What it was is not what it yet may be…

April 6, 2021

I was at a loss for what to write about this morning, so I Googled “Inspirational quotes” – and this came up – ‘It’s never too late to be what you might’ve been.” – George Eliot.

That quote bright to mind another quote that I saw, or think I saw, somewhere – “What it was, what it is and what it yet may be.” Perhaps I made that up myself, since nothing comes up when I Googled that.

Many people never get past thinking about what might have been. They get stuck in the present by thinking too much about the past. They don’t imagine a future that is much different than the present. Almost all of the great people of history and the heroes of today report that they all chased their dreams, unsatisfied with what was or is and constantly striving for what could be. Most developed an ability to accept and learn from failures, but never to lose sight to their goals.

Mariners have always reset (or checked) their compasses before setting out to sea, to make sure that they were able to go in the right direction. In life it is a good thing to touch base with and reinforce one’s goals and dreams for the future, to do a quick check of your goals to make sure that what you do today takes you in that direction. We may be pursuing long term goals that could take years to achieve (getting a college degree, for instance, while working full time) and it is easy to lose track of where we are and what we can do today to move towards that goal. Losing track like that causes us to wander off course.

It is also easy to get discouraged about the apparently lack of progress towards achieving those long-term goals. Maybe you just finished the first course or two at a community college and the road ahead towards that degree still looks daunting. Maybe you just finished a shift at your entry level job and can yet see no way to progress up the ladder at work. Perhaps you even got laid off at work and can see no way out of that setback. These are the times when your faith should kick in and you may hear God whisper George Eliot’s quote back in response to your prayers. Your faith will serve to bolster your resolve and perseverance.

So, as you take that moment to check your compass each morning, also check in with God. With the direction to your hopes and dreams refocused and with God at your side, you will be ready to face each day and to make some progress, no matter how small, towards those dreams. “What it was” is in the past, “what it is” provides today’s challenges that you will overcome and “what it yet may be” is still within reach.

Start each day with Philippians 4:13 in mind – “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Go for it today. You have God at your side and your goals firmly in mind.

It is all on where you focus…

April 5, 2021

“Focus upon an ocean of positives, not a puddle of negative” – as seen on a social media graphic post.

I get a daily graphic for social media posts to my Facebook real estate business page through my company. It’s helpful, because one cannot always think of something to post and certainly can’t always find a nice graphic to go with the thought. Today’s “quote” was on the graphic that I got this morning.

I was going to use the headline “Which you would rather dive into?” I think we’d all feel a bit safer and more comfortable taking a dive into the ocean rather than diving headfirst into a puddle. Yet, in life we may seem to be surrounded by puddles. The news media tends towards telling us all of the negative news of the day, because they think that we want to see and hear it, plus they think it “sells” and makes them more money. I wonder how a show called “The Nightly Good News” would fare?

Being surrounded by negative puddles means that we will occasionally step into one. We may not have dived in headfirst, but we still get wetted by negativity none the less. A key to not sitting in that puddle and wallowing in negativity and self pity, is to be more like a bungy jumper and bounce back before you hit bottom. The bungy cord that makes that happen and keeps you from becoming mired in negativity is your faith.

Faith takes our eyes off the negatives in life and refocuses them on the positives. We have just gone through the biggest refocus of all – Easter. Easter reassures us each year that we can take our minds off the puddle of death and focus instead on the ocean of everlasting life with Jesus. Easter shouts “He is risen!” and assures us that we will, too. Easter forces us to look away from His death on the cross and towards His resurrection and the promise of our own.

So, use the bungie cord of your faith to bounce back out of life’s puddles. Refocus your life around the positives. Easter is our ocean of positivity. Dive in! The water’s fine.

“Leave it!” – Life lessons learned from walking my dog.

April 3, 2021

I walk my dog, Sadie, 4-5 times a day. I can do that because I work from home at jobs which afford me a lot of flexibility. I know that my dog is spoiled by all of this, but she’s a good dog and really doesn’t demand very much to be happy – a little food, some water, a few treats and the chance to get out for walks.

Sadie is what is called a blue-tick coon hound, which means she is a German Shorthair crossed with a hound of some sort. She basically looks like a German Shorthair (only with the tail not bobbed off) with a black and white coat instead of the red or brown coats that purebred German Shorthair dogs usually have.

