Sunday, September 30, 2012

Beyond the Rants

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I would like to thank a loyal blog reader for notifying me that yesterday's post did not go live at 8:08 AM, Pacific time.  I follow a stringent writing routine and always have my blog completed in time for release.  There was a technical glitch and the story ended up being saved as a draft rather than posting automatically.  I apologize for not catching the error sooner and I thank the blog reader for holding me accountable.  I was angry at myself for the mistake and then I read another email with the quote you see at the top of today's story.  The timing made me laugh.  God caught me at a moment when I was ranting to myself about my story not being published on schedule.  I was also ranting about some other things going on in my personal life.  I lost my focus about praying.  I wanted to share this with my wife, however, when I turned to her she was praying!  I wasn't thankful in all circumstances.  Today's quote helped me to get beyond the rants.

I'm making a commitment today to do these five things:

  1. Always be joyful.
  2. Never stop praying.
  3. Be thankful in all circumstances.
  4. Stay connected to Jesus.
  5. Get beyond the rants and live my life without making excuses, blaming others or deviating from God's plan for my life.
How about you?  Would you like to join me today and put these five items on your list.  You don't have to tell me or anyone else.  Just quietly commit to these five ideas for the next twenty-four hours. If you find your life is better, repeat this tomorrow for another twenty-four hours.

Thanks for stopping by.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Oktoberfest at the Amana Colonies

The Amana Colonies are located in Eastern Iowa.
My family and I began celebrating Oktoberfest yesterday in a quaint little village with a rich history.  The Amana Colonies attract tourists from far off and visitors get a peek into the past.  We give Iowa's oldest  microbrewery, located here in Amana, a two thumbs up rating.  Small shops offering clocks, chocolates, and household wares dot the winding roads.

The Fall colors offer many Kodak moments.  There is nothing like a stroll in the Amana Colonies with my family during this time of year.  It reminds me of another tourist attraction on the West Coast up in the mountains.  If Julian and the Amana Colonies were related, they would be first cousins.  Both are worth a visit, especially during Oktoberfest.

Friday, September 28, 2012

How to Calm the Calamity

These days, odds are you or someone close to you is facing a storm of epic proportions.  High unemployment, natural disasters and out of control spending by our leaders contribute to the struggles in millions of households.  Tensions are mounting.  The fiscal cliff is near.  Here are some steps to calm the calamity:
  1. Place your challenges into two categories.  The first is labeled things you have control over.  The second list is things you have no control over.  Throw away the second list and stop thinking about it.  You need to focus your time and energy working on the things you have influence over.
  2. Get help.  You are not the only person in the world with a daunting list of challenges.  Seek out individuals who found a way to solve the problems you now face.
  3. Remember, you are going to be around for eternity.  No matter what challenges you face in your life, they all disappear the moment you cross over to the other side.  Consider your troubles as opportunities to grow closer to the One you will spend eternity with.  With every beat of your heart, you are one step closer your final destination.
  4. Your list of challenges does not define you.  You are already defined.  You are a unique creation, formed in the image of the Creator.  Your challenges are in your life to help you discover what you are made of and to help bring out your true talents.  These challenges are meant to help you find the One who created you and grow closer to Him.
  5. You are not evaluated by how many items you check off your list.  All that really matters is that you form a relationship with the One who gave you the list.  Accept Jesus into your heart and you will learn how to calm the calamity in your life.  This is a no-risk, 100% satisfaction guarantee, no matter how steep the cliff, how powerful the enemy or how intense the storm.  
Beware of too much calmness.  Others may think you are aloof or that you are blind to all the problems in the world.  Be willing to share how you are able to maintain peace and serenity even though the world around you may be disintegrating.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Turn the Page

 "The World's a Book and if You Don't Travel You Only Read One Page." ~ St. Augustine

Today's post is dedicated to my daughter who is preparing to study on the other side of the world.  She inherited the travel gene from me.  The main character in the novel I'm penning is also a traveler.  Most of his life he was stuck on one page.  One day he discovered his world was a book filled with rainbows and dreams.  His whole life was dependent upon the very first page where he was comfortable and safe.  Leaving that page behind was no easy task.  It meant saying goodbye to a community that treated him like family.

