Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Advent Means to Me

Today marks the beginning of a new year on the Christian calendar.  Advent, which includes the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, is known as a time of joyful preparation.  This particular season is extra special because our family calendar is in alignment with our Advent calendar.  Five weeks from today our youngest son will leave home and begin his new life in the army.  He's been preparing for this moment his whole life.  He's not alone.  The military sponsors the future soldiers program which is designed to help young men and woman prepare for boot camp.

I found a Bible verse that best describes what Advent is all about:  Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans ~ Proverbs 16:3.  If you're not feeling joy today, take a look at your calendar and your priorities.  Ask yourself, is this what God wants me to be doing today?  Is God first in my life?  Is the reason I'm not feeling any joy today because I'm trying to control events and people rather than surrendering to God's plan for my life?

There's a reason Advent covers four weeks.  It's not easy to answer all these questions.  It's not easy to prepare when the world wants to suck you into the shopping malls so you can buy bigger televisions and more stuff that you really don't need.  I need every day of these next four weeks to get myself in alignment with God's plans for me and my family.  Advent really isn't about the future; it's about today.  How about you?  What does Advent mean to you?  If you've never celebrated or stopped celebrating, give Advent a try.  Ask Jesus to be your Commander-in-chief.  No boot camp is necessary.  Let Jesus lead you through troubled waters.  Today is a great day to be joyful.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sharing My Three Secret Ingredients For Daily Living

Bono from U2 sings he still hasn't found what he's looking for in the YouTube video below.  The crowd chimes in.  Everyone's searching for something.  Listen to the lyrics...

I have good news.  I found it.  The answer wasn't in the highest mountains.  It wasn't found running through the fields.  It was discovered in a three-part prayer.  It's easy to swallow but it takes time to digest.  I recommend daily doses in order to build up a healthy immune system.  These are my three secret ingredients for daily living...
  1. Serenity.  Ask God to grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change.  This is not easy.  It doesn't happen overnight.  Don't give up.  
  2. Courage.  Ask God to give you the courage to change things in your life that need changing.  Most people fail in the courage department because they are afraid of how others will react.  They fear failure.  They even fear success.  Change cannot come about without courage.
  3. Wisdom.  This was my first prayer request when I was a lost teenager with bare cupboards in the wisdom department.  True wisdom is knowing in your heart what you're capable of changing and what's outside your area of expertise.  It's putting serenity, courage and wisdom in a mixing bowl and trusting God that what comes out of the oven is a recipe for amazing daily living.  This recipe isn't my own.  I plagiarized it and I'm reprinting it here for you so that you may live an abundant life.  Here it is...

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference. 
If you happen to run into Bono or any of his fans, please share this prayer and tell them you've found what you're looking for.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Take a Hike

Our daughter shot this picture during our family hike yesterday on Thanksgiving Day.  I thought about the first time she was introduced to snow when we surprised my wife's family and showed up on their doorstep a couple of days before Christmas many years ago.  It wasn't long before our children were making snow angels in the backyard.  They didn't care how cold it was.  Neither did I yesterday during our hike.  There is something invigorating about being outside.  I could have made plenty of excuses when our daughter suggested we get up early on Thanksgiving morning and take a family hike.  I'm glad I didn't.  Here's ten reasons why you should take a hike today:
  1. Reduced stress.  When your body releases chemicals during periods of exercise known as endorphins, you feel a sense of relaxation.
  2. Mother Nature.  Many of us experience her slide shows during the warmer seasons, however, she has much to offer those brave souls willing to bundle up and take a hike in the snow.
  3. Reduced television time.  Be honest.  What would you be doing with your time if you weren't hiking?  I'm finally cutting the cable chord when our youngest leaves for boot camp in early January and I'm devoting more time to regular exercise.
  4. Bonding time.  Hike with a friend or family member and get to know them free from all the distractions of electronic devices.  And if you hike alone, use the time to connect with the Creator.
  5. Less aches and pains.  The Holidays can be challenging times.  Hiking produces brain chemicals that work like an analgesic.  This diminishes the perception of pain.
  6. Self-esteem.  The more you exercise, the better you feel.  It shows.  When others ask what your secret is for looking good, tell them to take a hike.
  7. Reduced anxiety.  Spending time with Nature helps to clear the brain.  It's like taking a nap in the middle of the day.  It's chicken soup for the soul.  Anxiety is created in your head.  It's dissolved during your hikes.
  8. Reduced depression.  It's easy to get down during the cold weather months.  When you reduce your exercise routine, you are at risk for depression.  Find a place to take a hike indoors.
  9. Improved sleep.  It's amazing how a little bit of exercise can help you sleep better.
  10. You look fit and healthy.  There are plenty of cars on the road that look great despite their model year and there are some late models that already show signs of aging.  Don't stay parked in the garage.  Get outside and take a hike.  Rev up the engine.
Hiking isn't a once-in-a-while activity just like Thanksgiving Day isn't the only day we give thanks.  I'm thankful every day for my friends, my family and my health.  I'm thankful my kids enjoyed making snow angels the first time they experienced snow and that they still want to go outside and hike even when the temperatures drop into the low teens.  Take a hike today.  And don't ever stop.  It's worth it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving. I'm kicking off my day with a Thanksgiving tradition our daughter started while going to school in California – a Nature hike. The weather is a little on the cold side, 14º degrees. And there's about 3" of fresh snow on the ground. Today is extra special for me because our youngest son, Shane, will be hiking with us for his last Thanksgiving before he departs for boot camp in thirty-eight days. He has chosen to stand up and defend our country so that you and I can enjoy our freedom and have days like today. Wherever you are today and whatever you're doing, please take a moment to give thanks for our soldiers who are separated from their families today. And please pray for them. Thank you.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

