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.


What do you see in your mirror?

September 25, 2019

“Let us be thankful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.”  (Samuel Butler)  – that was the quote used in the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write that is was good that the mirror just reflects what we let the outside world see and does not show our thoughts or feelings or fears. It just shows us what we look like to others. 

However, for some, even that is not true. They look in the mirror and see their imperfections or maybe they see an overweight person when a truly thin person is standing there. They actually distort the reflection much as a caravel mirror might. Some famous actresses, who are considered some of the most beautiful people in the world, have said in interviews that they considered themselves to be ugly, or at least not very attractive, when they were young. They didn’t like what they saw in the mirror, even if the rest of the world disagreed. People suffering from bulimia have a distorted view of themselves as being fat, when in fact most are rail thin.

Can you imagine how we all might look if the mirror reflected what is in our minds and hearts? Would that be an ugly image, filled with fears, anxieties, distrust, hate, bigotry and other things that we try not to let the world see? Perhaps, it would be the image of a loving, caring, intelligent and inquisitive person who is too timid to act upon or show those feelings. In all likelihood, it might look a bit like the cartoon characterizations of people with a devil on one shoulder and an angel; on the other. There seems to be a little of both in most people, with most able to keep the devil at bay, in public at least. That is sometimes called “being politically correct”.

So, what do you see in your mirror? Look deeper than just the reflection that you see. Can you see the flaws that lurk back there in the darker parts of your mind – the unfounded fears and prejudices, the feelings of superiority or entitlement, the lack of self-love and self-confidence, the uncertainly about death and your unanswered questions about your own mortality? For many, the reflections brought on by prayer provide a mirror for their lives. They look beyond the superficial image that than one can see in a real mirror and see the reassuring hand of God in their life and in the world, the goodness in the people that they’ve encountered, and the wonders of the world that He has created all around them. They are able to visualize, in that mirror of prayer, the rewards that await them in heaven? What do you see in your mirror when you stop to pray?

As you get ready to leave for your day today, stop and look in both of your mirrors.  The one on the wall that will let you see the physical image that the world will be seeing and allow you to adjust your hair and clothes and the one in prayer that will let you adjust what you really want the world to see – the hand of God in your life. You’ll look better throughout the day because you checked both mirrors.

What do you see in your mirror? Which one are you looking at?


Find your way to peace in the present

September 21, 2019

In today’s post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack used this little saying that he saw on a Burger King crown –  “No one’s happy all the time…and that’s OK.” 

Jack must have seen that crown in May of this year, when Mental Health Month was celebrated in the United States. We see mental health advice or tips in many places, mostly in cheery little messages that are trying to chase the blues away. It is more realistic to say, as Burger King did, that we all have ups and downs and that it is OK to be down a little, so long as you don’t allow yourself to spiral all the way down into depression. In fact, poking a little fun at being down can often help relieve some of the tension that comes with being down.

A down feeling can result from many causes – a failure or defeat at work, the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship and many other causes. In most cases the thing that you are down about was always out of your ability to control, but was all have a tendency to think that we could have done something different to effect the outcome and change history – we get down on ourselves.

That feeling of guilt stems from the thoughts that we could have done something different noticed something sooner or made a different choice or decision. Those thoughts can keep us awake at night going over and over the scenarios in our minds that will forever remained as options that we did not choose.

Sometimes our down mood is not about the past, but about the future – we play out option after option in our mind, fearing that the worst that we can imagine is going to happen. We spend restless nights in mental anguish fearing things that will never happen.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu had this bit of philosophical advice –

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.

Lao-Tzu  was a Chinese philosopher believed to have lived in the 6th Century BC and is credited with founding the philosophical system of Taoism, which stresses being in harmony with nature.

The best way that one can be at peace in the present is be at peace with God. Accept that God’s will has been done in the past and trust that it will be done in the future. Rather than lament what is past or fear what is in the future, marvel at what God is unfolding for you in the present.

Focus your attention on the wonderful people that he is causing to cross your path, so that you might experience them. Become more aware of, and thankful for, the wonders of nature that God has put all around you. Be thankful for the challenges that God is presenting to you to keep your life interesting. Make use of your time to learn and to increase your knowledge. Put 100% of your mental and physical effort into the moment at hand, rather than wasting either on things that are past or which may be in the future. 

Many find the Bible to be the best guide book for life and in the Bible we find these words –

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” –  John 14:27

Find your way to peace in the present.


