Show some respect…

February 21, 2021

My dog and I barely escaped being hit this morning on our walk when a driver blew thorough the intersection at which we were about half way across. Now this is no little, hidden intersection with a stop signed that might be missed. It is a well marked intersection with two blinking red lights and an illuminated STOP sign hung in the middle over the road. Fortunately, I could hear that the car was not slowing and pulled my dog back to safety. I yelled at the driver, who had his driver-side window half way down but he made no indication that he cared. I’m sure that had the window been all the way down he might have even flipped me the bird.

After I thanking God for once again saving me from danger, I thought about this particular incident and other instances that I see every week of drivers ignoring signs either to stop at an intersection or not to make certain turns. The word that kept popping into my head was disdain. While a certain number of these incidents might be attributed to distracted drivers not seeing the signs, most of them are obviously cases of people who see he signs but choose to ignore them. They are showing disdain for our laws and for the safety of others.

I looked up disdain, just to make sure that it is the appropriate word to associate with these people. Disdain is defined as –dis·dain

/disˈdān/

noun

the feeling that someone or something is unworthy of one’s consideration or respect; contempt.

verb

consider to be unworthy of one’s consideration.

I think the word fits and it also points to a personality flaw in these people as a root cause – their egos. To disdain something or someone is to consider yourself to be so superior that you may judge them. Instead of taking a position like that of Pope Francis who said, ”Who am I to judge?” these people have taken the position of, ”I’ll be the judge of that. I don’t need your stinking laws and signs; I’ll decide whether to stop or turn at the sign or not.” They are showing disdain for the rest of society and for common decency. I suspect those who stormed the Capital Building a while back were showing their disdain for our county’s laws, the law makers and the rules of civil behavior.

In truth everything and everyone deserves to be treated with respect and consideration be given to how to interact with them. To act with disdain is to isolate oneself from the rest of society, to set yourself apart from, and above, the laws, rules or mores of that society. A society exists for the common good, but it can only exist if those within it abide by the rules and expectations of the rest of the group.  If each of use can no longer expect that a person driving a car will abide by the stop signs or no turn on red signs or whatever instructions are clearly posted for the goods of the society, then we devolve into anarchy.

So the next time you are tempted to make that turn on red or roll through that stop sign and keep going, remember that you are showing disdain. Is that what you really want your kids to see or other to see from you? It is not just a reflection on your behavior, which is bad enough; it is a lesson that you are teaching others who are watching, an example that can have lasting bad effects on young minds. Try showing them the opposite – respect. Respect for the laws of our society and for others within that society.

I leave you with the words of the song R-E-S-P-E-C-T by Aretha Franklin from the1980 movie The Blues Brothers. Show a little respect for the rules of our society when you get behind the wheel and all the time.


Reset your goals tonight.

February 20, 2021

This post isn’t about your business goals or your financial goals. Rather it is about the goals that hopefully you have for how you live your life. The post is inspired not by my usual source of inspiration, Pastor Freed and his blog, Jack’s Winning Words; but, rather by a little saying that I saw in a news post from Reddit –

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” – St. Jerome

It is not unusual as one unwinds at the end of a day to reflect on the events of the day and perhaps upon the decisions that one made during the day. It is probably a little less usual that one reflect on how they lived their life that day and whether what they did and how they did it reflected well on the goals that they have for themselves. That’s where the St. Jerome quote comes in.

Hopefully one is not satisfied with “good enough” and is always striving for better. Were you a better person today that yesterday and how can you get even better tomorrow? Are there still things that you can do, once you get better to make you the best person that you can be? Did you let pre-conceived notions or prejudices creep into your decision making today? How can you eliminate them for tomorrow so that you can make better decisions then? Did you fail to stop and help someone in need today and how can you plan your life better tomorrow so that you can take the time to help?

Just like the enemy of love is not hate, the enemy of making progress to get better and moving towards being your best that is common to both is indifference. If you become indifferent and accepting of things, rather then constantly trying to improve, you begin to accept good enough and that is just sad.

