Don’t mess with your selfie…

April 3, 2020

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words,  pastor Jack freed used this quote – “The easiest thing in the world to be is you.  The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be.  Don’t let them put you into that position.”  (Leo Buscaglia)

So, why is so hard for some  to just be yourself? I suspect that it is because we don’t necessarily like what we see when we look at ourselves. We take a mental “selfie” and immediately break out our copy of a virtual Photoshop to try to alter the picture.

For some it is their physical appearance with which they are uncomfortable. That may lead to all sorts of different and sometimes unusual steps to change that appearance. It may involve dying one’s hair bright orange or perhaps just wearing unusual clothes. Maybe it means getting a noose ring or a tattoo. It may even lead to plastic surgery to correct a perceived imperfection.

For others the desire to “fit in” may force dramatic changes in their behavior or lifestyle. If putting on the “uniform” of the group to which one wishes to belong isn’t enough, they change things like their vocabulary and speech patterns or maybe adopt a different lifestyle.

The rationale for making any of these changes is based upon trying to make yourself into something that you are not, to be something that you think other people want you to be. That rationale starts with your own dissatisfaction with what you see when you take that mental selfie. If you cannot love yourself and what you see in that selfie, it is natural to try to find others to emulate, in the mistaken belief that you will be happier being them than you are being you.

Life seldom works out that way. It is not until much later in life that most discover and appreciate the words of Meryl Streep – “What makes you different or weird, that’s your strength.” 

Maybe what you see in your mental selfie looks weird to you, or at least different. Start by embracing that and saying it is OK – it is your strength. In fact, maybe you should find ways to enhance and bring out those differences that make you unique. After all, they are your strength. Instead of being just another clone dressed in the cookie-cutter “uniform” of the crowd, you will stand out as someone with the confidence and strength of character to go their own way in fashion as in life. You might be surprised how attractive that can be.

How do you start to go your own way? Well, it starts with loving yourself and who you are. I’ve posted here about accepting and loving yourself first several times. Rather than spending your time seeking the approval of others, seek first approval of yourself. You must come to the conclusion that I am who I am, I like who I am and I’m not going to change who I am to suit others. The more comfortable you are with yourself, the more comfortable you will be around others. In that comfort within your own skin you will find courage and confidence that will radiate from you and make you the type of person that others enjoy being around.

For some, loving yourself may start with accepting the fact that God loves you just the way yo are. God does not ask or expect you to change. He just loves you and accepts for who you are. After all, He made you what you are and how can you not love that. So, if you can accept the love of God, you should be able to love yourself and then you can go on to love others and be loved by others.

So, it is alright to look in the mirror in the morning and take that mental selfie. The goal should not be to makes changes to be like someone else; but, rather, to be the best you that you can be that day. Embrace the things that make you different. They are your strength. They empower you. Loving yourself will allow others to love you, too.

Today, start by taking that mental selfie and saying – “Hello world. Get a load of this. It’s me. Don’t you just love it? I do.”  The world will be a happier place because you let the real you shine through.


Life goes on in self-isolation

March 26, 2020

I remember a common phrase from my childhood that one could be “all dressed up with nowhere to go”. That phrase certainly is apropos for today’s mandated “stay home” environment. Unlike some that I see posting on Facebook, I just can’t sit around in my pajamas all day. To be fair some posted that they had “day pajamas” and “night pajamas”; so, I guess they did change for the day.

Personally, I just can’t seem to sit around in my PJ’s past noon. I have to have a shower and get dressed. Lately, I have admitted to myself that I’ve been putting on a normal business casual outfit each morning, but that I have no appointment or calls to make. I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go. Both of the jobs that I work at have been designated under the Executive Order as non-essential, so I am directed to stay home.

Zoom meetings on line have taken the place of real meetings. I had two yesterday and one scheduled for today. Meeting on-line like that take more discipline that most have, so these meetings can devolve into a calliope of people vying to be the one speaking at any time. The Zoom app allows for about 40 minutes of meeting time free; however, it can take almost that long to get everybody signed into the meeting and quieted down when it is first used.

My wife and I have ventured out to get gas and a few groceries that we needed – she stays in the car and I run in and get what we need. Then, there is always the search for toilet paper or other items that have struck the fantasy of hoarders, such as eggs. I wonder if the hoarders wrapping their eggs in toilet paper to keep them safer.  We also take rides through the local Metropark almost daily, just to get out of the house and to see if there are any deer out. I walk my dogs 4-5 times a day, which provide great opportunities for fresh air and a little exercise. It is amazing how many birds one can hear when there is so little road traffic to mask their songs.

