Perhaps it not the sun after all…

September 28, 2016

“Keep your face always toward the sun, and the shadows will fall behind you.”  (Emerson) – as seen on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

smiling-sunJack went on to write about keeping a sunny disposition and the power of positive thinking, which was probably what Emerson was thinking about, too; when he wrote those words. We tend to associate certain things with the sun – warmth and perhaps happiness and smiles and a positive attitude.

Witheyes shadows we tend to think about dark things, such as unhappiness, depression, fears, uncertainty and doubts. We don’t like being in the shadows; yet many dwell there because they see no way out of the darkness.

As I read Jack’s post, it occurred to me that making a single letter change to that line also makes sense, maybe even more sense than how it was written. Consider this variation –

“Keep your face always toward the Son, and the shadows will fall behind you.” 

OK, so that’s two changes, if you count capitalizing the “S”; however, you can immediately grasp the significant change that points your face towards Jesus, rather than just the sun. Nothing is more effective in life at keeping the shadows away than a strong belief in the jesus-as-lightSon of God. In fact, if you surround yourself with His presence in your daily life there will be no place for shadows to form, no dark places for evil to hide, no room for the dark things. He is the way out of the darkness.

Perhaps, if you start each day with a simple prayer like, “Lord, be with me today and always”, you may find that there is no room in your life for shadows. There is no reason to dwell in darkness or to explore the shadows.

The positive attitude that Jack wrote about will come automatically, once you have emerged from the shadows and walk in the light of the Son. You may find that the warmth that you receive from Him will radiate out from you and others will want to be around you, because it just feels good. Try it today and see if you don’t feel the change in your life.

Have a great day in the Son!

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Maybe seeing is believing…

August 20, 2016

Jack had one of those little “stop and smell the roses” sayings on his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – recently:

“As rough and tough as the world is, don’t forget to see the beauty in simple things.”  (Unknown)

That’s good advice in today’s hurried, multi-tasking oriented world. Stopping to puppyappreciate a beautiful sunset or a bird on your bird feeder or maybe just the loving pet sitting by your side can be rejuvenating and uplifting. Perhaps it’s the pause from the hubbub of daily life or maybe the quick association in your mind between what you are seeing now and a better or more joyous time in your life. Whatever it is, stopping to recognize and appreciate some small beautiful thing or moment is refreshing and perhaps has more meaning than you realize at the time.

I often save the little quotes from Jack’s blog for use as topics or inspiration for later posts of my open. As I was saving that quote I noticed that two quotes above it in my little list was this one from an earlier post that Jack had done –

“When you can see God in small things, you’ll see God in all things.”  ― Donald L. Hicks

It hit me right away that the two sayings belong together and that seeing the beauty in simple things is seeing God in the small things in life. Once you allow that to happen in
meyour life; then, you can see God in all things in life and that helps you better understand and appreciate life.

Perhaps you can put yourself in the right frame of mind to see and appreciate God’s presence in all things in life by starting each day with this quick little prayer from Psalm 118:24 –

This is the day the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

You might be surprised by how good things “look” to you when you start off with that attitude about life and the day ahead.

Try looking for God in all things in your life. Start with the small things and work your way up. You can’t help but feel better when you start to see the beauty of God in all things around you.

I’ll be seeing you…


How many lives have you lived?

February 6, 2016

“We all have two lives.  The second one begins when we realize that we only have one.”  (Unknown) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Of course Jack was referring to the life that we live, once we become cognizant of the inevitable and consider intelligently the alternatives.

I recall (and this goes back a long way, so don’t worry if you don’t remember this) a TV show called “I Led Three Lives”, which was on TV from October 1, 1953 to January 1, 1956. It was loosely based on the life of Herbert Philbrick, a Boston advertising executive who infiltrated the U.S. Communist Party on behalf of the FBI in the 1940s and wrote a bestselling book on the topic, I Led Three Lives: Citizen, ‘Communist’, Counterspy (1952). The part of Philbrick was played by Richard Carlson. The whole Communist and counterspy thing was a cold-war favorite back then.

