It’s time for that courage…

March 24, 2020

Some time ago, pastor Freed used this quote ion his blog Jack’s Winning Words

“Sometimes it takes courage not to be discouraged.”  (Ben Ferenze) 

That quote seems very appropriate right now, as we enter day two of our state’s lockdown order (I count yesterday as Day 1, even though the Governor’s Executive Order didn’t technically go into effect until Midnight). The events of the last 2-3 weeks have been like shoes dropping – you just kept waiting for the next one to drop. They were dropping so often and so fast that it began to sound like a tap dance number from a Broadway musical.

Now, we’ve all become virtual prisoners of the virus, confined to our homes. As I wrote a few days ago, that does not mean that we allow ourselves to become victims. We must summon up the courage not to be discouraged. One way to do that is to keep busy in positive and constructive ways. We may have been forced into situations that could seem to be boring, but it does not have to be. A good number of us have to try to work from home. All of us have those small projects or jobs around the house that we have been putting off. One of our church members has reported that she finally has the time to do the cleaning and pantry organizing that she has been putting off. I know that my workbench is a mess. I better get on that.

Most of us probably have family or friends that we’ve been meaning to talk with or write a letter to, if only there was time. Well, guess what? Now you have nothing but time. Get busy and knock out those projects and jobs, write those letters or make those calls. You will be surprised how welcome your letter or call is and good it makes yo feel to finally get around to doing it.

For those who don’t have a lots of the things listed above to keep them occupied, I would recommend creating some for yourself. If you belong to a church, organize a calling circle among the congregation members to keep in touch with and check up on fellow members. If you are a tech-savvy person , use Skype to make calls to other tech-savvy people. There is something uplifting about seeing and interacting with another person that way, even if it is on-line. There are groups that write letters to troops stationed in war zones – find a group in your area and start writing.

If you are well and able, volunteer for charity groups like Meals on Wheels or other groups that deliver goods to shut-ins. Even though you may have to talk to them through a closed door as a precaution, it is better than just sitting at home and talking to yourself. I’m assuming that Meals on Wheels is exempt from the shelter in place order – it certainly should be. I’m sure that there are otgher volunteer organizations that could use your help – if you are well and able to help.

For some this may be the opportunity to try something new that you’ve been putting off. I have an app that I bought over a year ago that I’ve just not taken the time to learn. Now is that time. If you’ve read this blog and thought to yourself that you might like to try blogging, if you had the time – now is the time.  There are all sorts of good advice blogs on how to write a blog.

Almost any of the ideas here will be more satisfying than sitting and mindlessly watching TV or playing endless games of solitaire. Many involve interacting with others, even if electronically or through a letter. Some just involve the self-gratification of finally accomplishing something that you have had in the back of your mind. None of them involve sitting around feeling sorry for yourself or seeing yourself as a victim.

Have the courage not to be discouraged and get busy! You’ve got things to do, people to talk to or write and maybe places to go. You don’t have time to be discouraged.


Without church, but not without faith…

March 22, 2020

This is the second weekend without a church service, due to the Corona Virus pandemic. Like most other churches, Holy Spirit Lutheran Church of West Bloomfield is offering an alternative, on-line services for members to watch from home. It is a shortened version of a regular service, with some music, a few of the prayers that would normally be used in a service, the Bible readings for the week and the sermon that the pastor would have delivered in church. I create a video of it during the week and post it on YouTube. (click here to see our first post) It is better than nothing, but it is still less satisfying than actually attending church. It is what we have for now.

What is lost in the process of sheltering in place during this crisis is both the social aspect of church and the sense of being a part of a community of faith. There is something reassuring and reinforcing about seeing others who are experiencing and professing the same beliefs that you have. There is also a sort of mindless crowd mentality about church services. Most church services have become so predictable in their format and execution that one just sort of shuffles along with the crowd through the service. Even the homilies or sermons have in many churches become uninspiring and, in their care not to be politically incorrect, blandly predictable. Eyes glaze over like they do when listening to an insurance salesman.

