The secret to a good life…

March 6, 2021

I always get a kick out of seeing a headline like that; as if there is really some great unknown secret that will immediately make life better, if only it were revealed to us. While there is no secret to a good life, there are bits of advice that we can pick up from others and implement in our own lives to make them better. One such piece of advice I got from a post to my usual source – the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Laugh when you can; apologize when you should; and let go of what you can’t change.”  (Posted by Carrie Goldring)

The other piece of advice comes from French philosopher Albert Camus – “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Our ability to laugh, especially at ourselves, is a great release from the stresses of everyday life and a necessary pause in the intensity that we sometimes put on ourselves in life. The ability to admit mistakes, own them, and apologize for them or make them right is also a necessity. Only through that process can we forgive ourselves get them off our backs. Finally, the ability to recognize those things in life that one cannot change and let go of them is critical. Our faith helps with that by allowing us to give those things to God in the simple prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

And then there is the advice of Camus. I don’t think he was saying not to be empathetic to the needs of others so much as not to be hung up on what others think about you or what you do. Many people spend an inordinate amount of time being concerned about the answer to the question, “What will others think?” before and after they do something. Even getting dressed in the morning usually involves that question for those people. Camus is saying that happiness does not come from others, but rather from within ourselves.

There are phrases that ae used within or vocabularies that point to the answer of living a good life – phrases like, “I laughed so hard that I cried” or “Those are tears of happiness”. Those phrases are describing examples of those moments in life that we let go of all else and live in the moment. We enjoy life. I have also heard the phrase, “I never felt more alive than at that moment” to describe some wonderful event in someone’s life.

Perhaps that is the secret to the good life. Again, I point to another quote from Albert Camus that sums this up very nicely – “Live to the point of tears.”

So the secret to the good life is to stop worrying about it and start living it – living it to the point of tears. A good start at living that way it to recall the words of the Psalmist – “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24

If we wake up each morning and acknowledge and give thanks to God for giving us another day it is bound to be a better day – a day in which we can live life to the point of tears.

Now you know the secret. Say your prayer to thank God for this day and then go out and live your life to the point of tears. It’s going to be a great day!

It’s a personal thing…

March 3, 2021

Today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog contained this quote –  “I can explain it to you, but I can’t comprehend it for you.”  (Edward Koch) 

There is a tendency to immediately substitute the word “understand” for the word “comprehend” in that sentence, but that isn’t really what the sentence is saying. It is different to comprehend something that just to understand it.

One way that the Webster’s Dictionary defines “comprehend” is –

1: to grasp the nature, significance, or meaning of

In fact, even most dictionaries use the word understand within the definition of comprehend. Koch’s quote actually is right on as to the personal nature of comprehension. One can understand something at an intellectual level without really comprehending it, just as one can comprehend something without having to understanding it.  

Understanding is a rather emotionless term that points at how things fit into our minds and memories – what category will this be filed under in my mind and how might this knowledge be used and applied in the future?

Comprehending, on the other hand, I think, leads to changes in how one perceives and reacts to the world around them. It is a very personal thing, involving how you grasp or perceive the things that you encounter.  One does not so much understand love as to comprehend it for themselves.  The same is true of prejudice or hate. You would be hard pressed to understand what causes them in you, but you can comprehend them as being there.

Ones faith is another thing that cannot really be understood, but which is comprehensible. How do you understand or explain your belief in a God who cannot be seen or heard, but whom you comprehend is always there with you? It’s a personal thing.

So, take a moment during the day to comprehend God. Don’t try to understand God, you really can’t; however, you can grasp the nature, significance and meaning of God in your life – you can comprehend. For me, that’s enough. I will not worry about understanding God, so long as I comprehend Him in my life.

How about you? Do you comprehend?

Sorry, I can’t help you with that. It’s a personal thing.

Find meaning by living your life…

February 24, 2021

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” – Albert Camus

Do you know someone who is never happy with what they have and always searching for ways to get more? Maybe you know someone who claims to be searching to “find myself”, to find some purpose and meaning to their life. It is not unusual for the young to go through phases like that, to have many questions for which there are no apparent answers. This is usually a period of a lapse in faith that occurs between being a child and accepting and understanding your faith as an adult.

