“Leave it!” – Life lessons learned from walking my dog.

April 3, 2021

I walk my dog, Sadie, 4-5 times a day. I can do that because I work from home at jobs which afford me a lot of flexibility. I know that my dog is spoiled by all of this, but she’s a good dog and really doesn’t demand very much to be happy – a little food, some water, a few treats and the chance to get out for walks.

Sadie is what is called a blue-tick coon hound, which means she is a German Shorthair crossed with a hound of some sort. She basically looks like a German Shorthair (only with the tail not bobbed off) with a black and white coat instead of the red or brown coats that purebred German Shorthair dogs usually have.

Being a hound, she is a natural hunter; although, the fact that she is gun-shy is probably why she was in the rescue shelter where we found her. Nothing makes a hunting dog more useless to the hunter than being gun-shy.

Be that as it may, she still is instinctively on the hunt as we take our walks. When she spots another animal (almost any animal) she goes into stalking mode and locks onto her prey. Squirrels and Chipmunks, in particular, get her undivided attention.

When she’s in stalking mode it is very hard to get her attention back to the walk. I find myself yelling “Leave it” or “Let it go” at her, as if she understood what that means. She probably understands the tugging on her lead better than anything that I yell.

“Leave it” is probably great advice for life. Many times, in life we can become fixated on some event or some person and loose sight of all else. It may be a setback or failure that consumes us or perhaps some real or perceived slight or rejection by another. We just can’t let go of it and there is usually no one there to yell “Leave it” or to tug on our imaginary lead.

I’ve also noticed that Sadie remembers exactly where the squirrel or chipmunk sighting took place and thinks that they are still there the next time that we walk by that spot. Life can be like that too, with us constantly re-living events in our minds, hoping that somehow the results will turn out differently. I have to remind Sadie to “Leave it” when we walk by that spot and we all have to remind ourselves to let it go when recalling some disappointing event.

In life, as with Sadie, there is always the next walk, the next opportunity and we must be ready for it by letting go of the last walk or disappointment. That means not constantly re-living a failure or disappointment. It means not beating yourself up for something left undone. It means learning from your mistakes and not just second guessing the decisions that you made at the time. Leave it. Let go. Move on.

It is Spring as I write this and Easter weekend. Both of those point to a new beginning; however, new beginnings require that you let go of the past. So, “Leave it”. What’s done is done, and what lies ahead requires your full attention. Use Easter not only to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but to mark the starting point of the rest of your life by leaving behind the baggage that has been burdening your life – let it go, leave it. Now start fresh.

Christ is risen, indeed, let go of the past and fixate on that. You will be rewarded with a new life.

Let God be “the one”…

April 2, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used a quote that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe – “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure.  I make mistakes.  I am out of control and at times hard to handle.  You be the one who nurtures and builds.  You be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, the one who looks for the best in people.” 

In his post, Freed speculated about whether it might have been Joe DiMaggio or maybe even John F. Kennedy, about whom Marilyn was speaking. I thought, when I read it, perhaps it was more like a prayer and God is the “You be the one” being addressed. Pastor Freed opines that Marilyn was a complex person, often misunderstood. Perhaps she had come to the realization that she needed to let God be in control of her otherwise out of control life.

Whether Marilyn was, in fact, asking for God’s help or not; the rest of us certainly could benefit from turning control of our lives over to God. Let God be the one who understands and forgives us, who nurtures and builds us and brings out the best in us. It is as simple as believing and uttering the little one line prayer that I have used here before – “Not my will; but, thy will be done.”

If you can bring yourself to that point, where you surrender completely to God’s will in your life, amazing things can happen in your life. God will forgive you and bring out the best in you. Life may continue to be chaotic all round you, but a sense of peace will descend upon you that will allow you not only to cope, but to thrive.

A great deal of the stress and anxiety that we have about the events of our daily lives is formented out of our fear of the unknown, our inability to answer the question what comes next (after death). Jesus provided the answer to that question in his death and resurrection. For those who believe, there is a place reserved for them in the “next”.

Get your reservation for what is next by letting God be “the one” in your life. You will find that your concerns about what happens in the here and now will melt away. God will bring out the best in you.

Let God be “the one” in your life.

Finish strong…

April 1, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Beginning well is a momentary thing; finishing well is a lifelong thing.”  (Ravi Zacharias) 

He also mentioned that he recalled spectators yelling “finish strong” at his grandchildren’s cross-country meets – encouraging them to give their last best measure at the finish. Those pieces of advice are good advice for life. We need to finish well and finish strong.

