Make a decision today to change your tomorrow…

April 20, 2017

Two recent quotes from the Jack’s Winning Words blog make sense to use together –

“None of us can change our yesterdays, but all of us can change our tomorrows.”  (Colin Powell)

And

“You’re always one decision away from a totally different life.”  (Unknown)

Did you ever stop and think about how things change in your life? We all get used to doing things the same way each day, it becomes our daily pattern and we become comfortable with those patterns because they don’t require new decisions from us; we can just continue doing what we’ve always done and there’s a sense of comfort to be found in that. Staying in your daily routines/patterns can also become restrictive. One doesn’t stretch at all and learn new things or meet new people if one does the same things in the same ways each day.

I recently posted about improvising and putting a little jazz in your life. That is a decision to take your life in a different direction. It definitely will impact and change your tomorrows. Maybe you start with a few small decisions like taking a different way to work or finally saying hello to the co-worker that you’ve been meaning to meet. Maybe smell-the-rosesyou decide to finally accept that invitation for coffee or a date with the person who has been trying for so long to ask you out or maybe you finally decide to ask out that person whom you have been secretly wanted to go out with. Maybe you just decide to take some time out of your hectic and busy schedule for some “you” time – time in which you aren’t trying to “accomplish” anything other than to have some time for yourself. That may be what you need right now.

Perhaps the decision that you will make today that changes your life is to get back to church and to re-establish your relationship with God. Many wander away from organized religion as they grow into adulthood and get caught up in the demands of day-to-day life. It is easy to push religion and church down your priority list, maybe afterchurch soccer or hockey practice or below going shopping; until it falls off the bottom of the list and is no longer a part of your life. You can rationalize it by saying, “I still believe in God, but I just don’t like churches and going to church.” You may even think that you’ll maintain your relationship with God through personal prayer time; but, that, too, falls by the wayside. Just like going to the gym is the only real way to have the discipline to do a good workout, going to church each Sunday is the best way to add time (and discipline) for your religion into your busy schedule. It is a habit that you need to keep in your life.

You might be thinking, why should I make any changes in my life; I’m happy with where I am and what’s going on in my life. I go to church each week and even read my bible on occasion. That’s great that you’ve achieved a state of contentment in the routines of your life and have religion as a part of that routine; but, I would challenge you with the question, “Are you achieving your potential in life?” Each of us has a God given potential to not only be happy with our own lives, but to help make the lives of others better, too. Maybe that’s the next level in life that you can strive to get to. If you can say to yourself, I’m happy with who I am and with what I have and with my life in general; then perhaps it is time to consider what you could be doing to help those around you, who are not as fortunate as you, get to that same place. Why?

Consider this – “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to havehelper faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2:14-17

So, maybe the decision that you make today that will change your life is one of devoting some part of your life to the service of others. It doesn’t have to be your full-time job; but, it should be a commitment that you make with what time and resources that you have available. Maybe it starts with weekends at a shelter serving soup or perhaps making visits to shut-ins in your community. Maybe you join a community group in a food drive or volunteer to help with a charity event. There is always need in every community for those willingseerving othersto devote some time and effort to help others.

Don’t get hung up on what you haven’t done with your life in the past. Remember Colin Powell’s opening quote and focus upon changing your tomorrow. You are just one decision away from changing your life for the better. No matter how good your life may seem, there will always be something missing until you fill that void with God and start serving Him and serving others. Only then will you be able to experience the peace that passes all understanding. Have a great day and think about making that decision that will change your life.


Against the wind…

April 18, 2017

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog come this inspirational message – “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”  (Henry Ford) Jack also mentioned the Bob Seger hit “Against The Wind”, which he commented was inspired by Segar’s days as a cross country runner and running into the wind.