The current crisis has forced us into isolation in our religious lives as it has in the rest of our lives. What that really lays bare is the faith that underpins all religion, no matter what name or denomination the religion goes by. Rather than just sit there, passively allowing a church service to take place around us, we are now forced to ponder our faith and make whatever effort we can to express or practice that faith. For most, that may take the form of quiet prayer or perhaps reading the Bible. For others, the realization of their faith may spur them into some action that expresses their faith, like volunteering to help others during this crisis.

The point is that we all still have whatever underlying faith was there to begin with and now must find ways to express and practice that faith outside the structure of a church service. Perhaps that is a good thing. How many of us would take the time to contemplate our faith were we now in self-imposed isolation? How many normally take time to open their Bibles and search for the reassurance that can be found there? How many might watch the sermon sitting in church with the same attentiveness that one devotes to watching a video?  This crisis and the isolation that has come with it has forced a change in our lives that allows us to refocus upon our faith and to create a new and more meaningful expression of that faith than we had become used to in a “normal” church service.

Maybe you can create your own “church service” to practice your faith. Watch the videos or streaming broadcasts that may be available. Go find your Bible and spend a little of the time that you have suddenly been given by your isolation to reacquaint yourself with it. Take time for prayer each day. I think you will find that some of the fear and anxiety that you may have been experiencing will melt away. Strengthening your faith allows you to also strengthen your hope and will give you the strength to get through this crisis.

Let God know that your faith is still strong, even if you cannot attend church services. Pray and ask God for the right thing – not that He make this go away; rather, that he strengthen your faith so that you can get through it. Where you can and where it is safe to do so, put your faith into action through volunteering to help others get through this crisis. We are only without church services during this epidemic, not without faith. Keep the faith!


Whining about it is a waste of time…

December 11, 2019

In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack used this quote – “Realize that if you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have the time to do something about it.”   (Anthony D’Angelo)

Whining about things seems to be a favorite pastime for many, maybe because it is the easiest things to do when faced with a roadblock or setback or calamity. Whining is sometimes a cry for sympathy or help, but most often ii is just a convenient excuse for doing nothing about whatever it is that troubles the whiner. For them, it seems to take less effort to whine about it than to do something about it. Whining about it is a waste of time…

Now, sometimes having a good cry about something is a healthy emotional release. Once the tears stop, the next step should be about getting on with life and not about going into whining mode. There is an old saying that “misery loves company”, but nobody really likes to be around a whiner. That is why people try to avoid the “Debby Downer” types at work or socially. No one really expects, or hopes, to hear a long list of ailments or health complaints when they say to someone, “How are you?” Whining about it is a waste of time…

So, how do you implement the second half of today’s quote and do something about whatever it is that is bothering you? If it’s a problem that has you down, trying some of the problem solving steps that I’ve written about here many times (to start see my Problem Solving 101 post). If the issue concerns your health, the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, there are other steps that you can take to deal with it, rather than just whining about it. Whining about it is a waste of time…

Issues with one’s health can be particularly difficult because the initial reaction to bad health news is that there is nothing that you can do – it is what it is. The fight or flight reaction sets in and many use whining as their flight response. They seek comfort in someone else’s response to their bad news. Those people seldom appear in the nightly news stories about survivors of various forms of cancer or other ailments or afflictions. The people who appear in those stories chose to fight instead of whining. Instead of using what time you may have been told you have left whining about it, why not choose to fight instead and use that time finding a way to prove the prognostication wrong. You will find that many more people rally around a fighter than those who choose to commiserate with a whiner. Whining about it is a waste of time…

For those instances of the loss of a parent, child or life mate, the choice is more focused upon getting on with life and putting your memories of that person into proper perspective. For some, whose loved ones were taken by preventable circumstances; instead of whining about it they turn to doing something about it. That is how M.A.D.D. got started and how many worthwhile charities got started. The people left behind decided to try to do something to prevent the recurrence of the tragedy that befell them, instead of just whining about it. Whining about it is a waste of time…

The end of a relationship can also lead to whining or to actions. Step one is always accepting the fact that the relationship has ended. That is difficult for some and can lead to bad actions or disaster. For most, it is a matter of putting more time into answering the question, “What now?”  It is a time for some self-reflection. The breakup of a relationship is seldom a completely one-side decision. The importance of taking a little time for self-reflection is to understand the role that your own actions or reactions played in the end of the relationship. It is not a time to beat yourself up; but, rather, to understand what you might do differently in a future relationship. Whining about it is a waste of time…

So, did I mention that Whining about it is a waste of time…


What is your goal today?

