Sunday, March 30, 2014

Climbing Your Dream

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I... I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost

"The four-minute mile: This was the barrier, both physical and psychological, that begged to be broken." Neal Bascomb Many told Roger Bannister his goal was "impossible." For many years, the scientific and athletic communities thought that it was impossible to run a four-minute mile. The event was regarded as something more than a sports record to be broken. This 'impossibility' was viewed by society as an epochal barrier that could not, and, more amazingly, should not be broken. Many people believed if a man to run a mile in less than four minutes the result upon breaking the tape would be instant death.

In his 1935 article entitled "The Ultimate of Human Effort," British track coach Brutus Hamilton had listed the "perfect records beyond which man could never go" for a number of track and field events. He declared that the fastest mile possible would be 4:01.6. By the spring of 1954, Gunder Haegg's world record of 4:01.4 was nine years old, and Hamilton was still insisting no one could run any faster.

"Whether we liked it or not, the four-minute mile had become rather like an Everest -- a challenge to the human spirit," observed Bannister in his newly-reissued autobiography, "The Four-Minute Mile." "It was a barrier that defied all attempts to break it -- an irksome reminder that man's striving might be in vain. The Scandanavians, with their almost excessive reverence for the magic of sport, called it the `Dream Mile.' "

History now reveals that Roger Bannister was the man of this moment! On May 6, 1954, this 25-year-old medical student, committed runner, ran a mile at Oxford University's Iffley Road Track in the time of 3:59.4. Its no wonder Roger Bannister could say, "The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win."

Louis. D. Brandeis said, "Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done." How many times have we hesitated to venture out of our cocoons and risk what all those around us have determined to be 'impossible'? Peer pressure, societal norms, and traditions keep us stagnant and uncommitted from taking steps toward our dreams. It seems far easier to stay in our comfort zones than to step off the shore of familiarity. "Do not attempt to do a thing unless you are sure of yourself; but do not relinquish it simply because someone else is not sure of you." - Stewart. E. White

Now let me be clear. I am not talking about venturing out to do evil or following after illicit ways. The Word of the Lord says we should not follow after the multitudes to do evil. So our venturing should be within the context of doing what is right for our families and giving back to our communities. All of us have had to endure the snide remarks of another who makes comments from their worldview of impossibilities. Family members, friends, and co-workers are quick to squash any attempt to step out of the known and into the unknown. Fear of failure grips us and leaves us frozen in a frightful fit of all the things bad that could happen! The comfort zone feels good, warm, and fuzzy, but such a zone zaps us of real growth and living up to our full potential. Rather than attempt something new, we are consoled in our complacent progress of staying put in our uncharted waters of a well known shoreline. "The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore." - Dale Carnegie Will Rogers said, "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."

The God of possibilities continues to call us out of the fleshly ground of impossibilities! He is not a God who waits for us to make a mistake, but He is a God who is calling us UP and out of carnal living of fleshly boxed in comfort zones! Who knows how many God given talents have been locked up on the carnal shores of our earthly vessels? God has called us to take our talents and grow, not to hide them away in fear! Vaclav Havel said, "Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs." If you want to eat the fruit, you have to take the risks that come with climbing the tree!

As the years pass, it seems we are more disappointed in the things we didn't do than by the ones we did do. How many times have we looked back on our lives and said, "I wish I would have!"? We are experts at making mountains out of molehills! How many times have we finally found the nerve to step out of our comfort zones, only to find that the mountain of fears we had created in our minds was lower than we originally had created?

There is no doubt in my mind, if you are reading this today, there are dreams you have locked away on some distant shore of apprehension. One of the greatest college basketball coaches, John Wooden said, "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." Today, I want you to re-examine those dreams and goals that were once the emblem of your vision. Its time to raise up the anchor, throw off the bowlines, and sail away from the safe harbor of complacency. There is a 'rushing mighty wind' awaiting to fill your sails and push you into the Hands of the One who holds the key to ALL possibilities!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Power of Choice

“Every person has free choice. Free to obey or disobey the Natural Laws. Your choice determines the consequences. Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.” (Alfred A. Montapert)

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:14)

The Power of Choice
(Part Two - On Being Mentally Strong)

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24) Here it is, another bright, new day and it is complete with 24 hours of opportunities, choices, and attitudes. With this day, as with each new day is a perfectly matched set of 1440 minutes. This unique and unparalleled gift, this one day, cannot be exchanged, replaced or refunded. Handle with care. There is only one to a customer. Now the question is...what are you going to do with it? The choice is yours!

