Today’s quote is from author Ann Patchett’s self-inspired essay “What Now?” — the work in which these reaffirming words appear – Just because things hadn’t gone the way I had planned didn’t necessarily mean they had gone wrong.
Many people spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about or planning things that are to come, as if they really have control over what is to happen. They don’t. At best, they have control over how they react to things that are yet to come. So, considering alternative course of action, based upon plausible scenarios is not a complete waste of time, maybe just not the best use of your time.
Some also waste time looking back on things that have just occurred and regretting decisions that have already been made and cannot be undone. Regret is a terrible waste of time. Better that one should spend time trying to learn from past mistakes, so they do not make them again.
Perhaps you can make the most of your time by starting each day with the little prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”. That little prayer takes the burden of the events of the day off your shoulders by admitting to yourself that you are not in control of them and surrendering them to God’s will.
Next, take back ownership of the only thing that you do control by praying, “Lord, help me make good decisions today.” It is how you decide to react to the event of your day and the decisions that you make when things occur that will make the day a good thing or not.
If you start each day that way, you’ll be ready for “What Now”. Try it.
It is interesting that the graphic with the quote from J.P. Morgan seems to be showing a way out of a dark place. Many people find themselves in a dark place. It really doesn’t matter how they got there; what matters is how they can get out of that place and go on with life. The other interesting thing is that Morgan’s quote is that it places the responsibility for getting out of that place squarely on the shoulders of the person themselves – they have to decide that they don’t want to be there anymore. That may seem like a no-brainer decision; however, some people actually like being miserable, or so it seems.
So, if you have grown tired of being miserable or depressed and decided to get out of whatever dark place you have been in, how do you do that? For one, make sure that you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes that have kept you there for this long. There is a saying that equates that repetition with an expectation of a different outcome to insanity and you aren’t insane – just frustrated and perhaps out of options that you can think of to resolve your dilemma.
Here’s the first secret to finding your way out – it’s not your fault. In fact, it’s not your responsibility to solve whatever conundrum is confronting you. Your responsibility is to find the best way to live through that conundrum. Not being able to resolve or control all of the problems that life throws at you does not constitute failure. The failure that leads to those dark places is not being able to deal with that truth and move on.
Now, here’s the other secret to finding your way out – you are not alone. The feeling of being alone in that dark place and having no one to turn to is frightening. But you have never been alone, and you are not alone now. God has been with you all the time, standing right behind you and waiting for you to ask for his help. There is a line in the confessions of faith that we use every week in my church that says, “There is nowhere that you can go that God cannot find you.” No matter how far down you have fallen and how dark the pit seems to you, God will find you there if you but ask.
Asking God for his help does not have to involve long elaborate prayers. I’ve mentioned the line from many sports situations that goes, “A little help here.” That works when earnestly said to God. I also have posted here several times the little prayer that works for me, “Not my will but thy will be done.” That’s works, too. The real secret is asking and then embracing God’s help in your life. Use either one in an earnest appeal to God for help and see if the weight isn’t lifted from your shoulders.
You may ask, “Is it really that simple? I ask God for help and then my problems go away?” The answer is that it is really that simple and then you start dealing with your problems. They don’t go away you just move through them and past them and go on with life.
So, like the graphic above says, decide that you don’t want to be in that dark place anymore and take the first step – ask for God’s help. You will see the light and the way out.
Today’s quote come from a post of quotes that I saw recently on the Internet. I’m not sure what you will think about when you read it, but I immediately thought of pilot Sully Sullenberger being prepared when his plane lost both engines shortly after takeoff.
“Chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur
During interviews following the incident, Sullenberger said that he had been preparing all of his life for just such a chance occurrence and that this mental preparation just kicked in when it happened. I wonder how many other airline pilots spend much time thinking about what they would do if their plane was suddenly disabled? I suspect that quite a few have thought about that scenario since Sully landed his plane in the Hudson River.
