Sleepless in Seattle and elsewhere…

November 9, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog had this advice – “Don’t try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.”  (Philip Dick) 

Good advice, but hard to implement. I had a recent night of fitful sleep as I tried to search for the solution to an upcoming matter. During that process, I also recalled this advice and started thinking about what it is that keeps me, and perhaps others, up at night in search of solutions. While I occasionally spend a restless night trying to solve problems involving things (perhaps a repair issue with the house or a problem with a car), more often than not the matters that really keep me up at night involve people. That is especially true in situations where I imagine that a confrontation of some sort will occur.

I don’t think anyone likes confrontations, but sometimes they are unavoidable. I recall several sleepless nights leading up to the firing of an employee. All sorts of things run through my mind as I played out scenario after scenario in my imagination about the upcoming confrontation. In the times in which we live , there are some pretty bizarre scenarios that are not out of the question and I ran through each of them. One can conjure up the same kind of anxiety and fear (and sleepless nights) for breakups of relationships. What will you say and how will they react? Play that out in your mind a few times and you will begin to see the endless possibilities. There are many examples of the kinds of matters that can take over our minds at night and keep us awake.

I do not claim to have discovered or invented a way to prevent this from happening. However, I have developed a technique for quieting my mind when this does happen. Unfortunately, it usually takes me a while to remember to use the technique, so I still spend some time wrestling with the imaginary demons of the night before I try to quiet my mind.

The first step is to realize what you are doing. You are trying to create a solution for something that hasn’t happen yet and which is most likely out of your ability to control (unless avoidance is seen as a solution). I also try to quickly think back on similar past events, which helps me realize that I got through them OK. Perhaps they were unpleasant; but, as I now like to remind myself, “nobody died”. Sometimes that is enough to pause the mental problem solving process long enough to go to step two.

Step two I have shared here a few times. It is the leap of faith that starts by saying the little prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” It is giving yourself a break, by giving the problem to God. If you feel the need to keep more ownership of the problem then pray for God’s guidance and help dealing with it, and put your trust in the fact that His help will be there when you need it.

Step two sounds simplistic, but it works, if you have faith in God. In our real world we may take issues all the way to the Supreme Court – the highest level of authority in our land. In the world of faith, which we cannot see or fully understand, God is the highest level of authority, so taking it to Him is as far as you can go. Trusting in His help is what we call faith and as Bob Dylan said in his song Precious Angel – “Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t neutral ground”.

So, have faith. Give your problem to God.

Problem solved. Now go to sleep.


What is your goal today?

November 5, 2019

In a world seemingly oriented to goal setting and daily To-Do lists that seem to dictate our use of time, Dyer’s advice seems to be most appropriate. In fact, if you threw away your current To-Do list and just wrote down “Be a better person today than I used to be”, you will have recorded the most important thing that you could spend your time on today. It is a goal, which will help you accomplish all of the important things that you need to do today.

Some people find that it is helpful to wear a little bracelet with the initial WWJD – What Would Jesus Do – as a reminder to them to be a better person. You could have one that says WSID – What Should I Do – that would be just as effective, if it reminded you to be a better person.

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “My goal is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better than I used to be.”  (Wayne Dyer)

One way to focus upon that goal is to stop and say a quick little prayer – “Lord, help me be a better person today than I was yesterday.” Your mind will take over from there, as God puts thoughts in it about how you can accomplish that goal today. You may see things and people that you overlooked yesterday and you will react differently. You may make better decisions today, because you are more conscious of the need to think things through better and perhaps apply better standards against those decisions. Your personal relationships may improve because today you take the time for a warm greeting or a hug; whereas, yesterday you just hurried on by that person.

A side-benefit of focusing upon being a better person is that you won’t end up with a case of the coulda, woulda shoulda’s at the end of the day. There will be no need to say to yourself, “I coulda said ‘Hi’ to Sally, who looked like she needed a greeting”; or “ I wish I woulda ask Mary how her mom is doing “; or I coulda stopped and ask Joe how is wife is doing with her breast cancer treatments”. You won’t have those regrets at the end f the day because you did stop and interact with those people. You were being a better person today than you might have been yesterday. And, didn’t that fee great?

