Thursday, October 31, 2013

No Tricks, Just Treats From the Home Team

My son recalled how he felt last night when he watched his opponent kick a 49-yard field goal late in the game.  "Dad, it looked like our hopes of winning the state championship  were crushed.  Our coach gave us the best half-time talk of his life.  He told us he wanted more time to impact our lives and we needed to give him that opportunity by coming back in the second half.  Once they got that field goal late in the game I thought we were done.  There was hardly any time on the clock and we needed a touchdown, a two-point conversion and a field goal just to tie the game."

My wife was sending me text messages throughout the game.  I could see the stadium lights from the Interstate as I exited, hoping to see the last part of the game when her message came through... 

Tied! 1min 20sec left!

I called her for the play-by-play commentary.  She was so excited she could barely speak.  I could hear the fans roaring.

"What happened?"  I asked.

"We're in overtime and we have the ball first.  Everyone's running all over the place.  Wow!  Touchdown, Williamsburg.  They're going crazy on the field.  Now it's the other team's turn.  They're lining up for the first play.  We stopped them.  2nd down.  It's another run.  We stopped them again. Now they're passing to a guy in the end zone.  He dropped the ball.  They're trying again.  It's 4th down.  We tackled him.  The game's over.  We won!"

I pulled into the parking lot just in time to hear the victory bell clanging and the pandemonium of the crowd.  The home team won their first round playoff game in dramatic fashion against an amazing team.  The team needs two more playoff wins to advance to the state championships.  Congratulations, Raiders.  You've given our town an amazing treat and we're rooting for you.  And thanks, honey, for the play-by-play.  Move over, Bob Costas.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How To Handle Anxious Pets

Our Chihuahua has a storied past.  She started out in the streets of Mexico as a stray and somehow wandered across the border and into our home in Southern California.  Roxy's anxiety levels were off the charts.  Every time someone looked in her direction, she quivered, exposing her malnourished ribs.  We had a lot of challenges to overcome with her, most notably, getting her to understand the difference between doing her business on our tile floors or in our backyard.  Maybe it was the language barrier.  I'm pretty sure she's telling me, "no comprendo," every time I ask her a question.

My experience with our first two pets, also ten's on the anxiety scale prior to their adoptions into our family, helped me prepare for our precious Roxy.  She may not be bi-lingual, however, she is pretty good about interpreting body language.  And the more anxious pet owner are, the more they reflect that behavior.  Here are some pointers for anyone considering adopting a new pet:
  1. Check your own anxiety levels before you introduce a new pet to your family.  Pets are amazing at reflecting what they observe.  The more calmness you display, the more relaxed they will be.
  2. Be consistent.  After three years of attempting to teach Roxy to do her business outdoors, she finally learned.  When we tell her, "go to the bathroom," she responds with numero uno.  And when she finishes, we tell her, "go poop." She knows what to do. 
  3. Make sure your visitors remain calm when they visit.  If they show signs of fear, that fear transfers to your pets.  If this is not nipped, your problem will only magnify.  
If you have a story to share about how you deal with anxious pets, please add to the conversation.  Just click the comment button below.  Thanks for visiting today.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2 Questions To Help You Stay Motivated

Are you having trouble sticking to your plans?  Here are two simple questions to ask yourself when you feel like giving up:
  1. Question #1: Ask yourself, "what will I gain if I complete this task?"  It helps to close your eyes and paint a picture of what your life will look like once you finish what you started.
  2. Question #2: Ask yourself, "what will I lose if I give up?"  Paint the same picture in your mind of what your life will look like should you walk away.
For me, question #2 lights the bigger fire.  Here's the picture I see of what I will have to deal with for the rest of eternity should I give up...

Knock, knock.

"Who's there?"

"It's Michael."

(Door opens)

"Hello, Michael.  I'm Peter.  We've been expecting you.  Come in.  Jesus is waiting for you.  I'll take you to Him."

(Blinding light ahead.  Trumpets are playing.  A soft, gentle voice begins speaking.)

"Welcome to Heaven, Michael.  I'm Jesus.  Where are the others?"


"Yes.  The ones who didn't believe in Me.  I put them in your life for a reason — to bring them to me.  Why do you think I sent you all those visions?  This was not for your benefit.  I wanted you to share the visions with your readers.  What happened?  Why didn't you bring them to me?"

*** This is the point where I snap out of it and get back to work, thankful that I'm still alive and that there's still time to reach "the others" with my daily writing.  I will not stop.   This is my mission in life. ***

What pictures do you paint in your mind to help you stay motivated?  Do the questions about gaining or losing help you?  Which question motivates you the most?  Please share your answers in the comments section below.  And if you happen to know any of "the others"  Jesus is concerned about, please pass this story along.  Thanks for contributing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Your Genie in a Bottle

How would it feel if you found a magic lamp at a garage sale and when you rubbed it a genie popped out and granted you three wishes?  What would you wish for?  Think about it for a moment.  Your wishes help you identify what you're searching for in your life.

I remember I time in my youth when I wanted something but it seemed so elusive.  Many people around me had it.  Not me.  The one thing I wanted more than anything was wisdom.  Nope.  There was no genie in a bottle waiting for me.  So I wandered.  There was no magical moment.  Years passed.  One day I read a story about a man who discovered a hidden treasure in a field.  When he found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went out and sold all he had and bought that field.  The treasure he found was even better than a genie with three wishes.  The man found the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus was sharing this story with His followers in Matthew 13:44.

Jesus is the real deal.  He wants you to open the bottle and let Him out so He can be with you.  I believe there a three things He gave me when I found Him — hope, joy and wisdom.  I don't need anything else.  If a genie appeared in front of me and offered me three wishes I would say, "thanks, but no thanks.  I'm sticking with a real genie and I'll share Him with anyone who wishes for Him."  All you have to do is ask.  Just close your eyes and wish.

