Monday, December 31, 2012

Love Never Ends

We've been climbing a mountain together for 1,223 consecutive days.  These last three years, we set up new base camps at the beginning of each year: faith, hope, and love.  In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul tells us, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."  In the same chapter, he writes, "It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7.

Faith, hope and love supply us with all we need to reach greater heights in the New Year ahead.  Today's blog story is a bridge between base camp and next year's theme, perseverance.  It's a reminder that faith and hope are always with us and that love never ends.  If the air becomes too thin on our journey together, it may be necessary to revisit our three base camps for more rations before resuming our climb. 

Check your equipment.  Make sure you have everything you need to continue your journey.  Review the times in your life when you felt God's presence.  Remember, His love for you never ends.  He loves you perfectly, just as you are.  Ponder all the times you experienced love.  This instrumental from "Love Story" may help you meditate...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Did You Find Your High Note?

Some people can't wait to flush 2012 down the toilet.  I'm not going to replay all the low notes of this past year here on this blog; the news networks have that covered.  Instead, I recommend you take a moment and review your personal highlights.   What important lesson or lessons did you learn these last twelve months?  What role did you play influencing the life of another? How are you planning to find your high note in the new year ahead?

The biggest lesson I learned this year is about letting go.  Here are some examples:
  1. Grudges.
  2. Pride.
  3. Ego.
  4. Possessions.
  5. Worry.
Consider this last year as one musical movement in your life.  The low notes are necessary to blend with the high notes ahead that will produce beautiful music for the world.  I'm personally moved by the audience following this blog.  Thank you for allowing me to end this year on a high note.  December readership is at an all-time high.  Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Did You Pass the Test?

Final exams for this year are coming to a conclusion.  A new semester of life begins on January 1.  I will never forget a message I wrote my economics instructor on my self-evaluation.  My B on my final guaranteed a B grade.  The last assignment was to turn in my own opinion of what I learned.  I shared from my heart about important lessons I learned and thanked him for all he taught me.  In terms of what I learned, I told him my opinion was an A.  He agreed and upgraded my report card.

There are many times in my life when my letter grades do not reflect my potential.  God doesn't evaluate us based on our mistakes.  Instead, He judges based on matters of the heart.  It's really all about our relationship with Him and with others.  The last thing on earth I want is to receive an "incomplete" on final exam day. I must live every day to its fullest.  I refuse to dwell on my past errors and choose to stay in the school of life until my Professor tells me it's graduation time.

Are you looking for a good New Year's resolution for 2013? You are welcome to copy mine:

I resolve to learn something new every day in the New Year and every year that follows and to share my experiences with others.

Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Find the End Zone

Photo credit: Sam Hodgson,

Another season is coming to a close.  The two-minute warning for 2012 is flashing.  I find myself and my family in the end zone celebrating victory.  The year started with a prayer and a dream.  Our team's resources were paper thin but that did not stop us from believing in miracles.  On February 29, we took the leap of faith, sold our California home, and said good-bye to our old life.  We converted on every 4th and long play we faced, triumphantly marching 1,850 miles across the field to reach our dreams.

Here are some coaching tips for those families desiring to make a change:
  1. Believe in miracles.  
  2. Huddle with your team and get them to buy into the dream.
  3. Be willing to let go of the things preventing you from moving forward on the field of dreams.
  4. Make adjustments.  Your opponent will do anything to keep you out of the end zone.  Don't be afraid to call an audible and change your strategy.
  5. Get some rest.  Your productivity will decline if you fail to take a break.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Odd Year of Blogging Ahead

Here it comes...2013; an odd blogging year is almost here.  The past three writing years focused on three themes -- faith, hope and love.  If those three elements are the bricks of this cyber-blog, then the mortar binding them together will be a one year supply of perseverance. 

Perseverance has nothing to do with falling down; it has everything to do with getting back up.  I promise to serve you a blog story for breakfast every morning at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time, made from my own personal cook book.  My recipes borrow heavily from ancient words of wisdom.  When I hear the referee counting to ten after a major blow, my Bible becomes my coach at the corner of the ring and the word of God summons me to rise just as Jesus did after every fall.