So, after you’ve checked yourself in the mirror; but, before you go out the door on the way to work; stop and say that little prayer – “Lord, help me be a better person today than I was yesterday.”

I promise you that you’ll end up better than your were at the end of thre day.


Show your love with actions –

November 3, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “The hardest thing is to take less when you can get more.”  (Kin Hubbard)

When we are young, it seems to be even harder not to grab for more, more, more. I remember as a youth sitting there trying to eat all that I had taken at dinnertime and my mom’s admonition that my eye’s were bigger than my stomach. I can also recall going to those “all-you-can-eat” smorgasbord places and gorging myself. Eventually, my stomach became bigger than my eyes, but that’s a story for another post. I did become more able to moderate things as I grew older and that helped get rid of most of the bigger gut.

I suppose it’s quite natural for the young to lack any sense of moderation, much less be ready to make conscious efforts of sacrifice. Sharing is something that needs to be taught to young children and begins the learning about moderation and sacrifice in life. Later, and often in church, the young are taught to give a portion of what they have to help those less fortunate than them. So, perhaps today’s quote could be modified to read, “The hardest thing is to keep less when you can give more”.

We have just kicked off our stewardship drive at my church, which is our annual church donations appeal. This is certainly one of those things to which my modified quote could be applied. Each year we get a little card that shows us what percentage of our income we should consider giving to the church. It also highlights the concept of tithing, giving 10% of what you earn to the church. That’s where most people have the hardest time keeping less and giving more. Yet, there are people who do that and who find that they get along just fine on the 90% that they keep. In fact, many say they’ve never been happier or felt like they had more than when they giver that 10% back to God first.

I can’t claim to be there yet, but as I consider how much I can increase my giving to the church this year, I find it less difficult to keep a little less and more fulfilling to find a way to give a little more. God has provided for my family and me and I have become less focused upon what more I can get in life and more concerned about what more I can do for others in life. Giving to the church is just one channel through which we can all give back and help others. Volunteering with various non-profit groups in the community is another.

Find a way in your life to keep less and give more, even if it is only of your time. I think you’ll find life to be much more satisfying at the end of the day (or of life) when you spend more time giving than taking. The bible tells us –

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18

Feel the Love of God, take action and give generously of your possessions and your time.


Faith is the foundation that hope builds upon

October 28, 2019

In a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack used this little quote – “A life without faith in something is too narrow a space to live.”  (George Woodberry)

I have a feeling that I could have inverted the words in my headline for today by stating that hope is the foundation upon which faith builds, but I really believe that faith comes first. Out of faith grows the hope for a better life. Out of faith comes the courage to try. And, it is faith that give us the strength to try again in the face of failures.

Faith embraces the idea that there is something working in our lives that is bigger than us and stronger than us. Faith requires that we accept something that we cannot see or touch, yet it touches us in every aspect of our lives and “sees” everything that we do. Faith requires that we believe, rather than understand; that we accept what happens, rather than futilely fighting; that we trust, rather than demand; and, that we openly accept God in our lives, rather than stubbornly rejecting His help.

 Once the foundation of faith is laid down in your life, you can begin to hope with a sense of confidence that everything will turn out all right. You may get what you hoped for in ways that you never imagined. You may begin to see that underlying almost all hopes and dreams is the desire to be happy in life. Having a strong faith at your core may allow you to be happy with yourself and you may discover that little else matters. You might come to understand that you are living your dream already and that your hopes have been answered. Little in the material world matters much, once you have a firm faith as your foundation.

So don’t just hope for a better day, have faith that you will have a better day. .  In Hebrews 11:1 we are told, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Have conviction, have faith, have hope and have a great week ahead.


Don’t look for perfection…look instead for the wonderful.

