Friday, February 28, 2014
As long as there's time on the clock, you're still in the game, no matter how far behind you are. Don't worry about the scoreboard. Focus on your comeback. I've been writing daily for nearly four and a half years without missing a day. There have been days when I just stared at my laptop, waiting for inspiration. There are writers I know who crank out books like they're on an assembly line while I trudge along in slow motion. At last, my creativity is spewing like a fire hydrant. I stopped worrying about how fast the time clock was ticking and stayed in the game. Give it a try.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
I've been treading on thin ice ever since I decided to write my first novel. I wanted it to be unique. The idea of creating a Cyber-bistro and preparing fresh chapters in front of my readers seemed appealing. Then my brain froze. I started the book with the beginning and the end in my mind but nothing in the middle. "Just write," I told myself, "and it will all come together, one chapter at a time." Perhaps the real story was what was happening in my own kitchen. Here are some things that contributed to my writer's block:
- My wife and I decided to sell our California home and relocate to Iowa. The process of short selling a home when the mortgage company is both overwhelmed and overburdened is just about impossible, especially when there are few buyers willing to go through the painful process. My creative juices stopped flowing. We leaned heavily on our awesome realtors, Mark and Lori, to deal with the banks and close the deal. Without their help, we would have ended up in foreclosure.
- We sold most of our possessions and cashed out our retirement accounts. I felt like a trapeze artist flying through the air with no safety net.
- I discovered I was at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Food, water and shelter overpowered my desire to pen a novel.
- A junk debt buyer began harassing my family while we were still homeless. I cannot comment any more on this because the case is pending.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Twitter sent me a gift this morning, an updated Twitter version that is bigger and better. I really like it. The expanded profile pages are similar to FaceBook and Google+. The new header photo helps users to attract more followers. I uploaded one of my favorite pictures I shot on the way home from my day job at sunset. The sun in the picture reminds me of the One I follow. What do you think of the new look? Click here to see my new Twitter page (@socalmulligan).
My daily writing routine includes posting a tweet about my latest blog story. This has been a huge asset for finding new readers. Thank you, Twitter peeps, for all you do to help us connect to one another. If you have a Twitter account, please take a moment and add me to your list of people you follow. I promise to do the same for you. Just click the Twitter button on the right margin of my blog to follow my tweets.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
It's not on a road map. You can't find it in some future place or event. Contentment is a choice. It's a state of mind. Take a moment right now and decide that no matter what's going on in your life, you are choosing to be content. Got it? Now, hit the play button and go out into the world and savor every precious moment. Be happy.
Monday, February 24, 2014
The number one question I get asked from people in my new community is, "Are you happy in your new surroundings?" The answer is yes. I think it has more to do with being on the same page as my wife than anything else. The follow-up question is, "How are you dealing with the cold winters?" The truth is there are challenges in any area you call home. I believe my challenges help me to grow into a more complete person. I believe I thrive better when I'm dealing with "opponents." I see Mother Nature as an adversary who pushes me outside my comfort zone. It's easy to get soft when the year-round weather is similar to living on an island in Hawaii. When Mother Nature serves up temperatures approaching negative 50º with the windchill factor, that's your opportunity to grow. Besides, I never would have seen the Iowa sunset I photographed above had I not left my California comfort zone.
I made a commitment to love and honor my wife all the days of my life. As long as I'm on the same page she is on, there is nothing in this world that can get me down. We have some bold goals for this New Year. I find myself content. How about you? Are you on the same page with your spouse or loved one? If not, what can you do to get yourself on the same page?
Sunday, February 23, 2014
The other day, Mother Nature dropped two inches of sleet on my driveway for her opening act of the morning. Next, she added about five inches of snow to top it off. When the storm passed, I grabbed my youngest son and a couple of snow shovels. We chiseled away at the frozen sheets of ice and managed to clear most of the driveway by twilight. Strange thoughts were going through my head, like: Wouldn't it be fun to make an igloo out of these frozen blocks of ice? And: Hey, this is an awesome workout. Take that, Mother Nature... is this the best you've got!
