Category: forgiveness

Steps Taken

I wish I could tell you there was a specific day when I looked at the watch, and knew the exact time when it all changed but I can’t.

I took a step.

I would go look in the mirror to make sure I was still the same. It was a waste of time because even though I see myself every day and never noticed a difference. Only old photo albums will ever tell the truth.

I took another step.

I am carrying a backpack, one that is full of yesterday’s discoveries.   I am making space for tomorrow’s unknowns. Never really worrying about today. Just feeling lost while being in the present not knowing I am here until I realize I was.

I take another step.

The future seems further away than ever
even if I’m closer now than before.
Maybe I should’ve copied someone else’s paper
back when they had us write down our dreams
instead of scribbling down anything
because I was told I could be anything.

I take another step.

Some people are happy.
Some people are sad.
Is the future all a lie?
Covered up with fake smiles and money
because we have to do something
instead of anything.

I take another step

Remember the song on the playground
about love and a baby carriage?
It’s not as funny anymore
some of the ears that heard those words
now see them with their eyes
and feel them every day with their heart.

I take another step.

I told my kids to grow up.  They don’t know what that means.
So, they dressed a certain way and used words they didn’t know the meanings to.
Until the day finally comes, when life steals their childhood for good.

I take another step.

We are told to never compare ourselves to others.
Yet everyone always feels the need to ask questions
just to see if they are winning the race.
It’s all a little game
meant to build up egos and tear down others.
All in the name of being polite.

I take another step.

None of this mattered a short time ago.
Answers were never needed for a list of questions
nor were explanations given to the unseen and unheard.
It is a different world now
and my age is the all access pass
that I can never refund.

I take another step

With all the time that passes,
I move further away from the person I was
and closer to the person I will be.
Always being the person I am
it’s the only way I’ll ever get there is
one foot in front of the other.

Steps taken.

One step at a time.

Blog: Taking the first steps in Talent Management Journey — People ...

We’re Winning This Game

How you doing?

For so many with high anxiety, depression and general fears, this is so hard.

I am no exception.Tell Us Your COVID Concerns and Clinical Tips | Psychiatric Times

There’s no end date. 

We don’t know the outcome.

We’re facing something we’ve never seen before. Businesses small and large are facing challenges they never predicted.

Can I offer a word of encouragement and maybe a charge for when we come out of this?

Some you know I coached basketball for many years.  I loved it. When I quit coaching, it became one of my life regrets, because I always wished I would have coached longer.

It never leaves you. It is in my blood. It will always be a part of me.

I learned so much through coaching.

They say basketball is a game of runs.

Basketball Hoop 2A game can sometimes just flow… everything is working.

Offense. Defense.

Your team instinctively runs the plays you have practiced all week and it all comes together in a wonderful, climatic, easy, exciting portion of the game.

Then… it hits you when are not ready for it. The opponent now gets their run of things. Suddenly your team forgets everything they have been coached. They forget the fundamentals of basketball and as a coach, you wonder why you put the effort in at all.

Mind you… this all takes place in the time span of about 6 or 7 minutes… sometimes even in a shorter period of time.

What do you do as a coach?

You call TIMEOUT!Coaching

You call timeout to stop the momentum.

You call timeout to get control.

You call timeout to take a breath.

You call timeout to regroup.

You know it’s no different than with what we are experiencing now.

The reality is that we have been on a pretty good roll. Life was cruising with a few bumps here and there. Then it happened. Our opponent just hit us with something we never saw coming. It happened so fast. In just a few moments, we got hit with a run. The gym is loud. We’re looking to one another to try to figure it out. The score is changing, and momentum just went to the other team.

Every coach and armchair quarterback at home knows what you have to do and do it fast…

You call TIMEOUT!

You call timeout to stop the momentum.

You call timeout to get control.

You call timeout to take a breath.

You call timeout to regroup.

Across the nation and world, we just reached the huddle.

KBA Basketball Coaches Clipboard Playmaker & Case - Walmart.com ...So, let me grab the clipboard and do some coaching if it’s okay…

My basketball coach friends will know what an “ATO” is. It’s known as the “after-timeout” play.

When you burn a precious timeout, especially to stop a run, a great ATO can make all the difference in the world. In a close game, an ATO could make the difference between a win or a loss.

If I was facing the nation right now, I would use this timeout to draw up an ATO that would be aggressive, strong and take back control of the game. I would look the nation in the eye in the huddle and say that “when we come out of this, WE ARE WINNING THIS GAME!” We’re going to win it because we are going to punch back with everything that got us here. We’re going to work together as a team. We’re going to rely on each other and when we get tired, we’re going to sub in another player with just as much energy.

When we come out of this… we’re winning this game.

To the small business owner facing an unknown future… when we come out of this, we’re winning this game!

To all those that got let go from their job (including me)… when we come out of this, we’re winning this game!

