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How sunny is your sun?

So I am once again facilitating grief groups in churches and other community organizations and every now and then I stumble across a saying in the group that really touches me.

One of the wonderful ladies in this latest group I am doing credited her father as saying that with every death (loss) the sun becomes less bright.

Less bright?!?

I thought to myself how I can imagine that happening. It seems that when we suffer loss — particularly of a loved one — something changes. Things do not look the same. It is like the vision captured by your eyes is not as sharp as it was.

I first experienced this when my grandfather died. Now maybe it started happening at my grandmother’s death but I was younger and didn’t notice as much. But for sure I noticed it when my grandfather died. He was very special to me. He was funny, he was the first Male figure that actually paid attention to me as a young boy. I felt when talking to my grandfather that I mattered.

When he died, I was 29, married with a kid on the way and in a career, loving life. That was all new to me but my environment paused to give honor to an important figure in my life and the experience left my vision slightly impaired– things never looked the same.

I would later experience this when my mother-in-law died. She was a beautiful woman with an inclusive heart. When she loved you, you knew you were loved. She was kind and had a “tell it like it is” spirit. I can recall the first Christmas without her. She was gone, but her spirit was the elephant in the room. For a woman who taught us all the true meaning of Christmas and family, to be gone is more than we could imagine. We couldn’t say her name without fighting back tears. I finally spoke and we begin to share her spirit with each other. Still for us the sun has just never been as bright as it was before she passed.

Perhaps the dulling of the sun is a signal that with each death we die a little too. And with each death we draw closer to our own end — maybe that’s really what scares us about death.

Nevertheless, don’t stop loving. Don’t stop caring and definitely don’t stop grieving. Live without regret and don’t worry about that sun you see because you know the Son that sees!

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Are you experiencing this?

I wonder will this sound like a rant? I don’t want it to, but here it goes:

It seems that I am bothered by the liberties people take with my life. Things like assuming you can count on me for a certain thing. I would like to volunteer myself please!

I must have a way of making people feel comfortable not asking and just assuming my help. People can count on me to pick them up, I wanna say “loan” but the right word is “give” them money and pick up the check when we dine. Now of course there are only three people who I would expect to take such liberties and that’s my three children, especially my girls. But even this has to stop because I can’t even claim them on income taxes anymore.

I am trying to examine what about me makes people feel this comfortable? What am I doing or saying to make this ok for some?

I may not figure this one out but I had to say something as this has been on my mind for some time. I guess I just simply need to add one word to my vocabulary: No!

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Free days

Psalms 90:12 says that we should “number our days” and the reason had to do with applying our hearts to gain wisdom. Simply put, God did not want us to waste time. He wanted us to see the day as a gift and utilize our free will to glorify him for giving us the day. Our days should have a healthy mix of learning, helping, growing, bonding, loving, sleeping, forgiving, with a side of fun in them.

The truth of the matter is days are constantly wasted. Some have used the gift of a day to plot another’s demise, character assassinations, fraud, hurtful speech, wild aggression, coveteousness, anger with a side of hate poured on them.

Where do we get the notion that the day is actually ours?

In the midst of our days we eventually get a free day. This is a day where work is caught up, there are no worries, you are in a sweet spot in life and you can literally choose to stay in bed all day if you wanted. If you’re doing something right in your life then you shouldn’t be a stranger to such days. We need these days to reset. It’s our respite from life. These free days can pop up anywhere: a random Saturday, in the middle of a vacation, around a holiday or in between projects. Sometimes you can see them coming, but they can also sneak up on you.

I recently had a day like that and I chose to count my blessings on that day. I did not do anything but that. You may wonder how can you spend the day doing that? Well, as I discovered I have had a lot of blessings!

I thought about my health and the rollercoaster it was on over the last 25 years. I really should have been dead from obesity but I am still here — 170 pounds lighter and the greatest testimonial regarding discipline. My finances have been a tremendous blessing having to replace lost income I thought would be difficult — it only took 5 months and I landed in a far better place than before. Can you imagine having all your bills paid and coming up on another pay week where the previous check remains untouched? And you’re expecting an income tax refund shortly…now that’s living your best life!