Would you like to share what you would do if you were given three wishes?  I look forward to reading your comments.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

7 Signs Your Ego Needs a Diet

Take a good look at the world around you.  How many overweight people do you see?  Now, look down at your toes.  Can you still see them or is your belly in the way?  The reason for the questions is to help you check the size of your ego.  If your ego is so large that the airlines ask you to purchase two seats so there's room for your head, you may need to put your ego on a diet.  Here are seven signs your ego needs to shed some pounds:
  1. When you're in a conversation, everything you say starts with "I."
  2. You post your entire life on Facebook including pictures of what you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  3. You send out friend requests to people you don't even like so you can have more FB friends than everyone else you know.
  4. The only reason you're reading this message is to help all the people you know who have over-inflated egos.
  5. You leave the toilet seat up.
  6. You're never wrong.
  7. Your 3rd place bowling trophy from twenty years ago is still on top of your fireplace.
Find the ideal weight for your ego.  Show other people you care about them.  Listen to what they have to say.  Avoid interrupting them.  And remember there is more than one position for the toilet seat.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

How New Opportunities Expand Your Comfort Zone

Have you ever felt like the man in the photo?  For me, that's exactly how I feel every time I jump out of my comfort zone.  Yes, it's scary.  I never really admitted to anyone how those butterflies in my stomach were swirling the day I announced we were moving out of California.  It was an 1,800 mile leap with no safety net.  I learned a valuable lesson:  You can't grow if you let your fear hold you back.  Here are some examples of how new opportunities expand your comfort zone:
  1. Try a new activity.  The first time you do this you will feel uncomfortable.  That's normal.  Any time you take a step outside your normal routine, you will hear your comfort zone calling out to you like a mother who is searching for her little boy when he explores a new block in his neighborhood and she can't see him playing outside.  Your passions are waiting for you to find them.  The more you explore, the easier it gets.  Don't give up.
  2. Push your boundaries.  Every time you volunteer to take on a new activity at work or develop a new talent, you are expanding your comfort zone.  The key is to recognize how fun it can be when you venture out a little further each day.  People around you will be more willing to follow you if they see you succeeding. 
  3. Don't retreat when you skin your knee.  Your mind and body can recover from any fall.  Falling down is normal when you're trying something new.  The ones who get back up and keep exploring are the ones who get the job promotion and fill their bucket list up with exciting new challenges they want to accomplish.
The best gift you can give others is to teach them how to expand their own comfort zones.  In this family, I give each family member five stars.  What a joy it is to watch them leap like the man you see in the photo above.  How about you?  Are you ready to expand your comfort zone?  What will you do differently today seek out new opportunities in your life?  Please add your thoughts in the comment section below.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How To Cash In On Your Mistakes

Wisdom has a price.  If you choose to live your life without mistakes, you're not paying the price of acquiring wisdom.  I know too many people who closed the book of opportunity because their past mistakes were overshadowing them.  Some were only one page away from redemption — all they needed to do was turn the page.  Here are some ideas to help you cash in on your mistakes:
  1. Consider your mistakes as antagonists.  They are there to help shape the protagonist and build character.  There is no meaningful plot without a strong antagonist to confront.  You can turn your life into a bestseller when you discover how to overcome your mistakes.
  2. There are millions of people out there who seek wisdom.  They don't understand how making mistakes is part of the process.  Share what you've learned with them.  Publish your own book.  Start a blog.  Build a tribe.
  3. Never fear your mistakes.  Make them part of your process for acquiring wisdom.  Embrace them.  They are your college tuition and you are working on a master's degree in life.  Don't skip any of the classes.  
Please share a time in your life when you cashed in on a mistake you made.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Turn On the Panorama

The photo you see here is my first panoramic shot.  The wide-angle view captures the streaks of light passing through the trees in my backyard at sunset.  In the old days, people called this a Kodak moment.  For me, this is definitely a "Samsung moment."  I wish I could share this photo with my Grandpa on my mother's side.  He was a professional photographer who had a keen eye for photography.  This photo reminds me of all the times in my life when I fail to look at life using a wide-angle lens.   Have any of these things ever happened to you?...

  1. You feel overwhelmed by your workload.  The pile of stuff you have to do is so big that you lock yourself in a room and close the blinds.  Outside there is a beautiful sunset.  The leaves are turning color.  The grass is luscious green.  But you don't see any of it because you are so narrowly focused on your to do list.
  2. You don't see a way out of your current challenges.  This happens when you fail to turn on the panorama setting in your brain.  You were born with this setting on wide-angle.  As the problems of the world crept into your life, you turned off the panorama and focused only on the problems.
  3. Mean people are blocking your view.  Don't you hate it when they invade a picture-perfect day?
If you are struggling with any of these scenarios, I have an idea for you to consider.  It's really simple.  All you have to do is change the setting in your brain from narrow-minded to panoramic.  Stop focusing all your attention on your workload or your current challenges.  If those mean people standing in front of you won't budge, change camera angles.  You are the photographer.  You decide what settings you want to live in.  Learn how to use panorama so you can see the big picture.

Thanks for stopping by today.  If you have any ideas to contribute about today's message, please respond in the comments section below.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Success Requires Fishing Skills

Here's a good question to ask yourself at the end of the day:  "Did I catch anything?"