To the students that lost seasons, proms, graduations and so many other things… when we come out of this, we’re winning this game!

To all you on the front lines in healthcare, first responders and in the supply chain… when we come out of this (because of YOUR efforts), we’re winning this game!

To the teachers using technology to reach students and keep them engaged… when we come out of this, we’re winning this game!

To this nation that is reeling from a run from the opponent, when we come out of this…we’re winning this game!

Friends, we are in a timeout. It's a scary time to be an official': Refs call foul after two ...

Be thankful for it. 

It’s tough.

Our team is tired.

We’re depleted.

In some cases, we’re even in some foul trouble.

Take a deep breath…

Because when we come out of this timeout…

WE’RE WINNING THIS GAME!!!

Learning to Say NO

I’m trying. I’m not there yet. I still say yes to almost everything.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I am not ready to become a curmudgeon.

As I have said before, I am not the guy that yells at the neighbor’s kids to get off my lawn. I don’t ever want to be that “guy.”

Image result for learning to say noHowever, seconds after I say yes to certain things I regret saying yes. It’s not that I don’t want to help people or assist when and where I can. It is more of a mindset in my head. I have never been able to really say no to things. My mind screams no and my lips say yes.

Don’t misinterpret what I am saying or meaning… I will always do for my family and what I feel is necessary. I will say yes to almost anything for my family.

In addition,  I am learning that with over 40 years working I have said yes to just about everything at the places I was employed. If it wasn’t illegal or immoral I would do anything I ever was asked.  I now see that the hours that I stayed late without pay and all of the “stuff” I did still finds me unemployed at 58.  I lost my job due to a corporate buyout and I have worked the last year closing down the business I sweat blood for. At no fault of my own… saying yes to everything related to my job still lead to my unemployment.

Image result for learning to say noSometimes I feel like a target, meaning people learn who will say yes and who will say no to things. When you deal with these people and you finally say no… all hell breaks loose. Some people who I finally had to say no to a few things have completely cut me out of their life and they went on to take advantage of others. I am no worse for them doing that.

I’m slowly learning that one of the most liberating parts of getting older is learning how beautiful and empowering it is to say no. The keyword there is learning… because I have to change my mindset to convince my lips to say no.

I haven’t said it much, or at least I don’t think I have.

I think we could use a little more “no” in the world.

And, of course, I understand how much we all love the word “yes” and the kind-hearted people who use it. It’s such a generous word—the ultimate people-pleaser.

In fact, let’s call “yes” the hero of the dictionary—a positive affirmation for what is possible. 

To say yes is to join in, take charge, and find a way to make something happen. To say yes is to move mountains, find cures, and solve problems. Yes, pushes the boundaries and takes us to places we never thought we’d go. 

You want a beautiful next chapter of life? Say yes, every chance you get. Yes, to a better job, yes to more health, improved relationships, and new adventures. Yes, to joy, challenge, laughter, peace, compassion, happiness, and love. 

Saying yes can rock your world. And I’m all for it. 

However, like all good paradoxes, yes can also destroy us or turn us into puppets Image result for Say No to yesand clones.

Yes, can make us do things we don’t want to do or more importantly it can make us do things we shouldn’t do.

Yes, may be the language of the hero, but no is the language of the walk-to-your-own-beat, live your own truth warrior.

If yes is Superman, no is Batman.

IMG_4058
Snapchat created photo… no, I do own a Batman suit. lol.

Batman is a bit darker, but still, a superhero and arguably the second most powerful word in our vocabulary is no.

I have always considered myself more of a Batman as opposed to Superman… lol.

Yes, my friends, it’s time to shake our heads and wag our fingers. It’s time to border up the windows, lock the doors, and learn how to say no. 

If it makes it easier to swallow, think about it as saying say yes to no. 

Learning to say no can lead to and finding a beautiful yes.

Your life will never be the same.

Something to Ponder:

A good no shouldn’t be defiant, unyielding, absolute, or without motivation. That’s not the knee-jerk liberation we seek. A good no should be quiet and confident, a peaceful mantra for living your authentic truth. 