October 15, 2019

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack used this quote from Annette Funicello – “Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.”  I suspect that many don’t remember Annette Funicello, the movie actress and ex-Mousketeer. Annette died from complications of multiple sclerosis after a long battel with the disease. Certainly, her later life was not perfect, but she made the best of it. Many find themselves in situations that are far from perfect. Those who do best in those situations are those who can still find the wonder in life.

I have a feeling that, if life were without problems all of the time it would become boring and much less wonderful. Another of Jack’s recent quotes comes to mind – “Just because a path is difficult doesn’t mean that it’s not rewarding.”  (Danielle Thralow)

In fact, it is in overcoming difficulties and challenges that most people find the most satisfying feelings of being alive. There may be some real, physical reward at the end of a struggle, but just the feeling of accomplishment and victory over the problem is the best reward. For most in their “prime” years, life is too intense to be boring. They work heads-down to make the living that allows them to play hard in their few moments of off time. The demands of job and family life fill each day and seldom give boredom a chance to creep in.

When they retire, it is the dramatic reduction in the daily challenges at work that leave many feeling bored and less useful. Some actually channel the energy that they used to use at work into their retirement hobbies. Many just go back to work, perhaps in some other field than the one that they retired from, or in volunteer work. They crave the challenges and feelings of reward for a job well done. I personally find the thought of sitting around with nothing to do to be completely alien. Therefore, I work at two jobs part-time and do quite a bit of volunteer work.  

Whatever stage in life you are in, it is important to look for the wonderful in life, instead of hanging on the imperfect things. Looking for and finding the wonderful things in your life isn’t that hard, but it does require that you stop for a few moments to stop and look up from your daily routine (some use the word grind) and think about all of the things in your life that you love. Stop and think for a moment about your family, maybe about your home, possibly about your job and certainly about all of the things that God has given you. It may not all be perfect, but it certainly is wonderful, when you really think about it.

Sometimes just taking that pause to wonder at all that you have allows you to stop worrying about things that you don’t have or to let go of things that are not perfect. Ignore the imperfect and look instead upon the wonderful in your life.


Seeing love in your mind’s eye…

October 9, 2019

In a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack told a wonderful little story that used this quote as it’s headline – “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”  (Shakespeare) Go read Jack’s post.

There is a little phrase that people often use – “in my mind’s eye”. They use it to describe the ability to “see” things in our minds. Athletes use this ability to visualize a shot or a play ahead of it actually happening. Most of us use it to give form to our imaginations and conjure up images of the good or bad things to come. It is interesting that vision is the primary sense that we imagine in our minds and not touch or smell or sounds (although most dreams, which also take place in the mind, involve sounds as well as things that we see).

So, how does one see love in the minds eye? I would submit that is less visual than it sounds and involves the “mental” sensations of various of our senses all at the same time. One does not so much “see” love and they sense it, they experience it. You can watch love (or experience it yourself) as a child (or adult) plays with a new puppy. There is unconditional love coming from the puppy and the new owner is returning that love. You also see it many times with young couples interacting when they think no one is watching (or they don’t care if anyone is watching).

Trying to put the experience of love into words gets complicated. It is a feeling of warmth and safety and surrender and reciprocation and comfort and appreciation that washes over you all at the same time. There are alliterative phrases that have been used by authors, poets and song writers trying to describe this feeling, like “melting into his arms” or “a warm embrace” or “swimming in the pools of her eyes”. Whatever words one chooses to use to describe the feeling of love usually end up describing a very satisfying experience or state of mind.

How do you “see” love in your mind’s eye? What words come to your mind when you think of someone (or something) that you love? Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Imagine how great you would feel is you could love everyone that you meet. That is what Jesus asked us to do in Luke, Mark and Matthew when he stated the Second Great Commandment – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What a great place to live this world would be if instead of meeting people with judgement or fear or prejudice or hate, we met them with love in our minds. The next time you meet a stranger, trying seeing them with love in your mind’s eye.

Have a great and loving day. I’ll be seeing you.


Burst your own bubble…go beyond

September 28, 2019

The news these days is full of stories that reflect the clash of value systems as much as anything. In most cases the parties involved believe, some fervently, that they are in the right and the other parties are wrong. They believe that they are right because they are looking at things from within their own value systems. Let me explain.