Your answer is determined by several factors.  I like to think of it the same way a fisherman approaches his day.  If you're going home empty-handed, maybe you need to try these pointers:
  1. Make sure you're not scaring the fish.  They are your family members, fellow employees, your customers, even your boss.  A good fisherman knows the importance of being still.  Your calmness helps to keep the fish from scattering.  Be gentle.  
  2. Use the correct bait.  Recognize that each person you interact with has different taste buds.  You need to ask the right questions to attract the other fish to your hook.  If your fish aren't biting, try changing the bait.  Nibbles are signs you're making progress.   More follow-up questions are needed to make sure you have a successful outcome.  Be patient.
  3. Don't give up too soon.  The best fisherman will stay out on the water all day until they accomplish their goals.  Amateurs look for excuses.  They blame the weather.  They blame the fish.  They never blame their own lack of commitment to improving their fishing skills.
What is it that you're fishing for?  Do you believe you have what it takes to become successful?  Perhaps you could share one of your favorite fishing stories in the comments section below?  Thanks for participating.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What Today Offers

If you were given a choice of trading in today for an opportunity to relive a day from your past, would you do it?  The only condition is that you can only visit the day exactly as you lived it and you are not allowed to change anything.  It's an interesting question, isn't it?  Maybe you're thinking of loved ones who are no longer here or you're looking at the highlight reels in your mind from your favorite memories and you feel your past is calling out to you.  Although the question is tempting, for me, the price is too high.  I would never trade in today for a yesterday.  Here's why:
  1. Today is filled with new opportunities.
  2. There are new people to meet today.
  3. Today is a blank canvas.  I get to choose what colors to use and what picture to paint. 
Don't let your past incarcerate you.  The loved ones you miss are all cheering for you to make the most of this day.  They want you to live it to its fullest potential.  I believe they are waiting for you and you will see them again once your work here is done.  Don't trade away this day.  Go out and live it up.  Make this day your best day ever.

If you have a moment, please share what you are looking forward to about this day in the comments section below.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What's In Your Foundation?

One of the greatest challenges my wife and I experienced was renovating our California home.   Our house was built on top of a hill and the slope in the backyard was steep.  We hired an expert to help us with the construction.  He advised us that the foundation was the most important part of the process.  We had to dig deep and to make sure our expansion would remain on solid ground.

When your life is built on shaky ground you never know when you might slip and lose everything.  It's important to drill deep and secure everything that's important to you so that you can withstand the storms when they strike with little or no warning.

My faith is my foundation.  As long as my foundation is intact, I know I'm safe.  And the most important of my foundation is the cornerstone.  Jesus is my cornerstone.  Everything important to me is tied to the cornerstone.  It's a great feeling knowing there is nothing in this world that can damage my foundation.  How about you?  What's in your foundation?  Please share your comments below.  Thanks for visiting today.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Resist the Urge to Hibernate

The temperature is falling fast here in the Midwest.  We have a chance of snow today.  This is the kind of weather that makes it challenging to get out of bed and seize the day.  If you are having trouble getting started on cold weather days, try these ideas:
  1. Give yourself a reason why it's more important to get up than to pull the covers over your head and fall back asleep.  For me, it's thinking about my readers.  They expect me to be here every morning at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  I have a sense of purpose.  I don't want to let them down because I'm feeling sleepy on days like today.
  2. Write a note to yourself about why you're here on this planet.  List some bullet points of goals you wish to accomplish.  At the end of each point, write down why this will make the world better.  Leave the note on your nightstand and read it every morning.
  3. Ask someone to be your accountability partner.  It's easier to get out of bed if you know someone else is looking over shoulder.
Would you like to share how you resist the urge to hibernate?  Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.  Have a great day.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

3 Steps to Help You Maximize Your Life

If my blog stories were arranged like a deck of cards and you could only pick one card, this is the one I hope you would choose.  It can be more rewarding than a winning lottery ticket if you use it properly.  Action is required.  Follow these three steps to help you maximize your life:
  1. Know how much you are loved.  Someone came up with the idea of you long before you were born.  You are perfectly created to be you.  It's a waste of time to try to be like someone else.  The One who created you wants to be with you forever.  He will move Heaven and Earth to find you when you are lost.  He will be there with you on your most difficult days.  He will give you comfort when you're struggling or feel unloved.  If you believe in your heart that God loves you and wants to be with you forever, you can get through anything.
  2. Know how much He loves your enemies.  This is a difficult step.  Your failure to master this step has huge consequences for the people in your life you may despise.  I imagine a scenario in my mind where I'm meeting Jesus in Heaven after my life on earth is over.  Jesus asks me, "where is (fill in the blank with your number one enemy)?"  Then, I open my eyes and realize there's still time to do what I was sent here to do — help others understand how much they are loved.  No one needs this more than the ones who feel unloved.  Your job is to use all your gifts to reach the ones only you can reach.  You have a list of names.  Sorry.  They're not your friends and family.  This list contains names of people who are hurting.  They lash out at you because they don't know what to do with their anger.  Your job is to love them and introduce them to Jesus.  It may take a lifetime.  The time you have on this planet is enough time as long as you don't wasting it ignoring your mission.  
  3. Don't be afraid to be who you are.  This means developing your gifts on a daily basis.  It means ignoring the criticism of others who don't understand the three steps.  It means saying yes when Jesus asks you if you want Him to be with you for eternity.  I'm not talking about that time in your life when you die and you meet Jesus face-to-face.  I'm talking about the choice you make to invite Jesus to live in your heart right now.  Yes, right now.  You are a child of God.  He wants you to live your life without fear and He wants to be with you every step of the way.  Go ahead.  Take that step.
Thanks for picking this card today.  I hope it helps you on your journey.  Have a great day and remember to take it one step at a time.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Use the Law of Thirds to Take Better Photos

I love being a shutterbug.  The photo you see above was shot at dusk about one mile from my home.  I used a technique known as the "rule of thirds" to help draw viewers into the sunset.  Follow these tips to improve your photography skills:

  1. Draw two invisible vertical lines in the scene you are photographing at 1/3 intervals and two more invisible horizontal lines at 1/3 intervals.
  2. Line up your the focus of your shot where the invisible lines intersect.  Amateurs photograph their subjects in the center square.  Professionals follow the rule of thirds.
  3. Make your photo "flow."  Take another look at my sunset photo on top.  Your eye automatically goes to the upper left quadrant and then follows the flow of the shot because of the position of the power lines.  Your mind drifts or flows to the lower right quadrant and stops at the silhouette.  Then, it follows the invisible line on the lower horizontal line and stops at the point where the sun is behind the farm buildings.  You can do the same thing in your shots when you are photographing waterfalls, sunsets or anything else when you understand the law of thirds.  Get creative.
Don't forget to share your sunsets.  Remember to keep the sun out of the center and place it where the two lines intersect for more dramatic photos.  Let me know if this helps.  Have a great day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is Your Funny Bone Broken?