New chapters are being written, one day at a time.  This blog is only the tip of the iceberg.  The more I travel, the deeper I penetrate the novel of my own life.  The world is waiting for you to read every page.  Savor each sentence.  Breathe in the exclamation points.  Learn what the commas, hyphens and periods mean.  Read between the lines.  Pay attention to the question marks.  Above all else, never stop turning the pages of your life.  Torn and tattered pages are evidence of a life lived to its fullest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How to Cure Spiritual Blindness

Many times in my life I suffered from many ailments that contributed to my own spiritual blindness.  My over-inflated ego, relentless desire to crush my opponents, and my self-righteousness only added to my inability to see Jesus in others.  When God created us in His own image, His creation included every member of the human race -- even our most hated enemies.  The litmus test for spiritual blindness is simple.  Look inside your heart for signs of hatred.  Even if there is only one person on your list who you despise, you have spiritual blindness.  Don't worry; there is a cure:
  1. Remember who created the individuals you hate and know there is a reason why they are on the planet.  You may despise them because they too are spiritually blind and they are still in the process of discerning why they are here.
  2. Recognize how the Evil One has divided our world.  Generations of peoples are taught to hate others just because of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, political viewpoints, or income status.
  3. Pain and suffering can be eye-opening experiences.  There's a reason Jesus came for the poor, the sick and the lost.  They can see Him and believe in Him.  The truth is he came for everybody, however, it's the person with the greatest need who has the best opportunity to see Jesus. 
  4. Stop trusting your own vision.  You are behaving like the drunk who claims he can drive no matter how many drinks he consumes.  Everyone around him can tell he is inebriated except the drunk man.
  5. Learn to love your enemies.  Pick out your most hated enemy and begin praying for him or her.  Do this daily for thirty days.  If that doesn't cure your spiritual blindness, add another thirty days.  Someone I love dearly said this was a hard pill to swallow.  The daily prayer turned into a ritual that went on for decades.  It helps to ask the Holy Spirit for help.
There are some excellent testimonials dating back 2,000 years from individuals who were cured from spiritual blindness.  They did have one advantage seldom seen or recognized in modern times -- Jesus.  Jesus had a mission, to save mankind from spiritual blindness.  When a person was cured, his life changed.  Even though Jesus told these people to keep their cure a secret, they couldn't stop talking about their new spiritual vision.  Jesus knew He had to die so that we may be granted the opportunity to see His Father.  He is already in front of you.  When you see Him in the eyes of your enemy, you have found the cure for your spiritual blindness.

One blog reader commented to me she is too busy to read my blog every day.  I know the feeling.  There are only so many hours in a day.  For those who wish to read more about spiritual blindness, please refer to the number one best seller of all times.  The first half of the Bible points to the cure and the second half reveals the cure.  This is also where you find all the testimonials.  The stories are told from four different points of view to make sure the reader sees the remedy for spiritual blindness.  Once you discover the cure, please share it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lost and Found

Today's post is dedicated to the oldest member of my generation of Mulligan cousins.  Her desire to search for lost treasures from generations past is about to come to a conclusion.  She is compiling a treasure chest of memories spanning over one hundred years to be shared with relatives all over the country.  The recent discovery of a lost branch in our family tree is like icing on the cake.  Thanks to my cousin's efforts to recover lost photos, poems and stories, my extended family, including members of the lost branch, will be able to connect with our ancestors.

In the big picture of my life, I believe Jesus is revealing Himself to me more and more as each day passes.  I will never forget the day I asked the Holy Spirit to show me who I am in God's eyes.  It's the day I looked in a mirror and saw a stranger.  My search to find that person continues daily.  Some may say I'm writing a book.  I say it was written before I was born and I'm now finally discovering the chapters just as my cousin is uncovering lost family gems. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Joy of Reconnecting

There's a Bible story that goes something like this...

A young man wanted out of the family.  He asked his dad for his share of the inheritance and disappeared into the sunset.  The brother who stayed close to his father kept track of all the parties, the frivolous spending and the bad choices his lost sibling made while away from home.  The dad missed his son and every day stared out into the horizon.

One day, the lost son came home.  This caused some tension within the family.  The stay-at-home son reported all the illicit activities that occurred while his brother was away.  He tried to rain on the welcome party because he was jealous of all the attention his lost brother was getting.

I know what it's like to look out the window and wonder how a lost family member is doing.  Recently, I discovered the joy of reconnecting with family members I didn't even know I had.  Jesus told the story to teach a lesson about the lost.  We can go out on our own any time and do things our way.  Without strong role models in our lives, we will mess things up, just like the young son who wasted all the resources his dad gave him.