Mentally strong people avoid giving away their power. They choose to take control of their emotions and actions. Those who are mentally strong understand know their strength is in their ability to manage these emotions and then respond, not according to how they ‘feel’, but they choose to move with the right form action, which most of the time, is against how their emotions, or for that matter, how other people’s emotions have tried to persuade them to move.

Every day...every minute of the day, each and every one of us is confronted with a multitude of choices. What’s to eat? Should I eat this or should I eat that? Should we go here? Should we do this or should we do that? Should I even get out of bed today? It is said the average human being has approximately seventy thousand thoughts in one day! Since seventy thousand thoughts is the average, this means some people have more and some have less. But either way, somewhere along the way, with all these thoughts comes a decision. Which thought will we choose to act on? Which thought will we decide is more important than all the other thoughts and make it a priority for THIS moment of THIS day? Then we make the choice and with that choice comes consequences. Sometimes the consequences are good. We have a very productive and profitable day. Then, sometimes, the consequences are not so good. We stay in front of the computer on Facebook or Pinterest and have a very unproductive day. But here is the point! Don’t ever forget who made the choice to focus on that one thought out of the hundreds that were zooming through your brain. We made the choice. We were the one’s who gave THAT particular thought the power for that day in our lives.

There is a saying...”Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” Notice, EVERYTHING began with a thought! William Jennings Bryan said, “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
Everything we are now, somewhere long ago in our past, was just a thought, and when the ‘thought’ came to us, we decided to give that thought residence in our mind. It wasn’t long that this thought began to be formulated in our words and then our actions took on the essence of the thought, which our actions began to direct us toward a certain place (which is where we are NOW), because character is the “inherent complex of attributes that determine a persons moral and ethical actions and reactions.” “Every choice you make has an end result.” (Zig Ziglar) So its safe to say, although in a very simplistic way (because the way we think is a habit), if we change how we think, then we will change our world.  Over the years I have witnessed many who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or any other substance, and who they are ‘now’, is rooted in some type of anger that occurred long ago in their past. And only when they decide to take responsibility for that anger are they able to reinvent themselves and move onto a better life. There are many people who believe that you are responsible for only what you do, but not what you think. But, truly, this is impossible, because how can what you do not be connected to what you think? It is only at this level, what and how we think, that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. There is a are not what you think you are, but what you are what you think! Therefore, all choices stem from our thoughts and what we think.

Stephen Covey said, “There are three constants in life... change, choice and principles.” There is no way around these constants. Like gravity, they are natural laws which affect you on a daily basis. You cannot get around change. All of us must be flexible enough to ‘roll with the punches’ that comes with every new day. Sure we can make a choice ‘not to change’ but then, in the end, we will lose our ability to adapt to the ebb of life’s flow and in turn become a stagnant pool of past thoughts and lost dreams. And don’t forget, not making a choice is a choice! As William James said, “When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice.”

“All men and women are born, live suffer and die; what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about... We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.” (Joseph Epstein) So today, as like any other day, you have a choice. Sure, like Joseph Einstein said, there are handful of choices we did not have the power to make, and God didn’t ask us to accept this life, but we have it and the question is...what are we going to do with it? The power is in our hands in how we choose to live the life we have. “You always do what you want to do. This is true with every act. You may say that you had to do something, or that you were forced to, but actually, whatever you do, you do by choice. Only you have the power to choose for yourself.” (W. Clement Stone)

You see, mentally strong people know they are in charge of their choices. They avoid and refuse giving others the power to make them feel bad, inferior, or deficient. A mentally strong person knows their strength lies within their ability to deal with their thoughts and emotions, and then choose to respond the correct way. “Choice of attention - to pay attention to this and ignore that - is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be.” (W. H. Auden) I have always said, we have the power to do whatever we want, but we don’t have the power to decide on the consequences of the choice. Yet, a mentally strong person understands that every choice has it’s own connection which is rooted in the DNA of every thought. Bad thoughts (hate, anger, malice) lead to bad actions and bad actions usually lead to bad consequences. Therefore, mentally strong people work quickly to subdue the bad thoughts before they manifest themselves into action, hence destroying the power they may have in the future.