Going against the wind, into the face of adversity, can be something that lifts us like the airplane, to new heights. There are lots of inspirational sayings about how dealing with adversity makes us stronger or better people. It’s easy in the midst of a crisis to lose sight of all of those sayings and advice about the thought that what doesn’t kill us make us stronger.

depression3Perhaps the best thing to think about in moments of crisis, when you are struggling into the wind, is that you are not alone. Most real crises in life leave us feeling alone, like it is us against the world or maybe that no one else in the world can know and understand what you are going through and how you feel about it. Yet we are not alone. God is there with us through everything, waiting patiently for us to acknowledge Him and turn to Him for help. Why would he wait for us to ask? He gave us free will and he is waiting for us to acknowledge that we cannot help ourselves in this situation and to finally say, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

No matter how steep of a dive you are in, spiraling down into the abyss of despair and depression; if you hand God the wheel and let Him take control of your life, he will pull you back out of that pit. You are acknowledging to God that, “I cannot save myself; but Ireading-bible believe that you can save me.” The two main thoughts there are letting go of your ego and the struggle to find the solution by yourself and putting your trust and belief in the power of God. You may still be buffeted by the winds that you are facing and there may still be pain; but, you will also feel the power of God to take whatever the winds may throw your way and use it to lift you up.

Once you hear God say to you, “I’ve got this”, you can let go of those things from your past that have been causing you pain and start to look forward to a brighter future. Life can once again become a journey of endless discovery and new joys and not the dead-end path of despair that you were traveling. You will also find it much easier to use the little sports phrase, “little help here” when appealing to God for guidance and help with future adversities. It becomes easier and easier to turn to Him when you have woman-prayingexperienced His hand in your life in past crises; and the good news is that the result is always the same – He lifts you up whenever you are running against the wind.

So, no matter what the current crisis is in your life; take a moment to stop and invite God back into your life and embrace the help that He can give you. The problems that you have may be bigger than anything that you can deal with, but noting is too big for God to handle, if you let Him take control. If you have to run against the wind, at least take along God as your running mate. It’s amazing how the wind parts in front of you when He is running interference for you.

Have a great rest of the week and don’t fear the winds that may be swirling around you. God will use them to lift you up.


Maybe it’s a matter of trust…

April 11, 2017

From a recent blog post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this wonderful little play on words – “Nothing recedes like success.”  {Walter Winchell)

Jack went on to write – There’s a Latin phrase, similar to this quote, “Sic transit gloria mundi,” worldly glories are soon gone, or, what have you done for me lately?”

In our modern, me-oriented, short attention span and throw-away world; the phrase “what have you done for me lately” defines the credo that too many people live by in group-of-girls-looking-at-phonestheir day-to-day interactions with others and in their relationship with God. If God were to come to earth and stand next to these people, the first things that they would do is whip out their phone and try to take a selfie with God, so that they could post it on Facebook.

“It’s all about me” is another favorite catch-phrase. So, I guess it somewhat natural for the self-centered person ask God, “what have you done for me lately?” I might suggest that the better question to ask is “What have I done for God lately?” Perhaps you have had success in life. Did you thank God for that? Did you give a portion back to God, so that he could use it to help others? Did you even think of God, or were your thoughts on how good you are at what you do and how to achieve even more success? Did your hubris cause you to push God aside and even ask, “What have you done for me lately?”

Maybe the real issue is a matter of trust in God. Do you trust God in your life?  Corallie Buchanan put it this way in her book Watch Out! Godly Women on the Loose – “…You say to God, “I have never seen you provide for me.” God says to you, “You have never trusted Me.” I can hear the protests now from people claiming to be good church-going Christians; people of faith. Danny L. Deaubé put it this way – “One may have an abundance of faith in God, but do we trust Him when we don’t understand? What helping handsgood is faith without trust?” It is our natural tendency to want to (maybe to have to) understand what is going to happen that causes us to have doubts that God is with us and will protect us and guide us to do the right things. We just can’t bring ourselves to let our guard and move forward with total trust in God. We cannot take the risk.  “Risk taking is believing in yourself while trusting in God; knowing that He will open doors for you, even when you don’t see any.” ― Farshad Asl

If you saw the 1986 Eddie Murphy movie The Golden Child, you may recall the scene where Murphy’s character (the chosen one) is tested by having to follow a path in the dark cave while carrying a glass of water that he must not spill. When the path to the place where the Ajanti Dagger is located, it suddenly becomes a series of wavering towers over a seemingly bottomless pit. Then even the towers stop and Murphy’s character is told to take a leap of faith and trust and step off into the darkness. He steps off and discovers that there is some hidden force that allows him to complete the journey and recover the dagger. That was entertainment and the example setting was couched in Buddhist terms; but the concept of having that kind of faith in our God was a good message for us all. We need to the faith AND the TRUST to step off, even when we don’t see the next stepping stone in front of us.