I would submit that we all live multiple lives, which has not only to do with our spirituality, but also with the secrets that we chose to keep from the rest of the world. secrtetsThose secrets take on a life of their own. The life of Herbert Philbrick sometimes became very complicated as he worked to make sure that the secret life that he was leading for the FBI didn’t somehow spill over or disturb the other lives he led and a family man and a businessman. Our lives can get like that as we try to juggle the “facts” of the various lives that we might be leading. It is trying to keep track of the facts verse the lies that becomes complex when you lead multiple lives. It is an oft-used phrase that, “my life is an open book”; however, it is often a book with a few chapters that the speaker chooses to leave out.

If we get back to the original premise of the quote in Jack’s post; the quote seems to be saying that we begin living a different or second life once we begin to deal with our own mortality. It’s not like you wake up one morning and think, “Oh crap, I’m going to die someday.” When we are younger we certainly hear about the life expectancy of normal humans, but it seems more like and abstraction than a reality. As we age, there comes adeath point at which we start thinking about the “end game” in our own lives. For most people it is something that is there, in the back of your mind for years, which slowly works its way forward until it demands some thought time and attention.

So, now that it’s up at the front of the line; how do we deal with it? How does our second life differ from our first? For many this is the time when faith and religion also turn from an abstraction and a perfunctory duty into something that we take seriously. Some also begin to obsess about their legacy – how they will be remembered by those still here, once they are gone? For almost all there is a feeling of fear. Death is the greatest unknown of all. Is there something after death? Will I still be me? Will I see those who have gone before me again? Is there a Heaven and a Hell? Where can I turn to get answers?

Most major religions of the world have some description of an afterlife within their beliefs. Not surprisingly, given man’s ego, most of those descriptions revolve around us somehow being the same, conscious being we are now but in some different form. Some religions have created elaborate descriptions of the afterlife, most of it revolving around the deceased getting or having everything that he/she ever wanted. Some have posited a state of everlasting peace and contentment. Some describe it as being like a waiting room until you return to earth as someone or something else.

If you embrace Christianity in any of its many forms, then you also embrace the concept of everlasting life and the belief that you will end up in a place called Heaven for eternity. There are only snippets of descriptions of Heaven in the Bible which allude to a house of many rooms and a place flowing with milk and honey. Even the writers of the Bible could not avoid using earthly references when trying to describe what is indescribable.

It really doesn’t matter how you describe the place that you think you will go after death; what matters is that you hold a belief that there is something for you after death. And if Jesusyou are a Christian, you understand that the only way to enter the place that is there for you is through your belief in Jesus Christ. For all who truly embrace Jesus there is a lifting of the fear of death, for it was His promise that, through his death on the cross, He had forever banished death from those who believed in Him.

The second life that you will live, once you have come to that belief will be much different than your life up to that point. For most there is a sense of calm and relief whenhelper they embrace the saving grace of Jesus. For some there is a new sense of purpose and a desire to share the good news. For a few there is a sense of mission that leads to a new way of life. For all of those people the starting point to that new life is the removal of the fear of death.

How many lives have you lived?


Where is your happy place? Do you remember how to get there?

January 20, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this little piece of advice – “You gotta go to that happy place in your mind and remember–everything’s gonna be all right.”  (Daniel Schetter)  Daniel is that man who continues to surf the waves of Lake Superior all winter long, even with ice on his whiskers.  He believes that cold is all in the mind; so, when he’s surfing the Great Lakes in freezing weather he heads to his happy place and isn’t cold anymore (at least in his mind). He did admit to suffering bouts of hypothermia, but he was still happy.

I read that story in the paper recently, too. I had a tough time imagining being able to get to a place that was happy and warm while surfing in the Great Lakes in winter with ice on my face; but the advice applies well to everyday life. We all face adversities or situations single momthat are not of our own making. How we react to them and our ability to go to our happy place in times of stress or pain determines how well we make it through those times.

