Tag Archives: Inspirational

Choosing Joy and Contentment

It is cold here in upstate NY. I don’t like the cold. It had snowed for a week. The snow ended yesterday. Am I thankful for the snow? No, not really. My wife ran off the road last Thursday night and we had to get a tow truck. I am thankful that she is okay. I am thankful for all those that stopped to offer assistance. I am thankful for the tow truck driver who extracted the car. But I would rather that she did not have to go through the event.

I still don’t like the cold. It causes my joints to ache and my legs to hurt. But I am thankful that I am still mobile and still can work. Looking at the bright side of things, just like the spin doctors in the public relations arena, can help us choose joy.

Choosing joy is not easy. It takes lots of practice. I am still and always will have to practice choosing joy. Even though it is our own responsibility to choose joy, outside influences can certainly make it easier or harder. There are those, whether intentionally or not, seem to relish stealing our joy. Sometimes they are having a bad day. Sometimes they just want to share their misery. Sometimes they just might be jealous. And sometimes, it can be me.

We often can be disappointed if we have expectations as to the outcomes. We can impose our expectations on others based on what we believe, our experiences or our sense of right and wrong. We can also impose our expectations on others because of the way we think. What seems logical to us ay not be logical to others. Understanding that we control precious little can also help us choose joy by not allowing ourselves to be caught up in things that we cannot control. This is where contentment comes in. We can choose to be content by living within the control of our situation. We can control our responses. We can choose ways to cope with our situations. We can be in control of ourselves while realizing we cannot necessarily control what happens around us.

Again, it isn’t easy. It is a journey. Mother Teresa demonstrated to us that even when she placed herself amongst the poorest, the sick, and the dying, she could find joy in the love and caring she brought to others. Her example inspires others to do the same. I am sure she struggled and faced her own frustrations. She held on to her faith and hope.

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Struggles and Triumphs

A son was born. Freshly arriving in this new world of ours. Eyes bright and in wonder of everything he saw. His mother held him close to her chest, beaming with pride at the incredible miracle she held. Young parents, inexperienced in the ways of these kinds of miracles, were happily concerned with the welfare and safety of this frail little human.

A little more than a year later, a second child was born to this couple. Again, seem as a blessing and gift, but it was a challenge to keep up with these two small boys.  As both boys grew, it seemed that the second son was progressing more quickly than the first. This observation and later concern was borne to be true. The oldest son was diagnosed with a developmental delay, learning disability and a turned leg that mildly affected his walking. This was not good news. What did it all mean? How would they cope? What did it mean for their son? What would his future be like? And where would they turn for help.

The parents found help through a local organization called the Happiness House. The staff at the Happiness House assured the parents and helped them with the necessary paperwork to petition family court to provide the necessary services for their son.

Later their son was diagnosed with ADD, OCD and suffered tics under the tourette’s umbrella. Braces were fashioned for his leg to straighten out his walk. Again the questions peppered the minds of the parents. Physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists and other professionals worked with their son.

When this young boy was old enough to enter the educational system, he received a new team of professionals. He had difficulty learning school basics. But with steadfast persistence by his team, patience by his parents and, at times begrudging cooperation by the young man, he did learn.

‘Leo the Late Bloomer’ by Robert Kraus was a favorite book used by his teachers. The book carried a powerful message of hope. This young man continued to struggle all through school. Eventually the most visible tics subsided. He had learned to read and write. He enjoyed video games, riding bikes and taking walks.

Unfortunately, before he graduated from high school, his mother decided that she needed a different life away from her family. This was an incredibly difficult adjustment for the boys and their father. But with patience and courage, they moved on.

His high school counselor helped his parents find continuing services after school. New York’s VESID (Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities) provided referrals to the ARC of Ontario County. Their services placed him in a work program where he earned some money, learned to socialize with co-workers, and helped to develop his self-esteem. He blossomed there.

Along with his experiences in working, he wished to extend his life adventure by learning how to drive. After several years with a learning permit, he finally received his license. He continues to explore his growing independence.