That's right. I'm not going to let Mother Nature get me down just because she's spewing her frigid air all over the United States these days. As soon as the weather gets back up into the thirties, I'm firing up my Weber barbecue and I'm sending my smoke signals up into the sky announcing that Spring is in the air. There is always a way to adapt when the weather is not cooperating. I would like to thank my daughter for inviting me to play tennis with her on the indoor courts at her school. After our workout, we ate lunch at Cheddars. She was the one wearing shorts. She seemed oblivious to the below freezing temperatures. I guess beating Mother Nature at her own game runs in the family.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Yesterday is over. You can't change it. It doesn't matter. Dwelling on it only takes away from what today has to offer you. Concentrate on today. This is the day to make your adjustments. The best way to avoid making the same mistakes from your past is to try new ideas. Plot a new course. Put all your energy into this day. Are you ready?
Friday, February 21, 2014
I remember sitting in the congregation during a funeral service. The pastor painted a glorious picture of Heaven. He said, "it's impossible to resist the urge to run as fast as you can straight for the gates of Heaven." Silently, I disagreed. I have one very important reason for staying behind – you. I would rather be the last person on earth to reach Heaven if it means helping you find your way. Nothing else really matters. Jesus is the One who inspires me to be God's ambassador.
Imagine yourself in Heaven. Angels are singing. There are no signs of sickness or violence. Jesus is in the center of the crowd. Then, a voice calls out. It resonates through Heaven in a pleasant tone, like James Earl Jones. "My Son, My Son, I have a job for You. My children are lost. Will you please leave Heaven and go to earth to help them find there way back to Me?"
Jesus really did this. He exited Heaven, became man, and walked among us for one reason – you. He loves you that much. Jesus is the teacher. He is willing to leave the other ninety-nine to go find the one who is lost. He asks us to do the same. And so I write these messages of hope every day to help you find your way back to the One I follow. Heaven can wait. I have an important job to do. Please don't follow me, follow Jesus. He is your shortcut to Heaven. I'm taking the long way. Please save me a seat at the table, even if it may be the last one.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Congratulations to our oldest son, Ryan. He submitted a super strong essay about why he wanted to study in Ireland this summer. The list of candidates was narrowed and he aced his interview. He will be earning college credit while studying abroad.
Ryan is a determined young man who works two jobs while attending community college. He's on the dean's list. You can find him running 10k's during snow storms between classes, tending bar at Carlos O'Kelly's or selling Nike products at the outlet mall. He's on the staff full time as the Nike+ athlete.
Our oldest son is proof you can live your dreams if you're willing to set goals, put your head down and do the work. He will be one of the few individuals who graduates debt free. Way to go, son.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Last night I watched one of our young American Olympic ski competitors in an interview. "Most viewers are seeing me on these slopes for the first time," she said. "But for me, I've already been here a thousand times in my mind." Another bobsled competitor commented, "I'm going home and plan to visualize the course so I can be ready for a strong day tomorrow." This is one of my favorite techniques for improving performance and it seems to be working for the top athletes in the world.
If you would like to raise your game, try to visualize yourself giving a speech or executing a new task to perfection before game day. The more times you practice seeing yourself mastering an important assignment the easier it is to calm those butterflies in your stomach. Just close your eyes and focus on a detailed picture of the future event. Keep it positive. Your brain will remember this picture you paint when it's time for the real deal. And you won't feel like a rookie. Give it a try.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Yesterday God gave me everything I needed to accomplish everything on His to do list for me. First, He sent me two inches of sleet. That pretty much made it impossible to leave the house. Then He sent about four inches of snow. I decided to work on the one thing I had been procrastinating on – reading the Bible. I set up a chart to keep track of my progress. What I gained from reading the Bible yesterday is how much God loves us and wants to be a part of our lives.
I feel a sense of empowerment today. The sun is shining and I'm able to go out into the world. I have a desire to maximize this day. How about you? Are you going to use this day to attack your to do list? What is your most important priority? Do you have a strategy for maximizing this day? Don't make excuses. Do the work.
