Friday, January 31, 2014

I Found What I Was Looking For

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. ~ Luke 11:9

The ride is not over yet.  I see all kinds of twists and turns ahead.  And that's okay.  There was a point along the way where the roller coaster stalled.  I was powerless to restart it on my own.  Out of nowhere, Jesus appeared and sat down next to me.  Then He asked, "Do you trust me?"

"Yes," I answered.

That's when everything changed.  Everything I was looking for was sitting next to me.  He has been with me through all the ups and downs.  I'm excited to stay on this roller coaster even though I have no idea what is ahead.  I trust Jesus with my life.

How about you?  Have you found what you are looking for?  If not, remember what Luke said and follow his advice – ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

History Repeats Itself in My Family

Today is our oldest son's 23rd birthday.  He is holding down two jobs while attending community college.  His first boss is reimbursing him for all classes at a "B" or above.  And his second boss just invited him to go through bartender training.  Although his workload is crazy, he made the dean's list.  He is hoping the essay he submitted will win him admission into a summer program in Ireland.  He is living proof that you can overcome the odds if you put your head down and do the work.  It's in his blood.  That's what Mulligans are made of.

I remember the last conversation I had with my dad before he shut the doors at Mulligans for the last time.  He told me I was on my own.  He was leaving.  For me, it was a come to Jesus moment.  You can read the rest of the story in my memoir, God's Black Sheep Squadron.  I spent the next couple of decades trying to figure my life out.  When I got married and started having children, I vowed I would do things differently.  We set up college funds for our children as soon as they were born.  When the business I founded with a partner group needed additional capital, I cashed out all my investments to make sure our employees got their pay checks.  The economy went south and our customers were going out of business in record numbers.  The last capital call was the most painful because it meant draining all the college funds.   It was in that moment that I could feel my father's pain the day he told me I was on my own.  I did everything in my power to keep history from repeating itself and I was powerless.

Our oldest son has dreams of opening his own bar.  He and his siblings are discovering what they are made of.  He is paying the price to live his dreams.  And his parents couldn't be happier.  Happy 23rd birthday, Ryan.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Think I'm Turning Iowan, I Really Think So

"Your voice changed," my California buddy said to me during our phone conversation.  "You sound Iowan."  I hung up the phone and thought to myself, am I turning Iowan?  When I first arrived nearly two years ago, I noticed some strange quirks about the people in my new community.  Here's a partial list:
  • Everybody waves when they're on the road.
  • Nobody drinks soda, they drink pop.
  • There are no freeways here, only interstates.
  • Walking tacos are served at sporting events.
  • Dinner is served at lunchtime.
  • Supper is served at dinnertime (after dark).
  • If you ask someone in Iowa how they're doing, they reply, "I'm well."
  • 10º in Winter time is considered a heat wave.
  • When the Hawkeyes are playing, everything else stops.
  • Common pet names are Kinnick and Gable (If you don't know these names, you're not from around here).
Am I turning Iowan?  Maybe.  I like to wave at other drivers using the classic Iowa two finger lift off of the steering wheel while offering a slight head tilt.  I eat walking tacos and I tell people, "I'm well."  And if I ever have grandkids named Kinnick or Gable, my Iowa transformation will be complete.  I really think so.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Mother Taught Me To Keep Things Simple

I spoke with my mother last night.  As usual, she was concerned about my well-being, especially concerning the strange weather patterns we are experiencing in the Midwest.  "How cold is it?"  she asked.  "If you stand outside for more than five minutes, you get frostbite," I answered.

The average length of time our six pound Chihuahua needs to do her business in the summertime is about seven minutes.  Good thing she adapted.  Yep.  She's keeping things simple – every morning she shaves another ten seconds off the clock.  That's what my mother taught me.  You figure out how much time you have to accomplish a task and then you do it in the time allotted.   Here are some lessons I learned from my mother about keeping things simple:
  1. You don't need a Facebook account to have solid relationships.
  2. No matter how many times you fall down, you can recover in time to have a quality retirement.
  3. Credit cards are for people who want to stay poor all their lives.
  4. Every choice you make has rewards and consequences.  Decide in advance if you want rewards or consequences.
  5. Complaining is not allowed.  It doesn't do anything to change the consequences.
  6. Prayers are free and they lead to simple solutions.
  7. Mean people take up too much personal space.  Avoid mean people.
  8. Forgiveness is free and it restores peace in your household.
  9. If you want to avoid a sunburn or frostbite, make sure you don't stay outside too long.
  10. If you feed your children, they will have food for a day; if you teach your children how to fish, they will have food for life.  Teach them how to fish.
Thanks, mom, for all the life lessons.  Yes, I agree with you about keeping things simple.  I know you take great pleasure in forcing people to get out of their FaceBook bubbles in order to stay in touch with you and while I won't ever give up my own account, I will make sure to make time to see my friends face-to-face like you do.  God bless you, mom.  Thanks for teaching me to keep things simple.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Make Every Encounter Count

Everybody has a story.  The question of the day is "do you take the time to hear other stories or are you too busy telling your own?"  It all comes down to the value you place on your daily encounters.  My life is rich because I spend a great deal of my time listening to others when they share their lives with me.  I make it a priority to answer every email or comment within 24 hours.