Denis Waitley said, “There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” The choice is OURS! No we can’t go back and change our past choices, but we can learn from the past and change the choices we make now, which in turn, begins to change the harvest of our future. “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it's always your choice.” (Wayne Dyer) So today, wherever YOU are at in this journey called life, believe it or not, YOU have the power to change your destiny!

In his book, ‘The Greatest Miracle in the World’, Og Mandino writes about the fourth great law of happiness and success and it is the ‘power of choice’. I love what he says....

“Choose to love ... rather than hate.
Choose to laugh ... rather than cry.
Choose to create ... rather than destroy.
Choose to persevere ... rather than quit.
Choose to praise ... rather than gossip.
Choose to heal ... rather than wound.
Choose to give ... rather than steal.
Choose to act ... rather than procrastinate.
Choose to grow ... rather than rot.
Choose to pray ... rather than curse.
Choose to live ... rather than die.”

The choice is ours...and here is what you need to understand...the choice has ALWAYS been ours! Today, it’s time become ‘mentally strong’ and to tap into the power of our choices. As a man by the name of Mike Dooley said, “Life's not about expecting, hoping and wishing, it's about doing, being and becoming. It's about the choices you've just made, and the ones you're about to make, it's about the things you choose to say - today. It's about what you're gonna do after you finish reading this.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Self Pity - The Drug of Self Love (On Being Mentally Strong Series)

“Self pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”
-- John Gardner

Let’s just start this point out with a bang. Quit being a crybaby. Stop walking around whining and complaining about how ‘bad’ your life is. Mentally strong people do not walk around feeling sorry for themselves. Rarely do you ever see or hear a mentally strong person complain about all their misfortune and terrible their lives are and if they had this or that, how much better their lives would be.

Out of all the feelings and emotions that exist within the make up of a human being, there are few human emotions as warm, comforting, and enveloping as self-pity. Self-pity will wrap a person within it’s furry feelings of victim-hood and soothes you like a lullaby into a cocoon of complaint, and if you are not careful, the transformation that takes place within the ‘warmth’ of the cocoon will make you, not only unrecognizable to others, but in the long run, you will lose touch with your true self. Truly nothing is more corrosive and destructive than the emotion of self-pity. Helen Keller said, “Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.” Self-pity will parch your attitudes, it will paralyze your abilities, immobilize your true potential, and it will put off your ability to achieve. It brings to a quick halt any moving toward excellence and prevents any kind of expansion of the mind, body, and soul.

When you begin to ponder the feelings of self-pity, and get honest with yourself, then you too would come with the same conclusion that I have come up with...self-pity is one of the most useless of all human emotions. Think about it. After all your moaning, whining, complaining about how bad your life is and how terrible your past was...well...what do you have? What has changed? Absolutely NOTHING! As a matter of fact, I contend, the more you continue down this path of self pity, the more you become attached the ‘feelings’ of these emotions and you end up falling further down it’s spiral staircase of the empty nothingness. Millicent Fenwick said it this way, “Never feel self-pity, the most destructive emotion there is. How awful to be caught up in the terrible squirrel cage of self.”

