Friday, November 30, 2012

Are We There Yet?

The number one question parents hear from their children on roads trips is "are we there yet?"  Children focus on the destination rather than the journey.  The same may be true in our adult lives.  We race through college, map out our careers, start families and before we blink, we are making retirement plans.  No matter what phase of our lives we are in, we wonder, are we there yet?

There may be valid reasons why we want to push the fast forward button on our lives, like recovering from an illness or injury.  God wants us to consider the pause button instead.  Every day is a gift.  There are so many lessons to learn, especially from the challenging days.  Look out the window and enjoy your road trip, one day at a time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What is Spiritual Perseverance?

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. ~ 2 Peter 3:8

I learned my best lessons about perseverance from my grandmother on my mother's side.  Her stomach cancer proved to be a strong opponent.  The doctors removed 2/3 of her stomach and part of her esophagus. That didn't stop her from leading a long and full life, even though she was never able to sleep horizontally after her surgery.  She knew about spiritual perseverance.  She knew God wasn't done with her.  There were still life lessons to teach others, including a grandson who always had questions.

My grandma never stopped praying.  She never ever complained.  Every clock in her home had a different time on it and only she could interpret each one so she would never be late.  She understood God's timing too.  My mother told me how grandma was so filled with enthusiasm on her death bed, eager to meet Jesus and His Mother, Mary, the one my grandma was named after.  She understood  how to read God's clock.  That is the best definition of spiritual perseverance I know.

Here are some tips to help you with spiritual perseverance:
  1. When you are with the Lord, some days will be like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.  His timing is out of this world.  Trust His time clock.  There is no need to worry about how slow traffic is moving, he may be slowing it down to protect you from harm or to give you time to pray.
  2. Your time clock will never stop, thanks to Jesus.  He conquered death so that you may have eternal life.  You have enough time to do everything God wants you to do as long as your clock is synchronized with God's clock.
  3. The right people will come into your life at the right time.  Stop watching the clock and live your life.  Savor every minute.  Don't worry how much time is left on the clock.  You have eternity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

3 Lessons I Learned From Letting Go of the Rope

I was in a tug-of-war with God.  His side is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving.  Only a fool would hold on to the rope and expect a successful outcome.  I had plans for my life.  All I needed to do was hold on to the rope and keep fighting.  I was so blind I thought if I just prayed, God would help me.  I suppose I was somewhat deaf to His voice.  The truth is He did help me.  He told me to let go of the rope.  My own ego yells.  God whispers.  Here are three lessons I learned from letting go:
  1. If there are two plans, go with the one from all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving.
  2. Don't second-guess all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving.
  3. The world may think you are a loser for letting go of the rope.  The only opinion that matters is from all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving.
What will you do today?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Guest Post From My Son, Ryan Mulligan

My oldest son, Ryan, is passionate about two things, exercise and nutrition.  I asked him to share his passions with the blog world and offer some advice.  His younger brother will be also be making a guest appearance soon to share an important life lesson he learned.  It's an honor to welcome Ryan today and introduce him...

Hi.  My name is Ryan.  I've always been interested in physical fitness and weight lifting.  Since I moved to Iowa, it has become more of an obsession.  There's not too much for me to do and I don't know many people, so I work two jobs -- one at a nutrition store and the other at a sports store.  I spend all my free time at the local gym.  I will be starting a blog soon where I share my own personal story and give advice to others interested in reaching their potential.  Watch for the link in the coming weeks.  Ryan.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Top 10 Things Jesus Said

Jesus was a great story teller.  He inspired everyone He met to be their best.  Consider the top ten list below as an appetizer.  I highly recommend you refer to the number one best seller of all times for the full story.  Please feel free to add your favorite quotes from Jesus in the comments section below...

