May 19, 2013
If you live long enough you are going to, at one time or another, experience some negative event that has the capacity to shake your foundation and cause you to question your beliefs. You know what I’m talking about, right? There you were living your life, building your dreams, planning your future, then some dastardly scenario played out and stopped you in your tracks. Suddenly you left behind all of your innocency; your child-like believing and questioned whether or not God really existed. After all, how could God have allowed that thing to happen to you? Why didn’t God step in and intervene in your life? And, after some period of suffering you drew a perilous conclusion, namely that God must not exist and if He did exist, He surely must not be as good or as faithful as He reported… And now, well, you are still pretty angry with God for some thing He didn’t do; didn’t prevent; didn’t handle when it needed to be handled.
Sadly, there is a reality in life that most folks are loathe to contemplate. The reality is that there are evil forces at work in the world and those forces are behind every negative thing that ever happened to you or to someone that you love. Now that doesn’t mean that you are evil; had it coming or were punished for being a sinner. What it means is that evil makes no allowances for anyone and if it can get involved to bring about disaster, it will. Have you ever noticed how many people are tragically killed or kill themselves at Christmas or some other treasured family time? Evil seeks to multiply its effects and bring hurt to not just one, but many people at once. Evil has been functioning in the world almost since the world began and in order to be successful relies not on what you do know, but on what you don’t know. Like the great line in the movie, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist!”
So you have to ask yourself, what do you really know about God? I don’t mean what your church says, or grandma says or what your friends say. What do you know for sure? For example, did you know that in order for God to get involved in your personal life that He requires belief on your part? Did you know that God will never overstep anyone’s freedom of will in any situation, ever? Did you know that God is love and light and in Him is no darkness at all? Did you know that God not only saw that “big negative event” coming, but also had a solution for it if you (or whoever was involved) would have believed that He did and acted on it. Believing isn’t some casual thing we throw around when events are going well, yet abandon when we are confronted with a disaster! Believing comes from having a clear understanding of Who God is; what He can and will do; and what His good desires are for our lives, as well as understanding what evil is doing to try and stop those good things from coming to pass. Belief in God is not some casual thing that takes place in the back of our minds and the back of our lives. Belief is an active thing that we carry into every situation. Belief is in the front of our minds, consistently present, here right now to see us through the obstacles and trials of life. No evil force can begin to stand against God’s power, but in order to see God’s powerful solutions we must convince our minds of His goodness and not allow the negatives of the world to talk us out of it.
You see, what really happened to you when “that thing” occurred was that evil plotted and planned and schemed and proceeded to punch the living crap out of you with the intent that you would abandon your beliefs and opt for some other philosophy that promised you well-being and peace and love, yet would be void of any real power when you needed it most. Evil is no joke folks. People, in some cases, spend the entire rest of their lives suffering the pain of that one thing and never recover. Pretty treacherous, wouldn’t you say? Hit someone with a hay-maker they never saw coming, then get them to abandon their beliefs that could serve to protect them from getting hit by evil again.
My friends, don’t let that describe you. Don’t let that negative, painful scenario dictate anymore of the moves you make in your life. Accept the truth that you, like all of the rest of us, got deceived and set up and maybe lacked the believing necessary to receive God’s miraculous solution in the situation. That’s not God’s fault, it’s our fault because what we didn’t know did hurt us, but it doesn’t have to keep hurting us! We need to get to the place where we can say what Job said as he recovered from his own disaster:
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. ~ Job 42:5
You can live out the rest of your days with joyful expectation of deliverance from any dreadful scenario that ever held you back. “God is always the victor over evil, but it is up to you to make His will, your will.” It’s time to draw a new conclusion folks, that God is only good, always and that He is never going to change! That’s something you can bank on for a lifetime; the rest of your lifetime…
Just some good thoughts…
April 2, 2013
Since sleeping is not a conscious state of mind, you can’t really know that you were asleep until you wake up, right? Read that sentence again… (No really, read that sentence again…) Similarly, you can’t really know that you are “sleep-walking” through life unless you finally wake up. Naturally, since you know that you aren’t presently asleep, you assume that you are fully awake. But are you? How can you tell? Sounds insane I know…but hang with me for a little bit and hopefully it will become more clear. Being asleep in life is eerily comparable to being deceived. All of us think we are right in our own eyes and are assured we are smart enough to see through things that aren’t true. Yet, people are deceived for a lifetime and sometimes never become remotely aware of the multitude of stuff they adhered to that simply wasn’t true. And, before a person can escape deception, at some point they have to be willing to observe their own life and recognize the effects that result from their own causes and change those causes. Until that happens, they remain in their deceptions, steadfastly assured they haven’t been deceived. In other words, they have to wake up!