When we pity ourselves all we see and feel is ourselves. When we have problems, all we see are our problems and that's all we love talking about. We become blinded and are not able to see the good things in our lives. Like a drug, self pity warps our senses and fetters us with it’s emotional strings and before we know it, the only high we get in life is when we begin to talk the talk of a victim. All the while we throw self-pity pity parties for all who will give ear to our ‘horrific and dysfunctional’ life. And yes, because like attracts like, we will have ‘friends’ but they will be the kind of friends who will only help pull the covers of despair over our heads and help keep us comfy. They will rub our back and ‘cry’ with us and embrace us in one of those ‘misery loves company’ kind of hugs until we quit feeling like something different needs to be done. Life then is lived for the next ‘high’ that can only come in the arms of another self-pity drug addict who is willing to give us our daily fix of condolences. Once in awhile, the person who is drugged up on the emotion of self-pity, will momentarily awaken from their stupor and wonder why there are so many negative people in their lives, and instead of seeing the true cause, they are quickly moved to believe that the positive people around them hate them and then move back into their cocoon feeling justified in their self contempt.

Mentally strong people have learned to accept themselves and in turn have learned to take responsibility for their actions and their outcomes. They have to come to learn this simple fact; life, for the most part, is not fair and rather than become complacent within the walls of life’s circumstances, the mentally strong plow forward knowing each event will bring something good to their lives if they will not let themselves yield to their feelings of self pity. Those who are mentally strong in this world have learned that the way one thinks is just as much of a habit as the way one does something. As much as fear is a habit, so is self pity, defeat, anxiety, hopelessness, despair, and resignation. And life’s lessons have taught a mentally strong person you can eliminate all of these negative habits with two simple resolves: ‘I can!!!’ and ‘I will!!!’ One of my favorite authors, Og Mandino said, “Each day is a special gift from God, and while life may not always be fair, you must never allow the pains, hurdles, and handicaps of the moment to poison your attitude and plans for yourself and your future. You can never win when you wear the ugly cloak of self-pity, and the sour sound of whining will certainly frighten away any opportunity for success. Never again. There is a better way.” So even though there seems to be no way out, there really is a way out and it starts with rejecting the emotions and feelings that come with self pity. “Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world - making the most of one's best.” (Harry Emerson).

You knew it and you’ve known it for a long time now. There really is only one answer; turn away from self pity and move on. Accept fate, and move on. Don’t yield to the seductive hallucinogenic mirages of self pity. If you were to get honest with yourself, you have already learned that acting like a victim gets you no where and self pity has always been the plague that has strangled your tomorrow’s. It’s time to begin looking for the ‘silver lining’ in your life, because it’s there. Just outside the sheath of your self made cocoon is a whole new world full of magnificent colors and adventures. It’s time to pull out the IV tube of self pity you have been feeding your heart with and step out into the sunshine of a new day, a new year, and a new YOU. It’s time to laugh more. It’s time smile more. It’s time to enjoy the blessings of your life and live in the abundance that God has promised you for your life. “Laugh at yourself and at life. Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity, but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression, and help you to put in perspective that seemingly terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come. Never take yourself too seriously.” ~ Og Mandino

It’s really is...a life full of fun and adventure...just outside the thin layer of your emotions is a whole new world waiting for you to learn and conquer. Now go ahead...step outside, and let the rays of your new aliveness begin wrap you in it’s arms and fill you with its warmth...and while you are at it, don’t forget to SMILE!

Monday, March 24, 2014

To Be Mentally Strong

"Bring me men to match my mountains, Bring me men to match my plains, Men with empires in their purpose, And new eras in their brains." (Sam Walter Foss, from "The Coming American", July 4, 1894)

This past November, Forbes Magazine had an article entitled, ‘Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid’. Rather than address all the things a mentally strong person does, it briefly addresses the things mentally strong people DON’T do. The article is very powerful and spins out some interesting information worthy of taking into one’s hearts and applying it to our lives. Each point was addressed and then briefly described. As I read the article, I thought how much more time could be spent on each of the thirteen categories and expanded with more information for the reader. So with that in mind, I am going to attempt to take the thirteen points of each article and turn them into a series of writings on the do’s and don’t’s of the mentally strong.

When I begin to think of people who are mentally strong, like a time machine, and as a lover of history, my mind races back through the ages. To days long before all this technology has made life what it is today. Long before the automobile, washer, dryer, phone, computer, internet, and the world wide web. Long before the first man landed on the moon and long before the incandescent light bulb. Long before grocery stores had pre-packaged chemical, preservative laden foods lining the shelves for easy pickings. Long before meat was packaged with pretty pictures of sunshine and barns in easy and convenient methods of hunting for my game. Long before the invention of the fast food burger and the drive through meal deal. My mind races backward toward a time when, it seems to me, one didn’t have a choice but to be mentally strong. To this cornucopia of men and women who traversed the landscape of history with their blood, sweat, tears, and toil. Who looked adversity in the eyes and endured hardness and persevered beyond what today’s modern mind set could only deem as too crazy to accomplish.