  1. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." ~Mark 1:17
  2. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." ~John 14:3
  3. “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~Mark 8:34-38
  4. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him."  ~John 3:16-17
  5. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." ~Luke 11:9-10
  6. "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
    Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'
    And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" ~Matthew 25:35-40
  7. He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" ~Luke 10:27
  8. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. ~Luke 23:34
  9. "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~Matthew 6:31-34
  10. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ~John 14:6


Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Benefits of Evil

Have you ever heard someone argue it is impossible for a loving God to exist when there is so much evil in the world?  I believe the opposite -- the existence of evil is necessary for a loving God to exist.  Imagine what life would be like if there was only one football team, one political party or one religion.  Without evil, there is no conflict.  No contrast.  No free will.  Here are the benefits of evil:
  1. Evil cannot hide.  When you follow the paper trail, everything points to bad choices and wrong turns.  Evil provides the road map leading us away from all that is good.  Avoid these perilous roads and you will find all that is good.
  2. Evil is like a barometer.  It tells us what is ahead.  The more it rises, the closer we are to the climax.  
  3. Evil uses dirty tricks to fool its followers.  Injured players are carted off the field believing their life is over due to the consequences of their actions.  When these players go through rehab and recover from their injuries, they discover free agency and find new life.  These reformed players who come from the dark side teach us the best lessons about evil.
  4. Evil is God's best cheerleader.  It may be pretty good at tempting others to follow, however, when the fans are wallowing in misery, the other side looks like the better team.
  5. Evil provides us with a choice.  It offers a band wagon for those who prefer to go in a different direction.  When the wheels start falling off the cart headed for Hell, disgruntled fans can switch teams.  God's bandwagon is for followers who believe in winners and everyone is welcome.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How To Find Your Holiday Spirit

Got the Holiday blues?  Maybe you find yourself shouting "Bah, humbug" this time of year when your ghosts of Christmas past, present and future haunt you like a bad nightmare.  Black Friday crept past its boundary lines and invaded Thanksgiving, transforming it into a game of tackle football we play at the mall while the turkey is still digesting.  Here are some ideas to help you find your Holiday Spirit:
  1. Keep it simple.  Spend time with the ones you love.  Gather around the fireplace and let others know how much they mean to you.
  2. Tune in to a Christian radio station for the next thirty days and pay attention to the lyrics.  The marketers want you to believe it's all about Black Friday.  God wants you to believe it's all about His Son.
  3. Do some inside decorating.  There is a space inside you where Jesus wants to live.  Ask yourself, "am I giving Him enough room?"  Get rid of all the clutter inside you and allow the Holy Spirit to bring in the Holiday cheer.
  4. Christmas is not about getting... it's about giving.  Your Holiday Spirit will roar like a bonfire when you share your gifts with others who need some Holiday cheer.
  5. The best way to say "Merry Christmas" is with your actions rather than your words.  The world may try to take Christ out of Christmas.  This is impossible as long as Jesus is living in your heart.  He will always be the source of your Holiday Spirit.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My First Freeze

The outside temperature last night was 17℉, the same number as our youngest son's age.  I wonder if our daughter's prayers for a white Christmas have anything to do with this.  My wife surprised me with an early Christmas present to celebrate the change in weather.  The new microfleece hood looks like something the knights wore during the Middle Ages.  This gift is on my top ten list of things I'm thankful for.

The odds makers are wondering if this family will survive our first Iowa winter far away from the beaches of Southern California.  I have a secret weapon to keep my heart warm.  Her radiance heats up even the coldest room.  She makes me feel like her knight in shining armor, especially when I'm donning my new hood.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving

When our oldest son was old enough to talk, he would rush into our bedroom at sunrise and say, "sun up, daddy up."  I never needed an alarm clock.  Every day was like Thanksgiving.  We taught our children that grumpies are not allowed in our home.  We set up a ritual for exterminating grumpies on rare days when they invaded.  No matter where we were, if the grumpies showed up, our children had to wave good-bye to them.  At times, they were stubborn and didn't want to leave, but my wife and I were more stubborn.  We were the ghostbusters of the grumpies and we didn't care how foolish we looked in public.

Holidays can be tough for people; there may not be anyone around to say, "sun up, daddy up."  It's so easy for the grumpies to attack us.  Follow this recipe to put the Happy back in your Thanksgiving:
  1. Your mind, body and spirit need the right amount of ingredients to be happy.  Give them the same care and attention you give your turkey.  Allow your body to get 8 hours of sleep every night.  Exercise 30 minutes per day.  Read something uplifting every morning when you wake up. 
  2. Give something away to someone who has a case of the grumpies.  The best gifts are your time, your talent or your treasure.
  3. Make a list of 50 things you are thankful for and read it to your family when you sit down for your Thanksgiving meal.  Encourage your family to make their own list.  Click here to see my list from a blog story I wrote at the beginning of the year.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.  I'm thankful you visit when you get the opportunity.  If you have a recipe to share about how you put the "Happy" in your Thanksgiving, please share in the comments section.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Five Tiny Seeds In My Garden