Don't let sibling rivalry, poor choices or any other obstacles separate you from your family.  If you are a parent, sometimes you have to let go and allow your children to go out into the world without you.  I know the pain of separation can be excruciating.  Just keep loving them and never stop praying.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How to Survive a Spiritual Attack

The greater your commitment to serving God, the more attention you will receive from the dark side.  The Evil One knows your weaknesses and He uses them against you to meddle with your life.  My life would be easier if I chose to avoid this subject.  I didn't sign up for easy; I signed up to follow Jesus.  There is one member of my family who survived an attack from the dark side so disgusting it almost ended in the loss of his life.  Living in the first quarter of his life, he is not fully prepared to battle an opponent who has been decimating Christians for generations.  This young warrior is about to show the world how to stand up to evil.  I applaud his efforts to share his own story so that others may avoid pain and suffering.  Look for my son's guest post in the near future.  Meanwhile, here are some ways to stand firm against evil:
  1. Do not be afraid.  The Evil One uses fear to force you to retreat.  Your own fear will prevent you from making choices you need to make to move forward.
  2. Understand you are never alone.  God is with you at all times, especially when you need Him the most.  I have seen this repeatedly in my own life.
  3. The Evil One must retreat when you invoke the name of Jesus.  Jesus will not let the Evil One defeat you.
  4. Learn how to make winning plays.  You are designed for one reason -- to serve God.  Nothing pleases Him more than delighting in your own life.  He will send you everything you need to make winning plays on the field of life.  Study the "Playbook" to learn how to do what God desires for you.  The "Playbook" describes exactly what happens to the enemy in the end times.  Remember at all times that your side is guaranteed a victory.
  5. Recruit others to play on God's team.  Everyone is invited.  There are no restrictions.  The Evil One does His best to trick people into believing they are ineligible.  This is a big lie.  The only one perfect on our team is Jesus.  Don't worry about your flaws or your past.  Don't judge anyone.  Just invite them to join God's team.
My favorite weapon against evil is prayer.  The greater the attack, the more I pray.  I recommend it as a daily habit.  Try it today.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What Do Dreams Mean?

Last night, I had a strange dream about my dad.  We were preparing for some kind of performance and he gave me a checklist of things to do before the show could go on.  He went to sleep hours before the performance and I felt unsure about what to do.  He never woke up.

I'm no dream expert.  In my opinion, I think dreams are activities the brain performs to help us solve problems in our waking moments.  Last night's dream patterns my own life.  My dad did his best to prepare me for life as an adult.  When he passed away, it was time to carry on without him as my mentor.  I think my brain found a clever way to visit my dad in my sleep and get a little inspiration.  I find myself eager to finish my life's check list.  The show must go on.

What do you learn from your dreams?  Do they teach lessons?  I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Friday, September 21, 2012

How to Restore A Broken Relationship

Receiving an email from a relative on an unknown Mulligan family branch really made my day.  She shared stories about past relatives and enlightened me about why there was break in our family tree.  I believe old wounds can heal and broken relationships can be restored.  Today's post is dedicated to my Mulligan cousin who searched for her roots and found me.  Here are some ideas to help restore a broken relationship:

  1. Look in the mirror.  It's easy to blame the other party for a break-down.  Looking in the mirror allows you to see things from the other person's point-of-view.  
  2. Once you discover what you are doing to make the situation difficult, go to the other party and ask forgiveness.  
  3. Promise to change your ways.  Lip service is not enough.  Take action.  This may require changing bad habits that annoy others.  Your commitment to do this will go a long way improving your relationships.
  4. Admit you are wrong or at least part of the problem.  When politicians do this, their popularity increases.  Yours can, too.
  5. Be willing to forgive.  Once you do, let go and never bring up the issue again.  
It helps to let the other person know how important they are to you.  Relationships take effort.  Broken relationships need even more attention.  The best time to fix something that's broken is today.  Put this on your to do list and restore that broken relationship right now.  If there are multiple broken relationships, make a list and get on it before the day ends.

I'm sending today's story to my newly discovered cousin who began searching for her roots in her childhood.  Neither of us had anything to do with the split that occurred generations ago, however, my cousin took action and sought out to reunite with our amazing family.  At last, our family tree is being restored to its fullness.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why I Like Being a Dad

Fatherhood is more than a job for me -- it's a blessing.  I thank my Creator for giving me the opportunity to be their temporary custodian.  Perhaps my greatest challenge as a dad is to stay off the field when they are executing their own plays.  When they were younger, I coached each of their soccer teams and it was a thrill to be with them.  They are older now and the youngest will be celebrating his 18th birthday next summer.   I will never forget the day he came home beaming after being asked to give his high school football team a pep talk.  All three of our children give my wife and me pep talks when we are facing our own challenges in life.  They are filled with wisdom beyond their years.

