Johnny had the right idea…

March 17, 2020

Some time ago, Jack used this quote in his Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Do not worry about being worried.  Difficult, but not impossible.”  (Johnny Appleseed)

Johnny probably wasn’t walking through a country in the midst of a pandemic when he said those words, but they have great applicability today. It is quite natural to be worried, especially about the unknowns and uncertainty that we face right now. So much has happened in such a short period of time that is can feel overwhelming. It is difficult not to be worried; however, it is what you do with and about that worry that is important.

Worries that are focused inward tend to circle back upon themselves become obsessions or lead to depression. People who allow that to happen might say that they see “no way out”. In many cases, they are so focused upon the cause of the worry that they fail to even look for solutions or alternate paths to follow. Perhaps it is key to understand that sometimes there may be no solution to the problem at hand, only alternate ways to react to the situation at hand.

Such is the case with our current worry over the Corona virus pandemic. There is no solution for us to find, no matter how much we worry about it. Time and medical science will eventually provide a way out, if not a solution. In the meantime, it is important to focus on our reactions personally, and as a society, to the crisis at hand. Those who have reacted badly to the crisis have stockpiled toilet paper and hoarded other essential supplies. They have focused inward and allowed their worries to drag them into panic and despair. So far, the fabric of our society has been stretched a bit by those who have panicked, but not torn asunder.

What is the alternate path in all of this? Perhaps it is to turn your worry from being inwardly focused and concerned only about yourself and your own well-being to an outward focus. These are certainly trying times for all of us, but consider how much more trying they are for those who entered into this crisis with little or nothing to begin with or with pre-existing conditions that make them the most vulnerable. Worry also about the “collateral damage” that is being caused by the steps that the government has taken to try to prevent the spread of the virus – the business shutdowns that have thrown millions out of work and threaten the very existence of most small businesses. Then, turn your worries into action, with plans to try to provide help.

By turning your worries into a commitment to be a part of the solution, instead of just another part of the problem, you will quickly find that you have no time left to worry about yourself. A good starting point for turning your worries around is to pray for God’s help – not for His relief from the circumstances that you are in; but, for the strength and faith to persevere and the vision to see a different path – a different purpose in the midst of the crisis.  There are just tons of things that need to be done for others that you can commit yourself to with various organizations in your community – meals to be packed and delivered, shut-ins to be check upon, children who need care while their parents work, the list goes on.

Is there a lot to be worried about? Sure. Is the answer to sit and stew in your personal worries?  No. God has other plans for you. Ask for His help and then go do what he needs you to do to help get everyone through this crisis. You can worry about things later. Right now, there is work to do. It’s God’s work and he needs your hands. Perhaps we should change the lyrics to the most famous Bobby McFerrin song to “Don’t worry, get busy!”

Hunkered Down in Milford…

March 15, 2020

Like most Americans right now, my wife and I are “hunkered down” in our home in Milford, Michigan. It is not that we are too afraid to go out. In fact, we went to dinner last night (in a mostly empty restaurant I might add) and we will be venturing out to do some shopping today. However, we did not go to church today; because church services were canceled, as a precaution against the spread of the Corona virus.

The governor of Michigan has now called for the cancelation of almost all events that would gather a group of people together, including school, church, sports and other spectator/participant events. The Oakland County government issued a directive yesterday instructing restaurants and bars to cut their occupancy capacity in half, as a way to insure sufficient space for “social distancing”.

All of this is both unprecedented and necessary to try to slow down the spread of the virus. None of it will stop that spread from occurring, but the hope is to slow the pace of the spread enough such that it does not overwhelm the American health care system. If the disease tacks along the same growth curve as has occurred in Italy, our hospitals would be quickly overcrowded and overwhelmed (or such is the theory).

I’m out of TP!

There have been alarming, if somewhat amusing, developments locally. The runs on toilet paper and hand sanitizer in our local stores have provided opportunities for very amusing Facebook posts. One can postulate that we make end up with lots of sick people locally who will have some of the cleanest rear ends in the nation.

News of the economics of this pandemic has mostly focused upon the highly visible impact on airlines, cruise lines and events (sports and conventions) businesses; however, it is the millions of small local businesses, like restaurants, retail shops and health and beauty businesses that stand to lose the most. Many will not make it through even a mild recession and the impact of this may be anything but mild.