O Canada

I spent three summers and a fall season teaching tennis in Canada, about 150 miles north of Toronto.  I found the people there kind, generous, and intelligent.  The YouTube video below reflects their willingness to help out when a need arises.  Take a look at what these Canadians did when the sound system failed in the middle of our national anthem when an American hockey team was visiting.  Way to go, Canada.

I wonder how many of us would return the favor if this happened on our soil.   Would we be willing?  Do we even know the lyrics to their national anthem?  Here is a video of the Canadian national anthem...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Fairy Tale Journey to the Zen Zone

Goldilocks needed three attempts before she found the perfect bed to sleep in.  Unfortunately, her sleep was interrupted when the the three bears came home early.  She ran away, never to return.  My journey in search of my own "zen zone" began when I was about the same age as Goldilocks.  My family sought refuge from the Arizona heat in places like the California beaches where locals called us Zonies and south of the border in Kino Bay with our cousins building sand castles and dreaming about what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I had no clue I would find my "zen zone" in Iowa.  Here's my fairy tale story...

Chapter One – A Zonie frog was hanging out with his friends at Malarkey's, a local watering hole.  The lights started flashing and everyone headed for the dance floor.  The frog spotted a princess but she was too far away to reach in time to ask her to dance.  When their eyes met, he quickly pointed to the dance floor and smiled at her.  The song, Living on Video by Trans-X, was blaring through the sound system and crowded bodies squeezed together like dancing sardines.  Three songs later, the frog and the princess sat down.

Chapter Two – The frog married the princess and the two Zonies became California residents.  They had three kids.  One day the princess woke up and told the frog she was homesick for her family in Iowa.  The frog thought their home was perfect but there was a tiny pea under the mattress and it disturbed the princess every time she tried to sleep.  Four years later, the frog acquiesced.  The couple sold most of their possessions and moved to Iowa.

Chapter Three – One day the princess kissed her frog and he turned into a writer.  He wrote his first book, a memoir about his dad's return home after leaving the pond for an extended period of time.  Some of the other characters in the book didn't feel comfortable and got mad at the brother frog who turned into a writer.  The writer decided that from now on he will only write about fairly tales so everyone can live happily ever after.

Chapter Four – The writer/frog/father of three/husband of a princess found his zen zone in Iowa.  It's a place of peace and serenity.  He writes every morning about his fairy tale life.  His princess bride has been his wife for twenty-five years.  She is happy that the pea under the mattress is gone and she sleeps better than Goldilocks.  Fortunately, there are no bears in Iowa.  The bears live in Minnesota, one state away.  The couple plans to take up Yoga soon and they are living happily ever after.  The End.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Where Happiness Comes From

Three months before Jack Lalanne, a fitness expert and health guru, passed away, he responded to my letter.  I was hoping to meet him and shake his hand.  Jack was touched by my letter.  I told him he was an amazing influence on my life and I wanted to personally thank him for his inspiration.  His calendar was full and he was unable to accommodate my request.  Instead, he mailed me an autographed 8x10 photo he personally signed.  I framed it.  What a class act.  It was heartbreaking when I got the news he passed at age 96.  I sent condolences to the family and got a kind response.  The message included a special request – The best way to remember Jack is to commit to an hour of exercise every day.  Thank you.