Storytelling is a two-way street.  Consider my daily blogs as opportunities for us to get to know each other.  The comment button at the end of the blog is your invitation to share a little bit about you.  For those of you who have taken the time to leave an encouraging note or email, I want to say thank you.  You give me the courage to stay on the race course all the way to the finish line.  And it's extra special when I get to meet you in person.  May our paths cross in the future.  I hope I get the opportunity to shake your hand or break bread with you.

Now it's your turn to add to the conversation.  Please add your thoughts about what you do to make every encounter count.  Thanks for your contribution.  Have a great day.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How David Defeated Goliath

It's not easy to topple a giant.  It requires guts and a game plan.  David had both.  Before he faced Goliath on the battlefield, he did one thing that separates the winners from the losers – he practiced.  David defended his father's sheep against predators such as a lion and a bear.  He understood that his Father in Heaven was with him in all of his trials.  David believed God would be with him when he entered the battlefield with a sling and five stones.

The armchair quarterbacks who look back at the famous battle may ask, "why did David need five stones?"  I believe David resembles our modern day marines.  Their motto is "one shot one kill."  If David were doing a post-game interview with us today, I think he would say, "Goliath had four brothers."  Yes, David knew exactly what he was doing.  He was prepared.  And he had faith that he could bring down the giant.

Are you facing a giant today?  Remember what David did on the battlefield and follow his footsteps. Here is a step-by-step plan:
  1. Don't be afraid.
  2. Believe you can achieve victory.
  3. Practice.
  4. Use the tested tools you are familiar with. 
  5. If you are unfamiliar with the Bible, I recommend you get familiar with it, test it, and bring it with you to all your battles.
  6. Pray.  God has powerful allies.  St. Michael is one of my personal favorites and he has a great resumé.  Ask God to send you help.
  7. Give God all the glory every time you bring down a giant.
  8. Don't attack a giant until you learn how to defeat all your lesser opponents.
  9. Never leave the battlefield until your job is done.
  10. Study your giants before you engage them on the battlefield.
Have a great day.  If you are battling a tough opponent, let me know how you plan to win.  I look forward to reading your comments below.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why My Wife Won't Ever Need to Click Her Heels Three Times

The good witch of the North told Dorothy, "just close your eyes, click your heels three times and say 'I want to go home.'"  My good friends out West may be surprised to learn why my wife will never need to click her heels again.  What it all comes down to is love of family.  These last two years in the Midwest have been a great opportunity to discover how important family is.

Never in my life have I faced cold weather like I'm experiencing now.  This Siberian Polar Vortex packs more punches than a heavy weight boxer but it can't knock my family down.  We're home.  Winter is Mother Nature's slow movement.  A new season is just around the corner.  This is the time to work on some things on my list that are hard and necessary. 

The day will come when each of us clicks our heels and heads for our final destination somewhere over the rainbow.  We have an allotted time to learn our lessons and do the work.  I'm reminded how short that time can be.  This week a member of my high school class and another friend both departed this world.

Keep this in mind today – once you leave, you can't go back.  Make today count.  You don't need to click your heels three times and wish you were somewhere else.  Be happy with where you are and who you are.  Have a great day.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Tribute to Laurel K

Yesterday I shared a story about one of my classmates from high school, may his soul rest in peace.  Today I'm paying tribute to another friend who treated me like a member of her own family.  It's not my place to understand why these friends got called up to Heaven at such a young age, their entry into the Kingdom separated by only twenty-four hours.  I grieve for the friends and family members who are dealing with the losses of these two special individuals.  My prayer warrior band I wear is my constant reminder about what I can do – pray.  And how I can use my gifts – pay tribute.  Here goes:

Memories of Laurel

The first time I met Laurel K was in January, 1984.  She and her husband were one of my very first customers at a tennis club in North Phoenix where I landed my first job out of college.  Laurel and her husband walked in to tour the facility.  I was the new tennis director and head pro.  Our office manager, Judy, was behind the counter when the couple walked in.  She was making faces behind them while I was attempting to talk about our club.  Her distractions made me laugh so hard I was sure I lost the sale.  At the conclusion of the tour, they thanked me for my time and departed.  I immediately went upstairs and told my boss how I floundered and I promised to do better in the future.

The next day, Laurel and her husband returned.  They asked for me and refused to let anyone else assist them.  I was shocked when they presented me with a check for one year's dues paid in advance for the entire year.  Every day for the next thirty days, another application for membership with a check for one year's dues was delivered to me so that their employees could become members.  In fact, all the employees filled up my classes.