A story from the Bible that comes to mind that fits today’s saying – that of the prodigal son. Many lives seem to echo that parable. Most may have started out well, basically because they were innocent as children and accepted God into their lives without question or hesitation. As they grew in the world and began to experience the many distractions and temptations that were all around, some wandered away from God like the prodigal son. It’s not so much that they rejected God in their lives, just that they forgot about Him in their pursuit of other things – things that looked bright and shiny.

Most eventually find their way back to God, like the prodigal son. Many may return with a sense of humility and regret for having been remiss for so long, just as the prodigal son did. They also discover that God has been patiently waiting for them and happily welcomes them back, just as the father did in the parable. If they ask for and receive God’s forgiveness they are positioned to finish well, finish strong.

All of us know that there is an inevitable finish to life here on earth. How will you finish? Will you give God your last full measure and finish strong? God is waiting at the finish line with the reward of eternal life for those who return to Him. The finish is up to you.

Finish strong!

You can be civil…

March 31, 2021

Pastor Freed lamented the use of ad hominem attacks as the stock in trade in politics recently in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today and used this quote – “When you cannot answer your opponent’s logic, you can still call him vile names.”  (Elbert Hubbard) 

I have commented in prior posts about the lack of civility that has crept into our way of life in America. Politics and politicians have certainly contributed greatly to that transition and in the process have denigrated their position in our view and embarrassed themselves (if there is any shred of decency or embarrassment left for them to use).

A major contributor to the loss of civility in our society, at least in my mind, are the robo-callers who inundate us with annoying calls pitching things we don’t need and didn’t ask for. Since they are robots, they can’t hear our polite answer that we are not interested, so we just get angry and either shout at the robot or just angrily hang up. Unfortunately, that same reaction pops into our head when we receive what could have been a polite call from some worthy organization asking for our help. I wouldn’t want to be a phone solicitor these days, even for a worthy cause.

But, back to the original thought. We certainly have seen the use of ad hominem attacks in our state as the Republican legislators have resorted to name calling (and witch is probably the least offensive one that they use) in their battle with the governor over her COVID restrictions. Since they have no logical way to refute the science driving her decisions, they use personal attacks instead. They claim to be fighting for the freedom of people to make their own decisions on things like masks and vaccinations. While they don’t officially have a name for this movement, I’d suggest that they use “The right to die” as their tagline, because that is what the result will be if they are successful. It might be easier to grant them that right if it weren’t for the fact that those same people could infect hundreds of innocent people in their careless disregard for themselves and others.

We have also seen the rise of extremist groups that have been engaged in plotting actions that go well beyond name calling as remedies to what they see as government intervention in their lives.  Some of them took buses to the nation’s capital for the inauguration of our new president and participated in the insurrection that ensued. They could not answer or accept the will of the voters and resorted to much more than ad hominem name calling.

Those are a lot of questions, especially in the midst of what might be a heated exchange, but those also form the bedrock of civility. The key it stopping to think, before responding. I have noticed over time that the few politicians for whom I had respect were those who always stopped to consider things before they responded to questions or challenges. Usually they paused long enough that you noticed it and then they responded with well thought out answers and careful use of the language. Former President Barrack Obama is masterful at that and there have been politicians from both parties who displayed that kind of carefully thought out civility (although far fewer of late).

All of these things point to a society that has been conditioned over time to be much less civil to each other and towards the institutions of government. Even though the current administration has called for a cooling off and a reduction in the level of the rhetoric, just saying that we are all in this together is not enough. We may be in the same boat, but we are on opposite sides of that boat. Rather than trying to get those on the opposite end to rush to our side of the boat  (which isn’t likely to happen, but which would probably capsize the boat if it did), it is important to understand the opposite views well enough to be able to create a position in the middle of the boat for all to seek. That middle ground of compromise has been lost in Washington and in too many other places in America.

Where can we start in an effort to restore civility to American culture? Like all things, the changes that are required start within each individual. It is incumbent upon each of us to stop giving in to the knee-jerk reactions that we have been conditioned to respond with in situations and instead stop and think for ourselves.

Ask yourself, before you blurt out a response, why something that someone just said to you is causing such a reaction. You must first control yourself long enough to think about the situation. Is there some basis in fact for that reaction or have you just reached for some canned response that has been planted in your mind, perhaps an ad hominem attack against the speaker? What is the logic of this disagreement and not the emotions of it? How can you explain your position on the mater without attacking the person with whom you are disagreeing? Is there a compromise position somewhere between your current position and that of the other person? Why can you not agree with that person to go to the more neutral place? What can you do to keep this a civil exchange of competing ideas or views?