Monday, February 17, 2014
If you are struggling in the area of consistency, I have an idea for you to consider. Take a moment and determine what is missing in your life. What is the number one thing that you are not doing that you really want to pursue? This is your passion. Decide today that you are going to start doing, TODAY. Now do it. Pursue your passion daily. Make time for it, even if it is only for fifteen minutes. Stop making excuses. Become that tortoise that remains on the racetrack. Push yourself to move forward, even on the days when you don't feel like it. You have it within you to become consistent. Take the first step today.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
This time of year in the Midwest there shouldn't be many distractions. The snow falls at regular intervals and the negative temperature readings make outdoor activities almost impossible. So why am I having trouble accomplishing my goals for this year? Is anyone out there in the cyber-world having the same challenges?
I made a promise to read the Bible cover to cover by the end of this year. My original strategy was simple – set aside fifteen minutes a day and read excerpts outlined in an online one year Bible Study. Here it is the middle of February and I'm still on the second week of readings from January. Which is stronger, the commitment or the distractions?
The Evil One is laughing at me right now. He sent my family a fireball from Hell in November and it blasted a big hole in my comfort zone. Instead of working on my goals, I grabbed a fire extinguisher and concentrated on the fire in the kitchen. Yes, the distractions in my life are hurting my productivity. I need to modify my strategy in order to put out all the fires and accomplish my goals for this year. The good news is that there is still plenty of time left in the year to overcome my distractions and get back on course. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
The sun finally came out yesterday afternoon on Valentine's Day. I opened up my bedroom window upstairs and stared at the fresh blanket of snow on the ground. It was like a blank tapestry. That's when I had a Michelangelo moment. I could see a giant heart carved out in the snow. The supper preparations were already underway and I wasn't sure if I could complete my homemade Valentine card on time. I put on my snow boots and grabbed my snow shovel.
"Supper is almost ready," I told her when she walked in after a busy day at work. "Would you mind letting Roxy out, while I finish?" The curtains were wide open, revealing a giant heart. I crouched down from the top of the stairs to watch as she opened the sliding door to let our Chihuahua out. She didn't see it. "How does it look outside?" I prodded. She looked up and screamed. "Oh my God, that almost scared me. I wasn't expecting that."
Another storm is moving in today. Her message will be covered up soon. But the labor of love will be forever etched in her heart. That's what love is. Love is patient, Love is kind. It reveals itself in the smallest of tasks, like shoveling snow.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Happy Valentine's Day. If love is knocking on your door today and you're not sure what to do, please allow me to share my love story with you...
Once upon a time I saw and heard things that turned my heart cold. I swore that I would never ever allow myself to be in a position where my heart could be broken. Love is risky. It's complicated. It's not logical. It's certainly not perfect. I never understood love until I met my future wife. It's like dipping your toe in a pool of water. The temperature is just right but you see the sign "no lifeguard on duty" and you don't know what to do. You're not even sure you can swim. That was the moment I dove in, head first. She didn't seem to care that I only knew how to dog paddle. She took my hand and promised to hold on forever. In five months we will be celebrating our silver anniversary.
I have this to say about love: it's not what you get in a relationship that matters – it's what you give. Yes, love is risky. Yes, love is complicated. Yes, love is not logical. And yes, oh yes, love is worth answering the door for when it knocks.
Remember this about love – the swimming pool is open 365 days a year, not just on Valentine's Day. Do something every day on the other 364 days to show your love. Happy Valentine's Day.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Have you ever been in the presence of a prayer warrior? They all seem to have one thing in common – a remarkable ability to remain calm when the world around them is in chaos. My wife is one of them. My mother is a prayer warrior. My grandmother was a prayer warrior. There are a number of relatives on both sides of my family who are prayer warriors. I wear the prayer warrior band you see pictured above to remind myself to pray more often. Every time I look at it, I think about my list. The list gets longer and longer as each day passes. Breadwinners are losing their jobs. People in my circle of friends are dealing with cancer. The only effective weapon I know is prayer. If you are interested in becoming a prayer warrior, all that is required is for you to invite Jesus into your heart. He will take care of everything.
