Be the difference…

December 11, 2021

You can add to the message of the graphic that it not what you say but what you do that makes a difference. Knowing that something is wrong and even saying that something is wrong does little to change things. Taking action to bring about those changes is the only thing that counts.

Very often the things that may bother us as being wrong are much larger than just something that we can personally fix or right, and there is a tendency to let that put us off doing anything at all. Your actions may take the form of joining a protest march or writing a letter to authorities or maybe to your local paper. Change is often brough about through educational efforts to point out the wrong and making suggestions for fixing them.

The important things is not to let the size of the problem overwhelm your inclination to help. Food insecurity (we used to call it hunger) and homelessness are big, widespread problems, but they manifest themselves locally in smaller groups that you can impact by your own actions. Volunteering at your local food bank or at a local shelter helps with the problem in your neighborhood. If every neighborhood had groups and volunteers working on the problem, it would certainly be less than it is. At least you can be a part of the solution instead of just knowing or talking about the problem.

The next time you find yourself thinking about (or talking about) something that need attention or help, ask yourself, “So, what can I do about that?” Then don’t let yourself be put off by the size or pervasiveness of the problem. Keep thinking smaller and smaller until you think of something that you can do and do it. When you see a person in need, take action, not pity.

Be the difference…


What will you change today?

November 29, 2021

You woke up this morning. Great. Now what? It is a new day and a new chance to make changes in your life. It is a chance to forgive yourself for some past mistake and heed the advice of that great philosopher Alice Cooper, who said – “Mistakes are part of the game. It’s how well you recover from them, that’s the mark of a great player.”

The changes that you make each day don’t have to be big ones. In fact, trying to make huge changes in your life often leads to failure. However, making small incremental changes each day can alter the course of your life over time. Even seemingly inconsequential things like changing your route to get to work can have an impact by providing you with a different perspective on things. Wearing different clothes than you would “normally” wear puts you in a different frame of mind. Talking with someone that you would usually just walk by without acknowledgement may provide new insights into the seemingly ordinary things in life.

You do not need to just be focused upon correcting mistakes in your life. Many times, just finally acknowledging that you made a mistake and taking ownership of it is a difference maker. Sometimes, when you think about a mistake that you made in the past, you realize the impact that it had on the course of your life and can consciously decide if you want to get back on that original course. Career decisions are sometimes made that way.

Aside from dealing with mistakes, giving some thought to what you might need to change in your life is a positive thing. No one is perfect, so there may be little things that you can pay attention to, in order to improve. For many people, it is just resolving to make the effort to be more open and friendly to strangers that can open up their lives to a richer and more satisfying existence. For some is might be heeding the advice of Martin Fraquhar Tupper – “Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”  

The point is to make the decision to change something in your life today and see where that decision takes you. It is bound to be somewhere you would not have ended up if you had not made that change. If it turns out to be a mistake; well, that’s what tomorrow’s change can address. That is what makes life interesting.

What will you change today?


What’s around the corner for you?

November 25, 2021

There is certainly the possibility of something different around every corner or over every hill. The optimist sees exciting opportunities ahead while the pessimist sees nothing but danger. What do you “see” when you are approaching a corner or a hill in your life?

All visions of the future are formed in our imaginations. You can imagine great and wonderful things to come, or you can foresee painful disasters, and both can come true. If you could choose, which would you prefer? The thing is that you can choose, at least for the imagining part.

Optimists aren’t necessarily born with a smile on their face. They develop a positive outlook on life as they mature by making positive choices and consciously deciding to live with a positive attitude. A big part of arriving at a positive state of mind is having a strong faith upon which to base that optimism. People without faith have nothing upon which to stand in the face of opposition or hardship; however, those with faith turn to God for strength and reassurance.

Not everything may be going right just now, but there is another bend or hill ahead and those with faith know that God will be waiting on the other side, and everything will be alright when you get there. Even if the curve or hill ahead is death, people of faith know that there is something wonderful on the other side for them.

What’s around the corner or over the hill for you? You can approach those changes with confidence when you have faith in God.


Admit it, learn from it, change…

June 19, 2021

I recently stumbled upon an inspirational site that has meaningful messages found in song lyrics from Disney movies, or maybe it stumbled upon me…I forget. Anyway, I must admit that I saw only a couple of the many Disney movies that were referenced at the site. I chose one of the posts to that site for my musings this morning.