Many people in my new hometown have their own gardens and they are quick to share a sumptuous tomato with this California transplant.  They probably find my attitude about gardening a little peculiar.  Who in their right mind plants hope seeds?  As a leftie, I argue I'm in a small minority who do operate out of their right minds. I planted five seeds in my garden labeled hope, one for each member of my family.  The seeds sprouted at various intervals and required different degrees of care in order to reach maturity. Here are some gardening tips for anyone interested in trying these seeds:

  1. The first hope seed you plant must be for yourself.  The entire garden fails if you do not believe in hope.  Plant this seed in fertile soil and nurture it with love and tender care.
  2. The second seed is equally important to your own personal hope seed.  This seed pushed through the ground in my garden like a newborn baby emerging from its mother's womb, eager to be a part of a whole new world.  I will never fully understand the composition of this seed, however, it appears to be deeply rooted in faith.
  3. Your decision to expand your garden of hope seeds is limited only by your own imagination.  Hope doesn't need an over-size plantation or an ideal climate.  What it needs is a commitment to nurture every seed planted until maturity is reached.  There were times when my hope seeds behaved more like weeds.  When they rebelled, I talked with them, telling them I knew they never belonged to me, but to the One who loaned them to me.  My job as the gardener is to water each seed with love and encourage each plant to bask in the sunlight.
Jesus talked about the mustard seed, the tiniest seed in the world.  In Luke 17:6, He said, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."  If you can do that to mulberry trees, ponder what you can do with hope seeds.  Plant some in your garden today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When The Chips Are Down

You don't need to look too far to see an individual or a family in a crisis mode.  That person may be as close as your bathroom mirror.  Uncle Sam wants more of your chips, banks are slower to multiply them and Mother Nature has a way of draining them when she goes on a tirade.  Here are five ideas to help you or anyone you know stay in the game when the chips are down:
  1. Take a hard look at how you spend your chips.  It's the small things that eat your budget.  Bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to work.  Shop at thrift stores.  Check out garage sales.  
  2. Do it yourself.  My new Iowa home needed a face lift and I opted to paint it myself.  I asked the owner for free paint and went to work.  The whole family is pitching in, saving us thousands of dollars.  Hint:  If you decide to paint, use Frog tape for a professional look.
  3. Stop borrowing chips.  Your chips will never work for you if you are using them to pay interest.  The best way to do this is to pay cash for everything.
  4. Stash a few chips away in the cookie jar every month for emergencies.  Don't raid the cookie jar unless you have a legitimate need.
  5. Be thankful for the chips you have and stay positive.  The quickest way to rebuild after a loss is to maintain an attitude of gratitude.  If you think the deck is stacked against you and the world owes you something, it's time to rethink and change your approach.  Life does not have to be fair but it does present you with opportunities to make a contribution to the world no matter how many or how few chips you have.  Make every chip count.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How to Become Wise

Day 1.  I prayed for wisdom.  God sent me a race track filled with hurdles.  Then He said, "run."  The first day didn't go very well.  My leg clipped the first hurdle and I hit the ground hard.  No more hurdles today, I thought while limping home with two bloody knees and a bruised ego.

Day 2.  I repeated my request for wisdom.  Before I could blink, I was back on the race track in a sea of hurdles.  The same voice roared like a lion.  "Run!"  I responded like an obedient Forrest Gump and sped right into the first hurdle, bouncing around like those dummies they use when crash testing new automobiles.  Stupid is as stupid does, I thought while staring at Heaven from underneath the menacing hurdle.  Final score after day two -- hurdles 2, fool 0.

Day 3.  No more prayers for wisdom.  I was done with hurdles.  That's when I discovered wisdom is not just about hurdles -- it's more like a decathlon.  Long story short, I spent the next three decades long jumping dangerous ravines, pole vaulting over challenges, and spearing troubles with my javelin.  I became a master of hurdles, my new best friend.  The scar on my right knee cap is my daily reminder wisdom is not cheap.

