Friday, September 30, 2011

Do You Have a Countdown Clock?

Have you ever made up a bucket list of things you want to do with your life?  If so, is there some kind of countdown clock ticking for each item on the list?  As time passes, it may become more challenging to cross off some things due to physical limitations.

The world has a countdown clock.  Jesus tells us only the Father knows when the final hour will approach.  Consider each day you have as a gift.  There are no guarantees about how many more gifts are available.  Live today as if it's the last one.  When the alarm bell rings, you will not be surprised your time is up.  Only the foolish will overlook the importance of today.  They are not aware their clock is ticking.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Skeletons in the Closet

Every family has them...those skeletons in the closet we pretend aren't really there.  I'm in some hot water now because I wrote about some family skeletons thinking I had secured permission from others.  The truth is my first book would never have been released without my mother's blessing and I thank her for allowing me the opportunity to share our family story.  To the others I've offended, I'm truly sorry.

The walk-in closet in my master bedroom isn't big enough to hold all the skeletons in my family.  Hats off to my dad for admitting he was the black sheep of his family.  Once he bathed in the blood of the Lamb, he became white.  I praise God for never giving up on dad, no matter how far away he drifted or how many skeletons dad stashed away in his home.

The only thing scarier than opening my closet and facing all those skeletons is looking in the mirror and seeing my own skeleton.  My second book is all about the revelation.  My siblings each have their own story they may want to write about some day.  That will be up to them.  I have my hands full with "The Caveman in the Mirror." That skeleton will be out of the closet on March 17, 2013.  If you are a follower of this blog, you are already automatically entered to win a free copy.  Click on the "Join this site" button on the right margin and sign in to become a follower.  Thank you for supporting this blog.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Problem With No Problems

"Show me a person who says he has no problems and I'll show you a person with a real problem." ~ Paddy O'Mulligan (aka, my dad)

The quote above comes from my dad's manuscript, an unpublished work entitled, "Halfway Manor of Bisbee."  My sister discovered it while doing some Spring cleaning and asked me if I'd like to read it.  The novel got misplaced and resurfaced recently.

There's a part of me that's eager to read dad's book and another part that would rather keep it on hold.  My rational side would argue I'm too busy to make it a priority, however, if I really want to do something, I make the time.  This book is my dad's last lesson.  The truth is, when I finish this book, it's over.  No more "dadisms," life-long maxims to be shared with us.  It's the final chapter of our time together this side of Heaven.  By putting off reading his book, I have something to look forward to.

Perhaps I'm a little bit afraid of seeing my own problems in this book.  I was always the one in the family that pretended everything was okay and we didn't have any problems.  Dad had a way of seeing through those lies.  You can never solve a problem if you don't first admit there's a problem.

Dad's wisdom is not meant to be hidden away in a drawer.  I need to read it, share it with my writers critique group, and maybe even publish it.  All of you reading today's story are now officially my accountability partners.  I promise you I will read this book and do something with it.  It will be my last gift to him. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Elevator Talk

Picture yourself entering an elevator with a scruffy-looking character.  You secretly wish at least one more person will get on-board.  The doors close and you are stuck alone with an odd-looking man.  His hair is gray and he smiles as he politely asks, "what floor?"

"12th floor, please," you answer, thinking, please don't tell me that's your floor.

"What a coincidence," the man says as he pushes the button.

"What's that book you're reading?" you ask.

"I wrote it," the stranger responds.  "It's a memoir about my dad's final thirty-five days on earth.  He was away from the family for a long time and came home from Mexico to get healed.  He and his wife, Molly, moved there to get away from the rat race and enjoy a peaceful retirement.  Molly got sick and dad got cancer.  He told us it was just a spot on his lung.  He neglected to tell us the cancer was all over his body. The story is about our family reunion after a long separation."

"What motivated you to write about your dad?"

"I'm the oldest of six.  When mom and dad got divorced and declared bankruptcy, my family fell apart.  I wrote the story because something special happened to all of us when dad came home.  He thought he was going to get better when he returned.  The truth is, he did get better, spiritually speaking.  So did my mother and my siblings.  God nudged me to write about how He healed all of us before calling dad to be with Him.  It was in dad's final thirty-five days that he taught us all how to live.  His lessons are for families that are dysfunctional and have trouble getting along with one another.  It's also about forgiveness."