I want to go beyond the family's request and do something in Jack's honor.  Below is a video of Jack in his younger days sharing where happiness comes from.  His message is timeless...

Here's one last idea about happiness.  Reach out to someone today who adds to your happiness and thank them.  Let them know how much they mean to you.  Do this every day.  And remember to exercise one hour per day.  Class dismissed. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How Deadlines Inspire Creativity

Consider who you would ask to get an important task done.  There are three choices.  Your candidates live in three different worlds, Fantasy Land, Tomorrow Land and Adventure Land.  Here are their backgrounds:
  1. Candidate #1. He lives in Fantasy Land.  He's available for an immediate consultation.  He's full of ideas.  Some call him a dreamer.  His shortcoming is that he hates deadlines.  
  2. Candidate #2.  He resides in Tomorrow Land.  He's willing to take on your assignment but he can't work on it today.  In fact, today is never a good day for this prospect.  Odds are that he will ask for more time as the deadline approaches.
  3. Candidate #3.  He's from Adventure Land.  His calendar is always full.  This prospect's unassuming Timex triathlon watch is revealing.  Mr. Adventure Land loves the thrill of the roller coaster ride, timed to the second.  He is punctual and always arrives at least ten minutes prior to a meeting.  If you attempt to call him or email him, he may not immediately respond because he often blocks out time for other tasks.
Who do you hire?  My recommendation is door #3.  My opinion is that if you want to get something done, you give it to a busy person, not the guy who's big on promises but lacking in results, or the person who always puts off important tasks to tomorrow.  Tomorrow never comes.  Candidate #3 may give you a dirty look when you ask him for help and he may tell you he's too busy.  If he agrees to accept your request, he will look at his watch, re-prioritize his day, and quickly vanish from your sight.  He doesn't have time for small talk.  His creativity is inspired by the deadline you just gave him.  He will find a way to adapt and do whatever it takes to accomplish all of his assignments before his triathlon watch beeps and time is expired.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Do You Have an Action Plan For Your Dreams?

Are your dreams swirling around in your head searching for a way to become reality?  If so, the one thing missing may be an action plan.  Without it, your dreams will stay stuck in Fantasy Land or Tomorrow Land.  Why not buy them a ticket to Adventure Land?  It's simple.  Write out an action plan today for who, what, when and how.  I'll share how I use this strategy for achieving my writing goals...
  1. Who?  Me.  My job is to come up with the subject and create the material.  I do involve others for editing and creative design for the book covers but I pretty much do most of the writing solo.
  2. What?  My next two book titles are The Caveman in the Mirror and Break the Chains of Debt Bondage.
  3. When?  The Caveman in the Mirror is scheduled for release on March 17, 2015.  Break the Chains of Debt Bondage will be published on July 4, 2015.
  4. How?  I block out time to write one chapter a week for The Caveman in the Mirror.  Our son's announcement that he's enlisting in the army in January next year influenced my writing schedule and I decided to skip a bunch of weeks in order to have more family time before he departs.  Some personal matters related to my third book also needed immediate attention this year.  The time I invested in this area will pay off when I turn these experiences into future chapters.  Once my second book is complete, all of my writing time in April, May and June will be budgeted for my third book in order to reach my self-imposed deadline for release.
My daily blogging plan is simple...wake up, pick a blog topic and write about it, find a picture and publish by 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  This has worked well these last 1,900+ consecutive days, rain or shine.  Keep your action plan simple and adjust it when necessary to maintain balance in your life.  Have a great day.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Have You Figured Out Why You're Here?

Sorry.  I don't know the answer to the question.  You're on your own journey.  It does look like we're at a crossroad today – you're searching for answers and I'm pondering the question.  It's a mystery.  I do know one thing about the quest – it's better when there's a community.  Each of us represents one ingredient in God's recipe.  He's creating something in his own image.  We have to go through the whole process in order to discover what we're made of and why we're here.