Today.  I feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.  I'm ready to leave the island, no longer a prisoner of my own foolishness.  For those brave souls who pray for wisdom, I offer one word of advice -- Run!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to be a Winner at Love

If your love is like a bank account, what is your balance?  What kind of maintenance fees do you pay?  Do you ever find yourself overdrawn on your account?  If you want to be a winner at love, try these investment ideas:
  1. Avoid short-term investments.  Love needs a long-term plan.  Marriage shows your commitment to a solid portfolio.
  2. In order for love to work, you must be willing to deposit more than you withdraw.  When both parties share this philosophy, there is a high yield.
  3. Make a commitment to invest daily in your love account.  You put your account at risk if you are taking more than you are giving and you may end up with a closed account.
  4. Beware of excessive fees and hidden charges.  These show up when you fail to monitor your account.  
  5. Honor your bad checks immediately.  Winners admit their mistakes.  If you find yourself overdrawn on love, fix it.  Find out how you made the error and avoid blaming anyone else on your joint account.  Promise to communicate better so you are able to keep your account in good standing.
Love is intangible.  It can be hard to find and easy to lose.  Do your best to treat it with dignity and respect.  Be a philanthropist and give it away without thinking about what your rate of return may be.  You will find wealth beyond measure and you will die rich.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to Unlock the Door to Heaven

I recall a story in my youth about Jesus inspecting the inhabitants of Heaven with Peter, the gatekeeper.  Some seemed a little edgy.  Jesus asked, "Peter, aren't you guarding the gate?  Some of these people don't look like they belong here."

"Don't blame me, Jesus," Peter replied.  It's your Mother, she's letting 'em in through the window."

I also remember someone sharing his opinion about the population of Heaven.  "You will be surprised by two things -- who is there and who isn't."

Dad's last request before departing this world was to return a Bible to our pastor who accidentally left it behind when he paid our family a visit.  Dad said, "son, this is a very important book and I need you to return it right away.  This book contains the keys to the gates of Heaven."

Dad never told me what page revealed the keys.  He was a writer.  He believed readers need suspense.  He loved mysteries.  Dad was old school.  In today's times, everyone wants instant answers.  Even Google can't tell you where to find the door to Heaven.  While it's true you can't sneak in through the window, Mary does offer a clue.  She always advises others to listen to her Son.  This may be the most important lesson Jesus teaches about how to unlock the door to Heaven:

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ~ John 14:6.

Today is a good day to ask the Locksmith to move into your heart.  He is the only one with the keys to Heaven.  When Peter asks who is knocking at the door, tell him, "it's me -- one of Jesus' followers.  He told me anyone who believes in Him can ask for anything and he will receive it.  I would like to join the party.  Please unlock the door to Heaven."

Friday, November 16, 2012

God's Empathy

Even before you were born, God knew every choice you would make.  He felt the consequences of your actions or lack of actions.  He knows you perfectly.  The further you stray from His plans for your life, the more intense your doubts become.  Why is it important to know God has empathy for you?  Consider these ideas:
  1. While there may be people in this world with the gift of empathy, the only one who understands you perfectly is God.  He knows exactly how you feel and only He knows the perfect solution for your circumstances.
  2. Most troubles come from a broken relationship with God.  Who would send their only Son to die for our sins so that these broken relationships can be healed?  Only a God who understands us perfectly -- who loves us perfectly.
  3. God knows perfectly how you feel when you look at yourself and you see a caterpillar.  He already knows how you will feel when you become a butterfly.  He also knows how you will feel when you go through the intermediate steps -- the pain of isolation, the sense of disorientation, the feeling of abandonment.  He promises to be with you every step of the way.
  4. God will not force you to become a butterfly.  He will watch over you as you inch along on the ground; He will wait for you to look up and ask, "is there anyone out there who understands what I'm feeling?"
  5. Jesus is the ultimate example.  Before He could fly, He had to fall down.  He endured humiliation.  He suffered rejection.  His death was agonizing.  He was placed in a cocoon for three days before the transformation was complete and He gained the ability to fly.  He did this because He trusted His Father's plans for you.  He trusted His Father's empathy for you.  He knew He could be the perfect example for you to follow.  And He did this because He and His Father love you, perfectly.
Who are you going to trust on your journey?  My recommendation is to go with the One who has perfect empathy for you.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Did You Receive Your Recall Notice From God?