The messages meant to calm the populous, which proclaim that we will get through this together, are certainly true. We got through other crises like 911 and the Great Recession and we will survive this one, too. What life looks like on the other side of all of this is still to be determined. Life after those earlier crises that I mentioned was nothing like it was before them. We will not “get back to normal”; rather we will have to get used to a “new normal”.

While all of this have interrupted the public practice of religion, I suspect that the underlying faith that is within most people is stronger for it  In times of crisis, one needs something to believe in that is bigger than the crisis itself. It does not get any bigger than a strong belief in God. Focus upon your faith and not your fears. Remember what the Bible tells us –  

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Your faith doesn’t give you permission to do whatever you want or prevent you from catching whatever it is that is threatening you; however, it does allow you to go on with life by giving you the assurance of your fate, should the worst occur. What happens now is a lot less scary if you believe in what happens next. So, hunker down wherever you are, keep the faith and ride this thing out.

Be the aspirin to your family and friends…

March 9, 2020

“Friends seem to be like aspirin; we really don’t know why they make a sick person feel better, but they do.”  (Letty Cottin Pogrebin)

That was the quote that Jack used in a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words.

To paraphrase a common old doctors’ saying – “Talk to two friends and call me in the morning.”

Why does it help? Perhaps because we are all social animals and being able to share our miseries with someone who can commiserate with us has a “Placebo effect”.  Maybe there is something to the old “healing touch” beliefs that the laying on of hands can help. Some believe in being able to transfer “energy” between people. Whatever you believe, there is certainly something good and helpful about having someone else to share your pain or discomfort with; If nothing else, they may allow you to take your mind off your suffering for a while. Be the aspirin.

I’m sure that scientists could find something to attribute this effect too; perhaps the release of endorphins of some sort.  You really don’t need a scientific explanation of why a visit to a sick friend can help them feel better…just do it. It’s a whole lot more helpful than just sending them a Get Well card. Be the aspirin.

I suspect that, if you thought about it for a moment, you have friends who could use a visit. Perhaps they aren’t “sick” in the sense of having a disease.  Maybe they are just lonely, because they lost a loved one.  Maybe they are a shut-in, unable to drive or visit with anyone anymore. Perhaps they are in recovery from some incident that caused injury. Maybe they are suffering  from depression over a lost job or the end of a relationship. Whatever the reason for their current state of health or mind, they could use a visit right now and you can be their aspirin. Be the aspirin.

In most cases, you really don’t have to “do” anything other than be there to listen and offer encouragement. You roil is to assure them that they are not alone, that someone else cares about them. Now, in our current state of concern about the Corona virus, it may not make sense to endanger yourself by making a personal visit to someone who is infected and in quarantine; however, you can’t catch the disease over the phone and a phone call is a lot more helpful that just sending a card. See if they are able to take your call. Be the aspirin.

Just like in life there are many brands of aspirin, there are many ways to help and show support for those  in need of some help – taking food over to their house, offering to drive their children to things, offering to do their food shopping or to do their laundry. Sometimes all you can do is go sit by a bedside and listen, but that is enough to make a difference. Be the aspirin.

An interesting side-benefit of all this is something that the real aspirin never gets to experience – it will make you feel better, too. Doing something for others, serving others, helping others is an aspirin for your soul. It will help remove aches and pains that you may not have realized were there – those prickly little feelings that keep saying to you,  “I know I should be doing something to help.” Now, you are doing something.  Be the aspirin.

Who is hiding inside you?

March 7, 2020

In a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, pastor Freed used this quote – “Whoever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were.”  (Tara Westover) 

Sometimes it’s just about realizing your potential by working to educate yourself. However, sometimes it may be about freeing yourself from the you that others have assigned to you – the stereotype or the generalization that others have applied to you that you came  to believe were true. The limitations or categorization imposed by others that we accept for ourselves become the prison within which we dwell.