Here's an appetizer to savor.  Consider it a sample of what I will be serving every day in 2013...

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. ~ Ephesians 6:10-18

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lasso the Moon

Lately, I'm really enjoying all things black and white.  Most of the photos and videos in the collection my cousin Mary and aunt Teresa sent me are from the old days before color photography was available.  And the movie classics, like "It's a Wonderful Life," offer simple life lessons best viewed in the original format.

On Christmas day, I watched "It's a Wonderful Life" with my wife and children.  My favorite scene features George Bailey throwing rocks at a dilapidated house, wishing to see the world.  The woman of his dreams is standing right in front of him and he is too blind to notice.  She has dreams, too, but won't share.  George offers to lasso the moon and give it to her.

You may never know how many lives you affect.  George needed an angel to show him what the world would have been like if he was never born.  He discovered he had a wonderful life.  He learned no man is a failure who has friends.  He found a way to lasso the moon.  That is my wish for you today... that you find a way to lasso the moon and live your life to its fullest.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Home For Christmas

Once upon a time in a small town in California, my wife and I were shopping at our local Costco.  Our youngest child was about to turn two months old and he was sleeping in the shopping cart while my wife strolled through the Christmas section.  "Come here, honey," she said with puppy dog eyes, "I have something to show you."

My first thought was, what the's August and Christmas is already on display.  My wife had other thoughts.  She was dreaming of a white Christmas and she was about to ask me to make her fairy tale come true.  She pulled a crystal ball off the shelve, wound it up and shook it.  "Look," she said while she held out her dreams in her hands.  "There's a family inside with two boys, a girl and a dog."  The snow was swirling while the music played "I'll Be Home For Christmas."  She paused.  I stared inside at the beautiful Christmas scene.  Then I put two crystal balls in the cart, one for her dad and one for our family.  Nobody knew about our spur-of-the-moment decision to go to Iowa for Christmas.  We kept it a secret, even from our own children, for 90 days, a new world record for this Mulligan.  We arrived two days before Christmas in the middle of a snow storm, rented a car and maneuvered through the vehicles that were slipping and sliding all over the icy I-80 on the one hundred mile stretch from Des Moines to Williamsburg.

Last night the original crystal ball from Christmas of 1995 sat on the dining room table at my wife's sisters home.  I picked it up, wound it, shook it and stared into it while the music played.  Our second globe shattered  years earlier and only the base remained.  The crystal globe magnified the family, making them appear larger than life.  One of my nieces pulled out a couple of pictures from that fairy tale Christmas and presented them to my family.  All the cousins were together at grandpa's house sitting on the couch.  They are full-grown now and together again.

When members are pushing shopping carts through the Christmas section in August at our brand new Costco in Coralville and ask me why I'm here, I smile.  My life is a story book.  Many chapters are yet to be written.  I promise to live happily ever after, one fairy tale page at a time.  Yes, I'm home for Christmas.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.  -the end...or, is it the beginning?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Are You Real, Jesus?

We didn't set up a Nativity scene outside our home this was one of many boxes we donated when we ran out of space in the moving truck.  Our zero-lot home doesn't have enough room in the front yard for the Holy Family either.  It's been 2,000 years since Jesus was crowded out for His birth and it appears not much has changed in modern times...still no room for Jesus.  Looks like there's plenty of space for non-believers to promote their point-of-view on billboards during the Holidays.  With all the recent tragic events going on, even some believers may be asking, "are you real, Jesus?"

Here are some reasons to celebrate this season:
  1. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. ~ Luke 2:10.  This message is for all people and for all times.  God doesn't use flashy billboards to announce the birth of His Son, He prefers Angels.
  2. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16.  
  3. "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." ~ Matthew 1:23.
  4. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." ~ John 18:36.  This world Jesus speaks of is now open for anyone who believes in Him and who follows Him.  It all started with His birth in a manger.  He did this for you.
  5. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” ~ Revelation 21:5.
There was no room for Jesus in my moving truck and the front yard is also too small for Him.  There is one place where Jesus is real -- your heart.  Invite Him to become a permanent resident.  And when others ask you, "is Jesus real?" you will know the answer.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas To Do List

