Look for the door today…

December 2, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “Every wall is a door.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson) 

Life often throws things at us that appear to be walls – things preventing us from moving ahead. In bad times, it can feel like the walls are boxing us in and closing in on us. All of these times are opportunities to look for the door that Emerson alluded to in his quote.

Yesterday I wrote about dealing with crises and I have posted more than once about problem solving. A key to both is seeing that there is a door, an opportunity, in every wall that life throws our way. So, instead of sitting there moaning, “woe is me” in hard times, one needs to start searching for the door in that wall and figuring out how to open it.

If you ever watched the old Price is Right show, you know that they often presented contestants with multiple doors. They would tell the contestant that behind one of the doors was a really great prize, but behind the other(s) was a bust. The contestant then had to choose a door. Sometimes we are presented with multiple doors in the walls that life throws at us. We know that one of the doors will lead to a good outcome, but that some of the doors could lead to even bigger trouble. Many are frozen in place by the choice and are unable to get through the wall. Some just continually choose the wrong doors in life and sink deeper and deeper into trouble.

Wouldn’t life be so much better if you had help finding the doors in your walls and then choosing the right one to go through? There is a cute cereal commercial running right now in which a father advises a young girl about to ride off on her bicycle to make good choices. We are not told where she is going or why, nor do we get any insight into the choices that she may have to make. Life is like that. We don’t know what choices we will be faced with today or how many walls may be thrown up in our way. The things that we can do is to set out with the thought in mind that we will make good choices and find he doors in whatever walls we encounter. Just taking the approach that we will find the door in those walls is our first good choice of the day.

So, where is the help in all of that? Maybe it is in pausing at the start of each day to say a little prayer, a prayer that God helps you make good choices throughout the day. That gives you a sense of confidence that you are not alone in facing those walls and the courage to pick a door and go through it. You are not asking God to solve all of the problems that come your way, but rather to give you the wisdom and courage to make good choices and find the way through those walls.

Don’t stand there lamenting that you have hit a wall…find the door to your future today. Ask for God’s help and the door will appear.


Don’t imprison yourself…

November 12, 2019

In a post to his blog recently, Jack Freed used this quote from Lady Gaga – “Fame is prison” He went on to relate that Gaga can no longer enjoy life in public because she is always hounded by fans or paparazzi. In a sense, her fame has served to imprison her.  Almost all starts come to that conclusion, once they have achieved the fame that they so fervently chased for years. Some have found that going out in disguise, especially in big cities like New York, is still possible.

Most of us will never be famous, so we need not worry about the problems that Lady Gaga and other stars have; however, many create a prison of sorts for themselves based upon just the opposite cause – anonymity. Being anonymous is especially easy if your move to a new town or area. It is also relatively easy to become anonymous if you are a shut in. Over time, people forget about you and you may start to forget about other people. You have imprisoned yourself, somewhat by choice.

People with whom I talk who volunteer for the Meal on Wheels program that delivers meals to shut-in senior citizens tell me that the recipients often talk their heads off during the delivery, because the Meals on Wheels person may be the only person that they ever see. That is sad, but not unusual and not limited to just those shut-in seniors.

Many people, of any age, imprison themselves by remaining anonymous in their communities. They may get out of the house to go to work and back, but never seem to have time to meet anyone local. In this modern age of air-conditioned houses and lawn services to mow the lawn, it may even be rare to see them outside. That sometimes leads to the stories that we see on the news about a person dying and their bodies not being discovered for days or weeks. They were anonymous and thus not missed.

It is easier than you think to end your anonymity, without flipping over to the problem that Lady Gaga pointed out. You don’t have to become famous, you just have to be engaged in your community. Going to church is a great start. Church people tend to be friendly and you will quickly make new friends. Volunteer in the community. There are also tons of volunteer opportunities in every community – things like driving for Meal on Wheels or perhaps serving as a docent in a local museum. Join local organizations. All communities have local chapters of clubs like Rotary International, the Lions Club, the local Chamber of Commerce (you can be an associate member, even if you don’t have a business), the local society for the arts, and many more. Find a club or organization that focuses upon something that you are interested in, join and get involved. Many clubs or organizations may have members who are willing to pick you up and drive you to and from meetings, so even “shut-ins” can participate.

All of those ideas and more require that you not only join whatever organization it is; but also, that you attend meetings, volunteer for events and otherwise commit your time and efforts to the organization. The side benefit is that you meet other people and you are no longer anonymous. You have freed yourself from that prison.

The bottom line is that you hold the key to the prison of anonymity that you may have built for yourself. Get yourself out there and meet people. Have a great day in the crowd.


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.


Stay focused…

October 24, 2019

I seem to be stuck on the topic of finding a way to move on in life, but it is important enough to write about again.

A post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time back used this quote – Fix the problem, not the blame – Unknown

As I scan the posts to various social media sites that I belong to, the advice in that little quote seems to go unheeded most of time. Perhaps it is just human nature to try to find out who, or what, to blame for whatever happens, especially things that happen to us. Obviously, it can’t be my fault, so I need to find someone else to blame for any misfortune that befalls me.

An unfortunate side effect of losing focus on the problem itself, in the search for someone or something to blame, is that we often don’t benefit from learning from the problem. Instead of increasing our wisdom and making sure that the same thing doesn’t happen again, we focus instead on finding a scapegoat upon which to heap the blame for our misfortune. This exonerates us from taking responsibility for placing ourselves in the situation that caused the problem and for the poor decisions that we may have made during the incident. The knee-jerk reaction that “It’s not my fault” almost always leads us to find someone else, or something else, to blame.

So stop yourself, the next time you go into reaction mode by asking “who did this to me” or “what caused this” and turn your focus instead to “what can I learn from this?” There is another saying that applies here –

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. – Brian Tracy

A big part of mastering the changes that occur in your life is keeping focus upon the problems and not on trying to fix the blame for things. Don’t waste your time on blame fixing, you’ve got enough to do to controlling how you react and working to fix the problem.

Besides eliminating wasted time, you may find that staying focused on the problem makes it much easier to just put things behind you and move on with life, when you don’t look for someone or something to blame. It happened, it’s done, it’s nobody’s fault, what can you learn from it? Then get on with life.

Have a wonderful and focused day!


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.


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.