“If you’re wrestling with some sort of decision, reflect for a moment and ask yourself, Am I being brave, or am I being safe? In the end, it depends on whether we think God can be trusted.”  ― Gary Haugen. Why aren’t we all braver in our day-to-day lives? Our tendency to be safe, to not take risks in life is a failure to trust that God will hand reaching for heavennever let you tackle something that you cannot accomplish, because with Him all things are possible. It may not happen right away and you may not recognize the hand of God in what transpires. Often you will feel like the door to the opportunity has been slammed shut and God has abandoned you; however, as William Branks put it – “When God closes a door He does not always open a window. Sometimes He wants you to sit in the quiet darkness while He transforms your fear into trust. How long that takes, is often up to you!”

Others may go through life without letting fears slow them down, but also not stopping to appreciate the help that God has provided them in their success. For these people life is just a joyous happenstance and maybe God was along for the ride because of their faith. I love the way that Albert Einstein characterized God’s presence in their lives – alone at sunset“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” So if you’ve made it through life with one happy coincidence after another, maybe you should take some time to reflect on that, too. Perhaps you just never have taken the time to characterize your great good fortune as the hand of God in your life.

There are two takeaways here –

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take.” – Proverbs 3:5-

And, once you have come to the place of trust in God;

“Don’t ask God to guide your steps if you’re not willing to move your feet.” – Unknown

Taking that next step is still up to you. Trust in God and move your feet.


Add diversity and add perspective to your life…

April 4, 2017

I recently saw an ad for a diversity training course that is being offered by one of the local real estate associations. If one takes the course they will receive a designation that they supposedly can use in their real estate advertising that somehow is supposed to increase their business by certifying them as being diversity aware and sensitive. It just looked to me like someone has thought up a new way to make a buck selling a training course.

In my prior life in the corporate world, I attended several diversity training courses over the span of my career. The early ones focused almost entirely on racial diversity but eventually they evolved into ethnic and gender diversity and more recently into sexualembrace diversity orientation/preference diversity. One thing that all of these courses had in common is the us vs. them mentality with which they approach the topic. It is always taught from the perspective that we (the us in the equation) don’t understand and appreciate the other group’s life experiences and thus don’t understand their lifestyle or their perspective on life. There is certainly truth in that statement, but I always wondered why it had to start from us vs. them and not to find a way to start with just “us” as a whole, as humans, and go from there.

Of course, the other starting point perspective was the “we” are the white majority and predjuices“they” are in whatever minority that the course is focused upon.  Current demographic trends will soon make that statement false. Most of these courses try to teach the attendees how to “value differences”, which is to say how to accept and embrace those differences as good things and not just odd things. Companies that have truly embraced diversity have prospered and people who individually embrace diversity will do better, too. Why? Because their lives will be richer because of understanding, experiencing and assimilating those differences into their own lives. Understanding and embracing differences also serves to remove the unwarranted fears that the unknown always brings with it.

The latest group to demand and deserve to be the subject of of diversity acceptance is the GLBTQI community. This group has also faced rejection by the so-called “moral lbgtqi-symbolmajority”. Imagine the moral outrage that would be caused in that group by encountering a black, transgender person from the middle east living as a woman. One wouldn’t know where to start discriminating against that person. It might send the moral majority into apoplexy in North Carolina, if they asked to go to the bathroom.

I think one of the things that pulls us towards understanding diversity is our innate curiosity to understand people and what makes them tick. That’s one reason that I wrote the post Trying to understand others without a frame of reference.  That article referenced a very interesting blog post by Lori Sealy, a young lady who lives on the Autism spectrum. Lori related some of her day-to-day experiences and how she sees and feels things differently than most people (the “us” in that case) do. People with needs that are different from the normal needs of the vast majority of the people also bring a different (nee diverse) perspective that deserves attention and understanding.  So now our worst case example might be an autistic black transgender person from the middle east living as a woman. It boggles the mind of a bigot.