Maybe my role as Scrooge in a grade school play helped to scare the dickens out of me.  I'm working on my Christmas to do list without any fears of Christmas ghosts.  Here's my list -- I'm checking it twice...
  1. Bake a birthday cake for Jesus with my family.
  2. Help my wife prepare a Christmas turkey.
  3. Build a snowman in our backyard with our three children and add some snow angels.
  4. Share the day with all of my wife's siblings and their children.
  5. Go to Church with the entire family.
  6. Call my mother and tell her how much I love her.
  7. Wish all my siblings a Merry Christmas.
  8. Pray for those who are hurting or suffering.
  9. Spend some quiet time thanking Jesus for making all things new in my life and for all the miracles he performs.
  10. Write a special message for my friends, family members and followers of this blog and publish it on Christmas morning.
What are you doing to celebrate Christmas this year?  Please share your thoughts below.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Icing On the Cake

Our first Winter storm dumped nearly one foot of snow all around us when the blizzard passed through earlier this week.  The weather is expected to be cold enough to keep the snow intact until Christmas.  Mother Nature is planning to sprinkle a light layer of frosting on Christmas Eve, just in time to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

I ventured out yesterday for the first time since the storm.  Overturned semis dotted the I-80, some of them jackknifed and crunched up like soda cans someone angrily stomped on.  Abandoned vehicles littered the ditches, reminding me that my daughter's wish for a white Christmas is actually a nightmare for some.  There is something sinister about the almost invisible layer of glazed ice on the roads known as black ice.

No matter how picturesque your view is today, beware of the evil lurking in the shadows of your life. It can't stand the real meaning of Christmas and will do anything to cause a distraction.  My family will bake a cake on Christmas day to celebrate Jesus' birthday.  Mother Nature is in charge of the icing on the cake.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mr. Bojangles

During my high school days, my two favorite songs on my dad's jukebox at Mulligan's Bar were the Piano Man by Billy Joel and Me and Bobby Mcgee, sung by Janis Joplin.  I think Mr. Bojangles was one of the selections although my brothers and I overlooked it when we were there early in the morning on weekends to clean the bathrooms.

This morning, my wife heard the song in her head and asked me to play a YouTube video.  I selected a version by Sammy Davis Jr. that appears below.  "Mr. Bojangles" was a fictional name used by a homeless Caucasian male to conceal his true identity from police.  Jerry Jeff Walker met this man while in jail for public intoxication.  The story in the song about the dog is true and the dance at the end was performed to lighten the mood after the homeless man told his touching story that inspired the hit song.

For me, Mr. Bojangles is a reminder of another man I knew who lived in his own prison cell for many years grieving his own personal losses.  I will call him Mr. Bojangles to protect his true identity.  The Bojangles I knew had a way of entertaining others with his own sort of dance.  Like entertainers Janis Joplin and Sammy Davis Jr.,  the Mr. Bojangles I knew is no longer with us.  The song below is dedicated to all the people in this world who are grieving the loss of someone special and to a beloved entertainer who danced in order to distract us from any pain we may be experiencing during this Holiday season.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

First Snow in Iowa

Fresh blanket of snow in our backyard.

Our first Iowa snow storm arrived on schedule yesterday dumping nearly a foot of snow in some areas.  Schools are closed today and travel is discouraged.  The blizzard, accompanied by lightning and thunder, will be with us until midnight.  The lightning began while we watched the conclusion of the Dark Night last night, adding an eerie 3D effect to the climax.  Below freezing high temperatures for the next seven days will keep the snow on the ground and guarantee the kind of Christmas they write about in story books.

My life these days feels like a fairy tale.  Our children are with us and we are enjoying the Christmas season.  No longer are we dreaming of a white Christmas, we are living the dream.  May the spirit of Christmas blow into your home like a blizzard and warm your heart. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Looks Like a White Christmas

photo credit:
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

I thought my wife changed the ringtone on her cell phone.  At 4:00 AM this morning it rattled and buzzed.  The text message warned of an impending blizzard.  My first thought was, looks like a white Christmas.  The storm will arrive today and heavy snow is expected.  For my family, this is the epitome of Advent which means joyful expectation.  For years, my daughter longed for a white Christmas.  The moment we announced we were relocating to the Midwest she rejoiced.