There have been some smaller but still significant things as well: I am full of enlightenment having read 4 books so far this year (I’m averaging 2 books per month), I am working in a field that allows me to be a gamechanger for someone regularly (I see breakthroughs and victories often). I have at least two hearty laughs per day; I no longer listen to mainstream news, I have a happy home; I recently bought a new casual wardrobe because of last years weight loss; and I absolutely love the person I have become.

Free days are meant to allow you to reaffirm the path you have chosen in your life and if you don’t like where you’re going you can change. But if you are waiting for someone else to do something, you have already spoiled your day. Find your happy place so you can stop and smell the roses. Do it soon before you end up in your last days.

Posted in Accountability, Achievement, Change, current events, History, Justice, Patriotism, Politics, Taking Responsibility, Uncategorized, Working together

Forever chasing nothing

As a nation, we pride ourselves as being an advanced culture with highly intelligent people and as having the best of everything — pound for pound — the world has to offer. Sadly, I struggle to find anything we do as signficant to mankind.

Now this is not a bash America blog! I used to say I love America but like many I could not tell you why. It was my only frame of reference so I loved what I knew. I assumed that people in government were looking out for the little man — looking out as defined as making laws and provisions for the little man to grow and develop into something more, not throw him a bone and keep him dumb.

There was a study done in the 90s with 21k people across 7 nations to test there literacy. The study covered more than 30 tasks over a 45 minute span. The test takers were between the ages of 16 to 25 and the specific items on the test dealt with reading comprehension, following directions, reading maps, completing job applications etc. — things you would need to function and thrive in every day life. The results were astonishing (see table below). There were level grades from 1 to 5 where a 4 or 5 was pretty high functioning and of course a 1 was struggling. Sweden’s population of that age group were the brightest with more than 40 percent functioning at the highest levels. Only 18 percent of Americans at that age range preformed as well as the Swedes.

What does that mean you ask? Well other than the obvious, it seems that the study has also proven that higher functioning was related to higher wages. When France talks about job creation and the US talks about it, those are two totally different conversations. France is only talking about a living wage where you can take care of a family with a modest living. In the US, we say a job is a job — better than not having one.

Today we are in a literacy crisis. No one should be surprised about this but I don’t think we understand the effects.

 

  • More than 30 million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or complete basic math above a third-grade level. —  Proliteracy
  • Children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out. — National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
  • 75 percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate. — Rand Report: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education
  • Low literacy is said to be connected to over $230 billion a year in health care costs because almost half of Americans cannot read well enough to comprehend health information, incurring higher costs. — American Journal of Public Health

Our problem: Politics. We constantly elect people who can not relate to the problems of the average American and they could care less about those problems. It doesn’t even matter what political party you belong to — both parties have failed the little man.

It seems that we have disfellowshipped the word demand because we don’t demand anything — nothing of ourselves and nothing from those who rule the world. So we sit and take it — you live your life paycheck to paycheck and die in a sea of debt. In our country they tell you that you have the right to pursue happiness, they just forgot to tell you it was nearly impossible to catch.

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No change yet? New Year looks the same as last?

January is always interesting when it comes to resolutions. It’s the month where you either sink or swim. New diet, new health challenge, new job, new plan — all subject to the fall in January.

You spent money on new stuff. You spent time making vision boards and setting schedules and by week 2 or 3 the whole things in jeopardy.

What went wrong?

You had a perfect plan but it seems the motivation got stuck in customs in December. You have now begun the mental gymnastics of rationalizing your failure… well it’s not quite a failure yet but it’s getting there.

Willpower is your enemy — and the fact that you may have done better with a partner or a group with the same goal.

Willpower is a funny thing because even when the facts are stacked in your favor and your plan was routed in the best of empirical data — it still requires execution from you. I’m so sorry.

I am wondering if what you decided was right for you? I’m also wondering were your motives for doing it in the right place?

To make a real plan you need to address and solve a real problem. But if the problem is not exactly a problem for you, then you really won’t have the required amount of willpower to complete your task.

