Reaching for the next bar…

December 29, 2020

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote –

‘”Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.  You have to let go at some point in order to move forward,”  (C.S. Lewis)

I know that I’ve posted many times about letting go and moving on, but the optic of the monkey bars was too powerful to ignore.

I suppose that all of us have at one time (usually while we were very young) have been on monkey bars at a playground. Maybe as an adult, we hit something similar at a gym. When you’re a child it can look like it’s a long way to the ground and it can be scary. Sometimes we might get stranded on a bar or we can get turned upside down. Life is like that, too, and you can be left hanging upside down.

If we have lost our momentum, it can be very scary to let go with one hand and reach out with it towards the next bar. We may feel like we are losing our grip and will fall. Yet, we know that we must move forward somehow, so we must reach for the next bar or rung. We really can’t go back, because life has removed the bars behind us as we went. We also can’t remain hanging upside down or between bars. We must move on, so we must let go of the last bar.

In life that last bar may have been a strong, perhaps long relationship – a parent or a loved one whom we have lost. You can hold on to that bar in your memories, but you must let go of it in life and move on. For some, there is the pleasant surprise of finding another person with whom to share the journey ahead. For others there is contentment with a life filled with friends and perhaps children or siblings. There ae always more bars ahead to reach for, if you just let go of the past and reach out to the future.

If you feel like you are losing your grip, because of some event in your life, make the effort to reach for that next bar. You may not know what life holds for you ahead, but you can be sure that just hanging there on the bar that you are on is not the answer. Maybe that next bar is offered by an organization that helps people coping with mental anguish – reach for it. Maybe that next bar is being held out by friends and family – reach for it. Maybe that next bar is being held out by your faith in God – reach for it through prayer.  God will not let you fall. Reach for the next bar.

Reaching for the next bar…


Buying a house in winter…

December 28, 2020

I’ve posted here before about things to consider when selling your home in winter, but what about buying in winter. What things are different about the buy-side in winter?

Almost all of the differences involve differences that the winter weather imposes. For one, there is a much smaller window in which you can go visit the house while it is light out. That is important because darkness can hide many things that might otherwise influence your decision. If you only see the house in darkness times, you also won’t know how it looks when sun is streaming in through the windows (or not).

If there is snow on the ground, it might restrict your movement around the exterior of the house to look for defects or problems. Snow can also restrict your view of the roof and will prevent most home inspectors from doing a good inspection job on the roof, increasing the risk that you’ll end up with an expensive roof job in the spring. The pretty snow covers up everything, so you’ll also need to wait until spring to really see what landscaping came with the house.

There are other things that are different in the buying process in the winter month, but they all just add to the fact that the risk of something about the house surprising you in the spring is greater. Make sure that you carefully read the Seller’s Disclosure and ask questions about anything that looks alarming, especially with things that cannot be properly inspected during the winter.

Winter restricts the ability of a home inspector to properly test the HVAC system. He/she might be able to visually inspect everything in the HVAC system, but they will be unable to test the air conditioning portion, since running the air conditioner in winter can actually damage the system. Once again, you could be in for a spring surprise.

Houses with pools pose another problem, since the pool cannot be opened and the pool equipment properly inspected during the winter months. Many agent will add a pool inspection addendum to the offer which would require the seller to agree to escrow  certain amount of money and allow the pool inspection to occur after the sale when the weather permits. If problems are found later, when the pool is opened and the inspection can be done, the escrowed money is used to repair them and the balance sent to the seller. Sellers really don’t like this approach, but it is the only way to protect the interests of the buyers.

You need to be extra cautious and get a very good home inspection during the winter months. Your inspector may not be able to get up on the roof and walk around, but he/she can still get into the attic space and look for leaks or problems. When you interview them for the job, make sure that you ask about that and don’t settle for someone who says that they just open the attic access skuttle and peek in with a flashlight.

The bottom line is that there is increased risk involved with buying in the winter and you should take all of the steps that you can to reduce those risks, so that spring just brings more pleasant weather and not surprises about your new home.


Learn from it and move on

December 23, 2020

This morning I saw this quote while scrolling through Facebook posts – Never be defined by your past…it was just a lesson, not a life sentence.

The quote, which appears in multiple places, was not attributed to anyone in any of them.

There are two key things to take away from that bit of wisdom –

  1. Learn from your past, so that you don’t repeat your mistakes, and
  2. Move on from those mistakes instead of letting them hold you back or define you.

People who dwell on the past in regret or remorse can easily slip into depression, because they see no way out of the despair in which they feel that they are stuck and cannot move on.

It is important that one stop beating up themselves trying to imagine what they might have done differently to change the outcome of a situation gone bad. It happened. It is over. Now is the time to focus upon learning from it. Instead of fretting about what could I have done differently then; focus upon learning from it so that you can do differently if and when (it happens again).