There is great potential value in diversity since it brings with it ideas and perspectives that you will never have on your own, based solely on your limited life experiences. You may not like or agree with all of those ideas and perspective, but at least you will now know that they exist and that there are people who do like and embrace them. You may also find yourself challenged to be able to respond the question “why don’t you try it” when asked about a food or a clothing style or a type of music or whatever else comes along with the diverse background and culture of the person that you have met.

timidDon’t panic. They aren’t likely to ask you to do something illegal or totally out of character for you; but, they may challenge you to stretch your comfort zone a bit, so that you can share an experience from their perspective or their culture. Go for it on the things that you can and be polite when declining the ones that you just can’t bring yourself to try. My wife and I never could quite convince ourselves to try the wonderful fish heads that a Jamaican friend of mine years ago wanted us to try.  Sometimes I wish I had at least tried it.

The bottom line is that no one is asking you to become something that you’re not, just to try harder to understand the perspective, the feelings and the needs of something that you’re not. You might just find value from that effort and perhaps even add a few new things to your experiences and knowledge base. You will almost certainly have become a better person for having overcome the knee-jerk reaction (emphasis on the “jerk” part) to discriminate against that person. You may eventually get to the point where your viewfacing new day of diversity starts with the perspective that we are all humans just trying to make it through life the best way that we can. While some travel paths that are more difficult than others, we all end up at the end of the line in the same place.

Have a great and diverse day.


Do your best and don’t dwell on what you can’t do…

March 29, 2017

I recently saw this tidbit of advice posted in a meeting room to define the rules for meetings in that room – “Don’t let the perfection be the enemy of the good.”

I thought about how often it is true that the pursuit of perfection gets in the way of doing just the good. Mercedes uses the slogan, “The best or nothing” and their rival Lexus uses “The pursuit of perfection.” Somehow, it makes more sense to me to constantly being in pursuit of perfection than to constantly do nothing if one cannot do it perfectly. That, after all is what perfection-1hard work and practice is all about – the constant pursuit of doing better, with the goal of perfection. What a sad world it would be, indeed, if we all just quit and did nothing, if we couldn’t be perfect at whatever we were attempting.

In our religious beliefs, perfection is a heady target to tackle. We have the example of Jesus to point to and many people wear little bracelets with WWJD on them, which stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” I find that to be somewhat presumptuous for anyone to think that they can somehow channel Jesus into their daily decisions or actions. Hopefully WWJDthey can learn from His actions and the stories that He used to teach His disciples and instead think of the question, “What would Jesus have wanted me to do?”

The answer to that question is likely to be something less than perfection and would focus around doing the right things, the good things, the things that you might hope someone else would do for you in the same situation. That is why it should be enough to stand on the line and serve food to the hungry who can make it into the shelter; rather than to do sewrving soupnoting because you cannot solve world hunger. It is enough to tutor one student to improve their reading skill and not sit and do nothing because you cannot solve the education problems of America. The solution (the pursuit of that perfect world) starts with the first person that you serve food to that day or the person that your tutor. There is no failure in the fact that millions of others may have gone hungry or cannot read. You did your best that day and did not give up and do nothing.

The real trouble with seeking perfection is that is so easy to let yourself slip into the role of loser when it is not achieved. Rosalynn Carter put it well – “You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try – you don’t take the risk.” Failures are just a part of the process of getting being kind 1to success. Even Warren Buffet, whom many believe to be the best investor ever, has had his share of failures.

So maybe the secret is to just focus upon doing your best at whatever task you have set out to accomplish and not worry about perfection. Don Miguel Ruis put it this way – “Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.” At the end of the day the question that you should be asking yourself is not, “Did I achieve perfection?”; but, rather, “Did I do my best?” If you can honestly answer yourself that you put the best effort that you could into the tasks, you will sleep well.

special olympicsThe Special Olympics uses the motto – “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” In the end, one should reward oneself for being brave in the attempt and doing your best at what you are trying to do and not get down if you did not win. If you have given your best and honest effort to the task, you have already won. In that private little victory you can be at peace with yourself.

Have a great day and give your best effort at whatever you decide to do.


Did we merit God’s gift to us?

March 24, 2017

From a recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack shared this message that he had received from a follower of his blog – “Did you see NYT article regarding what the Pope said about giving to panhandlers?  He wants us to look them in the face, share a kind word and…not judge them or decide if they “merit” our help.”  (BB in Illinois

How often we all rush to judgement about whether someone or some cause merits our act of kindness or giving. It is all too easy to have the thought “get a job” escape our minds and come out of our mouths as we walk past the man begging on the corner. Or perhaps aarrogant flash of disdain overcomes us as we watch the story of a young black mother with her three children burned out of their home on the nightly news. Maybe we pull back the hand of friendship from the person whom we are told is a member of the LGBTIQ community. Those people, we may think don’t merit our help or friendship or pity. After all they brought this on themselves, right?