Don't be surprised if you tune in to this blog in the near future and you see a guest blog from one of our children.  Each discovered their talent for writing at an early age, like many generations of writers in our family tree.  I will be cheering from the sidelines when one of my children publishes a guest post guaranteed to touch your heart.  My greatest reward is observing my children's transition from kicking soccer balls in the early years to helping others score at critical life-changing moments. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How To Deal With Negative People

We all know about the 1% of the population that chooses to be miserable.  When you tell them how nice the weather is outside, they respond with, "there's a big storm coming."  They absolutely refuse to be happy and some make it their life's mission to drag you down to their level of negativity.  In fact, they resent you for being so positive.  Do your best to avoid these people.  If you happen to work with them or be related to them, here are some helpful ideas:

  1. Do your best to find out why these people are so negative.  If you discover something from their past, like abuse or bullying issues, at least you can have empathy for their ways.  There is always a reason why people have self-esteem issues which show up as negativity. 
  2. Recognize that negative people can't change overnight.  It can take a lifetime to break bad habits.
  3. Be assertive dealing with these people.  If they are in positions of authority, it's wise to document everything they say to protect yourself in case they attempt to sabotage your efforts to make a difference in the workplace.
  4. Work "around" them.  Find positive solutions to problems without involving them.  They can stay negative without affecting your performance.
  5. Keep your conversations short.  You don't need to bring up the weather or anything else they may attack.
A wise man once told me, "always affect your environment, never let it affect you."  The more negative others may be, the harder this is to accomplish.  Do not let anyone else steal your happiness.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Adventure of a Lifetime

The safest place for a ship is in the harbor.  Your ship is not meant to remain docked.  You are designed to leave the harbor and travel the seas.  Since my departure from the California coast early this year, I keep my sails at full mast and I journey to new places and new people every day.  It's the adventure of a lifetime.  Here's why you should consider leaving the dock:

  1. The big fish are in the deep water.  They are waiting for you to discover them.
  2. The world is filled with amazing people.  Meeting them will add joy to your life.
  3. Wisdom comes from navigating in rough waters.
  4. You will have no regrets at the end your journey if you sail as far as you are capable.  
  5. Don't let limited resources prevent you from embarking on your journey.  The winds will carry you and your Creator will provide for all your needs if you trust Him.
Perhaps my greatest joy in life is knowing my own children desire to leave the dock and sail on their own adventure without being afraid.  They will experience new lands I may not see in my lifetime.  I never told them to sail, I just sail and allow my life to be the best example of how to live the adventure of a lifetime.  Are you ready to leave the dock?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Other Side of the Family Tree

Every family tree has unknown branches.  Some call them "mistakes."  Others call them "surprises."  I call them "missed opportunities."  Regardless of how the other side of the family tree was cut off, there are innocent family members who desire to learn about their roots.  I would like to personally thank the brave cousin from the other side of the family who found me and reached out to me here on this blog.  Her name will remain confidential, however, her story touches my heart.

During my ninety minute phone conversation with my long lost distant cousin last night, I became aware of a fight that happened generations ago.  As a result, there was a split and family members disavowed their connections.  After many years, a reconciliation was attempted.  Sadly, while the family members were driving in an RV to meet and mend fences, the RV caught fire resulting in death.  This branch of my family remained hidden for generations until yesterday when I spoke with a relative seeking her connection to the Mulligan family.  What a joy to connect with the other side of the family tree.

I will keep our conversation confidential just as I keep my own family and extended family out of public view unless permission is given.  Today's story is about reconciliation.  Don't let a past wound keep you injured.  Unlock the door of missed opportunities and greet all the surprises waiting to meet you.  Welcome them with open arms.  We all share a common heritage and each of us is created in the Maker's image.  No matter what branch of the tree we come from, what color our skin is, or what label of denomination we wear, we all belong to the Father.  We are His children.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~Deuteronomy 31:6

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Discovering How We Are Connected

My family tree has many branches.   Some members were unknown until recently.  I'm joyful to be connecting with these distant relatives.  My search for these connections began in earnest about a year ago.  Distant cousins have also been searching for their relatives.  What a joy it is to learn about my roots.

I will not be able to share details here for confidentiality reasons.  I just wanted to thank my relatives for contacting me and I look forward to getting to know you.  What a joy it is to find lost pieces of the puzzle.  The treasure hunt continues. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How to Deal With Penalties in Life

People often joke about my last name, Mulligan, because it's used in golf to describe a shot so bad that a "do over" is requested.  How often in your life have you done something you wished you could do over again?  It could be as simple as being penalized for failing to change your oil every 3,000 miles and getting hit with a huge auto repair bill or as complicated as a penalty for a helmet-to-helmet collision with an opponent.