Bittersweet and strange
Finding you can change
Learning you were wrong
— “Tale As Old As Time,” “Beauty and the Beast”

Setting aside for a moment that this is an animated movie and that the song was sung by a teapot, there is wisdom to be found in the lyrics.

The key insight in this message is “learning you were wrong”. How many of us fight long and hard not to have to admit that we were wrong? Wrong about a person or a place or thing; or, perhaps, wrong about in a long-held belief.

There is a series of commercials running right now about The General Insurance Company. The commercials feature Shaquille O’Neal and contain messages about people being wrong about the insurance company because of their past commercials. The message that it is trying to get across is that The General really is a serious and good insurance company, despite their past, silly commercials.

How often do we judge things and people by their appearance or through association with other people or events? THEY become stigmatized by being part of the group “THEM”, and we are happy to lump them all together and dismiss them because of that association in our minds. How lazy and wrong of us.

Each person that we meet deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt and we should use that old justice phrase “Innocent until proven guilty” in our minds before rushing to a judgement of association. About the only thing that one can tell, just by looking at them is that they are a human being. Anything else at that point is a guess and likely a bad one at that.

One might say, well I can see what color their skin is; to which I would answer, “and that means what?” Or, you might say I can tell what sex they are, which I might challenge in the case of androgynous looking people and would further question whether just looking at them how you can determine if they identify with what you think you see. These are the types of judgements that we rush to in our everyday lives and perhaps the most important to try to overcome – to change.

Learning you were wrong only comes after admitting that you were wrong, and that is the hard part for most. For most of us, our preconceived notions and prejudices become part of our defensive shields – the things that we keep up to protect us from harm (real or imagined). It is just safer and easier to avoid having to interact with “those kinds of people”, than to put our shields down take the time and make the effort to really see what kind of person they are.

Yet taking that time and making that effort is what leads to the “bittersweet and strange” part of the lyric, when you find a new friend in that person that you at first avoided.  You will find that you can change. Finding that you can change is the first step to admitting that you were wrong; and admitting that is the first step to learning, which eventually leads to wisdom. Perhaps that is why we associate wisdom with age – it takes us way too long to admit we were wrong and learn from it.

Take another step on your journey to wisdom today. Think about the conclusions or judgements that you make based solely upon how someone looks and challenge yourself make the effort to really get to know the people that you meet today before you make any judgement about them at all. Even them, take the advice of Pope Francis and ask yourself the question, “Who am I to judge?” Once you put down the gavel of judgement, you may find that you meet a lot more interesting and friendly people and maybe make a few new friends.

Find that you can change today!


You control your future…

December 30, 2020

In today’s post to his Blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it?”  (Marcus Aurelius) 

Many people do shrink from change because they fear the future; for them change is a scary thing and the future represents change and the unknown that they fear. Others dive headlong into the future, anticipating great things from the changes that it holds. Wherein lies the difference?

I would submit that the difference is in the attitudes that each has about themselves. The fearful see themselves as victims of the future, hapless and hopelessly being dragged into whatever calamities the future brings. The fearless see themselves meeting the challenges that they may encounter with persistent resolve to prevail. The fearful wish to hide, the fearless wish to overcome. What makes the difference?

I’ve posted here a few times about being at peace with yourself, which is the foundation of being fearless about the future. That foundation, like the foundation of a house, does not hold itself up. Before pouring the foundation of a house, the builder must first put in footings. I think most people know what footings are in construction terms – the reinforced concrete base upon which the foundation is built. I like the second definition in the dictionary – the basis on which something is established or operates.

I submit that people who are at peace with themselves (and thus fearless about the future) have established that foundation upon the footings of a strong faith in God. That faith is the basis upon which they operate and holds up the foundation of their life. No matter how scary the situation, when it gets down to the base of their foundation they find God there and they are reassured that when God is with them, nothing can prevail against them. That reinforces their foundation and allows them to overcome the fears arrayed against them. They find calm in the midst of chaos because their faith in God is the basis upon which they operate.

So, you need not shrink from the future nor be fearful of it. Instead, make sure that you start each day by reestablishing in prayer that you have based the foundation of your life upon the footings that your faith in God provides. The calm and strength that will settle over you, based upon that start, will carry you through the day and give you the right attitude to face whatever life throws your way.

While the future may be a bit scary, it also holds rewards for those brave enough to venture into it in search of better things. One does not find those rewards while hiding under their bed to avoid change. Be brave, be confident, be calm.