Laurel's husband asked me if I would like to join his company.  I politely declined, telling him tennis was my dream job.  The owner found out about the offer and asked me to terminate the membership with Laurel and her husband because he didn't like anyone "stealing" his employees.  That sealed my fate.  I told Laurel's husband I would be leaving the tennis world and joining their company.

Laurel's husband asked me if I would take a night class with Laurel.  The first session was scheduled for St. Patrick's Day.  "I'd love to," I told Laurel's husband.  We can go to class and then check out Malarkey's later in the evening to celebrate my favorite day of the year.

The instructor took one look at Laurel and me, all dressed up in matching green suspenders with green hats, and thought to himself, here comes trouble.  The class was based on Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  The instructor became one of my closest friends.  The class was amazing.  Laurel got sick and had to drop out before graduation.

Laurel's husband became business partners with my former general manager from my tennis job and they built twenty-eight condos a couple of blocks away from the tennis courts.  Her husband asked me if I would like to get a real estate license and sell his condos.  My best friend and another classmate from high school found out what I was doing and each decided to purchase a condo.  I didn't have enough savings for my own down payment.  Laurel and her husband allowed me to live rent free in their home so I could save enough money to buy my own place and live next door to my high school buddies.

When I moved to California, I bought a home a couple of blocks away from Laurel's sister.  My wife worked with Laurel's sister at a dry cleaner where Nancy was a manager.  When we had children, Nancy's three children were our go-to babysitters.  Nancy offered prayer warrior bands to my wife and I before we moved to Iowa so we would always be safe.

Earlier in the week, Laurel's sister asked me to prayer for Laurel.  I immediately put on my prayer warrior band and sent out prayer requests to all my friends.  The responses were overwhelming.  Heaven and earth were in a tug-of-war for Laurel.  Yesterday, Heaven won.  Jesus summoned Laurel to be with Him in Heaven.  There is a void here on this planet.  The world lost a very special lady.  I ask you to please pray for those who are missing Laurel.  May she rest in peace.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Special Message For Jeff G. and All My Classmates from SHS

Dear Jeff,

I read your sad news last night about your best friend from our beloved class of '78.  You have my prayers and condolences.  It's times like these when we ask ourselves, "why?"  Your recollections of your friendship with Scott and shared memories of our times in high school remind all of us of the importance of our relationships.

Like you, I chose a member of our class to be my best man and best friend.  I'm thankful for our group.  Although I live far away from the place where we shared four years together, I still feel a strong connection and it hurts when I get news a fellow Viking has departed.

Scott's spirit will always be with us.  Just like Nancy, who left us after her battle with brain cancer, and another Scott from SHS who was my first doubles partner.  I still imagine them hitting tennis balls on our old tennis courts and can't believe they are gone.

Stay strong in your faith, Jeff.  The day will come when each of us will joyfully reunite with friends and family who are waiting for us on the other side.  Scott's work is done.  He taught us how to laugh.  I remember his positive attitude in high school.  May his soul rest in peace.  May his family and friends be comforted knowing that Scott played every quarter of his life to the best of his ability and that a Sun Devil has fifty-yard line seats in Heaven so he can watch over us.  Yes, he is cheering for you Jeff, and for your sons and your daughter who have amazing lives ahead of them.  I hear him yelling from above, "Do the work."

May God bless you and all who are missing Scott and may his memory live on in our hearts.

Your classmate,

Michael aka Miguelito Saltón

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pray Without Ceasing

Pray without ceasing.  ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I'm calling on all the prayer warriors today to please pray for a friend who is in need.  She is recovering from a transplant and her kidneys and liver are showing signs of failure. She is in ICU.  Her name is Laurel K.  Thanks for joining me.  I'm wearing a prayer warrior band her sister gave me when I relocated to Iowa from California.  Laurel's sister treated my wife and I to our last meal in our old hometown and she gave all of us these special bands.  She offered prayers.  They worked.  Now it's time to prayer for her sister.  Thank you.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We're Half Way There

Where is the time going?  My wife and I are getting ready to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary this summer.  Wow!  We are half way to our golden years.  She has been holding my hand for a quarter of a century.  In honor of my special lady, I would like to offer this YouTube video...

The windchill is back down to -20º this morning.  It doesn't matter.  My lady is keeping me warm.  I need to get outside and seize the day.  How about you?  How are you doing on your journey?  I'm sending you a prayer today that you find everything you're looking for.  Go in peace.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Have You Done in the Last 20 Days?

Please don't let this New Year turn into a bad memory.  Your actions in the last twenty days already set the tone.  Do you like the beat of the music or is it time to dance to a different tune?