In football, depending on the size of the foul, the team loses yards.  In life, the size of the infraction also determines how many yards are lost.  There are no mulligans, only consequences.  The best way to handle penalties is to avoid them in the first place.  Here are some thoughts about how to handle penalties in life:

  1. Holding.  This has to do with holding on to material things or people who don't want you to cling to them.  This is a costly penalty.  Learn to let go.
  2. Interference.  Allow others to live their lives without any meddling from you.  Parents are guilty of this because they want what's best for their children.  This penalty is related to holding because it prevents others from becoming the people they were created to be.  Your children are not meant to live your dreams, they have their own.  
  3. Delay of game.  The clock on your life is running.  Stop wasting time in the huddle and make plays.  The "no huddle" offense works well when you want more action and more results.
  4. Unsportsmanlike conduct.  You don't need to earn a reputation for excessive celebration every time you make a big play.  Instead of basking in the spotlight, take a moment to thank your Creator for giving you the gifts that allowed you to get in the end zone.
  5. Illegal contact.  Respect the boundaries of your marriage.  Avoid situations that tempt you.  Your team is counting on you to move forward.
Jesus is your referee.  Don't fight with Him.  The next time you face a penalty, ask Him to forgive you.  Every penalty is forgivable.  All you have to do is ask.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm curious to hear about a few of your favorite things in the comments section below or in a private email.  Here are a few of my favorite things:

  1. The beach any day of the year.
  2. Fall colors.
  3. Rainbows.
  4. Cousins.
  5. Faith.
  6. Optimistic people.
  7. Hiking.
  8. Challenging goals.
  9. Friends.
  10. My family.
Don't forget to share a few of your favorite things.  Have a great day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Your Dream Life

There are many excuses for failing to live a dream life.  Many people don't even have a picture in their minds about what a dream life really is.  In my teenage years, I considered my life more as a nightmare.  I blamed my circumstances and other people for the roadblocks to my dreams.  The biggest problem was me -- I failed to hold myself accountable for my own life.  Here is how I turned my nightmare into a dream life:

  1. I made a decision to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses.  You know what your talents are.  Don't waste your time trying to do something you are not cut out to do and choose to focus on the areas of your life where you have gifts.
  2. I stopped blaming others for my failures.  I own all my problems.  As long as I'm accountable, I will find a way to fix the problem.
  3. I made a decision to forgive all the people who tormented me or hurt me.
  4. I figured out that some people who love you are afraid you will fail.  And people who hate you are afraid you will succeed.  Don't allow either group to prevent you from living the dream life.  The key is to stop being afraid of the life you are born to live.
  5. Roadblocks are necessary.  The dream life is not an easy life; it's a life filled with learning how to get past all the obstacles in your way.  Learn how to dig tunnels under the roadblocks.  Find a way to pole vault over a tall obstacle.  Become a champion rock climber.  Enlist the help of others to smash through a wall.
In order to live a dream life, you must not desire easy.  You must desire challenging.  The bigger the challenges, the more rewarding your life is.  Make your life an adventure.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finding God in the Rear View Mirror

I don't know if I will ever be able to convince my atheist friends that there is a God.  They believe everything is an accident.  I believe our past offers clues pointing to the existence of a Supreme Being.  Here's what I see when I look into the rear view mirror of my life:

  1. My dad received a Bible at the perfect time in his life.  While scouring the pages, he found the keys to the gates of Heaven.  He returned home to his family just in time to share his discovery before using the keys.
  2. Although my future is uncertain, looking in the rear view mirror reveals a clear direction.  I see a connection to past generations of writers I was never aware of until recently.  These ancestors on my father's side include my great-great-great grandfather, Captain James Starkey, contributor to Glimpses of the Nations Struggle.  Starkey's son, Edward, married my great-great grandmother, Mary B. Kavanaugh, a poet and likely a descendent of Irish kings.
  3. On my mother's side of the family, there are generations of ancestors with unshakeable faith.  Each ancestor carried the torch of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.  Their main mission in life was to pass the torch.  My mother's own daily prayers are for her children to take hold of the torch and share it with the world.
  4. The Evil One and his allies have used every dirty trick to thwart God's plans for my life.  The forces of the dark side flee from my path each time I invoke the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  5. God placed some very special people in my life for one purpose.  It is best described in this verse:
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. ~ Philippians 2:13

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why The Honey Do List Never Expires

I thought four days of house painting would be enough.  I was wrong.  I underestimated the time it takes to prepare the rooms before the actual painting begins.  In past years, this project would have been assigned to a professional.  Now that I'm getting serious about debt reduction, these jobs are part of my honey do list.  As long as my wife keeps getting ideas from the home improvement channel on HG TV, my honey do list will never expire. 

The truth is, I really don't want the list to expire.  I understand her love language.  Nothing compares to seeing the look in her eyes when I do something for her that is outside my comfort zone.  She knows I'm technically challenged when it comes to repairing things that break or doing home improvement projects.  That's why I'm calling my latest assignment "the eighth wonder of the world." 