We are told in the Bible –

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

You control your future because you control yourself and that self-control is based upon the solid foundation that you have built on the footings of your faith in God.

Have a great day at peace with yourself and in control of your future.


A year of great discontent…

July 11, 2020

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, pastor Freed used this very apropos quote – “Progress is not created by contented people.”  (Frank Tyger)

One does not need to be a scholar or history buff to know that most, if not all, of the changes (both large and small) that have happened in America grew out of someone’s discontent with the status quo. Even at our beginning as a new nation, many in what became known as America were content to be subjects of England and the rule of the English King. Throughout our history as a nation is has been discontent that changed the course of that history. Our discontent with staying put on the eastern side of the continent took the form of “Manifest Destiny” that drove explorers (and later settlers) westward. Discontent with the immorality of slavery eventually led to the Emancipation Proclamation. Later, discontent with the social, legal and economic situation that had evolved in the nation, mostly in the southern regions of the country, led to the Civil Rights Movement. It could be said that man’s discontent with being stuck on the surface of our planet led to the creation of aviation and later space flight and our moon landing. There are tons of other examples and all were driven by someone’s discontent with the existing situation.

The word “content” is relatively benign. It means – “in a state of peaceful happiness”. For some who do not see the problems at hand, that may actually mean “in a state of blissful ignorance”. For others is more of a state of “resigned acceptance” of things that are wrong. A lack of concern about anyone but ourselves can lead to a state of numbness or callousness about the events happening around us. Others may take offense at any disturbance of their otherwise serene and prosaic environment.

The year 2020 is proving to be a year of great discontent. The discontent over the sexual exploitation of women in the educational, entertainment and business worlds carried over from 2019, with almost weekly exposures of new grievances. The jarring changes mandated by state governments in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic caused great discontent and exposed a long-festering rebellion against government authority and the basic concepts of society by groups on the fringes of society. Discontent boiled over into the streets in matters of race and inequality of opportunity in America. While the trigger for the protests in the street was the murder of a black man in Minnesota, the underlying discontent was with the continued and pervasive racial biases that dictate the day-to-day lives of people of color in America.

What will come out of all of this discontent? The hope is that changes will be made at a systemic level. Changes will be required to laws that support the bad behavior; but more importantly, changes will be required at the personal level. It really doesn’t matter if the law says it is illegal to discriminate, if we still do that in our hearts and minds at every encounter with someone different from us. That change will take longer and is impossible to legislate. Real change starts with you and with me. We must become discontented with not only the things that are happening around us that we know are wrong, but with our reaction (or lack of reaction) to those things. As I have opined here a few times, it is those “things left undone” that we must pray for forgiveness about, as well as the things that we may have done.

If you are to “love thy neighbor as yourself” you cannot start from a position of fear, hate and bias. Be discontented with that state of mind and seek to change it. Do not become satisfied and content with a state of affairs that positions you in comfort and safety while leaving many of those around you in poverty and despair. Take no comfort from your good fortune while ignoring the needs of your neighbors. Inequities are at the root of many of the problems that are causing the discontent that we see in our society right now – inequities of positional power or economics or opportunity. The systemic changes that are need must be aimed at identifying and righting those inequities.

If Tyger was right, this should be a year of great change, since it is already a year of great discontent. Let’s all look for the good that can come out of this discontent.


What to change to cause real change…

June 26, 2020

There is much in the news about demands for change and an end to discrimination of all types and the inequities that exist in our society. As I look back over quotes that I save from the Jack‘s Winning Words blog, two stood out as seeming to go together to provide a good starting point for accomplishing the needed changes.

“If you were to change the world, start with yourself.”  (Gandhi)

  • AND –

“If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”  (Mary Engelbreit)

People almost never look in the mirror and honestly say to themselves – “You are a part of the problem.” It is always “they” or “them” who are at fault – the bigots and haters that we see on the news. Yet it is those who remain silent and let things go on that facilitate that bigotry or wrong behavior. The bully who goes unchallenged by his/her peers that continues to bully others. The bigot who refuses to perform a service for, or sell a product to, a gay couple will continue to discriminate. The police who treat people of color differently will continue to harass and kill with impunity. If we see it and don’t say or do something, then we are a part of the problem and not of the solution.