The elevator stops and the doors open.  The man hands a copy of the book to you before gesturing for you to go first.  You are excited to talk some more, however, the man stays behind.

"I'm really supposed to be on the second floor," the man says with a grin.  "The voice in my head told me to escort you to your floor and to give you a copy of my book.  Have a great day."

Consider these daily stories a collection of elevator talks just for you.  If you're interested in reading "God's Black Sheep Squadron," click here to order a copy on Amazon.  Whatever floor you find yourself on today, I wish you peace and happiness.  Thanks for sharing the elevator with me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Candle in the Wind

How do you keep your candle burning when the storms come?  The winds gust, then the rains follow, making it difficult to keep the candle lit.  It's during life's disturbances that you are in the most danger of losing your light.

I write today's message from the eye of my hurricane.  The spiral bands first struck me years ago, dumping fierce rain upon me, nearly extinguishing my candle.  When the eye wall of the hurricane approached, I relied on supernatural powers to keep the candle burning.  I'm not deceived by the calmness in the air today because I know this window of time will pass quickly and soon the high winds will return.

The Evil One taunts me incessantly.  Many lighthouses are abandoned; sometimes I wonder if my own flicker of light can make a difference in a world being pounded so viciously.  Light is most needed in the world's darkest hours.

Take a look at your candle today.  Don't be ashamed if you lost your light in the storm.  Learn to trust the eternal light furnished by the Holy Spirit.  All you have to do is ask Jesus to re-ignite your candle.  Return to your lighthouse while it's safe to move about in the eye of the storm; share your candle with the lost and the fallen.

Be the candle in the wind that will burn forever.  The world needs your light now more than ever.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Catching Up With Old Friends

One of my high school buddies set up a Facebook page to connect classmates and celebrate our 50th birthdays.  Although the site was started two years ago, many of us are just now discovering our long lost friends and we are sharing how it feels to be entering the sixth decade on the planet.

The sad part about getting back in touch is finding out about those who left this world due to suicide, accidents or terminal disease.  Others have suffered broken marriages, lost children to sickness, or just plain disappeared.  My heart aches for these old friends.

Every one of my classmates has been through at least one storm.  As we get older, more storm clouds are forming on the horizon.  We are dealing with aging parents and our own ailments the closer we get to retirement.  The economy has thrown a curve ball on retirement planning and some are looking for new jobs.

Now, more than ever, it's good to have friends to help each other get through tough times.  The one thing I can offer my long lost friends is my attitude.  Most of my old buddies have no idea the challenges I faced in high school.  Those early storms in my life prepared me for all the adventures I faced when I moved away from Arizona.  The darkness in my life helped me savor the bright moments.  There is a smile on my face at this moment as I think of my friends from the class of '78.

Take a moment today to seek out an old friend from your past.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One for the Gipper

Long before Ronald Reagan became president, he played all sorts of roles as an actor.  He played George "the Gipper" Gipp, an All-American football player for Notre Dame who died at the age of 25.  Just before his death, Gipp told his coach, Knute Rockne, to "win one for the Gipper."  His coach used this request to rally his team to an improbable win against an undefeated Army team.

Today, my tennis team is battling for the Southern California mixed doubles championships.  Our honorary captain, Elliott Fox, is unable to be with us due to doctor's orders.  He is our modern day Gipper.  His sly strategies and foxy moves on the court come from years of playing basketball in his youth.  At 85 years old, he has plenty of life in him and will return to the courts once he defeats his latest opponent, a rare form of cancer.

If anyone can rally this team to a victory, it's our man, Elliott.  His spirit will be with us to carry us to victory.  It's time to win one for the Gipper.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Vintage Mulligan Moment

Kudos to my cousin, Mary, for her commitment to scan old pictures, letters, poems, and other mementos from the Mulligan generations that came before us.  She emailed me the picture displaying my young grandfather sitting with his father.  This is the first time I've ever seen a picture of my great-grandfather on my father's side.