Most people are unaware of the problem.  The source of the outbreak, a snake that slithered into the garden eons ago, forced an immediate evacuation of all inhabitants to less favorable climates.  The virus is capable of surviving inside the body for years before symptoms appear.  Rapid mutations make it difficult to identify and it is often misdiagnosed.  Early warning signs of the disease are irritability, withdrawal, fatigue, loss of sense of purpose, anxiety, depression, and lethargy.  Over-the-counter treatments only provide temporary relief.  According to God's recall notice, there is only one remedy.  The recall notice is re-posted here for your convenience:

Recall Notice -- For Immediate Release

You are being recalled.  The entire human race is at risk due to a contagion spreading throughout the world.  The virus was traced to a garden snake, forcing a permanent relocation of all residents.  I attempted to destroy the virus when it resurfaced generations later.  There were only a few survivors due to the massive flood I ordered.  Further quarantine efforts were established to protect a select group of people.  They failed to follow the original recall notice I sent over 2,000 years ago.  In order to save lives, I expanded the recall notice to the general population.  Please follow these recall guidelines:
  1. Read the Bible to learn more about the history of the virus.  Everything you need to know about its dangers is documented for your benefit.  Old Testament stories foretell of my plans to send a solution.
  2. Pay careful attention to the New Testament.  Even though very few people listened to my Son, He did inoculate His followers with an Antivirus just before I recalled Him to Heaven.  Your entire future is dependent on your choice to heed this recall notice and follow my Son's prescription for the Antivirus.
  3. Warning:  There are known side-effects to the Antivirus.  Those who reject the Anti-virus shots will turn against you.  The world will hate you.  You may lose your own life.  You will always be in danger of a re-infection.  Booster shots may be necessary.
In order to be recalled to Heaven, you must follow the Son.  He will inject you with the Holy Spirit the same way He immunized His first followers.  Please share this recall notice.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Inescapable Thoughts

Your thoughts have the legs of a marathoner.  You may be able to sprint away from them for a while, however, they will follow you like a shadow.  No matter how long you put them on hold, they won't hang up.  Your thoughts are what dreams are made of.  If you try to bury them, they will haunt you from the grave every night when you try to sleep.  Today's blog is dedicated to your hopes and dreams.  Consider these five points as seeds waiting to be planted:
  1. Your dreams have something important to say.  Pay attention to them and they will inspire you to live a life only you are created to live.  They are your road map.  Your thoughts will be your GPS navigation system for your life.
  2. Your hopes are part of your DNA.  You can't escape who you really are, a child of God.  There is a plan for you disguised as your deepest desires.  Look inside yourself and ask, "what is my purpose?"
  3. Thoughts are more powerful than roadblocks.  Listen to them and believe in them.  Stop focusing on the hurdles and concentrate on your dreams.
  4. When your thoughts knock on your door, welcome them into your home and spend quality time with them.  They will lead you to your destiny.
  5. A dream can only come true if it is nurtured daily.  Treat it like a precious plant.  Once it sprouts, remember to give it sunlight and water.  Don't ever let a dream die, no matter the conditions around you.  A day will come when your plant will bloom like no other in the universe.  Your thoughts are what dreams are made of, they are your hopes for a life well-lived.
Many people think there are only two responses to thoughts -- fight or flight.  You have a third option -- embrace.  The fool tries to flee from his thoughts while the wise man gathers them up and plants them in his garden.  He watches over them like an expectant mother and he delivers them no matter how much pain he must endure.  Then he patiently cultivates his thoughts until they reach maturity.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Why is it so easy for us to identify everyone's weaknesses but our own?  It's like my vision.  I now need eyeglasses to see things up close but have no trouble seeing things clearly that are far away.  One day I asked the Holy Spirit to be my eyeglasses -- to give me 20/20 vision.  I discovered how out of focus my farsightedness was.  The close-up image I saw in the mirror was frightening.  I was stunned.  It was too late to give back the eyeglasses.  Not even blindness could erase the picture I saw of myself the day my vision changed.  It was like looking at an X-ray of my own lungs and discovering they were riddled with cancer.  That's when the "buts" start spewing:  "But I don't smoke!  But the person in the mirror is an imposter! But these eyeglasses aren't working!"