As a child you were told about Jesus and the love of God and you just embraced it, not questioning it, just accepting that love as you accepted the love of your parents. So called “child-like innocence” protected you from the doubts that would later creep into your mind.

But, you began to question things by your teen years and well into young adulthood. That is part of the natural rebellion against being told things or being told to do things. That is your “I’ll make up my own mind on that” phase. It normally occurs during a time when you have the ability to reason, but not enough experience in how to use that ability to reach the right conclusions. It’s not so much that you reject God as it is that you just wander away from Him in confusion and in your search for the meaning of life and especially meaning for your life. You are too busy trying to “find yourself”.

Some wander about in that state of confusion and dissatisfaction for their entire lives, never really happy and always confused as to why. Others find their way back to God and allow their faith to provide the answers that they were seeking. They do not spend their time seeking happiness; but, rather, allow happiness to occur in their lives. They find relief from the anxieties of trying to understand the meaning of life and find joy in giving purpose and meaning to their lives.

People of faith start each day with a prayer to God to help them be the best that they can be that day and end the day with a prayer to God to help them be even better tomorrow. They do not live each day seeking the meaning of life, they live each day to give life meaning. They embrace another saying by Albert Camus – “Don’t wait for the last judgment – it takes place every day.”

So, seek not the meaning of life; rather seek to reconnect with that faith that you had as a child. Accept God back into your life and allow Him to show you how you can add meaning to your life. The true meaning of life is what you put into it; how you live it and the things that you do to make life better for all. God’s got work for you to do. It’s time to stop asking what it all means and start asking, “What does God want me to do today?” You won’t find he answer in any philosophy book, but the Bible has some pretty good suggestions for you.

Have a great and meaningful day!

You’ve got work to do…

February 4, 2021

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today Pastor Freed used this quote –

“You can wake up every day and make today better than the last.”  (Tommy Lasorda)

He went on to write about having a positive attitude every day. One might ask how to make each day a better day and the answer may be found in another quote from Freed’s blog that I had saved –

“You can look anywhere and find inspiration.”  (Frank Gehry)

The fact is that there are always things all around us that need doing, in order to make it a better day for someone. And in recognizing those things and doing them, you will make a better day for yourself. Some of the things are very small and subtle – smiling at someone when they needed a smile today or opening a door for someone and letting them go ahead of you. Sometimes they are bigger, like stopping to help someone in distress or rushing into a burning building to recue a trapped occupant.

I think a key point is that you have to work at it. Lasorda didn’t just say everyday is going to be better than the last; he said that you can make it better. Better doesn’t just happen all be itself. You don’t just sit there all day, waiting for better to happen; you have to work at it. What Gehry was saying is that yo have to look for the opportunities to make things better and when you see them to be inspired to take action.

Perhaps you can start each day by getting help with that. Ask God in your prayers to help you see the opportunities to make things better and to not be satisfied with just seeing them, but to take action to make better happen. That can start with asking God to help you to make better decisions during the day and to help you to be more sensitive to the needs of others.

We often hear the phrase in the eulogies for those who have passed that, ”He/She made the world a better place.” Many times that is a reference to the love that was shared with family and friends, but often it is also a reflection of the actions that the departed took to make the lives of strangers better. Maybe it was the hours of toil to earn money so that a child could go to college. Perhaps it was volunteer charity work or work within the church or the community. Possibly it was some work of art or literature that they created that impacted the lives of others. The point is that they worked at it; it didn’t just happen.

So, as you start your day, look around for your inspiration. Ask yourself how can you make this a better day for yourself and others. Then get at it.

Make this a better day!

You’ve got work to do.

Oh no you don’t…

January 5, 2021

Film actress Greta Garbo is famously known for the line “I want to alone”. But does anyone really want to be alone? In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed shared with us this quote – “In nature nothing exists alone.”  (Rachel Carson)

Freed went on to write about how many of the world’s creatures are disappearing, which could leave us alone if it keeps up (and mankind is the cause of much of the extinction of species). Freed made the point that, in nature, all things are connected and that it is important to be concerned  (and do something) about the alarming loss of species in today’s world. I join him in that concern, but today I want to write about many of us feeling alone, especially in the midst of this pandemic.