Challenging Ways to Practice Saying No 

Here are a few suggestions for putting a few more life-affirming no’s into your life. I am sure that you can add a few of your own…

  • Say no to putting yourself last. You can’t give away what you don’t have, whether that’s energy, love, humor, or joy. Take care of yourself first, and the world will be better off. 
  • Say no to too much overtime, unreasonable deadlines, and impossible workloads that leave no time for joy and a deeper search for meaning. Schedule your life so that your work serves your inner and outer worlds. Make the same time and commitment for your inner journey that you do for your career or your family. 
  • Say no to excessive television, electronics, news, politics, gossip, food, drink, or anything that brings you imbalance, fatigue, and illness, no matter how harmless, pleasurable, or intoxicating it may be.
  • And while you’re at it, say no to people who try to make you feel guilty for not doing more. 
  • Say no to friends who infringe on your space, covet your time, suck your energy, and give nothing in return (you know who they are). Aim for creativity and compassion as you firmly put this into practice.
  • Say no to work you don’t want to do, places you don’t want to live, and situations that no longer serve your needs. 
  • Say no to blindly adopting the attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets of those around you. Discover new ones that challenge and inspire you to live and create differently.  
  • Say no to always being the knight in shining armor. While it’s great to be there for others, don’t get trapped into thinking it always has to be you who is the shoulder to cry on, throw the surprise party, or house-sit the neighbor’s pet. This can be hard, especially when it comes to family and friends, but if your no comes neutrally and from the place of your truth, it’s the right word. If someone resents you for it, then the favor wasn’t asked with a spirit of gratitude, which validates that it wasn’t in harmony for you to say yes in the first place.

The beauty of no is that it asks us what to leave out. “No,” asks us to recognize what doesn’t work, and in doing so, to discover what does.  

When you think about it… no is yes in disguise—a small shake of the head that becomes the line we draw in the sand—a choice and a statement of what we believe and how we want to live.

Yes or no should not define you… this should:

The truth is that life isn’t about which side you’re on, which candidate you support, Image result for Stop saying yes to everthingwhich views you hold on an issue but life is about how you treat one another.

Are you kind? Do you see others as more important than yourself? Do you yield at the light? Maybe open the door for an elderly person? Say thank you? Do you tip well? Do you help those who are struggling? Encourage those who are down? Life is not a competition to see who wins. If any of us lose we all lose.

My favorite verse is hidden at the end of 1 Corinthians. It’s verse 16:14- “Do everything in love.”

That’s it. Four words.

And they sum up a life lived well.

Don’t live in fear, live boldly, love well and see those around you.

If they don’t finish well then neither do you.

Saying No… just may be our secret weapon for a better life for you and those around you.

 

A Letter to 15-Year-Old Me

First off, I need to tell you that life gets better.

No, really.

A letter to one’s teen self often starts off with that tried and true sentiment, because it fits.

It’s real.

Image may contain: one or more people, child and closeupWriting 4 decades later, I know things improved, but you haven’t discovered that yet. It won’t be better all of the time; there will be both good days and bad days, awful times and great times, and all the shades of experience in between.

You’ll make it through. I’m you, writing to you from more than forty years in the future, so yeah, you survive it all. Not unscathed, scared for sure and possibly not quite intact, but you make it.

Ah. I’m getting ahead of myself.  

The perils of hindsight.

It’s March 26th, 1976.  A Friday. Exactly 43 years, 10 months and 24 days from when I am writing this to you. More specifically… 16,035 days ago.

You’re a sophomore at Oak Harbor High School, but there’s no school today. You skipped it today. A fake fever and a sore throat complaint made by you got you a pass from school today.

As you look through your window at the active Locust street traffic, you see that the first signs of Spring are making their way after a brutal frigid winteImage result for WIOTr.

On the radio, WIOT-FM is giving away a free Michael Stanley Band LP to the first caller who can identify the U.S. city that was home to the first traffic light; you’ll listen until one caller shares, “CLEVELAND!”  as the correct answer.  You’ll wish you knew the right answer so you could win an album but be patient… something called the “internet” will be coming. You’ll have these things called computers that you’ll have all the information you ever needed to know at the reach of your fingertips. As a matter of fact, you’ll carry a phone in your pocket. It too is a computer.  It will be used to take pictures and will have more technology than what they had when they sent man to the moon a few years ago.

But you’re not ready to hear those details because you won’t believe me until you experience it.

Once again… the perils of hindsight.

It’s a scary time all around you. Jimmy Carter, a former peanut farmer andImage result for Ronald Reagan Governor from Georgia, will be your President. Don’t worry… Ronald Reagan will fix it.

You will be jockeyed around when it comes to politics… you won’t believe who will be your President in 2016. I won’t tell you because I want you to be as surprised as everyone else was.  In 2020, the country is divided, and you’ll discover that all you can do is learn how to love those that you disagree with.  As a heads up… learn to not argue about politics or Christianity… all it has done is cause division. Work on being a better person now… maybe you can change the history that I have laid down. Maybe you can change the footprints of the legacy I have left behind. History has a way of making us realize that we can’t change the past… but I hold on to the dream of it happening. That is the purpose of this letter to you (me).

You’re lonely. You’re 15. You’re supposed to feel alone, in spite of the presence of a family thImage result for 15at loves you, and a smattering of friends with whom you share some good times. Is it teen drama? Is it clinical depression? Is it both, or neither? The vantage point of four decades gone has not clarified the answer in my head. Nor could anything I say now at 58 have any real meaning for you at 15. The twisted, uneven path before you remain only yours to tread. Tread carefully.