Laughter is the best medicine.  And a good sense of humor can get you through the toughest of days.  So, what do you do when you don't have much to laugh about?  Here are some tips for healing a broken funny bone:
  1. Find a way to get the last laugh.  Taylor Swift is a pro at this.  Her best songs come from broken relationships.  Those bad boys who mistreated her have her laughing all the way to the bank.
  2. Sign up for amateur night at your local comedy club.  You can walk out on stage dressed as a clown with a sad face and your arm in a sling.  Tell everyone you are suffering from a broken funny bone; share all your misery with them in your monologue.  Once you get them laughing you will feel much better.
  3. Surround yourself with people who like to laugh.  Laughter is contagious.  If you're feeling broken, let the funny people in your life cheer you up.
Don't let a broke funny bone stifle your career.  Put on your happy face, unless your going #2.  If you do go #2, let me know what your audience thinks of your s**t.  Get your mind out of the sewer — I meant skit.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Family Affair

The picture you see above was posted on Facebook yesterday by my mom's youngest sister, Marcie, along with a request to forward her birthday wish to the last Facebook holdout in America.  Her message read, Happy birthday, Gloria, I wish you were technology-connected so you could SEE this post.  But I'm sure one of your 21st century children/grandchildren will let you know.  I love you sister ♥

Do you remember the days when you sent birthday cards by snail mail before a person's actual birthday so it would arrive on time?  Or when the only way to reach a person was on their land line?  Remember that odd-looking device plugged in to a wall by a short chord that everyone shared?  The surprise for me is how two sisters who look alike and even dress alike can be so different when it comes to their communication preferences.  They are as far apart as Nancy Pelosi and that woman from Alaska who looks like Tina Fey.

Some of you may be thinking, which sister is right?  Sorry — I learned a long time ago not to take sides, especially when it comes to two sisters who love each other so dearly.  Mom makes a good point when she says, "I want to see people face-to-face."  And Aunt Marcie demonstrates how modern technology helps us stay connected.  Perhaps the ideal solution is somewhere in the middle.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below.  And if you leave my mother a birthday wish on this blog, I will call her on her land line and deliver it for you.  That's what I call a family affair.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Coralville Strikes Gold With First Cheddar's in Iowa

My wife and I dined at Cheddar's Casual Café last night in Coralville, Iowa.  It was opening day for the popular chain that started in Arlington, Texas in 1979 with a modest goal — be a great restaurant that serves quality food fresh from the kitchen in a friendly, comfortable atmosphere at a fair price.  We rate Cheddar's five stars in five categories.  Here's why you should check this place out:
  1. The people who serve you.  My first taste began with a phone call to see if the restaurant was open and Nick answered.  I could feel his excitement from twenty miles away.  "We don't take reservations," he said.  "There's no wait right now but it will get busier later in the week when people find out we're open.  If you come now we can seat you right away."  General Manager, Sunny Rivers, visited our table during our meal and introduced himself.  He may be new in the state of Iowa, however, he's no stranger to Cheddar's.  He's an expert at opening new stores.  His team put the new staff through one week of intensive training before he opened the doors on Monday at 3:00 PM.  I can't say enough about the staff.  Summer was our food server.  She was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the menu.  Another manager, Jenny, also visited during dessert to make sure our experience was a good one.  Five stars for the staff. ✮✮✮✮✮
  2. The ambiance.  This place has an incredible aura.  An over-sized aquarium lines one of the walls near the entrance and a unique ceiling fan hangs from above the center of the dining room.  The dim lighting makes your table extra cozy.  Five stars for all the attention to detail. ✮✮✮✮✮
  3. The food.  Everything is made from scratch.  I ate the Rib-eye with sides of broccoli smothered in cheese and a baked potato.   My wife feasted on salmon with mashed potatoes and green beans.  We enjoyed Texas margaritas and split a monster cookie with two scoops of ice cream on top for dessert.  Five stars for the chef. ✮✮✮✮✮
  4. The prices.  No sticker shock here.  Our dinner bill was just under $40 including the margaritas; my wife went home with enough left-overs for lunch today.  Five stars for the fabulous prices that won't break the bank. ✮✮✮✮✮
  5. The bonus offers.  Summer asked us if we would be willing to complete an on-line survey about our experience.  She had no clue I'm a writer and that I secretly planned to share my experience on today's blog.  "If you complete the survey, you will be entered to win free Cheddar's for a year."  My wife's face lit up when she heard about the prize. I couldn't resist the opportunity to eat at Cheddar's for a year.  At the end of the survey I was asked if I would like to be notified of special offers and I accepted.  This morning I received my first coupon for free chips and queso on our next visit.  Five stars for the online bonus offers. ✮✮✮✮✮
Cheddar's is located at 2824 Commerce Drive, just off the I-80 in Coralville, Iowa.  Click here for a complete list of locations throughout the United States.