I decided to use my OCD tendencies to focus the majority of my attention on an important family matter.  Because the matter is private, I'm choosing to keep my strategy off-line until I complete the task.  The music I'm dancing to this year is fast-paced and unfamiliar, like a salsa.  It requires time and focus to master all the complicated moves associated with my #1 New Year's resolution.  My job is to remain on the dance floor until this goal is accomplished.

I find inspiration in all three of our children.  They are pursuing their goals like champions.  They remind me about a wise mentor who once shared with me his definition of success:  "Success is the continuous journey towards the achievement of pre-determined worthwhile goals." ~ Tom Hopkins.

What have you done in the last twenty days?  Are you focused?  It's not too late to change the music.  Have a great day.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Walk This Way

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. ~ Galatians 5:16-18

There is something special about the road less traveled.  Perhaps I find my road interesting because I'm not the one in charge of navigating and every morning when I wake up I can expect one thing – my day will be filled with surprises.  That's what happens when you walk "in the Spirit."  Here are some examples:
  • When you walk in the Spirit, you are often times way outside your comfort zone.  This puts you in a position to grow and learn.
  • When you walk in the Spirit, you find yourself in a state of conflict – choosing options for your sole benefit or working on ideas that benefit others.  The Spirit is always nudging you to let go of your pride and spend more time advancing the Kingdom.
  • When you walk in the Spirit, there's never any moss growing under your feet.  The Spirit requires action.  The Spirit inspires you to want to walk, no matter how challenging the climate may be.
  • When you walk in the Spirit, everything makes sense.  You discern how all the parts of the puzzle fit together.  The Spirit is always willing to reveal your puzzle if you're willing to let the Spirit guide you and you trust that God's ways are infinitely superior to your ways.
I live my life in joyful expectation that Jesus is preparing a place for all who desire to be with Him forever.  I find inspiration in the people around me who keep walking even when they appear to be in challenging situations.  Perhaps these are the ones who understand the joys of the road less traveled.  What are your thoughts about walking in the Spirit?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Life is All About the Trials

Jesus told His followers to expect hardship.  In fact, every major character in both the Old and New Testament endured trials most of us can't even fathom.  In my opinion, there are three significant reasons why we face trials:
  1. As children of God, each of us has an inheritance to claim.  There is an adversary who will do everything in His power to trick us or deceive us into thinking we are unworthy of our inheritance.  There are dark forces at work and they do not sleep.  
  2. We cannot grow wise without being challenged.  Every hardship offers a lesson in life.  Embracing hardship leads to abundant life.
  3. Show me a person who is bruised, battered and beaten; one who sings God's praises no matter what trial he is asked to endure and I will show you a person who knows the rich rewards that await him or her at the end of the trials.  That person is my brother or sister in Christ.  In order to live with Christ, me must first die with Christ.  We must be willing to bear our own cross, one which pales in comparison to the one Jesus carried on His back for us.
I renew my pledge here on this blog to report about all the good Jesus is doing in my life.  Yes, I will endure every trial.  And I refuse to complain.  In the end, I will finish this race and no person, living or dead, no entity and no trial will ever be able to strip the smile from my face because I plan to live every day to its fullest and embrace every trial as a great opportunity to get to know my Lord and Savior on a deeper level.  Peace be with your spirit.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Nothing Can Separate You From God's Love

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

The Bible verse above was once posted in our master bathroom.  I looked at the words every morning.  The poster became tattered and we took it down, however, the words remain embedded in my mind and soul.

Take a moment today and ponder who you are.  Yes, you are a child of God.  He loves you and He wants to be with you forever.  Is there anything going on in your life right now that is keeping you away from God's love?  Go out into the world and have a great day.  Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Most Intense Game of Chess I've Ever Played

No.  It's not the kind of chess game you play on a board.  The game I'm involved in has to do with a personal matter that is very similar to chess.  My adversary is a three-headed giant most consider so powerful they default after the first move.  I decided early on to learn the rules of the game and play it all the way to check-mate.  The final outcome is not for me to decide.  The good news is that I'm still alive in a fierce game that started last year when my opponent made a bold opening move, blasting hot air from all three of its nostrils that stretched all the way across the board to my castle.  My king survived the initial attack and he's still standing.  I know my role – to protect my queen.  We've faced all kinds of tough opponents during our twenty-four years of marriage – earthquakes, wildfires, blizzards, arctic vortexes, job layoffs, a short sale, and a financial meltdown.  In some ways, I feel like the three men in the BibleShadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who were tossed into a fiery furnace.  In the end, they came out alive.  If you want to read more about these amazing witnesses, click here.

