Tag Archives: struggles

Quit Playing God

When I sit back and point out all the sins of others, look for opportunities to criticize them, and getting angry that they don’t do as I would do, or think as I think, I am playing God. It is not my job to pass judgment on everything that others do. So many of us take on the roll as the General Manager of the Universe. We actually believe that everyone should act and do as we expect them.

If taken too far, this causes resentment towards us in others and bitterness in ourselves. I believe that the root of bitterness is anger. When anger is closely held onto and unforgiven, it results in bitterness. Bitterness is a focus on the faults of others. We focus on those faults because we won’t forgive and we are sure that the person is going to once again let us down, or anger us, or hurt us in some way.

If we are not careful, bitterness eats at us, consumes us, and affects those around us. The solution is simple. To realize that I am not perfect. That everyone has their bad days, bad moods, and deal with their own situations. Often what they do or say has absolutely nothing to do with me. Once I realize that I have no real control over the universe and everyone who inhabits it, I can give myself a break from managing the universe and realize it’s just not my job.

Can’t I influence others? Yes, I can. But in the end, everyone is a free will creature and will do what they will do. I can pressure them, but if I push, they have three options: be pushed, push back, or just ignore me. It’s still their choice. They may do what I think they should do, but in their time, not mine.

Fred Rogers wrote in The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, “Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”

The solution is simple, to give up the anger, the judgment, and forgive. But even though it is simple, it is hard to do. It is hard for us to let go. It is hard for us to allow the world around us to be outside of our control. But peace and joy lie in our ability to let go and forgive. Anger without forgiveness is a bitter poison and a cancer that eats us alive. Will Davis Jr. in 10 Things Jesus Never Said: And Why You Should Stop Believing Them, wrote: “Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of defense but it does start you on the road to recovery.”

So, if you are weary from running the universe, take down your shingle, leave the office and let our Maker do the job. Relieve yourself of the anxiety and disappointment that others will not follow your plan, your expectation, your will on your time.

I am happy not to be in charge of the universe. It is too much responsibility. The help is unreliable because they will do what they do. They do because they are free will creatures just like me. They are imperfect just like me. They suffer emotions, uneasiness, fear just like me. And I hope that they feel joy, happiness and contentment, just like me. I hope that I don’t steal their joy. I hope that I remember to always see their value as God’s child with God’s heart. As Dieter F. Uchdorf said, “There is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.”

We are all imperfect. Do not be bitter, be better. Forgive whoever you might be angry with and then forgive yourself for just being human. There is so little in our life that we can control, but we can control our own actions. We cannot control the actions of others, even God has surrendered controlling his children because He wants us to choose. That is why we have “free will”, and so does everyone else.

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Choosing Stress

Stress can be both good and bad. When people read or hear the word stress, they usually think of the bad type of stress, at least I do. Do we choose stress? Not on purpose, I don’t think. We tend to react to stress, thus making an automatic choice to allow the stress to rule over us. Although we cannot choose what happens to us each day, we can choose our response to those stresses. Some situations are really unavoidable for us.
For instance, on my way to work, I can have a great ride but often there are traffic obstacles. I can let these delays upset me or I can just accept that these things are inevitable. I realize that I cannot control the universe and that things will happen no matter how much I might wish they would not.
Too often we react to stress as a victim and suffer through it. In reality, it usually is a waste of time to be upset. It generally steals your joy and prevents opportunities for moving forward. Allowing stress to eat at us eventually takes its toll. Stress can cause many problems in our bodies, Continuing stress can affect: your weight;, your mental health; increase your blood pressure; raise your cholesterol; headaches; stresses your immune system; and your digestion.
We can take steps to alter the situation or take steps to change the situation. We can realize that we might not be able to change it so we accept it and try to learn from it. And if possible, we can try to avoid it. These are all ways we can respond to stress. Each one of these responses will vary in success depending on the nature of the stress.
I would rather choose peace whenever I can. Most of the stresses are beyond my control. I realize that most of it isn’t even directed at me, I just happened to get in the way. My most recent stressor involves not knowing what is going to happen with my work. But not knowing isn’t always bad. Whatever happens, there will be something to follow. What might look like an ending might be the beginning of a new adventure.
“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.” – Pema Chodron
Sometimes stresses are hard to avoid and we choose to stay with the situation or the persons who stress us. This might be a job situation or even a loved one. We need to examine what we can learn, decide what we can do, and maybe even have to make the difficult decision to remove ourselves from the situation or grin and bear it.  It isn’t always  a sign of weakness to move away from a bad situation, it can be a act of great strength and resolve. It might even open the door to a new and wonderful adventure.
There is sometimes no easy choice, but in the end, we still get to choose how we respond to stress, even when we don’t think we are choosing.