Don’t worry… I know you’re only 5′ 5″ tall and only weigh about 85 lbs. By next September you’ll be 6′ 2″… but as far as the weight goes… you’ll not weigh much more. At least not for about 30 years… you won’t believe me now but you’ll top the scales at 378 lbs. before you get serious about losing weight.  Funny for you now but trust me it is as real as gets when it comes to losing weight. You’ll lose over 125 lbs. but the next 50 are the hardest.

You have your music, and it helps you.

The Temptations have etched an indelible mark on you and you will never shake the sounds of CKLW out of your DNA. You will always have a soft spot for Soul music and it starts with David Ruffin and The Temptations.

Your favorite group is The Beatles, and that will never really change. Your current affection for Elton John and Fleetwood Mac will abate somewhat over time, but you’ll remain a steadfast fan of The Monkees.  But as a head’s up, keep that to yourself. Your burgeoning interest in Queen will grow stronger. You’ll still like the Bay City Rollers, though they won’t remain at the very top of your pops for long. And once again… keep the Bay City Roller thing to yourself.

But, within the next year or so, you’re going to hear two groups who will join The Beatles as yImage result for ELOour all-time favorites. You know Aerosmith, that group you’ve been reading about in Circus Magazine? Yeah, that’s right–the scary guys with the leather jackets, and the songs about girls and the challenge to Dream On. They frighten you now, but once you finally hear them, you’re gonna start calling them The American Beatles, the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll band of all time. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me, young man! I know you… your hidden love for bubble gum pop music will fade but never leave you. Just wait. You’ll see. And then just over a year from now, you and your friend Bryan Blakely are going to see a band called Electric Light Orchestra, and you’re going to feel like you’ve just seen God.

You’re going tImage result for the monkeeso mature, but you’re not going to mature all that much. I wish you would or could in a better way than your future self. The music you’re listening to right now, all that Beatles and British Invasion stuff, plus the Doobie Brothers and Earth, Wind and Fire and about a billion others, are going to dovetail with the disco you’ve been listening to, and it’s all going to come together as your music in this crucible of 1976. Pretty soon, you’re going to hear a band called The Cars, and you’ll think Heaven formed them just for you. You’ll hear Van Halen and think that your notion of what is and isn’t rock ‘n’ roll is due for redefinition. You’re going to forsake The Bay City Rollers and The Monkees, briefly, but you’ll come back to them almost immediately.

In later years, you’re going to develop an appreciation for some pop sounds that might not be relevant to you just yet. I know you don’t really care about The Who; you will. I know you like The Beach Boys, the Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and someday, you’ll regard The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as the greatest Image result for Pet Soundsalbum of all time. Yeah, even more than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Believe it or not! You’re going to like David Bowie more than you do now. You’re going to like Bob Dylan less. If I recall the timeline, you’re almost ready to start loving The Eagles. You’ll privately sing along with John Denver but publicly dismiss his music. You’re going to discover Styx and The Steve Miller Band; you’re going to discover reggae; you’re going to discover rockabilly. And you’re going to discover that Michael Jackson will become the biggest popstar of all time.  His album “Thriller” will sell more records than any other. Oh, and by the way, you’ll “listen” to Prince, but you won’t “hear” him until years later.

Before this year is done, you’re going to write your first real story about growing up in Oak Harbor. Like you have since you could write…you are going to write many, many, many more after that, over a span of 4 decades.

You’re going to bristle and complain whenever someone calls you a writer. I am going to warn you to reconsider throwing away all of those notebooks that contain all of your thoughts and stories. I know… you are wondering why you would throw them away. I can only say that there are things that you are going to experience, and I can’t play with history. Things will happen that you will not be able to control.  Know this, as time passes these stories will fade and be sure that you know that your best writing was contained in those notebooks.Image result for cute linda ronstadt cub scout

You will not marry Linda Ronstadt, nor will you hook up with Stevie Nicks.

Sorry, man.

But you will have girlfriends. In fact, a girl will get your attention, rather eagerly, in the not-too-distant future, and I don’t intend to spoil that surprise. This young woman with whom you’ll want to spend the rest of your life, and she’ll feel the same way about you. Don’t worry… you are going to go through a lot with this woman… but you’ll marry her in the end!!!

You’re going to keep on making mistakes. You’ll say things you regret; you’ll do things you regret, and I wish I could prevent all of that. But I can’t, and I shouldn’t. Because fixing even one of those bad, bad things could divert you from the path that leads to your greatest joy: like your sons. Your sons are something else, man, and just being their father will earn you more pride and fulfillment than anything else you will ever do in this life. You won’t even mind that they become better than you, because all of their accomplishments make you happier than you can even imagine now.