Have you ever eaten at Cheddar's?  If so, please add to the conversation in the comments section below.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mission Accomplished

I woke up just in time this morning to hitch a ride with my wife on her morning commute.  "Please reset your odometer to zero and pull over when it reads 6.2 miles," I said while adjusting my pink bandana I purchased to support breast cancer awareness.  My pockets were stuffed with two miniature water bottles for the run home.

"There's a lot of hills on this road," my wife said.  There was no turning back now.  She dropped me off on top of a hill surrounded by cornfields and I kissed her good-bye.  The outside temperature was a brisk 39º.  The morning sun was showing its face for the first time as I closed the door and headed for home along highway 149.  What began as a challenge from my daughter last week turned into one more adventure to add to my list.  She didn't think I could run a 10k without training first.  I just wish you could have seen the look on her face this morning when I rang the doorbell and she answered.  It was priceless.

While I was running I thought of all the people in my life who are struggling with illness and poor health.  I offered prayers for them as I chugged along the highway.  And I recalled what the prophet Isaiah said in verse 40:31... 

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

I don't think Isaiah was a runner.  His words "not grow weary" and "they will walk and not be faint" are true.  He left out one key word:  rubbery.  Yes, my legs are feeling rubbery.  It's a small price to pay for this morning's experience.  My hope is in the Lord and my strength is renewed.  May God answer all my morning prayers for those who need hope.  I promise to wear my pink bandana often to continue my support for breast cancer awareness.  Have a great day. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Why I Like Tailwinds

Stubborn people like headwinds.  They don't care how strong the wind blows in their face.  They have a plan and they're sticking to it.  I can relate.  I fought against the wind for the majority of my life.  The first time I experienced the joys of a strong tailwind was over a year ago when I departed California.  The tailwind stayed with me for 1,800 miles. The extra mile per gallon of gas I got from the tailwind pushing our moving truck made it possible to arrive in Iowa before I ran out of money.

Tomorrow morning I plan to use the tailwind to my advantage one more time in order to complete the challenge my daughter threw down a couple of days ago.  My strategy for completing my 10k morning jog is to have my son drop me off 6.2 miles due west and then run home.  There is no rain in the forecast, the wind will be at my back and the sun will shine warm in my face as I prance through the cornfields.  Most importantly, I believe God will be holding me in the palm of His hand as He does every day, even on days when I insist on fighting against the winds.

It doesn't get much better than this — Autumn leaves.  A gorgeous sunrise.  A pink bandana to keep the sweat off my face and to remind me to pray for all the people battling breast cancer.  A swift tailwind.  And a great Bible verse from Isaiah 40:31 to contemplate during my run tomorrow:

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

How about you?  Do you prefer headwinds or tailwinds?  Don't forget to come back tomorrow for a report about my morning run.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

How To Establish Credibility

Our oldest son is the Nike+ athlete for our local store in our community.  Besides his position at Nike, he waits tables between classes at the community college.  His FaceBook posts detail how far he runs, at times up to ten miles in a single session.  Our daughter has a similar schedule.  She works two jobs and attends University full time.  And our youngest manages to keep our grass mowed and our house clean while staying busy on the football field after school every day.  I give each of them high marks for their ability to get things done.

My wife and I took our daughter out to dinner at our local pizza eatery the other night and we were talking about physical fitness.  My daughter mentioned she was getting cold and I offered to run home and get her a jacket.  "It's too far to run, dad.  I'll just drive home and change clothes."

"You don't think I can run home and back before our pizza is ready?"  I asked.

She nodded her head no.

"I can run a 10k right now with no training,"  I said.

Our daughter pulled out a ten dollar bill and waved it in front of me.  My head was spinning as I sipped my Bud Light.  I plotted the racecourse in my head and considered her offer.  Then I came to my senses.
"You're busting your butt to get through school.  I can't take your money.  Besides, I'm having a great date night with the two of you and I want to savor this moment."

My wife jumped in to the conversation.  "Honey, you're no Spring chicken.  Running ten miles is not something you just do.  You have to train for that."

"A 10k is not ten miles," I retorted.  "It's only 6.2 miles.  I could walk out of here right now and run to the Interstate.  That's just over two miles.  Then, I could turn around and run back.  Once I do that, I can turn around one last time and complete the 10k."

"Go ahead," she teased.

We enjoyed our pizza and returned home.    Our daughter wouldn't let up.  "Your sons don't think you can do it, either," she said, showing me the text message from her brothers about the running challenge.

Obviously, I have no credibility in my own family.   They don't see me doing my leg raises every morning while I'm flossing my teeth.  They have no idea how much running I do throughout my shift at my day job.  And they discount all the times I stepped up when confronted with major challenges because that's all ancient history now.   Here's what I see in front of me — a teachable moment.  That's what parents do.  They raise the bar for the children and they show them by their own example how it can be done.  And the way to make the lesson stick is to follow the Nike motto:  Just Do It.

My next days off are Monday and Tuesday.  I will put on my running shoes and have one of my family members drop me off in the corn fields 6.2 miles away from my house.    Our daughter can keep her ten dollars.  This challenge is not about the money, it's about how to establish credibility.

Please share what you do to establish credibility in the comments section below.  I will leave a comment at the end of this blog message after I complete my 10k challenge early next week.  And yes, honey, I'm certainly no Spring chicken — I'm an Autumn chicken who loves a good challenge at any age.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why You Need to Overcome Your Fear of Flying Solo

My grandfather was a doctor in the Midwest.  He placed skis on his small airplane so he could visit his patients during snow days.  One day he invited my dad's twin brother to fly with him.  During their jaunt, granddad cut the engine and the plane stalled.  He yelled, "Mike, say your prayers, we're gonna crash!"  I wonder if this childhood experience is the reason my uncle prefers to stay under the radar when it comes to modes of travel.