Do you remember the TV show, Kung Fu? The master told his young student, "Grasshopper, when you are able to snatch the pebble from my hand, you will be ready."
The same is true with prayer warriors. In order to snatch the pebble, you must learn an important lesson about prayer – your prayers are for everyone, even your most hated enemies. When you're able to pray for your enemies to be blessed and have abundant lives, you have reached the highest levels. This may take a lifetime. Are you ready to get started, Grasshopper?
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
This question was asked during our son's interview for an opportunity to study in Ireland this summer. Ryan answered the question this way: When I meet someone who has been to Alaska, I ask them, "what did you see?" They usually respond, "I took a cruise." Then I ask, "Did you ever get off the boat? Did you visit the places the tourists never check out? Did you get to know the locals?"
As I listened to my son recount the interview, I thought, are you answering the question with a question? This is something I do naturally. It's a way to probe deep and discover why the questioner wants to know something. In our son's case, he was demonstrating to his interviewers that he knows first-hand what the difference is between a traveler and a tourist.
"I nailed the interview," Ryan told me this morning. "They will announce their selections at the end of the month. I'm already working on my passport."
At the end of our lives, Jesus is going to ask an interview question, "are you a traveler or a tourist?" Here's my answer:
"When I was a kid, I felt like a tourist. I went to Disneyland. I visited Kino Bay in Mexico with my cousins. Then, I grew up and moved out. During my adventures, often times the boat capsized and I had to get out of the boat and swim. I know what it feels like to navigate Stage IV rapids. I'm thankful I'm not a mere tourist. And I'm even more thankful our children would rather be travelers than tourists."
Jesus has a special place in His heart for the travelers. And He prepared a place for those who nail the interview question. This question is part of the test. We are asked daily, "Do you want to be traveler or a tourist?" Are you going to nail this interview question? Every day you get an opportunity to wake up and decide. Jesus isn't really looking for your words, He's looking for your actions.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Somebody around you is going through a trial today. They may not share what their challenge is or why they are struggling. You can be the person who helps them endure. Keep your eyes open. Offer a kind word of encouragement. You can make a difference in someone's life today.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Do you like puzzles? I do. Especially the kind that take a lifetime to figure out. How many people have you met that know all the answers to their puzzles? My grandmother on my mother's side is the best example. Near the end of her life she had this special glow about her. There was some kind of inner confidence. She was in her hospital bed and her mood was perky. It was as if she had put the final piece of her puzzle in place and it was time for her to move on. My mother noticed how grandma even got a little bit restless because the taxi driver to Heaven was a little late. She was just sitting there in her bed waiting to be transported to her final destination.
There are times in my life when I get restless. I want to solve my puzzles quickly. That's not how life works. God's timing is perfect. He knows how much we can handle and He never wants to overburden us. We get the next puzzle piece when we are ready.
How is your life's puzzle? Do you have a method for figuring out how to put it together? Let me know in the comments section how you are doing. Have a great day.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Before I met her, I saw the world through the prison bars of solitary confinement. I falsely believed it was better to be alone than to risk taking a chance on love. She set me free. The first time I saw her I thought I spotted someone with angel-like qualities, just like Seth did, an angel from the movie City of Angels. Once Seth became mesmerized with Maggie, played by Meg Ryan, he desired to experience human feelings, like the sense of taste and touch. In order to do that, Seth needed to give up immortality. The only thing I needed to give up was the cave I lived in, along with all the negative emotions that prevented more from tasting and feeling the world. She taught me to let go. She taught me what love means. She inspires me. And she loves me as I am with all my quirks and faults.