Sometimes our prisons are self-imposed, often caused by fears or doubts. We don’t try to go beyond the limits that we set for ourselves, because it is safer and more comfortable to stay within the confines of the world that we have imposed upon ourselves. We settle into the routine and “normal”, not so much content with our lot, but, rather, afraid of the consequences of failing at something new or different. We know that there is someone else hiding within us, but we keep them hidden away and suppressed.

Maybe that person is in a completely different profession or job than we have now. Maybe that person is happily married, unlike the shy and lonely single person that we now see in the mirror. Maybe that person is the inspiring leader that we always wanted to be. Perhaps that person is friendly and outgoing, with many friends, and not the withdrawn loner that we’ve become. If we heed the words of today’s quote, we know that the person that we often dream of becoming is in there already, just waiting to be turned loose.

So, how do you let out the person who is hiding inside you? It starts with admitting to yourself that you are not as happy with the person that you are today as you would like to be. That’s not saying that the person that you are is bad, just that it is not what you want to be or think you could be.

The University of Phoenix is running a commercial right now about a mighty dragon who never learned to fly (never reached its potential). The gist of the story in the ad is that the woman in the commercial is that dragon who has obviously sacrificed herself to the task of taking care of her young son. She seems to be trapped in a life that is much less than she could have been, working in a job that is less than she could have achieved. The ad points to an education through the University of Phoenix as her way out of this self-imposed prison. The imagery of the Phoenix bird rising from the ashes supports and reinforces the idea of releasing the person within.

Certainly, educating or re-educating oneself may be an important step in the process of realizing the potential of the person that is within. It is a break with the past and may be the key to the future. However, it is not the first step. The first step is taken when one resolves to make a change, to find that person within and do something about freeing them. It does not always involved making such dramatic life changes as pursuing a new career. It can be a change in attitude towards life. It may be a commitment to be a better husband or wife or maybe a better parent. In most cases, that will mean that the focus of your life changes from internal to external – caring more about others than about yourself.

The University of Phoenix ad asks and answers a question that will undoubtedly come up when considering a life change – who will take care of the obligations that I have now (the children, the bills and other day-to-day things)?  The answer in the commercial is both simplistic and true – you will.

 Perhaps, I should have included a step before step one – asking  for God’s help. Remember that we have been told in the Bible that God will not give us greater challenges than we can handle.

 “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Paul did not say that you would never fail, nor did he say that it would be easy. He said that God will give you the strength to endure the tests that you encounter and that there will always be a way out.

Maybe God was always in there, too; suppressed and hidden within you alongside the person that you could be. Let them both out and your life will change forever.

Who’s hiding inside of you? Ask God to help you let that person out to fly like a mighty dragon. It was in you all along.

Be the somebody…

March 4, 2020

This Alfred Hitchcock quote was the lead in today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “I have a feeling that inside you somewhere there’s a somebody nobody knows about.” Hitchkock would have made a movie about that – perhaps he did.

All of us have secret somebodies within us, if only in our dreams or imaginations. Few actually act out those hidden somebodies in their real lives, but they do tend to influence us from time to time. Jack mentioned politicians and how their secret selves (or the skeletons in their closets) somehow come out, or at least are exposed to scrutiny, in the spotlight of attention that is trained on them during their campaigns. Everything that each has ever said in public (or private) is dredged up and used against them.

Think about your secret self. Is it that rock star or high performer that you always wanted to be, but were too shy to let out? Is it that self-confident person who asks out the girl/guy that you’ve always admired from a distance? Is it the sales person who is not afraid to ask for the order or deal with objections? Is it that person who is not afraid to speak out against bullying or injustice? Perhaps it is that confused soul within that desperately wants to declare a different sexual identity, but who is afraid of the consequences. Maybe it’s that partner who feels trapped in a marriage that no longer makes sense. It could be that worker who regrets having chosen the profession that they feel trapped in now. Or, maybe, it just that happy soul that wants the chance to go out and play again as it did when you were a child.  

It would seem that the first step to dong something about the dilemma that Hitchcock postulated is to admit to yourself that the somebody inside you is there. You need to do something other than suppressing  that somebody. First, deal with recognizing what it is that this somebody wants or needs that is different from the life that you are living. Second, find a way to get those wants or needs out into the open. Maybe you can discuss it with a trusted friend or maybe you need the help of a professional counselor. Maybe these unfulfilled dreams or desires need to be discussed with your life partner (assuming that a break with your life partner isn’t the unfulfilled dream).