Consider your life is like flying an airplane.  You spend your childhood in flight school studying the control panels and learning how to read the instruments.  When it's time to fly, your instructor sits next to you while you prepare for your first takeoff.   You feel comfortable because someone is there in case of an emergency.  The day comes when you're ready for your first solo flight.  This is what it feels like when you move out of the house and venture out on your own.

There have been many times in my life when my engine stalled.  I also know what it's like when you can't see out the window and you have to trust your instruments to get to your destination.  My uncle Tom displayed a bumper sticker that read God is my co-pilot.  It helps me to remember this on days when I feel alone and the conditions outside are less than optimal.  The challenges in our lives give us opportunities to come up with creative solutions, like putting skis on our plane during Winter.  All you have to do is get over the fear of flying solo and you will discover all the opportunities waiting for you at high altitudes.  Are you ready for takeoff?

What fear are you facing that's keeping you grounded?  Please share how your life will be better once you overcome this fear.  Your comments may help others who are dealing with the same challenges.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

3 Ideas To Help You Deal With Mean People

My Midwest residence resembles Mayberry.  The town square is paved in stone.  A barber shop occupies one of the spaces on the main street.  My brother-in-law is one of the deputies for the sheriff's department.  There are even a few red-headed kids who look like Opie.  One thing missing is mean people.  Maybe it's because there are no traffic jams here or because the unemployment rate is hovering around 5%.  Every now and then a mean person with out-of-state plates wanders in to our quaint little town and unravels a few feathers.  Here are three ideas to help you deal with mean people:
  1. Mean people spray "people repellant" on before they leave their homes.  Remember the scene from The Proposal where Sandra Bullock is marching through her office?  One of her assistants instant messages his co-workers... the witch is on her broom.  Everyone goes into hiding while she storms through.  You need to do the opposite when a mean person shows up.  Get in their space.  Find out why they're mad.  Show empathy.  If you can uncover the source of their misery, you can help them calm down.
  2. Pray for mean people.  You may be the only person in this world doing this.  They need your love.  Maybe they're caring for a parent who is dying or they're struggling with an addiction.  Pray their suffering ends.  
  3. Accept them for who they are.  Most people have no idea what kind of suffering mean people go through.  Often they are bullied as children.  They were abused by family members or mean bosses.  They were never appreciated.  Just remember this:  they are part of God's family.  They have an inheritance to claim.  Show them kindness.
You have the ability to become an expert dealing with mean people.  At times it will be painful, however, you will be the one who gets a promotion at work because you know how to handle challenging people.  The more proficient you get at understanding why mean people are so angry, the more others will admire you and respect you. 

Please share your favorite tips for dealing with mean people in the comments section below.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Know When To Fold 'Em

There's a reason I don't play poker.  As soon as I get a good hand, my pupils dilate and my heart pounds so hard you can see the pulse in my neck veins.  My opponents take one look at my poker face and it's all over.  There are times, though, when I fold on purpose.  It has to do with things of this world.  I refrain from sharing my political views or talking about my own specific religious denomination.  Those topics can stir up strong emotions.  They get in the way of the more important topic — things not of this world.  The rules of the game are very different when playing this game:
  1. Everyone at the table can win as long as they stay in the game.  Jesus is in all the cards.  Any player who accepts the cards he is dealt wins.
  2. Everyone is welcome at the table.  Cheaters.  Prostitutes.  Rich.  Poor.  Republicans.  Democrats.  Tea partiers.  IRS employees.  People of all faiths.  People of no faith.  There are no exemptions.
  3. The house rules call for everyone seated at the table to love the other players. 
Are you happy with the hand you've been dealt?  What are you going to do?  Hold 'em or fold 'em?  I hope you stay seated at the table.  Thanks for stopping by today.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What Happens When You Let God Paint the Picture

My family and I arrived in the Midwest at the tail end of Winter nineteen months ago.  Everything was dead.  The canvas was blank.  I turned over my palette of dried up colors to God and said, "Here you go, Lord — Our lives are a clean slate.  Please paint a new picture."

Our prayer was answered in the Spring.  I spent over twenty years in California trying to grow green grass.  My water and landscape bills were out of control and I had nothing to show for it.  We arrived with no jobs and no clue where we would live.  Our bank account was running on empty.  Out of nowhere the green grass sprouted all around us.  "Where are the water sprinklers?  I asked my wife.

"Nobody uses them here," she replied.  "They're not necessary."

I couldn't believe the rich color.  We were staying with friends and we watched their gardens come to life without planting anything or watering.  It all seemed so magical.  I felt like I was living in some kind of wonderland.  That was only the beginning.  Our job offers came in as quickly as the grass sprouted.  I found a new mechanic and asked him to change the oil.  He asked me for my name so he could enter me in a drawing.  He was celebrating ten years running his own business.  We won the grand prize, an HDTV!

We found someone who was willing to sell his home using seller financing and we signed the papers and moved in.  The home came fully equipped with all the major appliances.  We had our best summer ever.  Then Autumn came.  Wow!  The colors were out of this world.  We celebrated our first White Christmas with all three of our children.  Our daughter told us she wanted to change schools so she could be closer to us.  The snow on Christmas Day convinced her she belonged here.  By the time school started in the Fall, she was eligible for in-state tuition.  Our oldest son found an employer willing to subsidize most of his college tuition.  And our youngest son discovered the joy of Iowa wrestling and Iowa football.  These sports are so popular that the whole area shuts down to cheer on the home team.