I have posted here before about being ready to deal with the unexpected things that can happen in life. A major part of that preparedness is having the ability to not panic, to give yourself time to think, to analyze the situation and to formulate a proper response. That sounds like a lot to do in a split-second situation, but the prepared human mind is capable of amazing things.
We are told that a natural response to a threat is “fight or flight” to lash out in defensive response or to duck or run. Perhaps the better way to phrase the response choices is “react and then think” or “think and then react”. If you can train yourself to have the latter response to chance you will make better decisions and fair better when the unknow happens to you.
Chance happenings don’t always involve unexpected bad things. Sometimes chance puts us in a position for good things to happen and we must be ready to take advantage of those things, too. There are those who believe that good things happen to those who go through life in a positive frame of mind. There is probably something to that, but it may be because those people were already looking for the chance to have good things happen. They actually take some of the chance out of the picture by moving towards the good things.
So, how does one prepare their mind for the randomness of chance? It begins by having confidence in yourself and developing a pattern or system for dealing with problems in life. Some may call it their coping mechanism. For many that coping mechanism is based upon their faith. Faith may also provide a solid foundation for self-confidence. Faith provides a moral foundation for making quick decisions that can guide our reactions to various situations – the right and wrong of that decision making.
Faith may also allow us to make the quick call on whether the situation at hand is even one that we can actually try to handle or whether it is “in God’s hands”. We can waste a lot of time and energy trying to fix or react to something that is beyond our control or our ability to control. The sooner that we come that decision the quicker we can refocus upon the only things that we can control – our reaction to the event.
Maybe before you start out each day (your take-off, so to speak), you can ask God to help you be ready for the chance occurrences of the day, to think before you react and to give you the wisdom and courage to deal with whatever occurs. Maybe just asking Him to be with you during the day will put you in the right frame of mind to deal with chance in your day. Remember what we have been told – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
Chance really cannot stand against those who have prepared their minds through prayer. They can say with confidence, “Bring it on, I’m prepared for you.”
I happened upon today’s quote while searching for something else recently.
Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. – “Dreams”– by Lanston Huges
[From Wikipedia] James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.
It is hard to imagine what it must be like for a bird that cannot fly, because of a broken wing. When flight comes as natural to you as breathing, to have that suddenly taken away must be a frightening and confusing thing. The bird is still alive, but not really “alive” because it cannot fly.
If we cannot dream of a better tomorrow, we become like that bird. Perhaps we lose all hope because we cannot see that better tomorrow in our dreams. People suffering from depression experience that feeling because they can see no way out of the situation that they find themselves in. They sink into despair because they have lost the ability to dream of a better time. They cannot fly on the wings of their imagination.
Most of us don’t sink into despair, but we may occasionally get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that we don’t take time to dream – we lose sight of our hopes for a better day tomorrow. I saved this quote from a cartoon character and it seems to fit –
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”
— Charlie Brown, from “Peanuts,” on pacing
Maybe Charlie Brown could have added something about taking time to dream while you are resting.
Rest is certainly important, so that we don’t burn out physically; however, taking time to dream, to have hopes for tomorrow, is also important so that we don’t burn out mentally.
Taking time to pray each day can provide a great setting in which to take that break from the stresses of your day-to-day life and set aside a moment for yourself to dream of a better tomorrow. Then you can ask God for the perseverance to never lose sight of those dreams and continue to pursue them. Perhaps that prayer will be the only step you take today towards realizing those dreams, but it is a step in the right direction and it keeps the dream alive.
So, don’t allow yourself to become like a broken winged bird. You can still dream. Keep your dreams alive. Keep your hopes alive. Keep your faith alive.
Take some time to pray and dream today. Someday soon you will fly again.
I appreciate the wisdom often found in the comics. The cartoonists often find ways to say things that I might have thought about but not found the words to express. Such is today’s quote.
Calvin: They say the world is a stage. But obviously the play is unrehearsed and everybody is ad-libbing his lines.
Hobbes: Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell if we’re living in a tragedy or a farce.
Calvin: We need more special effects and dance numbers.