Many people allow their past to define boundaries or limits on their future. For them there are places that that they do not allow themselves to go again, because the last time they went there they failed and it is was painful. They have painted themselves into a corner. For some that includes allowing themselves to love others. To love someone else is to open yourself up to the possibility and pain of rejection. However, the difference between liking and loving someone demands that level of commitment. One cannot experience the pleasure of true love, without accepting the risks inherent in laying one’s soul bare to the other party.

The other boundaries that some allow their past to define involve things like careers or sports or interpersonal relationships. I recently read a series of responses to a Facebook post made by people who had experienced prejudices based upon their past jobs. They had all been stereotyped by others because they had served as baristas in coffee shops at some point in their lives. One respondent is now a doctor and another a Vice-President of a large technology company. They refused to be confined by their past jobs.

Many people get comfortable in the niche in life that their past seemingly dictates, be it a job or a relationship. They find it easier to just continue moving in that direction, rather than exploring the possibilities that different directions offer. They are moving through life on momentum rather than making an effort to change for the better.

There was a 60’s hit by Peggy Lee titled “Is that all there is?”. The song was used on an episode of the TV show Mad Men as sort of a theme song for the malaise of the 1960’s. It is a sad and poignant story that many people who are confined by their past seem to identify with. I prefer to look ahead to new and different things and to see the world like Louis Armstrong in his song – “What a wonderful world”.

How about you? Are you confined by your past? Let go of it, because that is not all there is – there is a wonderful world out there if you just reach for it.

That is the lesson that we should all take away.


Be scared, but not fearful…

December 22, 2020

Pastor Freed used an interesting quote this morning in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words

“There were certainly things I was scared to do, but I never thought I wasn’t up to the challenge.”  (Rodney Mara)

It is interesting because it makes one think about things that they may be scared of, but do not fear actually doing. There are many things in life today that are scary to think about. These days that may include just leaving your house to go get groceries. Yes, it is scary to think that you could get COVID-19 just shopping for your groceries, but most do not let that turn into fear of leaving their house. Rather, we use that scare to goad us into doing the right things to protect ourselves – wearing a mask, maintaining a social distance and  washing or sanitizing our hands when we exit the store.

The two words scare and fear are so intertwined that they are used in the definitions of each other; however there are subtle differences and the biggest is probably that  fear contains a large amount of imagined outcome; whereas scare is more immediate and real. Something can scare us initially, but it doesn’t necessarily turn into a fear until we’ve had time to think about it and imagine all sorts of possible bad outcomes.  A scare is more of a here and now reaction to an event, while a fear is thinking about possible future events.

Pastor Freed went on to mention that he is better able to deals with his fears by relying on his belief in God, that God is there with him, during times of stress or fear. That is certainly good advice and allows us to implement the last part of Mara’s quote in our lives – never to think that we are not up to the challenges.

If we call upon God for help and believe in Him, we quickly realize that with God at our side we are up for any challenges that come our way…we need not fear them. Many things in life are scary when we encounter them; however if we approach them with the attitude of “I’ve got this”, we can persevere. In reality, we are saying to ourselves “We’ve got this”, because we know that God is with us –

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

God did not say to never be scared. There are things that will scare us, as they should. However, we do not have to let that scare turn into fears that control our lives. Rather than being anxious and fearful when encountering something scary, heed the words of John and be at peace –

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The next time you encounter something scary, instead of letting that initial fright turn into a fear, quickly find your inter-peace, your faith.  Rather than sinking into the paralysis of fear, you will see that your faith calms the situation and allows you to think clearly about what you should do to address the situation. Your faith allows you to maintain control of yourself in the situation, whereas fear would try to control you.

Have a great and fear-free day. God is with you. Be not afraid.


I found the right words…

December 21, 2020

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”  (Jack Kerouac-poet) –  From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Ways blog. Pastor Freed when on to write about trying to be brief in his blog,

I guess I cannot claim to be brief in this blog. I often take the one-paragraph posts that I see in Pastor Freed blog and turn them into 4-5 paragraphs (sometimes more). One reader even commented that it was like encountering a “wall of words.” Ouch!

OK, so, I get wordy most of the time. Sorry about that, but I love words and how one can flow them together to express a thought. Maybe I should stop thinking so much and that might cut down the number of words needed. My wife accuses me (and rightfully so most of the time) of being too much like Captain Obvious too much of the time.

The one area of my life that I have found the right words (at least for me) that are simple and short is in my prayers. I have posted this here a few times that my favorite and most often used prayer is the simple line – “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

I think the reason that I love that simple little prayer is that it represents a release of my own ego and an acceptance of the will of God in my life, no matter what the situation is that is prompting the prayer. I have also posted here many times about how one’s inability to let go of the need to solve a problem or work out an issue can get in the way of moving forward – see Let it Go. Spit it out.