So, wipe your slate clean and plan your resolutions quarter. Pick nine things of varying degrees of difficulty and group them in 3s. Make sure each group has something hard, easy and in between. Get it?

Start working on them… skip the third quarter of the year and then finish the last quarter strong. Problems? Email me!

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Stupid is as stupid does

Forrest Gump was stupid. He had become accustom to the word because of the people who observed his behavior constantly gave him this label. Hollywood made an entire movie about being stupid.

But they didn’t stop there. What gave the movie its brilliance was the fact that things seemed to workout just fine for Gump as if a greater power had the “fix” in for him. They made the story very relatable, by putting it smack dab in the middle of one of the most prolific times in American history. They gave scenarios that could have been any of us. We can all relate to a time where inspite of our foolishness things worked out like they did for Forrest. And we would like to believe that if someone’s heart is right and pure, things would workout for them eventually as well.

To live your life in the hope that this is true would be — well, stupid yet we see so many examples of folks doing exactly that.

Nobody plans to mess up their life but sometimes that’s exactly what it looks like. We become stupid to impress the opposite sex, to take a non existing shortcut to success, to avoid hard work, and to avoid looking stupid.

Stupid is defined as having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense. So our prisons are full of people who are stupid. The court system hears and sees a lot of stupid people. And social media has become a huge platform for stupid people — just make a comment about religion or politics and the stupid parade begins.

The word stupid did not exist until late in the 16th century so that explains why the word is not in the original King James bible, but the concept is there. The word consistently used for stupid is dull. The word appears 29 times in the sacred text and that’s within 13 different translations. The idea of something becoming dull is the idea of stupid. It’s not sharp and pristine, its dull and unappealing. But the original definition is that something happened to make you dull — you didn’t just start off that way. As the evolution of the word continued, today you can be stupid, or dull without any help.

In Gen. 29:17, one translation describes Leah’s eyes as weak and dull looking, but it says Rachel’s are beautiful and attractive. There has always been this comparison of these two sisters and for lack of a better term Leah here is described as stupid.

Gen. 49:12 gives the cause and effect idea saying, “His eyes are dull from wine and his teeth white from milk.”

So if stupid is as stupid does — which is to say that an intelligent person who does stupid things, is still stupid — this was obviously Forrest’s way of admitting he was stupid and letting you know that you can be stupid too.

Let’s hope we all spend more time “with” stupid than we do being stupid.

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Do you see the beauty in your brokenness?

In the bible, Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. We don’t know why she looked back, all we know is the action was purposed.

Did she look back because she was missing something? Or did she look back because she was angry? Reviewing? Regretting?

It’s hard to live your life and move forward when you are stuck in the past. We all have had things in the past that were hurtful, disgraceful, embarrassing and stressful. Some of us are still dealing with trouble from our past. That trouble brought relationships we don’t want, debt we wish we didn’t have and freedoms we wish we hadn’t lost. We troll through life unsure, unfamiliar and unhappy. We always blame ourselves (and sometimes it is our fault), but more times than not we were tricked by some bastard who never really cared.

So we find ourselves in a new year with the same old problems. And like previous years we said that the current year would be “that year” where things would change for the better. So we packed up our things and waiting on the porch for change to show up and get us — but change never showed.

Change never said it was coming.

You actually have to hunt down change and make it come home with you. Change is what you need and it is closer than you think.

So what I find with people who are searching for change is that they are actually living life through their failures instead of their successes. They have already discredited their victories as a fluke; they have assassinated their own character as not being good enough; and they have settled for far less than they deserve.

Am I talking to you yet??

Your victories are legit! Your life is not a waste! You absolutely deserve better! And you are just as worthy as the next person. What makes us worthy is not contained in anything we aspire to do. It’s the fact that God made us to be.

Your time is now. You already know what you need to do. You have been afraid all this time but not anymore.

There is an upside to being down and that is your ability to bounce! Your purpose is greater than the life you have been living. Cut away your dead weight, negative feelings and past mistakes. Capitalize on what you have learned and let this be the year you do YOU!