I can't imagine a rainbow with one color missing.  Or chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.  We matter.  Salty and bitter are just as important as sweet and sour.  The flat notes have as much value as the sharps.  We all have something to contribute.

Don't worry if you don't know the answer to today's question.  Focus on getting to know the others who are in the mixing bowl with you.  They may be able to offer some clues about where you're going.  Thanks for sharing the road with me today.  My hope is that our lives intersect again.  Feel free to add to the conversation below in the comment section.  This story could use your spice.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are You a Candle or a Torch?

George Bernard Shaw started out as a candle.  The Irishman's first five novels were considered failures in the world's eyes.  He didn't care.  He knew he was a torch.  His parents split up.  That didn't stop him from pursuing his dreams.  He wrote more than 60 plays during his lifetime.  He won the Nobel Prize in Literature at age 69.  He was still working on a play when he died at age 94.

Here's a snapshot from his life...

“This is the true joy in life — being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one… being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.

Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.” 

~ George Bernard Shaw

Here's a question to ponder:  Are you a candle or a torch?  I don't know about you but I feel like building a warm fire today.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Surrender To What Is

The quote above caught my eye this morning.  It summarizes my life in three short sentences.  This made me think about past memories.  They are neither good nor bad.  They are only my interpretations of events that exist in my mind.  I'm in control of how I choose to interpret my past in order to make better choices today.  I let go of what was and have faith in what will be.  My hope for you today is that this quote inspires you.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life's Speed Bumps

A few weeks ago, one of my buddies at my day job shared his story about an early morning commute.  He was traveling east on Interstate 80 at 75 mph in heavy fog when he hit a deer, shot up into the air, landed and spun a couple of times before stopping in a ditch, narrowly missing an oncoming semi.  Miraculously, he and his Honda were unharmed.  He drove to work and inspected his vehicle.  With the exception of some blood spatters, there were no visible signs he hit the deer.

My head was spinning.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  My buddy was describing a chapter I wrote months earlier for my novel, The Caveman in the Mirror.  My main character, Thomas Morgan, hit a deer on the same interstate, driving in the same direction in the same vehicle.  While Thomas didn't fly through the air like my buddy, he did end up in a ditch.  Thomas did not fare so well.  He had to be life-flighted to the hospital and both his legs were amputated.

Mother Nature is sending me some new speed bumps this time of year.  They are to remind me to slow down, beware of dangerous road conditions, and focus attention on my novel in my home where I'm safe from Mother Nature.  I'm spending most of my free time writing in my basement.  My best advice to you is to pay attention to life's speed bumps.  Slow down.  Be cautious of the hazards.  And if you're looking for something to read, my book will be done by the time the snow melts in March.  Have a great day.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A New Attitude is a Game Changer

Game Changer:  an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.

Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.  I'm always looking for ideas to maximize my results in every area of my life.  And the one thing I believe plays the most significant role in the outcome is attitude.  A new attitude is a game changer.

I never judge my days by what happens.  Instead, my days are evaluated by how I react to each and every event.  My main focus is on what I can control, like my attitude.  My attitude has a thermostat.  I never allow it to reach a boiling point or get so cold that I shrivel up and hide from the world.  My attitude is set at a pleasant 72º.  If you're ready for a game changer, change your attitude.  It works.  Try it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Today is Your Mulligan

I'm really happy today is here.  This is my clean slate.  The more I review past decisions and choices, the more I realize I can do better when I make a conscious decision to form new habits.  The past is over.  I can't change it.  But I can make adjustments.  That's what today is all about.  It's a second chance.  It's my mulligan.  Your comments are welcome.  Please share what you're going to do with your second chance.  And if you know someone who had a challenging day yesterday, please forward this story to them.  Thanks for giving a mulligan to someone you love.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How to Survive the Negativity Bombs