In our prayers for forgiveness at church we pray that God will forgive us for the things that we have done and the things left undone. It is in those things left undone that we become part of the problem. Today’s quotes direct us to spend more time in reflection on our own thoughts and actions (or inaction). A good start is to examine how the nightly news stories about the demonstrations against police brutality make you feel.

Most white viewers likely have little frame of reference for empathy with the black demonstrators, unless they have been stopped and perhaps roughly treated by the police sometime in their past. For the most part, white people don’t view a stop by the police as a life-threatening event – it’s just an inconvenience. Compare that to the interviews that you see on the news about how blacks view interactions with the police. Their fears are palpable.

Perhaps then, your lack of empathy or even your indifference to the obvious issues that exist for people of color is a part of the problem- part of the things left undone. If you feel like you can’t, by yourself, change the problem, then take Mary Engelbreit’s advice and change the way that you think about it. Let that change in thinking also drive changes in your life. Not everyone can join in the marches and demonstrations; however, everyone can vote and elect new officials who will affect the changes that are needed.  Everyone can change the way that they interact with people who are different from them. Often, it is just that interaction itself which makes the difference.

Heeding Gandhi’s advice means starting by recognizing where you are today and giving yourself the goals to be someplace else tomorrow. What can you change about yourself to make you the person that you’d really like to be? What can you do to get yourself out of the safe comfort zone of indifference to the plight of others?  Start by changing the way that you think about it.

Now, that’s real change.


You can change the outcome…

July 18, 2019

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this insight –

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”  (Lee Iacoccoa)

I grew up in the era with some of the early proponents of changing one’s attitude. Norman Vincent Peele wrote his famous book ‘The Power of Positive Thinking” in 1952. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, was on TV espousing a positive attitude through faith. Of course, there was Dale Carnegie and who could leave Zig Ziggler off such a list. More recently, lives have been influenced by the works of Eckhart Tolle, Thomas Anthony Harris, Tony Robbins and a host of self-help gurus. What all of these people have in common is the notion that you can change your life by changing your attitude.

In physics it can be shown that, in order to change the direction of an object that is in motion, some sort of force must be applied to that object – a force in a different direction than the object is traveling. The same is true of the trajectory of your life. It will decisionscontinue down the path it is on, unless some force is applied that causes it to change direction. That “force” can be some external event or it can be an internal change of attitude, which causes you to react differently and take a new direction. One could sit around and hope that something happens to change things in your life or one can take the first steps of changing your attitude towards life.

Perhaps the greatest “force” that can change the direction of your life is the force of a belief in God and in God’s impact on your life. Nothing will change your attitude aboutwoman-praying life more than accepting God’s role in your life and learning how to see and do what God has in mind for you. You may not understand the “why” of it all and maybe you cannot yet be able see the “how” it will all play out; but, if you accept the will of God in your life, as in “not my will, but Thy will be done”, the outcome in your life will definitely change.

The outcomes that we desire or dream about are basically expectations or hopes. We try to visualize or “see” the desired state at the end of an effort. Many people set goals for themselves based upon an outcome that involves acquiring and owning some new thing – a car, a house, a boat, something. They may envision themselves being happy once they have acquired that thing. Few find any real happiness in even the best outcome of suchgoal goals. They find that having the items does not bring happiness, only a temporary sense of achievement of that goal; then it is on to the next goal.

Perhaps the biggest change that one can make to change the trajectory of their life is to alter their perception of the desired outcome. Since there is an inevitable end to life on earth, the question becomes, “What is the outcome that I want at that point?” People of faith have an answer for that question; and, having found that Pinterest Wayne Dyer graphicanswer, their lives are altered and their goals change. They find satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in service to others as they progress towards that ultimate goal.

Think about what you hear about people who are remembered, once they are gone. Do you hear people reciting a list of things that they were able to accumulate? More likely, if they are mentioned in a good context,  you hear what a good person they were, how kind or generous they were to others. You remember that love that they shared and how they made you feel good. You hear phrases like, “He (she) was always doing things for others, giving of their time and helping whenever they could.” Often you will also hear, “She (He) was a good Christian.” What you are hearing is that they changed the course of their lives by believing in God and the teachings of Christ and thus they changed the outcomegods-hands-2 for themselves and others around them.

You can change the course of your life and the outcome by believing in God. There is still time. Alter your life. Let God into it and experience the change in your life. You’re going to like the outcome.