It had been incredible to watch this young man push against these difficulties. Even though these conditions still exist, he still pushes gently against them. I am very proud of him. I am not sure of all the potential within this young man. But I hope that he knows that I will be in his life as long as I can to witness his further victories. This young man is my son, Brandon.

Brandon, if you are reading this, do not be angry about the challenges you face. Be proud of yourself, like I am proud of you, for all that you have accomplished. You are an incredible young man.

I am not worthy

Even though I am not worthy, God still loves me. These words continually bring me great comfort. I am not perfect and won’t be. It is not in my nature to be perfect. Now knowing this does not give me an excuse to be unloving to people. It is still my responsibility to always try to do what is good and loving.

For several years, I had a young man work for me that was often disappointed in himself because he wasn’t doing everything perfectly.  I appreciated his efforts and stressed to him over a long period of time that what I wanted was his best.  I believe that when he was extremely overwhelmed, he finally figured it out. He could not always be perfect at everything he did. I am not sure where he learned this insecurity because I never explored that with him.

We tend to beat ourselves up when things don’t go as well as planned. Maybe we made mistakes or didn’t try hard enough. But it is up to us to examine the events and learn from them. Then again, it could be that we just might not be capable or talented for that particular task. I will never be a Russian ballerina. I am not Russian nor am I female and I am not particularly graceful. So I don’t beat myself up for not being a Russian ballerina. I know that is extreme, but the point is, there are just some things that others are better at.

I am not worthy but I try my best. I know that God is patient. I look at the men and women that God used throughout the Bible. These were not the top of the class, spotlight of the world people. They were everyday people. They often balked at the mission God gave them, giving God reasons why they were not worthy of such an assignment.

It didn’t seem to matter to God. He basically communicated that He knew they were not worthy but He would give them the strength and tools to get it done. I am not worthy but God has shown over and over again that He works through people. People, just like you and me.

I am glad that I do not have to be perfect to be loved by God or anyone else. If we had to be perfect, none of us would be loved. So, it comforts me to know that even though I am not worthy, God still loves me. He expects me to be human, which is a good thing, because that is what and where I am.

So don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Try to be the best you can be knowing that you can never be perfect. Know that even though you can never be perfect, that God’s grace and mercy are already waiting for you.

Do it for Love

We usually don’t stop to analyze why we do the things we do, especially for other people. Too often, we do things out of fear. We do things because we are afraid that someone might be upset or that they might be angry if we didn’t.

In our personal lives, we did things when we were young because we knew that if we didn’t our parents would be upset. So, if we did not want to get in trouble and be yelled at, we made sure it was done. Then there were times that we did something, like make a card, out of love. Remember how that felt? There was no anxiety, just joy and the hope that the person receiving the card would be filled with joy as well.

Even when we grow up, we continue to do things out of fear. We do things at work that we might not appreciate because if we didn’t, it might cost us a raise or even our job. We do things at home because we don’t want to hear our partner complain about it not being done. And we might behave a certain way because we are afraid that God will punish us.

It is so much better to do things out of love. The fear part comes out of expectations of how others might react, especially if they have demonstrated that behavior previously. We might have learned that connection. I very much prefer to do things out of love. I want to do things that make someone happy. That takes a mind change. I have to think to myself, “I am doing this because it makes her happy” instead of “If I don’t do it this way, she is going to be upset and I’ll have to hear about it.”  The former is much better for my soul, but sometimes the latter sneaks in there. Besides, are we really doing our best, if we work from a place of fear? Our hearts and minds are more invested when we work from a place of love. Doing things out of fear just makes everything more difficult.

Even at work, a mindset change is essential. Think ‘I need to do this for the customer. The customer deserves the best.’  Instead of ‘If I don’t do this, my boss is going to yell at me and I might lose my job.’

And most importantly, many people are raised to ‘fear’ God. They are afraid that God will punish them if they do not behave in a certain way. We were not meant to fear God in a way that makes us afraid, but in a way that we revere and find God to be awesome. Thus we should behave to please God just as we would want to please our parent by making them a card, not because we are afraid.

Fear is a big part of our human life. It is the dealing with our fears and overcoming our fears that lead to confidence, self-reliance, and ultimately peace within ourselves. May peace be with you always.