We may have the feeling that we want to be alone sometimes, usually when something is overwhelming us and we need time (and peace) to think. I think, however, that few of us would really want to be truly alone for any length of time. Even if events place us in a situation where we are alone (like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway), we don’t want to be alone. Hank’s character invented the companion Wilson, a Volleyball with what looked like a face in blood on it. Fortunately, for Christians, we do not have to invent a “Wilson” character for ourselves – we know that God is always with us.

We probably all know someone who absolutely hates to be alone. The restrictions of the current pandemic have been especially hard on those people, who have been forced into isolation (at least it feels that way to them). While most of us aren’t feeling that isolated, the current situation has forced many of us to confront more alone time than we’ve ever experienced before. That does not have to be a bad thing or even a scary thing. You can help both yourself and those that you may know who are more isolated than others, but reaching out with phone calls, cards or other means, to touch them with a message of concern about their well-being. A simple call to ask, “How are you doing”, can work wonders for their day.

The other things that this forced isolation gives us time to work on is our feelings about ourselves. I have posted here a few times about loving yourself. Most people feel the need for acceptance by others about how they look or about the things that they have accomplished in life. They are seeking confirmation for the conclusions that they have already reached about themselves. Some, however, are so unsure of themselves (so unloving of themselves) that the opinions of others becomes an obsession. I think it is important to accept that if God love you, no matter what, you should accept yourself just as unconditionally and be comfortable with who you are. Out of love for yourself will come the ability to share love with others and any feeling of being alone will melt away.

So the message becomes, get back in touch with God and accept God’s love; then get back in touch with yourself and love who you are. Now, go out and share that love with others. You are not alone; you were just getting ready.

Have a great day sharing the love!

Be that candle today…

December 10, 2020
Be the candle

“A candle of God’s goodness can serve as a beacon of hope for those navigating dark passages of their lives.”  (Hanukkah Quote)

That was today’s quote in the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Probably the most meaningful interpretation and implementation of that quote would be for each of us to accept a personal responsibility to be that candle of goodness in someone’s life. Be that candle today.

It comes as no surprise that many people are currently navigating dark passages in their lives, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have either experienced the disease themselves or perhaps lost a loved one to the disease. They need that candle, that beacon of hope, to help them get out of whatever dungeon of despair in which they have landed. Be that candle today.

God illuminates His goodness through the random acts of kindness that we occasionally hear about. The person paying for the meal of the person behind them in the line at McDonald’s or perhaps delivering groceries to the shut-in senior citizen. It also shows through in the many small things that we don’t often see on the news – dropping a dollar into a red kettle outside a store or holding a door open for someone whose hands are full.  Be that candle today.

Just the act of consideration for others by wearing a mask when indoors in public places is a tiny act of God’s goodness. Certainly, those who have recovered and give blood containing convalescent plasma to the cause take that a giant step further. Be that candle today.

Reaching out to those that we see, or sense, are having problems coping with the changes to their lives that the pandemic has caused is also critical. Many people have slipped into a quiet state of depression and too many have found no way out and committed suicide. People in those dark places need God’s beacon of hope that your candle can provide. Be there for them. Be that candle today.

Be the Candle

It is so simple to be God’s candle. Just pick up the phone and start making calls to relatives and friends. Maybe even to people that you don’t know all that well. Call and ask how they are doing. Talk to them about what you have been doing during all of this and let them know that somebody cares about their wellbeing. If they are OK ask them if they would help you with your calls and divide u your list. By doing so, you use your candle to light another candle. Be that candle today.

In your prayers today, include the request, “God let me be a candle for your goodness today”. If you start your day that way, you might be surprised how many opportunities you will recognize throughout the day to – Be that candle today.

Open the door…

December 3, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “God enters, by a private door, into every individual.”  (Emerson)

The tormented minds of many who have descended into depression may have attempted to slam the door shut on God; however, God is both patient and persistent. That door is still there.  Unlock it and let God enter into your life. The key to that door is acceptance…acceptance of God’s presence and help in your life. The dungeon that is depression is a lonely place. Open that door to God and you will never be alone again.