— Calvin and Hobbes, from “Calvin & Hobbes,” on the tragicomedy of life
Yes, life is unrehearsed, and we are all ad-libbing as we go along. Most of us aren’t living in either a tragedy or a farce; although, if one pays attention there is much in life that one can find amusing, even farcical.
Life seldom swings to the extremes of tragedy or farce and it can seem a little tame or boring at times. Nature often supplies the special effects these days, usually with tragic results. What we really need are more dance numbers – things that make us happy and inclined to dance.
I have opined here a few times on letting go of the things that trouble us by taking them to God in prayer. I recommend adding to your prayers the simple little line, “not my will but thy will be done.” Why? Because that simple thought frees us from the self-imposed burden of solving every problem or concern that besets us. It allows us to accept what may have already happened and face what is yet to be with a confident sense of God’s presence in our lives. We are not alone. We do not have to try to solve every problem by ourselves. God is with us.
Once you have lifted that burden off your shoulders, you can cue the band and enjoy a dance number. God does not want you to be unhappy. Instead, He wants you to celebrate life and be happy. We read in Ecclesiastes 2:26 – “To the person who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…”
OK, so it doesn’t say anything about dance numbers. You be happy your way and I’ll continue to happily dance away. Life needs more of that.
Many of the cartoons that we read in the newspapers or elsewhere carry more than just entertainment value with them. Cartoonists can be philosophers in their own right and many use their cartoons to deliver great life messages and advice. I recently stumbled upon a site with quotes derived from cartoons and saved a few of them for this blog. One that focused upon attitude from the cartoon “Ziggy” caught my attention –
“Just remember… if things look hopeless, maybe you’re facing the wrong direction!”— Ziggy
How true is that! Hopelessness means that you have turned away from your dreams and ambitions and are staring in the direction of despair. Hopelessness is a sense of abandonment, which means that even God is not there with you. But how can that be? In Matthew 28:20 Jesus said, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” If you cannot see Jesus there with you, maybe you are facing the wrong direction.
So, if Jesus is with us, how can we be hopeless? Perhaps we have turned away from Jesus and looked for solutions to our problems within ourselves. When the problems that we face are too large for us to resolve, what are we to do? Maybe you are facing the wrong direction.
The truth is that things are going to happen in life that we have no control over. What we do have control over is how we react to those things. Do we let the situations of life overcome us or do we find a way to go on with life? Maybe we are facing the wrong direction.
We do not have to understand why things happen nor is it up to us to find solutions for every problem that we face. Sometimes the only “solution” is to accept that something happened that you cannot control and move on. Maybe you are facing the wrong direction.
What are we to do about all these things? We can find the answer in the Bible – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
Is the peace that surpasses all understanding the answer or solution to all of life’s problems? No. But, it is the answer to how we react to those problems. That peace allows us to accept and deal with whatever life throws at us. If you find that you cannot be at peace and deal with life, perhaps you are facing the wrong direction.
Do not stare into the abyss of hopelessness and despair. Turn back to God in prayer and turn your life around. You’ve just been facing the wrong direction.
Two recent quotes from the Jack’s Winning Words blog seemed to fit together this morning –
“The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later…with astounding accuracy.” (Florence Shinn)
“The beginning of compunction is the beginning of a new life.” (George Eliot)
When I read the first quote I thought immediately of the 1961 song by Charlie Drake, “My Boomerang Won’t Comeback.” When looking up who sang the song, in almost every mention of it in the search results, it was labeled as a racist song. I never thought if it that way, but maybe that is one of my boomerangs returning to cause me compunction.
We see this boomerang effect quite often as we watch politicians or other “public figures” squirm and backpedal on TV as they are confronted by their past statements or actions. Some have developed compunction about those events and statements, but many still defend them. I recall the miraculous “conversion” of George Wallace from avid racist during his days as Governor of Alabama to the inclusive, anti-racist candidate for President. He could not duck fast enough to avoid those boomerangs.