A key to making progress on being the best you that you can be is to understand that it is not all about you. A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King comes to mind – “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'” In order to be the best you that you can be and the you that is most pleasing to God, you need to serve others. Dr King had a good quote about that, too, which maybe you can add to your prayers – “Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”

So, perhaps you can use your nightly moments of reflections and prayer to ask God to help you become better at seeing and reacting to the needs of others, helping where you can and not becoming complacent or indifferent to what you see around you in our society – prejudice, homophobia,  systemic racism and inequities in opportunity, wealth and healthcare.

As I wrote in a post a couple of days ago (see Don’t go over to the dark side), ask God for the insight and strength of character to be a part of the solution to the problems in our society that you see around you and not a part of the problem. The final Dr. King quote that I’ll throw in here deals with that – “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Are you are one of those good silent people? You can be better. And, at your best, you can work to resolve those problems, first within yourself and then within society.

Reset your goals tonight and be the best you that you can be tomorrow.


Look up and be grateful…

February 19, 2021

Pastor Freed used this colorful little quote today in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“An ungrateful man is like a hog eating acorns under a tree, but never looking up to see where they come from,”  (Timothy Dexter) 

How easy it is to be like the unthinking hog in Freed’s quote. Even worse than that, how foolish it is for man to ascribe what he has to his own efforts. As bad as it is to say to oneself, “I found the tree and gathered the nuts, so my success is of my own doing”; man takes the next step and cuts down the tree for it’s wood and then wonders why he no longer has the acorns to eat that it provided. At least the hog did not cut down the tree.

Freed also mentioned in his post that it is good to have a little prayer at the table when we eat to remind us where the food really comes from. Most table prayers that I have heard also ask for forgiveness for whatever transgressions one might have committed against others. When said at the dinner table, a short prayer sort of cleans up whatever messes one has made during the day.

It is certainly easier to forgive the hog for not caring or wondering about where the acorns come from. We do not attribute a level of intelligence above that needed for subsistence to most animals. Man, however, has been blessed with a level of intelligence and awareness that allows him to question and wonder about all things. That same level of intelligence inevitably brings him face-to-face with God as the only plausible answer to the questions about his own existence that he cannot otherwise explain. The ultimate conclusion to all of his conjecture about his existence is that he did not invent God, God invented him. Upon reaching that conclusion, a man becomes grateful.

So, eat the acorns that you are given, but look up from time to time and be grateful to the God who provides the tree under which you are fed. You know where those acorns came from.

Have a great and grateful day and weekend.


Don’t go over to the dark side…

February 18, 2021

It is all to easy in life to quickly move over to the dark side…the negative side. In today’s quote in the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Pastor Freed warns against that and instead advises that you take a positive approach – “Be a light, not a judge.  Be a model, not a critic.  Be a part of the solution, not the problem.”  (Stephen Covey)

I struggle with this problem all the time. My wife is constantly having to admonish me for being the critic or a judge of things or rushing to condemn instead of rushing to help. I’ve gotten a little better at it after her work for 55 years of marriage, but I still catch myself going over to the dark side too often and too quickly. I am lucky to have someone in my life who refuses to let that happen and keeps shining the light on me. Be a part of the solution.

Perhaps this penchant for taking the dark side is due to the ease with which one can sit back and do nothing or criticize, instead of stepping up to help solve the problem. It is easier to be the prejudiced by-stander than do the things to make our society more accepting of differences in people. It takes less effort to retreat into the comfort of indifference to the plight of those less fortunate than us or to ignore the plight that the subjects of systemic racism face, than to stand up and do something about it. Be a part of the solution.

Yet indifference is not a very satisfying feeling, it is a feeling of emptiness and the tolerance of injustice is at best a queasy feeling driven by constant guilt. It’s not that we don’t know what is right; it’s just that it seems so much harder to do than to just do nothing – to go over to the dark side. Be a part of the solution.

So, what is one to do? How can one act on the advice that Covey’s quote gave? You can start by being the light and the model that Covey called out. Be an example of how one should live and act in society. Be civil to others and kind. Be honest and forthright. Be the one who thrusts out his/her hand to welcome a person who is different from yourself and not the person who shrinks away. Be open to new ideas and new ways of looking at things. Be the person who brightens the room (the light) and not the one who introduces the gloom of cynicism or prejudices. Be the one that others would like to emulate and not the one that they try to avoid. Be a part of the solution.

