Remove the debris in your life…

April 15, 2021

I get a daily newsfeed from Realty Times that contains real estate advice. One article this morning that caught my eye was headlined “Remove the old debris in our lives”. The Realty Times article was about getting rid of the stuff than may have accumulated, especially during the COVID lockdown. It told of a woman who finally bit the bullet and cleaned out her garage, which was so full of debris (stuff) that she could not get her car into it. Does that sound familiar?

As I read the article it popped into my mind that we all carry around tons of mental “debris” in our personal lives, mostly in the form of pre-conceived notions or prejudices. The things in the backs of our minds that kick off knee-jerk reactions to people or events are mental debris – left-over stuff that we have not discarded that serve no useful purpose and may, in fact, have become a disservice. These old mental artifacts may cause us to hesitate or draw back from someone different from us for no good reason. They may direct a decision to do or not do something or to go somewhere or avoid those places out of some unfounded fear.

I often advise people who are getting ready to sell their house to declutter to the extent that people can walk freely through their homes without bumping into things or being afraid to knock something over. Life is like that too. Declutter mentally, so that you can walk through life without fears. There is no reason to limit your experience of all the things that life offers just due to your mental debris.

Just as in clearing clutter from a dark and overstuffed garage, these old bits of mental debris need to be dragged out into the light of day and evaluated with the thought in mind that you will discard those that it serves no good purpose to keep. Unlike some of the odd tools that you may have accumulated over time, there is little excuse to keep these mental bits of debris because, “I may need it again someday.” Fears and prejudices served no real useful purpose when they first came into your life and they certainly won’t be useful someday in the future. Perhaps you had some life experience that conditioned that fear or prejudice into you. It is time to discard that event and put it behind you.

The first step to getting rid of this mental debris is to recognize that it is there and drag it out into the light of logic. Many, like a dark place in the corner of your garage, dissolve where exposed to light. At the least, acknowledging them will let you take steps to discard them. Almost all of the things that make up our mental debris are based upon unfounded fears. Face those fears. Expose them to the light of logic and watch them disappear.

Once you clean out your mental debris, you will find that there is room for new things – new experiences and new friends. You will be able to walk through life without bumping into fears and pre-conceived roadblocks. Life is a little more straightforward and enjoyable without that mental clutter causing detours.

It’s Spring. Time to clean out the mental debris in your life. Prayer makes for a good cleaning tool. Ask God to help you declutter your life and get rid or your mental debris.

Don’t make it a problem…

April 14, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “A problem isn’t a problem until it actually happens.”  (Julie A Ross & Judy Corcoran) 

I thought about that and decided that one could also say that “A problem isn’t a problem until you make it one.”

Things that haven’t actually happened yet (and in many cases aren’t likely to happen) become problems in our minds when we let our imaginations run away with us and present all sorts of possible bad outcomes to think about. If living a long time has taught me nothing else, it is that things never turn out as bad as we imagine that they could. Yes, some bad things end up happening, but not to the disastrous degree that our imaginations conjured up as we fretted about them.

How many of us have spent a restless night before the day that we planned to ask someone out? We toss and turn imagining all of the ways that we could be rejected. Or, perhaps, we can’t sleep the night before the big game because we are imagining al of the things that could go wrong or bad things that we might do to cost the team a win. Perhaps tomorrow is the day you plan to ask the boss for that raise and now your mind is racing with all of the ways that you could be rejected or worse.

Most sports professionals use a technique called visualization to mentally rehearse before a shot or an event. They visualize how success will look. They “see” the ball going over the fence in baseball or perhaps landing gently on the green and rolling towards the cup in golf. They do not visualize failure, and neither should you. Instead, take the event that is at hand an visualize how you will be successful. Practice the things that you might say or do and “see” a successful response or outcome.

By visualizing a positive outcome ahead of time, you will go into the event in a positive frame of mind. It may help you to take a positive approach if you also visualize that God is with you, standing next to you as you go through the event. After all, we know that “If God is with us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

So let your imagination run with that scenario for a while. Imagine that you are standing there with God physically at your side. Doesn’t that build confidence? Don’t you feel a little more comfortable with the thought “We’ve got this”? Now, let the scenario play out in your mind and “see” the positive outcome. You might be amazed that, no matter which way things go, you have already won. You see – A problem isn’t a problem, if you have God on your side.

Start each day by visualizing God being with you and you will have a great, problem-free day.

Keep the candle of hope burning…

April 12, 2021

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote today – “Once we choose hope, everything else is possible.”  (Christopher Reeve)

I’ve written here before about faith and hope and which comes first. One post in particular that I wrote about four candles representing peace, love faith and hope provided an answer. When the candles of peace, love and faith were extinguished and only hope remained, the flicker of the candle of hope was able to reignite the other three.  So, perhaps faith is born of hope or at least hope leads inevitably to faith as the only logical answer to the question, “What happens next?”

But, beyond providing the spark that ignites faith, hope also fuels the imagination and lets us dream about what might be. Hope illuminates what is possible out of the gloom of all that we think is impossible. Hope still says “Maybe”, when all else says “No!”