I suspect that we all have boomerang moments in our lives when we said something or did something that later returned to us and perhaps some of them, we now have compunction about. We are becoming more and more aware of and perhaps having regrets for things that we might have said or done that contributed to what we now understand is systemic racism or homophobia. Most of it is because we allowed some of the bad “everybody knows” thinking and statements about those topics to seep into our thoughts and control our actions and reactions. We didn’t stop and think about who “everybody” is or to question or challenge the presumptions upon which the statements were based. We just accepted them and went on with life, thereby joining into the problem rather than seeking the truth.
The quote about compunction is the key to dealing with these boomerangs in our life. The fact is that we change over time. That change is usually driven by an increase in our knowledge of things that we may have just accepted without question earlier in our lives – the everybody knows things. We learn the truth behind some oof those assumptions and develop compunction about having been duped into a false conclusion. We regret having said things or done things that now seem unwise at best and hateful or harmful in many cases – we develop compunction.
How about you? Do you look back over your life and see things that you said or did that you are now regretful for having said or done? If you recognize them as such you are off to a good start at correcting them in the future. You can’t take back what you said or did 10-15-20 years ago, but you can recognize that they were wrong and have enough remorse and understanding of what would have been right to avoid a repeat of those mistakes in the future – you can have compunction.
One way to close the loop on the regrets that you might have is to lay them out to God in prayer and ask for His help to change you so that you do not do those things again. This is a form of “getting it off your chest”. You could seek out the person that you might have hurt with your remarks, but that is often impractical. You could stand on a street corner confessing your past misdeeds and statements, but that seems a bit dramatic. Just admitting it to the highest authority (God) out loud or in your thoughts as you pray has a cleansing effect. Then you can say, yes, your boomerangs came back, but you caught them and dealt with them the best way possible. You can accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.
Now get out there and throw boomerangs that you will be proud of when they come back.
A quote that I saved some time back appealed to me this morning – “Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.” ― Samuel Butler
Indeed, the mirror that we may gaze admiringly in only shows us what others see of us – our external, physical appearance. Imagine if there was a magic mirror in which we could “see” our soul and view all of our character flaws, prejudices and mistakes in judgement as blemishes upon that person that you see the normal mirror. Would that be a pretty reflection or an ugly one?
Perhaps there is such a mirror. Our conscience is supposed to be that mirror to our soul. For some looking into their conscience is a delusion or at best a contorted view. For them fact and fantasy become confused, and they “see” what they want to see, rather than what is really there. For others that mirror is a dark and foreboding place in which to peer, a place of self-loathing and despair. What do you see when you examine your conscience in that mirror?
It is said that our consciences were given to us by God so that we could tell the difference between right and wrong. Many call the conscience the voice of God in the back of our mind. If that is true, it is also true that we must listen for that voice, for it is often tiny and soft in the background.
The world we live in is fast and loud, full of shiny and tempting things. Sometimes life comes at us as if we are swept up in a storm. We receive inputs and demands from all directions and would be well-served to remember the advice of Craig D. Lounsbough – “I have both the violent turbulence of the storm and the quiet promises of God in the storm. And what I must work to remember is that something is not necessarily stronger simply because it’s louder.”
That makes it all the more important to take the advice that I wrote about some time ago that I saw on a gift store plaque – Make time for the quiet moments as God whispers and the world is loud. Those are times of quiet prayer…times to listen for the voice of God speaking through your conscience.
Take time each day in prayer to shut out the loudness of the world and look deeply into the mirror of your soul – your conscience. Do you like what you see there? Listen in those moments for the whispers of God and heed his words. Then, when you look into your soul, you can watch those blemishes fade away…your conscience will clear.
Having a clear conscience allows us a view of ourselves in the mirror of our soul without distortions and blemishes. I think you’ll like what you see there then.