The next part of Covey’s advice is even more important – be a part of the solution and not the problem. Problems are not solved by criticism or by heaping on more darkness. They are solved by people who roll up their sleeves and dive into the work needed to solve them. Indifferently standing by while others suffer makes you a part of the problem and not the solution. In every community across this land there are tons of opportunity all around you tp volunteer to do work on the solutions to the issues that confront society. There are food banks and counseling services and homeless shelters and other mostly volunteer organizations at work on the solutions and all of them need help. Find one or two and volunteer. Be a part of the solution.

 What part does or faith play in all of this. It may be easy to sit back and allow yourself to believe that you will be saved by your faith alone; but we have been admonished in the Bible – “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  (James 2:14-17) Be a part of the solution.

Do you fool yourself by seeing the poor beggar on the cold street corner and saying to him as you pass by, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” or do you stop and do something? Instead of being satisfied by convincing yourself that you cannot stop and help every beggar, ask yourself what you can do to make sure that there are no beggars. Do something. Be a part of the solution.

Don’t go over to the dark side. Have a great day in the light. Be the model. Be a part of the solution.


Be God-headed, not bullheaded…

February 15, 2021

In today’s installment of the blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used is old Scottish-Irish prayer as his quote – “Lord, grant that I may always be right, for Thou knowest that I am hard to turn.” 

We use such euphemistic phrases and terms as “set in their ways”, “stubborn as a mule” or maybe bullheaded to describe those who refuse to change their minds, especially about things that we know (or think we know) they are wrong about. Do you know some people like that? Are you like that?

Sometimes these people have come to the wrong conclusions based upon receiving bad information or even disinformation that was purposefully planted in their minds. Many times their positions on things were cemented early in their lives based upon observing others (usually adults). That is usually how prejudices get started. Perhaps an unfortunate personal experience was the basis for a fear or dislike that refuses to fade away.

Whatever the reason, it is hard for many of us to turn, to change our minds on certain things or our reactions to certain things or people. We are not right on these things, but it is hard to turn, to change.

We read in Romans 12:2 – Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

While we may not be able to achieve perfection, we can at least continue to try to get better. Perhaps instead of praying that God allow us to always be right, as today’s quote suggests; we should instead pray that God open our minds to change and new ways of looking at things. We might say, “Lord open my mind to change so that I may be the person that you would have me be.”

A little trick that I learned a while back may help with this. It is to allow a little song that is based on a Psalm rattle around in your head – “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10

Try that and see if you aren’t a little less bullheaded and a little more God-headed.

Have a great week ahead.


Time for an assiduity check…

February 14, 2021

Pastor Freed recently used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“The heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.”  (Noah Webster)

Yes, I had to look up the word “assiduity”, too. It is certainly not a word that I drop into casual conversations or that’s I’m even likely to ever use again.

as·si·du·i·ty

/ˌasəˈd(y)o͞oədē/

noun

  1. constant or close attention to what one is doing.

“the assiduity with which he could wear down his opponents.”

2. constant attentions to someone.

I suppose that one could say that a person should display assiduity to the one that they love; however, no one would understand what you were saying that would probably just think that you are being pretentious.

All pretentiousness aside, it is actually good advice to pay close and constant attention to the ones that we love. That is not the same as overbearing attention, which might smother the relationship or sour it due to concerns about personal space and control. Rather it is to say that one should pay attention to the needs of the other person, whether they be physical or emotional needs.

A perceived lack of sensitivity to the needs of a partner is one of the leading causes of friction within relationships and that is due to a lack of assiduity to the needs of the partner. Men, in particular most often allow themselves to get so wrapped up in their work and careers that they lose focus upon the needs of their families, especially their life-partners.

So maybe keeping this weird word in mind – assiduity – will help you remember to pay attention to your significant other and not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.

In our faith lives, God, too, demands your assiduity. We are told in Hebrews 2:1 – “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

It is not so much that we overtly sin, as much as it is that we just lose focus and drift away from God. I have written here before about the voice of God in our lives being like a whisper that one must strain to hear and listen to intently, with great assiduity (see my post on Rebooting yourself by listening for God’s whisper).