You can’t stop it, but you can embrace it…

May 20, 2019

A post from the Jack’s Winning Words blog from some time back inspired me to write this morning – “Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”  (Sydney J. Harris)

None of us can stop change from happening in our lives, but we can resolve to embrace the changes and make the best of whatever comes our way. Many try to resist changes in no-changetheir lives, even in the face of inevitability. They try to ignore the changes or refuse to acknowledge that they have taken place. They want things to remain the same as they always were. Some rail against change and try to roll back the clock. None of those approaches makes any difference. The changes occurred and there is no going back.  A better use of your time is trying to embrace the changes and adjust your life to accommodate them, as best that you can.

Some changes, such as the loss of a loved one or the dissolution of a relationship, are highly emotional and difficult to put behind you and move on.  However, move on youlife-choices must. That person is out of your life. Feelings of loss are natural; however, feelings that you cannot go on without them are what can lead to depression or worse. Rather, try to embrace that change by celebrating the memories of the good times that you had together and being thankful for those times. Make the place where you store the memories of them a good place to go and not a sad place. Try to find comfort in those memories and not sadness.

Sometimes change points us off in very new directions in life – a job change, a graduation, a wedding. There are usually remnants of the past still in or lives, but many new things, too. The key in those changes may well be understanding how to let go of the decisionsthings from the past that just don’t work anymore or embracing the new elements into the context that we brought with us. Welcoming and embracing the spouse that is the new member of the family or accepting the adult individual that your son or daughter has become, come to mind. Maybe embracing a new role as a grandparent is the change that you are facing. Whatever it is; you can’t stop it, but you can choose to embrace it.

Take some time to stop and think about the changes that have occurred in your life and reflect on how you have reacted to them. Are you in denial that they have occurred? Areproblem-solver you fighting against the new reality in your life or have you embraced those changes? Once you realize what has changed and how it is effecting your life, you can take steps to embrace the changes and figure out how best to adjust your life to accommodate them. Once you do that, things will get better.

Have a great week ahead dealing with changes in your life.


Start with a mirror…

January 3, 2019

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed used this quote – “I haven’t got the slightest idea how to change people, but I still keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should figure it out.”  (David Sedaris)

Most of us have probably had thoughts of “changing” someone that we meet during the day, whether it be making physical changes to the way that they look to changing their behavior. Many marriages end in divorce because one of the parties was unsuccessful in getting their mate to change into what they wanted them to become. Perhaps it is human nature, or human ego, that leads us to believe that we can effect change in others.look in miror

The reality is that the only person that we have the power to change is the one that we see when we look into a mirror. We can change how we interact and react in our encounters with others. We have the power to change or abandon the preconceived notions that we have when we encounter someone who looks different or is dresses different or who talks differently from us. We can control or stop the rush to judgement over the statements or actions of others. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Our interactions with others, and our reactions to others, is based off our own frame of reference – our backgrounds and the circumstance that lead us to this place and time. Somehow, we have less problem giving deference to the differences in people that we can identify as having come from a foreign land. After all, they didn’t come from the complimentsame frame of reference that we have. Yet the same idea holds true for all of the people around us; we just don’t give a break to those that we see as coming from environments that we believe are the same as ours. But are those environments really the same? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Is the difference in background environments from ours any less dramatic for someone that grew up in an urban housing project than for someone who just immigrated from another part of the world? Why would we give the benefit of the doubt and try harder to “understand” the one and not try with both? Is there any reason to become immediately boredsuspicious of or frightened by someone of color or someone who is very large? How can I explain my reaction to the color of someone’s hair or the clothes that they choose to wear? These things are not things that I can change; however, I can change how I let them affect me and how I react to them. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

The first step to making changes to that person you see in the mirror is stopping to understand that a reaction has just been triggered within you to something in that person whom you just encountered. Was it fear? Was it a prejudice? Was it a lack of understanding of their frame of reference?  Is it real or imagined? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Once you stop and take that moment to recognize your initial reaction, you can begin to make the changes in you that control those reactions. If you can recognize and deal with those triggers before you actually act or react, you will have gone a long way towardsfacing new day becoming a better person and will likely find that your life becomes much more satisfying. It’s like moving from a monochromatic view of the world into a full Technicolor world. Living without the fears and prejudices that were dictating your life will allow you to embrace the diversity around you and learn from the different backgrounds of those that you encounter. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

life-choicesSo, don’t worry about changing others. Look in the mirror and try to get that person straightened out. You’ll be glad that you did. We can change that person that we see in the mirror…and they will be a better person for that change.