So, resolve as you start each day to stop and think before you react to anyone. The Biblical admonishment to do unto others as we would have them do unto us is a good starting point. If you wouldn’t want to be called a name, why label others with a name of your choice. Let’s get civil, again. It starts with each of us.

Your life does not depend upon it…

March 29, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “I don’t  know how to be on Facebook if my life depended on it.”  (Sarah Jessica Parker) 

Freed went on to admit to not being very knowledgeable about Facebook and how to post there  and lamented that he feels somewhat like he and Sarah Jessica Parker are on a sinking ship because of that.

I do post to Facebook. In fact this blog forwards to Facebook as a post. I also have a business page there for my real estate business; however, I don’t consider myself to be a Facebook expert user. I belong to several groups, follow a few people on Facebook and I’m followed by some. I have learned just what I need to know to get things posted there and nothing else. I do check on Facebook a couple of times a day to see what might have been posted by the groups or people that I follow.

Certainly, my life doesn’t depend on Facebook and being active there, but I know some people who seem to live through their Facebook posts and readings. I am more wont to say that my life depends upon what’s on my phone than anything, since my calendar. emails and contacts list lives there. Others that I know are very active on Instagram, Twitter or maybe TicTok and other social media platforms.

 There are even people who make their living on these platforms. They are called influencers, and lest you scoff at that, many of these people make six-figure incomes by posting opinions about things on various social media platforms. In a way, their lives do depend upon Facebook or whatever platform that are a star on.

For most of us though, being on Facebook is just a diversion. It may become an obsession for some and for some it can become ruinous, if they descend into Facebook stalking or malicious posting. Pastor Freed commented on the uncivil posts that are often on these sites and he is correct. The anonymity that they afford the posters encourages poor judgement and behavior in many. One should think Biblically when posting to these sites – “Post about others as you would have them post about you.”

There is a popular saying, “I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true.” Unfortunately many of these social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter, have become the primary way that some groups spread false information and conspiracy theories. It is wise to read posts on social media sites with a large grain of salt and skepticism.

While the posts to these site will be there forever (unless they are taken down by the site owners) the good news is that all otf them use some form of push-down scrolling, so any post has a relatively short life-span on the initial page that you encounter. Your casual and maybe hurtful remark will only enjoy a short time in the limelight before it is pushed down and off the screen.

So, how about you? Are you a big Facebook user? Does your life revolve around it or some other social media platform? Are you what is called a “lurker”, just hanging around those sites to see what others are doing or do you actively post about yourself and your day? Why? Do you really think others want or need to know about your breakfast or your trip to the gym this morning?  Do you maybe get paid as an “influencer”?

Life does not depend upon what we read or post to social media platforms. In fact, taking the time to post all of the things that you may have done just takes that much time away from actually living your life. Use that time to do good things that people take note of because you did them and not because you posted about them. Treat your life like it is on Facebook Live, because it actually is live and the “followers” who  are watching you are those all around you. See if you can get a “Like” from those you encounter today. Your life is more dependent on those likes than on Facebook likes.

Have a great “live” day, today.

Seek and you will find…

March 28, 2021

A quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog that has been hanging around my saved quotes list for a few days just seemed to jump out this morning – “Take heed: you do not find what you do not seek.”  (English Proverb)

The title for this post comes from Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The point of both is that you must take some action to find your faith. Just like the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference, the opposite of having faith is being complacent or indifferent. If one has no faith they likely also have no hope, since they have nothing to base that hope upon. Having faith and hope drives one into actions, in order to fulfill those hopes. Having neither faith or hope can immobilize one and lead to the spiral of depression.

Faith is often kindled by seeking to understand the meaning to life and to find a purpose in life. It does not take too long in the search for answers to those questions for one to arrive at the doorstep of faith. While man’s search for more and more knowledge about the world around him has created a huge pool of understanding of nature and the universe in which we exist, it always ends up with those unanswered questions. Even the worlds greatest scientists eventually arrive at the doorstep of faith and most choose to enter, as the answer to their search for understanding.

So, it is OK to ask the questions and to seek to understand the meaning of life. In fact, it is necessary because you will not find the answer unless you seek it. “It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

So, do not be indifferent to the question of the meaning of life, but also do not be afraid of the answer. Knock on the door of faith and it shall be opened to you, for Matthew 7:8 tells us – “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

You might object that faith is not the only possible answer to that question.  I would submit that man has been seeking that answer for thousands of years and no matter how far afield he ranges for answers and no matter how much knowledge he has accumulated about other things, the road always leads back to the door of faith. Without faith, there is no answer and that is a very unsatisfactory ending to the search indeed.

Knock on faith’s door today. It shall be opened to you.