Look at those negativity bombs bursting in air.  Aren't they a sight to behold?  They come in many varieties.  Hand grenades.  Sniper shots.  Stink bombs filled foul language.  Senseless tirades.  All of them with one purpose – to draw you in to the war zone.  Misery loves company.  I have some ideas to help you survive the negativity bombs.  Here you go:
  1. Seek Cover.  I find shelter reading the Bible.  Jesus is the best example I know.  He retreated to quiet places.   He sought the company of good friends.  
  2. Resist Escalation.  The best way to win an argument is to avoid it.  Negative people want conflict.  They derive all their power from the fight.  If you lay down your weapons, they move on.
  3. Understand Your Enemy.  John McEnroe used left-handed tactics to get under his opponent's skin.  The true champions recognized his antics and stayed on the other side of the net, allowing John to vent at the chair umpire. 
  4. Keep Smiling.  If you show any signs the negativity bombs are hurting you, the attacks will intensify.  Your smile is your best weapon.
  5. Be Vigilant.  Miserable people like to call attention to themselves.  If you pay attention, you can see them coming from a mile away.  Stay out of their war path.
May your day be filled with peace.  Remember, you can't control negative people.  The only thing you can control is how you react when they drop a negativity bomb on you.  Show them what you're made of.  Have a great day.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Sometimes I feel like Gumby, that stretchable green figure made out of clay.  Life has a way of pulling at us from all sides.  The trick is to learn how to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations or surroundings.  I never thought I'd be blogging in 12º weather but that's what my thermometer reads right now.  And I'm comfortable.  A wise man once taught me, "always affect your environment, never let it affect you."  Another mentor said, "never criticize, condemn or complain."  That's why I make heart-shaped love messages in the snow for my wife.  I have a strong desire to get comfortable in whatever environment I find myself in.  I want to change.  I want to thrive.  I understand I must be willing to be uncomfortable in order to become the person God created me to be.

Steal a page from Gumby's playbook when the world is tugging at you.  The more uncomfortable you feel, the more you will grow from your experiences... and you will always bounce back.  Gumby never broke.  You have the power within you to adapt.  Be flexible.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Road to Recovery is a Scenic Drive

Recovery: a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength.

I'm learning some important lessons about recovery.  Life is not about the potholes you encounter or the mistakes you make.  It's about looking out the window and seeing all the beauty around you.  It's about counting your blessings.  It's not about asking, "are we there yet?"

I'm learning to take my foot off the accelerator pedal.  Life is too short to race through it.  Recovery really isn't a destination – it's a journey.  It's not about looking at the road map or plugging an address into your navigation software.  I'm referring to the people you meet at the rest stops.  It's the sunrises.  It's the sunsets.  And everything in between.  It's about being in the moment.

Have a great day.  Don't worry.  Be happy.  And don't forget to try the scenic route.  The road to recovery is a journey of a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Today Has Something to Teach You

Sometimes it happens early in the morning when I first wake up.  Other times the lesson comes when the sun is setting.  There's always a lesson.  It may be from the people I meet who have been through some amazing experiences.  Or I may discover a new idea from my circle of friends.  I believe what matters most is that I share whatever I learn with others so that the benefit is doubled.

I would like to share something I learned about fear.  Fear is crippling.  When it creeps into your life, you withdraw from the world so much that you stop learning.  Some people have a fear of failure.  Others have a fear of success.  Both are afraid of new ideas.  They avoid learning something new because it involves change.  For me, change is learning how to adapt.  Change is good.  Embracing all that today has to offer is good.  Every lesson is valuable.  Embrace each lesson.  Don't be afraid of what today has to teach you.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans Day

I talked with one of my tennis buddies recently, a World War II veteran who served as a staff sergeant in the army.  He told me, "I'd go back in an instant if they'd take me.  We're facing a terrible enemy."  People like Elliott are the reason why we have so much today.  They were willing to sacrifice everything.

Soon, our youngest son will be joining the military ranks.  He departs for boot camp in early January.  He chose the infantry because he believes there is no greater cause than to stand up and fight for our freedom.  Like the millions of others before him and those who are presently in harms way, Shane is willing to take a bullet in defense of our country.

To all my uncles, my relatives and my friends who served or are serving, and to our son who will be joining them soon:  Thank You.  Happy Veterans Day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why I Gave My Ego the Pink Slip

Think of your ego as a separate person.  Let's call him or her Sam.  If Sam were on your payroll, ask yourself if Sam is a contributor or a detractor.  Does the world revolve around Sam or is Sam genuinely interested in others?  Believe me, I know how tough it is to look in the mirror sometimes, especially when Sam is a problem.  The power is within you to fire Sam and go in a different direction.  Here's my dear Sam letter:

Dear Sam,

We've been together a long time.  After much prayer and careful consideration I've decided to terminate your employment, effective immediately.  It's time to move in a different direction.  The truth is, I believe I can do better with a new management team, led by three persons with an amazing track record.  In order to succeed, they need 100% support.  Sam, you served me well in tough times when I felt all alone.  The problem with your methods is that you're really not a team player.  You boast of your achievements and only focus on what's in it for you.  You can't even see the damage you've done to your own family because of your own personal desire to move up the chain of command no matter how high the personal costs.