65 Years of Marriage

Last weekend, I had the honor of attending the 65th Wedding Anniversary celebration of my Aunt and Uncle. It was a wonderful celebration. They have four children and each of them gave a presentation. They each stressed the love and lessons that they learned from their parents.

The one fact that I found most incredible was that they were both raised within a short distance from each other in southern Pennsylvania, but they met in Orlando, Florida. It was amazing to me the distance covered to meet a neighbor.

This achievement is exceptional, especially in a day and age where more than half of marriages end in divorce. It also requires longevity on the part of the couple. I believe that all the milestones are incredible. Divorce is too common. My parents were not divorced but unfortunately I have been. My first marriage lasted until just months before our 20th anniversary. I think, like many marriages, there was great focus on the children to the exclusion of maintaining the marriage partnership. I don’t think this is intentional, it just seems to evolve that way. It was a valuable lesson to learn. Our responsibility to our children is very important, but it is our responsibility to raise our children so that they can move on. We must still maintain the relationship we have with our mate because that relationship is meant to stretch beyond our children’s departure from home.

I always am gladdened when I see anniversaries announced in the papers. Long marriages should be celebrated. There are good reasons why some people divorce, but I do believe that it is much too easy to end a marriage. Our culture has become one of serial monogamy. It is an inspiration and a reminder that long marriages are possible.

I am sure that it was not always easy for them. They had their ups and downs like any other couple. In another couple’s interview, the wife said “We were raised to fix things that were broken, not just throw them away.” I think this was said quite eloquently.

I’ve started over again and have no hope of ever reaching a 65th wedding anniversary, but I certainly want to try for as long as possible. Relationships are work, sometimes hard work, but worthwhile when mutual appreciation, attention and affection is continually nurtured, offered and accepted.

Always Wanting

I had heard this poem read on the radio. I searched for it on the internet and found it. I was very surprised that it was written by a 14 year old and published by Dear Abby in 1989. It seems to be wisdom much beyond that of a 14 year old. He must have been a keen observer of those around him. The poem is called Present Tense by Jason Lehman.

It was spring, but it was summer I wanted,
The warm days, and the great outdoors.
It was summer, but it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves, and the cool, dry air.
It was fall, but it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow, and the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter, but it was spring I wanted,
The warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted,
The freedom and respect.
I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature, and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted,
The youth and the free spirit.
I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted,
The presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over, and I never got what I wanted.

   When we fail to appreciate what we have and focus only on what we don’t have or what we want, we miss out on the love and blessings that we already have. Ambition is not bad, we need the ambition to improve our circumstances but not at the cost of losing sight of where we are and what we have now. It is good to want to improve ourselves. It is good to want to improve our situation, but not at the expense of relationships that deserve our attention. To work so hard for a career that we neglect our family, we miss out on times that can never be recovered.

There are things we should always want. We should always want to be closer to the ones who love us. We should always want to be closer to God. We should always want to grow ourselves and seek our potential. We should always want to be thankful for what we have. We want to be loved, respected, cherished, and appreciated, and we need to give those very things to others. Before we can get what we want next, we must appreciate where we are now. Being in the now is what gives us the direction we need, the steps that we need to take.   When you plan any journey, you must not only know the destination, but you must know the starting point.

By nature, we are never satisfied with what we have. We quickly become bored or restless and look for the next thrill or the next challenge to conquer. Contentment is a learned skill. If you don’t appreciate where you are, you might end up like our subject in the poem, never getting what they wanted and never realizing what they had when they had it. Like the old saying goes, you never know what you have until it is gone.

Even when we are faced with challenges, and we all are, we must not forget that blessings we have and the strength that we have, especially when multiplied with the strength of God and others. You were never meant to do it all alone. Connect with the ones you love. Connect with life. Remind yourself of what is ultimately important. Riches are nice, fame is fleeting, but it is the relationships we build that are important. And most importantly, connect with yourself. And, as always, I want the best for you.

Open Doors

After writing about tarrying a bit in my last blog, my body had succumbed to a viral infection that affected my sinus and upper respiratory system. After long days and short nights or at least restless nights, my immune system weakened and opened the door for the virus.  The virus took advantage of the opportunity presented to it. Apparently, I needed to tarry a bit, rest and get better. I did, I did and I did.