How many times have you heard the story where people have some brush with death or disaster and suddenly wake up to the “real” things that life is all about? Or maybe life’s struggles seem too persistent or the string of “gone wrong” has gone on for too long and that leads to a willingness to see what you haven’t been able to see before. In either case and contrary to public opinion, you don’t have to suffer to learn, that is if you are willing to “see” what you haven’t been able to see before. And, have you ever given any thought as to why it is we cannot seem to see the things that are sitting right in front of us? We cannot see because we are distracted. We live within the confines of our own minds and spend our days rehearsing the past and fearing the future. By adulthood we have a pretty good idea (or so we think) about how life works. We have drawn our conclusions; analyzed ourselves into oblivion and developed a multitude of conventions that we live by. We no longer question our reality and play along in a script we don’t enjoy, unaware that it is our very own script. We play our assigned roles (the victim; the happy go lucky one; the irresponsible one; the successful one; the misunderstood one) as if our parts were doled out to us before we were born; forever destined to star in a movie we wouldn’t pay to see ourselves. Egads! We cannot even begin to see how this is all taking place because we have stopped looking and learning and chosen rather to live by some conclusion we drew back in 1985. We are adults after all and we know stuff!
So again we must “consider our ways” and learn to see what has been sitting all around us for years and years. And in order to see, we have to get outside of our own thoughts and our pre-made assumptions and simply observe what is. The only time we have to work with is the time called, “right now!” Yesterday is long gone and the future never arrives as the future, only as “right now.” We have to learn (again) how to be fully present in the moment (like how children live). We have to become an observer of our own lives. Now lest you think I just went new age mystical on you, let me explain. As an observer of our own lives we don’t jump from predetermined conclusion to conclusion, but instead we take the time to focus on the moment. And as an observer we question. We ask ourselves things like “what is causing me to feel anxious right now?” We ask, “Am I listening to the things people are telling me? Am I even listening at all or have I checked out to some future time?” And even better and more impacting we ask God to show us what we have been missing and to help us see the things we can no longer see! Then, after we make those requests, we observe and listen. We make ourselves willing to see new things. We look for the answers to our questions. We seek assured we will find and we knock knowing that someone always comes to the door and opens it.
After you start attempting to live this way (because let’s face it old habits are hard to break) something marvelously wonderful takes place. You wake up! You begin to recognize that your life is ever the out working of your own thoughts and beliefs. You begin to understand that you are the one that writes the script for your own life and that you are free to make yourself what you will. Hey maybe you were typecast as a comedian! Write a new script. Maybe you always got assigned the victim side role. Write a new script. Maybe you could never quite get to the big things you always saw yourself doing! Write a new story. You see, when you are truly awake to life, you can recognize that all those limitations and reasons and excuses were simply stories you told yourself because you didn’t know you were asleep. The life that God intends for you to live is a life full of excitement, vibrancy, passion, love and fulfillment. Don’t assume you are already living it because you cannot know that you were asleep until you wake up! Wake up to life my friends. Live in the moment. Observe your life. Observe your causes and observe your effects. And do it all right now, in the present, in the only time you have. That is a life worth living…AWAKE!!!
March 15, 2013
I find it disturbing when I read comments from members of various religious groups advising people to allow the Holy Spirit to use them; or ask God to use them to fulfill His purposes in life. Call me crazy, but the prospect of someone or something using me is downright scary! Submitting to God, I get; being willing and humble to learn, I get; asking God to work mightily in me, I get; asking God to teach me, I totally get… but God using me to fulfill His purposes, I don’t get! One of the most awesome and wonderful things I love about God is that He never, ever violates our freedom of will. Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, God is my co-pilot?” Well, God isn’t going to fly your plane, I can assure you. You have to fly your plane with God’s help. God’s part is to keep you from crashing in whatever form that may take while helping you to master the skills involved. We don’t ever turn over our free will to anyone else and God won’t take it over, so you do the math. That, my friends, is a perilous path. It is similar to when people say things like, “God took away my desire to drink or to smoke or to sin, etc.” We should only wish it was that easy. Instead, God works inside of us to understand the things that may have been hurting us and in that understanding we can make the necessary decisions to change the things that we need to change. So, the first lesson here is that we can’t confuse our job with God’s job. Life gets difficult when I’m trying to do His part or if I’m expecting Him to do my part…
I have often wondered why everyone wouldn’t seek God’s help, seeing He is so kind and helpful. And then I think maybe it is because people view a relationship with God in terms of sin. Sort of like, I don’t want to hear about all the things I do wrong; no thanks! Lesson number 2 – a relationship with God has nothing to do with sin. Oh I know you’ve heard all the preachers preaching about sin and hell and punishment etc. But at the end of the day, that’s just religion seeking to control people by making them afraid. God certainly doesn’t seek your worship and love because you are scared to death of Him. And, being all-knowing seems to indicate that maybe He knows all about the humans he formed and made! Ya know? The word “sin” comes from a word that means, “to miss the mark.” Now think about this for second…you either hit the mark or you miss the mark, right? The difference between really, really, really missing the mark and simply missing the mark is non-existent. There aren’t levels of missing the mark because a miss is a miss. But alas, people like to assign levels and back under the thumb go the sheep! The process of identifying that you may have missed the mark isn’t to condemn you or judge you or defeat you, it’s to help you learn to hit the mark so you can frikken win! (haha I said frikken) God wants His people to win; to overcome; to prosper; to get healed; to live in victory! There are certain choices that we make that turn out well and there are some choices that cause us pain. God doesn’t need to beat you up for ignorantly choosing the painful route, you already suffered the pain, right? Instead, like a good Papa, he simply consoles you and promises to make it alright again. If my young child jumps off the roof and breaks his leg, a lecture about the height of roofs is totally unnecessary, aint it? But some guidance on how to have fun without the pain – priceless!