You will raise two girls as your own and will love them more than you can ever imagine. They will produce grandsons that will fill you with more love than a man is ever supposed to have in this life. You will hold them in your hands when they are babies and tears will fill your eyes as you look down on the beauty that is life. You watch them grow and you’ll realize that being called grandpa is the greatest and highest title you will ever attain. Wait and see.

And you will share a love of music with your son. You won’t like the same kinds of music–let’s not get crazy–but music will fill every fiber of his being, just as it fills yours now.

Keep listening to your music. Keep reading about new sounds. Keep faith in the Image result for Footprints in a small townsounds you already know and cherish. Keep writing. You’re gonna get published.  You’ll write a book about the experiences you are having now. You’re never going to make much money at it, but you are going to find people interested in what you say, and in the way you say it. I know you lack confidence in yourself, but I know you believe in your writing. Others are going to believe in it, too.

Very soon now, you’re going to write a short story that reads like a suicide note. It’s just a story; I know. I know. There are people you know right now–at least two of them–who will choose to end their own lives, and will follow through with that fatal decision. You can’t save them. You will look back and wish you could. You will look back very often and wish you could have done…something. But it is within your power to save yourself. You can do it. I’ve already proven that you can do it. It will not be easy, but you will succeed.

Image result for sgt pepperYou’ve been listening to Sgt. Pepper. You’ve been singing along; it’s getting better all the time. It will get better. You will have triumphs, perhaps modest ones, but you’ll feel that elation, nonetheless. You will also battle depression. I can’t promise you the paradise you crave, because it ain’t coming. But you’re going to have a good life, marred by disappointments, devastated by tragedies, yet still a life worth savoring, a life that will touch the lives of others in, I hope, mostly positive ways.

Please disregard the lecture you’ll receive in 1979 about you not being good enough or smart enough to go to college.  You’ll go.  As a matter of fact, I know you can’t envision this but by 1982 you will have traveled all over Africa and South America. I shouldn’t tell you this but by 1985 you’ll be a teacher and then a principal.  

Oh. And you’re gonna get to see The Pretenders and Tom Petty. You’ll see Bob Seger Image result for PAul McCartneyand James Taylor, and you’ll cry along with a few thousand other men when Paul McCartney takes the stage. The best concert you’ll ever see will be The Beach Boys in 1980. You’re gonna get to see Jackson Browne, Kansas and The Who. You’ll see Ringo Starr and you’ll remember where you were when Elvis dies. There’s a lot of music ahead of you. Life will be better because of it.

Finally, I leave you with this. You are going to realize that your faith and belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven is the most important aspect of your life. You have spent too much time trying to hide it from your friends and those you hang around with. I am here to tell you that you will regret that. Be more open to share your faith. Your relationship with Jesus Christ is critical to who you are and more importantly who you will become.  

This year is crucial. Everything starts for you in 1976. Keep your head held high. You won’t get the reference just yet, but keep your head held high.

Your life will be better because of your faith in Jesus Christ.

Love,

Much Older (Little Wiser) You (David)

PS: That hope to die before you get old? Stupid notion. Discard it now.

A Hard Promise… Life Isn’t Fair

There seems to be a lot of talk these days about what is fair, and what is not.

Some of the 99% seem to believe life has treated them unfairly, and some of the 1% percent feel life hasn’t treated them fairly enough.

My questions are these: What is fair? Is life fair? Should life be fair?

I’ll frame the debate, and you decide…

We clearly have no choice about how we come into this world, we have little choice early in life, but as we grow older choices abound. I have long believed that while we have no Image result for this is faircontrol over the beginning of our life, the overwhelming majority of us have the ability to influence the outcomes we attain in life.

Fair is a state of mind, and most often, an unhealthy state of mind.

In business, in politics, and in life, most of us are beneficiaries of the outcomes we have contributed to.

Our position in life cannot, or at least should not, be blamed on our parents, our teachers, our pastors, our government, or our society – it’s largely based on the choices we make, and the attitudes we adopt.

People have overcome poverty, drug addiction, incarceration, abuse, divorce, mental illness, victimization, and virtually every challenge known to man. Life is full of Image result for I blame my parentsexamples of the uneducated, the mentally and physically challenged, people born into war-torn impoverished backgrounds, who could have complained about life being unfair, but who instead chose a different path – they chose to overcome the odds and to leave the world better than they found it. Regardless of the challenges they faced, they had the character to choose contribution over complaint.

I don’t dispute that challenges exist. I don’t even dispute that many have an uphill battle due to the severity of the challenges they face. What I vehemently dispute is attempting to regulate, adjudicate, or legislate fairness somehow solves the world’s problems.

Mandates don’t create fairness, but people’s desire and determination can work around or overcome most life challenges.

It doesn’t matter whether you are born with a silver spoon, plastic spoon, or no spoon at all.