There is an old adage that says that when God closes one door, He always opens another. I have no doubt of the truth in that but not all doors are opened by God. Some opportunities arise on their own and it is up to us to be led to and choose the right door. We should look for opportunities and take advantage of those that are good for us. But, just like in all things, we must examine what is right and good for us. Just because we have an opportunity, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for us to take it.

Someone close to me, who had been out of work for a while, had an opportunity for a job and accepted. She was quite excited but soon felt that the work didn’t seem “kosher.” Although it wasn’t illegal, it went against her sensibilities. This fact nagged at her. I first recommended cautious acceptance, at least until she could learn more about the job. She may have just misunderstood the concept. She later decided that the job did not “fit.” She was uncomfortable with it. It didn’t last long anyway. Although the door was open, it was not the right door nor the right choice. Even if the job did work out, she felt very uneasy about it and I would have recommended that she look for something else.

Sometimes doors are open and we don’t even realize it. Many people wish they had a ministry or wish they knew what their purpose was. Maybe you are right where you need to be. You have an opportunity to be a fine example of whatever is being asked of you. Usually attributed to Francis of Assissi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” The door is always open for us to be a good example and to be uplifting. Even if you are waiting for an open door, use the opening you have right now to be the best person you can be, regardless of your stance on religion or spirituality. And even if you aren’t where you want to be, maybe you need to be here to get there.

Meditate on your circumstances to decide if you have chosen the right door and ask for guidance to choose the next door that opens. You never know what might be on the other side, but you can still attempt to make the most prudent decision possible. It is good to seek counsel, because our decisions, even when they seem objective, are still based on our own accumulation of experiences and knowledge. Seek wisdom from others, not because they are right but will test their opinions against their own experiences which may give you further insight.

I hope that you will always find open doors and that they will lead you to your full potential. So when God knocks on the door of your heart, it is your turn to open the door and say “Welcome. I know you are here, always were and always will be.”

Patterns

All around us are patterns. Patterns appear everywhere, even when they don’t. We are pattern creatures. Our brains are designed to look for patterns. Our brains examine and recognize thousands of faces. We see patterns in nature: in petals of flowers; sections of leaves; and in the structure of a snowflake. Our bent for patterns even allows us to see patterns where none exist. In the chaotic drifting of clouds, we often amuse ourselves picking out recognizable patterns.

We often find comfort in regular patterns in our lives, even when those patterns produce negative circumstances. We are sometimes afraid to move away from known circumstances that are unhealthy because we cannot be sure what change will bring, even when change might be positive. When we notice patterns in our lives where people care about us and build us up, where people show us that we are supported and loved, we feel more comfortable in changing our circumstances for the better. That is why we need to see and feel patterns that convince us that there are better alternatives. Negative patterns can be broken. When we recognize things are better, we need to be appreciative and thankful.

We need to recognize those patterns not only in our own lives but in the lives of those around us. It is so frustrating to try to help someone who seemingly does not want to be helped. It might be they are too fearful to attempt change. It might be they are too wrapped up in their negative pattern to see a way out. It might even be that they do not want to be helped. Early on, like many, I had to learn that you cannot change anyone, they must change themselves. I also had to learn that I did not always know what is best for them because of the limitations of my own experience. Because of those lessons, I had to learn that there are many that I am not able to help, that I might not be the one placed in their lives to lift them up. But, I just might be the seed that allows them to accept the one person who can.

When positive patterns  that we are comfortable with change, it can be disconcerting. When time set aside for sharing seems to end or slip away, it can leave one  to wonder why the pattern changed. What changed? Can we recapture it or make it better? Does it mark a time for growth or alert us to a problem that needs attention? Is it our time to move on?

Opposites or contrast can help us appreciate patterns. The Bible is filled with contrast: choose this not that; do this not that; wise vs. foolish; good vs. bad; positive vs. negative. Even our tastes are defined by contrast. We expect cookies to be sweet because the pattern has been that all the cookies we eat are sweet. We know sweet because we have tasted sour or bitter. We were trained by the patterns of our experience.