I will share more about my latest adventure after it's all over.  Before I make my next move, I'm reading the rules of the game from cover to cover.  In order to win, I need to make sure my opponent doesn't use his players improperly.  My king needs to stay active.  And my opponent will be hearing me repeat one word over and over: "check."  I will not stop until one of the kings meets his Maker.  All I need is a worthy affirmative defense, three stones and a slingshot.  Check. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How To Prepare For a Financial Storm

Financial storms can strike you at any time, usually without any warning.  When the storm of the century blew through the country in 2009, I realized I was not fully prepared.  The good news is that I learned some great lessons about how to get control of the debt monster attacking me and my family.  Here's a checklist to help you protect you when the next financial storm hits:
  1. Do whatever it takes to eliminate all your present credit card balances.
  2. Stop spending money you don't have.
  3. Pay cash for everything.
  4. Keep your clunker on the road until it dies.
  5. Shop at thrift stores.
  6. Use coupons.
  7. Make specific shopping lists before you leave your home and don't make unnecessary purchases.
  8. Brown bag it.
  9. Make automatic deposits to your retirement account.
  10. Save $100 dollars a month and deposit it into an emergency account.  Don't raid the account.
I have been battling my debt monster for a long time.  He beat me up badly five years ago.  I resolved that he would never hurt me again.  I see the sunlight in the horizon.  This is the year that I will finally slay my dragon.  How about you?  What are you doing to prepare for the next financial storm in your life?  Please add your ideas in the comments section below.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Time Is Not Your Enemy

Time is fair and balanced.  We all get the same amount of it every day.  I hear people say, "I wish I had more time," or "I didn't have enough time to (fill in the blank)."  Time is not the problem or the enemy.  The real culprit is the person you see when you look in the mirror.  One of my greatest challenges is overcoming procrastination.  Somehow, the pressure of a deadline inspires me.  The closer I get to the end of the rope, the greater the thrill.   Here's an example:

I won a trip to Maui just before I proposed over 25 years ago.  My future wife carefully planned her outfits and started packing as soon as I asked her to join me.  I waited until the last minute.  Something came up at work and I got delayed.  I rushed in at the last moment and hurriedly stuffed my swim suit, tee-shirts and sandals in my duffel bag.  When my love wasn't looking, I hid her engagement ring inside my bag and zipped it up.  I couldn't find a lock to secure the bag and the clock was ticking.  We barely made it to our flight.  When the plane landed, the duffel bag was missing.  I couldn't say anything to the attendant when I reported my bag missing because I didn't want to spoil the surprise.

The bag showed up a day later and they delivered it to the hotel room.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I grabbed the ring out of my bag.  The story had a happy ending.  She said yes.  Fast forward twenty-five years.  I'm still confronting an old adversary.  No, it's not time – it's time management.  The best lesson I learned over the years is that setting up priority lists and focusing on the most important task at hand enables me to reduce stress in my life and get things done.  I'm not going to wait until the last minute to plan our 25th anniversary celebration this summer.  And I certainly won't wait until the last minute to pack my bags.  When the weather outside is hovering around 0º it's really easy to be working on my duffel bag complete with a swim suit, tee-shirts, sandals.  I will be accompanied by one lovely lady sporting her twenty-five year old wedding ring.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Where There's a Glimmer of Light, There's Hope

I just passed mile marker 1,600.  It represents 1,600 consecutive days of blog writing.  This breaks down to nearly 4 and a half years of pursuing my destiny.  The one constant for me is the presence of light.  I admit there have been some days that were so dark I really had to search the horizon for that tiny glimmer of light barely visible to my eyes.  Do you want to know my secret?  It's rather simple...

I believe in hope.  I believe in God.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  He sends His Spirit to anyone who asks.  This Spirit guides us to the Light.  As long as we follow the light we have hope.  Some of us are closer to the light and others further away.  Many are living in total darkness.  They search for a way out of the cave.  I feel a connection to these people because I was once a cave dweller.  One day I noticed a glimmer of light and I decided to follow it.  These stories are meant to be the writing on the wall that inspire others to keep moving forward, one mile marker at a time, especially for those who are living in darkness.  The light is there even it the lost can't see it.  There is a way out of the maze.  Hope knows the way.  Just follow that glimmer of light.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why the San Diego Chargers Inspire Me

Today is a big day for football fans.  The winners of today's games only need one more win in order to earn their ticket to the Super Bowl.  A few weeks ago, most people believed the San Diego Chargers were an extreme long shot to even make the playoffs.  And here they are, survivors of wild card weekend.  The Chargers are playing the number one seed today.  The odds are against them.  Win or lose, here are some reasons why this team inspires me:
  1. They refuse to give up.
  2. They make adjustments when plans are working out right.
  3. They support each other.
  4. They listen to their coaches.
  5. They believe in miracles.
  6. They practice, practice, practice.
  7. They don't read the press reports.
  8. They step up their game when the odds are against them.
  9. They understand the best offense is a solid defense.
  10. They learn from their defeats.
Football may only be a game, however, it offers many lessons that can be applied to the game of life.  I admit I've fumbled many times in my own life.  Some of my opponents hit me so hard that I often wondered if I'd ever be able to get back up and get back in the game.  Then I think about my favorite football team.  I recall all the times when they were written off.  I remember how they always let go of the past and move on, no matter how heart-breaking a loss is.  I believe in happy endings.  I believe the underdogs have a reasonable chance of overcoming the odds that are against them.  And win or lose, the San Diego Chargers will always be my favorite team.