It’s not the circumstances by which you come into this world, but what you make of them once you arrive that matter.

From a leadership perspective, it’s a leader’s obligation to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not it’s perceived as the fair thing.

Fair blends the norm, and in doing so, it limits, inhibits, stifles, and restricts, all under the guise of balance and equality.

I believe fair only exists as a rationalization or justification.

The following 11 points came from a commencement speech widely attributed to Bill Gates entitled Rules for Life. While many dispute it was proffered by Bill Gates or not, I tend to agree with the hypothesis:

Rule 1: Life is not fair — get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-presImage result for Wait till you get a bossident of a company unless you earn it.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your parents had a different word for burger flipping — they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So, before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Here’s the thing – we all face challenges, and life treats us all unfairly.

We all make regrettable choices, and we all suffer from things thrust upon us due to little Image result for It's not your parents faultif any fault of our own. The greatest adversity life can throw at you simply affords you an opportunity to make changes, improve, and get better.

Fair is not an objective term – it is a matter of perspective filtered by a subjective assessment. My subjective assessment is that fair is an entitlement concept manufactured to appease those who somehow feel slighted.

However, you try to justify the efforts to make it so doesn’t ever change the hard promise that…

Life isn’t fair.

No, life’s not fair.

And in a cruel twist, our wish to see it as fair keeps us from making it so.

 

 

Unconditional Love

I was ordering lunch the other day.

I was so thirsty, and I wanted to order a sweet tea and drink it as fast as I could.

When my twenty-something server asked for my drink order, tongue in cheek, I responded, “For the love of God, I hope you have sweeImage result for glass of sweet teat tea.”

Without missing a beat, she smiled warmly and said, “Well, I’m an atheist, so that really doesn’t matter to me. But we do have sweet tea.”

I was surprised that she just said that so matter-of-fact, without much hesitation. I could not believe that she shared her non-belief so casually. Like a cold, wet washcloth, it kind slapped me in the face.

As I sat there I was clearly aware that I had no answer to her off-the-cuff statement. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t prepared for someone looking me in the eye and without blinking, tell me that they did not believe in God.

Atheists reject the idea that God exists. When they say that there is no God, atheists put the notion of a divine being on a list that includes unicorns and faeries.

By contrast, my faith places God on the existing-being list with stars and alligators and Dachshunds.

Faith is believing. And believing is following a Way. 

Putting that in a slightly different way, following Christ means to walk the way of love.

The way that Jesus embodied, exemplified, and inspired.

The way of love is a way of intentional response. We experience God’s love for us in various ways and respond to that love.

Jesus taught everyone that we are God’s beloved children. He wouldn’t have had to tell us this if it were obvious. The world kicks plenty of us around, tosses us aside, and treats us like something on the bottom of somebody else’s shoe.

Image result for the way of jesusPeople go hungry, go homeless. Get fired and get abused. People languish in jail and know cruelty at the hands of those who should nurture and protect them. We all face challenges and disappointments and wrenching heartaches. Moreover, rich and powerful people seem intent on establishing once and for all that they are the winners and some people are just losers.

The Way of Jesus is a radical alternative.

We are God’s beloved, and so is everyone and everything we encounter.

However bruised and battered and disfigured we may be by the circumstances of life, each step we take is a response, a response to the love we’ve been given as a gift.

Pure, unearned, and unconditional… love.

Being Real in a Fake Society

Can I be honest with you?

The very last thing I want to do right now is write an inspirational post. 

I’m tired and I’m a little lost.

I could lie to you.

I could put on a happy face and borrow from the inspiration I’ve felt at another time. I could pull out a book I love and repeat some version of what someone else has said. I could paint you a rainbow and hide the part of me I don’t want to give voice to. I could suppress what I’m feeling and protect what you think of me.

Or I could be real.

I know… there is a cost of being real in a fake society.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I sure wish I could see the cracks in the people around me – especially those who are out in front, claiming to have the answers we need. Sometimes I think the best thing they could do is admit that taking their own advice isn’t always easy. 

How refreshing it would be to see a break in their relentless smiles for a moment. I think it would help me more to know that they struggle sometimes than to hear their “3 Steps for Getting Over Your Hurdle”.

So here I am – facing my own hurdle. I find myself unemployed for the first time since I was 16. (No… I wasn’t fired, my company sold out the business and closed the plant) I worked a 40-hour a week job at 16. I was hired into H.J. Heinz as a fulltime employee.  That isn’t even legal today.  I went to school my Jr and Sr year working a job from 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM. That is a fact about me.

After 42 years of working a full-time job, and the last 23 years working at a career I loved and being very successful has ended. I know I’ll find a job soon and this all will pass. But I am trying to be honest with myself and be transparent to others.

I don’t have all the answers.    

