self-interest and the interests of others. Doing the “right thing” to help someone else might not seem sometimes to be in our own best interest. But it is the “right thing” to do.

I have posted here a few times in the past that I often include in my prayers the request that God “help me make good decisions” today. There doesn’t have to be a decision starting me in the face, it’s just a request that God help me make valid right and wrong evaluations when decisions come up during the day and hopefully do the right things.

So, there is no reason to struggle with or hide your decisions. If you pause and let God help remind you what is right and wrong in any situation or decision, you will make the right decision. I suppose that does make it a bit easier. Maybe Martha should have said, “Life is full of tough decisions and asking God for help with them makes it easier.”

Don’t struggle with the decisions that you have to make. Ask for and accept God’s help. He will help you see the right and wrong in any situation and doing the right thing is always the best thing and the easiest thing in the long run.

So, don’t struggle today and this week; instead let God help you make good decisions.

Say ouch and move on…

December 26, 2022

This is a rather long quote, but worth the read…

As seen on The Loneliest Sport – ‘When I was a boxer in the 1970’s, I was hit in the face by Joe Frazier, knocked out by Muhammad Ali, and knocked down a couple of times by Ron Lyle before I got up and won. All of the fights had one thing in common: When they were over, I could hardly remember the pain. I forgot my weak knees, the cuts, the blood in my eyes. If not for the films of my fights, I would have put them totally out of my mind. It’s the same when you hit rough times: Don’t let the pain and disappointment lodge inside.’ (George Foreman)

Life does throw disappointments and some pain our way from time to time. How we react to them is an important factor in whether we are happy or not. Some, unfortunately, hold on to the pain and disappoint of those moments, unable to forgive or forget and move on with their lives. For them, holding on to failures becomes a way of life and a way to avoid trying again to achieve their dreams or seeing a new dream.

For George Foreman the setbacks that he experienced early in his career were real and I’m sure quite painful; however, he got back up and put them out of his mind and got back to work. Eventually he prevailed ad won the Heavyweight Championship Belt. He has gone on to become a successful TV salesman and advertising personality.

It is easy to make the statement, “Don’t let the pain and disappointment lodge inside”, but sometimes not so easy to actually do that.  I think it is important to acknowledge to ourselves that those disappointment hurt, to say a kind of mental “Ouch”. Acknowledging them and saying that ouch puts boundaries around the incident. It allows us to package it up and then set it aside. Otherwise, we just continue to revisit and re-feel the pain. In fact, we may make revisiting that pain a part of our life and let it influence our decisions going forward. We accept the role of victim to that pain.

An important step that Foreman did but did not talk about in his quote is that he kept getting back up after each defeat.  What Foreman is saying is don’t be a victim. Don’t let a pain from your past dictate your future. Even if the failure that you’ve just experienced was actually the end of the dream that you had been pursuing for quite some time, that does not mean that your life is over. It just means that it is time for a new dream to pursue. Say ouch and move on. God has a different plan for your life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Find that new plan and turn your life in that direction.

So, when you hit a rough spot in life or suffer a disappointment, try this 4-step method of dealing with it:

  1. Acknowledge that it happened (maybe put into words what just happened and say it out loud)
  2. Say ouch, that hurt (maybe a good cry would help)
  3. Package it up and set it aside (put the end boundary of “it happened in the past” on it)
  4. Move on with life (trust that God has a plan for your and look for your next dream)

But first, get back up!

Farewell and God Speed Jack Freed

December 21, 2022

This morning I got this final post from the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

Jack’s Winning Words 12/21/22 (Guest authored by Jack’s son Dave Freed)

“Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.” (William Shakespeare)  It’s the end of an era. After over 20 years of bringing a motivational message to friends and family, Jack’s Winning Words as we know it has come to its end. My father Jack died yesterday in his sleep with his daughters by his side. Five days a week, 50+ weeks per year, for over 20 years means Jack sent out over 5,000 Winning Words messages.  It was a labor of love, and I hope you found the messages valuable. 😉  Jack 

Funeral arrangements are pending, but the expectation is to have a service sometime in January.