We need God’s help and guidance (and a whole bunch of love) to successfully navigate life. So, lesson number 3 is to seek God’s help! Ask God to show you why you keep getting defeated and then be willing to see the stuff He is showing you. Now, I should add that He isn’t going to teach you a lesson you need by freaking you out! That is not a lesson. He is going to teach you in ways that you can understand and that you can handle, much the same way you would teach your child a lesson appropriate for their age and maturity level. And while I’m thinking about children, if your child asked you to teach them about something or asked you how something worked, how long would you make them wait to learn the lesson? My guess is that you would begin teaching right when they asked you. God, who already loves you, will begin the moment you ask. It’s not that He isn’t listening to your request, but more that we are not paying attention to the lesson; or don’t believe that this lesson has any value; or presume that the lesson at hand has absolutely nothing to do with the request we made. And there as plain as day, right in front of us, is the beginning phases of the deliverance we seek. Not too heavy; not overwhelming, but here a little and there a little until the message is crystal clear.
In the great archery contest of life, God wants you to hit the bulls-eye every time you shoot. He won’t operate the bow for you, nor will he change the direction of your arrows, but if you are willing, He will work in you to get to the prize over and over and over again. He isn’t keeping track of when you missed the mark, no matter how badly you may have missed it, but instead will lovingly reach out to you to take another shot. And when you sincerely ask for His help in the contest, if you pay attention, you will get much more than you ever imagined! Life is good folks…with God’s help!
March 5, 2013
When I think of a family room, I picture a warm inviting place. The couch and love seat have large cushions and beckon you to lounge awhile. There’s a fireplace flickering and sending out its heat. The whole place is filled with family, all relaxed and feeling free to be themselves. Sure there are occasional arguments and differences of opinion, but everyone is able to get back to the common unity and solve their issues because of the deep abiding love that underlies it all. The pictures on the wall are pleasant; some of family; some with uplifting quotes, and some displaying the beauty of nature. Everything about the room urges you to take your shoes off and stay for a bit. When strangers come to the door they remain there at least until they demonstrate that they are worthy of the family room which is reserved for family, good friends and people that we like. Wild animals aren’t allowed nor any influences that take away from the peace; the sanctity of the family room. Although it is a place of beauty, it’s not always tidy because all who dwell there are allowed to let loose and worry about clean-up after the good times are done. It’s a sanctuary that you can come home to after a challenging day and just rest. It’s where the best conversations take place about things that matter and plans for the future are dreamed up. It is a haven where prayers are offered with thankfulness for the beauty which is this life. It is the family room.
Our minds, in many respects, are the family room of our existence. But how many of us have allowed our minds to become a place of unrest; of anxiety; of worry oer’ the future? How many of us are comfortable within ourselves and really feel free to be ourselves in every aspect of life? And how many of us would rather put on the facade of the formal living room where the furniture is untouched and though filled with beautiful things is not designed for every day use, but instead used to impress those who enter our homes? How many of our minds lack a warming fireplace and settle for the cold air of unresolved feelings and unhealed hurts? How much of our lives do we spend occupying ourselves with activities ever anxious to avoid being alone with ourselves and our thoughts? And what adorns the walls of our minds? Do we have images of past mistakes and collages of the things we don’t like about ourselves? Is the furniture hard and stiff from callousness and bitterness gone unchecked? Can we even stand to stay long in the room without medicating ourselves as a form of escape? Certainly given the reality that we only have one mind from which to function with in this life, it would behoove us to pay attention to the condition of that great citadel from which all of life springs forth!
God, while ever honoring the sanctity of free-will, desires that our minds be a peaceful haven from which we negotiate the many challenges of living. He never promised that our living rooms would never get messy, but rather gave us cleansing, light infused words to help us tidy up the place and invite the warmth back in again. However, He gave each of us our “own mind” with the solemn responsibility to safeguard it and keep it free from intruders.
Keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 (Darby Translation)
You see it is our, not God’s, responsibility to protect our hearts and we protect them by deciding who or what has access and who or what does not! I imagine that if you came home from work and found a wild snarling beast in the family room, mission number one would be to get rid of the beast. Yet, how many of us allow wild intruders to remain in our minds and instead of getting rid them, choose rather to work around them and get by using the other available rooms? We may not always choose who shows up in our living room, but we sure as hell can decide who gets to stay! A common misconception of the day is to think that an open mind is one that entertains all visitors. Yet we wouldn’t do that in our homes, would we? We may answer the door, but not everyone gets to come in. Much of the mental unrest that plagues people today comes from allowing things into their minds, that while appearing harmless, carry with them the seeds of unrest. The world tends to be a very negative place and with the advent of modern electronic media, we all get deluged day by day with negativity. But negative thoughts, like a negative house guest, soon affect everyone involved. It’s not naive to avoid all the terrible news, it’s health promoting. Sometimes in our homes things get broken or worn out. Well, the sooner we take the thing to task, the sooner we can get back to enjoying ourselves. Walking by the hole in the wall because you don’t want to deal with it is counterproductive because every time you walk by it you are mentally dealing with anyway. And how often have you dreaded taking on a certain task only to find it was much easier than you thought and that you should have done it six months ago? (smile) To make your mind warm you have to consistently feed it warm thoughts. To brighten up the place you have to open the blinds. And the only way to soften the furniture is to soften your thoughts. Let the thing go. Forgive someone. Replace bitterness with compassion. After all, you know how your mind gets at times, so isn’t it possible that it happens to other people as well?