It's time to get back to work on her list.  My reward will be that sparkle in her eye when she admires my labor of love. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Managing the Honey Do List

Odds are one in five that your spouse's love language is like my wife's: acts of service.   Chocolates and flowers are nice, however, your love is best expressed from managing the honey do list.  Today is day number three of four on my love makeover.  My youngest son says I look like the guy on one of those HG home improvement shows.  My wife doesn't need to say anything.  The more items I check off on her "honey do" list, the more her heart go pitter-patter.

My recommendation for those of you married to a spouse who thrives on acts of service is to go big.  Don't just dip your toe in the water with everyday tasks like doing the dishes.  Jump in to the deep end with a surprise that will have your spouse singing.  Now I understand why my wife is addicted to those home improvement shows -- they are all about people doing acts of service.  For her, it's like watching a romance movie.  I decided to become one of those people featured on the home improvement channel.  Here's what I did to the kitchen in the first two days of my love make-over:


As soon as I hit the publish button on today's blog message, I'm diving in to the final two days of the honey do list.  Time to get out the paint brushes.  If you are married to an acts of service kind of a person, please share how you manage your honey do list in the comments section.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why the Third Quarter of Life Matters

Today's blog is dedicated to a special cousin who is celebrating his 52nd birthday today.  No matter how far apart we may be, geographically speaking, we enjoy sharing stories about each quarter of our lives.  The majority of my blog readers are in the 50-something crowd and many are in the process of implementing half-time adjustments.  Here are some reasons why I think the third quarter of our lives is so important:
  1. We have been on the planet long enough to know the value of our lives.  Mark Twain says, "the two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
  2. We are shaping the next generation who will be in charge of the football when we leave the game of life.  The lessons we teach our children will impact our world.  The best way to teach them is to show them how to live, not tell them.
  3. All those mistakes we made in the first two quarters help us to make better plays in the third quarter.
  4. The first quarter was all about learning the play book.  The second quarter was about understanding our team-mates and our opponents.  The third quarter is about making the adjustments necessary to find the end zone.  If you didn't re-evaluate your life at half-time, take a timeout and review where you've been and where you want to go.
  5. This is the best time to prepare for the final quarter of your life.  Get serious about making a commitment to be debt-free.  Thanks to a couple of fumbles and a few interceptions, I will be spending almost the entire third quarter on this play.  Every player on my team knows the importance of this and we will keep moving forward even if it's only inches at a time.
  6. Stay in shape.  What you do now will affect how you play in the final quarter.  There is no off-season when it comes to physical fitness.  If your home team is in a climate like mine, you may have to adjust your routine in Winter.  I  found a place where I can play indoor racquetball on snow days.
  7. Your food choices in the third quarter will play an important role in the final quarter.  Every minute counts.  Make the adjustments while there is still time.
  8. Experience matters.  Make the time to volunteer and share your life experiences with anyone who will listen.
  9. Find some team-mates who share your passion.  They may be cousins, fellow writers, neighbors, or people who play your favorite sport.  Seek them out and spend quality time with them.
  10. Don't exit the game early.  You may find yourself injured.  Get some rehab and get back in the game.  Find a coach if you are having trouble holding on to the ball.  The game of life is played for four quarters.  Use this quarter to set yourself up for a great fourth quarter.  Too much focus on the fourth quarter will cause you to miss out on the joys of executing plays today, in the third quarter.  It doesn't matter if you are on offense or defense right now.  There are plays to be made.  I know my cousin is living his life to his fullest on his birthday today, and every day.  He is a great example for me.  
Happy birthday, JM.  Thanks for inspiring so many of my stories.  BTW, it was really special to hear your second quarter bro sharing a verse you inspired him to write about our VW days.  Happy birthday.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Surrounded By Prayer Warriors

I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! ~ Isaiah 65:24

The care package that arrived the other day from an anonymous blog reader reminded me how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many prayer warriors.  The package had no return address or notes inside.  On the outside of the package there was a message that read: sent from the heart.  Inside were five camouflage-style bracelets with raised lettering that read, prayer warrior. The blog reader wishes to remain anonymous, however, her thoughtful deed is part of the reason I survived a recent move from California to Iowa.  My family is thriving today because we have a loving God and prayer warriors who care about us.