Don't take this personal, Sam.  I know how hard it is for you to swallow your pride.  Consider your termination a lay-off.  I made a personal decision to hire the Father, Son and Holy Spirit a while ago and you barely noticed they moved in to our home and our office.  Haven't you been aware of the cutbacks or the remodeling?  I turned over all of our assets to the Son and asked him to find a way to eliminate our excessive liabilities.  Jesus believes I'm spending too much time working and not enough time enjoying my family.  He promises if I follow him and surrender everything, he can work some miracles in my life.   I trust Jesus.  He trusts his Father.  The Holy Spirit works behind the scenes but is on call 24/7.  I'm getting three for the price of one.  The only one I can no longer afford is you.  You're fired!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Confidentiality Agreement

No, this isn't a gossip site.  This is your safe haven.  It's a place where you can visit and remain anonymous.  Sure, I love comments and I love interactions.  But it's not a requirement.  No one ever needs to know your identity.  You can subscribe to this blog anonymously and have stories sent to you by email or simply bookmark it and come back any time when you feel like it.  Here's my promise to you:
  1. Your name will never be revealed.  The only time a reader may know your identity is if you give me permission to disclose your name or if you choose to post a comment with your name attached.
  2. Anything you disclose to me in private emails or conversations will remain private.
  3. If you reach out to me, I promise to do my best to respond within 24 hours.
If you are interested in sharing this blog with you friends, there are some buttons at the end of each story.  Click on the icon that looks like this and follow the directions.  This icon is located next to the comment button.
Scroll down to the bottom of the story to find the email button that looks like this.
I'm glad you're here.  It means a lot to me that you take the time to visit.  Whether you follow me publicly or choose to remain anonymous, you're the reason I write every morning when I wake up.  Thanks for stopping by.  Have a great day.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Beware of the Devil's Hidden Agenda

I would like to thank a blog reader who reached out to me the other day.  She said, "I really like your blog but I wanted to warn you about some of the comments I'm reading from people with evil intentions."  I do my best to reply to every reader who takes the time to post feedback, however, there are some marketers out there who are using this blog to distort my purpose – to publish all the good Jesus is doing in my life.  I'm taking immediate steps to fix the problem.  Here's my action plan:

  1. Delete all comments from spammers or individuals who are using this site to promote anything contrary to God's purpose for this site.
  2. Require all individuals who wish to leave a comment or feedback to register in order to block out computer-generated spammers who are bombarding this blog and leaving inappropriate messages.
  3. Pray for God's protection from all Evil.
  4. Ask for help.  If you find an offensive comment amongst the 1900+ stories on this site, please send me an email with the title of the blog included in your message and I will remove the spammer's comment.
  5. Network with other bloggers who are in the same situation and tap into their expertise.
I feel like that kid from Sister Act II in the video below.  He's trying to sing about the joy he feels inside but he lacks confidence and his message is barely heard.  Whoopi Goldberg prods him to come out of his shell.  His message is simple.  He's singing my favorite tune, "Oh Happy Days."  He's happy because Jesus washes his sins away.  That's what I'm asking Jesus to do – wash away my sins.  Clean up this blog.  Learn to be aware of the Devil's hidden agenda and stop him from these spam attacks.  In Jesus name, I ask for this blog to bring Him glory and help me become the person he created me to be.  Yes, oh yes, this is a happy day.  Thanks for taking the time to register so your comments will be seen by others and your voice will be heard.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Life is a Game of Tetris

Have you figured out the game of life yet?  It's similar to one of my personal favorites, Tetris, where you rush to place each piece as it descends from above before time expires.  That's how God works.  He plops game fragments into your life from the sky and you scramble to fit them in on your game board before you die.  The mavericks know you place the biggest pieces first and then fit the smaller ones the same way you load your camping equipment from big to small so it fits in your vehicle.  The game does get annoying when the adversary gets in your head.  He says, "fool, you can't do this.  There are too many game pieces.  Look how fast they're falling.  Give up.  Let someone else play.  You're not qualified."