As readers of this blog well know, I got a lot of inspiration for my blog from posts that Jack made to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words. Jack was the pastor of Holy Spirit Lutheran Church that I joined when we moved to Michigan in 1978.

As Jack’s son pointed out in this post, Jack shared over 5,000 posts to his blog, always in the same format – a single paragraph featuring a short, thought-provoking quote. Jack most often used his paragraph to ask what the quote meant to the reader. Jack’s posts and his thoughts will be greatly missed.

God speed Jack Freed, God speed. We will meet again.

You be you and be happy about it…

December 19, 2022

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”  (Steve Jobs) 

We all have some tendency to try to be like someone else whom we might admire, to live their life. In the end, we cannot be them and must live our own lives. Perhaps another quote from Jack’s blog sums that up very well – “Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person that you always should have been.” (David Bowie)

You may arrive at that point and realize that you don’t very much like the person that you have become, but there is no reason that you still cannot become the person that you wish to be. Perhaps Steve Jobs should have also said that you shouldn’t waste your time thinking about what might have been, the “couldas, woulda, shoulda’s” of life. You must find a way to accept life as it is, and to be happy about it. If for no other reason, you should be happy that you still have time to make changes in your life to become that person that you desire to become. For that to occur, another quote from Jack’s blog seems appropriate –

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.” ― Lewis B. Smedes, author and theologian

We become prisoners of the sins of the past, those of others against us and those that we commit, if we cannot forgive others or ourselves. Being unable to forgive others is to allow them to control your life, to set your agenda. It is amazing how liberating it feels when you forgive them and free yourself from the hatred and plans for revenge that you had been carrying around. Try it. You’ll like it.

I have also posted here a few times about forgiving yourself as a major step to moving forward in life. You truly set yourself free to be that person that you want to be when you also forgive yourself. Time spent revisiting the disappointments of the past is wasted time and is associated with words like remorse, regrets, and failure. Time spent thinking about a better future might be called dreaming, but can also be associated with goals, planning, and anticipating – all much more positive than wasting time on the past.

So, don’t waste your time trying to be someone else or reliving the past. Forgive others and, most importantly, forgive yourself and start the journey to becoming the person that you always wanted to be.

You be you and be happy about it.

Listen to your inner voice…and let it happen

December 16, 2022

I’m not sure where I saved this quote from, but it appealed to me this morning – “The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm.” (Edward Hooper)

There’s probably a quote somewhere about the advice that we often hear being given to noisy and loud children to “use your inside voice”. Our inside (inner) voices are those that we use and listen to in our “inner life”; the vast and varied realm that happens inside our heads. You sometimes hear someone ask, “Did I just say that out loud?” They forgot to use their inner voice for the thoughts that they were having in their inner life and said them out loud.

Another quote that I saved, from the Jack’s Winning Words blog also seems to fit here – “Sometimes my feelings creep out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.”  (Sent by Jackie Beach)

Those times are times when some portion of your inner world gets out in public. Emotions are very big in the inner world and most of the time we try very hard not to let them get out so that others can see. Stifling emotions like anger and rage are probably good things, but it is important to let out our emotions like love or regret or sadness. Stifling them in the name of stoicism can lead to a cold, lonely existence.

Sometimes the inner you and the “you” that the public sees are in sync, especially in times of great fear. When your inner voice is crying out in fear, to whom do you turn? During those times another post from the Jack’s Winning Words blog from December 13, 2022,  seems most appropriate –

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  (Psalm 56:3)  Some people scream or gasp when they’re frightened.  Some cross themselves.  Others reach out to hug someone.  A child will grab the hand of a parent.  Joan Baez sang, “Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.”  By that, she meant what the psalmist meant…“When I’m scared, I put my trust in the Lord.”  During life’s scary times, God’s hand is reaching out for yours.  Take it! 

Our inner life is the place from which we most often converse with God and the place where he most often answers us. We read in the Bible – The Lord knows all man’s thoughts (1 Chronicles 28:9). It just makes sense that God can also enter those thoughts to provide answers to our questions or encouragement and support in our times of fear or remorse.  We just need to listen for God’s quiet inner voice (some call it our conscience) and put our faith in what He tells us. Of course, it helps if we surrender to that advice by saying with our inner or outer voice, “Not my will but thy will be done.” For many the ritualistic act of praying provides the quiet break that they need in order to hear the inner voice of God.