Pastor Freed recently used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words – “Be thankful for closed doors, detours and roadblocks. They protect you from paths and places not meant for you.” (Sent by Kathy M)
Kathy’s view of things that might be in your way is one way to look at those things. Many people choose to see them merely as challenges to be overcome. For them, Kathy’s view would need to be changed to read at the end, “not meant for you right now (or yet)”
Both views reach the same conclusion about what just may have occurred – it happened, let it go, move on. In Kathy’s view one just accepts what happened and moves on without worrying about it further. In the other view one accepts it, tries to learn something from it and then formulates a new plan to get to the goal that was just shut out by what happened.
Neither view is necessarily right or wrong. So long as the second view does not turn from persistence into an obsession, there is nothing wrong with trying again in the face of an initial failure.
When you think about it, we pray thanking God for preventing something from happening maybe as often as we pray to Him asking for help to make something happen. In those prayers of thankfulness, we are often thanking him for putting some roadblock in our way to prevent us from a making some horrible mistake.
Whichever view you take, in the end it comes down to accepting, “Thy will be done” when praying to God. If you can get to that mental state, you can remove fear and self-depreciation from your life.
So, stop beating yourself up or living in fear or doubt of your every move. Let God take control of things. For every door that he has closed, He opens another; perhaps to a much better choice for you.
You will never know the answer to the question “What if?”, so stop wasting time on it and start looking for “What’s next”. Trust in God’s plan for you, accept it and enjoy life.
Oh, look; there’s a roadblock ahead. I wonder what I’ll find on the detour that God has planned for me.
A quote I recently saw while searching for something else caught my attention, so I saved it as a possible future blog post topic.
“Conflict cannot exist without your participation.” – Wayne W. Dyer
There are many things in life that one can “get caught up in”, but conflicts are not one of them. One cannot claim to be an innocent bystander if one enters into a conflict with someone else. Judge Judy likes to use the word kerfuffle to describe a conflict that escalates beyond a difference of opinion and into actions from one or both sides. Life is full of mental conflicts, only a few of which turn into kerfuffle’s. Don’t go there.
Road rage incidents have been in the news lately when they have escalated into kerfuffle’s that involved guns. Usually yelling and a few choice gestures suffice in road rage incidents, but occasionally they go well beyond that and sometimes result in crashes or worse. Don’t go there.
Conflicts in marriages are inevitable, but usually are resolved without rage or kerfuffle. When things go beyond just disagreeing, it can result in the marriage turning into cases of domestic violence. It is a sure sign of immaturity and lack of self-control when one of the partners resorted to physical violence to deal with conflicts. I heard a shocking statistic on the news recently that more people (mostly the women) died last year due to domestic violence involving guns than died from all diseases combined, including COVID-19. Don’t go there.
Since it takes two to tango (or tangle as we are discussing here), it is easy to understand how you can avoid conflicts and kerfuffle’s – just don’t go there. That is relatively easy to say; but for most of us, much harder to control. Much of our response to things that happen around or to us is a knee-jerk reaction. The initial reaction may be one of surprise or fear and we draw back; however, anger may quickly replace fear and then we lash out. One may have only a split-second between the initial surprise reaction and the action response of striking back. Don’t go there.
How does one prepare for the unexpected or unwanted, such that we do not allow ourselves to participate in conflicts and kerfuffle’s? I submit that it has to do with being in the right frame of mind and being at peace with yourself and the world around you. If your mindset is to forgive the person who cuts you off in traffic, rather than flip them the bird or try to speed up and get past them again, you will avoid conflict. If you show pity for the person who is so enraged that they push their way past you at the door, rather than push them back, you will avoid conflict. If you refuse to ”rise to the bait” of an insult or a slight from someone that is obviously aimed at provoking a reaction, you will avoid conflict. Don’t go there.
But why should you be the one to give in and turn the other cheek? There is an obvious answer in the Bible about turning the other cheek; however, there are also these passages –
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14 )
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Perhaps then, the way to get into the right frame of mind and avoid conflict and kerfuffle’s is to start each day with a prayer that asks God to stay with you during the day and to intercede in that spit second between action and reaction to keep you at peace. If you take that split-second to ask God for His advice before reacting to that incident, He will say – Don’t go there.