At the end of the day (ha, there it is), you and I owe it to ourselves to make the most of our short lives and we do so by taking good care of our minds. We should be able to relax and recharge day by day. We should be unafraid of our thoughts and have the courage to take on the intruders that threaten our well-being. We should seek the peace that is our birthright as children of the Most High God. I don’t know about you, but I want my family room to be such a wonderful place that many, many people want to come inside and while they are there I’m going to love them like they have never been loved before! Light up that fireplace, plump the cushions, we are going to have one helluva party!
Just some good thoughts…
March 1, 2013
Not too long ago we came home kind of late following a get together with some close friends. We had partaken of some beverages and it was sort of late. My wife went to bed before me and I waited while fulfilling an attack of the munchies that besieged me. Went I finally sauntered into the bedroom it was pitch dark inside and not wanting to wake my wife up, I fumbled around in the dark. After taking out my contact lenses in the bathroom, I groped for the door that lead into the attached bedroom. As I proceeded the 15 steps to my bed, I blindly discovered several obstacles in my path. Whether it was too many drinks or the darkness or both, the next thing I knew I was heading to the floor at a high rate of speed. Luckily I caught myself with my right thumb (ouchee) and let out a moan. Somehow I had successfully navigated those 15 steps in the past, but on that night, not so lucky!
So I ask, how many of you having been injuring yourselves while stumbling around in the dark? No, I don’t mean navigating from the bathroom to the bedroom with the lights off, I mean navigating in life with the lights off! For a problem to remain a problem, the implication is that you cannot “see” any solution. However, like the ostrich never learned, just because you cannot see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Often in life when confronted with a problem we drive ourselves crazy with analysis searching for the solution. Yet where we go wrong is that we search for that solution in the darkness where the problem seems to emanate from. For example, let’s say you receive a health scare. You go to the doctor for your annual check-up and he begrudgingly tells you of some indicator of a problem coupled with some potential reasons (all of which are scary) why it may be indicated. You head home, afraid, and resolve to do some private research on WebMD. Not being a doctor, your research not only fails to resolve your concerns, but actually introduces more variables that scare you. So in that frightful moment you now have two choices. You can sit and worry and stew and brood for days until your next appointment (darkness) or you can change your thoughts and turn on the lights. I offer this not as a criticism, but as an observation. Most people would choose path A because that is all they have been taught in a world that is engulfed in darkness. A great man once said, “Dwelling on the darkness won’t bring forth the light!” Keeping your mind mired in the negative potentiality of the situation is walking in darkness. And try as you may, you will never, ever, ever see the solution in that darkness.
Imagine you were hiking in the mountains in the middle of the day and came upon a steep cliff. Accepting that no-one wants to fall off a cliff, you would be very cautious, but not necessarily afraid. Now imagine navigating that same territory in the dark. You would you most likely be very afraid and not without cause. The terrain is identical but under the cover of darkness you just couldn’t see clearly what is around you or where you are heading. Life without the light is like cliff walking in the dark. We grope around in the darkness afflicted by this and tortured by that and are never quite able to discern the cause. Well, God wants us to see the cause and He shows it to us by the light.
God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. God’s Word, given to us by God, is also light. In the light of the truth we can see, often for the first time in our lives, the causes for the problems that plague us. Without the light, we stumble and stagger and fall, assigning the cause to life (life’s a B…) and karma (karma’s a B and you don’t want to meet her) and their companions bad luck, misfortune and accidents. Not understanding, we assign meanings which reveal our lack of understanding. The Adversary, the enemy of all that is good, works in darkness. And, he is counting on us humans to rely on our intellect and reasoning skills to attempt to solve issues that are spiritual at the root. And, since they have a spiritual basis, we will never discern the root with our intellect, and thus goes mankind ever downward, always frustrated, living in a world he doesn’t get. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way! When confronted with a challenge, we need the light. (I can see you Carl…maybe you should consider becoming vegan…LOL Geico) We need to step down off that almighty pedestal where we know everything and humble ourselves by at least considering that maybe there is more to learn. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to a teaching of the Bible, or been reading the Bible or even read a Bible verse on a Facebook post that completely illuminated a situation I was facing. And here’s the kicker, the illumination hardly ever came from an area I thought was the issue. In other words, my simple, joyful task is simply to turn the lights back on and not fret myself over which switches to flip. My job is simply to turn on the lights.