Being a hound, she is a natural hunter; although, the fact that she is gun-shy is probably why she was in the rescue shelter where we found her. Nothing makes a hunting dog more useless to the hunter than being gun-shy.

Be that as it may, she still is instinctively on the hunt as we take our walks. When she spots another animal (almost any animal) she goes into stalking mode and locks onto her prey. Squirrels and Chipmunks, in particular, get her undivided attention.

When she’s in stalking mode it is very hard to get her attention back to the walk. I find myself yelling “Leave it” or “Let it go” at her, as if she understood what that means. She probably understands the tugging on her lead better than anything that I yell.

“Leave it” is probably great advice for life. Many times, in life we can become fixated on some event or some person and loose sight of all else. It may be a setback or failure that consumes us or perhaps some real or perceived slight or rejection by another. We just can’t let go of it and there is usually no one there to yell “Leave it” or to tug on our imaginary lead.

I’ve also noticed that Sadie remembers exactly where the squirrel or chipmunk sighting took place and thinks that they are still there the next time that we walk by that spot. Life can be like that too, with us constantly re-living events in our minds, hoping that somehow the results will turn out differently. I have to remind Sadie to “Leave it” when we walk by that spot and we all have to remind ourselves to let it go when recalling some disappointing event.

In life, as with Sadie, there is always the next walk, the next opportunity and we must be ready for it by letting go of the last walk or disappointment. That means not constantly re-living a failure or disappointment. It means not beating yourself up for something left undone. It means learning from your mistakes and not just second guessing the decisions that you made at the time. Leave it. Let go. Move on.

It is Spring as I write this and Easter weekend. Both of those point to a new beginning; however, new beginnings require that you let go of the past. So, “Leave it”. What’s done is done, and what lies ahead requires your full attention. Use Easter not only to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but to mark the starting point of the rest of your life by leaving behind the baggage that has been burdening your life – let it go, leave it. Now start fresh.

Christ is risen, indeed, let go of the past and fixate on that. You will be rewarded with a new life.

Let God be “the one”…

April 2, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used a quote that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe – “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure.  I make mistakes.  I am out of control and at times hard to handle.  You be the one who nurtures and builds.  You be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, the one who looks for the best in people.” 

In his post, Freed speculated about whether it might have been Joe DiMaggio or maybe even John F. Kennedy, about whom Marilyn was speaking. I thought, when I read it, perhaps it was more like a prayer and God is the “You be the one” being addressed. Pastor Freed opines that Marilyn was a complex person, often misunderstood. Perhaps she had come to the realization that she needed to let God be in control of her otherwise out of control life.

Whether Marilyn was, in fact, asking for God’s help or not; the rest of us certainly could benefit from turning control of our lives over to God. Let God be the one who understands and forgives us, who nurtures and builds us and brings out the best in us. It is as simple as believing and uttering the little one line prayer that I have used here before – “Not my will; but, thy will be done.”

If you can bring yourself to that point, where you surrender completely to God’s will in your life, amazing things can happen in your life. God will forgive you and bring out the best in you. Life may continue to be chaotic all round you, but a sense of peace will descend upon you that will allow you not only to cope, but to thrive.

A great deal of the stress and anxiety that we have about the events of our daily lives is formented out of our fear of the unknown, our inability to answer the question what comes next (after death). Jesus provided the answer to that question in his death and resurrection. For those who believe, there is a place reserved for them in the “next”.

Get your reservation for what is next by letting God be “the one” in your life. You will find that your concerns about what happens in the here and now will melt away. God will bring out the best in you.

Let God be “the one” in your life.

Finish strong…

April 1, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Beginning well is a momentary thing; finishing well is a lifelong thing.”  (Ravi Zacharias) 

He also mentioned that he recalled spectators yelling “finish strong” at his grandchildren’s cross-country meets – encouraging them to give their last best measure at the finish. Those pieces of advice are good advice for life. We need to finish well and finish strong.