Then come the maybe statements: "Maybe the person in the mirror does look a little like me.  Maybe I do have trouble with farsightedness.  Maybe I need to get my life in better focus."

The stage I'm at now is acceptance.  I am accountable for the man in the mirror.  I accept who I am.  I am at peace.  My advice to anyone who has trouble with their spiritual vision is to recommend my ophthalmologist, the Holy Spirit.  He will help you see yourself the way God sees you.  You will know your eyesight is fully functional when you develop triple vision -- the ability to see Jesus in yourself, your friends, and your enemies.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pain--The Secret Ingredient In Life's Banquet

American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Pain is like the black keys on a piano we prefer to avoid.  The greatest poets of all times, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sprinkled the sharps and flats on top of their gourmet meals in order to produce seven course meals fit for a king.  Some argue the recipes were imported from other countries and repackaged.  Pain is the universal ingredient that inspires life's banquet.

The beard that Longfellow sported in his later years masked his facial scars, external signs of his failed effort to rescue his second wife when her dress caught fire.  Longfellow's first wife died shortly after a miscarriage.  Longfellow suffered from Neuralgia, a pain in one or more nerves.  The music he heard in his head was like an unruly child banging on a set of drums.   In spite of all the pain Longfellow endured, he produced some of the sweetest poems the world has ever witnessed.

Let your pain be the fertilizer you use to nurture new ideas and new opportunities for the next season of your life.  Harvest the fruits of your labors when they are ripe and serve them to your guests.  If anyone asks for the secret ingredient, caution them about the high price that must be paid in order to obtain it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Life After Surrender

There was only one problem with the barricade I erected around my heart.  There was a small opening in the rooftop just big enough for an under-sized angel to exploit.  She peered in through the trap door.  Her radiant blue eyes disarmed me. I was hypnotized.  The white flag of surrender was my only option.  It was time to stop fighting and leave the trenches.  She escorted me out of my foxhole and we marched off the battlefield.  I was destined to be her P.O.L. -- Prisoner of Love... until death.   Here is what my life is like after surrender:
  1. I believe God reveals Himself in under-sized angels.  They are disguised as humans, but they are Heaven-sent; they are here to teach us about how much God loves us.
  2. Surrender to love provides peace.  I no longer live in a war zone.  There is nothing to fight against.  There are no enemies.  What I do have is a family I love with all my heart.
  3. Every day I have a choice to make.  I choose to fly the white flag of surrender above my home, no matter where that home may be.  This flag means I surrender everything I have to my God and my family.  I am here to serve.  I am not a prisoner.  I am a free man.  The truth is that I was incarcerated while living in my foxhole until my angel freed me from my old life.  Her love potion changed me.  I'm a believer in white flags.
If you find yourself living in a war zone, may this blog be like a rainbow lighting up the sky above the trenches you are hiding in.  Love is not meant to be your foe.  Wrap the key to your heart inside the white flag of surrender and hoist it high for the angels to see.  Love will unexpectedly creep into your foxhole.  Here is your best response: "I surrender."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Crank Up Your Laughometer

When was the last time someone tickled your funny bone?  If you can't remember, today's story is for you.  Laughter is the best medicine I know.  Here are seven ways to crank up your laughometer:
  1. Understand that God created us in His own image.  Judging by all the comedians around, we can deduce God has an incredible sense of humor.  Spend time with the funny people He placed in your life and your laughometer will stop flat-lining.
  2. Visit an Orangutan.  These creatures have an amazing ability to mirror our own behavior and show us how funny we really are.  The first time I visited a zoo, I didn't want to leave the Orangutan exhibit.  We have some hilarious family photos of one of my siblings imitating facial expressions of these amazing animals.
  3. Laugh at yourself.  I discovered one of the reasons my family laughs so hard when they watch Chevy Chase in the Vacation movies is because they see me in the Clark character.  Identify your silly side and share it with others.
  4. Tell more jokes.  I will never forget how hard I laughed every time I visited my "Grammy," Alice.  The more you practice, the easier it is to make other people laugh.
  5. Give yourself permission to laugh.  You may be facing some really tough challenges right now.  It's okay to laugh.  Your sense of humor will help you cope with your struggles.
  6. Spend more time with your family.  My children may not be on Saturday Night Live, however, the things they say and do really crack me up.
  7. Put your humor in a crock-pot and cook it slowly.  You are the only one qualified to be you.  That doesn't mean you will be funny overnight.  It takes practice.  Take baby steps and introduce your humorous side a little bit at a time.
Your comments are welcome below.  Please share about how you crank up your laughometer.  May your day be filled with laughter.