The basis for many of the meditative-based religions or beliefs of the world is the concept of being able to get to that happy place and control our bodies and our reactions to things through our minds. It is also a tenet of hypnosis that we have the ability to block out pain with our minds. I’ve been hypnotized at a dentist’s office once and it did work to block the pain of his work on my teeth. I certainly believe that practices like yoga and meditation work to relieve tension and stress.

listening toi musicA key thing that both yoga and meditation focus upon is helping you find a way back to your happy place, so that you can let go of the stress and let your body’s natural ability to heal itself make you well again. Of course there are lots of other things involved, but being able to get to that happy place is central to both. It is also a key to a happy and healthy life, whether you practice those disciplines or not.

So where is your happy place and do you remember how to get there? As children it was easy to get to that place, usually through play. As we matured and “learned” to be adults, we wandered away (or were pulled away) from that place and found it harder and harder to get back to it. We were taught not to waste our time in idle thoughts of happiness, but to “keep our noses to the grindstone”,” be serious” and “get it done”. There was no time allotted for seeking to return to your happy place. Some turn to alcohol or drugs in the false belief that getting a buzz on or getting high is equivalent to getting to their happy place. Both are false and actually add to the stress that they were trying to find relief for in the first place.

How do find you way back to your happy place? You might try yoga or mediation classes ormeditation even seek out a good hypnotherapist. Talk with the instructor/therapist and let them know that you are there to try to recapture the ability to put aside the day’s stresses and get to that place that gives you peace. They will understand. Then, focus upon the process that they take you through to relax and let go and begin your search for that happy place that is still there, somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind. You knew it as a child and you can find it again. When you do find it; you will know that “everything’s gonna be alright”.

For some people, their happy place is a spiritual place, a place that they reach through prayer. They can start each day with a prayer and that means that they start in their happy place, before the day even gets underway. The nice thing for them is that they can pray anywhere and anytime, without even being noticed. It’s all done in their minds, as is the journey to their happy place. For some of these people it is possible to live all day long in their happy place. You know that you have met people like that, because you cannot figure smiling womanout why they always seem so calm and happy. They are at peace with God and themselves and that is a happy place to be, indeed.

An interesting by-product of making the effort to get to your happy place in times of stress is that it tends to stop whatever was going on in you r mind, because you are focusing on trying to find that place of peace. Just making the effort is a big help in coping with the day-to-day stresses of life. Sometimes we don’t have time to make the full journey back and sometimes we may not be in situations or settings where going through our whole routine (perhaps with eyes closed or in a yoga position of some sort) is possible. In those times, just the mental pause that starts the process may be enough to relieve the pressure.

You can make a mental note to go all the way there when you get home, but for the moment, just realize that you have loosened the grip of stress or panic and can go on with what you need to do in a more relaxed and confident manner. You know that your happy happinessplace is out there waiting for you and you know that you can get back to it when you want to – and that’s a good thing …a happy thing.

So, take a moment before you start each day and try to get back to your happy place, so that you carry a fresh memory of it in your mind throughout the day. Then, when stress or turmoil hits it won’t be that guard to see your way back to it for a quick refreshing dose of happiness.

Have a great and happy rest of the week.


Don’t try to explain it, just believe…

January 13, 2016

Every now and then I get off on an ego trip and think that I should try to tackle some really weighty topic here, like religion. I started down that rat hole recently.  One theme that I biblehad in mind was to write about the various books or spiritual writings that underpin the religions of the world. The Bible was the one that I am most familiar with and I knew the names of a few others from some of the religions that I at least know exist.

So, off I went on the Internet, making various Google inquiries to try to see what might be out there to read for some research. What a dumb idea! Within 5 minutes it became world religious symbolsapparent that the topic and the approach that I was taking are both overwhelming. Just looking at the so-called “major” religions of the world yielded more than 55; most of them having various books or writings which provide the foundation for the beliefs and practices of the believers in those religions.

