Build that bridge…

August 7, 2018

“The bridge between dreams and achievement is built through actions” –  Norm Werner

I thought that I had an original little quote there, but I googled it and apparently many others have had the same thoughts. One that was close is

 “The distance between your dreams and reality is called action.” – Unknown

The things that popped up the most in the Google response to my query were quotes about the differences between dreams and goals. I suppose that it is easy to confuse the two in random musings. I certainly understand that goals are achievable things with deadlines, while dreams are, well, just dreams.

Perhaps dreams are just a starting point, which morph into hopes and then into goals. In any event, nothing really happens until one takes actions to achieve those dreams/hopes/goals. I like the bridge analogy because it forces one to think of the man daydreamingplanning and piece-by-piece work that goes into building a physical bridge. Achieving most dreams/hopes/goals is like that. One must spend some time in the planning stage ( I sometimes call it the “fixin’ to” stage) and break the actions that are needed down into smaller, achievable pieces. It is then possible to start accomplishing those little pieces and to great-jobcelebrate little milestone on the way to the goal.

It is important not only to keep the big picture, the overall; goal, in mind; but, also, it is important to recognize and celebrate the little victories along the way – the accomplishment of those little intermediate steps in building the bridge to the dream/hope/goal. Those little pauses to celebrate allow us to refresh our enthusiasm and strength and allow us to re-evaluate the dream/hope/dream. Sometimes that re-evaluation causes us to see that we were shooting for too little and that we should be dreaming even bigger. Sometimes the cold reality of a good re-evaluation may cause us to shift our dreams and hopes towards a more achievable goal. In either case, we can then set off in pursuit of the next small victory in building that bridge.

Before you start out today, re-imagine your dreams/hopes/goals for the day and think about what small piece of the bridge to that overall destination you can build today. Then go for it. Take action! Build that bridge…

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Don’t let tradition be your jailer…

August 1, 2018

From the blog Jack’s Winning Words, comes this sage piece of advice – “Tradition is a guide, not a jailer.”  (W. Somerset Maugham)

Jack went on to write – “We’ve always done it this way” are words often heard when someone suggests a change.  Of course, some traditions are good and worth keeping.  But, new ideas can be good, too.” 

I’m on the Board of Directors for our local historical society and I hear that little phrase jail.png“We’ve always done it that way” a lot. The same can be said about most churches and their services. I’m on the church council at my church, too. Both represent organizations that need to make changes to the way that things have always been done; but both also represent organizations that are in danger of being held hostage to tradition.

Times change, tastes change, options change. All of a sudden Sunday mornings are no longer reserved for church, but rather for sports practices or games. There are tournaments to be played, ice time to be had, away games to travel to and any number of other things vying for the time of the families that used to go to church. In the case of the historical society, the general population finds other, more exciting things to do with their time than going to the local historical museum. “Never change anything” is the rallying cry of dying churches and organizations across the land. Proudly the members stand (usually alone) as bulwarks no-changeagainst modern times, changing tastes and new traditions. Empty and abandoned churches abound as do defunct little community organizations that time has passed by.

Both of the organizations that I’m a part of are attempting some new things to try to reverse the downward spiral that they appear to be on currently. Both represent organizations that are “aging out”; that is, they have mostly older members who are dying off, with few new, younger members to replace them. It’s not necessarily that the current members will defend against change to the last man; many, in fact, would welcome change if it saved the organization. The real challenge is understanding what younger people want from the organizations these days in order to join and support them. Must the church become a rock and roll mega church in order to survive? How can the historical society somehow make the sharing of history exciting and entertaining for younger people?  There are no easy answers to those questions.

new-way-forwardI think the key to solving these problems in the church and in little local organizations starts with the advice of Somerset Maugham. We (they) must not become slaves to tradition, locked in the past. Rather we must figure out how to honor those traditions while changing with the times. The “good old days” are behind us, but there are still good times ahead for those organizations willing to explore new approaches and new ideas.

In my church, we have launched a Saturday evening service once a month for families that cannot attend on Sunday mornings, due to other commitments. Our local historical society has a new program to take history out to the schools and other places through programs that share stories and some of our artifacts from our local history collection. time for changeThose are small steps, but they are steps in the right direction – the direction of change. Perhaps they are not so much breaking with tradition as they are adding new traditions into the mix. In either case, tradition is no longer a jailer.