Friday, November 9, 2012


We have much in common with the moon.  Sometimes, we shine to our full potential, like a sailboat at full mast.  Other times, earthly things get in our way and block the light we reflect to the world.  When it comes to reflecting God's light, I think of Carly Simon singing Nobody Does It Better, from The Spy Who Loved Me.  I picture Jesus, the Son of God, reflecting the light from His Father.  His moonlight is always full.  He reflects His Father's image perfectly.

There are times in my life when my own moonlight is barely visible to others.  I admit, sometimes I have trouble seeing a full moon in some of the people around me.  My challenge is to look to Jesus as the perfect example.  It's a mystery how the Father and the Son join together to be the light of the world.  The Holy Spirit is with us, especially during eclipses, to help us feel the light at all times.

Do your best to reflect your moonlight to the world.  There are those who live on the dark side of the moon.  They do not know the Son.  You may be the only light they see.  Show them a full moon and don't forget to tell them about the source of your light.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Love Lessons

Perfect love only exists in Heaven.  The closest I get to it is when I look into my wife's eyes.  No matter how many times I fall, she is there.  She never lets me forget that God loves both of us perfectly.  The love lessons I'm sharing today are inspired by the love of my life:
  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself. ~ Luke 10:27.  The love you give back to God and to others does not need to be perfect.  Let it be the best of what you have to give.  Don't hold back.  Pursue excellence, not perfection.
  2. Stop critiquing the love you didn't give yesterday or the day before.  Concentrate on the love you are giving today.
  3. Love has no measuring sticks.  Love others fully even when they fail to love you.
  4. The love you give today may save a life.
  5. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ~ John 15:13.
The love you give today splashes into the water like raindrops, sending ripples in every direction.  Let it rain.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Morning After

The political roller coaster ride stopped last night.  It was filled to capacity.  Half of the passengers are in a state of bliss.  The other half feel sick to their stomachs.  Those who engineered the ride made sure every voter got a seat belt.  Now it's time to unbuckle and get to work. 

The electoral college may be getting rickety, but the ride still works and every vote matters as much today as it did when our great country was founded.  My prayer today is that we remember we are all one nation, under God.  It doesn't matter if we are red or blue -- we are blessed to have the freedom to choose our colors and elect our leaders.  Let's pray for them to make wise decisions.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Political Skeletons In My Closet

Once upon a time during my courtship, my bride-to-be asked me, "are you going to run for political office someday?"  I thought the question was odd and quickly told her I had zero interest in politics.  At the time, I had no clue about the political skeletons in my closet.  I think of my ancestors on this election day and wonder what they would think if they were watching.

My great-great-great grandfather, captain James E Starkey, presided as speaker of the first Legislature of Minnesota.  I didn't know anything about him until I started doing some research for a book I'm writing.  I dug a little deeper into my roots and discovered two more politicians -- Irish kings who fought their political battles with horses and swords.  Miscalculations forever changed the landscape of the residents, forcing many to flee to a New World and start over.

The best political move I ever made was to promise my wife I would stay on the sidelines.   I never told her I was campaign manager in high school when my buddy, Bruce Hoover, asked me to help get him elected class president.  If you talk with my wife, please keep this political skeleton in my closet.  By the way, my slogans were a hit, and Bruce won in a landslide.

Don't forget to vote today.  And please, no write-ins for this Mulligan.  Thank you.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The No Yammering Zone