I noticed the prayer warrior bracelets my friends were wearing during my final meal in Ramona.  Our friends told us they wore the bracelets every day while their son was serving in the marines. They continued wearing them daily after their son finished his deployment and came home safely to start his family.  Then, they took off their bracelets and gave them to my wife and me to wear on our journey to our new home state.  One of the bracelets broke from 24/7 continuous usage.  Now, we have enough bracelets for the entire family.  Here are ten examples of how prayers from our prayer warrior friends helped us on our journey:
  1. On the first day of our road trip in the moving truck, the brakes failed at our first traffic light at the bottom of a steep hill.  The intersection was busy but somehow we passed through unscratched.
  2. We had exactly the amount of cash we needed to pay for our moving truck and moving expenses.
  3. We had a home to live in rent free while we searched for new jobs.  The family did not return from their extended vacation until three days after we moved into our new home.  When we asked to pay the utility bills, they told us to "pay it forward" and return the favor to someone else who could use a little help.
  4. The entire family found jobs.  My job is a dream job supervising some of the best employees in the world.
  5. We found the perfect home for our family and a seller willing to offer us seller financing even though my California short sale adversely affected my credit rating and I was told it would be three years before I could qualify for home ownership.
  6. I completed a second road trip to retrieve our family car left behind in order to install a rebuilt transmission once I had enough funds.  At the end of the road trip, the check engine light came on and I brought the car in for inspection.  The mechanic told me both front wheels were about to fall off.  I drove over 1,800 miles on the edge of disaster and didn't even know it.  In Utah, there are special test zones where the speed limit is 80 mph and I was practically flying.  I had no idea how close I was to the final chapter of my life.
  7. We found all the furniture we needed during a garage sale sponsored by multiple families in our new hometown.
  8. Our new church is less than five hundred steps away from our front door.
  9. We managed to stay healthy during our time between jobs when our health coverage was on hold.
  10. We are blessed to have so many prayer warriors in our neighborhood, our jobs, and around the world who pray for our protection.
I praise God for all the wonderful people in my life.  Our prayer warrior bracelets will help us remember how all of us are connected to one another.  May God bless you on your journey and may you always be surrounded by prayer warriors.  And to my anonymous blog reader who mailed the care package I say thank you for sending this from your heart.  Your kindness will remain in our hearts forever.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Right Side of the Line

Doing the right thing can be costly.  The wrong thing is even more costly.  This week is the first week of our new fiscal year at work and my training has been intensive.  I'm awestruck by how much I don't know.  Life was easy when I was pretty much responsible for my own actions.  There is no room in my life for ignorance.  My number one job in this world is to coach my three children, my team at my workplace, and any reader who happens to find this blog.  These are the ideas I'm working on to help me stay on the right side of the line:

  1. Recognize that every person in your life is significant.  Treat others with dignity and respect regardless of how they treat you.
  2. Respect others no matter how different their views may be from your own.
  3. Avoid arguments, they only solidify your opponent's views.
  4. Do the right thing, no matter what the personal cost may be.
  5. Find the solution to every problem you face.
My dad taught me one very important lesson when I was a young boy.  He repeatedly said, "if you're gonna do it, do it right."  Those words burn in me every day.  Which side of the line are you going to live your life on?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Turn Problems Into Paychecks

Everyone has problems in their lives.  Many simply complain about them and others get busy finding solutions.  I go one step further -- I welcome the challenges in front of me.  I hunt for them like Easter eggs.  The more problems I find and resolve, the happier my employer is.  Problems solved lead to job security and bigger paychecks.  They build stronger marriages and long-lasting friendships.  Follow these suggestions and you will improve your attitude about the problems you have in your life:
  1. Consider every problem in the workplace as an opportunity to improve your skills.  The better you get at making the problem go away, the better your odds for advancement.
  2. Treat your problems like vegetables.  Most avoid eating them but the hungry worker devours them.  You will be amazed how many job offers you will receive once others recognize your food preferences.
  3. Volunteer to do the dishes.  This is an important step in eliminating the problem.  Make sure the problem is put away for good.  Dirty dishes are reminders that the problem wasn't fully resolved.
  4. Be thankful for all the problems in your life.  Without them, you are not needed.  The easier your job is, the more competition you have and the fewer pay raises you will see.
  5. Identify all the problems with your family, your relationships and your job and get busy finding solutions.  Make your list immediately and promise yourself you will find solutions before you go to bed every night.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dare to Look in the Mirror

There is something inside you that makes you special.  You are created in God's image.  No matter your position in life, you are a child of God.  Many in this world wish to remove God from the picture.  What is it that the other side fears?

The next time you feel unsure about who you are, remember what Jesus did when He met the lost and the fallen.  He had the ability to look inside other people and see their faults.  Even though you may think your mistakes are hidden from the world, you can't hide when you look in the mirror.  Just remember that Jesus can see past your flaws.  He sees who you were created to be when He peers inside your soul.  He doesn't care what you did wrong in the past.  All He asks is that you make room in your heart for Him to live.