The list if spiritual writings would have numbered in the hundreds and the list spanned everything from complete books to some ancient stone tablets and even included some fairly modern essays. That brought to mind the thought that a new religion might be based upon beliefs found on the writings in modern communications media, such as blog posts. I suppose that would be possible; although, I think a religion based upon Tweets would be too light weight to survive the test of time.

This definition of religions from the BBC web site that I found to be most interesting, mainly because it is generic and inclusive enough that it can be applied to all 55 of the world’s major religions:

Religion can be explained as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

It was interesting that in almost every case the original religions have undergone numerous splits into factions, each with a different take on the practice of the religion or different interpretation of the same supporting materials and beliefs. It does not take one long to see the hand of man in all of the world’s religions or to recognize the influence of the human ego in the editing and presentation of the various religious scripts and books that exist. Since most claim to be divinely guided, it must have kept God busy, or at least amused for some time, as each new translation or interpretation required His “divine guidance”.

Of similar interest is the art that accompanies the writings for many religions. Again the ego of man is center stage with depictions of the major figures within the religion looking amazingly like modern men of whatever region the artworks for that religion is based within. The exceptions seem to be the far eastern religions where many of the “Gods” of the religions are certainly depicted as looking anything but human. Maybe that’s where the “superhuman agency” aspect is applied.

A fairly consistent, but somewhat troubling, theme that runs through most of these religions is that the adherents truly believe that their God is the only true God and that they are the onlydisagreement2 ones who “get it.” They are “the chosen ones”, so to speak. That serves to provide the underlying justification for much of the “them vs. us” mentality that is presently associated in the modern world with religions, at least in some places. Very few of the religions of the world actually recognize the other religions and most look with pity or disdain on those who do not believe as they do. The docks of human history are apparently filled with those who missed the boat on the one and only true religion when it sailed.

Of course there is always the possibility that all of the world’s religions are “true” and that the names that various religions have associated with the “superhuman agency” that they believe in all point to the same enigmatic entity. Since man has appointed himself the author, editor, keeper and interpreter of his own religious texts and books, he has essentially documented his religions in ways that made sense to him in whatever place and time he began to believe. The creators and keepers of the written materials stifle all argument within the community of believers, as I said earlier, by claiming that the words that were written and the edits that were later made were all “divinely guided.”  How convenient for them.

The further down this rat hole that I went the more it became clear that this is a topic that defies logic or clear explanation, and is a topic that is not to be tackled within the confines of a blog post. That was OK, because it brought me back to the beginning and the realization that religion is something that really cannot be explained, but must just be believed. We make personal choices in our lives about which religion to affiliate with and what and how much to believe, as well as which of the rituals to observe. That also serves to differentiate religions from faith, since faith has no requirements for dogma or ritual observances. Each can exist without the other

The practice of our faith, through religion fills a very real need in our lives and the ability alone at sunsetto set aside logic and just believe allows us to accept that which we cannot explain. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it – “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”  The fact that moral codes have been created around those beliefs also provides a needed part of a civilized social structure. We need religion in our lives because without it there is a vexing void in our understanding of the world and what is happening around us. Religions help us define the boundaries in life, beyond which you do not need to understand, just believe.

So, I’m not going to spend any more time trying to explain religion, I’m just going to go back to believing. However, maybe I’ll spend a little time praying for all of the unfortunate people who missed the boat on in my religion. Maybe they just don’t get it.


What do you see?

August 25, 2015

“I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.”  ―  Ashleigh Brilliant

What a great little quote; and how true. We all tend to “see” things through the lens of our beliefs. If they are bad digital thinkingor hateful beliefs, they are called prejudices. If they are good beliefs, they may be called optimism and sometime even Faith. Sometimes we see things through the lens of fear and they appear to be dark and foreboding. Sometimes we see things or people through eyes filled with love and they look wonderful and can do no wrong. Perhaps you are looking through eyes filled with tears, which makes everything a little blurry.