You need one…

March 27, 2021

A quote that I saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago seemed worthy of comment this morning – “Call it a clan; call it a network; call it a tribe; call it a family.  Whatever you call it, you need one.”  (Jane Howard)

Very few people are true loners, independent of the need to be around others. I suppose that some whom we might call hermits fit into that small group. There are a few individuals, whom we call mountain men, who seem to relish being out in the wilderness alone, but if you ask them, they never feel alone because they commune with nature so closely that they feel “nature’s family” all around them.

For most of us, however, Howard’s quote rings true. We need to be with other people and not just be around them but interact with them – to give and to receive attention and love in return. It is important to acknowledge others and be acknowledged in return. If one goes for some time without seeing and interacting with others a panicky sense of loneliness can set in. Have you ever had that temporary feeling like you were the last person left on earth?

I have a hard time even imagining what it must be like for those in nursing homes who have endured a year of being cut off physically from anyone other than the staff – no visits from loved ones or friends. Things like Facetime calls can provide a little relief, but I’m sure they would tell you it’s not the same as an in person hug or smile and conversation.

Back in my college days I spent a few the summers living in the frat house as sort of a summer caretaker. It was a big, old house that usually has 30-40 people in it; l however, in those summer months I was alone in the house. I would, on occasion, experience that strong feeling of being alone in the house and the town (college towns can get quite empty during the summer months, too). At those times I would walk to the nearby drug store and just spend some time “shopping”, just so that I could see other people. Have you ever had similar experiences?

One of the negative side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for many has been the increased sense of isolation that they feel because their “work families” have been taken away. The relationships that we have and the roles that we play at work provide a big part of our identities and support our sense of not being alone. We need that and the pandemic has taken that away for most. We still get work done from home, but for most the “water cooler” social time is gone, replaced (if at all) by Zoom time.

I recall a Zoom call that I was on not too ling ago where the question of what the impact has been of the need to stay home instead of going to work came up. My answer that was quickly agreed to by most on the call was that I had a sense of disconnect. Disconnect from the job and the people. That feeling of disconnect was and is disturbing. Certainly, I still had my home life and, in fact, the pandemic probably caused that part of my identity to take on even more meaning. What I didn’t have was “my place” in the work environment and the day-to-day relationships which that used to entail. Those things had been disconnected by the pandemic.

All of this is leading up to saying that it is very important for us as humans to be around and interact with other humans – to have the families, tribes, groups, whatever we call them. Even going to the grocery store can help us feel engaged with others – we are all part of the “mask wearers” tribe (or at least most are). Perhaps you joined the tribe in the early days who were the “seekers of toilet paper”. There has been for some time now the “survivors” group among those who had COVID, and among them the “long haulers” subgroup. Now we have the “vaccinated” and those still awaiting their shots as groups that we can identify with. And, as much as it “wastes” time on Zoom calls, the social interactions that are a part of every call are important opportunities for us to re-establish relationships with fellow “Zoomies”.

So, keep reaching out in any way that you can to others and establishing little networks, tribes and groups, because you need them. We keep hearing that “we will get through this together”. Yes, we will, in the many little tribes and groups that make up the “We” these days.

Have a great weekend and say “Hi” to the lady in aisle 8 at the grocery store – a fellow member of the mask wearers tribe.

Going through, not going to…

March 25, 2021

A couple of quotes, the first from the blog Jack’s Winning Words and the other something that I saw on-line recently seemed to go together

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”    (Winston Churchill)

“My small personal hell has an expiration date.” (Michelle Goldberg)

Jack wrote that Churchill had a very rough early life – he basically went though hell and that prepared him for resolve and perseverance that he needed later in life as the leader of a nation at war. If I remember correctly Michelle’s personal hell had to do with depression, which she overcame.

We often refer to the trials or tribulations of life as being like hell for us and I think it is important to keep both of these saying is mind. One must keep on going with the thought that “this too shall pass”.  It is all too easy to quit when going through a though time and to sit there wallowing in self-pity. Yet self-pity never provides an answer to, or a way out of, the situation.

Sometimes the problem that you are facing comes with a built-in expiration date – a specific time when something will either happen or not happen. Of course, you may be envisioning the worst possible outcome of it happening (or not happening). You have imagined your own personal hell, which almost never happens. Other times you must take the initiative to set the expiration date, meaning that you decide when to move on and out of this personal hell – to keep going.

It is important to keep Churchill’s advice in the forefront of your mind and to keep reminding yourself that you are only passing through hell and that you are not imprisoned there. It is also comforting to know that you are not alone on this journey. God is always with you, offering you the strength and comfort of your faith to help you through the crisis. There is no expiration date on God’s love for you. Though there may be temporary pain or shame or loss, God will not abandon you and his love for you is steadfast.