The point is to bring that secret somebody to the surface in your life and examine the consequences of acting upon those desires or unfulfilled dreams. For most, these are not negative things and the support that you might find from your life partner or friends will help you actually achieve those dreams. For a few, this process will bring lingering issues to a head and provide the chance for a clean break, letting that suppressed somebody inside finally escape. For some, the chance to examine long suppressed dreams or desires may result in them finally being discarded to make room for new dreams, goals or desires to be formed. Just don’t put those new dreams and hopes back into the same  secret place. Keep them out in the open.

The truth is that Hitchcock was wrong. You knew about that hidden somebody all along. You were its jailer. Now, maybe you can let him/her out and assume your real identity.

Be the somebody that you always wanted to be.

Make someone happy today

March 3, 2020

Today is national I want to make you happy day. In his Jack’s Winning Words blog post today, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Making one person smile can change the world, maybe not the whole world, but their world.”  (Unknown) 

The person who created I want to make you happy day is also anonymous.

We really shouldn’t need a special day to celebrate making others happy. Imagine how nice the world would be if we all set out each day to make others happy. In fact, one of the side benefits of making others happy is that it makes us happy, too. Not only do you get the satisfaction of affecting someone else in a positive and uplifting way; but you also get to enjoy the pleasant environment that his or her smiles create. In effect, by making them happy, you make yourself happy, too. It’s a win-win situation.

I have a friend who calls himself a Happiness Coach. He’s a self-proclaimed life coach who focuses upon helping people understand how to work at making their marriages more satisfying. He draws upon his own life experiences to help others. A primary focus of his is helping the partners better realize what they are doing or not doing to make their marriage more fulfilling and happy.

One does not have to be a life coach to make someone happy; however, it does require making the effort to reach out to that other person with the intent of helping them be happy. It might involve a kind word or greeting, or maybe a hug. Perhaps it is taking the time to listen to the problems that have them down and offering some encouraging advice.  It does usually involve eye contact or a touch. Tossing some change at a beggar sitting on the street does not elicit the same response as pausing to say, “I hope this helps”.

To celebrate I want to make you happy day, start by putting yourself in a happy frame of mind and then make a personal commitment to try to make others happy, too. Put a smile on your own face, as a first step to putting one on the faces of others. Then, resolve that instead of rushing by others without making eye contact, today you will greet them with that smile and an extended hand. You don have to say, “Happy I want to make you happy day!” Just thinking it will help.

Just think of the wake of happiness that you can leave in your wake as you go through the day and the ripple effect that your happiness will cause. Maybe you won’t change the whole world, but your little corner of the world will be a lot happier today.

I hope that I made your day a little happier with this post. Pass it on – it’s I want to make you happy day!

See the opportunities…

February 25, 2020

Today, Pastor Freed used this quote in his Jack’s Winning Words blog – “If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities.  If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.”  (Wayne Dyer)

There are lots of “don’t worry, be happy” sayings out there that don’t address the reality that there is a problem, an issue or a setback. Life is not such that we can just ignore what happens to us and be happy; however, we can control how we react to issues or setbacks. It becomes an issue of either believing that the situation has the best of you or that you’ll get the best of the situation – I got this vs. this has got me.  

Being able to see the opportunities in the face of adversity is not just about your own self-confidence; it is also about believing in something much higher than that. In the Bible we see this –

1 Corinthians 10:13 –

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Note: The Greek for temptation and tempted can also mean testing and tested.

Therefore, the opportunities that you see is God providing the way out, so you can endure it. Perhaps, when things are at their darkest, you need to ask God for a little help to see the opportunities – the way out.  It is not being able to see a way out that leads people into depression and some into suicide. If you believe in God, you will believe that things will work out and you will start looking for and seeing the opportunities.

Even if you are not in the midst of a crisis, it is a good idea to start each day with a little prayer asking God to stay with you and show you the opportunities, rather than the obstacles, throughout your day. I think you will find that your day goes a whole lot better if you spend it looking for the opportunities that God is providing you to deal with whatever you encounter.

Don’t worry, it will all work out. God is with you. You got this.