Is it time for an assiduity check in your personal life? How about in your faith life? Maybe you can write the word assiduity on a little piece of paper and tape it to your mirror as a reminder to pay attention to God and those that you love. If it gets your attention, that’s a good thing.

Can one say, “Have an assiduitous day”? Not sure and not going there.

Just pay attention today!


Dare to be great…

February 13, 2021

A recent quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog inspired me to think about how one can move their life from good to great – “A great person does work that is useful to mankind and makes people happy.”  (Urban Dictionary) 

Most of us probably think of someone in particular when we heard the phrase “he/she was a great person.” Some may think of an influential politician of our time or maybe a famous movie or sports star. Maybe a teacher or pastor who had great influence on your life comes to mind. For many it is a parent, grandparent or other relative that pops into mind. Initially it might be that they made you happy that brings them to mind, but what about the part about doing work that is useful to mankind? I submit that their work to improve your life and set you on the right path in life was their contribution to mankind. You are the product of the useful work that they did.

Now, consider what you can do yourself to be considered to be great. The keys to accomplishing greatness are in the doing of useful work for mankind and in making people happy. One does not get to be considered to be great by just sitting around wishing for greatness. You must do things and those things should benefit others and, ultimately, make them happy.

But what can you do as an individual to benefit mankind and make people happy?

Nothing makes the lonely and hungry elderly person happier than when the Meals-on-Wheels driver shows up with their meal. They not only get to eat, but they also have someone to talk with for a few moments. Ask them how great that delivery driver is and they will tell you. And what of those back at the headquarters sorting and packing the meals for hours? Are they not dong useful work for mankind? They can only imagine the gratitude of he recipients, but they feel the happiness, too. Greatness is often accomplished in the background.

Does not the worker standing there ringing the Salvation Army bell by his kettle not bring a smile to your face? It’s because you know that your contribution to his kettle will make someone, somewhere happy and that makes you happy, too. You’ll never meet the person that you contribution makes happy, but you know that it will and that makes you great.

We are told in the Bible that we are saved by grace and not by our works; however, the things that we do to better mankind and make others happy directly reflects the love of God working through us – “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)

There is a little saying that is used on T-shirts and elsewhere as inspiration – God’s Work Your Hands. But, that is really true. God works through us and it is in doing His work that we can achieve greatness, not for ourselves, but for God.

So, dare to do things that better mankind and make others happy. You need not be a powerful or famous person to the little things in life that make a difference to others. Be useful today. Look for a need in your community and fill it. Reach out and volunteer.

God has got work for you to do that is useful and which will make people happy.

Dare to be great today!


Keep going to keep growing…

February 12, 2021

I often use quotes from Pastor Jack Freed’s blog, Jack’s Winning Words, as my inspiration for what I write here. Today I’m using what might be considered to be a trite little phrase that I recently saw on a little plaque in a gift store – “You Grow Through What You Go Through”.

walking man

It is easy to just toss that little phrase off or to read it and not give it much thought, but then that would make for a very short post here. When I read it in the gift shop that was my initial reaction – cute little phrase. Giving it more thought, there are so many more dimensions to it than one initially considers.

One grows intellectually by just accumulating and organizing the facts and experiences that one encounters during a normal day. Hopefully one learns from both successes and mistakes and thus grows as a rational person.

It’s hard to even imagine living a life so devoid of challenges and failures that one has no successes or mistakes to learn from. It is perhaps a little less difficult to image a person who does not learn from their mistakes and keeps repeating them. Do you know anyone like that?

What I ended up thinking about is how we grow in our faith based upon what we go through in life. Few of us probably end the day with a prayer thanking God for another wonderful, conflict and problem free day. More likely we may thank God for the strength and perseverance he gave us to get though the day and pray for His help with tomorrow.