The weather patterns are a bit unusual this year. So far, each storm hit when temperatures were above freezing.  Then, no precipitation when the temperatures descended as low as 17º.  Undaunted by Mother Nature's teases, our daughter kept praying for her first white Christmas, now only days away.  Looks like Jesus is giving us one of those miracle moments like the time He turned water into barrels of wine at a wedding, His first public miracle.  I love His perfect timing.  He is preparing to turn water into buckets of snow just in time for His birthday.  We are joyfully expecting 6 to 10 inches of snow in the next 24 hour period.  Look for our California kids throwing snowballs and building snowmen in our backyard.

Thank you, Jesus, for answering our prayers.  Only you can feed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and some fish or give a family a blizzard of blessings when all they ask for is a couple inches of snow in time to celebrate your birthday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Michael and the Bean Stalk

here's my story,
I hope it's not dumb...

My parents baptized me in the name of the Holy Spirit when I was a baby.  In the 7th grade, I asked the Holy Spirit to water that seed during a special religious ceremony.  My Uncle Tom stood behind me with his hand on my shoulder.  The Holy Spirit was like a cow that gave me milk every day.  One day in high school, I discovered there was no milk so I threw my seed out the window and went on some sort of spiritual quest.

After years of searching, I returned to the place where I discarded my spiritual seed.  In front of me was a huge bean stalk.  I started climbing.  On top of the bean stalk, there was a gorgeous woman with blue eyes that froze me like a statue.  She offered me some milk to drink.  From that moment, I was no longer thirsty.  I asked her to marry me and she said yes.  The ground started shaking.  It was a giant and he was hungry.  I hoisted my bride over my shoulder and scurried down the bean stalk.  I wanted to chop the bean stalk down but there wasn't enough time so I grabbed my belongings and drove non-stop for three days.  When I finally stopped, I thought I reached Heaven.  A voice bellowed from the corn stalks, "no, you're not in Heaven, you're in Iowa."

My wife told me she was fond of the corn stalks in Iowa and asked me if we could live here forever and ever.  I said yes.  Every day I write about my adventures.  I warn readers not to cry over spilled milk; it waters the seeds even when they are thrown out the window.  Those seeds become bean stalks that lead you to new heights.  Beware of the giant who wants to devour you and resolve to keep climbing until you reach the top.  The view is Heavenly.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pin to Win

Awards Ceremony in Iowa.

I knew Iowa football was a big deal when my next-door neighbor named his pet dog, Kinnick.  Kinnick stadium is a beacon that attracts loyal fans from all over the state.  I didn't think anything else could be more important in my new surroundings.  Then wrestling season started.  Our family woke up at 4:00 AM last Saturday to watch our youngest son in a high school tournament.  "You need to get there early," our son told us.  "Coach said it's going to be a quick tournament."

Twelve hours after we arrived it was time to go home.  His team took first place out of thirteen schools.  The atmosphere in the gym was like attending the super bowl.  During one of the matches, a nervous mother leaned back so far in her seat she nearly pinned me as she watched her son battle.  Other spectators told me everything I need to know about Iowa wrestling.  Here's a summary:
  1. Iowa babies are grouped by weight in the hospital nursery and share beds.  The dads cheer as the babies grapple with their first opponents in the cradle while the mothers go over the weight charts and plan future wrestling play groups.
  2. As soon as Iowa babies can crawl, they learn the half-nelson.
  3. Iowa high school wrestlers are not allowed more than five matches per day.  That is to make sure the rest of the family has enough travel time to get to the next tournament.
We are really happy our son picked a sport that has so much support from the fans, even if they sit in front of me and try to pin me.  It appears wrestling is more than a spectator sport in Iowa. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Class Dismissed

Jesus Wept ~ John 11:35 

photo credit: Lindsey Wasson
The bell never rang on the last day of class.  Charlotte, Olivia, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Jesse, James, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin and Allison, each six years old, and seven-year-old classmates Daniel, Josephine, Chase and Grace, along with their beloved principal, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, heroic teachers, and the school psychologist dismissed early.  Jesus wept.

School is not out for the rest of us who have so many questions.  Our hearts are broken.  We grieve for all the families affected by the tragedy in Newton, Connecticut.  Some are asking, "where is Jesus?"

When Jesus was with His followers, He heard the same question.  They wanted to know why He allowed His good friend Lazarus to die.  Jesus wept.  Then He asked Lazarus to wake up.  Perhaps Lazarus needed to die so that Jesus could teach His followers He has power over death.  The Kindergarteners who were killed already know this.  They are with Jesus right now.  Their class is dismissed.  Our own bell has not rung yet.  We must wake up -- even if we have tears in our eyes today.  Jesus teaches us it is okay to weep.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Labor of Love

The package arrived two days ago, the same day our daughter returned home from college.  I knew if I opened it, I would become so immersed in all the videos and pictures that my daughter would feel like an orphan.  The package was like the Christmas present under the tree you can't wait to rip open.  Last night I shared the care package with my wife and children.  We watched 90 minutes of movies that began in 1930 on my grandparent's wedding day.  The movie covers five generations spanning over thirty years.

I would like to give a big shout out to my cousin Mary and my aunt Teresa who invested over one year of their lives scanning old photos, getting in touch with distant relatives who contributed more stories and pictures, and identifying all the people from our past.  Special recognition goes to my cousin, Bill, who offered a family tree.  Honorable mention goes to the recently discovered lost branch of our family who filled in some missing pieces.  Kristi and Lorraine, you made the video extra special for me because I saw the movie through your eyes and your memories.  It was all there just as you described, Lorraine -- the rabbits my great-grandparents raised, the victory garden, even the visits to grandma's house when my dad and his siblings were so young.  Our cousin, John R, paid Mary a visit and generously loaned his collection of photos for scanning; his contribution is now part of a treasure chest of memories future generations will benefit from.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.  And a Mrs. Clause.  They bear gifts from their hearts.  They demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas.  Their labor of love far exceeded the normal nine month birthing process and I'm sure there were times when they wondered if they would ever see the light of day.  I can't wait to view the rest of the collection.  For now, I need to put my gift away and spend the day watching our youngest son in his wrestling tournament.  It's 5:15 AM here in Iowa and the rest of the family is waking up.  My writing day is over for now and my family day is just beginning.  See you tomorrow. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Give Christmas Away

Matthew West and Amy Grant team up in the YouTube video below to offer a beautiful song about giving Christmas away.  I invite you to pay close attention to the lyrics.  The real challenge is to take this spirit with you into the New Year ahead and keep it with you for the rest of your life.  Give it a try...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Do Angels Do?

The road block on the way to work was annoying.  Police cars lined the intersection just blocks from my work and nobody could get through.  Black smoke rose up near the building where I was employed in San Diego.  There were no survivors.  I parked my car and jogged to work.  It was an ugly scene.  A small plane undershot the runway and crashed on the busy street just before sunrise.  I immediately thought of one of my buddies who commuted to work about a half hour ahead of me.  He was nowhere to be found.  I panicked wondering if the plane crashed into him.

My buddy showed up late for work, the first time ever in all his years of service.  He said his alarm clock didn't go off.  We calculated the time of the plane crash and estimated he would have been in the exact spot where the plane hit the ground if he followed his normal routine.

That's what Angels do.  They are on a mission to carry out God's plan for our lives.  They intervene when necessary.  They warn of danger.  They announce.  They minister.  They turn off alarm clocks when necessary to keep us out of harm's way.  They are capable of taking the human form when they need to get our attention.

Angels witnessed the birth of Jesus.  They love giving praise to God.  They cheer for us when we choose to invite Jesus into our hearts.  They are willing to help out in a crisis.  Keep that in mind the next time you pray to God for help.  Your answer may come from one of God's angels.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Date With 12-12-12

If you like numbers, today is a triple play day. 

There are over 18 billion results for 12-12-12 when you search for it on Google.  Maybe you are wondering how on earth you were able to find this story.  There is no magic here.   I simply publish one new blog every day.  The more I write, the more relevant Google thinks I am.  This writing ritual is now a 1,200+ day way of life.

The Mayans were big believers in calendars and predictions.  Their prophecies about the Winter Solstice on 12/21/12 inspired Hollywood to produce a movie about the end times.  The One I follow says, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." ~ Matthew 24:36

It could be a coincidence that the inspiration for today's 12-12-12 story comes from Revelations 1:11, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”  Today's message goes to the ends of the earth, including France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, India, Philippines, Germany and Canada, this month's top seven locations outside the United States where my blog stories are read.  This is what I see in my head:
The symbol you see above is not a number -- it's the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  I consider this symbol part of a perfect Trifecta, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus said about it:

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. ~ Revelation 22:13

If you are looking for the perfect date on this day, 12/12/12, invite the Alpha and the Omega to be a part of your life forever.  This is your date with destiny.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Got Gumption?

Excuses are like land mines.  I'm referring to the ones that don't explode until you step off of them.  You know you are trapped.  You can freeze, however, if you do, the excuse wins.  You can take another step.  And if you do, the excuse wins.  Or, you can get gumption.  If you are sick and tired of stepping on land mines, try these ideas to get some gumption in your life:
  1. Delegate.  There are talented people all around you who know how to navigate past excuses.  Ask them to help you with your workload so you can get past the minefield.
  2. Find out where all the excuses in your life are coming from and figure out a way to cut off the supply lines.
  3. Outsmart the excuse.  This may require additional training or education.  Creativity is necessary.  Common sense is an important ingredient.  There is always a way to disarm any excuse if you are willing to use your ingenuity.
Do you remember what Forrest Gump did when he was thinking about losing his girlfriend?  He got some gumption, sat up from his chair and started running.  He kept running.  He got over his loss.  He got gumption.  How about you?  Got gumption?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Ego Has Landed

Empathy and humility are afraid of heights.  They do their best work at sea level after the ego has landed. ~ Michael Mulligan

What do you do when your ego loses its hot air and your balloon comes crashing down?  If you're a songwriter or a poet, you can share your experience with your audience and produce a best-seller.  If you're a parent, you can teach your children important life lessons.  If you happen to be a blogger, you can help others learn that life isn't all about the hot air we produce from our own over-inflated egos; life is about helping others discover the potential they have to soar and encouraging them to get back on their feet after a fall.  Here are some reasons you may want to consider flying your ego at a lower altitude:
  1. People with big egos fly so high that everyone else looks small and insignificant.  They put bumper stickers on their cars so the world knows all about what they think and believe.  They wear annoying shirts with their point-of-view displayed in over-sized print.
  2. Jesus teaches that the greatest among us is the one without the big ego, the one who dedicates his or her life to serving others.
  3. Empathy and humility are afraid of heights.  They do their best work at sea level after the ego has landed.
  4. The brightest Angel in Heaven had such a big ego that He thought His light came from Himself rather than from God.  Don't let Him tempt you with His empty promises.
  5. Our Savior came into this world homeless.  He kept things simple.  He challenged people with over-sized egos.  The ones who listened to His message sold their hot air balloons and followed Him.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Joy Without the Comfort

When my wife woke up this morning, she blurted, "comfort and joy."  Christmas melodies were dancing in her head.  I saw different images in my head -- homeless men with no shoes, friends who are missing the spirit of Christmas, and loved ones who are struggling to make ends meet.  Then a thought hit me, is it possible to have joy when you have no comfort?  Here is what popped into my head:
  1. Joy is not limited to being thankful when life is comfortable, joy is a state of mind you take with you when you leave the comfort zone.
  2. Homeless men with no shoes give joy to those who provide them with comfort.
  3. No matter how little you have, joy can be found when you find something of yourself to give.
Don't worry about being comfortable today, focus on being joyful.  I promise to do the same.  The temperature outside today is below freezing -- a tad-bit uncomfortable for a California transplant.  I will think about the joy my family will have as we experience a White Christmas for the first time in our new Iowa home.

I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. ~ 2 Corinthians 7:4

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Underground Connections

For five bucks, you can take a car load of friends to Colossal Cave in Tucson, Arizona for a one-half mile guided tour.  And if you have underground connections, you can enter from a secret spot known as the "rabbit hole" for free.  Supposedly, there are approximately 39 miles of underground tunnels connected to Colossal Cave.