There was a popular TV game show that presented contestants with 3 doors, behind which were hidden either great prizes or great disappointments. Contestants were asked to choose a door. Life can seem like that sometimes. Sometimes we make the wrong choices and open the door to disappointment or worse. The choices that we are faced with in life can seem both scary and mysterious. We really can’t see what’s behind the doors.

However, over in the corner, maybe just out of our vision, there is another door and that door is clearly marked – “God is here”. We know that it is there, but our own ego sometimes stubbornly prevents us from opening that door. We keep trying to do it alone, to face our challenges on our own, and to exert our free will. What we fail to realize is that same free will is what allows us to open that fourth door and seek God’s help. When God gave us that free will he also put that door there in our lives. He put it there for two reasons – 1. Just in case, we needed to open it and get his help and 2. To give us a direct way to communicate with and worship Him.

If it’s been a while since you opened that door in your life, or maybe you’ve never tried that door to see what’s there; maybe it’s time go see what’s behind door number 4. God will be there for you. He has always been there, patiently waiting for you, as we are told in the Bible –

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Don’t be confused about the word repentance. The repentance that you have just reached when you opened that door is the release of your own ego and the acceptance of God in your life, That’s all He was waiting for. Now you can take step two and say, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” You have flung open the door and God will work wonders in your life.

Open that door today and receive that rewards that are behind door number 4.

You can’t wrap your head around God…

January 24, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack used this quote, which appears to be his own thoughts – “They say that God is everywhere, yet we always think of him as somewhat of a recluse.”

Jack went on to relate a cute story about a child trying to understand the concept of God being everywhere.

The post and the story that he relates in it serve to illustrate one of man’s biggest challenges (and I might say failings) when it comes to God – the need to understand God within our limited abilities to define things. Our imaginations are so limited by our need to relate God to things that we can see, feel, touch or otherwise experience in the real world, that we are unable to find a place or category in which to put Him in our minds. We tend to use comparative phrases – “God is like…” – in order to try to get comfortable with the otherwise troubling concepts of God being everywhere, knowing everything, being all powerful and all of the other concepts and things that we have heard or read about Him during our lives. We are constantly trying to wrap our heads around the concept of God. But we can’t.

There is an argument t to be made that God sent His Son Jesus into our world as a physical embodiment that we might be better able to understand. We could see Jesus and touch Him and therefore we could believe in Him. Jesus made God real for us in terms that we can understand and made Jesus the route through which we could wrap our heads around God. Jesus even told us – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus knew the limitations of men’s minds to understand  God and the concept of life after death and heaven. He used parables when he was trying to teach his Disciples as a way to relate what he was saying  to everyday things that they could understand. Even his description of Heaven is couched in terms that they could understand from their everyday lives. – “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? “– (John 14:2).  

Faith is the only way to take the needed step beyond man’s limited ability to reason and understand. Instead of trying to wrap your head around God, by trying to understand God within your own limited intellectual context, one needs to shift from understanding to accepting, from being able to define God within the limitations of your own terms, to accepting God on His terms through faith.

We all have difficulty getting comfortable with the unknown and our imaginations can run wild trying to fill in the blanks. Sometimes fear takes hold and we imagine all sorts of terrible things. Sometimes cynicism overcomes us and we wander away from our beliefs and our faith. We can spend an inordinate amount of time wresting with potential explanations or definitions for God, but eventually it always circles back to faith – to our belief that the unknown that is God and the destination that is Heaven exist and that God will watch over us and Heaven awaits us, even if we don’t understand it.

We can’t wrap our heads around God; but, if we accept Jesus, we will start to experience, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Stop trying to wrap your head around God and just accept Jesus as your savior and your only route to eventually knowing God.

Peace be with you.

A world in search of its Golden Calf.

December 25, 2019

Today is Christmas Day, 2019, but already some of the local stores have put away Christmas and New Year’s Day stuff and have their Valentine’s Day merchandise out. By the time that we get to February, the Valentine’s Day stuff will be gone and the St. Patrick’s Day merchandise will be everywhere. That won’t last long, because they have to get the Easter stuff up before mid-February.

We have become a society obsessed with staying ahead of things and maintaining a fast pace. We have no time to relax, because we might miss something. We may not know what that is, but we constantly check Facebook or Instagram to see what that might be.

What are we looking for? What is driving this need for activity and speed in our lives? Why do we rush to find “the next big thing?” What are we in search of?