I'm in awe of the picture God is painting of our lives.  He's not done yet.  We're still a work in progress.  Today's story is to encourage you if you're struggling.  Put your trust in God.  Let Him be in charge of the paint brush.  Don't be afraid to start over with a clean slate. You may find the grass is greener and your life is much more colorful.  Don't forget to share what happens when you let God paint the picture.  Have a great day.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Meet Bernie — The Man Who Torches Your Dreams

Dream killers are arsonists.  They lurk in the shadows of your dreams.  They have one purpose — to intentionally and maliciously set fire to anything and everything you care about.  Dreams are their specialty because they are highly flammable and wreak havoc.  These dream killers wait until there is enough kindling before they strike a match.  Most people never get the opportunity to confront their arsonist face-to-face.  This morning I decided to give my dream killer a name.  The man you see in the composite sketch above was spotted in the Iowa City area not far from my day job.  He is wanted by the local police for questioning.  He matches the description in my mind of what my dream killer looks like.  I'm nicknaming him Bernie because he likes to burn things up.  If you look closely at the clues, I believe you will find evidence of someone just like Bernie in your life.  Here are some tips to snuff him out of your life for good:
  1. Fight fire with fire.  I learned this technique when I got an opportunity to bring food and water to the firefighters in our community during a wildfire.  The firefighters appeared in twos carrying blow torches and radios.  Their job was to wait until the winds were blowing in the right direction so they could set backfires.  These backfires kept the blaze from spreading.
  2. Give your arsonist a name.  It's easier to fight him if you know what he looks like.
  3. If you can't find your Bernie in the shadows, look in the mirror.  Listen closely to the voices inside you.  If you hear someone telling you that your dreams are silly or impossible, that's not you talking — it's Bernie.  Call him out.  Tell Bernie his arson days are done.  Evict him.  Do it today.
Who will be the one to set your dreams on fire?  Is it Bernie, the arsonist who wants to destroy your dreams?  Or you — the visionary who wants your dreams to shine like a wildfire in the forest on a dark night?  You decide.  Please share your answer in the comments section below.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

How to Keep Those Plates Spinning

Life is like a bunch of plates spinning in the air.  Every plate represents one part of your life.  Each plate needs attention or it falls down.  Have you ever noticed how the female gender rocks in the plate spinning category?  They keep the checkbook balanced, the house clean and the children fed before they head off to their full-time jobs every morning.  Then there's the opposite sex.  We get one plate spinning and we want the world to marvel at our performance.  Or someone interrupts us with a question and we say, "not now, I'm spinning this plate and it requires my full attention."

My wife is planning a get-away with her girlfriends next weekend.  While she's away I'll get an opportunity to spin more than one plate at the same time.  I have a plan.  Here's what it looks like:
  1. Make a list every morning of all the plates that need attention.
  2. Decide which plate to spin first.  Focus on the plate until it's spinning properly.
  3. Move on to the second plate.  Use peripheral vision to watch the first plate while giving plate #2 what it needs to get in motion.
  4. Keep working on the list until all the plates are spinning.
  5. Don't interrupt the wife while she's away on her get-away.  She doesn't need to hear the sound of all the plates crashing to the floor while I'm on the phone with her.
  6. Make sure the blog story publishes on time while my spouse is away.  This lets readers know I'm not starving,  the kids got their homework done, I didn't burn the house down and I learned how to keep those plates spinning for 48 hours.
  7. Replace all the broken plates before the Mrs. comes home.
  8. Hide the emergency room bill for that visit I made because I forgot to put my shoes and socks before I started spinning the plates and I needed stitches when the plates fell down and smashed my big toe.
  9. Bribe the neighbors so they keep quiet about the taxi I hired to get the kids to school on time and the maid I hired to clean up the mess from all the broken plates.
  10. Praise God I'm married to a professional plate spinner.  And when she comes home and asks about the weekend, tell her I appreciate her more than ever.
This upcoming weekend will be my first major test as a daily blogger.  The story I wrote a couple of days ago, "How Long Does It Take To Complete Your Destiny," is the 1,500th consecutive daily post.  It's the first plate I spin every morning.  If you don't mind, please check back on Saturday and Sunday to make sure I'm surviving without the Mrs. — and if you don't see my stories next weekend at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time, send a prayer my way that my wife comes home to find me in one piece.

Please share your ideas about how you keep those plates spinning in your life.  Thanks for the tips.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ordeal or Adventure?

 The jury returned to the courtroom.  They deliberated for hours before rendering the verdict.  Both sides delivered a compelling argument.  The prosecution used its opening statement to persuade the jury this was an open and shut case.  "Look at the facts," the prosecutor said, pointing to a chart.  The evidence is overwhelming.  You must find the defendants guilty on all counts.  This family gave up their home, their livelihood and their community.  They loaded up the moving truck and headed into a land filled with uncertainty.  Clearly they are guilty of committing a class 5 ordeal."

The judge looked at the jury once they were all seated.  "Are you ready to present your verdict?"

"Yes, your honor," the foreman replied.  "We the jury find this family not guilty on all counts of committing an ordeal.  We find that their new lives in the Midwest can only be labeled as an adventure.   This family has proved to us beyond any reasonable doubt that their attitudes played an important role in this case and prevented them from committing any acts resembling any kind of ordeal."

"Is this unanimous?"  the judge asked.

One by one, each member of the jury nodded affirmatively and said yes.

"This family is free to live out their lives in the Midwest.   Let them go," the judge said.

The family hugged one another and left the courtroom.  Outside a news reporter shoved a microphone in front of the dad and asked, "why do you think the jury found you not guilty of committing an ordeal?"

"Attitude," the man replied.  "It's all about attitude.  We all face the same struggles and the same set of circumstances.  One man's ordeal is another man's adventure.  Our family sees adventure in every situation.  Thank you for your question.  Pardon me, I need to get back to my life."

Friday, October 4, 2013

How Long Does It Take To Complete Your Destiny?

I remember asking my dad how far away the moon was.  He was barbecuing his world famous bacon burgers in the backyard.  He looked up at the night sky, paused, then answered, "son, you take half the distance and double it."  I'm pretty sure his answer would be the same if he were around for the question of the day — How long does it take to complete your destiny?