So many times, the beginning of my complaints are usually stifled when I just say these words to myself, ‘It could be far worse!’ Instead of being sheltered by all the comfort of these comforts, I could be living back in the days when my life was dependent upon my raw ability to survive from day to day or even moment to moment. I think of the men and women who endured the voyages across the Atlantic Ocean to come to a new world. Even after enduring the three months of ocean waters and pounding waves, they were not greeted by a convenience store or pre-existing homes with the warmth of fireplaces burning waiting to soothe their aching and worn out sea ravaged bodies.

I think of women like Martha Washington, who supported her husband through the myriad of the complexities of war and holding public office. To the little know fact that Martha Washington saw her husband only a few times over the course of eighteen years because of his commitment to God and country is quite a testimony of a mentally strong woman. I think of the men and women who helped settle the West. Men like Daniel Boone, who was an original ‘iron man’. For instance, there was a time when Daniel Boone was captured by the Chief Black Fish of the Shawnee Indians, and after he learned of a British and Indian plot to attack Boonesborough, he escaped and rallied the settlers and successfully repelled a 10-day siege of Boonesborough. I’m talking men of strong mental character. From Sam Houston to Davy Crockett and ‘Remember the Alamo’, to men like John Paul Jones, “I have not yet begun to fight!”, and refused to surrender even when his ship was sinking and came back to win the naval battle. Or men like twenty-one year old, Nathan Hale, who was captured by the British and just before being hanged as a spy his last words were, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." I think of the men who on that June 6, 1944, bravely stormed the beaches of Normandy under the rain of German artillery and machine gun fire, risking it all and giving ‘their last full measure of devotion’ to gain a foothold on Nazi Germany.

And how can my mind not ponder the historical aspect of those who came before me in the gospel. Men and women who loved God’s Word more than their own lives. Men who labored and died, so that I may live. Of course there is the Apostle Paul who talks in Corinthians of his enduring afflictions and trials. “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28) And not just the Apostle Paul, who in the end history says he ran to the guillotine to be beheaded, but the entire twelve apostles, who were so mentally strong in the faith and were martyred for the sake of the gospel.

On and on I could continue to compose a list of inspirational men and women who were mentally strong in their endeavor to make it through this journey we call life. And when I ‘think’ of these testimonies and then take a moment to ponder our ‘difficult’ lives, it makes me wonder how much we have lost and how much prosperity has destroyed our ruggedness, and not only our ruggedness, but how our technology has helped to sabotaged our ability to ‘find’ ourselves and the hidden strengths we truly have within us. For it is in the trials of life our true character is forged, and it is in those depths of despair where we meet our true selves, and if possible, in those moments we actually find ourselves.

So this is an ‘introductory’ writing to begin a series of writings on the characteristics of the ‘mentally’ strong. Let me be the first to say, though I may be writing about being mentally strong, I am quick to admit that I have not yet obtained all aspects of what it takes to be an expert of mental strength. Obviously as reality has it, I cannot speak as though I lived back then while being a product of these, what I think, are pretty sissy-fied times. So though I have endured some hardships, more mental than physical, my own writing concerning strength, both physical and mental, may well be somewhat curtailed by own limitations and/or inabilities. But if you are like me, when I read of men and women who endured such tribulation and came out victorious, there is something in me that desires to know their ‘secret’. What did they possess that helped them through their most difficult times? I desire to know, because if I lack what they had, then I want it and if I have what they had, then I want to strengthen it. Either way, in this ‘rat race’ called life, I want to be running with the mental strength it takes to obtain the ability to capture the prize that my God has set before me!