November 5, 2019

In a world seemingly oriented to goal setting and daily To-Do lists that seem to dictate our use of time, Dyer’s advice seems to be most appropriate. In fact, if you threw away your current To-Do list and just wrote down “Be a better person today than I used to be”, you will have recorded the most important thing that you could spend your time on today. It is a goal, which will help you accomplish all of the important things that you need to do today.

Some people find that it is helpful to wear a little bracelet with the initial WWJD – What Would Jesus Do – as a reminder to them to be a better person. You could have one that says WSID – What Should I Do – that would be just as effective, if it reminded you to be a better person.

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “My goal is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better than I used to be.”  (Wayne Dyer)

One way to focus upon that goal is to stop and say a quick little prayer – “Lord, help me be a better person today than I was yesterday.” Your mind will take over from there, as God puts thoughts in it about how you can accomplish that goal today. You may see things and people that you overlooked yesterday and you will react differently. You may make better decisions today, because you are more conscious of the need to think things through better and perhaps apply better standards against those decisions. Your personal relationships may improve because today you take the time for a warm greeting or a hug; whereas, yesterday you just hurried on by that person.

A side-benefit of focusing upon being a better person is that you won’t end up with a case of the coulda, woulda shoulda’s at the end of the day. There will be no need to say to yourself, “I coulda said ‘Hi’ to Sally, who looked like she needed a greeting”; or “ I wish I woulda ask Mary how her mom is doing “; or I coulda stopped and ask Joe how is wife is doing with her breast cancer treatments”. You won’t have those regrets at the end f the day because you did stop and interact with those people. You were being a better person today than you might have been yesterday. And, didn’t that fee great?

So, after you’ve checked yourself in the mirror; but, before you go out the door on the way to work; stop and say that little prayer – “Lord, help me be a better person today than I was yesterday.”

I promise you that you’ll end up better than your were at the end of thre day.


You can’t deny it, so deal with it…

September 18, 2019

The first stage of grief is often defined as denial, the “I can’t believe that he/she is gone” or “I can’t believe that this happened” stage. That is also the first stage (maybe the precursor is a better description) of dealing with problems in life. Recently this quote appeared in the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“When you confront a problem, you begin to solve it.”  (Rudy Giuliani)

Zig Zigler put it slightly differently – “ The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.”

I’ve posted here a few times about problem solving (see Problem Solving 101) and there are lots of great posts and article on line about how to resolve a problem, once you have identified it. There are fewer things devoted to recognizing the problem in the first place.

Confronting the problem means acknowledging that it exists. For many it is that first step that is missing. They can’t see the problem, especially if it is them – how they are acting in or living their life.  Spousal abusers seldom see what they are doing as controlling or manipulative, much less as abusive. Addicts become too focused upon the next high to deal with their addiction. Sometimes it is hubris, as much as anything else that clouds the judgement of the problem; the arrogant and self-important people of the world see things that are considered wrong by others as rights or entitlements. For these people, who can’t see that they have a problem or that they are the problem, interventions by family or friends is often the only way to get them to confront the problem.

If denial is the first stage precursor to dealing with a problem, many times it is quickly replaced by excuses. The immediate response to any threat is fight or flight and excuses provide a little of both by providing a way  to deflect blame for the problem by claiming that it someone else’s fault or caused by someone else. The wife beater may blame the actions of his wife to justify the beating with the comment that “she deserved it”. It is also easy to shift the blame for ones actions on some nebulous entity, such as society or everybody.

Do you remember what your mom told when you used the excuse that “everybody is doing it” to justify something stupid that you did as a youth? That advice still applies to your adult life. You can’t ignore or deny a problem that you might have by citing that excuse. Maybe the “everybody” that you know and to whom you are referring to is a big part of your problem.  Recent Chevrolet commercials have used the tag line “Find new roads”; maybe you need to “Find new friends”.

Perhaps the third stage as a precursor to solving problems in your life is the feeling of isolation or loneliness that overcome you. It is a very lonely feeling when you have that “aha” moment and realize that you have a problem and that problem is within you. All of a sudden, everyone else seems to drop away and you are standing there by yourself with your problem. Or are you? That is the time when your faith can provide you with the support and strength to carry on. You are not alone. You are never alone. God is always there with you and ready to help. You just need to ask.

