Awaken and live for today…

June 17, 2022

Father’s Day and Mother’s Day always seems to bring out the messages about regrets for not having said more to parents or spent more time with them while they where here. In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote from Gene Autry – “If God would but grant me the power to turn back the pages of time.” He wrote about his own father’s death at a relatively early age and how he missed having his dad there for many milestones in his life.

But, that’s not how life works. God doesn’t grant us either the power to turn back time or to look into the future. The past cannot be changed and worrying about the future seems to be a waste of time; and, time is all that we really have. So, perhaps, instead of asking God to intervene in either the past or the future we should instead ask for his help with the here and now. Maybe a simple prayer like, “God, help me make good decisions today” would make today better. At least you would be praying for something reasonable.

As a precursor to that request for God’s help you might put yourself in the right frame of mind by using the little prayer that I post here quite often – “not my will but thy will be done”. That simple line relieves you of feeling responsible for the past and the future and puts you back in charge of just being responsible for how you act and react in the here and now. Then you can ask for God’s help in making good decisions as the day unfolds. Maybe, as Pastor Freed related, one of those decisions will be to call your mom or dad and just tell them that you love them.

Recently the slang word “woke” has been used in politics and other settings to describe what Webster’s Dictionary says is a state of being “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues”. It has been especially attached to the Black Lives Matter movement to indicate an awareness of pervasive racism in our society; however, the term maybe applied to life in general.

Living for today isn’t about forgetting what has happened in the past or not thinking and planning for the future. It is about being more mindful and focused upon what is happening now – being woke. Once you become more focused upon the here and now you soon realize all that you have been missing going on all around you. You may even gain an understanding or that old phrase, “stop and smell the flowers”, once you realize that there are flowers, opportunities, and interesting people all around you. Wake up!

Try it. You might like it.

Live for today.

Get busy with today…

May 5, 2022

A line in a story in the Morning Brew news feed that I get each morning caught my eye  – “You need to get busy with the present, not the past or the future. Here and now is what counts.” (Walter Orthmann)

(Excerpted from the Morning Brew) The story is about Walter Orthmann, a 100-year old Brazilian who recently set a Guinness World Record for spending his 84-year career at a single company. At 15, Orthmann started as a shipping assistant at the textile company Industrias Renaux S.A. That was in 1938, the same year Hitler invaded Austria and the ballpoint pen was invented. Eventually, Orthmann climbed the ladder to become a sales manager, and he’s stayed in that position ever since with no plans to retire. When asked by the Guinness people  why he kept working, today’s quote was part of his answer.

All of us should adopt Walter’s philosophy instead of spending time lamenting things that happened in the past or worrying about thing that might happen in the future. Living in the present means that we can let go of the past and that we accept that what will be will be. It means admitting to ourselves that we cannot control things that happen to us. We can only control how we react to them in the present.

The present as I write this post is Cinco de Mayo for 2022.  The holiday commemorates the defeat of French forces by the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. I found it interesting that the holiday is much bigger in the US than in Mexico itself, mainly because U.S. consumer products companies, such as beer companies, seized upon it as a marketing ploy to sell more beer and other products. It doesn’t take a whole lot of reason in the U.S. to hoist another beer.

So, whether you really care about the Battle of Puebla (the past) or the hangover that you will wake up with tomorrow (the inevitable future), enjoy today and celebrate the proud Mexican heritage that Americans of Mexican decent celebrate today. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Don’t drink and drive.

Find happiness in today…

July 26, 2021

I have been saving this quote for a while – “Never forget yesterday, but always live for today…because you never know what tomorrow can bring, or what it can take away.”  (Tiny Buddha)

Of course, it came from a post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, my favorite source for quotes.

I decided to use it today because of the stories over the weekend of various Olympic athletes who have had to withdraw from the competition because of testing positive for the COVID virus. Imagine how disappointing it must be for someone who has trained for 5 years for their opportunity (the extra year because of the delay of the games in 2020), only to be denied the chance to even compete at the last minute.

For one competitor, it must have been especially disappointing. John Rahm was at the Olympics to represent Spain. Rahm, you may remember, was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Golf tournament just a little over a month ago because of testing positive for COVID. He came back to win the US Open in his next outing and has been ranked number 1 or 2 in the world for some time.

In some of the interviews with disqualified athletes the disappointment of the moment had passed and they were already in the mode of training for the “next time”. For them, living in the moment means finding happiness in the small successes and improvements that come from a daily training routine and from knowing that they were doing their best.  Rahm expressed such an attitude after his withdrawal from the Memorial tournament.

We must all learn to accept and build upon the past, whether that is to continue improving or to learn from a failure and move on. It is OK to have goals and dreams that are out in the future. That helps motivate us. However, it is really important that we focus on living for today, doing the best that you can in the time that you will have today. Tomorrow may never come for some. For others tomorrow may provide nothing but setbacks or may prove to be a time of breaking through to a new level.

So, if we cannot change the past and we cannot control the future, that leaves us with just the present in which to find happiness. What we do with today is all that really matters and we can control that, or at least make good decisions as the day unfolds. Living in the moment means paying attention to the things, people and events around you as you encounter them. It means finding fulfilment and joy in what you do. It means being happy just to be alive and finding peace within yourself and with others.