Who inspires you?  Do you like to root for the underdogs?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why You Should Never Push the Fast Forward Button on Your Challenges

If you're struggling with something today, this story is for you.  I remember watching Adam Sandler in the movie, Click.  Sandler is given a universal remote that allows him to fast forward through the difficult parts of his life.  It turns out that "skipping over" events in your life leads to sad consequences.  Everything in your life is connected.  Every day has value.  My most difficult days are also the days I learn the most important lessons.  Here are some ideas to consider about the value of your life moments:
  1. Each day is an ingredient in your recipe of life.  Have you ever eaten something that didn't taste right?  Something was missing, wasn't it?  If you leave something out of your recipe because it tastes bitter, that affects the overall flavor.  Those bitter days in your life are necessary if you want the flavor of your life to taste right.
  2. If you want to become a master chef, you need plenty of practice.  Those days where things are going so well in your kitchen are necessary in order for you to develop your skills.  Skip over the mistakes and you will fail to learn how to develop your life skills.
  3. Your children will long remember you not so much for the "perfect days" but for those days you supported them when their world was falling apart.
  4. Your generosity is refined by living through the times in your life that teach you to appreciate the good times.  A homeless person cherishes a warm bed.  An unemployed worker savors the day when he is hired for a new opportunity.  And anyone celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary will be quick to tell you they wouldn't trade away a single day because their marriage was strengthened by the challenging times.
  5. You need challenges in your life to grow into the person you were created to be.  Every moment counts.  Live in the moment.
May your day be filled with joy.  And may your challenges add some spice to your life.  Don't skip any of the ingredients.  Your taste buds deserve better.  Don't worry about tomorrow.  It will arrive at its designated time.  Live today to its fullest.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The First 15 Minutes

What do you do the first fifteen minutes of every day?  If you're having trouble staying on track, chances are you're blowing it at the beginning stages.  Try these pointers every morning when you first wake up to see if you can raise your game:
  1. Visualize what you want to accomplish as soon as your alarm clock goes off.
  2. Concentrate on positive actions that will lead you to your desired results.
  3. Keep any self doubts or negative thoughts out of your mind.
  4. Pray.  Offer up your day to God.  Ask Him to be with you at all times on the race track.
  5. Remain calm.
  6. Don't worry about the hurdles.  Just visualize yourself jumping over them, one by one, until the day is done.
  7. Be thankful.  You have a fresh start every morning when you wake up.
  8. Realize that you can make a difference.  Think about someone you are planning on seeing during your day who needs your help.  Visualize how you are going to improve that person's life today.  
  9. Tell yourself you're not going to let anything you get you down today.
  10. Think positive thoughts.
I'm thinking about you right now.  I used my first fifteen minutes to imagine you reading this blog.  I'm imagining you jumping over all your hurdles, one by one, until you reach the end of your day.  I see you smiling.  You are confident.  And I'm thankful you checked in.  Have a great day.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

An Update From the Frozen Tundra

In case you're wondering how those "California people" are doing in the frozen tundra otherwise known as Iowa, here's a quick update:

  • Papa polar bear discovered his car is capable of starting when it's -48º with the wind chill.
  • Mama polar bear loves to cuddle under the blankets and read her favorite books during this time of year.
  • The baby polar bears are busy with high school, college and serving customers brave enough to come out in this crazy weather.
  • Daily blogging is more fun when papa bear is sipping hot chocolate and sitting next to the fireplace.
  • There are very few distractions when the roads are shut down.
  • The human spirit is not dependent on the weather and can thrive in any condition.
I'm excited to get some big projects done this year.  There is no time to hibernate and Mama polar bear has a long list of honey-do items for papa polar bear to accomplish before the snow melts.  I will share more about what I'm working on in future posts.  Have a great day and don't forget to feed the penguins.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Find a Way to Win

My family has seen its share of oversize opponents in the New Year.  Mother Nature decided to blend a frozen cocktail of snow and ice from the North Pole early in the week.  Temperatures hit a record low of -48º with the wind chill.  My wife and I both crossed our fingers when starting our cars before sunrise.  We both made it to work and back safely and kept our outdoor time to a bare minimum.  We managed to accomplish everything on our to do list in spite of the record low temperatures.

Our youngest son faced an opponent 12 pounds heavier than him over the weekend when the opposing school was short on wrestlers in his weight class.  He found a way to win and pinned his opponent before the first round expired.