If you can get to that stage, where you ask God for help with your problem, you have broken through the stages of denial and blame and started to deal with the problem. That is huge!  It is likely that the problem is not resolved just because you have taken that first step, but you are on your way in a new direction (the right direction).  You have taken ownership and sought help. It may be that you need the help of others – therapists or councilors – but you already have God at your side, so that part is easier.

When you reach this stage, you should feel good about yourself, maybe for the first time in a long time. You may still find the next few steps in the problem solving process to be difficult, but they are rewarding as well. The problem is no longer in control of you. Now you are in control of the process to resolve it. Congratulations.

Start your day by asking for God’s help with whatever problems you have (or have been denying). Your day will go much better.


And for all the times in between?

September 13, 2019

In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack got philosophical with this quote from Wolfgang Goethe – “Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.” 

However, what about all of the times between the joys and the not so enjoyable things, which must be endured, i.e. your normal day-to-day life? The philosophy embodied by the British saying, “Keep Calm and Carry On” seems most applicable to those times and actually serves the highs and lows of life very well, too. For a Christian that British saying might be translated into Pray and Persist.

We often pray when we are under the duress of a problem or loss and we pray to thank God on the occasions when we have something to celebrate. But what of the time in between? We find guidance in the Bible –  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)  

Prayer has a calming side effect, because it serves to offload from the practitioner the sole responsibility for resolving the issues that you are facing, whether they be things that must be endured or just common, everyday occurrences. Once you bring God into the picture through prayer, you no longer bear the weight of resolving those things by yourself.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Since, before starting out on each day, one cannot predict the occurrences or tribulations that might happen; perhaps a short prayer for God to give you the calm and wisdom to make good decisions is a good way to begin each day. At least it puts you in the right frame of mind to face the day, with God on your side.

So, thank God for the things that you enjoy, ask for God’s help with the things that you must endure and pray for Him to guide you and be with you in all of the time in between. Pray without ceasing and have a great day!


Don’t let the uda’s get you…

September 11, 2019

Some people always seem to let the uda’s take over their lives …the propensity to keeping saying I coulda or woulda or shoulda, when they don’t do something. They should heed the advice of the quote in today’s Jack’s Winning Words blog – “The six W’s…Work Will Win When Wishing Won’t!”  (Todd Blackledge)

The law of Inertia in physics states that a body at rest stays at rest unless some external force is applied to it.  Usually what is holding it in place is friction or maybe just gravity, so the force applied must be great enough to overcome whatever is holding it in place. In the frictionless environment of outer space, even a very small force applied to an object will cause it to move.

We face many cases of mental or emotional inertia in our daily lives. We are most often held in place by fears, prejudices or simply ignorance. We avoid someone who does look like us and thus never meet one of the most interesting people we may ever encounter. We don’t go to certain places or attend certain events because we are afraid of some imagined outcome and our lives are less rich for the loss of exposure to those experiences. We don’t try new things because, well, we just don’t try new things… we go with what we know. We let the uda’s take over our lives.

So, how can we apply the advice of today’s quote to this situation? The key is found in the first word – we must work at it, so that we don’t end up wishing that we had done (or sometimes not done) something. For many the best way to work at overcoming their personal inertia and spring into action is through prayer.  Long before Nike adopted it as a slogan, the bible had this to say about prayer –

Just do it – quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out… The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. – Matthew 5:4-6

Pray for the courage to try. Pray for an open mind to accept others as they are. Pray for patience and persistence in difficult pursuits. Pray for the willingness to accept temporary setbacks and learn from them. Pray, most of all, to be the person that God wants you to be this day.

You may find that the days go a lot better for you when you start them out in the right frame of mind by taking that time to pray before you set out for whatever is ahead. You will sense His grace throughout the day and that grace will take away the friction that preventing movement in your life.

So take the advice of Matthew or maybe of Nike and Just Do It! The laws of physics also state that a body in motion stays in motion. Overcome your personal inertia by starting your day with a little prayer to get you moving. Don’t let the uda’s get you.