A story from the Bible that comes to mind that fits today’s saying – that of the prodigal son. Many lives seem to echo that parable. Most may have started out well, basically because they were innocent as children and accepted God into their lives without question or hesitation. As they grew in the world and began to experience the many distractions and temptations that were all around, some wandered away from God like the prodigal son. It’s not so much that they rejected God in their lives, just that they forgot about Him in their pursuit of other things – things that looked bright and shiny.

Most eventually find their way back to God, like the prodigal son. Many may return with a sense of humility and regret for having been remiss for so long, just as the prodigal son did. They also discover that God has been patiently waiting for them and happily welcomes them back, just as the father did in the parable. If they ask for and receive God’s forgiveness they are positioned to finish well, finish strong.

All of us know that there is an inevitable finish to life here on earth. How will you finish? Will you give God your last full measure and finish strong? God is waiting at the finish line with the reward of eternal life for those who return to Him. The finish is up to you.

Finish strong!

You can be civil…

March 31, 2021

Pastor Freed lamented the use of ad hominem attacks as the stock in trade in politics recently in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today and used this quote – “When you cannot answer your opponent’s logic, you can still call him vile names.”  (Elbert Hubbard) 

I have commented in prior posts about the lack of civility that has crept into our way of life in America. Politics and politicians have certainly contributed greatly to that transition and in the process have denigrated their position in our view and embarrassed themselves (if there is any shred of decency or embarrassment left for them to use).

A major contributor to the loss of civility in our society, at least in my mind, are the robo-callers who inundate us with annoying calls pitching things we don’t need and didn’t ask for. Since they are robots, they can’t hear our polite answer that we are not interested, so we just get angry and either shout at the robot or just angrily hang up. Unfortunately, that same reaction pops into our head when we receive what could have been a polite call from some worthy organization asking for our help. I wouldn’t want to be a phone solicitor these days, even for a worthy cause.

But, back to the original thought. We certainly have seen the use of ad hominem attacks in our state as the Republican legislators have resorted to name calling (and witch is probably the least offensive one that they use) in their battle with the governor over her COVID restrictions. Since they have no logical way to refute the science driving her decisions, they use personal attacks instead. They claim to be fighting for the freedom of people to make their own decisions on things like masks and vaccinations. While they don’t officially have a name for this movement, I’d suggest that they use “The right to die” as their tagline, because that is what the result will be if they are successful. It might be easier to grant them that right if it weren’t for the fact that those same people could infect hundreds of innocent people in their careless disregard for themselves and others.

We have also seen the rise of extremist groups that have been engaged in plotting actions that go well beyond name calling as remedies to what they see as government intervention in their lives.  Some of them took buses to the nation’s capital for the inauguration of our new president and participated in the insurrection that ensued. They could not answer or accept the will of the voters and resorted to much more than ad hominem name calling.

Those are a lot of questions, especially in the midst of what might be a heated exchange, but those also form the bedrock of civility. The key it stopping to think, before responding. I have noticed over time that the few politicians for whom I had respect were those who always stopped to consider things before they responded to questions or challenges. Usually they paused long enough that you noticed it and then they responded with well thought out answers and careful use of the language. Former President Barrack Obama is masterful at that and there have been politicians from both parties who displayed that kind of carefully thought out civility (although far fewer of late).

All of these things point to a society that has been conditioned over time to be much less civil to each other and towards the institutions of government. Even though the current administration has called for a cooling off and a reduction in the level of the rhetoric, just saying that we are all in this together is not enough. We may be in the same boat, but we are on opposite sides of that boat. Rather than trying to get those on the opposite end to rush to our side of the boat  (which isn’t likely to happen, but which would probably capsize the boat if it did), it is important to understand the opposite views well enough to be able to create a position in the middle of the boat for all to seek. That middle ground of compromise has been lost in Washington and in too many other places in America.

Where can we start in an effort to restore civility to American culture? Like all things, the changes that are required start within each individual. It is incumbent upon each of us to stop giving in to the knee-jerk reactions that we have been conditioned to respond with in situations and instead stop and think for ourselves.

Ask yourself, before you blurt out a response, why something that someone just said to you is causing such a reaction. You must first control yourself long enough to think about the situation. Is there some basis in fact for that reaction or have you just reached for some canned response that has been planted in your mind, perhaps an ad hominem attack against the speaker? What is the logic of this disagreement and not the emotions of it? How can you explain your position on the mater without attacking the person with whom you are disagreeing? Is there a compromise position somewhere between your current position and that of the other person? Why can you not agree with that person to go to the more neutral place? What can you do to keep this a civil exchange of competing ideas or views?