We are in the mid to late fear and anxiety phase that I wrote about a few days ago (see March 20 post) . You may recall that I postulated that  there are four phases that we all will go through in this crisis – Phase 1 was shock and awe; Phase 2 is fear and anxiety, which most are in right now; Phase 3 is frustration and anger, which coming rapidly for many that have been forced to stay home (especially those with children).  The cute aspect in this situation probably wore off by day 2 of the stay at home experience. Next, we will all enter phase 4 and figure out how to live in this new reality. That will include businesses figuring out how to continue doing at least some business during this shutdown.

I can do some parts of both of my jobs from home, but both ultimately involve personal contact with clients – listing houses and showing houses or selling advertising for the paper.

The housing market has been impacted by the fears of sellers and buyers about visiting homes that are for sale. Would-be sellers are holding off because they fear showing visitors bringing the virus into their homes. Buyers are staying away because they are justifiably concerned about the sanitary conditions in homes that they might visit. The real estate industry is responding with virtual showing visit apps and other technology-based solutions.

There is no app-based solution for advertisers whose businesses have been shut down pulling their ads. They, too, will figure out how to do business during this time. Most have some Internet presence, which they ae beefing up or they are adding E-commerce apps and capabilities.

The promised government intervention in the form of checks to everyone will help some and give the economy a little boost and the other programs of loans or loan payment hiatuses and other measures will help some. Just as the health system is prepared to enter triage mode, if the wave of Covid-19 cases overwhelms its capacity; the financial world and government emergency aid programs will have to triage the applications by small businesses for help. Some just will not make it.

This crisis is really an unprecedented test of the will of the people and the nation. We are used to weathering other types of crisis – hurricanes, tornadoes, other natural disasters and even wars. This is vastly different. We usually crank up the American business machine in response to those things, but this crisis threatens to shut that machine down completely. If, or when, that happens, it will be just the people vs. the disease. I have faith that the American people will prevail and then they will go restart and rebuild the American business machine. We are not hunkering down in fear; we are hunkering down in resolve to defeat this enemy.

God bless America and keep us all safe.


It’s there if you look for it…

March 23, 2020

It is easy in these unsettling times to allow yourself to be dragged down into the doom and gloom that seem to be all around. Many find comfort and guidance in music and song. I found this classic performance by Judy Garland with a message of perseverance and hope. The words are simple and straightforward , set in the context of a housewife engaged in the daily drudge of washing dishes.

As I wash my dishes, I’ll be following a plan

Till I see the brightness in every pot and pan

I am sure this point of view will ease the daily grind

So I’ll keep repeating in my mind

Look for the silver lining

Whenever a cloud appears in the blue

Remember somewhere the sun is shining

And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you

A heart full of joy and gladness

Will always banish sadness and strife

So always look for the silver lining

And try to find the sunny side of life

In this time of unprecedented disruption in our daily lives, it is perhaps hard for some to see a silver lining or find he sunny side of life. Perhaps the key to finding the silver lining amidst the gloom that surrounds us is knowing where to look.  A good starting point is the Bible. The silver lining that is revealed in the Bible is not a sunny day, nor does the Bible promise that all of the troubles that you face will magically go away. What is does promise is relief from fear and anxiety for those who believe.

Belief in Jesus, and why He was sent to earth by God, takes away the fear of death. That doesn’t mean that you have license to do foolhardy things. It just means that you don’t have to waste your energy worrying about death, because you know what happens next. A strong belief frees you to do positive things with your life and not spend it hunkered down in fear.

You could choose to spend your time while you are sequestered at home  watching movies or reruns of TV shows or you could revisit your Bible and find the silver lining in the words that you will find there. Just Google “Bible verses dealing with adversity”, if you need help getting started.

The silver lining in this and all things is there if you know where to look.


Without church, but not without faith…

March 22, 2020

This is the second weekend without a church service, due to the Corona Virus pandemic. Like most other churches, Holy Spirit Lutheran Church of West Bloomfield is offering an alternative, on-line services for members to watch from home. It is a shortened version of a regular service, with some music, a few of the prayers that would normally be used in a service, the Bible readings for the week and the sermon that the pastor would have delivered in church. I create a video of it during the week and post it on YouTube. (click here to see our first post) It is better than nothing, but it is still less satisfying than actually attending church. It is what we have for now.

What is lost in the process of sheltering in place during this crisis is both the social aspect of church and the sense of being a part of a community of faith. There is something reassuring and reinforcing about seeing others who are experiencing and professing the same beliefs that you have. There is also a sort of mindless crowd mentality about church services. Most church services have become so predictable in their format and execution that one just sort of shuffles along with the crowd through the service. Even the homilies or sermons have in many churches become uninspiring and, in their care not to be politically incorrect, blandly predictable. Eyes glaze over like they do when listening to an insurance salesman.