God sent Jesus to help us out.  He makes the game so simple.  Jesus looks at the game board and says, "Wow; there's a lot of pieces falling from the sky but there aren't many players."  I know why.  Most of us give up when we lose.  We hate failure.  We don't want to die.  Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

Your perspective changes when you realize death is not the end of the game.  It's a necessary step to advance to the next level.  The temptation is to curse some of the pieces when they show up unexpectedly, like job losses, broken relationships, sickness or injury.  I admit I don't know why some players get cancer.  But I do know God has a plan.  I trust God gives us everything we need to advance.  We learn our best lessons from the most challenging game pieces.  We recognize patterns and get better as time passes, no matter how many mulligans we need.  Starting over is okay.  Every day is a new day.  Keep playing.  Life is a game of Tetris.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Risk vs. Reward

Every choice you make has a risk/reward.  So does every choice you avoid or decide not to make.  Choose wisely.  Evaluate past decisions.  Don't be afraid.  Fear changes the equation.  It blinds you to the rewards.  It overemphasizes the risks.

The most important choice I make every morning is about love.  Loving my wife is easy.  Loving my adult children is easy.  But the choice to love my enemies is difficult.  The reward for loving them is peace of mind.  I understand the risk of not following Jesus when He says, "love your enemies."  Hatred is a sack of rocks strapped to your back.  I choose not to carry that sack or drag it behind me.  That's the only way I can keep up with Jesus when he says, "follow me."  I don't ever want to lose sight of Jesus because the grudges I'm grasping are weighing me down and I can't keep up.  Who cares if your enemies attack?  Remember what the risk of not loving them is verses the rewards of loving them.  It's summarized in this verse:  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~ Matthew 5:12

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Who Inspires You?

How long is your list of people who inspire you?  Have these people been on your list for a long time?  Are there any newcomers?  What is it about them that makes them so special?  I'm going to share two names at the top of my list:  my mother and my wife.  Here's why:

My Mother.  My mother is wise.  It's not the kind of wisdom you get from reading books.  It's a street smart kind of wisdom that comes from dealing with life's curve balls.  Mom is resilient.  She never gives up.  She never complains.  She sees the good in others.  She encourages me to be my best.  She cares.  She has a big heart.  Mom is the person you want on your side when your back is up against the wall and your world is falling apart.  She has unshakeable faith.

My Wife.  My wife is a kindred spirit of my mother.  It's as if God cloned my mother's heart and transplanted it into my bride of twenty-five years.  When God handed out blessings, I received a double dose.  No matter how badly I get beat up in the ring, my wife can look me straight in the eye and say, "everything's gonna to be okay.  You can go another round.  I'm right here with you."

Now it's your turn.  Who inspires you?  Why not give him or her a call today and let them know how they make you feel?  Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

We the People

It's only happened a little over a hundred times in our country.  We the people are doing today what our forefathers envisioned we would do every two years – vote.  The constitution is what defines us.  I find it amazing that the entire House of Representatives is up for a vote today.  And one third of the Senate.  There are no kings here.  The checks and balances in our government are in place to make sure the power remains with us, we the people.

There's only one way to make sure our voice is heard.  Vote.  I cast my ballot last Thursday, across the street from my wife's workplace.  We enjoyed a lunch date together at the local bowling alley before I voted.  There are so many places around the world where this isn't possible.  We are free.  We are the people who determine the direction our country will move.  Today is the day.  Stand up and be counted.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Personal Asset Allocation