Sunday, March 23, 2014


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today we take the time out of our busy schedules to gather the moments of our lives and family together to give 'thanks'. To give thanks for our blessings, of which, we have many. Though today, for one day, we stop to 'smell the roses' of our lives and slow down enough to 'see' how blessed we really are and how much we take we for granted. I looked up the definition of gratitude and gratitude was defined as a 'feeling' of thankfulness and appreciation. Although I agree with the definition, and maybe if I pulled the definition from another source, I may find a different interpretation, but when I saw the word being defined as a feeling, it opened up, what I think, is an answer to another door of understanding in this journey we call life. If being thankful or grateful is just a feeling, then maybe herein lies the root to many of our problems associated with the dilemmas of our lives. Today we will pause to stop and think on all the good things and blessings in our lives. From being grateful for a warm house and a roof over our heads to each and every family member we embrace, all of us will take a moment to reflect on the good. We will temporarily let go of the 'bad' and only focus on the many things we are thankful for. How many times have we taken a day like today and looked back at all the 'little' things in life and then realized those 'little' things were actually big things? The crazy thing about all of this thankfulness is the fact that all of these things we are thankful for don't just seem to materialize on this day, but they are in our lives every day of the year. From the faithfulness of the rising sun to all the precious relationships we overlook on a daily basis, they are not there on just one day a year, but they have and will always be there. Because of the 'rat race' this life seems to spin by us so fast that the turmoil of each day sometimes leaves us wandering and wondering. So I understand the necessity of a day like today. A day to stop and 'smell the roses' and take one day, out of three hundred sixty-five days, and focus on the blessings of our lives. And herein is the key, today we will spend some time focusing on what we are either not able or refuse to focus on during the other three hundred sixty-four days out of the year. Every year, we take this day and dwell for the moment on our blessings and we are able to make an adjustment on our lives. We refresh ourselves with the positive and in reality, we make an 'attitude' adjustment that reevaluates our perspective. We take a deep breath and say to ourselves, we really isn't as bad as I thought it was and we become thankful. When we actually stop and take this time to focus on the blessings in our lives, it changes our perspective. The question then is why don't we do it more often? If being thankful changes our perspective and brings a refreshing in our lives, then why do we wait so long to be thankful? Why do we not start our day counting our blessings rather than being continually consumed by our doubts and fears? Overwhelmed by getting what we want and not having what we may or may not need?  In Philippians 4:8 the scripture says, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." There are also countless other scriptures that admonish us to be thankful and in everything to give thanks, and yet we seem to stay there for too long. Is it possible this and other scriptures tells us to think on these things because we are so prone to think on the opposite and it is in our nature to dwell more on the negative aspects of our lives than on the positives? God gave us a gift of 86,400 seconds today, and not just today, but every day we have opportunity to 'stop and smell the roses'. The flowers of gratfulness and thanksgiving are always in our midst as we walk through the garden of our lives but its up to us to stop and smell them. If every day brings us 86,400 seconds can we not stop and take one second to be thankful? If thankfulness changes our perspective and brings about a more quality of life, is it not worth a second or two to do so? What if you and I woke every morning and before we planted our feet on the carpet of a new day, we took a deep breath and thanked God for the breath we just took. I believe it to be true that gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. Gratitude is a key that unlocks a door of living life to its fullest. It turns what we have into enough, and more. Gratitude is the energy of faith. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Being grateful for the tiny details of your lives will help make room for unexpected and beautiful blessings because as there is no doubt if you are not thankful for what you have, it isn't likely you will be thankful for you are going to get.

Today, I am in agreement with with William Arthur Ward who said, "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." Gratitude is MORE than a feeling, but gratitude is an action. If you are thankful and it is not expressed in your life, then you have missed the power of it's hidden blessing and the blessing of gratitude can only be enjoyed when it is expressed in an action! So Happy Thanksgiving to all who have taken the time to read this today. May today be more than just another day, but let today be the beginning of a new day of expressing gratitude and not just on this one day but let it be on a continual basis of giving thanks for all you have and all the gifts you have to give your fellow man. And always remember, if you want to turn your life around, that on any day of the year, try thankfulness, because it is the one thought you can put in action that will change your life in a mighty way!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Paradox of Our Past