One point that Ashleigh makes in his quote is that maybe we don’t see things as they are but as we wish or believe them to be.  The old saw that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” seems to be based upon that thought. I suspect that what we choose not to see is sometimes as important what we see. A person with a positive and optimistic outlook on life may be able to look past many things as they seek to see the good in any situation or gloomy guyperson. Those who are negative in attitude will have no trouble finding bad things to see in life.

So, it seems that you have a choice in life to see what you believe in others and in life in general.  What do you see? Are you looking for the good or the bad in life? What lenses are you using to gaze at the world? Is your vision enhanced by your beliefs or does negativity dim your view. What about the visage that you provide for others? Is there a smile on your face? Is the person that they see someone that looks like it would be fun or interesting to know or someone to be avoided?  Make it easier for people to “see” you by making yourself more pleasant to look at – smile. If nothing else, they may see that smile and wonder what that is all about. Be ready to show them that what they saw is what you believe.happy going to work

So, like Ashleigh Brilliant, go out into the world today and see the things that you believe. It’s hiding in plain sight; so, it’s easy to see in people and events. Have a great and insightful day!


What’s your take on everything?

July 17, 2015

“The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.”  (Oscar Wilde) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.  Jack went on to write – A recent study shows that people, 69 and older, tend to believe too-good-to-be-true promises.  Internet feedback shows that middle-agers are conspiracy-prone.  If it’s not “the gov’t,” it’s a religious plot, or Wall St.  And, of course, it’s nothing new that the young know everything.  Haven’t you ever been young?  But…beware of stereotypes!

I guess I must still be thinking somewhat like a middle-aged person. I don’t believe in the various conspiracy theories and BS that many of the arch-conservative political groups seem to be trying to spread all of the time; however, I’ve yet to send money to a stranded friend who is apparently stuck in London after someone stole his wallet and passport. I usually tell them that all of my money is currently tied up trying to help the ex-Finance Minister of Botswana get his family fortune out of the country.  I suspect that I will take a healthy amount of skepticism with me forever.

know it allI do meet adults from time to time who apparently never grew out of their belief that they already know everything. It’s no longer cute or forgivable in someone who surely should have gained at least enough intelligence to realize how little they actually know.  In my real estate business I do run into older people who have become quite trusting of everyone and everything and I try to make sure that I do nothing to betray that trust.

Where are you on the “everything” spectrum?  Do you know everything, suspect everything or accept everything? Probably most of us have elements of all three in our personalities, maybe with the scale tipping further towards believing everything as we grow older; although I know some pretty paranoid older people who don’t seem to be able to move beyond the conspiracy-theory mindset. They don’t trust anybody.

I think another thing happens as you age and that has to do with your religious beliefs. Children start out as believers because they want to please others. They say they believe, without understanding really what that know it all 2means, because adults in their lives may tell them that they should believe. Somewhere in their youth many tend to wander from those beliefs because they become distracted by other things in life that they think are more important. Their lack of faith may take on what they think is a weighty conscious skepticism about everything they’ve been told to believe up to that point – it’s an intellectual rebellion as much anything rooted in their rebellion against all things that they’ve been told they must do or how they’ve been expected to conduct themselves. Many beers are consumed in colleges as that debate rages into the night.

Later, as true adults, a good number return to religion because they realize that something has been missing from their lives. An unfortunately large number, however, continue their life journey without the touchstone of faith to act as a moral compass and comfort through life’s trials. It takes a crisis or some life changing event to bring most of those people back into some recognition that faith is a key missing element in their lives. Some never make it back and that is sad.

shield of faithFor the older people there almost always comes a moment when they finally ask themselves, “What’s next?”  Without faith there is no satisfactory answer to that question. So, maybe it’s not so much as Wilde put it, “The old believe everything”; so much as it is that they finally believe something (again). As I age, I don’t sit around contemplating the end; however, I find increasing comfort in the belief that death here on earth is not the end. That’s actually frees me to go on about a productive life and to enjoy each day.

So, what do you believe? You certainly don’t know everything, and you don’t need to be suspicious about everything and you really shouldn’t believe everything; however, at your very core,  you do need to believe in something. For me that something is my faith. What have you got?