Maybe the moon question is easier to answer than the destiny question.  Half the distance to the moon is 119,450 miles.  And half the distance to your destiny is half a lifetime.  That leads to the follow-up question — how long is a lifetime?

The best answer I have is this:  a lifetime is the amount of time allocated to each individual to complete all tasks deemed necessary by the Creator.  You have specific assignments.  Only you can complete them.  The challenge is to discover what your purpose is.  When you discover it, everything makes sense.  Doors open at the right time.  The people you're supposed to meet show up in your life at the right time.  All the puzzle pieces fit together.  You see the big picture.

I wish you well on your journey.  Take it one day at a time.  You have a lifetime to figure everything out.  Don't rush it.  Enjoy the moment.  If you feel like contributing to the conversation, please add a comment below.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How to Have More Peace In Your Life

The last few years of my life are like touring It's a Small World at Disneyland.  There's  one exception — instead of floating in a boat, I'm traveling on a combination of a Merry-go-round, a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel.  I'm moving so fast that law enforcement may pull me over and say, "license and registration, please."  Is it possible to have peace when you're surrounded by chaos?  I say yes.  Here are some ideas to have more peace in your life:
  1. Understand that the ride is broken.  Everyone has their own ideas about why it's broken and how it should be repaired.  They fight.  The only one capable of restoring the ride isn't here right now.  Let the world fight about the ride and stay out of the argument.  Keep your seat belt buckled and fix your eyes on the horizon to avoid vomiting.
  2.  Remember what happens at the end of your ride.  Jesus tells us in John 14:3, "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."
  3. Get to know the other people on the ride.  It's comforting to know we're all in the same boat.  The person seated next to you shares the same struggles.  Encourage the other passengers.  Make new friends.
Now it's your turn.  Please share your thoughts on how to have more peace in your life.  Add your ideas in the comments section below.  Peace be with you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Buck Stops Here

I own every single one of my problems.  They don't belong to my wife, my children, my boss, my creditors, or anyone else I interact with.  They're 100% mine.  I decided long ago not to play the blame game.  Guess what happens when you decide the buck stops with you?  Solutions find a way into your life.

Perhaps the most painful lesson I learned is about "leverage."  This is using other people's money to increase the potential return of an investment.  The most common example of this is using a mortgage to pay for your home.  I met with my mortgage broker and shared my idea to remodel our California house.  The plan was simple — cash out all my investments and borrow money against my 401k to pay cash for the renovation.  Once construction was completed, my broker would give me a bigger mortgage.  We hired a contractor and paid cash for everything.  When our construction was complete, we got our new mortgage.  The tax bills and early withdrawal penalties were more challenging to repay than expected.  The banks got nervous about our bigger mortgage and decided to revoke our lines of credit.  Business declined while monthly expenses escalated.  I never repaid my retirement account and ended up paying a 10% penalty for cashing it out.  The cash was needed to pay monthly expenses.  There was no way to "leverage" my way out.  And there was no one to blame but myself.

The one thing that increased when everything else seemed to be decreasing was my prayer life.  Looking back I think God was getting a pretty good laugh at how I attempted to manage my own money.  Everything else I turned over to God was going great.  The one thing I decided to remain in charge of was the money.  It was disappearing in the blink of an eye.  There was this twinge of guilt when I finally said, "God, everything belongs to you now, including my financial statements.  Sorry there's nothing there but a bunch of liabilities."

The next step was to contact my creditors.  I promised every one of them I would pay them back.  Most creditors don't believe anything they hear.  God heard me.  My prayer resembled Psalm 61:1-3 ~ O God, listen to my cry! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety.

He heard me loud and clear.  I stand on my rock with my sign held high — the buck stops here.  One by one, my creditors are getting repaid.  I avoided bankruptcy.  I replaced the word "leverage" with "cash."  I also eliminated "excuses" from my vocabulary.  My hope is that today's story inspires you to take ownership of your problems.  May you find the towering rock of safety.  And if you have time, please add your thoughts in the comment section below.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's All About the Seeds You Plant

It's harvest time in the Midwest.  Farmers are working overtime to get their crops to the market.  Their rewards are directly related to the quantity and quality of the seeds they planted in the Spring.  I see many similarities in my own life as a husband, father and writer.  There can be no harvest without planting the seeds and working the fields.  Here are some farming tips to help you increase the yields in your life:
  1. Plant seeds daily.  These are your ideas, your creativity and your dreams.  Deposit them in the fertile soil of your mind.
  2. Water the seeds.  Ideas need attention.  Give them tender loving care so they can grow to maturity.
  3. Keep the weeds out.  They may be criticisms from others who don't understand why you spend so much time tending to your garden.  They don't understand how your crop will feed others.  Don't let them stop you.
  4. Join a co-op.  There are others in the community who are just like you.  Some have been farming all their lives.  Get to know them.  I gained confidence as a writer when I attended regular meetings with my critique group.  My wife belonged to a Mother's group.  Find a group that specializes in your area of interest and you will thrive.
  5. Don't worry about the weather.  Farmers expect some years of bumper crops and other years where Mother Nature fails to cooperate.  The key is to be consistent every year.  Don't give up just because you had a bad season.
I'm committed to my long-term goals.  That means planting one new seed every morning when I wake up.  My time working in the fields yields new Twitter followers, new visitors to my blogs and opportunities to make new friends.  As of today, my Twitter garden includes 942 followers.  I'm hoping to reach 1,000 by the end of this year.  If you like my daily stories, please consider following me on Twitter.  Click here to be a part of the Twitter garden.  And I hope all your future harvests are your best ever.  And if you have time to plant a seed for other readers, please add a comment below.  Thanks for stopping by today.