Perhaps you can get into the proper frame of mind to live in the moment if you start with a little prayer thanking God for giving you another day. You woke up this morning and that is a great start to the day. After you thank God for another day, ask Him for His help to make this a great day; a day that you live to the fullest. You don’t have to forget yesterday, just put it where it belongs – in your past – and you shouldn’t spend too much time thinking or worrying about tomorrow – it will get here when it gets here.

Rather, let yourself become immersed in today. Take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of today. Relish the opportunities to interact with other people. Become more aware of what new things you are experiencing or learning as the day progresses. Savor the day, for it is all the time that you really have. At the end of the day, you can take time to thank God for being with you and helping you enjoy the time. That would be a good time to ask Him for another day.

What will you do with today? What happiness will you find in today?

Advice from Proud Mary…

May 15, 2021

Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded Proud Mary, written by Credence front man John Fogerty, in 1968, but it was the 1970 cover by Ike and Tina Turner that became the iconic version of the song. Watch Tina’s 1971 version here.

There is a great piece of advice for life in one of the early lines in the song – “I never lost one minute of sleep worrying about what might have been.”

Too many people lose sleep and more because they get lost in the morass of coulda, woulda, shoulda. Well, you didn’t, didn’t, didn’t and it’s over and gone; so, let it go and move on.

There was a popular little phrase – “What it was, What it is and What it yet may be”. One sure thing about the past is that it has passed and there is no going back. The “what it was” in your life is immutable – it will never change, no matter how hard you think about it. So spending time thinking about it is just wasting time in the present. It’s OK to have an occasional fond memory of a person or an event but beating yourself up for bad decisions or decisions not made is just self-destructive. Forgive yourself as God forgives you and move on.

Most of your thoughts should be focused on the moment at hand. Those lost in the past or dreaming about the future often miss opportunities in the present – they may gaze right past the interesting person that they just met, forgetting immediately their name and not taking the chance to get to know them better. By being so self-absorbed they are like the guy in the recent sleep apnea commercial who misses seeing the flying pig – they miss great things.

Life happens within the context of the world around us and if we aren’t paying attention to the world around us we miss a lot that life has to offer. So, instead of letting your mind wander into the past or the future, focus on the here and now and open your eyes to all of the possibilities that are around you. There are new people to meet, new places to explore and new experiences to be had.

So, don’t ever lose a moment of sleep thinking about what might have been and don’t waste to much time worrying about what yet may be, instead focus upon the moment and drink in the full measure of what is around you to experience – the people, the things and the happenings. If you truly live in the moment, you won’t have time to worry about the past or the future – there’s just so much to experience right now.

Be like that boat, the Proud Mary, and keep rollin’ on the river of life. Have a great day and weekend. Maybe I’ll see you along the way and this time I’ll try harder to remember your name.

Grab life by the tail

March 26, 2015

“The person who grabs the cat by the tail and holds the cat upside down for twenty seconds gets a hundred times more information about that experience than one who may have read about it in a book.” –  (Mark Twain) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

If Mark Twain were alive today he might have said that on his Facebook page and then catthe SPCA would be all over him for espousing animal cruelty. What he was saying, of course, is that really experiencing life is much more interesting and educational than just reading about it. Twain might likely also hate Facebook, Twitter and most of the rest of what passes for living today. Twain would likely be shouting at those that he found with heads down and eyes focused upon their tiny screens – Grab life by the tail!

There are always distractions that tend to keep us from experiencing life. Sometimes there are also fears or concerns that cause us to avoid life, or at least those things in life that scare us. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for it. I enjoy the TV show The Voice, not only because it is good entertainment, but because it shows us little vignettes of people doing just that – overcoming their fears and getting up and performing before audiences that most have never been in front of before. That is usually one of the big things that the coaches must work on with the performers. In fact, most are not performers; they’re just people who sing very well. Most have some experience singing in small venues – churches or local bars – but few have any real stage experience before appearing on this show. On The Voice they get their chance to grab life by the tail.

So, what are you doing with your life? Are you taking every opportunity to share it with those that you love, or do you sacrifice that for what you think is necessary to get aheadfirst bicycle ride and earn more money? Are you there rooting for your kids at the games and plays and concerts, or apologizing later for having missed another important day in their lives? Are you taking the time for a hug and a kiss with your significant other each day or coming home late, after the lights are all out and wishing that someone had stayed up to see if you made it home? Are you letting your life partner know what you need and want from them or just going to bed angry that they can’t figure it out?  Maybe you are letting life slip away, instead you should  grab life by the tail.

Notice, if you will, that that the little phrase, “grab life by the tail” is a very active phrase. kid jumping in poolIt is not passive, It does not say “watch life go bye.” It does not advise you to, “allow life to happen.” Twain was not a passive fellow. He lived life with gusto and his advice to others is to do the same. The picture that comes to mind when one grabs a cat by the tail and lifts it in the air is not one of a passive cat, which just hangs there and accepts the situation.  Cat’s aren’t like that and one can imagine a very active (perhaps even frantic) scene, in which there are many experiences to be gained and stories to be told in later years. Life needs to be like that. You need to be making stories today that you’ll enjoy retelling for years. Grab life by the tail.