This morning I told her the title of today's blog story before she rushed out the door to lead a high school retreat at our church. She smiled and said, "you won't have enough time to write all the reasons." She's right. So I will summarize it this way: I love my wife because when I look into her eyes I see a glimpse of Heaven. She may not be an angel, however, she is as close as it gets. I found my angel on earth and I will love her and cherish her all the days of my life.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Our pastor shared a joke about the Christian who was thrown into the lion's den. He got down on his knees and prayed, "Dear Lord, please convert the lion who is about to attack me into a Christian lion." Moments later, the lion entered the arena and charged at the defenseless man. Suddenly, he stopped and fell to his knees. He put his paws together and said, "Bless this oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive."
I believe in the power of prayer. It's a powerful tool to help you deal with fear. Any fear. All you have to do is call out. The Creator of the universe is waiting to hear from you. Here are some other ideas to help you live without fear:
- Decide today that you have a destiny. You were created for a special purpose. Fear is the tactic the enemy uses to try and confuse you about your destiny. The voices you hear in your head that say, "I'm not good enough" or "I can't win" are voices of the Evil One. He is jealous that God loves you and is on your side.
- Use your obstacles to learn how to get better. I used to be afraid of the obstacles. Once I learned that they are there to help me get stronger, I quit being afraid of them. In fact, I welcome them because I believe they are necessary in order to reach my ultimate destiny.
- Become friends with people who live without fear in their lives. When I'm having a rough day, there are certain people I go to for encouragement. These people are quick to offer me a prayer. They understand we all have a purpose. Get to know these people and call on them when you feel a panic attack coming on.
Friday, February 7, 2014
It takes discipline to live within your means. You have to put the blinders on when the temptations seep in. I'm now a happy member of the "enough club." Yes, I have enough. It's the simple things that put a smile on my face.
My prayer for you today is that you discover how fulfilling life can be when you turn off the cruise control. Enjoy all the speed bumps. Experience your life to its fullest potential.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
The Ace of Spades is considered the highest ranking card in the deck. It was used in the Vietnam War as a psychological weapon to scare the enemy. American soldiers believed leaving an Ace of Spades in the mouths of dead enemy soldiers would make the enemy flee without a fight. The battlefield was littered with the Ace of Spades, compliments of Bicycle Playing Card Company, who sent crates of supplies marked "Bicycle Secret Weapon."
I'm not superstitious. I don't read horoscopes or fortune cookies. I'm not afraid of the Ace of Spades or the underlying idea of death many people associate with this playing card. Death is a card that will appear in our hand at some time in our lives. It is necessary in order to reach our final destination.
The good news for believers is that you cannot lose this game if you possess the right card. Anyone who asks for this card receives it. It's free. There are no strings attached. This card trumps the Ace of Spades. Even death has no power over it. This card is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Until this card was added to the deck, it was impossible for anyone to win. Now, anyone who asks for this card is given new life. All debts are paid. All sins are forgiven. This card turns losers into winners. This card is Jesus. If you are playing to win, make sure this card is in your hand. The Evil One may try to convince you that you don't deserve this card. Hold on to it at all costs. Nothing else is worth anything unless you have Jesus. Are you playing to win?
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
I got an opportunity the other night to discover how friendly people are when you're in a bind. We were on our way home from a high school wrestling tournament in Manchester, Iowa when I spotted a Dairy Queen. It turns out the "Drive thru" sign in the front of the store is not an entrance from the main road. The roads were a mess from the snow and I couldn't see much. I made a quick right turn in front of the Dairy Queen and found myself in a ditch with my front tires completely covered in snow.
Before I could get out of the car, two locals ran up to me to see if I was okay. One of the passersby volunteered to get his truck and get me out of the snow drifts. I immediately started scooping snow with my gloved hands. Minutes later, three law enforcement authorities lit up their lights and stopped by to check up on me.
"I radioed for a tow truck," one of them said, asking me for my driver's license. "You might want to wait inside your car until help arrives. It's cold."
"I'm not from around here," I said. "We're coming home from the wrestling tournament and I thought there was an entrance here. The drive thru sign is a little bit misleading. I bet I'm not the first person to do this."