So, no matter what person hell you may be going through, reach out to God for help. It is on that day that you set the expiration date for your personal hell and continue your journey out of that hell. You were just passing through and God will show you the way out.

Have a great day and keep on going. You’re just passing through.

Searching for the truth…

March 24, 2021

Today, Pastor Freed used this Albert Einstein quote in his blog Jack’s Winning Words – “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth, because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” 

I immediately thought, maybe it is their delusions that they don’t want destroyed. In the new world of “Fake News” and “sometimes facts aren’t facts”, we have moved easily from illusions to delusions, and it has sometimes become hard to decern the “truth”.

I also read this morning about a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research of the news coverage of the COVID-19 virus that shows a decided negative bias in stories from the national media in the U.S. Basically the study finds that the national news media feed us what they think we want to see and hear. They create a delusion, based upon their biased coverage.

“I’ll know the truth when I hear it”, used to be a saying that was often used. But, not any more, because the truth is often impossible to discern amidst the bias and deception that various groups employ to control what we see and hear. We may still believe that we can see the truth, but we are seeing what someone else has decided to show us as the truth.

That is not to say that we cannot still make judgement calls about what we see and hear on the news; however, moving onto the slippery slope of judging what is true or not true is exactly where the manipulators of the news want us to be. Do I believe what Lester Holt – “the most trusted news anchor in America” – tells me every night? Or, maybe, I switch to CNN or the BBC because I think they are less biased in their coverage. Those are judgement calls and once we start making those judgement calls the “truth” fades into the background and is lost.

A major contributing factor to the storming the nations Capitol building was the belief of the perpetrators that they were doing their patriotic duty and answering the call of their Commander-in-Chief to “take back the country”. They saw and heard that call to action night after night on the news, especially the news shows that took that bias as their guide to what was presented. They lived in a delusional world created by the “news”.

The fact is that all of the so-called “news” shows are just a special subset of the entertainment industry and to be the most entertaining they give us what they think we want to see. The American public seems to sop up bad news with more enthusiasm than feel-good stories, so we are fed a daily dose of the bad news that we crave. Perhaps we get a perverse pleasure in seeing someone else in misery – sort of a modern equivalent to the reaction to a Vaudeville prat-fall – or we sit there thinking “thank God that wasn’t me”. For whatever reason we can’t take our eyes off scenes of disaster or misery.

So, take your daily dose of news with at least a grain of skepticism. Whichever outlet you use; be aware that you are seeing the “news” through the filter of the biases of that news crew.  Maybe that fits into the illusion (or delusion) that you have of the world, but it may or may not have anything to do with the truth. Maybe Jack Nicholson’s  line from the movie A Few Good Men is the answer – “You can’t handle the truth.”

Can you handle the truth? Can you discern the truth? Do you live in a world of illusion or maybe delusion? Where can you look to find the truth? Christians start by looking in the Bible. The truths that are to be found there are not judgement calls, but they may destroy a few of life’s delusions. Do you want the truth? Now you know where to look for it.

A good daily reminder…

March 23, 2021

“I remind myself every morning…Nothing I say this day will teach me anything, so if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  (Larry King) 

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

Have you ever met someone who just can’t stop talking? I have and it’s really annoying after a very short period of time. It’s not even that you can’t get a word in edgewise, it’s that you just get tired of listening to them prattle on.

However, the advice in today’s quote is certainly valid. If you are talking, you are spouting off about things that you already know or opinions that you’ve already reached. Instead, if you listen, you may hear things that you didn’t know or get some insight into a different point of view that may influence or change your decision.

Another piece of advice is not to be a passive listener, but, rather to actively be listening to and analyzing what you are hearing. The minds of most passive listeners aren’t really just idling along; rather, they are usually busy formulating the next thing that the person wants to say.

In addition to the potential for learning, being a good listener is a way to show some respect for the person that you are talking with. It shows that you are paying attention to what they have to say. Admit it, that you an tell if someone is paying attention to what you are saying; so, why would you not think that they can tell the same about you.

Jack mentioned that Larry King used to lean in towards those he was interviewing so that he could listen better to what they were saying and in doing so let them know that he was listening. That’s not a bad habit to adopt either. Body language experts might tell you that taking the opposite approach and leaning back is a show of disrespect and/or indifference for what the person is saying.

Most of us will never be interviewers like Larry King; however, we can apply the lessons that he learned about listening to be better conversationalists or fiends. Others are trying to talk to us, not just at us, and they deserve the courtesy of us listening to them. Who knows, we might even learn something.

Be a good listener today.