Perhaps a story from the Bible will shed some light on this question. Recall when Moses led his people out of bandage in Egypt and went up the mountain to talk to God. The people grew restless and impatient for Moses’ return. They wanted something to worship and look to for comfort in the midst of their trying times, so they created an idol – a statue of a calf made out of gold. Unlike their mysterious God, whom none but Moses could talk to or see, this idol was something concrete to them. They could see it and touch it; so, it gave them some level of comfort. Of course, Moses had a fit when he came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments in hand.

man looking through telescope

In today’s world, the next big thing, or at the least, the things that we don’t yet have, have become our Golden Calf, the things that we idolize. We are impatient to get them, because we think they will bring us comfort and peace; however, when we get each one we find ourselves longing for the next big thing the next thing that we don’t have. We are obsessed with things, with success, with experiences; with whatever we believe is missing in our lives that would make us happy.

The reality for most is that what is missing in their lives is God. If they allowed God into their life and embraced Him, they would experience the “peace that passes all understanding” and know the joy and contentment that this brings. Worldly possessions and pursuits become meaningless when compared to the joy of knowing Him.

On this Christmas Day, take a moment to reflect upon your life. What is important to you? What are you pursuing or searching for? What things do you think you need to make you happy? If you got those things, would you stop and be happy or would you still be running after the next big thing? What is your Golden Calf?

Then ask yourself, where is God in your life? Is He a priority in your life? If He was a priority in your life, do you believe that you would need/want that next big  thing? Stop your searching. The next big thing is right there with you. Embrace God and be happy with your life.

Merry Christmas! May you know God’s peace.

What pain will you turn into a strength?

December 7, 2019

A post to the blog, Jack’s Winning Words ,not too long ago used this quote – “Life is very interesting.  In the end some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.”  (Drew Barrymore) 

You could substitute other words like challenges or tribulations or roadblocks or setbacks for the word “pains” in the quote, and add the word “overcoming” right before the word “some”. If you did that, I think you would have what Barrymore was trying to say.

At the time that they are occurring, trials and tribulations don’t feel good and you usually don’t think about how you will look back on the events that are unfolding as a learning and growth experience. However, extraordinary events, especially bad events, force us grow by forcing us outside of our comfort zone and into problem solving mode.

My wife and I often use a little phrase between ourselves as a tension breaker, when we’ve hit a hiccup in life. We say, “someday we’ll look back on this an laugh”. We’ve had a lot of laughs in our 53 years of marriage, much of it over things that felt bad when they occurred. To a certain extent what we end up laughing at is not the event; but, rather, how we reacted to the event.

So, how does a pain, a failure, a setback in life become a strength? It has to do with building your store of wisdom and your character at the same time.  Wisdom and character don’t just happen or increase on their own; they happen and grow because you have been “through” something – some adversity or new experience. They can both grow from good things happening as they do from dealing with the bad things in life.

I’ve posted here many times about problem solving, so I won’t repeat that advice. What I want to add to that advice is that you make a conscious effort while going through the problem solving process to learn from it and to find a new strength in the solution. Maybe you can use a slight variation on the little saying that I use with my wife and say to yourself, “someday I’ll look back on this and appreciate what I’ve learned from it.” You will have learned things about both the event and about yourself and how you reacted to it. Both add to your wisdom base.

Life’s pains can seem to be overwhelming. Take some time each day to think about the “pains” in your life and how you are dealing with them. While you are in that introspective mode, take a moment to ask for God’s help with them. Trusting in God to help with your pains allows you to step back a little bit and gain some perspective on them. Oft times, that ability to “see” the pain in the broader perspective of life will allow you to regain enough control to be able to effectively apply the logic of problem solving. No matter what the pain, dealing with it can be broken down into a series of manageable, solvable steps. Step 1 is to get God involved.

It is interesting that some of the best motivational speakers on problems like drug addiction or human trafficking or other horrible pains in life are recovered addicts, or people who were sex trafficked themselves. They have found ways, not only to overcome the pains, but also to turn them into strengths in their lives.

What pains are you facing? How can you turn them into strengths? Have you asked for God’s help yet? Take step 1 and  turn your pains into strengths.