So, resolve as you start each day to stop and think before you react to anyone. The Biblical admonishment to do unto others as we would have them do unto us is a good starting point. If you wouldn’t want to be called a name, why label others with a name of your choice. Let’s get civil, again. It starts with each of us.

Seek and you will find…

March 28, 2021

A quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog that has been hanging around my saved quotes list for a few days just seemed to jump out this morning – “Take heed: you do not find what you do not seek.”  (English Proverb)

The title for this post comes from Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The point of both is that you must take some action to find your faith. Just like the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference, the opposite of having faith is being complacent or indifferent. If one has no faith they likely also have no hope, since they have nothing to base that hope upon. Having faith and hope drives one into actions, in order to fulfill those hopes. Having neither faith or hope can immobilize one and lead to the spiral of depression.

Faith is often kindled by seeking to understand the meaning to life and to find a purpose in life. It does not take too long in the search for answers to those questions for one to arrive at the doorstep of faith. While man’s search for more and more knowledge about the world around him has created a huge pool of understanding of nature and the universe in which we exist, it always ends up with those unanswered questions. Even the worlds greatest scientists eventually arrive at the doorstep of faith and most choose to enter, as the answer to their search for understanding.

So, it is OK to ask the questions and to seek to understand the meaning of life. In fact, it is necessary because you will not find the answer unless you seek it. “It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

So, do not be indifferent to the question of the meaning of life, but also do not be afraid of the answer. Knock on the door of faith and it shall be opened to you, for Matthew 7:8 tells us – “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

You might object that faith is not the only possible answer to that question.  I would submit that man has been seeking that answer for thousands of years and no matter how far afield he ranges for answers and no matter how much knowledge he has accumulated about other things, the road always leads back to the door of faith. Without faith, there is no answer and that is a very unsatisfactory ending to the search indeed.

Knock on faith’s door today. It shall be opened to you.

Going through, not going to…

March 25, 2021

A couple of quotes, the first from the blog Jack’s Winning Words and the other something that I saw on-line recently seemed to go together

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”    (Winston Churchill)

“My small personal hell has an expiration date.” (Michelle Goldberg)

Jack wrote that Churchill had a very rough early life – he basically went though hell and that prepared him for resolve and perseverance that he needed later in life as the leader of a nation at war. If I remember correctly Michelle’s personal hell had to do with depression, which she overcame.

We often refer to the trials or tribulations of life as being like hell for us and I think it is important to keep both of these saying is mind. One must keep on going with the thought that “this too shall pass”.  It is all too easy to quit when going through a though time and to sit there wallowing in self-pity. Yet self-pity never provides an answer to, or a way out of, the situation.

Sometimes the problem that you are facing comes with a built-in expiration date – a specific time when something will either happen or not happen. Of course, you may be envisioning the worst possible outcome of it happening (or not happening). You have imagined your own personal hell, which almost never happens. Other times you must take the initiative to set the expiration date, meaning that you decide when to move on and out of this personal hell – to keep going.

It is important to keep Churchill’s advice in the forefront of your mind and to keep reminding yourself that you are only passing through hell and that you are not imprisoned there. It is also comforting to know that you are not alone on this journey. God is always with you, offering you the strength and comfort of your faith to help you through the crisis. There is no expiration date on God’s love for you. Though there may be temporary pain or shame or loss, God will not abandon you and his love for you is steadfast.

So, no matter what person hell you may be going through, reach out to God for help. It is on that day that you set the expiration date for your personal hell and continue your journey out of that hell. You were just passing through and God will show you the way out.

Have a great day and keep on going. You’re just passing through.

Searching for the truth…

March 24, 2021

Today, Pastor Freed used this Albert Einstein quote in his blog Jack’s Winning Words – “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth, because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” 

I immediately thought, maybe it is their delusions that they don’t want destroyed. In the new world of “Fake News” and “sometimes facts aren’t facts”, we have moved easily from illusions to delusions, and it has sometimes become hard to decern the “truth”.