I know people in the ranks who dream about advancing in the corporate world.  There is only one thing holding them back -- themselves.  These people are all around us.  Their number one problem is they can't stop yammering.  They don't even have a clue what yammering means.  They need to learn the definition: to complain peevishly or whimperingly; wine.  If you know any of these people, please send them to today's blog and I will share some ideas about living in the "No Yammering Zone."   Here's a checklist:
  1. Stop blaming others for your current situation.  Once you stop believing the world owes you, your complaining will end and you will be on your way to a better life.
  2. Leaders know how to motivate others.  They give praise lavishly while managing others in the "NYZ -- No Yammering Zone."  If you want your voice to be heard, only communicate while you are in the NYZ.
  3. Spend the next 24 hours observing the people around you.  Identify the complainers and those who live in the NYZ.  Which group attracts others and which group repulses?  If the complainers are hanging out at the water cooler, make sure you stay away.
  4. Tell your family you are going to put one dollar in the cookie jar every time they catch you outside the NYZ.  Treat them to something special when the jar is full.  
  5. Ask someone close to you to become your NYZ accountability partner.  Support one another in your efforts to live a life free of complaining.  If you would like a little extra support, please join this blog and I will do my best to share positive stories to encourage you.  The "join this site" button is located on the right margin.
Please share this story with anyone in your life who may benefit.  If they read it and you see an improvement, please email me and let me know.  Thanks for your help expanding the "No Yammering Zone."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rate Your Resilience

Fiscal cliffs.  Hurricanes. Unemployment. Accidents.  What do they have in common?  If you rate yourself high on the resilience scale, you label them as opportunities.  If you are below the Mendoza line, you see little hope of bouncing back and you blame your strikeouts on your boss, your co-workers, your neighbors, your family, and your God.  Both sides of the resilience spectrum are surprisingly consistent.  How do you rate your resilience?  If you are looking to move up, try these ideas:
  1. Surround yourself with a network of supporters who believe in you.  Church communities are excellent because they are willing to see past your faults.  They are willing to forgive you for your mistakes.
  2. Stop the wallowing.  Millions of people are without power right now.  They are cold and hungry.  Their homes are in ruins.  Why not figure out a way to help some of these families get back on their feet instead of complaining about how unfair your life is?
  3. Be thankful for all the good in your life.  It's easy to overlook the positives when you are facing adversity.
  4. Get immunized.  Consider today's challenges as necessary shots that will immunize you from greater harm.  The side effects are temporary, however, you will be better prepared when your body is inoculated with small doses of adversity.
  5. Seek professional help.  I have no formal training in the field of resilience and this blog is only meant to encourage you in your daily journey.  My best therapist is Jesus.  He understands how it feels to get spit at, bullied, even crucified.  Every time He fell down, He got back up.  He comforts those who lack resilience.  He understands you better than you understand yourself.  He will give you resilience.  All you have to do is ask for it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Queen Sacrifice

My brother-in-law in California is one of the most formidable chess opponents I know.  He made a choice to display pictures of his children on his walls rather than his numerous awards for patents he received working as a software engineer for a major phone company.  Our face-offs now number in the thousands.  There is one move neither of us is afraid to make -- the queen sacrifice.  This bold move has practical applications for living a rich life.  Here are some ideas for your consideration:
  1. Decide what is most important in your life.  This is your king.  Once you choose your number one priority, be willing to give up less important things that are distractions in your life.
  2. Understand your opponent.  He reveals his priorities with his daily moves.  Look for patterns and use them to protect your king.
  3. Be patient.  Your game plan may take a lifetime to execute.  Stick to it.
  4. Let go of the queen to stay in the game.  Your queen may be something you cherish.  You can live without it.  It may be a nice house, a beautiful automobile, or a lavish lifestyle.  If your king is a life free from debt, be willing to let go of your queen.
  5. Avoid looking backwards.  Those who focus on their sacrifices forget about the king.  They develop negative attitudes about their losses and forget they are still in the game.
Jesus teaches an important lesson about the queen sacrifice.  The ultimate queen is your own life.  Here is what He teaches:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. ~ Matthew 16:25

Friday, November 2, 2012

Merge Ahead

When marriage ages like a fine wine, it resembles two distinct traffic lanes merging in delightful harmony that attracts curious onlookers.  The absorption process blends together all the sharps and flats, producing sheet music the world hungers to devour.  All of the movements are meant to be played until the final note is struck.

My prayer for my three children is for them to discover the value of the road signs, especially the one marked merge.  The merge sign is to be treated with dignity and respect.  Life's journey is more rewarding when the right companion shares the road.  Stay away from the divided highways and be patient while merging lanes.  Savor the music your marriage produces and encourage your children to seek the best vintage they can blend their grapes with.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Final Act

We never know how our final act on earth will play out.  Take a look at a war hero who returned to civilian life as a police officer in San Diego.  His final act impacted one young boy's future.  This is what saints are made of: