Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Puzzle Worth Completing

"The Garden of Eden" by Lucas Cranach der Ältere, a 16th century German depiction of Eden.
Every newborn has their own life's puzzle to assemble.  In the beginning, they have parents, teachers and other family members to assist.  The individual puzzle pieces can only fit one way.  Each puzzle is part of a quilt hand-stitched by the generations who came before us. 

I love being a part of this quilt and I love the people I'm connected to.  There were times in my life when I doubted my ability to complete my puzzle.  The Holy Spirit picked up the phone the moment I speed dialed and inspired me to slow down.  In my rush to figure life out, I was missing out on important clues -- some revealed by reviewing parts of the puzzle already pieced together, and others by spending more time with those who consider themselves misfits.

Here are some reasons why I believe your puzzle is worth completing:
  1. God creates perfectly.  Those jagged edges in the puzzle pieces have a purpose.  They function as tendons and ligaments, connecting muscle to bone or bone to bone.  One missing piece causes problems for the entire body.
  2. When connections are made in your own puzzle, you begin to see a picture of the world as God created it. 
  3. Any thoughts you have of not belonging to the puzzle do not come from God.
  4. If you trust God to show you where you perfectly fit into His masterpiece, He will.
  5. Every new day is a brand new opportunity to find more connections, to seek out lost pieces and to appreciate all that God reveals to you.
When the last piece of the puzzle is in place, you will see a complete picture of the original Garden of Eden and you will finally see the One who created it all.  Can you see yourself in this picture?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Is Your Answer Blowing in the Wind?

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man? ~ Bob Dylan

It's impossible to grasp the wind.  Just like Bob Dylan's songs, the wind changes direction unexpectedly and we can never be certain about what is ahead. So, how do you navigate the winds for your answers?  What roads do you choose?

You aren't going to find your answers tied up at the docks.  You must raise your sails and harness the wind.  Yes, my friend, your answer is blowing in the wind. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." ~ Matthew 7:7.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The More Things Change

The more things change, the more they stay the same. ~ Alphonse Karr, French novelist (1808-1890)

My current writing adventure has its roots in another time from long ago.  The main character is a crazy man living in the Winter of his life who wants to find a way to climb out of his cave.  The more I get to know this lunatic, the more similarities I find in myself and the people around me.  Here are some examples:
  1. Modes of communication may change, however, the need to communicate is timeless.
  2. Geography may separate us from the ones we love, however, our love for them stays the same.
  3. Environment may change what we wear on the outside, however, it cannot change who we are on the inside.
  4. We may change our beliefs about what we can and cannot do, however, the possibilities remain constant.
  5. Evil may change its name or its flavor, however, its destructive forces produce the same consequences.
  6. Good may lose its popularity or its place in society, however, it will always be the same as it ever was.
  7. The Bible may be translated into different languages, however, it will never lose its meaning.
  8. Churches may fight about who is right and who is wrong, however, it won't change who God is.
  9. What you see in the mirror may look different over time, however, what God sees in you, a reflection of Himself, never changes.
  10. No matter how cold and dark your Winter may be, there will always be a Spring.
My prayer for you today is that you embrace all the changes you face in your life.  You are the perennial no matter what season of the year you are living in.  The world will be waiting for your flower to bloom again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Is Failure a Road Sign?

Your attitude towards failure influences the roads you choose to travel upon.  Easy roads are packed with proud travelers who never make mistakes.  They don't launch businesses because the risk of failure is too high.  They see mistakes as potholes to be avoided at all costs.

Visionaries see failure as a necessary road sign needed for growth opportunities.  They learn how to navigate on icy roads.  They test the limits of all hazardous road conditions.  When an accident occurs, they learn from it.  They know the perils of venturing outside their comfort zone and go there anyways.

Consider the failure signs in your life as mile markers.  Each time you pass one, another important life lesson is tallied on your odometer.   Happy travels.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Miracle:  A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine.

What happens when you attempt to understand the source of a miracle by peeling away its onion layers?  No matter how much you peel, you can't explain where it came from or how it arrived just when you needed it most.  You ordered orchids and the delivery man showed up with an onion instead.  You hear him on the other side of your door singing a tune from the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need."

You can spend your life trying to figure out where onions come from or you can serve them as appetizers for your hungry guests.  Invite them to stick around for the main course -- the Lamb of God.  He is the source of all miracles and He will make sure everyone who eats will no longer be hungry.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How To Repair a Broken Relationship

It was a sad moment at the Australian Open earlier this week.  Wilson was beat up and humiliated in front of the whole world and then thrown to the ground.  His wounds are irreparable and his life is over.  Even though he is only an inanimate object incapable of expressing his emotions, he knows first-hand how difficult it is when a relationship goes down under.  Here are some ideas to repair a broken relationship before it's too late:
  1. Express yourself.  It doesn't help when you bottle up your thoughts.  If you're in a high-strung relationship, this is especially important.  Communication can heal old wounds.
  2. Stop blaming others for your troubles.  You are the one serving up double faults and failing to put the ball in play.  Innocent loved ones don't know how to handle your antics.  Leave your anger on the sidelines and promise to keep the rally going with consistent strokes of love and kindness.
  3. Stop treating your loved ones like opponents and learn to play doubles.  The game of life has enough adversaries.  When you start treating your loved ones like partners and you learn how to move together in harmony, you will no longer feel alone on the court.  You will also save a lot of money replacing tennis rackets.
The tennis pros you watch on TV change their tennis rackets as often as you and I change our socks.  The three Wilson rackets I carry in my bag are more precious than that and I plan to keep them with me for the rest of my life.  They are there to remind me of the people who gave them to me and to remind me how valuable my relationships are.  The best way to repair a broken relationship is to avoid breaking it.  Stay close to the Wilsons in your life and treat them like gold.

Friday, January 25, 2013

5 Rocks Worth Collecting

The last time I hiked the Grand Canyon, it was about this time of year and a thin layer of snow laced the top of the rim.  The twenty-four hour adventure started out great, however, my backpack weighed me down near the end of the hike and I wished it wasn't so heavy.  The load on my shoulders reminded me of all the burdens I was holding onto.  When I got home, I decided it was time to empty my backpack.  There were five rocks at the bottom of my backpack more precious than gems.  They are as important to me as Wilson was to Tom Hanks in Cast Away.  Diamonds have ratings.  So do my five rocks.  They are all rated "F" -- the highest quality possible.  Put these in your permanent collection:

  1. Faith.  This is my center stone diamond.  It has been in my family for generations.  There is nothing in this world more valuable than this rock.
  2. Family.  Portions of this large stone have only been recently unearthed.  I'm blessed to have a loving wife, three incredible children, a very special mother, five amazing siblings, and a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins.
  3. Friends.  As the angel Clarence from "It's a Wonderful Life" says, "no man is a failure who has friends." 
  4. Fitness.  Healthy eating, a consistent exercise program and the right amount of rest are necessary to enjoy life to its fullest.
  5. Fun.  Don't defer having fun until some future time, like retirement.  Take this rock out of your backpack every day and savor it.
My prayer for you today is that you treasure your rocks.  I promise to keep mine with me everywhere I go.  Thanks for being part of my collection.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to Make a Love Potion

Warning!  The love potion described below has not been tested by the FDA.  Known side effects are change in mood or behavior.  Small doses produce limited short-term results.  Long-term usage may result in weight loss due to increased desires for physical activity.  Maximum effectiveness is attained when the love potion is consumed daily for 28 consecutive days.  This is a home remedy and a prescription is not required.  Follow these guidelines:
  1. Make a list of all the items that are important to your loved one.
  2. Memorize the list and prioritize it.
  3. Each item on the list is your love potion.  Consume everything on the list every day for 28 days.
This remedy is for your consumption only.  Do not miss any doses.  Be patient.  Expect questions such as, "Are you on drugs?"  Or, "Are you an alien?"  When your loved one looks at you and sees a prince or a princess instead of a toad, you know the love potion is working.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Joy of Giving

Five years ago, my wife and I expanded our traditional Valentine's Day into a month-long celebration.  The lesson I learned from the experience is how wonderful it is to give.  Last year we were so busy packing up our belongings for our move to Iowa that we skipped Valentine's Month.    Love needs to be expressed daily.  And there is a special joy of giving when it comes from the heart.

I challenge you to come out of your comfort zone.  Make a decision today to express your love in new ways.  Do something out of the ordinary each day in the month of February.  Start planning now.  Make it the best 28 days your loved one has ever had.  It may also turn out to be the best 28 days of your life.  In fact, it may alter the course of your life forever.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Field of Winter Dreams

What happens when a California family leaves the familiar surroundings of beaches and mountains  for a new field of dreams in Iowa?  If it's summer time, there are barbecues, bonfires and visits to the lake.  If it's winter, that Wizard of Oz moment happens when you wake up in the middle of your first blizzard and realize you're not in Kansas anymore.  Your friends on the other side of the rainbow assume you're living some kind of nightmare but you know deep inside your life is made for the field of winter dreams.  It's the moment you discover the magic of a white Christmas.

It doesn't matter to me that the outdoor temperature is only 1º this morning or that the howling winds make it feel more like -20º.  I'm bundling up and heading to the indoor tennis courts this evening.  And if Mother Nature keeps it up, maybe next year I will introduce my family to a new sport.  It's California dreaming, Iowa style.

Check this out...

Click here for the snowfer link.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Check Your Attitude Thermometer

My wife's cousin posted this chilling picture on her FB page this morning.  It provoked a question, "Do outside temperatures affect your attitude?"  While pondering the question, some wise words from a mentor drifted into my head like a snow flurry...always affect your environment, never let it affect you.  My attitude thermometer started heating up.  It was time to take the gloves off and type these weather-proof pointers:
  1.  The weather outside may be challenging.  So are many other unplanned events that you didn't see in the forecast.  None of these needs to freeze up your attitude thermometer.  The fire of your passions burning inside you never needs to cool down just because Mother Nature caught a cold.
  2. The weather is your friend as long as you learn how to adapt.  Let your competitors crawl back under the sheets while you are out there battling the elements.  Your customers will be happy to see you and probably have a lot of time on their hands to spend with you as long as you show up.
  3. There is always something positive to do -- even when there is a negative sign in the temperature.  Use the wind to go windsurfing, use the snow to go sledding, and use the water from all the melting snow to enjoy white-water rafting when the rivers are flowing.
Mother Nature has four seasons.  I plan to savor everything she gives me.  The one thing she has no control over is my attitude thermometer.  It's on a permanent setting.  You have the option about where to set the dial on your environment.  Will you be affecting it or will it be affecting you?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

23 Years To Go Until Blog Story #10,000

Sometimes I feel like a magician who pulls a rabbit out of his hat.  I wonder how many stories are hidden away inside my head.  Maybe I'm the happy-faced clown at the three-ring circus who keeps pulling out those scarves, one at a time, while the crowd wonders if the supply will ever end.   1,242 in a row is a good start.  Only 8,758 to go to reach 10,000 rabbits.

For those of you who would rather skip to the end of my life as a story teller, I will give you a sneak preview of what episode #10,000 will be like, approximately 23 years into the future.  Odds are my mind will be slightly more warped than it is today, however, this clown will still be wearing his trademark "happy face"  while pulling rabbits out of my hat and spinning plates on my nose.  Drum roll, please...

Hey diddle diddle,
The Cat and the fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the moon,
The little Dog laughed to see such sport,
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon.

Where did they go?
you want to know,
that little dish and her spoon,
they lassoed the moon,
and followed their dreams,
that little dish and her spoon.

Is this where it ends,
for the spoon in depends?
the little dog waiting above,
there's more stories to hone,
before he jumps over the moon.

Just give spoons his teeth,
and sit down beneath,
so he can smile at you,
now be a good sport,
and hear his 10,000th retort.

Hey diddle diddle,
The spoon with the riddle,
his mind jumped over the moon,
he has only one wish,
that's to stay with his dish,
until they lasso the moon.

Sorry folks.  The fat lady isn't singing yet, although she's humming a few bars.  Looks like the circus will go on.  In case you didn't like today's blog, you can blame the younger me.  I wrote this story twenty-three years ago, on January 20, 2013.  That's how long it took me to pull this rabbit out of my hat.  Only 25 years to go to reach one hundred years as a storyteller.  Send in the clowns, please.  And tell that sexy dish spinning on top of my nose I will always be here to catch her if she falls.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Change of Venue

"I'm requesting a change of venue," my wife declared.  "We are all guilty of a major crime -- mediocrity."  The first thoughts that popped into my head were beaches in January, year-round tennis, and close friends and family nearby.  If this was my prison, I wasn't quite ready for a break-out.  It was too late.  My wife was already tying our sheets together and throwing them out the bedroom window.  I realized we were all aboard the Titanic and an iceberg just ripped the dining room table in half.  She knew the politically correct method of departure... wife and children first, and if there is enough room for the captain of the ship, he can follow.

The 16' moving truck from Budget was just large enough to cart away our most cherished belongings, that is if you don't count the two tons of relics that didn't quite fit.  They were deposited at the dump by two men I nominated for sainthood.  Doesn't St. Anthony and St. Mark sound angelic?

Last January I rode the ocean waves on my boogie board.  One year later, I find myself skimming over the frozen ice on Lake Iowa using sleds that look just like boogie boards.  I'm playing tennis indoors and enjoying my wife's family, most who live just a snowball's throw away.  The dining room table has been put back together in our new home and we are adjusting well to our change of venue.  I no longer need to worry about my wife tying the sheets together for another escape, especially while the thermometer has a big minus sign in front of the number on the display screen.  Besides, none of us can be accused of mediocrity.  We have found our passions on the snow-covered field of dreams.

Friday, January 18, 2013

How To Beat Mañana At Her Own Game

 Today's story is dedicated to my high school Spanish teacher, "Snora."

Mañana comes from a large family.  Her siblings are Procrastination, Lethargy, Dawdle, the Diddle Daddle twins, triplets Traipse, Trifle and Trudge, and the baby, Linger.  Mañana is the eldest and thinks she is the coolest because she has that wavey thing above the first n in her name.  When she is at the dinner table and her parents ask who will do the chores and when will they get done, everyone shouts, "Mañana." The definition of mañana is tomorrow or an unspecified time.

Mañana's parents are in a bit of a pickle.  Nothing ever gets done.  This family has a way of creeping into my life and messing with my schedule.  Have they ever showed up on your front door unannounced and uninvited?  If so, I have a solution.  The next time Mañana and her family asks to hang around, send them to my next-door neighbor, Mr. Mismo.  He is a little on the shy side and he speaks broken English.  Once you get to know him, you can call him by his first name, Hoy.  Hoy Mismo knows exactly how to pin down Mañana and her siblings.  His name translated in English means do it right now.  I resolve to spend more time with Hoy Mismo and follow his example.

Mañana has met her match at last.  The next time Mañana's parents ask when the chores are going to get done, all the kids will shout, "¡Hoy Mismo!"  His upside exclamation mark trumps Mañana's little tilde any day, especially today.  And that, my friends, is how you beat Mañana at her own game. ¡Olé!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Harmonize With Your Broken Chords

“Everyone is born with music, but  many never discover what their music might be. There can be no greater tragedy in life than for people to take their music to the grave.” ~ Dr. Thomas F. Mulligan

Both sides of my family are loaded with musicians.  I missed out on an early duet performed by a cousin.  The other pianist dropped his sheet music in front of the surprised crowd but that didn't cause my cousin to miss a beat.  He played on despite the mishap and the audience applauded.

My dad loved the piano.  I never observed him playing with sheet music.  One of his favorite sayings was, "play it by ear."  This comes in handy when you can't find your sheet music.  It also works well during times in your life when your chords are broken.  You are capable of finding harmony during those times if you can hear the composer's notes in your head.  Maybe these ideas will strike a chord:
  1. You don't have to be a soloist.  Surround yourself with a chorus to enhance your music.
  2. Remember the refrain.  In life, you often need to repeat your actions until you get the notes right.
  3. Every note counts.  Even the interval of silence known as the rest.  Use the pauses in your life to find your rhythm.
  4. In case you lose your partner in the middle of a duet, play on.  Keep the music you made together alive in your heart and ask God to harmonize with your broken chords.
  5. Avoid harsh tones.  Play your life with pianissimo -- very softly.  Draw your audience in with your quiet ways.
Here are a couple of links to my cousins.  They both tour regularly.  When they venture to a city near you, check them out and tell them the naked caveman sent you...

Mark Mulligan

David Mulligan on tour with Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How To Find Your Inflection Point

Most people never find their inflection point, that flash in life that suddenly changes the way we think and act.  It's that Thomas Edison moment when the light bulb finally stays on after 10,000 false starts.  It can be as simple as a decision.

There is someone dear to me who is searching for her spiritual inflection point.  I believe she is close.  She has self-doubts and distractions.  The world is filled with people who live in the dark.  They will try to tempt her away from the light switch.  Wise people can encourage her to seek out her inflection point, however, she is the only one who can find it.  I offer these words to her from a man who abandoned his life as a cheater once he discovered his inflection point: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." ~Matthew 7:7.

Here are some tips for finding your inflection point:
  1. Keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking.
  2. Understand the only way for a dream to become reality is to pursue it and never give up.
  3. Don't listen to people who live in the dark.
  4. Have faith.
  5. Follow Jesus.  Everyone else who did found their inflection point.
If you have any questions or comments about today's blog, please share below.  I would love to hear about how you found your inflection point or what you are doing to find it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Twist of Fate

Fate is my invisible partner.  The moment she invited me to dance with her, I knew everything was going to change.  Her twists and turns are out of this world.  Rarely are my feet on the ground; my head won't stop spinning.  I tried to hide from her, afraid she would lure me out my cave.  She did.

I can't explain her ways.  She is mysterious.  She has connections.  She played a role introducing me to my future wife who once lived only a couple of football fields away even though we never met.  Fate followed me around and arranged a set of events that forever changed my destiny.  I thought I was safe when Fate left me alone for the next two decades of my life, living comfortably in a small town outside San Diego and raising a family with the love of my life.  I was happy in my cave.  Then, Fate knocked on my door.  I knew it was her.  Her knock is spellbinding.  I prayed she would go away and find a new dance partner.  She didn't.

My wife heard her quiet tapping on our front door and invited her in.  Before I could say one word, Fate was sitting with us at the dinner table and we were making plans to sell everything and move to Iowa.  Even my children were hypnotized by Fate.  She was the real estate agent selling dreams and they were the eager buyers.  Then Fate gazed into my eyes and asked, "are you ready to dance?"

In the blink of an eye, escrow closed on our 3,100 square foot cave and most of our possessions were sold at garage sales.  Fate arranged for a temporary place for us to live in our new home state.  Some friends offered to let us stay in their home while they escaped to a warmer climate in Arizona.  In an odd twist of fate, most of our early Iowa days were in the 70º range while our friends dealt with cold weather in the Valley of the Sun.

Soon, our family will be celebrating our one year anniversary in Iowa.  I don't have any plans to stop dancing with Fate.  She is an excellent dance partner.  If you ever hear her knocking on your door, my recommendation is to let her in.  Be prepared to dance.  Your life will never be the same.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Did You Fill Your Tank With Grace?

Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

It's free.  All you have to do is drive up to the pump and ask for it.  Filling stations are strategically located all over the world.  No matter how isolated you feel or how far away you are from populated areas, grace is available when you need it.

Grace is not something you deserve or are entitled to.  Grace cannot be bartered.  Although there is an unlimited supply of high-octane grace, many choose not to accept it.  Here are three methods for obtaining grace:
  1. Directly from the source.  God hears your prayers.  He will fill your tank with grace and you will never run on fumes again.
  2. Angels.  They are your silent cheerleaders.  They want to help you find the path to God.  When evil attacks, they intervene, shooting grace from their trumpets and wielding double-edged swords of truth and justice.  They are God's messengers.
  3. People who follow God.  Their lives changed the moment they received God's grace.  They are living examples of what happens when you ask for grace.  They can teach you how to pray for grace.  
It is by God's grace that I have been able to re-connect with relatives I did not know existed until recently.  And my long-lost cousin shared a family story about one of our ancestors who was fighting for our country in a far-off land.  He and his buddies ran out of bullets.  He felt like the end was near.  He prayed from his foxhole.  Suddenly, a vertical tower of bullet-proof glass appeared.  For three days, enemy weapons were unable to penetrate the shield.  When re-enforcements finally arrived, they were stunned by what they witnessed... God's grace. 

If you are an individual who is from category three above and have a story to share about grace, please share in the comments section below.  Your comment may inspire another reader to fill up his or her tank today with God's grace.  I apologize for asking you to register before you can place a comment.  There has been a barrage of spam and I set up a firewall to filter it out.  Thank you for taking the time to share your comments.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fatherhood Lessons

Fatherhood is like a heartbeat.  It has a steady rhythm until the teenage years come.  At times, those years resemble a heart attack on the charts.   My wife and I will always treasure the peaks and valleys of raising three children who were once all teenagers at the same time.  I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be a dad.  Here are some lessons I learned from fatherhood:
  1. There is no template for raising children.  Each child has his or her unique destiny.  It's the responsibility of parents to discover the unique gifts in each of their off-spring and then refine those gifts.
  2. Think of your children as cookie dough, each with their own special ingredients.  They may be raised in the same oven at the same temperature for the same amount of time, however, they should never be compared to one another.  Your purpose as a parent is not to make them look like you or one of their siblings.  Your role is to help them find what they are made of.
  3. Your children do not belong to you.  Even though you are the "baker" who works in the kitchen for approximately eighteen years, you do not own what comes out of the oven.  You are preparing to serve them to the world where they ultimately belong, long after your own heart stops beating.
I love being a dad.  I appreciate every moment I have with my family.  The time is coming when they will each have their own kitchen.  My heart will beat a little more regularly when they are on their own.  I will hunger for the days when smoke filled the kitchen.  Then, my wife will turn to me and say, "honey, one of the kids invited us over for a visit.  Let's go.  They're baking cookies."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Scritch Be Gone

What do you do when you're feeling scritchy?  You get that tightly wound feeling because you're going through that junk drawer filled with memories of loved ones gone.  If you're like a very special cousin who inspired today's story, you rely on your loved ones to ease your pain with a handful of "just because" roses.

My cousin's FB post early this morning jogged my memory about a  high school day when I was feeling scritchy and a generous lady who was busy raising three tiny tots handed over a fistful of "just because" Ben Franklins to my mother.  Just because of her kindness, our family avoided homelessness.  These special people don't belong in junk drawers -- they need to live in our hearts.

Thank you, cousin, for sharing a moment today and for encouraging your friends to have their uneases eased.  I promise to vanquish my scritch today.  The only time I will allow a scritch to return is when I need an ace scrabble word.  For now, I follow your lead and say, "scritch be gone!"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sprinkle Some Sugar On Your Pitches

courtesy photo,
The easiest way to get someone to do something is to get them to want to do it.  It doesn't matter what your job title is.  And if people around you are uninspired by your requests, maybe you need to change your approach.  Persuasion is a lost art.

Think of yourself as the baseball pitcher on the mound.  The batters are all the people you interact with on a daily basis:  your children, your boss, your employees, your neighbors, your friends and your co-workers.  Each time you ask them to do something, you are throwing a pitch and you want them to get a hit.  If you are only throwing strikes, adjust each pitch based on the individual in the batters box:
  1. Most people love sugar.  Before you throw every pitch, lick your thumb and dip it in the stash of sugar under your cap.
  2. If you face the rare batter who doesn't like sugar, skip step number one and throw a fast ball directly over the center of the plate.  Make the pitch irresistible so the batter will want to hit a home run.
  3. Teenagers have a way of getting in ruts.  You need to mix it up to keep their attention.  Every pitch needs to be adjusted based on what is important to them.  They love sugar, however, they need variety too.  They also need to be aware of the consequences for striking out on your requests.
  4. Celebrate the hits, especially when you are dealing with children.  Maybe they didn't complete your request to your satisfaction but they advanced to first base.  Lavish the positive feedback while you encourage them to find their way to home plate.
  5. Avoid throwing your favorite pitch.  Instead, give the hitter his or her favorite pitch.  Remember, you want hits, not strikes.  As long as you are using the hitter's favorite sugar, you will be running up the score.
I do my best work in the persuasion department when I'm part of a team.  The more everyone on the field of life understands how important each hit is, the more each person will want to contribute.  This increases harmony in families.  It increases productivity at work.  And it adds to self-esteem for each member of the team.  Make sure you celebrate every hit, even if it is only a bunt.  And maintain a steady supply of sugar.  You will be the most popular member on any field and you will re-discover the lost art of persuasion.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Collision With Destiny

Your collision with your destiny is like two stars attracted to one another.  The gravitational pull is inescapable no matter where you try to hide or how hard you fight against the invisible force guiding you.

I first experienced this sensation when I met my future wife.  I was the run-away galaxy drifting in space and she was the one -- that single star in the universe with the power to stop time itself.  A whole new world was born when our two worlds became one.