What are your churches and local organizations doing to stay relevant and viable in these changing times?


What are you a bridge to?

July 23, 2018

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed uses this quote from Michael Jordan – “I want to be a bridge to the next generation.” 

Jack went on the write about the characteristics of the generations that are alive today and had a link to this explanation of the various tags that we associate with those generations – http://fourhooks.com/marketing/the-generation-guide-millennials-gen-x-y-z-and-baby-boomers-art5910718593/

The post made me think about the fact that we all act in the role of bridges to the future for someone, just because of how we interact with them and what they take away fromfamily grroup that experience. The obvious bridge role is with our own children who watch us as they are growing up for cues and clues as to how to act and how to react to things as they happen. Others whom we might not even be aware of also look at our actions for some guidance – for either what to do or what not to do. So, for them, we are a bridge to their own future.

That realization begs the question of self-examination – “What type of bridge am I?” Am I showing the world a bridge that is open, accepting and friendly or one that appears to be arrogantclosed-minded, prejudiced and angry? Do I appear to be a person that others would like to get to know or someone to avoid? Do I take the time to listen and understand the other person or do I jump to a conclusion based upon some preconceived notions or prejudices? Am I willing to consider a different point of view or am I hunkered down in a fixed position and unwilling to even consider something different? Am I displaying the behavior and attitude that Jesus would have displayed in this situation?

The first few questions above are ones that too many people are unable to objectively answer, because they are so consumed by and fixed upon their positions of fear and hate. It’s that last question that shines the spotlight squarely into the hole that they have dug for themselves and exposes the Devil that is driving their behavior. Jesus neverjesus-as-lighttaught hate, prejudice, or exclusion. He always taught love, acceptance, and forgiveness. The bridge that Jesus represents has its foundation in His commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself”.  He didn’t stutter. He didn’t go on to say, “unless they are…” He didn’t make exceptions based upon fear or hate. His is the bridge that we should all emulate as we demonstrate to others through our lives a bridge to the next generation.

Think about what you are a bridge to and what your actions and reactions show others about you and what direction they point to for the future. Join with Jesus in showing the bridgiing gapsworld and the generations that follow you a bridge to understanding, acceptance and love for your fellow man.

Cross that bridge…build that bridge…be that bridge.


Be THE American in the room

July 3, 2018

“I am not an American, I am the American.”  (Quoted by Mark Twain) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to comment on Twain’s role as a journalist in shaping the America of his day.

Twain’s words still ring true today. We are not free to hide within a crowd that we call Americans. Rather, we are obligated by our freedoms to represent the values and principles upon which the nation was founded. In all ways and in all places, we should see ourselves as “the American” in the room, from whom others will carry away an impression of America and what being an American means.

At its core, being the American in the room means demonstrating through our words and actions that all men are created equal. It means embracing all other Americans no matter what their race, religion or ethnicity or sexual preference might be. It means being willing to volunteer and work toward the well flagbeing of all Americans. It means being willing to defend the country in times of war and offering our help to friends and allies in their times of strive. It means being respectful of the symbols and institutions of the country. It means accepting and exercising the rights of a citizen to vote and to serve as needed in communities across the country.

As we celebrate our nation’s birth on the 4th of July, let us all take a break from the parades and picnics and fireworks to think about what it means to be THE American in the room. I hope that you take pride in carrying that title and are aware of the great obligations and responsibilities that it carries.

Happy Birthday America. I’m proud to be THE American in any room.


Faith lies just beyond the edge of reason…

June 16, 2018

In a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack uses this quote – “My reason nourishes my faith, and my faith my reason.”  (Norman Cousins)

Jack went on to

write about his belief that reason and faith can peacefully coexist.

I guess I take just a slightly different point of view. I think faith exists just beyond the edge of reason at that point where reason no longer serves us well and belief takes hold. There is a maxim in movie making that the great movies are ones that allow (encourage) believeus to suspend disbelief for that brief amount of time and allow ourselves to believe in the premise of the movie. The movie becomes “real” to us, if only for a few hours. Faith is somewhat the same. You must be able to suspend your disbelief (most often rooted in reason and logic) and allow yourself to believe in something that is beyond human logic and reason. In the case of faith that belief lasts and takes on a meaning and impact in our lives that changes our lives forever.