So, the next time you are confronted with a problem whose solution isn’t apparent, instead of having too many drinks; taking out your contact lenses and navigating in the darkness, reach over and turn on the light. Stop grappling with the thing in your mind, change your thoughts and turn on the light. Our job as humans isn’t to know the answer to everything but rather defer everything over to the One that does. Nothing is so scary in the clear light of day, is it? If you can develop this simple little habit, you will find not only the solution to EVERYTHING that ever bothered you, but you will discover the Great God of love and light behind every good thing…
Wishing you a life of beautiful, clear sunny days, no matter what is going on outside!
Just some good thoughts…
February 26, 2013
The human mind is truly a fascinating thing, isn’t it? Our brains have all this capacity to process information, classify, categorize and the like. We can store information; retrieve memories and even combine multiple ideas to form new conclusions. Yet with all of this unlimited mental technology at our fingertips, what do we do? We let the thing run on autopilot! You know what I mean! We opt for less thinking and let our minds run off of previously stored information. It’s kind of like finding a good way to drive to work and then driving that way every day. That’s perfectly fine I guess if our first conclusion is enduring, but what happens when there is a need for change? Or, what happens when we are just plain old bored to death with that same route? I think that supplies an apt metaphor for human beings; a class I belong to with great pride. We learn things relatively early on in life (when the time seems ripe for learning) and sort of carry those ideas with us wherever we go. Of course that is fine if those ideas are good or “enduring” but what if they aren’t? What if we are applying a lesson of adolescence to adulthood, or worse a lesson of young adulthood to middle age? What if we have classified so much information that we just don’t need to learn anymore?
My mom used to tell me over and over how smart I was. At some point, I believed her and now sit here typing with the intellect of a genius (hey, it’s my mind!). Point being, that not all lessons previously ingrained need revision. However, many things do need revision. That black hole of negative conclusions we also formed, those babies need not only revision but elimination. Just because you have told yourself for twenty-five years that you have to struggle in life because of (_________fill in the blank) doesn’t make it any more true than the first time you considered it! Just because Sally wouldn’t dance with you at the prom when you were fifteen doesn’t mean that Sally wouldn’t dance with you today; or that you are “unlucky” in love! Okay, I digress… Life has been designed (passive voice intended) to function as one large, never-to-be-exhausted classroom with an infinite variety of opportunities for learning. Those opportunities are literally all around you. The issue isn’t their existence but rather our capacity to see them. Seeing as God is the ultimate source of supreme intelligence, it makes sense to my little old brain that He might be constantly employed in teaching us stuff. Have you ever heard the phrase, “everything happens for a reason?” Well, I hate to be a “Debbie-Downer” but while everything happens for a reason is true, not everything happens for a good reason! But you see, our auto-pilot brain just accepted that expression and led us to believe that everything happens for a good reason! Now we find ourselves in the curious dilemma of trying to find the good in inherently disastrous situations, where no good thing exists. (Auto-pilot, numb brain, illogical at best!) The lesson in a terrible, negative consequence is to never do that “thing” again, not to try to find the good in it. God, who is light, (and in Him is no darkness at all) doesn’t need evil to teach you a lesson anymore than you need to teach your children by doing bad things to them! God, who is also pure love, seeks to teach you (and me) lessons that will help us win in life. He knows your issues; He hears your heartfelt petitions and He has cleverly (understatement) placed things all around you to help you to learn. Your job; my job is to pay attention! But before we have any shot at paying attention, we have to unload that giant weight called “I already know” and seek to understand. We have to humble ourselves and recall our “heart of a child” where we saw the most success. Have you ever been privileged to spend any time with a four-year old? Those little boys and girls are fertile fields of learning. Sure they can be easily led astray with their lack of life experience, but how many of us are being led astray because of (not in spite of) our life experience? How many of us have allowed our minds to idle down and simply stopped questioning things?