Does this mean that you should do stupid things like you might see on “reality” TV shows? No! It means not avoiding doing things or trying things because you are stopped by Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). Living a timid life that is constrained by FUD is life in a self-imposed prison. So, rather than allowing life to happen around you, get out and make life happen in front of you. Start today. Grab life by the tail!

What’s the “Next Play” in your life?

February 20, 2015

A recent post on the Jack’s Wining Words blog had this – “Next play!”  (Mike Krzyzewski)  A recent article in the Detroit Free Press told of how Duke basketball coach “K” has a ritual of saying to his team after every play (good or bad), “Next play!”  No matter what’s happened, focus on the task at hand. 

We all tend to spend too much time on regrets about the past or worrying about the future when we really need to be more in the moment and focused upon the “Next Play.” Life is not like a chess game where you can plan several moves ahead; it is much basketball playerstoo dynamic and has too many variables for that. Rather it is more like that basketball game with you as the point guard. You go brig the ball down trhte court for the next play and try to quickly assess what you are facing (what the defense is doing ) and make adjustments. You don’t have all day to make your decisions (the shot clock is running) and sometimes they are wrong, just like in life; so you keep adjusting and trying again. Sometimes even a well-executed play doesn’t work and sometimes life throws a foul on you.

But, before we get too far into the weeds with sports metaphors for life, let’s backtrack to the main thought of today’s little saying and that is to stay focused in the moment and what is right ahead in life. While we would all like to think that we can multi-task, in fact all we usually end up doing is multiple things badly, instead of any one of them well. Letting one’s mind wander off to the past or focus too much out into the future means taking it off of the tasks at hand and life is far too complex to be doing mental texting to yourself while trying to live (drive).

eye on worldFocusing upon the present will allow you to see the whole court (back to the basketball analogy). What are the decisions that must be made? What are the options that are available to you and what are the possible outcomes of each option. That’s actually the approach that the IBMers took with the Watson computer that they built to play chess. They programmed Watson to look fairly far out at the possible moves and countermoves at any point in the game. We usually don’t need to go as deep into the possible future in real life, but we do need to recognize that every decision and action has a consequence. Hopefully we are guided by a good moral compass and strong common sense.

The Next Play in a game coached by Mike Krzyzewski is seldom something crazy or planningoff-the-wall, but it is one that he makes sure his whole team understands and is ready to execute. If you don’t understand how to execute your Next Play, call a mental time out (as coach K would call a real one in the game) and think it out. Does it make sense to you? Are you capable of executing that Next Play? If the answers are “no” then step back and come up with a different play.

What’s the Next Play in your life? Are you ready for it? Are you focused upon it?

Occasionally visit, but don’t live in the past…

February 24, 2014

I find myself occasionally using the phrase “in a prior life” in conjunction with explaining something in my past, such as my long career in the IT products and services business prior to getting into real estate (my current life). While it is just a little affectation (a throw away phrase, if you will), it does sum up nicely the fact that our past may be thought of almost like prior lives. Not of course in any Shirley McClain reincarnation way. Read more on that and her autobiography  here.

The real point is that all of that is in the past and we are and should focus upon living in the present and perhaps planning for the future. The past is a place that you might occasionally visit, especially if there are many pleasant memories that bring comfort when remembered; however, you can’t and shouldn’t live in the past. If you find yourself constantly revisiting the coulda, wouldda, shoulda’s of your life and beating yourself up over choices that you made back then, it’s time to shut those doors and move on.

thinking of the pastWe all have past lives, some with many more chapters than others. Some of those chapters were exciting and fun and some were perhaps frightening to remember.  Hopefully all of those chapters contributed something to the person that you are today and to the knowledge base upon which you now make decisions in your life.

There are memories of things that you’d love to do again, feelings that you enjoyed having and would like to have again; and there are the things that are filed away under the heading – NEVER again. Both sets of memories contributed to who you are now, but they do not define who you are now. They were stops along the journey to today. You did not get off at those stops, so don’t go back and spend time sitting in those stations.

One key to putting the past in its proper place in your life is planning – planning for today and for the future. The more that you focus upon what is just ahead and maybe just over the next hill, the less time that you have to wander back into the past. Your subconscious mind will sort out the things that you need to remember (good and bad) in order to make decisions about today and tomorrow without you spending time thinking about the past.

Once you start planning for upcoming events, your subconscious mind will move into viewing futureanticipating them and you’ll find that your conscious mind will tend to focus on that – what you can do to make this upcoming event the best that it can be. Planning and anticipation will lead to actions and pretty soon you’ll find yourself lost not in the past but in the future and that’s a much better place to be than trapped in the past.

So, if you must let your mind wander, point it to the future and not back into some dungeon from the past. Live in the present and plan for a better future – at least you can still do something about that. Have a great day today and plan for a great day tomorrow.