So, I am sailing in uncharted waters. Some days there isn’t much wind and I am relaxed just sailing on calm waters. Other days it seems as if the wind will never Image result for sailing in rough watersstop and I get these great big gusts and my boat leans with the wind and the water gets rough. Today is one of those days. There is a part of me that is imagining the world is flat and I’ll sail off the edge.

I hide it well. At least I think I do. Most times no one is any wiser to the storm that is raging just below the surface of my smile.

I know the right things to think and say. I know what I’m supposed to do. I understand what’s good for me. I know that God has His hands on all of this. I keep reminding myself of this truth.

But the truth is, right now, the anxiety will just take over and feelings of failure creep in.  

Now, I’m not one to embrace a funk for long. I’ll get past this quickly – probably even by the time I post this. And because I know that, I was really tempted to lie to you and to hide from you. But if I share the best of me with you, if I ask you to rally around my words, if I call you to boldness and authenticity, then it feels right to be bold and authentic in return… even when I don’t want to be.

So, what’s the lesson here? Well… maybe there doesn’t need to be one. 

Maybe it’s enough just to drop the facade with one another, to admit that we don’t always want to practice what we preach.

Life is harder sometimes than we let on. 

It gets especially tough if you’re not sure where all of this will end up.

Sometimes, anxiety and pressure will shut me down.

When it does, I remember that life could be worse. 

And when I need to, I go see my grandsons… and I find my smile again.

It doesn’t get more real than that.

Jesus Has Such A Hold On Me

Each week a few devout readers respond to my blog posts. Some of them want to engage in a genuine way. Others are snarky and dismissive and apparently want nothing more than to announce how unintelligent I am.

(Hint: I don’t need a reminder… I am keenly aware of it)

I very rarely approve and post a comment on this site… I gueImage result for commentsss it just seems to be a bit self-serving. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read feedback… I just don’t post them all the time.

Recently, one comment caught my attention and stayed with me for a while. The person told me that he was enjoying the article until Jesus popped up.

What came to mind for me initially was the image of Jesus leaping out from behind a door to say “boo” or springing out of a jack-in-the-box. It made me chuckle. But eventually, the comment made me think about what it is about this Jesus that has such a hold on me.

Well, it’s something Jesus said. And it might be surprising to some people that these particular words would draw me so powerfully to Jesus that I would devote my life to following him. But, anyway, here it is. Jesus said, “They do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

He didn’t say it like, “What a group of idiots!” Or, “How clueless can you get!” Or, “You can’t fix stupid!” And he certainly didn’t say, “To hell with those people!” On the contrary, he said, “Forgive them.” “Let’s work with this.”

Jesus embodies compassion. He sees us for who we really are and embraces us. Jesus understands that we all act like we know exactly what we’re doing and we’re really desperate to find out how to get the most important things in life right and hoping that nobody figures out what frauds we actually are.

I want to love and sometimes I manage to do just that, but mostly I realize, in retrospect, that I could have done that whole love thing much better had I known what I know now. I feel like I stumble and blunder my way through life’s most important stuff.

It’s not like I go about breaking the Ten Commandments because I haven’t memorized them adequately or have never learned them in the first place. Following the obvious rules like don’t murder your obnoxious relative and don’t steal your neighbor’s riding mower is pretty easy.

No, where I struggle is on the murky judgment calls. How much free rein is enough and how much is too much? When do you walk away and when do you die in a ditch? When should you risk trusting the person who hurt you or lied to you or betrayed you, if ever? How do you embody both justice and grace in this messy, messy world?

To be honest, I need—I yearn for—someone to tell me how to live my life because I haven’t been perfect by a long shot. Well, actually, just telling me won’t be enough. I learn by watching an example and then by committing myself to an endless, imperfect repetition of what I’ve observed.

That is precisely what Jesus gives me: the example of what love looks like. He gives Image result for Father FORGIVE THEMus lots of examples. He heals the sick and feeds the hungry and parties with the down and out. But the most startling one of all was the very last one. He showed us how to love even as Roman soldiers nailed Him to a cross.

He said, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

Sometimes we purposely wreak havoc. And the more challenging truth is that we unwittingly cause damage and leave messes for others to clean up all the time.

Deep down, that’s not what I had in mind. I wanted to leave a better world for those who come after me and to be remembered fondly for having been on this planet.

Jesus gets that about us.

And instead of tossing us aside as a bunch of screwups, He forgives.

He commits to our healing and growth. He says that our future is more important than our past.

We see in Jesus just how God responds to us. And we also see how to live with each other.

Life is about love.

And love is about being there for one another even when it’s going to hurt.

Like I said, Jesus didn’t just tell us about love. He lived it.

And that is precisely why He has such a hold on me.

Life is About Love

My friend got a call one evening from the dementia unit. His father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. His father had dressed, packed his suitcase, and was now waiting in a visitor’s lounge. The staff had tried to coax him back into his room.