James L. Mulligan sits with son, Victor.
These two men remind me of my brothers.  Thank you, Mary.  I can't wait to view all the pictures you are scanning and sending to this ever-expanding clan of Mulligan descendants.  May your act of kindness inspire other families to explore their roots.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bible Characters Come To Life

My dad was a huge history buff.  He often said history repeats itself.  If you are a student of history, you can prepare yourself for recurring events.

The Bible is loaded with stories about troubled people who turned their lives around after encountering God.  In the Old Testament, God the Father touches the lives of ordinary people and they become extraordinary visionaries.  In the New Testament, it's Jesus who gives new life to the lost.  After His departure, the Holy Spirit appears to bring inspiration to the followers of Jesus.

Many Bibles sit on bookshelves collecting dust because people have trouble finding a connection with these ancient figures.  Odds are you are more similar to the Bible characters than you are different. If you can learn to see yourself in the very people you are reading about, you become part of the story.

When you picture yourself meeting Jesus, everything changes.  It's impossible to encounter Jesus and still be the same person.  I must caution you about bringing Bible characters to life.  Once you become part of the story, you won't be able to put this Book down.  If you are content with who you are today, don't try this exercise.  If you are having relationship troubles, financial woes, or if you are sick, you can see yourself in every chapter of the Bible.

My life changed radically as a result of finding myself in that naked caveman guy Jesus met in Luke 8:26-40.  Here was a crazy man, bound up in chains, living in a remote area.  Demons entered his body and controlled him.  The crazy man found Jesus and everything changed.  Once he met Jesus and became healed, he spent the rest of his life publishing all the good Jesus had done.  When Jesus came back, there was a crowd waiting.  Everyone in the crowd had a story to tell and each was a reflection of all the characters in the Bible.  Which character are you most like?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dot to Dot

Do you remember those coloring books you had when you were a kid?  You had to connect the dots to make the outline before you could color the page.  Some pages were easy and others complicated.  If you didn't follow the numbers, you had no clue what you were doing.

Your life is a dot-to-dot picture.  The Holy Spirit is your guide and He knows the pattern.  If you ask Him, He will either tell you which dot is next or He will send others to assist you.  There will be times in your life when the Holy Spirit will ask you to help someone else connect the dots in their coloring book.  By helping others, you will find clues to help you with your own picture.

It will take you a lifetime to connect all the dots and color your picture.  Be careful not to color outside the lines.  Use some white-out if necessary.

Today's post is dedicated to the Ramona Christian Writers Critique Group.  Each member played a major role in helping me complete my first dot-to-dot puzzle, God's Black Sheep Squadron.  This weekend, everyone in the group except me will be attending the San Diego Writer's Conference.  Dave, Joe and Stacey are celebrating the completion of their first dot-to-dot coloring books.  Check out Stacey's blog and read about her grandmother, the one who believed in Stacey's coloring book long before Stacey discovered how to connect the dots in Saving Savannah.

I regret I won't be at the conference this weekend to share the joy these new writers are experiencing.  I'm committed to another team and it's time to finish a coloring book we started long ago. We are going to win one for the Gipper, someone in my life who connects the dots like no other.  He's in the same league as Stacey's grandmother.  God bless these people who help us with our coloring books.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Help for the Wounded

 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. ~ Ezekiel 37:10

On the battlefield of life, the enemy has wounded some people close to me.  Members of my own family have been hit by shrapnel.  All over the world, there is much despair.  I recall a Bible story about Ezekiel.  God asked him to speak to the dry bones.  Ezekiel was living in exile at the time and his people were without hope of regaining their freedom.

As I look out onto the valley, I too see a bunch of dried up bones.  I see good people who feel trapped.  This great nation has stubbed its toe.  We elected leaders who put themselves first and care more about their own reelection than they care about the people they serve. 46 million Americans are living in poverty.

Some may ask, "where is God?"

God is asking, "where are you?"

I spoke with a friend yesterday and she told me she was ready to crawl back into her cave.  Everywhere I look, I see the same dried up bones Ezekiel saw when he observed God's people.  My body is weary from this long fight.  It would be so easy to retreat to the caves I hid in for so many years and wallow.  Then I hear God's voice in my heart asking, "where are you?"

With all the energy I can scrounge up, I stand tall and face the battlefield.  The voice says, "breathe."