So, yes, faith and reason can, and do, coexist in peacefully in believers. It is only in the minds of those who have yet to believe that there is a conflict and that conflict is of man prayingtheir own making. Being an analytical-type person, I will continue to try to reason things out in life; but, also being a believer, I will put my trust in God when it comes to those things that defy reason, for that is where God lives – just beyond the edge of reason in a place called faith.

Have a great weekend.


Faith trumps fear, when it comes to death…

March 31, 2018

I attended my church’s Good Friday service last night. While I was sitting there listening to the familiar story of Christ’s Passion and death on the cross, I couldn’t help thinking about a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness.”  (J.K. Rowling)

Death is the one certainty that represents the biggest unknown in our lives. As the service went on, we prayed and said the words to Martin Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article.

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.

He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.

He did this that I should be His very own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and joy; just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns in eternity. This is most certainly true.

jesus-as-lightThe death and resurrection of Christ is the defining event in the Christian faith and I thought that if one believes in that event, i.e. if that is the foundation of one’s faith; then that belief should remove the fear of death. The next thought I had was one of wondering what someone has who has no faith? If you cannot find hope and comfort in the belief of life after death, then what do you have. Nothing? It’s no wonder those without faith fear death.

Man’s fertile imagination has allowed him to conjure up many different ways to express the concept of God and his need to organize and manage the process of expressing that faith has resulted in hundreds of religions. Even within the religions based upon the belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God, the hand of man has resulted in hundreds of implementations of the practices of that faith and the concept of the church as a vehicle for those practices. The religious chaos that grew out of all of this has fueled the argument of the cynics who have no faith in God or anything else. They are unable to put aside the trappings of the various religions and get to the core of them all, which is a belief in God and a faith that an afterlife exists.

As we head into Easter Sunday, we put aside the dark and somber meditations on Christ’s woman-prayingdeath and turn our attention to the joyous celebration of his resurrection. That is how we overcome our fear of death. Life after death may still be a great unknown for us, but we believe in it and look forward to the promise of “a peace that surpasses all understanding”.

He is risen! That’s all that we need to understand.


Be a good father; be there…

March 19, 2018

From the Jack’s winning Words blog – “Be like St. Joseph.  He’s a model for every (teacher and parent).  Children need you to walk beside them in love.”  (Pope Francis)  Today is St. Joseph’s Day, honoring the father of Jesus.

Jack went on to write a little bit about Joseph, the father of Jesus and about being there for our children. All too many fathers are so focused upon success in their careers that they fail to realize, until it’s too late, that the children that they worked so hard to man rushingprovide for have grown up and moved away. They rationalize all of the time that they spend at work instead of at home as necessary to provide all of the things that they think the family needs. Often, the only thing that the kids really wanted was more time with dad. Perhaps the saddest country song that best captured this topic was Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.

In reality, the pursuit of career advancement and success at all costs is an ego-driven thing and, as such, is extremely selfish. The success-driven businessman is not in it for the family; they are in it for themselves. Few ever really admit that and that is the root cause for many divorces. Perhaps even their marriages are motivated by the need to appear successful, to have the perfect wife and the perfect family to fill out their resume. Those marriages seldom stand the test of time. Some may evolve into loveless arrangements of convenience for both parties.

The truth is that, if family is one’s first commitment and concern, the career that you family grroupchose to pursue will be viewed as a necessary and secondary commitment of your time and attention. An even deeper truth is that family will actually be second, after your commitment to God. Once you have made that commitment your other priorities will fall into line. When you get your priorities straight, you will also find that your level of satisfaction with life increases dramatically. A loving kiss from your partner or a hug and a heartfelt “thinks Dad” from your child is much more rewarding than another reward plaque to put up on your wall.

We often see stories in the news about children being raised in single parent homes. Many times those are children in black homes, where the father is incarcerated or perhaps even dead at an early age. It is easy to sit back and think that this is somehow different from the family where the children never see dad, because he is always “at man prayingwork”. Perhaps “at work” is his prison. In any event, the result is still the same – children being raised in what is effectively a single parent home. Grant yourself a pardon from your work prison and spend time at home with family. Don’t worry that you can’t afford to give them the latest things; the one thing that they want is you in their lives and you can give them that. Be like St Joseph and be there for your children.

Have a great week ahead with your family.