The current crisis has forced us into isolation in our religious lives as it has in the rest of our lives. What that really lays bare is the faith that underpins all religion, no matter what name or denomination the religion goes by. Rather than just sit there, passively allowing a church service to take place around us, we are now forced to ponder our faith and make whatever effort we can to express or practice that faith. For most, that may take the form of quiet prayer or perhaps reading the Bible. For others, the realization of their faith may spur them into some action that expresses their faith, like volunteering to help others during this crisis.

The point is that we all still have whatever underlying faith was there to begin with and now must find ways to express and practice that faith outside the structure of a church service. Perhaps that is a good thing. How many of us would take the time to contemplate our faith were we now in self-imposed isolation? How many normally take time to open their Bibles and search for the reassurance that can be found there? How many might watch the sermon sitting in church with the same attentiveness that one devotes to watching a video?  This crisis and the isolation that has come with it has forced a change in our lives that allows us to refocus upon our faith and to create a new and more meaningful expression of that faith than we had become used to in a “normal” church service.

Maybe you can create your own “church service” to practice your faith. Watch the videos or streaming broadcasts that may be available. Go find your Bible and spend a little of the time that you have suddenly been given by your isolation to reacquaint yourself with it. Take time for prayer each day. I think you will find that some of the fear and anxiety that you may have been experiencing will melt away. Strengthening your faith allows you to also strengthen your hope and will give you the strength to get through this crisis.

Let God know that your faith is still strong, even if you cannot attend church services. Pray and ask God for the right thing – not that He make this go away; rather, that he strengthen your faith so that you can get through it. Where you can and where it is safe to do so, put your faith into action through volunteering to help others get through this crisis. We are only without church services during this epidemic, not without faith. Keep the faith!


What is your plan?

March 20, 2020
The choice is really up to you.

There is no way to change, control or sugar coat the crisis that we are all facing, only different ways to react to it. Your reaction is the only thing that you can fully control.

It is my belief that most people go through four phases when faced with situations like the current one we are facing with the Covid 19 pandemic.

The first phase I liken to the shock and awe that the U.S. caused when they initially attacked Iraq. The sudden impact is so unexpected and overwhelming that causes shock and inspires awe. The very rapid set of events that occurred during the first two weeks of this crisis was full of shock and awe – the cancellations of most sporting events, including the NCAA Tournament, was unprecedented and shocking. Weren’t you totally shocked by that?

The second phase, which most are in right now is the fear and anxiety phase. Much of this is caused by an overload of frightening and frightful news coming out on a daily basis and yet there is little information about what one can really do about the situation. The fear factor is exacerbated by the directions to isolate and hunker down. Not being able to share that fear or reassure each other increases it’s impact.

The third phase is just starting for some and yet to come for others – frustration and anger. Both frustration and anger are being expressed now on social media. Currently both are being aimed at the government and what is perceived to have been a slow start to dealing with the crisis. However, at he heart of that frustration and anger is a sense of helplessness and a need to strike out at something or someone without knowing what or who. Being cooped up inside for a while will increase that frustration and heighten the anger in many.

The fourth phase, which only a few have really gotten to yet is when one accepts the current situation (it is what it is) and begins formulating and acting upon plans to make the best of it – finding ways to get on with life. Life is not going to return to our old definition of normal, but one does not have to accept fear and despair as “the new normal”. Most of us will eventually get to this phase and will heed the advice of Winston Churchill to never give up. You will be surprised how creative and resourceful you can become in this phase. And, you will discover that Churchill was right. Business people are particularly going to have to crate new ways fo doing business in order to get through this crisis.

Some, however, will have sunken into despair and will need help to recover. Others might have never gotten past the fear phase and will need to be coaxed out of their shells. A part of the plans for moving forward for all of us must be a commitment to look around and find those who need help overcoming their fears or depression. It turns out that an important part of your own recovery process can be found in this willingness to help others – it is a rebuilding of our sense of community.

No matter which phase you are currently in with this crisis, it is important to get back on he path ahead and not get sidelined by fear or depression. It is OK to be a little mad about things. Use that energy to start fighting back. Take some time to ask for God’s help and than create a plan for yourself and those that you love who are in this boat with you. Start figuring out how to move forward. Look around and figure out how you can serve or help others.

We will all get through this and it is important that you be to look back upon what you did to get through it and be proud of yourself. Be safe during this crisis, but don’t become its captive. Be proactive – chart your own course.What’s your plan for getting through it? Have you asked God for help yet? Maybe that should be your step one.


Johnny had the right idea…

March 17, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hunkered Down in Milford…

March 15, 2020

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

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

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

I’m out of TP!

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

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

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

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

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

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