It doesn't matter who your opponents are.  The strategy is the same – find a way to win and stop making excuses.  Don't forget to post a comment about an opponent you are battling and what you are going to do to find a way to win.  Have a great day. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

This is the Best Time to Make Your New Year Adjustments

98% of 2014 is still in front of you.  How do you feel about the first 2%?  If you slipped with your resolutions, this is the best time to make your adjustments before the rest of the year slips away.  I consider the month of January as the most fragile because it's usually the month most people decide to make big changes in their routines.  Any New Year resolutions that are still intact by the end of the month have a great chance of becoming permanent habits.

I will share a little secret with you about a resolution I made that is already slipping.  I decided on New Years day that I would commit to reading the Bible in one year.  I found a link to a great source and bookmarked it.  The first three days were great.  Then I slipped.  I let my nervousness about the polar storm get in my head.  The -50º windchill got in my head.  I focused so much on the weather that I dropped the ball on my Bible reading.  So, now I need to do three things to get back on track:
  1. Re-commit to my long-term goal of reading the Bible in one year.  There are big challenges ahead and I need all the help I can get.  For me, improving my relationship with God is a worthy goal.  I need to click on the link every day and read all about the Good News.  Jesus is the source of all my wisdom.  I can't let anything else get in the way of our time together.
  2. Make adjustments while 98% of the year is still in front of me.  This means removing all the obstacles that are blocking me from forming a new habit.  I don't need to be fixated on the weather just because the thermometer is reaching record lows and everyone around me can't stop talking about it.  This is a distraction.
  3. I need to surround myself with at least one accountability partner who is willing to hold my feet to the fire.  Are there any readers out there who want to join me in my quest to read the Bible in one year?  If so, click here for the link to the Online Bible and let's do this together.  Then shoot me an email and tell me you want to join me.  We can email each other to make sure we are staying on track. 
Here is what my progress report looks like right now:  3/365.  That means I'm already four days behind.  This goal needs daily attention or it won't become a habit.  If you decide to become an accountability partner, all you need to do is email me with your progress and ask me for mine.  If we stick together, on the last day of the year our progress report will look like this:  365/365.  Are you with me?  You can choose to be a private partner or publicly commit by posting your comment below. Thanks for helping me to get back on track.  Good luck in the pursuit of all your goals for the New Year.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Jesus Is Always Close Enough

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

Yesterday I trudged through the snow to celebrate the epiphany at my house of worship.  My journey of three and one half minutes to reach the front door of my church was much shorter than the route the three wise men traveled.

No matter where you're coming from or where you're headed, Jesus is always close enough for you to find Him.  You don't need a star to be locate Him and you don't even need to be wise.  All you need to do is ask Him to show you the way.

Have a great day today. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Send in the Penguins – A Tribute to Mother Nature

Isn't it cold?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last in the snow,
You blowing cold air.
Send in the penguins.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps blizzards around,
One who can't move.
Where are the penguins?
Send in the penguins.

Just when I'd stopped
going to the beach,
Finally knowing
The one that I wanted was your minus 50 degrees,
Making my entrance again
Without any hot air,
Sure of my lines,
No snow birds are here.

Don't you love cold?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want -
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the penguins?
There ought to be penguins.
Quick, send in the penguins.

What a surprise.
Who could foresee
I'd come to feel about you
What you'd felt about me?
Why only now when i see
That you'd throw snow balls at me?
What a surprise.
What a big freeze.
Ma Nature, you tease.

Isn't it cold?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my mittens this late
In my career?
And where are the penguins?
Quick, send in the penguins.
Don't bother - they're here.
Oh Summer, come here!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Peek Inside the Arctic Vortex

The Arctic vortex is sending record low temperatures to my area not seen in one hundred years.  We are bundling up for a possible -50º night on Monday when the wind chill is factored in.  My California friends are wondering, How do people survive in conditions like this?  I have found the people in my new community to be surprisingly resilient.  Here are some observations:
  • Families invite the homeless into their homes.
  • Companies give away free snow removal for people who are suffering major illnesses.
  • Life goes on without much complaining.
  • Iowans don't let the cold weather freeze up their positive attitudes.
  • The canvas of white snow sure adds to the beauty of the hillsides.
  • Snow days create opportunities to work on projects that are often ignored when the weather is warmer.
I'm super excited about the New Year.  I have the perfect basement for writing my stories.  The fireplace puts out a lot of heat and my cupboards are stocked with plenty of hot chocolate.  Life is good.  Cheers from the Arctic vortex.  Have a great day.  Don't let the cold weather freeze your New Year plans.

Friday, January 3, 2014

How Low Will the Temperature Go?

Wind chill temperatures are expected to reach -50º in my neighborhood on Monday night. That won't stop me from pursuing all the dreams I have for the New Year.

Please keep all the people who are struggling in cold weather areas in your prayers.  At temperatures like these, car batteries die, power lines overburdened with ice collapse and road travel becomes hazardous.