Interestingly, there is a huge, inescapable link between learning and happiness. Learning new things makes us happy. Rehearsing old things drives us nuts and sucks the very life out of us! In order to continue growing in life we have to continue learning. Can you even imagine that at age 51 you have learned all of the useful information there is to know? Silly huh? How about 74? Happiness, true happiness comes from the adventure that is this life. And, it is proportionately as adventurous as is your capacity to want to learn. So my advice to you is make the decision to learn again. Don’t allow the “media-age” to define, classify and categorize your life! 20 year olds aren’t yet smart enough to know they can’t do everything they think they can do. We should all be that smart, right?! The truth is that you and I can do just about anything we think we can do, if we are willing to learn something new. We don’t need to attend Harvard necessarily, but instead seek to understand. You can escape a “whole-lotta” trial and error if you get God involved. And, God’s middle name is “Happy” – so maybe we should start there? (LOL not end there after 30 years)
At the end of the day, our happiness depends not so much on what we have, but rather on what we are learning. Life is an exciting adventure! “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”
Just some good thoughts…
February 8, 2013
Have you ever been in a situation where you are being nice or kind and someone takes a shot at you? You know what I mean. You are minding your own business and getting your stuff done with a great attitude and suddenly someone comes along and pees in your Cheerios! You were really having a great day; you were feelin’ it and then, “KAPOW” someone pays back your love with nastiness or anger. In that moment of time; in that instant you have a choice to make. Will you take the high road or will you lower yourself to meet them on the low road? Sure in the moment the low road feels good! Sure you get mad and you can think of a whole lot of stuff to say, but after that moment is over with, where do you go from there? Don’t you feel a little embarrassed; a little angry with yourself? Don’t you really wish you wouldn’t have let them take you there? But alas, there you went and here you are…
I had just such an incident happen to me yesterday. I teach a course on building relationships and was working on preparations to go and teach the course at our program in Northern California. After about four days of preparation, in addition to also having to carry out my responsibilities as the Program Manager here in Utah, it became apparent that I had formerly sent out the wrong materials for the workbooks to the Program Manager (my peer) in California. It was a pretty serious error on my part because she had to print binders with about three hundred pages in each, times twelve binders. Uggghhhh… So after realizing my error I tracked down the cause to the new training disk I was using; which unbeknownst to me, had numerous chapters in the workbook mislabeled. So I reached out to my compadre with a very sincere apology (high road) and offered empathy acknowledging what a burden I was placing on her (high road); offered to help make it right with her (high road) and apologized some more (high road). Well, much to my surprise she responded with some serious nastiness. She informed me in no uncertain terms that she was not going to spend any more time at Staples and did not have time for that crap! I repeated the above process acknowledging and apologizing (high road) which landed me an even nastier response, “I don’t care if there was a problem with the disc, I’m a Program Manager and frankly don’t have time to do this before next Tuesday!” As you can imagine, by now I’m thinking of quite a few “low road” comments like, “I have been preparing this crap for your folks (not my folks) for four days now and oh by the way, I share the same responsibilities you do in addition to what I’m doing!” (Followed by some angry swear words of course!) I chose otherwise and waited for a response. I waited and waited and waited, all the while telling my ego to hush and “no! don’t you type that!” I had a choice to make. I could choose love and take the high road or I could indulge my anger and go down in the bushes for a fight. After some time went by and nothing appeared to be changing, I decided to text her. In my text, I apologized again and offered to help in any way that I could, stating again my understanding of what a pain in the a** this must be for her. Shortly thereafter, she texted me back and said she would make the copies for the training. But, I didn’t stop there. I asked if that meant she still loved me (tongue in cheek) to which she responded, of course! No bruised egos, no hard feelings, no fractured relationship.
So what did I learn? I learned that I just cannot lose when I choose the high road. Love truly never fails! Sure I had to swallow some anger and you might even offer that I allowed her to walk all over me. But, I didn’t feel like someone took advantage of me. Instead I felt like I chose God’s love (for God’s sake) and was subsequently rewarded with loving feelings and great satisfaction. That’s not to say there aren’t times when you have to draw lines or speak up; no, not at all! But, when in doubt, why not choose the high road instead? It’s hard for folks to point fingers at you when you have chosen the high road. In fact, it’s hard to even stay angry with someone who refuses to be angry with you (try it out sometime!). I don’t know about you, but I’d rather end the day having chosen good than to succumb to evil. And, it’s certainly no coincidence that when you set your mind for good, that trouble comes along. Something, somewhere is conspiring for you to make choices that end up only hurting you in the end.
So, instead of being overcome with evil, why not overcome evil with good? (Tadaaaa…Bible verse) Why not choose love? Not because you are a wimp or spineless or afraid, but because it matters far more what God thinks than what people may think. And here’s a promise for you, if you habitually choose the high road, soon you will find yourself living on it and you will be one happy son of a gun! Haha
When in doubt, take the high road…
January 30, 2013
Having recently survived an election season, one thing has become alarmingly clear, our generation has forgotten how to think for themselves. Sure, we are still thinking, but how much are we thinking for ourselves? Lest you get defensive, allow me to explain what I mean. With the advent of the media machine, social networking and 350 cable television channels, we are told what to think for the majority of our waking lives. And, since we cannot seem to detach ourselves from the electronic information flow, we unknowingly succumb to ideas we don’t agree with and beliefs that are not our own. Someone “in authority” says something and we quickly, without hesitation accept it as true. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a good passive television watcher. I just can’t seem to let things go that strike against my beliefs and so I make comments; annoying comments, much to my wife’s dismay (haha God bless her!). Politics is an excellent example of what I mean (I know, I know, it’s just politics…or is it?). The President makes a statement about something such as finding a way to control the gun violence that plagues America. The news media interprets that as a ploy to rid the American people of weapons; Facebook gets on board and before you know it, a million frightened people start stock piling assault rifles; posting insanely slanted slogans about the President taking away our constitutional rights and so on. My point however, isn’t that everything our President says is true necessarily, but rather, “what do you think about what is going on?” …You, yes you personally! Not Fox News, not Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh etc., etc. That, of course doesn’t mean that you cannot totally agree with what someone says, but have you really given the subject any thought? (Maybe you have, right?) You see most of the time, if not all of the time, the media just scares the hell out of you and thus you start making decisions based on fear or mass hysteria. I mean really, some states seriously entertained seceding from the union. (Oh my lanta!)