Let’s begin by defining the term value system –

value-system

Noun

(plural value systems)

1. A hierarchy of values that all moral agents possess, demonstrated by their choices. Most people’s value systems differ, making the imposition of a singular value system by the state a source of constant social warfare. This is an individualistic concept. One’s value system is molded by one’s virtues or vices.

2. A person’s standards and self-discipline set, based on the common sense and wisdom of knowing what the proper moral rules and discipline are, and the amount of willingness to see themselves and others abide by them.

While a person’s value system is a very individual thing, the way that most people form their values is strongly influenced by the external factors that surround them where they live. Thus, ones values are often regional in nature. You can see this, if you look, when you travel from region to region in the United States or if you get the opportunity to travel or live in a foreign country. Not only is the language (or dialect) different from place to place, but many of the core “values” that impact how people act and interact may be dramatically different. It is more common, in the casual interactions that may occur, to notice the speech differences than to see the value difference.

One would almost have to be blind not to notice the difference in how people from various ethnic backgrounds and races interact in Canada, verses in the US. Based upon my admittedly limited travel experiences in Canada, there just seems to be more of a natural acceptance of people without any of the fears or prejudices that are prevalent in the U.S. jumping in the way before you’ve even had the chance to interact with them. That starting point provides the base for a much more civil and satisfying interactions.

Differences in religion and the role and importance of religion in the lives of people can have a major impact on their value systems. Although the United States has tried to maintain a secular governmental environment, a number of the most basic elements of our country’s collective value system and even our laws were based upon Christian values of right and wrong that the founders had when they declared independence from England. That is not the case in other countries, although religion does pay a major role in the value systems of many countries, especially those in which the population is primarily Islamic.  

I had the opportunity to live for a couple of years in Iran in the Middle East, prior to the Islamic Revolution. During that time, I got to know a few Iranians fairly well and was at least exposed to some of the influence of their Islamic religion. Religion plays a huge role in forming the values systems of the people in that country and in the region in general. I got an interesting and first-hand insight into how a value system that is based upon a completely different set of religious principals works. It is not something that can be easily understood, when viewed from the perspective of a base of Christian values; but, it drives the day-to-day behavior of believers in Islam as certainly as the values and beliefs of Christians drives their behavior.

So, we all live in our own little value systems and view the rest of the world through lens that are tinted by those values. That value system also defines the boundaries or limits of our world – – the places where we now stop or pull back because we are afraid to go beyond those points. Those boundaries are often marked by confusion, fear, loathing or hate. They define our pre-conceptions and prejudices. They are things that we don’t do, or people that we don’t interact with or places that we don’t go, because… There is seldom anything real after the “because” and that is because we don’t really have a reason for those reactions.  They are just part of the value system that we have accepted for ourselves – the little bubble that we live in.

If we are conscious of the fact that our actions and reactions are driven by our own value system, we can begin to change that value system by pushing beyond the boundaries that currently define our comfort zone. We can try new things, meet new people and form new opinions, based upon actual experiences and not limit ourselves to doing what our old value system defined as proper.  The challenge then is to think outside of the bubble that your value system has defined for you, to go beyond your comfort zone and push the boundaries of your value system. Find out for yourself.  You may find that “those kinds of people”, which your old value system labeled as dangerous and to be avoided, are actually quite interesting and fun to be around. You could discover that adventuring into places where “we don’t go” or doing “things that we don’t do” because of your old value system are actually quite fun and add to your knowledge base.

I am not espousing that you abandon all of your values; just that you continue to question any that may serve mainly to keep you from trying new things. Question your current fears, try to recognize your prejudices and be brave enough to push beyond the current limits of the bubble that you have built for yourself and experience new things, new places, new people. I think you will find the feelings of discomfort or fear are soon replaced by the delight found in experiencing rather than fearing, meeting rather than avoiding or seeing new places rather than being trapped in the same old ruts.

Have a great day pushing out the boundaries of your value system. Burst your own bubble and go beyond.