Pairing hope with faith creates a formidable combination indeed. Hope tells you that maybe it can be and faith tells you that God is with you in the pursuit of that maybe. Hope gives you strength to carry on and faith gives you perseverance to not give up.

When you think about it, the duo of hope and faith are really inextricably intertwined. One cannot have faith without hope. Nor can one really have hope without faith to sustain it.

So, as you start a new day and a new week, stoke the embers of hope in your life and rekindle your faith through prayer. Include your hopes in your prayers. Giving them voice makes them more real and keeps them in front of you. Then start your day with your To-Do list of hopes in mind and God at your side.

It’s a new day and all things are possible to those who believe and have hope. Keep your candle of hope burning.

Look for the open doors

April 11, 2021

I went looking for inspiration today by Googling “Inspirational Quotes”. One response from Google was a series of ten great quotes, mostly by famous or well-know people. Most may be familiar to you, but they all beg some comments or expansion.

Today’s quote is from Helen Keller  – “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 which has been opened for us.”

I think we’ve all seen or heard the similar quote that “when one door closes, another door opens”, but the Keller quote is really good advice about not dwelling upon the door that just closed.

I’ve posted a few times here about moving on from adversity, a loss or just disappointment. Each represents a door that has just closed – a defeat or setback, a loved one lost or maybe an opportunity not seized. They are all the same in the fact that they are in the past. Those doors have closed. Many of us get caught up in looking at those closed doors and agonizing about what we could have hone differently to perhaps influence or change those outcomes. Yet there is no way to change what is passed. We only have the ability to control how we react to the that past event and to look ahead for the door that has just opened.

Another aspect of Keller’s quote is its use of the word “happiness” to describe the doors. One might substitute the word contentedness for happiness and come away with the same meaning. We all get content with things the way they are and discontented when things change, especially of they change unexpectedly. The loss of a loved one is especially disconcerting because a big hole is left in our lives and there may seem to be nothing that can fill that hole. The loss of a job or a disabling illness or accident also result in changes to the way things were that leave us discontented and unhappy. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic have such a dramatic impact on our lives that many can’t cope with the disruption of how things “used to be.” They just sit and stare at that closed door.

The beneficial aspect of Keller’s quote is that is challenges us to look for that newly opened door. Yes, life is different now; however, that does not mean that it cannot be as good or even better than it was before. One might even discover that they can be happy with what they have instead of spending all of their time working for, or towards, things that they don’t have. An ending to something presents the opportunity for the beginning of something else. Perhaps you realize that the high-pressure  and high-earnings job that you worked so hard at for so long wasn’t as rewarding as you once thought and that m ore time with family and loved one is more important. And, the loss of one opportunity, not matter how disappointing, always presents another opportunity that you have a fresh chance at – just don’t stare at that old door that closed for too long or the new opportunity may pass you by.

There is little that can reduce the pain of the loss of a loved one; however, the memories that you have accumulated of them over time do not go away and offer some comfort. The door that opens for most is the opportunity to grow your love for others family members or perhaps even new partners. Your memories of the lost loved one means that that particular door is never completely closed and you can still peek in whenever you need to “see them” again.

So, stop staring at the doors that might have closed in your life and instead look for the new doors that have just opened. Contentment and happiness come to those who look for them and go through those new doors. What doors have closed in your life? Are you dwelling too long at those closed doors? What new doors might have opened in your life? Are you looking for those new doors?

As the old TV game show “The Price is Right” used to say – “what is behind door number 2?” You have to look for the newly opened doors and then you have to go through them. It turns out that your new life is behind door number 2.

Dance to a different tune…

April 9, 2021

In his post today to the Jack’s Winning Words blog Pastor Freed used this quote – “Starting over again is like dancing with the devil.”  (Demi Lovato) 

Freed wrote that Lovato was referencing her own fight with drug addiction. Most of us I doubt have had to deal with addictions, but all of us have experienced life’s setbacks, disappointments and lapses in judgement from which we’ve had to recover. Although we tend to associate the word addiction with drugs, alcoholism is a much more common addiction that is much more prevalent in our society.

Freed also wrote that a tune that pops into his mind whenever a dance with the devil is at hand are the lyrics to the song  “One Day at a Time Sweet Jesus” by written by Marijohn Wilkin and Kris Kristofferson and first recorded by American Country singer Marilyn Sellars in 1974.

Two critical keys to recovery from many of life’s setbacks are faith and taking things one day at a time. Faith helps us forgive ourselves for the past and trust God that there will be a tomorrow; and, taking that future in small incremental steps (one day at a time) keeps us from being overwhelmed by the seeming enormity of it all.

The devil holds out many bright and shiny things and plays many catchy tunes, to which he invites us to dance. That is especially true for those working to recover from an earlier dance with the devil, such as addiction or alcoholism.

When you are tempted by the devil to dance to one of his tunes, keep the tune that Freed uses in mind. Both the song and the dance partner are different and the result at the end of the dance is certainly not the same. Here is a version of the song by Merle Haggard.

Maybe you can mentally play that song in your mind as you pause for morning prayers and let it remind you that today is another day in that one day at a time journey back from whatever you have experienced in the past. Ask for God’s help to put one more day behind you and look ahead to one more day in your recovery.