It is the day-to-day things that we go through that helps us grow in our relationship with God. Those trials and setbacks help us see the limits of our own ability to control things in life. Eventually they bring us to the point where we are ready to surrender to God’s love and state out loud for ourselves and Him to hear – “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

Growing in your faith by coming to that conclusion in your life is one of the most liberating things that you can accomplish. It is a faith threshold that once crossed frees you to focus on the things that you can impact and give to God those things over which you really have no control. It also allows you to forgive yourself by accepting God’s forgiveness into your life – see my post Let God be Your Eraser.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that of you have faith, nothing bad will ever happen to you. Rather the Bible tells us that if we have faith, there is nothing that we cannot face, because we have God on our side. So, one can view the trials and tribulations that are a part of normal life as providing opportunities for us to grow in our faith. Face each test with the thought, “We’ve got this” (you and God together) and use what you go through to grow your faith.

In your faith, you really do “Grow through what you go through”, so get our that and grow your faith today.


Let God be your eraser…

February 10, 2021

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today, Pastor Freed posted this – “The only mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”  (John Powell)  Written errors can be eliminated by erasers.  But, how do you get rid of life mistakes?

Freed went on to write about learning from one’s mistakes in life. I have posted here several times about that, too. My latest post was earlier this month about trying something different when you fail.

That little sentence about not having erasers for life’s mistakes caught my attention. In the legal system there is a concept called expungement, which basically means that one’s past criminal record is wiped clean, so that it does not follow a person around and further mess up their life. Michigan is considering a dramatic expansion of the concept of expungement for its legal system.

Almost every job application that I’ve ever seen has a question on it about whether one has any criminal convictions in their past. While it is important for the potential employer to know if they are dealing with a criminal who is likely to again steal or hurt someone, it is also important for the person who may have committed a crime early in their life to be given the chance to prove that they have changed their ways and would now make a good employee. Expungement is not aimed at the incorrigible criminal, but rather at the person who has learned from their mistakes and reformed their life. Potential benefits in this case outweigh the risks involved in  giving the person the chance at a good job and a new life by expunging their criminal record.

Not all mistakes that we make in life are criminal in nature, but many of them follow us around like the “rap sheet” of a criminal. In some cases the mistakes we ‘ve made may be known by many, but for the most part, the guilt that we carry with us for our mistakes is a personal thing. That guilt that we carry in our minds may prevents us from doing the things that we should be doing in life – they hold us back.

Hopefully we did learn something from those mistakes, but how do we expunge them from our lives and move on? We need an eraser.

That’s where God comes in. We are told –

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

And

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” – Acts 3:19

It all comes down to admitting (confessing) to God and ourselves that we did something wrong, that the wrong is in the past and can’t be changed and then accepting the forgiveness of God, so that we can forgive ourselves and move on with life. Expunge your past mistakes. Accept the forgiveness of God and move on.

Let God be the eraser for your life mistakes.

Make a fresh start today.


Laugh with the world…

February 9, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words,  Pastor Freed used this Cloris Leachman quote – “When something is truly funny, it’s funny all the time.” 

When something is funny, we think of laughter and one is  reminded of the quote – “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, but cry and you cry alone.”

A person’s sense of humor is as unique as their fingerprints. Different things tickle the funny bone of each individual. I think that Cloris was trying to point out that truly funny things are not only funny to us all of the time, but that they are funny to all of us. There are those who find the misfortunes of others to be humorous. That is actually the humor behind the prat fall, which has been a staple of humor routines forever.

Who doesn’t watch America’s Funniest Videos without knowing that somewhere in the collection of videos for that show someone on the night’s show is going to taka tumble that we will think is funny. But, not everyone laughs at that misfortune. Some are concerned for the safety and health of the person taking the fall. The show usually assures us that the person was OK after the tumble.

I think that example may serve to illustrate a point that I believe Leachman was trying to make. Something is truly funny if we can laugh with someone and not at someone.  

I remember in some of the comedy routines that he would do on his show that Red Skelton would find the routine he was doing to be so funny that he would start laughing himself. The same thing often happened on the Carol Burnett show when both Carole and Harvey Korman would find something that Tim Conway was doing to be so funny that they could not keep themselves from laughing. We could all laugh along with them and those sketches.

What makes you laugh? Do you ever feel guilty later about laughing at someone instead of with them? Do you find that incident funny after you’ve had time to think about it? Remember that laughing at the misfortune of others just means that in the end, the last laugh is on you. And that’s not funny.

Try laughing with the world and you won’t end up crying all alone later.