“Life has two rules: #1 Never quit #2 Always remember rule # 1.” - Unknown

I am pretty sure anyone who is reading this article right now can honestly say there have been times when you have looked back at life and wished you could get a 'do over'! Maybe not a complete do over but there are probably a few moments in time, if given the opportunity to change a decision or two, all of us would take advantage of the chance to do it over. Though we may look back with wishful thinking and a grimace, we know right well to go back and get a 'do over' is not possible. We must forge ahead in full assurance that the past has become what it was meant to become here in our future. The past, in all it's glory, has and always will have its relevance only in the here and now, that is, if we let it. We are but a summation of every past decision we have ever made, both good and bad, right and wrong, and everything inbetween. So life, as we know it today, hangs in this precarious balance of living in the past or living in the present. 

Many people say, 'Forget the past' (as though this is possible), but I say do not forget the past but cherish the past and grow from it.Truly we cannot get rid of the past and neither may we forget it. No matter how much we may try to run from the past or ignore it, our past is always with us. The most difficult thing concerning the past is most people live IN the past so much they are no longer able to enjoy the moments of every new day. Consumed by its hurts and grudges, the past constricts every new day's outcome to its tunneled vision and leaves no room for a fresh outlook. It's no wonder the Good Book says to not let the 'sun go down upon our wrath' or that anger rests in the bosom of a fool, because we are emotional beings and whatever emotion we give ourselves to will become who we are. If we hold on to every past event of hurt and pain, then our future will be ladden with its burden of vengeance or forever trying to right how we feel we have been wronged. Life then, instead of being lived in the liberty of God's breath of grace, is consumed by the hopelessness of yesterday's sorrows. And herein is the point, what can we really do about yesterday? Can we go back and change yesterday? The obvious answer is no we can't go literally back but today I propose we use yesterday's history to be a better person today! 

Confucius said, “Study the past if you would define the future.” The only thing we can truly do with the past is to learn from it and seek its hidden and unhidden revelations of how to live and enjoy the moments of today. Like the steam shooting out of a boiling kettle our lives are like a vapor, for life appears for a little while, then vanishes away right before our eyes. Living in the past eats up the valuable steam of today and dulls the power of our future. But if we live and learn from our past, if we study our past and take all the good we can out of it, then we can truly enjoy the power of today and all the richness that comes with every living moment. If we can 'see' that every mistake we have made has a silver lining in it, then we can use the energy every mistake to propel the wheels of our future forward. When you place your hand in a fire, not only do you learn it can burn, which in turn causes pain, but it also teaches you not to touch the fire again, but that does not mean you never go near fire again or use it for it's good. No, you take what you have learned and harness the strengths of the fire and use it for your good. This is a picture of what we need to do with our past. Just like getting burned the first time by fire, you never look at fire the same way again, so should our view of our past mistakes in life. Sure, our mistakes may have 'burned' us, but that doesn't mean we cannot use the heat of our hurts to see life in a different manner and use the energy gained from those mistakes to frame and remake our future.

The paradox of our past is that our lives truly can only be viewed by looking backward and yet our lives can only and must be lived going forward. No matter how much we try to avoid the past, the past is never dead and its not even past. Since the past is here now, then one way or another, we are always dealing with it. We are either living in it's fatal grip by trying to 'change' the past by continually bringing the past into the here and now or we are seeing the beauty of the past for it's ability to teach us and guide us into a better today. 

Many times when I 'look back' and see all my flaws, inadequacies, and mistakes, I say within myself, if I could have changed that one decision or get a 'redo' at this one specific point in my life, how things would be so different; but inevitably, when I am able to step back like this and see the 'mistakes' within the span of a half century of living, then and only then, can I see my past in its proper place. For every mistake has made me who I am today and if I find that if I could go back, I wouldn't because in some weird way it all makes sense and has made me who I am today. So here I stand today, emboldened with the knowledge of my past and renewed in it's energy of understanding, I am moving forward into a better today. From this moment on, I refuse to let my past eclipse the dawning of each new day, but will bask in the illuminating light of it's revelation and enjoy the brightness of my future.