Just tell the Devil “No thank you” when he asks you to dance again. Tell him that your dance card is filled, with Jesus as your partner.

Today is going to be another good day on your journey back, one day at a time.

Break out of convenient…

April 8, 2021

I’ve had this quote from a past post to the Jack’s Wining Words blog rattling around in my saved quotes bin for some time – “Be always restless, unsatisfied, unconforming. Whenever a habit becomes convenient, SMASH IT!”  (Nikos Kazantzakis)

I suspect that was because I couldn’t get comfortable with Kazantzakis’ advice to “SMASH IT.” I’m OK with it if we tone it down just a bit. I think it is good advice to always be a bit restless, to always questions things and to try not to get stuck in ruts of comfort or convenience. In fact, one of the definitions that pop up when you Google “convenient” is this – involving little trouble or effort. Getting comfortable with convenience in life leads inevitably to complacency.Complacency is defined as “a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements”.

It is all too easy in life to become complacent. We often hear it referred to as having routines – things that we just tend to do day-after-day until we wear a rut in life that can sometimes be hard to get out of. There is a danger in becoming stuck in those ruts. I have written here in the past about never stopping the learning process (See my post Don’t Go Through Life Grow Through Life). Acting on your natural curiosity to try to learn the Why’s and How’s of things around us as well as exploring the Who’s that we encounter is what keeps life interesting.

The same can become true of our faith. We can get into complacent habits about prayer or about church attendance. This past year, it has been especially easy to drop into convenient and complacent ruts about church and about our faith. Yet church has gone on through it all and faith was even more important than ever during the inconveniences of the pandemic. Break out of those ruts. Find new ways to put your faith into action. There are countless volunteer organizations in every community who need your help. They don’t care if you are doing it as an act of your faith in action, but you should. The more out of your old comfort zone the better because that takes more faith. Put that T-shirt slogan “God’s Work Our Hands” into action.

So, if your daily habits have turned into convenient and complacent ruts, take Kazantzakis’ advice and smash your way out of them. Don’t end up like a mime in is imaginary glass box. Get out of your comfort zone (it is a rut). Go out of your way to meet new people, go to new places, and have new experiences. Be restless, unsatisfied and unconforming (at least to your own habits) and keep learning. And don’t let complacency rule your faith either. Never be satisfied that you have prayed enough, gone to church enough and done enough. Enough is never enough, even though it may feel convenient.

SMASH your complacent habits and do more!

Break out of convenient!

Don’t be that sucker…

April 7, 2021

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”  (P.T.Barnum – died: 4/7/1891) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

If Barnum were alive today, he would be in the Robo-call/email scam business. He would be the one having calls made to you about your car warranty expiring or maybe to inform you how lucky you are to have been chosen to receive a free medical device.

It is unfortunate that there have always been and will always be unscrupulous people out there trying to prey on the naïve or unsuspecting, especially the elderly. No matter how many times these scams are reported on the news or how many ads from legitimate organizations run to tell you that they will not call your or threaten you over the phone, people still fall for them.

I get these scam calls and emails all the time, even for cars that I haven’t owned for years or about supposedly suspended accounts in banks with which I have never done business. Some are much more sophisticated than others and made more believable with the use of company/organization logos and information to make them look like they actually came from Microsoft or maybe the IRS.  I always look at the email address of the supposed sender as a quick check.

Most of these scams depend on two things – scaring you and insisting that you need to take immediate action to avoid arrest or some other bad consequence. The scammers say that you need to rush to the bank and take out money or rush out and buy pre-paid gift cards to send to them or maybe even buy Bitcoins. The key is that you need to do it right now to avoid whatever horrible consequences that they have threatened you with. Don’t do it!

The fact is that all legitimate organizations work at a much slower pace and use completely different approaches to resolving issues. You might get an email or a letter if you missed or are behind in payments, but they are not usually threatening as much as reminding you to catch up and alerting you to penalties. Of course, it you go too long without paying they do tend to get more serious. For the most part, just ignoring the calls and emails is enough.

The scammers “business model” is based upon catching a few suckers out of the millions of emails and calls that they make each day, so they don’t have time to follow up on the rest. They’ll just send you another email or make another robo-call about the same thing tomorrow.

All of these calls and emails have resulted in creating a very skeptical and cynical population, which unfortunately works to the detriment of legitimate charity callers. We have become conditioned to just hang up on calls asking for money and ignore unsolicited emails. I wonder if anyone has ever just slammed the door on the Publishers Clearing House people who came to the door trying to give them a big check, because they thought it was a scam? Probably not since they came with a check and not asking for money.

An unfortunate unintended consequence of all of this scamming activity has been the inability of ex-Treasury Secretaries in small African nations to find someone in America to help them get their fortune out of the country by sending a few thousand dollars as a security deposit. I think I still have that email somewhere. Maybe I can help.

Don’t prove Barnum correct. Be cautious, be suspicious, be careful and don’t let yourself be frightened into hasty actions. Show Barnum and the scammers that you were not that sucker in the minute of your birth.

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.