My spelunking experiences during college with my buddy from a rival university revealed a whole new world off the beaten path.  He taught me how to repel into secret caves known only to cave explorer insiders.  We explored miles of stalactites and stalagmites using candles to mark our trails.  These cave travels inspired me to call myself the caveman once I discovered I was a writer.

My wife treasures a photo from one of our first Halloween celebrations together where we dressed in caveman outfits.  That photo will have to remain "underground" due to privacy restrictions.  What I will share is a story about two characters who are connected to one another by their own life experiences.  They are both cave dwellers who discover the meaning of life.  The Caveman in the Mirror will be released in less than one hundred days.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

If you are interested in cave exploration, I recommend you check out Colossal Cave in Arizona.  It's not far from Tombstone and Bisbee, the place where my dad wrote his first book.  And if you are inspired to go deeper, join an underground connection, the National Speleological Society.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A River of Blessings

Why is it in our nature to build dams when Heaven wants to send us a river of blessings?  I remember looking up in awe at Hoover Dam, photographed above, while on a camping trip with my best friend.  The dam is under 24 hour surveillance to keep it protected from anyone trying to tamper with it.  Sometimes, we act as our own body guards.  We watch over the dams we built during our lifetimes and never let the blessings flow because we are afraid what will happen if the dam bursts.

Here are some signs you are blocking the river of blessings from Heaven:
  1. You are afraid to love.
  2. You are afraid to forgive.
  3. You are afraid to invite Jesus into your heart.
  4. You fear acknowledging there is a greater power than yourself.
  5. You place more value on the dam than the river.
  6. You feel you are not worthy of blessings from Heaven.
  7. You fear you may drown if the dam bursts.
  8. You only know the comfort of the dam and you are afraid what will happen if it disappears.
  9. You have trust issues.
  10. You are afraid if the dam bursts you will never be able to rebuild it.
I was guilty of all ten items listed above.  I was also stubborn.  The more others tried to blow up my dam, the more defensive I became.  I only saw my dam as protection.  The problem with this view is that you miss out on a life that can be extraordinary.

Go ahead.  Let the dam burst.  Allow the river of blessings to flow.  Ride those stage five rapids through the canyons and turn your stagnant life into something extraordinary.

"Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." ~ John 7:38

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Love Train

"How much will my ticket cost?" I asked the agent at the counter.

"Your ticket is free.  You can't buy love," she answered.

"What about my bags?"

"Sorry, we don't allow any baggage on the love train."

"How long will it take to reach my destination?"

"A lifetime."

"How will I know when I'm there?"

"The love train is different from anything you've ever experienced and the quality of your adventure depends on your willingness to share with the passenger sitting next to you.  Hold hands.  Look out the window.  Engage in conversation.  Share your hopes and dreams.

There will be a stop along the way and one of you will need to depart.  If you are asked to leave first, be sure to leave enough great memories for the other passenger to go on without you.  And if the other passenger exits before it's your time, remember this: the separation is only temporary.  Your love will be waiting for you when you reach your final destination.  Your love will be the first one to greet you when the ride is over.  Don't be surprised when you hear Angels singing and fireworks lighting up the heavens above.

You better hurry.  It's final boarding call and the other passenger is waiting for you.  Are you ready to board the love train?"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Ease Holiday Stress

Are you feeling a little bit overwhelmed this Holiday season?  Maybe you find yourself surrounded by people who look like the Grinch who stole Christmas or your schedule is so crowded you don't know how you are going to survive.  Here are some ideas to help you ease your Holiday stress:
  1. Don't let others steal your Christmas spirit.  Some people enjoy being negative.  Stay away from them until the Holidays are over.
  2. Don't over-commit to Holiday parties.  If you feel like you're speed dating because that's the only way to get to every party you're invited to, slow down and only say yes to the people you are closest to.  Choose quality rather than quantity.
  3. Make your bed and straighten up your home.  The less clutter your brain sees, the more relaxed you will feel.  
  4. Play Holiday music.  Christmas songs will remind you why we are celebrating.
  5. Do some volunteer work.  Find something you are passionate about and watch your stress disappear.  
If you have any ideas to contribute about how you ease your Holiday stress, please add them in the comments section below.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just One Verse

 “The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” ~ Walt Whitman

Verses of your life are like bathwater filling a tub.  At times, they're piping hot, scorching your body.  Other times, they're so frigid, your skin turns purple.  When the temperature is just right and the tub full, the bath soothes the soul.