As I blow the breath of the Holy Spirit into my laptop, it travels through the internet to the far ends of the earth and enters the dry bones of the fallen.  One by one, each warrior receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and rises up.  At last, there is help for the wounded.  For those who follow Jesus, there is always hope.  It's time to stand up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tap into Your Quirks

You can spend your whole life trying to follow the world and fit it or you can stop trying to please others and tap into your quirks.  The world needs originality, not a bunch of bland lookalikes.

My dad told me his grade school teachers paddled him for refusing to write with his right hand.  Others around the world are jailed for expressing new ideas that don't conform to those of government leaders.

The gifts you have are like musical instruments.  Why are you trying to learn how to play the piano if the guitar is your thing?  And if your style is country, what's the deal with all that classical sheet music?

I admit that writing a blog every morning when I wake up is a bit quirky.  It also happens to be the musical instrument I was created to play.  My Uncle Tom said, everyone is born with music, but  many never discover what their music might be. There can be no greater tragedy in life than for people to take their music to the grave.

If you are having trouble figuring out how you fit into the orchestra, keep experimenting with all the musical instruments until you find the right one. Once you discover your talent, spend the rest of your life refining it.  No matter what gift you possess, when it is developed properly, it will be music to the world's ears.  I'm happy I finally found my place as I strike the keyboard daily on my own musical instrument, the Macbook Pro.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Not of This World

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. ~ John 15:19

The original Twilight Zone featured an episode of a woman undergoing an operation to make her beautiful.  She was an outcast because of her repulsiveness.  The doctors slowly removed her bandages, hoping for some kind of miracle.  The operation was a complete failure and the woman was doomed.

In the final scene, the woman is fleeing from her hospital room while the "beautiful" people all lower their heads in pity.  Oddly, it's the hospital staff that looked like deformed monsters while the patient resembles Marilyn Monroe.

Fortunately, Jesus sees your inner beauty with His eyes.  The world may scorn you and reject you.  They may mock you for your beliefs or your unwillingness to follow the things of this world.  You are not of this world.  Call on Jesus.  He will come for you at the appointed time.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life is Like a Tennis Match

Today's post is dedicated to my tennis team, a small group of warriors with a large capture a national championship.  Memories of the journey to our destiny will be forever etched in my heart.

My two greatest passions in life are writing and playing tennis.  Even if you've never been on a tennis court, today's message is for you.  Your life is like playing in a tennis match.  The way you prepare yourself determines how far you will go.

Your life started with love, just like tennis.  Two people joined together to bring you into this world.  On the court of life, you learned the value of positioning yourself properly to make winning plays.  Your coaches helped you identify your strengths and weaknesses both in yourself and in your opponents.  You learned to become a team player and help your team-mates develop winning strategies.

At times, you found yourself in slumps and faulted often.  Once in a while, your serve hit the net but still landed in the correct target area.  You got a second chance... a mulligan.   A mulligan is a golf concept but it also applies to tennis.  In tennis, sometimes you have to go outside the court to adapt when you're having trouble with all those drop shots or those lobs that get lost in the sun.

Every opponent and situation you face is different, just like life.  It's the hours of preparation and your ability to master the basics that allow you to adjust when your opponent attacks with a nasty spin serve.  Even the best players telegraph what they are going to do next.  By studying your opponent, you can learn to predict what's coming.

To win the match you only need to do one thing... win the last point.  No matter how far out of the match you think you are, there's hope for a comeback.  In life, as you advance, you will encounter better opponents.  Don't be discouraged if you lose a match.  Learn from the experience and keep playing.  In the end, when the final match point of your life is played, you will get to look back at all the points you played and you will discover that the joy of your life was not measured by your wins and losses, but by the number of times you got back up each time your opponent knocked you down.

Today, you are on center court and the world is watching you.  Give them a performance they will talk about long after the stadium lights are turned off.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spiritual Bed Bugs

Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years.  They are difficult to detect and even harder to eradicate.  They feed unnoticed on humans.  The rise in population is attributed mainly to foreign travel and increased sales of used furniture.

I like to think of sin as a form of "spiritual bed bug."  The spiritual bed bug knows how to hide and preys on the human soul. It usually infects humans while they are away from home.  Hotel rooms are known as common feeding areas.  Spiritual bed bug populations are on the rise and come in many varieties.

If you or any member of your family has visited a place where spiritual bed bugs reside, odds are your home is infected.  Left alone, these spiritual bed bugs are capable of destroying marriages and families.

The best way to protect your home is to avoid any temptation to visit places where spiritual bed bugs live.  Check your teenagers for unusual symptoms as they are in a high risk category and warn them of the dangers of this blood thirsty pest.  There seems to be a high correlation to the presence of spiritual bed bugs and alcohol.  The greater the presence of alcohol, the greater the risk of spiritual bed bug infestation.

There was a time in my life when the spiritual bed bug population was so high I thought the only way to escape was to move away.  The problem is that once you've been infected, it's almost impossible to eliminate this pest.  It will follow you wherever you go, often hiding in your luggage.  It's capable of hiding for years, only to resurface when you think you're safe.

If you suspect spiritual bed bugs are present, take some steps to restore your home and be vigilant, lest they return for a second invasion.  Homes where the entire family attends church services regularly seem to be at lower risk of infestation.  Prayers are like toxins for spiritual bed bugs.  Although these pests feed on human blood, they have no tolerance for the blood of Jesus.  The best way to protect your home is to say, "in the name of Jesus I ask you to depart."  This works every time.

If you are the one who brought the spiritual bed bug into your home, ask forgiveness and change your routine to avoid a recurrence.  Make sure to forgive any member of your family who brought this pest into your home and stick together to keep your home free of spiritual bed bugs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When Your Life Goes Kablooey

Are you one of those people who knew you would have 2.4 children and live in a home with a white picket fence?  You planned everything right down to the last detail and thought you were in total control of your life?  Then, one day you woke up and your life went kablooey.

I can't answer why disaster struck, however, I've learned an important lesson about how to cope with the unexpected chaos that appears out of nowhere.  I hope it brings you some measure of comfort in your time of change.

The most important thing to remember is that you are loved.  You were created for some kind of purpose even though you may have trouble seeing it today.  Ultimately, you are going to live forever.  The situation you are in at this moment is only temporary.  You are permanent.  The love you give to others is a forever thing.

As I reflect on all the times when I heard a kaboom while expecting a trumpet, it's those cruddy days that shaped me into the person I am today.  My best writing and my best work usually appear right after a kablooey moment.  Keep your head up; better days are ahead.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Finishing The Race

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ~ 2 Timothy 4:7

The Bible verse above was read at my father's funeral.  In the marathon of Dad's life, it was the last mile that proved to be the most daunting.  The Gospel writer, Paul, faced similar circumstances when he wrote his final letter to Timothy.

Paul knew his days were numbered.  His captors dug a hole in the ground and lowered him into it.  He had no sanitation or warm clothes.  His guards made fun of him while he was forced to walk around in his own feces.  How can a man who is being tortured write such beautiful letters of encouragement to others?

My father struggled to stand upright and walk his final mile.  The cancer spread to his vital organs causing him much pain.  He focused his eyes on the finish line and bravely moved toward it, albeit a snail's pace.

Most of us have no idea how close we are to our own finish line.  I admit there are days when I really don't feel like being in the race.  There are thoughts popping into my head I would rather avoid writing about.  It's on those days I think of Paul and my dad, both writers who left something behind to inspire others.  I think about you, the one searching for something positive to help you on your journey.  You are the reason I stay in the race.  My job in this world is to help you with your fight, to encourage you to finish the race, to help you cling to your faith, no matter how difficult the journey.

I see you on the ground as I write this final paragraph.  Your knees are bruised and your body dehydrated.  This blog is like a bottle of drinking water sent to you by the Holy Spirit.  Take a drink and take my hand.  Let's cross the finish line together.  I promise you this, no matter how difficult the journey, I will write to you daily and be there for you until the race is over.  Jesus is waiting at the finish line.  Let's follow His trail.  Carpe Diem.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Do You Do When Nobody's Looking?

On the final day of a three day road trip with my business partners, we found ourselves in a depressed area of Las Vegas.  Homeless people lined the streets with makeshift homes pieced together from cardboard boxes.

A stranger approached with bags of groceries he quickly dispersed.  He was focused on the homeless and didn't know I spotted his kind gesture as I zoomed by.  He thought nobody was watching.

Jesus often asked the people He healed to keep quiet.  He wasn't looking for fame or fortune, only to make a difference in the lives of others who were forgotten by society.  He chastised those who were seeking recognition for their good deeds.

What do you do when nobody's looking?  Remember, it's the off-camera moments that define who you are.  No matter what you've done in the past, it's not too late to do something special even if nobody's looking.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Morning After

My son and I have been looking forward to the start of football season ever since our team got knocked out last year before the playoffs even started.  Despite having the number one offense and the number one defense in the NFL, our team came up short too many times.

Every year for the last four years our team managed to dig a deep hole at the beginning of the season and then fight back to have a shot at the Super Bowl.  Everyone expected our team to win it all.  Missing the playoffs last year was devastating.

Just before kickoff, police officers and players unraveled a huge American flag on the field while patriotic music resonated through the stadium.  Images of our military personnel flashed on the TV screen.  Fans held up signs commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11 saying "we will never forget."

Then it happened again... the other team took the opening kickoff and danced through the field all the way to the end zone.  The last player in the way was our kicker and he got carted off the field after injuring his knee.  Fifteen seconds into our season, it looked like it was already over.  I could hear my relatives from the Midwest cheering from two thousand miles away.

Just like our country after the disaster ten years ago, there was a morning after for our beloved San Diego Chargers.  They took a breather at half time and figured out a way to adapt.  In the second half, they scored repeatedly while keeping their opponent scoreless.

Today is the morning after all the ten year anniversary tributes.  This country has demonstrated it can bounce back.  It has shown its true colors.  Ten years from now when I reflect back on yesterday, I will never forget how my football team found themselves or how my country got back on its feet after being knocked down.  I'm proud of my football team for never giving up and I'm proud of all the police officers, firemen, and military who gave their lives on 9/11/01.  This country has turned a tragedy into a national day of remembrance. We've shown the world there is a morning after...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

It's been ten years since the world trade center towers were attacked.  No segment of the population was spared.  Among the dead are men, women, children.  Babies and unborn children were murdered.  Believers, non-believers, agnostics, christians, muslims, jews, hindus, humanists.  People of every race, color and nationality were killed.

Ten years later, most of us are still trying to figure out what our future is all about.  On that day, a young boy opened up his laptop and penned some words that became part of a best seller.  This visionary lost friends that day and he was in shock.  He also knew his own days were numbered.  His siblings were already dead.  This boy had already suffered more than most can even imagine.

Mattie Stepanek knew he would probably never live to see his fourteenth birthday.  When he left this world, he made sure to leave something we could read to help us deal with the pain we all felt on 9/11.

I got the opportunity to interview Mattie's mother earlier this year.  My conversation with her left me with a new feeling of hope.  Click here for the interview and for more about Mattie's message of peace.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Young Singer Touches the Crowd

The YouTube video below features a young singer loaded with talent and passion.  Check it out...

Friday, September 9, 2011

A New You

When Jon Wallace, the president of Azusa Pacific University, addressed the crowd during the orientation process, he mentioned the greatest tragedy that could occur...that the person graduating is the same as the day he or she entered college.

I thought about Jon's message as I drove away from the campus and I wondered what kind of person my daughter will be in four years when she graduates.  It's like planting a seed in fertile soil.  We "expect" the seed to change, to become something new.

How about you?  Do you still feel like an unsprouted seed that's stuck in the ground?  Maybe you're a caterpillar who can't wait to become a butterfly but you don't know how to get there.  How can you become a new "you?"

A good starting point is to discover your own uniqueness. If you've never taken the time to analyze your talents, why not give yourself a test and find out what your strengths are.  You could probably spend a lifetime working on your weaknesses.  If you are still not "sprouting,"  you are probably miserable because you are not developing your strengths.  Check out this book and become a new you.  Beware, do not buy this book used because you will miss out on the special code granting access to the test. Order Strengths Finder 2.0 today.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Attitude Inoculation Theory

A psychologist who teaches at Azusa Pacific University participated in the school's orientation weekend and introduced the parents to the "Attitude Inoculation Theory."  The idea is that the body develops immunity when exposed to weakened counterarguments.  At first, the shot may cause harm to the body and the body begins a counterattack. Eventually, the body is stronger and can handle more potent attacks as a result of the inoculation.

Social psychologist William J. McGuire became interested in this idea when nine US prisoners of war decided to remain in North Korea.  The first step to prevent "persuasion" is to be warned of a future attack.  A shot is given, that is, a weak argument.  When the argument is presented, the person receiving the shot can fight back and develop strong counter-arguments based on preexisting thoughts and beliefs.

Getting a quality education is like getting shots.  Students may get sick in the short run, however, by graduation, they have been exposed to a wide assortment of ideas different from their own.  They graduate with a broader perspective of the world around them because they have been "exposed" to many people who think differently.

Challenge yourself to learn more about the world around you.  Before you get into deep waters, make sure you get your shots.  This will allow you to maintain a healthy attitude.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rebuilding the Mosaic

We are rapidly approaching the tenth anniversary of 9/11/01, a day that changed America forever.  On that day, a young man who lost some firefighter friends penned several poems.  Mattie Stepanek left this world before I got the opportunity to say thank you for his thoughts.  I sought out an interview with Mattie's mother to learn more about her special son.  She gave me an hour of her time and I hung up the phone knowing something in my heart was stirring.  She reminded me of another mother who lived a long time ago, someone who relentlessly pointed people to her Son.

 In Mattie's final book, "Just Peace: A Message of Hope," he wrote...

"Our world is in a crisis.  There is so much anger, so much hatred, so much fighting.  People worry about differences, but our differences are our unique beauties, our strengths, our gifts.  We compare ourselves to others, measuring might and wealth and success and esteem in units that don't really count or add up in the standards of future and eternity.  I fear the rages, and the wages, of war.  And sometimes, I think the world might need fictional characters like Yoda from Star Wars and Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings and Professor Dumbledore from Harry Potter who battle defensively, gently overcoming oppressions and injustice, to come to life and inspire people to think and act and be differently.  Then, rather than letting our fears lead to anger and then hate and then suffering, people would be more inclined to have courage and wisdom and seek peace in nonviolent methods like the heroes in books and movies.  But in reality, we have people and organizations with all the admirable qualities of these fictional role models.  People of all nations, of all ages, of all races and religions and abilities and aspirations can choose to just look around in our very real world and see that we are a mosaic of unique gifts.  But we must heed that the mosaic is breaking. The treasured pieces are scattered.  We need to gather, we need to rebuild the mosaic of life.  We need to be motivated to choose peace."

How will you spend your day on 9/11?  If you wish to be a part of rebuilding the mosaic, take a moment and share Mattie's message of peace with a friend.  To my friend, Jeni Stepanek, I thank you for the insight you have given me regarding your son.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Your Place

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet."  ~ Frederick Buechner

The world has an insatiable appetite for the gifts only you are uniquely qualified to offer.  Before you can feed others, you need to become the master chef.  This may take years of study and preparation.  There are people around you who can help you develop the gifts you were born with.  Seek them out and allow them to mentor you.

I challenge you to become the best version of yourself possible.  Don't settle for mediocrity.  Show up every day and push yourself to learn and experiment.  Crowds are yearning for the seven course meal prepared by you using your own imagination and creativity.  Fill them up and satisfy their cravings.  Today is your day to shine and you are at the right place.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Prayer in Public Places

An online story appeared last week regarding the "Evening of Prayer."  An atheist commented that prayer should be confined to churches.  The gentleman who posted his remarks questioned why public prayer was necessary since it doesn't appear to be working so well in churches.  He also stated this may violate our laws since there is supposed to be a separation of church and state.

I extended an invitation for this man to write a guest post for this blog so he can elaborate on his position.  The motivation for my invitation is to understand this man's point of view.  If you would like to read the story about the Evening of Prayer and the comments that followed, click here.

In my opinion, the first amendment restricts government's ability to control my rights to free speech.  I believe I have the right to pray in public places such as parks.  This right is being challenged by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, specifically in regards to annual prayer proclamations signed by the president encouraging all Americans to pray on a specific day.  Click this link to read more about references to the National Day of Prayer.

The gentleman who commented on the recent story about the Evening of Prayer believes praying should be confined to churches.  He asked why I feel the need to pray outside of church walls.  The best answer I can offer is to say the One I follow did the same thing.  The three years Jesus spent in "public" ministry involved praying and teaching others to pray while He was outside the temple.

When people followed Jesus, it was almost always outside, far away from church buildings.  The picture you see here is from the Sermon on the Mount.  When He taught His followers to pray the Lord's Prayer, it was done in a public place.  When He fed a crowd of 5,000 (not counting the women and children) with only a few loaves of bread and some fish, this was done outdoors.

The Bible is loaded with stories about the work Jesus did in public.  He prayed often in public places.  In my opinion, our government does not have the right to prevent prayer in public places.  What's your opinion?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

God's Plans Unfold

This is an emotional weekend.  Last night, coach Pete hosted an evening of prayer for the youth of our community and the world.  Hamburgers and hot dogs were served and a youth worship band from El Centro led the crowd.

My wife and I are returning home today after dropping off our daughter at college.  There aren't many schools left that actually make prayer part of the curriculum.  I thank God He led my daughter to a private school where God is first in everything they do.  I also thank Him for providing the resources to send our daughter to this special place. 

Public schools are afraid they may offend someone if prayers are allowed.  If believers remain silent on this issue, prayers and crosses will disappear.  There are people of other faiths who pray up to five times a day at specific intervals.  When they come to our public schools, they ask for special allowances so their children can follow the rules they live by.  My belief is that people of all faiths should be allowed to pray.  A couple of moments of silence are good for the soul, even if one is a non-believer.  It doesn't have to be called prayer, just a moment of reflection.  God is always calling us even when we aren't calling Him.

I'm thankful for the leaders in our community who came together in a public park to pray for our youth last night.  It's nice to see God's plans unfolding through these brave people who are willing to stand up for God even when it's not popular.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Prayers for Our Youth Tonight

High School wrestling coach, Pete Zindler, coordinated an evening of prayer for the youth of our community and the world tonight at Ramona Oaks park, from 6-9pm.  Click on the link below for more information.

If you cannot attend, please take a moment and offer a prayer for our children.  Thank you for doing your part.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Goodbye Note to My Daughter

Parenting is like riding a giant roller coaster.  I'm talking about the ones that flip upside down and make your head spin.  Today is the day my daughter exits the ride and departs for new adventures at college.  When she entered my life eighteen years ago, I knew this day would come.  There is a part of me that doesn't want this ride to end.  Today's blog message is dedicated to all the parents who are sending their children off to school...

To my precious Nicole,

When your mother's doctor told her I was crazy to hold on to the idea you would be born on St. Patrick's Day, I partially agreed with him.  Yes, I'm a little bit crazy.  I've always believed miracles can happen if you trust God.

The first time we toured Azusa Pacific University, I got goosebumps as I envisioned you starting your new life at this amazing school.  The banner in the gym in large print summed up everything your mom and I taught you these last eighteen years....God First.

I pray you continue to make wise choices during your time away at college.  May you be surrounded by friends who accept you for who you are.  This will be our final weekend together before we say goodbye to you.

When your mom and I became your parents, we knew we would only have temporary custodial duties.  Now, it's time for us to let go and let God be your permanent guide.  He has big plans for you.  Don't forget to call us weekly.  You represent the next generation and you will be a leader in a world seeking light.   Carry your light with you wherever you go and remember to share it with others.

We are so proud of you and we love you.

God bless you.  Love,

Mom and dad

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Your Last Day

If you learned today was going to be your last day on earth, how would you use it?  Some people get really shaken up by this question.  Others, like my mother's mother, look forward to their last day as if they are getting ready for a vacation.

The way you answer the question is influenced by your views on what happens after death.  My grandma had great relationships with others, contributed to society and believed death was only a doorway to a better place.  She sat up in her hospital bed and told my mother she was ready to go.  Grandma was giddy and she knew when it was her time exit this world.  There was nothing left to accomplish except to say goodbye to her loved ones.  All of us were restless while she glowed like an expectant mother.

The best way to be ready for your final day on this planet is to live each day as if it's your last.  Today is the best day to forgive your enemies and make peace with your neighbors.  It's the best day to connect with nature and savor it.  Don't forget to tell your loved ones how special they are to you.  Do something today that will put a smile on a stranger's face.  Today is a gift.  Live this day to it's fullest.