Maybe that political topic is just too heated for you to hear what I’m saying here, so I will use another example. What is your personal belief system? I mean really, what do you believe? When people ask me what “religion” I am, I hesitate to even answer because the words even used to describe a belief are so emotionally charged. Personally, I loathe religion because it represents the ultimate in “non-thinking” activity! (Yeah loathe is a strong word!) If I say I’m a Christian, off go the minds to images of crackpots burning abortion clinics or picketing funerals; attributing evil to God by “somehow” concluding that God “hates” such and such and thus brought about catastrophe…(????) As if… Do you see what I’m saying? No thought, just assumption and generalization. When I ask people what they believe, they can scarcely even answer the question. Not because they don’t know necessarily, but rather because what they say might not be the right answer… Yet, your right answer would be your honest answer to the question, don’t you think? And let’s not even talk about using logic in this scenario. Religion is fraught with illogic, yet maintained as truth. Again, I don’t know about you, but I can’t get with illogic, especially when it comes to God. Hmm..let’s see, He makes me sick to heal me? He can without warning or reason kill off entire families in terrible accidents because it was their time; or because He called them home? Have you noticed that even when people pray they say things like, “please let me get this job or please don’t let my children get hurt” as if God is working from the other side and we are beseeching Him “NOT” to do something. Illogical wouldn’t you say? Now I get it, most often people don’t understand and thus accept what others say as truth, but wouldn’t you want to understand? Or at minimum wouldn’t you want to say that it just doesn’t make sense, at least? I believe that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (Because that’s what He says about Himself!). I also believe that He is pure love. So call me a zealot, but I can’t get with the idea that He does evil sometimes for some reasons. Yes, that’s what I think! (haha) You may disagree entirely, but you cannot argue with the logic. Most times logic is explained away with catch phrases such as, “you gotta have faith brotha” which is code for I don’t understand either! You can’t believe in things you cannot understand. How could you? You have to have at least some understanding in order to believe anything.
So there, I successfully discussed politics and religion! Hey, maybe that’s why people say you cannot discuss either topic because neither one is generally based on any logic! But lest (yes I used lest again) you miss the point of this blog, we as a generation need to recognize how this old world is seducing our minds over to the land of Nod. We have so much information available at our finger tips, that we tend to think less and parrot more. So I say, why not think for yourself and say what you think? If you don’t agree, say so! Don’t you admire that rare, select breed of people who tell you they disagree and why? (I know I do!) However, I don’t always admire those folks who tell you what they think and then fail to have a “why…” (That’s why they invented the delete option on Facebook…I digress) So, we need to get back to good old-fashioned thinking.
And finally, if you will indulge me, these days we have so much division when it comes to race, or at least that division has been brought to the forefront. Race relations or the lack thereof can also be a product of the non-thinking masses. Here’s a fascinating fun-fact! A black person’s needs, wants and desires are generally the same as a white person’s needs, wants and desires, just as black labs tend to behave like white labs (haha). To conclude that black people are lazy and love getting welfare means you have turned off your thinker somewhere. People are people folks with the only real differentiating quality being skin color and hair styles. Sure we have cultural differences, but to feel like you have to shake someone’s hand a certain way or speak with a high-pitched voice and mention Hennessy a lot is justifiably nutso. Do you, be you and you will be able to relate. Do the stereotype and expect annoyance. And, if you must post that emotionally charged Facebook postcard that you thought was so funny, just be sure it represents what you really think because that’s how it will be taken. I have often said that a down side to Facebook is that it lets you know how people “really” think and sometimes that aint so good! The same logic rightfully applies to “Mexicans” “Polys” and every other group folks are quick to negatively characterize.
The solution? Slow down a bit and give things a little thought. Don’t get swept away in rhetoric or manipulated public opinion. Be a person that considers and be willing to admit when you may have gotten something wrong. Lord knows I’ve lived long enough to admit being wrong more than I’ve been right, but at least I’ve tried to employ a certain level of thought. Have a “why” behind your belief or at least be able to say you are undecided. Democrats aren’t always right; Republicans aren’t always right; Black folks aren’t always right; White folks aren’t always right. Only God is ALWAYS right and He wants us to think! Afterall, we are the only species with that capability!
Let’s wake up to the beauty that is this life and ‘think’ how we can make it that much better!
Just some good thoughts…
January 26, 2013
In our frenetic world today, people have lost sight of the core essence of what it means to be a thinking, human being. We run from this activity to that activity; we have never-ending ”to do” lists; we are so so busy with our requirements, that we rarely have time to sit down and consider what is driving our decisions. We are bombarded with news media, social media; we have computers, iPads, iPods, iPhones, cell phones, droid phones and a host of other devices to keep us connected to everything, everywhere, at all times. Thus we find ourselves left with one large, looming consequence; we don’t have time to think. We have become collectively distracted and in our distraction have lost sight of who is in control of our lives. And by surrendering control we “all like sheep have gone astray.” We have secretly been funneled with the masses of society into well-worn paths that always lead to misery and futility.