Consider today's verse an important stanza the world needs.  Do not pay attention to the temperature of your verse, it will warm a cool heart or melt an icy soul.  Simply turn on the faucet and let it pour out into a world longing to bathe.

Monday, December 3, 2012

3 Sources of Inspiration

Accidents...preplanned events designed by God to inspire change ~ Michael Mulligan

I remember 1993 like it was yesterday.  My wife's doctor advised her to go home and tell me my prayers for a St. Patrick's Day baby were fruitless as "nothing was happening yet."  It was a busy time in our household.  It was no accident that our daughter arrived according to God's will on the very day I prayed for, much to our doctor's surprise.

As our daughter was entering this world, one of the most inspirational coaches of all times was about to exit.  Jimmy Valvano appeared on the first ever Espy awards and delivered a speech I never saw until yesterday while on a break at work.  He died the following month.  His words live on nearly two decades after his death.  I dedicate today's blog to him and two others who inspire me to live my life to its fullest:
  1. Jimmy Valvano.   Click here  to see his Espy Speech from 1993.
  2. Robin Williams - First day of class...Dead Poets SocietyClick here.
  3. Patrick John Mulligan - When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he realized his time here was short.  His final days with his family moved me to write my first memoir.  He taught me to pay close attention to what dying people have to say.  There is no fluff in their words or actions.
Thanks for visiting today.  May this story inspire you to look within yourself and discover the meaning of your life.  Do something today that will forever change the life of someone around you.  I recommend praying, even when others tell you, "nothing is happening yet."  And when something good happens, you can reply, "this is no accident -- it's a preplanned event designed by God to inspire change."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's Your Move

Two important rules of chess concern time and space.  Suppose you apply those rules to your life.  Pretend your time and space is limited to this day only.  Live this day as if it's your last.  The time clock is ticking and you are running out of space.  Consider all your choices carefully.

If you are having trouble deciding what your move will be, here are three examples that work for me:
  1. Thank you.
  2. I forgive you.
  3. I love you.
It helps if you change your attitude about the person on the other side of the board.  Stop thinking about him or her as your opponent or adversary.  Are you ready?  Go ahead.  It's your move...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gone Fishing

Ever wonder why Jesus chose a motley crew of fisherman to be his closest followers?  I think it may have something to do with the art of fishing.  Jesus wanted his disciples to make a transition; He wanted them to become fishers of men.  If you're having trouble winning others to your point-of-view, quit splashing in the water and scaring the fish away.  Go fishing.  And if your gonna do it, do it right:
  1. Be quiet.  The more you ramble, the more you get in the way.  A great fisherman is invisible.  The only thing the fish sees is the bait.
  2. Be patient.  It takes time for others to nibble on your message.  Don't rush to reel them in until they decide they like the bait.
  3. Change the bait.  Do this by asking questions.  You need to understand what is important to others.  If they aren't biting, it may be because your message is stale or your fish aren't relating to you.
  4. Fish in bad weather.  Most people aren't open to new ideas when the waters are calm.  They are more willing to bite when the conditions are stormy.  Jesus caught the most fish when they were sick, blind, deaf, poor, hungry...even dead.
  5. Know where your fish are.  One of the most embarrassing moments in the Bible was the time the apostles fished all night and caught nothing.  Jesus asked His followers to try fishing on the other side of the boat.  Voilà!
This blog is the place where I cyber-fish every morning at the same time.  I did my best to ignore the bait but God kept fishing for me and once He hooked me, I knew He was asking me to become a fisher of men.  I have cast my rod 1,193 days in a row.  There is a nibble about every eight minutes day and night from all corners of the earth.  Everything I learned about fishing comes from the greatest fisher of men of all times -- Jesus.  Nothing will make Him happier than a sign from you that says, "gone fishing."

“Follow Me, I will make you fishers of men” ~ Matthew 4:19