You can’t deny it, so deal with it…

September 18, 2019

The first stage of grief is often defined as denial, the “I can’t believe that he/she is gone” or “I can’t believe that this happened” stage. That is also the first stage (maybe the precursor is a better description) of dealing with problems in life. Recently this quote appeared in the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“When you confront a problem, you begin to solve it.”  (Rudy Giuliani)

Zig Zigler put it slightly differently – “ The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.”

I’ve posted here a few times about problem solving (see Problem Solving 101) and there are lots of great posts and article on line about how to resolve a problem, once you have identified it. There are fewer things devoted to recognizing the problem in the first place.

Confronting the problem means acknowledging that it exists. For many it is that first step that is missing. They can’t see the problem, especially if it is them – how they are acting in or living their life.  Spousal abusers seldom see what they are doing as controlling or manipulative, much less as abusive. Addicts become too focused upon the next high to deal with their addiction. Sometimes it is hubris, as much as anything else that clouds the judgement of the problem; the arrogant and self-important people of the world see things that are considered wrong by others as rights or entitlements. For these people, who can’t see that they have a problem or that they are the problem, interventions by family or friends is often the only way to get them to confront the problem.

If denial is the first stage precursor to dealing with a problem, many times it is quickly replaced by excuses. The immediate response to any threat is fight or flight and excuses provide a little of both by providing a way  to deflect blame for the problem by claiming that it someone else’s fault or caused by someone else. The wife beater may blame the actions of his wife to justify the beating with the comment that “she deserved it”. It is also easy to shift the blame for ones actions on some nebulous entity, such as society or everybody.

Do you remember what your mom told when you used the excuse that “everybody is doing it” to justify something stupid that you did as a youth? That advice still applies to your adult life. You can’t ignore or deny a problem that you might have by citing that excuse. Maybe the “everybody” that you know and to whom you are referring to is a big part of your problem.  Recent Chevrolet commercials have used the tag line “Find new roads”; maybe you need to “Find new friends”.

Perhaps the third stage as a precursor to solving problems in your life is the feeling of isolation or loneliness that overcome you. It is a very lonely feeling when you have that “aha” moment and realize that you have a problem and that problem is within you. All of a sudden, everyone else seems to drop away and you are standing there by yourself with your problem. Or are you? That is the time when your faith can provide you with the support and strength to carry on. You are not alone. You are never alone. God is always there with you and ready to help. You just need to ask.

If you can get to that stage, where you ask God for help with your problem, you have broken through the stages of denial and blame and started to deal with the problem. That is huge!  It is likely that the problem is not resolved just because you have taken that first step, but you are on your way in a new direction (the right direction).  You have taken ownership and sought help. It may be that you need the help of others – therapists or councilors – but you already have God at your side, so that part is easier.

When you reach this stage, you should feel good about yourself, maybe for the first time in a long time. You may still find the next few steps in the problem solving process to be difficult, but they are rewarding as well. The problem is no longer in control of you. Now you are in control of the process to resolve it. Congratulations.

Start your day by asking for God’s help with whatever problems you have (or have been denying). Your day will go much better.


And for all the times in between?

September 13, 2019

In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack got philosophical with this quote from Wolfgang Goethe – “Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.” 

However, what about all of the times between the joys and the not so enjoyable things, which must be endured, i.e. your normal day-to-day life? The philosophy embodied by the British saying, “Keep Calm and Carry On” seems most applicable to those times and actually serves the highs and lows of life very well, too. For a Christian that British saying might be translated into Pray and Persist.

We often pray when we are under the duress of a problem or loss and we pray to thank God on the occasions when we have something to celebrate. But what of the time in between? We find guidance in the Bible –  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)  

Prayer has a calming side effect, because it serves to offload from the practitioner the sole responsibility for resolving the issues that you are facing, whether they be things that must be endured or just common, everyday occurrences. Once you bring God into the picture through prayer, you no longer bear the weight of resolving those things by yourself.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Since, before starting out on each day, one cannot predict the occurrences or tribulations that might happen; perhaps a short prayer for God to give you the calm and wisdom to make good decisions is a good way to begin each day. At least it puts you in the right frame of mind to face the day, with God on your side.

So, thank God for the things that you enjoy, ask for God’s help with the things that you must endure and pray for Him to guide you and be with you in all of the time in between. Pray without ceasing and have a great day!