So, take some time each day to pray and listen for and to your inner voice. Take God’s hand during that time and then let it happen.

Are you prepared?

December 8, 2022

Today’s quote reminds us to think ahead…”It’s better to look ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret.”  (Jackie Joyner-Kersee)

That’s good advice and should be followed whenever possible; however, life doesn’t always give us much time to look ahead, much less to think ahead. Sometimes life just comes at us, and we have to make decisions on the fly. How can you be better prepared for those times, so that you make good decisions?

I’ve shared here a few times that I often will add to my prayers the sentence, “Help me make good decisions today.” If nothing else that helps put my mind in decision making mode with the added benefit of having touched base with the concept of God and, out of that, with an understanding of right and wrong. I am more prepared.

The strongest reaction to threatening or stressful situations that we have as humans is that of self-preservation. That’s what makes the actions of people like the man who rushed the shooter at the recent Club Q mass-shooting incident so unusual and heroic. Even he admits that he really didn’t have time to think about it. He attributed it to going into “combat mode” but it was really about doing what was right in that instant. Somewhere in his background there must have been some strong teaching or experience that imprinted upon him a strong sense of right and wrong; strong enough to overcome his self-preservation instinct and move him to action. He was prepared.

Another example that most have heard about shows the benefit of taking actions to be prepared. When he was interviewed later about his heroic landing of a disabled plane on the Hudson River, pilot Sully Sullivan told the interviewers that he had been preparing for that moment all of his piloting life. He actually when over various flight emergency scenarios in his mind and had a solution for them in mind when he took off. He was prepared.

Today’s headline is the real question that you need to ask yourself each day. You probably are not going to have to make life threatening or lifesaving decisions like the two examples above, but you will be faced with many decisions that will test your ability to choose between right and wrong. Are you ready to make decisions as needed throughout the day based upon a solid understanding of right and wrong? Upon what do you base that understanding? Are you prepared?

I’ve posed here in the past about those WWJD bracelets that were popular worldwide in the 90’s. One does not have to go on a nostalgia trips and find one of those bracelets to wear in order to be reminded to do the right thing – what Jesus might do in the situation. Just pausing each morning to ask God to help you make good decisions during the day will have the same effect. You will be reinforcing your internal right and wrong compass and you will be better prepared for the decisions that you will need to make. Are you prepared?

Ask God to help you make better decisions today.

Imagine it, invent it…

December 6, 2022

“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” (Edward Hopper)

Invention is basically the application of engineering to something that is first imagined. Architects imagine structures that have never existed before, and builders engineer ways to actually build them. Inventors must first imagine something before that set out to invent it. It’s not that Thomas Edison was just tinkering with a random set of parts that were lying about his shop when he invented the phonograph. Edison first imagined that there must be a way to capture and later play back sounds.

Sometimes one person has the imagination to dream up something, but another person actually makes it happen. Many of Edison’s inventions were implimentations of ideas that someone else first imagined. Quite often there may be two or more implementations of an imagined idea resulting from different inventive tracks – witness the inventions of HVS and Blue-ray video recording and playback technologies. Factors other than the best engineering result also often enter the picture to determine which invention eventually wins in the market.

How do we apply these thoughts to our lives? One way is to spend some time imagining a better you. What would that look like and how would it feel? There is certainly enough help available in the marketplace to allow one to “engineer” a better looking you. Just think of all the products that we are bombarded with on TV and in social media that claim to allow women to look thinner or more beautiful. Men are certainly not left out of that market with many products that proposed to make us more attractive or at least less offensive to women.

But, how do we “engineer” a better person, a kinder, gentler and more intelligent and thoughtful human being. Where is the instruction manual for inventing that person? I would point to the Bible and the instructions that Jesus left with his disciples on how to live their lives.