You do not need to go looking for your destiny.  It will find you.  You may not be able to see it, hear it or feel it but it exists just as gravity exists.  When destiny knocks on your door, do not be afraid to answer it.  The scattered jigsaw pieces of your life will fit together to form a unique picture of what your life is to become.  It is a masterpiece.

For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. ~ Habakkuk 2:3

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Can You Rollover Unused Minutes?

Life is simple when you live it one minute at a time.  It gets complicated when you look back at previous minutes that were unused.  Unfortunately, life does not offer the ability to recycle wasted minutes from prior periods.  If you're having trouble with the minutes on your current life plan, consider these ideas:
  1. Every member of the human race has the same number of minutes allocated per day.
  2. There are enough minutes today to accomplish your most important priorities.
  3. Unused minutes cannot be carried forward.
  4. Sharing your minutes with others who need your time are priceless.
  5. You never need more minutes, they would only detract from the minute you have right now.
My favorite watch is the Triathlon watch by Timex.  It helps me to keep track of minutes and seconds.  My problem is never with time -- it's always about usage.   How are you doing with your minutes?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Battle Within Rages

But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. ~  Jeremiah 20:9

Rage is the perfect word to describe what is happening under my skin:  a furious intensity; a burning desire; a passion.  I temper this inner war with daily prayers for balance and wisdom.  The firestorm must not exceed its boundaries yet it must be allowed to burn along its preset course.

The wild sagebrush of my own life supplies the fuel for this blaze.  All of my hideouts are demolished.  Fear and anxiety are left behind in the ashes.  The Phoenix bird will emerge from the flames and tell his story.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Schedule It And They Will Come

Wilson and Ramona, my Tuesday night companions.
Wilson and Ramona, my inanimate friends and travel buddies, are with me every Tuesday evening.  I wasn't sure how much time I would get to spend with them with all the snow on the ground, however, I found some new tennis buddies who enjoy playing on the indoor courts.  Outside temperatures are in the 20's and indoors it feels like summer.

Writing and tennis are my two top passions.  I schedule time for both.  New stories are culled every morning while my wife reads.  Both my passions have their own antagonists.  In tennis, my opponents include a college student with legs thirty years younger than mine.  And in writing, my adversaries are self-doubt, deadlines and uncorked creativity. 

My choices are simple... face my challengers with the expectation of a successful outcome or throw in the towel.  Wilson and Ramona are silent.  My opponents are not.  Neither are the voices in my head.  They urge me to keep going no matter how strong the opposition is.  There are no excuses on my schedule.  I only reserve time to live my dreams.  All I have to do is schedule it and they will come.  Spectators are welcome.  Opponents are appreciated.  And your presence here is reassuring.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to uncork my creativity and share it with you.  What's on your schedule?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wrestling With the Truth

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ~ John 8:32

Wrestling with the truth is every man's nightmare.  Star Trek's fictional Captain James Kirk won special accommodation from Star Fleet when he reprogrammed the computers in the "Kobayashi Maru," a no-win scenario designed to test the character of cadets when they are confronted with impossible odds.

Truth cannot be reprogrammed.  It is the heavy-weight opponent who refuses to be pinned.  There is a better way to deal with truth than wrestle it in a no-win situation -- embrace it.  Admit your mistakes.  Be honest about who you are and why you are here.  Allow truth to be your team-mate rather than your adversary.  Your own unexpected journey in this New Year will begin as soon as you take the first step.  Are you ready?  Look in the mirror.  Truth is ready to set you free.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

This is the Day

This is the day...
  • You bury all your past mistakes.
  • You stop worrying about tomorrow and the day after.
  • You count every blessing in your life.
  • You remember to say thank you.
  • You savor the sunrise.
  • You see something good in every person you encounter today.
  • You challenge yourself to live with passion.
  • You stop counting how many times you fall down and focus your energy on getting back up.
  • You discover you are the only person capable of carrying out the plan God has for you today.
  • Your life isn't only about setting goals, it's about living dreams.
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

Friday, January 4, 2013

One Thumb Up

What do you do when you were born to write and the only body part still functioning is your right thumb?  If your name is Susan Spencer-Wendel, You fight the race against time using your thumb to type your legacy.  You dedicate three months of your life to pen your memoir on your iPhone, one letter at a time.

Susan does not allow ALS to paralyze her goals.  Her memoir will be published in March.  It marks one more completed goal on her bucket list:  "To make people laugh and cry and hug their children and joke with their friends and dwell in how wonderful it is to be alive."