There are times when I use others prayers, especially when I remember to stop and thank God for some wonderful thing that has just happened or some terrible thing that I just avoided; but that is my “go-to” prayer.

I’m sure that many people have their own “go-to” prayer; but if you don’t have one, feel free to use my little prayer. It works wonders for me and will put you in the right frame of mind to experience wonders in your life, too.

Have a great week ahead. It’s Christmas week and a time to celebrate.

May His will be done in your life.


But, it’s not an automatic door…

December 17, 2020

Pastor Freed used this quote today in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Every wall has a door.”  (Emerson) 

That quote gets used a lot in inspirational posts or signs and is meant to encourage people to not quit, but to look for the way out of the situation that they find themselves in – to look for that door. Pastor Freed went on to relate how Michael Jordan used it to explain that he never quit when he had early rejections or failures in life – he found a way through, or over, or around the walls that life threw up in his life.

I suspect that many of us approach those doors like we would the door of a major retail store, like Kohl’s or Target. We expect them to be automatic, to open as we approach them. Most are not that way. The doors to opportunity in life require not only that you look for them; but, also that you actually work to get them open and go through them.

Some doors may even be locked when we get there and we have the further challenge of finding the key to unlock them, so that we may open them and go through. Some doors are even hidden. I saw a post on Linked In recently were a man approached a wall that had an obvious door in it, but he pushed on the seemingly solid stone wall next to the door and a passageway opened for his to go through. Maybe the message there is that one must also look for hidden solutions to life’s problems and challenges.

What do you do when you walk up to the storefront door and it doesn’t automatically open? Do you give up, turn around and go back to your car? No. You reach out, grab the door handle and open it yourself.

The doors the we may face in life are not automatic and we must work to find and open them, so that we might go forward in life. The important take-away is to not allow yourself to be satisfied with being shut out of what’s behind each door that is preventing your progress.

This morning, in your prayers, ask God, not that He make the doors that you encounter in life open automatically; but, rather for His help in finding the key needed to open them and allow you to move on with your life. Ask Him to strengthen your faith and give you the patience and perseverance to work at opening those doors.  We read in the Bible –

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

If you think about it, God has already given us the ultimate key to life’s last door – Jesus. For, with faith in Jesus, we can open the door in the wall of death and enter into eternal life.

Keep working at it through prayer. It is not an automatic door.


Find your calm…

December 16, 2020

In a recent Church Council meeting our Pastor used the following quote –

 “Fear sees a threat, anxiety images it” (Max Lucado from his book Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World)

Lucado is a Christian author and speaker who used that phrase back in 2017 as part of a Bible study presentation about Paul’s letter to the Philippians Chapter 4 verses 6-7, in which Paul said “be anxious about nothing.” You can read all about Max Lucado and see the books that he has written at maxlucado.com.

He went on to say, “The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional. It’s the life of perpetual anxiety that Paul wants to address. Don’t let anything in life leave you perpetually in angst.”

How prophetic were Paul’s words (and those of Lucado) when viewed from the context or our current pandemic environment. We can’t see the threat that the COVID-19 virus presents, we only see the results in the nightly news show; so our anxiety takes over and we imagine the threat as it might apply to us personally.

I have often written here about what I called “the dungeon of despair”, which Lucado calls the “prison of anxiety”. This is a mental prison, not a physical one; but it is a bad place to allow yourself to become trapped, nonetheless.

Lucado talks of the key to being calm in the face of a chaotic world is found in one’s faith. If anxiety imagines a threat where none can be seen, faith provides the calm place to go in the midst of that anxiety. Anxiety tries to cause us to see nowhere to turn in the face of the threat, but the Bible tells us –

“Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

And

“He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Sometimes we need a simple way to envision God’s love and care for us. Maybe you can find that by visualizing this passage from Isaiah 49:16 – “I have written your name on the palms of my hand.”

Just imagine God walking around with your name tattooed in the palm of his hand. Find comfort and calm in the thought that God is holding you in the palm of his hands and then say to yourself – If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Don’t let fear take over and lead to anxiety; rather, find your calm in the midst of the current chaos by using your imagination to strengthen your faith. Visualize your name written in the palm of God’s hand. Imagine that!

Be at peace.


So, say or do something…

December 13, 2020

The quote that Pastor Freed used in a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words was from  Tony Hsieh – Former CEO of Zappos – who tragically died in a house fire. “Remember that at the end of the day, it’s not what you say or do, but how you make people feel that matters the most.”  