In the business world, asset allocation is defined as an investment strategy that attempts to balance risk versus reward by adjusting the percentage of each asset in an investment portfolio according to the investor's risk tolerance, goals and investment time frame.  You can use the same strategy for your personal assets which include your health, your relationships and your free time.  The way you allocate your time investing in each category affects your personal dividends.  Here are some ideas to help you maximize your results:
  1. Your health.  How much time are you allocating to this?  Are you cautious about your food choices?  When was the last time you visited your dentist?  If you have a high tolerance for risk, go ahead and ignore your doctor's advice.  There's a reason I go through my daily morning exercise routine – it's a wise investment.  There are both short and long term gains.  Commit yourself to a minimum daily contribution of exercise and healthy eating.  Increase your asset allocation as you see results.
  2. Your relationships.  Low asset allocation in this category = low friendship returns.  It's the same as garbage in, garbage out.  Neglect your friends and they will forget you exist.  A wise investor digs deep and finds out what's important to his or her friends.  Some relationships are toxic.  Stay away from those who suck the life energy out of you.  Cultivate your relationships with your true friends and remember them when they're struggling.
  3. Your free time.  This is a challenging category for me.  I'm striving to increase my asset allocation in this area of my life so I'm more in alignment with my loved ones.  The folks at my day job are helping me with my time off requests and I'm making progress.  Time is a precious resource.  One of the biggest highlights for me happened last week.  My wife and I met for a lunch date at a bowling alley near her work.  I was off but she was working.  It didn't stop there.  I surprised her with a home-made dinner of chicken fajitas barbecued on the grill when she came home.  Use your free time wisely and make the small moments count.
Business investing is all about tomorrow.  Personal investing is all about today.  Monitor your health, your relationships and your free time.  When it comes to your personal assets, choose to be an aggressive growth investor.  Please feel free to add your ideas in the comment section below.  I would love to hear about your personal asset allocation.  And if you find this story helpful, please share it with a friend.  Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Do You Have Enough Time?

How was that clock reset last night?  My wife shared a tidbit about Fall back and Spring forward this morning when I woke up.  "Heart attacks go up on Spring forward and go down on Fall back," she said, quoting from a news story.  I thought about it for a minute, knowing I had sixty extra minutes on the clock.  I think it's related to our own body rhythms.  I know how I feel when I go to bed too late or cut my sleep cycle short.  What it comes down to is this:  Do I have enough time?  If the answer is yes, it means I'm feeling pretty good about accomplishing everything on my to do list.   Here are some lessons I learned about managing the clock for anyone who feels they don't have enough time...
  1. Don't cheat your sleep or your breaks.  When you sleep too little or skip your breaks, you're increasing your grogginess/grumpiness factor.  In the end, you get less done and you feel worse.  Your heart may even skip a beat because it's not getting enough rest.
  2. Schedule time for fun.  This plays a big role in reducing stress in your life.  Your efficiency rate improves when you play at regular intervals.  The 808 in my name was a reminder I set years ago about my ideal use of time:  Work eighty days and then take eight off.  I'm not there yet but I'm still working on this strategy.
  3. Ask yourself, Is what I'm doing right now the highest and best use of my time?  I love it that you're reading this story right now and I'm not trying to push you away.  In fact, I appreciate you taking the time to be here right now, especially if your my mother who I haven't seen since I moved to Iowa or my cousin who put someone to sleep and has an extra few minutes to check in.  Just make sure you monitor your indulgences so you have enough time to manage your day.
Here's one last fact to consider about time.  Everyone you know has the same amount of it.  Some use it wisely.  Some savor every precious moment.  And if you know someone that tends to waste time, please take an extra minute and send them a link to this blog.  I'll be happy to help your friend out.  Have a great day.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How Do You Make Others Feel?

November is here.  It's a time of reflection about the year as it draws to a close.  I count my blessings daily.  My family and friends are at the top of the list.  The measuring stick I rely on most to evaluate my relationships is this question:  How do I make others feel?  The question focuses not on my personal accomplishments or my own opinions about my abilities, but rather what others perceive about our relationship.  There's a line between confidence and arrogance.  The confident person isn't afraid to ask himself or herself how others feel when they interact.  The arrogant person doesn't care.

If you're struggling with your relationships or you have trouble inspiring others, ask yourself if you crossed the line in the sand and started caring about yourself more than you care about the people around you.  Ask yourself if you see through the person in front of you because someone more important stands in the distance.  Ask yourself if the person you just talked with feels better or worse because of what you said.

It's not too late to improve your relationships.  There are still sixty-one days remaining in the year.  Ask more questions when you're in a discussion.  Put the spotlight on others.  Develop better listening skills.  Show the people around you that you care about them.  They will never care about what you know unless they know you care.  That's the difference between confidence and arrogance.  Make this a November to remember.  Put your friends and family at the top of your list of blessings.  If you're reading this, you're already on the top of my list.  Happy November.