Image result for old man with dementiaEach time he insisted, “They’re coming to take me home.”

When he got there, he sat and talked calmly with his dad for a while. Eventually, they walked together back to his room. After his father fell asleep, he unpacked his dad’s few belongings, thanked the staff, and drove home.

The next evening, he got another call. The dementia unit again.

This time, a nurse gave him the news that his father had died.

When he had finished telling me about his father’s death, he said, “I guess deep down he knew. He sensed that he was dying. They were coming to take him home and he wanted to be ready.”

Being ready for death is the key to living a full, rewarding, and joyful life. I don’t mean that we’re most alive when we’re bracing for our imminent demise. Instead, I’m talking about an understanding that comes with recognizing and embracing this life’s final moments.

Our earthly life will come to an end.

Our hearts will someday beat their last.

And we won’t be able to take any of our accumulated treasures with us.

For some people, this leads to the conclusion that you should eat, drink, and be merry while you can.

But Jesus offers a different message.

Life is not about accumulating things and chasing pleasure. It’s not about getting applause, exercising power, or enjoying status.

Life is about love.

And love is about giving your life away.

I am sure, Jesus enjoyed dinner parties and watching sunsets and laughing with friends just as much as the next guy. Actually, probably more than the next guy. That’s because Jesus understood how to appreciate fleeting things as fleeting things instead of staking his life on them.

Everyone we care about, everything that gives us pleasure, is a gift given to us for a season. One day, we will have to let them go. We will return these people and these things to the one who gave them to us in the first place. Ultimately, we all will give our very own lives back to the one who gave it to us.

All of life is practice for giving our lives back to God. That is the only kind of life that transcends death, and it requires that we let go.

Honestly, letting go is not especially easy for most of us. It is probably our hardest spiritual challenge. We’re more likely to consume and to accumulate, to cling and to control.

That’s why, just before his death, Jesus spent time telling his followers that God is writing an ending for all of our stories.

Jesus said that God will make all things right, heal all wounds, dry every tear, and mend every shattered heart. But you see, it’s God’s ending. Not the ending we’ve imagined or insisted upon or ran ourselves ragged trying to achieve.

And so Jesus adds:

If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (Matthew 24:43-44)

In other words, follow the example of love that Jesus set, even if it seems impractical and makes you look crazy. Just give it your best shot and leave the results up to God.

For example:

  • Forgive even before you get an apology.
  • Give the poor the shirt off your back.
  • Feed hungry people. Shelter the homeless.
  • Fight the impulse to punch back.
  • Love the one who hates your guts.
  • Worship. Pray. Study God’s Word.

Being ready is trying to live a Jesus-shaped life. It’s not about worrying that you could die at any moment and face the wrath of your Maker. Neither is it being so pious and morally upright that nobody dares to be vulnerable with you.

Being ready is doing our best to love God and to love our neighbor in the small things of our daily life. Trusting that God will make something good and holy and beautiful through it.

Again… life is about love.

Let’s love like our life depended on it… cause it does.

Something More

Don’t worry, be happy. Said Jesus. Never.

On a weekend tragically shattered by back-to-back massacres in El Paso and Dayton, Jesus has a very different word for us.

Related imageI’m sure that Jesus doesn’t want us to be unhappy. However, I think He wants something more than happiness for us.

The pursuit of happiness—at least as most people understand the word “happiness” today—leads to shallowness, emptiness, and spiritual exhaustion. By contrast, Jesus wants to lead us into a life worth living.

The kind of life that will change this bruised and battered world.

To get there, we’ll have to be brutally honest with ourselves.

Not a word we say matters. Our opinion doesn’t matter.

Our actions speak louder than anRelated imagey word the comes from our mouth.

Let’s face it. The world is a messy place:

  • Racism is on the rise.
  • Suicide rates are climbing.
  • Addiction is an epidemic.

And as the carnage this weekend in El Paso and Dayton illustrate, mass shootings are occurring with horrifying, dizzying frequency.

Sometimes it feels like we can’t make a difference. But listen to what Jesus is telling us. We are the image of God. We are on this planet to convey God’s very own word.

And that word is love.

While we will not live to see the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven—while it may even seem as if we are tumbling in the opposite direction—remember that we are the image of God.

Our lives are not pointless. We are here to live out the very word of God.

Related imageTo the lonely stranger, the hungry child, the fearful immigrant, the disabled adult, the homeless addict, the grieving survivor, we can speak the word of God by our actions.

Even though we will not in that moment change the entire world, we can change that person’s world.

Let’s start there.

We speak the Word of Love with our actions of our hands and our feet, with our bodies and our souls.

Words from our mouth are cheap and temporary.

Speaking the word of love by our actions could change the world.

By honoring, nurturing, and sustaining the lives of others, we make our own lives worth living.

And maybe… just maybe we can be something more.