Check in next week for more updates.  Meanwhile, I'm planning to use these cold-weather days and nights to work on my novel.  I have a cozy spot right next to the fireplace in my basement.  If I happen to get snowed in, that's where I will be.  Stay warm!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why Day 2 Matters

Was it easy for you to make all those resolutions for 2014?  You were surrounded by loved ones and the atmosphere was electrifying.  You imagined yourself shedding pounds, building killer abs, and doing all those important tasks you failed to do in the previous years.  Then you woke this morning and reality set in.  Your support group went home and you find yourself all alone.  Maybe that little voice in your head is getting louder today.  You hear yourself making excuses.  Your inner voice tells you, "you can't do this.  Go ahead and give up."  If you're struggling with your inner voice, please read on.  I would like to share with you why day 2 matters.

Today is perhaps the most challenging day you will have in the New Year.  Your adversary is the strongest today and you are the weakest.  You haven't seen any results from the dietary changes you started yesterday and you may even be going through withdrawals.  Your body is hurting because you started some new exercises and now your inner voice is complaining loudly.  Today is the day you must become deaf to your inner voice.  If you can defeat it, your odds of making this year stand out from all the rest increase dramatically.  All you have to do to win is stick to your game plan for today.  Today matters.  Defeat that inner voice nagging you.  Eat an apple instead of a candy bar.  Do five stomach crunches right now before you read the next paragraph.  Do one thing today that will keep you going in the right direction.  Do it right now.

I know exactly how you feel.  If you stick with your game plan, your life will change.  The One I follow promises this.  In fact, He is the One who inspired your goals, inspirations and desires in the first place.  That inner voice trying to confuse you and destroy you is not coming from the One I follow.  It's coming from a place where there is gnashing of teeth.  Misery loves company.  Which party are you going to join?  If you feel like your life is becoming a dry wasteland, check out some encouraging words from one of my favorite prophets:

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
~ Isaiah 43:19

Yes, day 2 matters.  You have everything you need to move forward and have a great year.  If you feel like giving up or if you're unsure about how to move forward, take a moment and subscribe to this blog by email.  Just submit your email address on the right margin and I will send you daily reminders to help you live your dreams.  You can do it.  And if you miss one day in your pursuit of your goals, I suggest you take a "Mulligan" and start over.  My promise to you is to stay with you in spirit every day on the course of life.  Should I ever miss one day, my accountability partners are instructed to come looking for me.  What about you?  Are you ready to finish what you started when you made those New Year resolutions?  Don't forget to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome, 2014, Thanks for the White Canvas

It's the biggest white canvas I've ever seen.  There are miles and miles of fresh snow all around me.  It's time to start painting our pictures for the New Year.  It may be cold outside today, however, that won't stop me from making bold brush strokes to start 2014 in style.  Nor will the -20º forecast tonight excluding windchill put a freeze on my plans.  Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, my hope for you is that you enjoy painting new pictures of what you want your life to look like in the New Year.  Here's my approach for the New Year.  The canvas is divided into five inter-connected segments:
  1. Faith.  This is the belief there is an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God who wants to be a part of our lives.  Now more than ever, I thank God for delivering on the gift I first prayed for back in my teenage years when my world appeared to be unraveling.  I will use my faith in God to paint pictures of hope for others.
  2. Family.  When we first moved to Iowa from California nearly two years ago, there was much uncertainty about how much family time we would have.  The biggest challenge about living on the west coast was being separated from my wife's family and that's the main reason we chose to relocate.  All three of our children decided to call Iowa their home.  We are closer than ever.  Our youngest son is having the time of his life on the high school wrestling team.  And my boss at my day job is setting up work schedules that allow me to watch most of the matches and tournaments.  Last year I discovered a lost branch of our family tree.  This will be the year I get to meet them face-to-face.
  3. Friends.  Some are going through some tough times right now.  My hope for this year is that I can be a good friend even though I may be far away geographically.  If we are connected and you know someone who can benefit from these messages, please share this blog with them.
  4. Finances.  In recent years, this area of my life was mostly covered in red ink.  I plan to write an e-book about my experiences once I figure out how to eliminate the last pieces of shrapnel from my financial wounds.  The good news is I'm finally off of life support and I see the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.
  5. Fitness.  This was once the easiest part of the picture to paint.  Fitness is easy when you live near the beach and the weather outside is constant at about 70º.  The challenge is to stay fit when Mother Nature is throwing snow balls at you and you can barely see out the windows.  I resolve to pay more attention to this segment in the New Year.  There are no excuses.  My wife told me this morning she wants to start using her yoga and Pilate videos that are stashed away.  I resolve to join her.  Once our debts are all paid off, the next step will be to join the recreation center adjacent to our home.
Yes, this New Year is a blank canvas.  I'm ready to paint a new picture.  How about you?  What picture do you want to paint this year?  Remember, it's important to pace yourself.  Make sure you use each day all the way to the end of the year.  Don't ever stop painting.  Don't ever give up hope.  Be patient.  And have a Happy New Year!