There are really only two great motives in life; love or fear. All of humanity is basing their decisions; their plans; their thinking on one of the two… Love comes from God and has nothing harmful in it. Love empowers men and women and gives them back control in their lives. Love puts the energy into a life and like a gently flowing river is refreshed day by day. Fear is just the opposite. Fear comes from the enemy and has nothing good or useful in it (Nothing!). Fear controls people and binds them down like slaves. Fear stops all forward movement and as the lion roars to freeze its prey, fear roars and brings our lives to a standstill. “Fear is sand in the machinery of life.” (Eli Stanley Jones) Fear stops all forward movement. Fear harasses and attacks and controls. Fear is the hidden power behind all the suffering in this world and if allowed to continue without being rigorously and thoroughly purged will lead to ruin and defeat in EVERY situation and in EVERY case. Fear breaks our minds down and in that divided state makes us insane. Fear wrecks marriages; destroys our businesses; invites sickness; welcomes catastrophe; ensures poverty; murders, steals, hurts, harasses, controls, ruins and reduces us down to a mere fraction of the person we once were. In short, fear sucks!
So, how can we overcome this seemingly insurmountable enemy and bring restoration and wholeness to our lives? How can we get back all that has been stolen from us? How can we get off the treadmill and get out of the rate race? How can we regain control of our lives and once again live peacefully and confidently? We can do it by making a decision! Our life isn’t just happening to us; we are happening to it! And in contrast to our former ignorance when we sat there frozen in the bushes waiting for the lion to strike, we can now make the decision to get the hell out of those bushes and get on with our lives. Fear, like every other slippery deception must be dealt with swiftly. We don’t answer fear; entertain fear; dialogue with fear; rationalize with fear; try to understand and analyze fear; or, for God’s sake, make friends with our fear. The moment we take that approach we lose. We don’t proclaim to ourselves over and over, “I’m not afraid! I’m not afraid! I’m not afraid!” Instead we simply move forward with love. Mature love casts out fear. We decide adamantly that we will not think the thoughts of fear. Oh I know, it’s very tempting to try to figure it out. “Maybe if I just run this scenario through my head one thousand times I will be able to figure it out.” So, uhhhh, how’s that working out for you? Getting any closer? Almost got it? NO! Hell no! All you get when you do that is more fear, more fear, more fear… Sure you’re smart; sure you’re logical; sure you can figure stuff out, but when it comes to evil, you aint that smart! You lost before you began. The moment you entertained it (in your wisdom), you lost. And you know why that trick always works on humans? Because the adversary makes an appeal to your ego. He is banking on the fact that you, like all humans will try to figure the dang thing out. But fear has a spiritual basis and your human mind aint gonna figure that one out. So, like every other deception the enemy tries to work us over with, our job is to simply do what God said to do about it and refuse to engage in a discussion otherwise. When Eve paused to consider what the devil asked her to consider, she lost! When you keep running that fear through your mind over and over, you lose! Soon you will become a walking, talking anxiety attack, mentally threadbare and defeated.
God does not want us to live in fear. God wants to deliver us out of fear. How would you feel as a parent if you had to watch your child being controlled and bullied and beaten? Do you like it when your children are afraid? Do they think soundly when they are afraid? Are there really boogeymen? Of course not, but when you are afraid aren’t you doing the same thing? And what do you tell your children? “Ummm don’t be afraid son”…end of story? No! You tell them something to counteract that fear. You give them something to put in their minds to replace it. “Mommy and Daddy protect you son and we won’t let anything get you!” Sure you might point out there is nothing under the bed, but you don’t suggest they sit in the darkness and try to figure it out. You turn on the light before you do the inspection. Well, that’s how you overcome fear. You turn on the light before you do the inspection. What does God say about the thing you are so afraid of? Turn on the lights! Things aren’t so scary when the lights are on. If you hear a potential intruder outside your house, you turn the lights on. Sure the light might not make him go away, but in the light you can figure out what to do next. That’s what love does, it turns on the light so you can figure out what to do next, ultimately leading to God’s solution which is infinitely bigger than any intruder!
So, let’s just get honest with ourselves when we are afraid and seek a solution. Call a thing, a thing! “I can’t leave this job I hate because I need the money!” = Fear. “I can’t tell him what I really think because he will leave me!” = Fear. “I cannot forgive her for what she did!” = Fear. I cannot get past this big negative thing that happened to me!” = Fear. The reality is that you can do all of those things, but fear has you under its control and is feeding you another story. Decide right now that it ends today! You decide because you are worth more than that to God!
Where you have been, I have been also. What you have tried to figure it out, I have tried to figure out also. The anxiety you are feeling, I have felt also. So, trust me when I say there is only one way you can escape that fear. Don’t be so smart and “let” God show you otherwise. You’ll never get to the other side of that fear and experience the sheer joy of deliverance until you are willing to humble yourself and do it God’s way.
Are you afraid? Turn off your electronics, log out, log off and think; take some time to think. Take back the control of your life and for goodness sakes, don’t do it alone… God loves you and so do I! Be not afraid, only believe…