The blank stare from the police officer told me I was the first person to make a bone-head move. My son was inside the car text messaging his friends about my mishap. A series of school buses transporting the wrestlers drove past in slow motion. Dairy Queen employees were staring at me from inside. It was one of those moments where my sense of humor got an opportunity to entertain the locals. It turns out I was the entertainment for the small town.
"Son, it's almost closing time at Dairy Queen. You're welcome to go inside and get something to eat while I wait for the tow truck," I said.
"No thanks, dad," he replied. I think he preferred to stay crouched low in the car so no one would see him.
The tow truck got us out just in time to get supper before they locked their doors at Dairy Queen. We made it home safely around midnight.
Another storm arrived last night. The roads are a mess. I can tell you the one thing I won't be doing today is drifting off the main roadways to buy a blizzard. I'll just pack my lunch and drive straight. No more snow drifting for me. Have a great day.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
It was one of those Rocky Balboa moments last night, the final night of our youngest son's high school wrestling season. His hopes of taking home a first place medal were dashed when he encountered an over-matched opponent in the first round. Round two ended in a narrow overtime loss. I could feel our son's anger and disappointment from up high in the packed stadium. Round three was a different story. That was the moment when our youngest son revealed what he is made of.
When the score was tied after time expired, I thought, here we go again. The referee signaled for the two opponents to begin the overtime round. The result was the same – another tie. Time for double overtime. Another tie. Triple overtime! And with no time on the clock I witnessed something very special. Our son dug deep and managed to pull out a dramatic win to close out the final chapter of one amazing season.
I know where that final victory came from. It came from all the hours of preparation. Shane never missed one practice, not even on the days when he was injured or feeling sick. He could have said he had enough when football season ended. His body was bruised and he was feeling the pain of his injuries. His physical therapist asked him, "have you had enough?"
"Not until the season is over," he replied. Last night was enough. His accomplishments will prepare him well for what is ahead after high school. I'm sure there are plenty of Rocky Balboa moments ahead. How about you? Are you ready to keep moving forward? How is the winning done in your life?
Monday, February 3, 2014
Wishbone. Check. Backbone. Check. Funny bone. On ice. Yikes! Yep, it's another day below zero in the heartland of America. And I'm pretty sure my funny bone needs some serious thawing out. I can't stop seeing the humor all around me. If I were still in grade school, I'm pretty sure they would punish me for my frequent outbursts of laughter. I just can't help it.
One of my buddies shared the video clip below on his FB page early this morning. I was thinking about some of my friends who are diehard Bronco fans. They could probably use a good laugh right now. Here you go...
Sunday, February 2, 2014
It is by spending oneself that we become rich. ~ Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt never spoke one word on the silent screen. It was her actions that compelled her critics of her time to label her the most famous actress the world has ever known. And her actions off the big screen teach us how we can become rich. Sarah volunteered to visit soldiers on the front lines during World War I. This was no easy feat since one of her legs was amputated due to an injury that never properly healed.
Today is day two of Valentine's Month. I urge you to "spend oneself" and become rich. Don't let your own shortcomings hinder you from expressing your love. There is no greater gift you can give than your love. Happy Valentine's Month.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
My camel buddy is here today to remind us it's Valentines Month. Yep, the month right in the middle of January and March in the first quarter of a brand new year. This month only has twenty-eight days. If you use each day properly to pamper and romance your significant other, you will be in the top 1% of the population who believe Valentine's Day isn't enough to celebrate your love.
I'm not going to ask you how you are doing with your New Year's resolutions. Odds are you already gave up before January ended. That's why today is the perfect day to put all your energy into Valentine's Month. Promise yourself you're going to go all out to express your love for that special person in your life. It's simple. Have fun with this. Do one thing every day to show your love.
Need ideas? Click on the archives on the right and check out my posts from last February. Or, read the comments below. Yes, I'm asking my readers to contribute their favorite ideas for spicing up their love lives. And if you don't participate, beware – I may have to send the camel to your business to remind you what month it is.