Imagine if God had looked down on mankind and the messes that they make for themselves and decided that we didn’t merit sending his only son to die for us and for the forgiveness of our sins. We certainly brought all of our sins upon ourselves and it would seem didn’t merit the love that He showed when he sent Jesus to live among us. How did we merit that?

The answer is found not in our merit for that gift; but, in in God’s love for us that is so strong that it needs see no merit in us in order to save us. All He needs to see is acceptance Mark Twainof His love and acknowledgement of Him in our lives. Do we merit God’s love? Of course not. What could we possibly do to merit His love? The path to God is not marked by accomplishments and it is not earned by good works. Mark Twain put it this way – “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

Perhaps, then, we should spend less time judging the merit of others to receive our help and just go with God’s plan and guidance for us in John 13:34 – “A new jesus-as-lightcommand I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” There was no mention of or need for merit in that guidance. If we do that, maybe the next line in that scripture by John will also come true – “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Have a great, judgement free day and weekend. Show everyone who you are by loving one another.


Do you care enough to actually do?

March 21, 2017

“You can lift the weight of caring by doing” – from a recent State Farm TV ad.

The TV ad that State Farm has been running lately is really heart tugging, which is what it was designed to be. It shows an average Joe is several settings with people and animals in obvious need around him. You can see that he sees their need and feels bad about it, but he doesn’t do anything in the ad. Watching the ad, the viewer can see the growing weight in his heart of caring but not doing. Point taken that it is not enough just to be aware of and care about the plight of others and of animals; you must also do something. Do you care enough to actually do?

We all carry the weight of caring. It is not possible to pass the man on the corner holding man with cardboard signup his ratty cardboard sign that asks for help for him and his family without caring; yet few stop to offer help. We may feel good about holding the door open for someone else somewhere, but too few make the effort to open the door to an animal shelter cage and rescue a lonely dog or cat. It feels good to drop a dollar into a donation bucket outside the local superstore; but only a few actually go to the homeless shelter to volunteer to serve food or offer services. Do you care enough to actually do?

At the end of the day, we may pray and thank God for all that he has given us; but do we think back on all of the opportunities that he gave us to serve others that we chose to ignore. We may even say “there but for the Grace of God go I”; but hold back on saying praying“God, please give me the courage to go there and help”. It’s easy to hurry past the needy or ignore those in pain or despair by looking the other way; after all we’re busy people with lives of our own to lead and mouths to feed. Someone else will provide for those people you may think; or, you can adopt the saying that the University of Michigan basketball team has been using in the NCAA Tournament – “Why no us?” Do you care enough to actually do?

The keys to actually doing something other than just caring are focus and prioritizing. You can solve all of the problems of the world nor meet the needs of everyone that you might encounter in life; however, you can focus on one or a few needs and prioritize them in your life. That may mean finding one person sitting alone in a care home and befriending them. depression4It may mean volunteering for Meals on Wheels and delivering meals and conversations to a few elderly shut-ins. It may mean adopting a pet or volunteering to work at a n animal shelter on weekends. It could mean volunteering to work on a house for Habitat for Humanity or bringing food to your church and then delivering food baskets to the needy at Easter. Maybe it’s befriending that lonely kid at school that nobody seems to like and who seems so down all the time. You know lots of things that need to be done and which you could do; but, do you care enough to actually do?

The point of the TV commercial and of this post is not to send you off on your day with a big guilt trip; but rather to start you thinking about what you can do to turn the care that you have in your heart for other into actions. Many people wait until they are older and helperperhaps retired before they get into volunteer work. It’s great that they eventually did do something about their caring, but it is not necessary to wait. Earlier in life most of us think that we are too busy with work and family to take the time to do work for others, but that is just rationalization. Make your volunteering a part of family life. Take the family with you to do that work. Let your children see and participate in the work that you choose to do in service to others. It is a great life lesson for them and it shows them that you really do care enough to actually do?

Have a great and caring day doing for others!