At the heart of Jesus’ teachings is the concept of moving from selfishness to selflessness – to love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you can get to that base, the rest of the attributes that might be used to define a better person just seem to fall into place. Rather than try to identify specific scriptural passages that make this point, just read one of the major books of the New Testament. Jesus left lots of instructions which, if followed, will result in a better you.

The new you that you can invent was there all along. It just takes your imagination and a few helpful instructions to bring out (invent) that person.

Imagine that and then invent that.  

Don’t just sit there…

December 5, 2022

I don’t remember where I saw this quote, but it rang true to me. “Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.”  (Herb Brooks)

Many people sit with their dreams, unable or unwilling to take the risks that may be required to achieve them. Perhaps they dream of getting a better job but are afraid to take the risk to leave the job that they have now. Maybe they have dreamed of asking a certain person our but are afraid of rejection. Maybe they have always dreamed about trying a particular sport or activity but hold back because of imagined failure or the possible risk of injury. Whatever the real or imagined risks involved, they just never try.

I suppose that there is a kind of comfort in just sitting there with one’s dreams instead of actually taking the risk to try to make them come true. Dreams can become like old friends and prove to be a sort of comforting refuge from the reality of their day-to-day world. That is especially true if the crushing weight of the mundane rules their real world. Dreams allow an escape from the repetitive sameness of a boring job or life.

But while just sitting there may provide a refuge it fails to provide any real reward. One might imagine the reward that awaits at the end of a dream but can only really experience it by accomplishing the dream. The dream is like the shadow of the person or the thing that is imagined- you can sort of see it, but you can’t touch it or hold it. You don’t really experience it; you just see it – in your dreams.

So, the key to today’s thought is that you must take the risks that you also imagine in order to turn your dream into a reality. Don’t just sit there with your dreams. Take the first step. Say hello to that person whom you ‘ve been dreaming of meeting. Fill out the job application for the job you’ve been dreaming of having. Try the beginner’s level of that sport or activity that you’ve dreamed of competing in to see if you really like it.

Many dreams involve launching yourself into them and provide no way to turn back. That’s OK because turning back is just another way of say failing. You’ve already “won” just by trying and things will never be the same again.

There is a law in physics that states that “a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tend to stay in motion.” Don’t just sit there at rest with your dreams; take the risk and become a body in motion. I think you’ll like being a body in motion a bit more.

Risk something. Chase your dreams!

Make the choice yourself…

November 29, 2022

I got this graphic in a daily inspirational email…

One of the first thoughts that came to mind as I look at this is how many people decide to be victims. I’m sure that you know some people like that. These are the people whom “the world is out to get.” Their misfortunes are never their fault. They are just the victims of circumstances or of conspiracies against them. They are people for whom the mantra “Poor Me” was invented.

But, as Emerson pointed out, it was never pre-ordained that become victims…they willed that upon themselves. We all have choices in life, and we all make those choices. For some the easiest choice is just to decide that success was not to be for them. They settle into the comfort of being the victim. For others the choice to quit, to give up and give in is a non-starter. They chose to endure the pain of setbacks or failures in a never-ending pursuit of their goals.

It is hard to imagine that one can become satisfied in seeing themselves as a loser – a victim. Emerson tells us that the decision is ours to make.  Winners in life have decided not to be victims. They have decided to be a winner, no matter what. They may finish 2nd or third in the race and still feel good if they’ve achieved a personal best or at least know in their hearts that they gave it their best shot – for this time.  They will be back to compete again and again in pursuit of the goal of winning. For them, it is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Life is not all about winning races or achieving goals. Oft times it is about how you play the game, how you live your life. At the end of each day, ask yourself if you are happy about how you lived that day, the decisions that you made and the trajectory that you are on. If you are not happy, then remember Emerson’s advice and decide to make changes that will get you back onto the path that you want for your life.

Make your life what you want it to be. It really is up to you. I often use this line in my prayers – “help me make good decisions today”. I find that combining that with the prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”, puts me in the frame of mind to accept the responsibility for my life and puts me back in control of who I want to become. Try it, maybe you’ll find that it helps you, too.

Become the person that you want to be.