Say hello

Many of us may look back at the end of our day and think about the things that we got done, the things we check off our To-Do lists; but how many look back and recognize the people that we made feel better that day? I would have perhaps re-stated Mr. Hsieh’s quote to focus it upon the things that one can say or do to make people feel better.

simple act of kindness

It is all too easy to feel that you are too busy to stop and compliment someone on how they look that day or just to hold a door open and let them go first, yet those simple acts of recognition and kindness can make that person feel better for that day. All people wish to be recognized; they want to be appreciated and acknowledged. To be completely ignored is to be insignificant and that is a lonely feeling.

So it is what you say or do that is important. When you encounter people today, at least acknowledge them. Be kind if the opportunity presents itself or maybe just say “hello” and give them a smile. That simple act of acknowledgement casts you noting and could make a big difference to someone who has been left lonely and perhaps depressed by the interpersonal restrictions of the current pandemic. Even if you have to speak to them through a mask, the fact that you spoke will not be lost on them. It is not enough in today’s environment to smile behind our masks, we must take overt actions.

If you have the opportunity, taking action to make someone feel better is even better. Holding a door open is the least you can do. Helping someone carry or load their groceries is possibly another. Going to do volunteer work at a local non-profit organization is another change to impact many people at once.

Each of these things, and anything else that you can think of, are examples of you taking overt and thoughtful action to make others feel better. At the end of the day, how do you think that will make you feel?

I thought so.


I can see clearly now…

December 11, 2020

That headline was an opening lyric from the song made famous by Johnny Nash –

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day.

The quote used in today’s installment of the Jack’s Winning Words blog made me think of that song. Jack used – “Some things are just better left unsaid, and I usually realize that right after I say them.”

That quote got me to thinking about things that would have been best left unsaid and deeds that should have never been done. I suppose we all have some regrets for things that we have said or done, or maybe things left undone or unsaid. It is much easier to clearly see things like that in retrospect than to have the personal discipline to do or say the right things as events are unfolding.

The important things it to recognize life’s mistakes, forgive yourself for them, learn from them and move on with life. I hope that by learning from them, one avoids repeating them. As for the things that we say, one has only to look to Proverbs for some good advice on that –

 “Evil words destroy one’s friends; wise discernment rescues the godly.” (Proverbs 11:9).

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15: 1)

“Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)

One of the things that the quote in Jack’s blog highlights is that speaking without first thinking is what usually gets us into trouble. Blurting out a response or a thought that pops into your mind, without pausing to give it some thought often leads to regret.

The best advice might be always to pause before you speak or respond to give your mind the time needed to consider what you are about to say. There are many reasons not to say something, not the least of which is to consider if to might be hurtful to someone else. There is never a good reason to say something that would hurt someone else.

Maybe we should all wear a little wristband with S-T-S on it for Stop, Think, Speak. That is much better than what today’s quote would put on that wristband – S-T-R (Speak, Think, Regret). If we all did that perhaps the words from the famous Frank Sinatra song, My Way, would apply – “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but them again too few to mention.”

Stop and see clearly before you speak.


Be that candle today…

December 10, 2020
Be the candle

“A candle of God’s goodness can serve as a beacon of hope for those navigating dark passages of their lives.”  (Hanukkah Quote)

That was today’s quote in the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Probably the most meaningful interpretation and implementation of that quote would be for each of us to accept a personal responsibility to be that candle of goodness in someone’s life. Be that candle today.

It comes as no surprise that many people are currently navigating dark passages in their lives, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have either experienced the disease themselves or perhaps lost a loved one to the disease. They need that candle, that beacon of hope, to help them get out of whatever dungeon of despair in which they have landed. Be that candle today.

God illuminates His goodness through the random acts of kindness that we occasionally hear about. The person paying for the meal of the person behind them in the line at McDonald’s or perhaps delivering groceries to the shut-in senior citizen. It also shows through in the many small things that we don’t often see on the news – dropping a dollar into a red kettle outside a store or holding a door open for someone whose hands are full.  Be that candle today.

Just the act of consideration for others by wearing a mask when indoors in public places is a tiny act of God’s goodness. Certainly, those who have recovered and give blood containing convalescent plasma to the cause take that a giant step further. Be that candle today.

Reaching out to those that we see, or sense, are having problems coping with the changes to their lives that the pandemic has caused is also critical. Many people have slipped into a quiet state of depression and too many have found no way out and committed suicide. People in those dark places need God’s beacon of hope that your candle can provide. Be there for them. Be that candle today.

Be the Candle

It is so simple to be God’s candle. Just pick up the phone and start making calls to relatives and friends. Maybe even to people that you don’t know all that well. Call and ask how they are doing. Talk to them about what you have been doing during all of this and let them know that somebody cares about their wellbeing. If they are OK ask them if they would help you with your calls and divide u your list. By doing so, you use your candle to light another candle. Be that candle today.

In your prayers today, include the request, “God let me be a candle for your goodness today”. If you start your day that way, you might be surprised how many opportunities you will recognize throughout the day to – Be that candle today.