I also read this morning about a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research of the news coverage of the COVID-19 virus that shows a decided negative bias in stories from the national media in the U.S. Basically the study finds that the national news media feed us what they think we want to see and hear. They create a delusion, based upon their biased coverage.

“I’ll know the truth when I hear it”, used to be a saying that was often used. But, not any more, because the truth is often impossible to discern amidst the bias and deception that various groups employ to control what we see and hear. We may still believe that we can see the truth, but we are seeing what someone else has decided to show us as the truth.

That is not to say that we cannot still make judgement calls about what we see and hear on the news; however, moving onto the slippery slope of judging what is true or not true is exactly where the manipulators of the news want us to be. Do I believe what Lester Holt – “the most trusted news anchor in America” – tells me every night? Or, maybe, I switch to CNN or the BBC because I think they are less biased in their coverage. Those are judgement calls and once we start making those judgement calls the “truth” fades into the background and is lost.

A major contributing factor to the storming the nations Capitol building was the belief of the perpetrators that they were doing their patriotic duty and answering the call of their Commander-in-Chief to “take back the country”. They saw and heard that call to action night after night on the news, especially the news shows that took that bias as their guide to what was presented. They lived in a delusional world created by the “news”.

The fact is that all of the so-called “news” shows are just a special subset of the entertainment industry and to be the most entertaining they give us what they think we want to see. The American public seems to sop up bad news with more enthusiasm than feel-good stories, so we are fed a daily dose of the bad news that we crave. Perhaps we get a perverse pleasure in seeing someone else in misery – sort of a modern equivalent to the reaction to a Vaudeville prat-fall – or we sit there thinking “thank God that wasn’t me”. For whatever reason we can’t take our eyes off scenes of disaster or misery.

So, take your daily dose of news with at least a grain of skepticism. Whichever outlet you use; be aware that you are seeing the “news” through the filter of the biases of that news crew.  Maybe that fits into the illusion (or delusion) that you have of the world, but it may or may not have anything to do with the truth. Maybe Jack Nicholson’s  line from the movie A Few Good Men is the answer – “You can’t handle the truth.”

Can you handle the truth? Can you discern the truth? Do you live in a world of illusion or maybe delusion? Where can you look to find the truth? Christians start by looking in the Bible. The truths that are to be found there are not judgement calls, but they may destroy a few of life’s delusions. Do you want the truth? Now you know where to look for it.

Talk to yourself…

March 22, 2021

Every now and then I stumble across quotes on the Internet that somehow click for me or seem worthy of saving for later. A couple that I saw recently just seemed to go together –

“Talk to yourself at least once in a Day, otherwise you may miss a meeting with an EXCELLENT person in this World.” ― Swami Vivekananda

And one that I will paraphrase that I saw in a  sweatshirt ad – “I talk to myself all the time. Once in a while I say something funny, and WE have a good laugh.”

A corollary to talking with yourself is talking for your pet. How many of us have had both sides of a conversation with our dogs or cats? Sometimes they say funny things, too. Then you have to imagine your dog or cat chuckling along with you.

Unless it is the mental illness of schizophrenia, there is really nothing wrong with talking to yourself. It is often a technique for examining all sides of an argument, so that you can make a decision – just don’t argue with yourself.

Sometimes the mentally ill say that they hear voices giving them instructions to do bad things. That is a sign that they need professional help.

For the most part the words of Swami Vivekananda probably apply. I’ve posted here a few times about loving yourself before you can love others. A big part of getting comfortable with who you are and loving yourself involves talking things out with yourself. You must come to the conclusion of “I’m OK” before you can move to the next step of “You’re OK”. (See I’m OK, You’re OK  a 1967 self-help book by Thomas Anthony Harris.)

Some may say that prayer is a form of talking to yourself, especially if you tend to imagine what God is saying in your mind during the prayer. Fortunately, the messages that should come out of that conversation are based upon goodness and not evil. Just don’t argue with God, either.

So, start your day with a conversation with God and then talk to yourself. Hash things out in your mind and view all of the options and choose wisely. In the end, say something funny to yourself and have a good laugh together.

Have a great day, you and God have already met someone excellent today.