Habits are like patterns. They repeat and establish an expectation. I encourage us all to look for the blessings in life and be thankful for the gifts that abound whether it be God, nature or human endeavor. Your daily actions establish the pattern of who you are. Let that pattern be a positive one.

Born to Earth, Born to Eternity

I have been away from the blog for the past three weeks. I have been busy in and out of the hospital with Theresa and her father. Fortunately, Theresa is getting better. Unfortunately, Theresa’s father passed away on the 18th. He was 96 years old. In his life, he touched many lives. He worked as a lawyer and served on planning boards throughout the area. Theresa is one of eight. He worked hard to support his large family.

I could tell the lasting impact he had on his children. Not only was he surrounded by his children in his final days, but was visited numerous times each week for many years prior. He had a long, wonderful life on earth, and I have no doubt that he has begun his new life in the eternal as well. He will also continue to live here in the hearts and minds of those who loved and knew him.

Religions, or the lack of, have strived to explain or answer the question as to what happens after death.  Some believe that there is nothing after death – we’re here and then we die and that is the end of the story. Some believe in the journey of the soul to be transferred into the body of a newborn. Others believe that the soul is reborn into any creation, not necessarily human. Others believe that souls spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. Often people believe a combination of these, not really sure what to believe.

I believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Jesus died for all of us. There are those who defiantly resist God, and they will be dealt with as God sees fit. It is not my place to judge.

Funerals are for the living. They are a ceremony, not only to celebrate the life of the one is no longer alive on earth, but to support the family and say our goodbyes. It is part of the grieving process. Theresa’s father’s funeral was a positive one. I enjoyed listening to the memories and stories. Even though there were lots of tears and crying, it was wonderful to learn how he had touched the lives of so many people.

I was in the Army and so was Theresa’s father. He had military honors at the graveyard. A musician played taps on a very soulful bugle. It brought a tear to my eye. The carefully folded flag was presented to Theresa’s oldest sister.

Charles Spurgeon said, “When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God’s love.”  I know for sure, that even in death, Theresa’s father will never be separated from the love of his family and friends.

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Re-glazing

In preparation for readying our home for sale, we had the bathtub re-glazed. The technician prepared the area after we had moved out everything that was removable the night before. The walls were covered in paper and tape. A large exhaust fan was placed in the window.

The tub was stained by hard water and the finish was worn from scrubbing and traffic inside the tub. The technician washed the entire tub in acid to remove any buildup, stains and to prepare the surface to accept the new glazing solution. The process took about 3 hours. The results were very positive. The tub looked new again. It was if we had replaced it. I hope the new owners appreciate the brightness of the “new” tub.

This reminded me of a passage in the Bible, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  2 Cor 5:17 NKJV   Like that tub, we are stained, scarred, and our surface has been worn and will be subject to further wearing down. The Bible, its teachings, our experiences have prepared us to be cleansed, like the paper and tape. The blood of Christ has cleaned us, like the acid that cleaned the tub. The Holy Spirit indwells us, like the new glazing solution renewed the tub. We are a new creation.

So that makes us perfect, right? Not at all. We are still human and still imperfect. We are still subject to all the influences that surround us. The newly glazed tub will be used and worn down. But with much care, the tub can be kept clean and shining. We are like that. We need nourishment for our bodies, mind and soul. We need to care for ourselves and for others.

The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans expressed the difficulty in always doing the right things. He wrote: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” Rom 7:14-16 NIV.

When we realize that we can do nothing without God, we are new creations. We are and were and will be loved by God. We aren’t perfect and we won’t be. We should do good things because it pleases God, not out of fear of reprisal. Even Paul, who journeyed with Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit realized that he still had his human nature. Like the tub, I would like to think that I am re-glazed. I know that I am imperfect and I accept that I am. There are those who feel that we must be perfect to gain God’s love, but that isn’t true at all. God loves us always. God may not always appreciate what we do but He loves us just the same. If we feel we have to earn God’s love, then we will forever be disappointed in ourselves and lose sight of the love that is always there for us. Each day, when we awaken, we have a chance to show the world that we ARE a new creation.

Take care, be well and stay safe.

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