Before you look in the mirror, make sure you invite Jesus to live with you.  Ask Him for help cleaning up the areas of your life needing attention.  Then, look in the mirror.  Do you see that glow emanating from your soul?  That is the part of you that will live forever.  Remember to look in the mirror every day and never forget who created you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hidden Treasure

The Titanic rests at the bottom of the ocean, a sad reminder of hopes and dreams unfulfilled.  Many of us are like that sunken ship.  We live our lives without ever tapping into the hidden treasure within us.  Even more rare is discovering the treasure within others.  Why is this so difficult?

Perhaps we are too afraid to look in the mirror and discover what we're really made of.   We don't take the time to get to know our neighbor.  I'm guilty of this.  It's not too late to change my ways.  That is probably why this next book is so difficult to write -- it's all about looking in the mirror and finding the hidden treasure.

Monday, September 3, 2012

What is Your Labor of Love?

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing ~ Matthew 6:3

This Labor Day may have different meanings to many Americans who are unemployed or under-employed.  For me, it's my first paid Holiday since starting my new job in my new home state.  During my transition, I maintained my daily commitment to my first labor of love -- blogging.

I have a new neighbor who left some tomatoes at my front door last month.  They are some of the best tomatoes I've ever tasted.  Maybe the extra flavor comes from knowing my neighbor performs his labor of love while dealing with cancer treatments.  When he isn't away for chemotherapy, I see him pushing a lawn mower for other neighbors.

A labor of love is productive work performed voluntarily without material reward or compensation.   I salute those around the world who tirelessly perform acts of service for others without seeking something in return.  On this Labor Day, I challenge you to actively pursue your labor of love.  Happy Labor Day.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why Are We Divided?

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought ~ 1 Corinthians 1:10

Long before we had children, my wife and I decided we would never argue in front of them.  We both witnessed broken families who suffered greatly because the parents were divided on important issues.  Children find a way to pit one parent against another so they can get their way.  We had one iron-clad rule in our home:  If one parent already said, "no," that was the final answer.  Asking the other parent to over-rule meant consequences.  My children knew they were busted if I asked them, "did your mother already decide about this?"

I wonder how the Creator feels about all the division in our world today.  The very definition of sin is being separated from God.  Satan is like a spoiled child who doesn't get his or her way and seeks to turn one group against the other in order to win others over to the dark side.  How can we love others when we despise their own belief system?

The novel I'm developing is about looking in the mirror.  It's so much easier for me to love others once I see all my own faults.  Jesus is the source of all religions.  Each faction has been created in His image.  The real challenge for us is to see Jesus in others, regardless of the label they put on themselves.  No matter how much division there is in the world today, there is one Bible verse that predicts what will happen:

It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" ~ Romans 14:11

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Halftime Adjustments

My youngest son loves listening to talks given by inspirational coaches.  His old football coach gave him an opportunity for a pep talk before one of his high school football games and he came home beaming after a big win.

In life, we look to our parents, teachers and coaches for help plotting a course to our destiny.  What happens when the game of life is absent a few touchdowns?  The answer can be found in the locker room at halftime.  You know best about all the times you were tackled when you headed for life's end zone.  You feel the pain of your injuries.  Take a look at these ideas to help you come up with some creative halftime adjustments:
  1. Analyze your opponent.  Your old playbook no longer works because he is attacking you with new plays.  Understand how he is challenging your weaknesses and give them some attention.
  2. Get the ball back.  You need to be aggressive challenging your opponent.  If you are getting behind because you can't control your debt, you need to have a huddle with your team and take possession of the problem.  This major commitment to your defense will result in turnovers that will put your offense back on the field.
  3. Don't throw in the towel.  No matter how far behind you are, there is always hope that you can get back in the game.  Fight for one yard at a time.  As long as you are moving forward, you are closing the gap on your opponent.
  4. Stop blaming the ref.  You're right.  Some of the play calls are bad.  Get over it.  Winners find a way to win no matter how bad the refs are.  Don't let bad calls take your attention away from your goals.
  5. Design plays that accentuate your untapped talent.  Tough times call for bold plays.  You know you have abilities within you that the world has never seen.  Surprise your opponent with new play calls that get you into the end zone.  Great teams find a way to win no matter how tough the opponent.
These strategies work for even the toughest of opponents.  Every day, I stare at the same giant named debt.  Past opponents were unemployment,  stubbornness and spiritual blindness.  I ignored play calls sent in by my coach from upstairs in the stands.  I needed a huge halftime adjustment to get back in the game.  Never again will I fear my opponents.  They can try to steal the ball away from me but I promise I will never let go.  I trust my coach.  He is undefeated, even against the toughest opponent of all -- death.