Susan wrote about her Budapest travels to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary with her husband and her adventure was published in the Palm Beach Post.  The editors of HarperCollins Publishers saw her stories and offered Susan $2 million for her memoir, Until I Say Goodbye: My Year Living With Joy.  Universal Studios kicked in another $2 million for the movie rights.

I give Susan two thumbs up for offering us a real-life example of what perseverance means.  If you would like to read more about Susan's story, click here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Just One Bite

Are you having second thoughts about moving that mountain?  It sure sounded like a great idea on New Year's Eve, didn't it?  Maybe you should quit looking at the whole mountain and instead concentrate on one stone.  Break your goal down so you can handle just one bite.  If you are shedding pounds in the New Year, focus on one less bite today.

I bought a pedometer at the end of December to help me measure how many steps I walk in a day.  My goal is to take one more step each day than the day before for thirty days.  It takes thirty days to form a new habit.  By concentrating on just one more step each day, I'm taking a bite out of the bigger goal -- live a healthy, happy lifestyle.

I can list a thousand objections that make my own personal mountains appear immovable.  I hear chilly thoughts in my head such as, it's 7º outside.  I know the only way to move my mountains is to focus on one bite today.  I need to turn my goals into a value system that becomes a way of life.  Yesterday was 4,575 bite-size steps.  Today I need just one more bite.  I don't care what that voice in my head says about the weather.  I'm too busy moving mountains, one stone at a time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

7 Ideas to Develop Perseverance

Perseverance:  continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.

I walked on water yesterday.  It helped that there was a layer of ice six inches thick on the lake.  Next on my list for the New Year is moving mountains.  The biggest mountain in my life is debt.  Like a volcano, it erupts without warning, spewing ashes and adding unwanted layers of liabilities.  I resolve to level this mountain.

If you are desiring to move mountains in your life, here are seven ideas to develop the perseverance you will need to accomplish your goals:
  1. Survey the situation.  Measure the size of your mountain of debt, the amount of weight you want to lose, or the magnitude of the problem you want to solve.
  2. Put your action plan in writing.  In my household, we cut out pictures at the beginning of each new year and put them on posters so we can look at them every day.  The pictures and phrases are reminders of our goals.  I plan to put a picture of Mary Ann, the steam shovel from "Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel", in the center of my vision board.  She will be chomping away at my mountain of bills every day until the job is complete.
  3. Don't stop believing.  I like to listen to the YouTube video below to remind be about keeping the faith, especially when the volcano erupts.
  4. Don't stop working.  In order to live the dream, you need to keep attacking the obstacle in front of you.  Do a little bit every day until the mountain is leveled.
  5. Change your habits.  Yesterday, my children wanted me to take them to the movies.  Instantly, I saw a mental picture of my volcano of debt erupting.  Even matinees are expensive.  I replied, "let's go to the lake.  There's some big hills there and we can go sledding."
  6. Keep thinking about how your life will be once you move your mountain.
  7. Chart your progress.  I plan to map out my results at the end of each month.  Mary Ann is going to be one busy steam shovel.
I promise to be here every day.  Writing is no longer a goal for me, it's a way of life.  So is perseverance.  It's a matter of climbing in my steam shovel and taking a bite out of the mountain.  Who says walking on water and moving mountains is impossible?  Not me.  I'm living the dream.  Are you with me?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fiscal Cliffs and Other Man-Made Booby Traps

There it is... The great fiscal cliff.  Politicians built it.  Both parties bicker over it.  Most people fear it and all the other man-made booby traps developed in the last century.  Few, like the wing-suit flyers featured in the video below, are willing to jump off of it.

Confucius says, "a man who chases two rabbits catches neither." Jesus says, "you cannot serve two masters."  Both are teaching lessons about focus.  I won't be spending much time staring at obstacles created by man.  I plan to confront my spiritual challenges, one rabbit at a time and one day at a time.

How about you?  Are you going to waste this year frozen like a statue on top of that mountain of fear?  Or, are you ready to jump?  Do you trust the jump-suit Jesus is giving you today?  Is this the year you will serve the Master who conquered death?  If so, you will learn to fly and this will truly be a Happy New Year.  The fiscal cliffs and other man-made booby traps will become invisible and Jesus will become visible.   3-2-1...