But, What If I’m Not?

We have just passed Thanksgiving Day and quickly moving towards the Holiday seasons. It is this time of year that we are reminded to be thankful and grateful for what we have. But, what if I’m not?

Life has its challenges. It has its darker moments for everyone. What if, at this time of the year: you lost someone close to you; you lost your job; you had a medical emergency; you lost everything? What if things just aren’t going well at all..

Hey, it happens. There will be times that will steal our joy and plunge us into the darkness of sadness, anxiety and anger. But these things, too, will pass. It is these times that you find yourself a quiet place, then scream, shout, cuss, curse, cry and just let it all out. But just for a little while, a few minutes or so. Expressing your anger, grief and disappointment to God will let you blow off steam. You will get it off your chest. Does this change anything? Not really. But it does give you a point to move on.

And for being grateful. You can still be grateful. You can be glad that you survived. You can be impressed by your strength to move forward. You can count the blessings of your friends and family. I try to be positive most of the time. But life gets to us all. It is okay to be alone, get mad and yell at the wall. It will clear your mind. And its okay if you break down in tears and let it all out. It is part of healing and moving forward. What is not okay is staying in that place and wallowing in the pain.

So I get it that you might not always be thankful. Life is hard. It doesn’t always make sense. But you get to choose to move on, to go forward, to cope and make it better. And no, I cannot always understand the depth of pain people can feel. But I know that it is never the end. It might be tough right now, but remember, that there is the power to pick yourself up, maybe even with a helping hand. There is something, somewhere that you can be thankful for even if it resides in tomorrow.

So what if you aren’t? It’s okay, there will be another moment where you can. Life is a journey of hills and valleys with lots of intersecting paths. Hope to meet you there.

Looking for Joy

   We all experience things that steal our joy. Fear, worry, anger and stress are common elements in our lives that steal our joy. Our economic stresses can permeate every part of our lives. We worry about job security and adequate income. Constantly flowing bad news from our televisions and radio cause us to fear the world we live in.

The Affordable Care Act has caused worry for many and relief for some. My medical coverage has had to change because of the ACA. Because of my zip code, I was offered an equivalent policy that did not include my doctors or hospitals. To keep the care that I have grown comfortable with, I chose a less efficient policy.

The stress that steals our joy the most is that over situations that we cannot change or have no control over. These things can be anywhere in our lives. Work policies, school policies, new schedules, pressures at home can all cause stress.

Sometimes, the joy stealer comes from within us. We might feel inadequate, just not good enough. We are all different. We all have our own skills and gifts. None of us is great at everything. We all deserve to give ourselves a break. Do we have flaws? Of course. If  it something we cannot change, then we need to accept that it cannot change. If it can change, then we can work towards improving that. This gives us the confidence and self-esteem that we need to defeat the things in our life that steal our joy.

Anger gets in our way. Sure, people and even family push our buttons. But we have to realize that anger can rob of us of our joy, our relationships and even our health. Anger is not always bad. Sometimes it is good to be angry. But mostly, it does not solve anything and usually makes bad situations even worse. Forgiving those that anger you frees you from the control that they have from pressing your buttons.

So how do we get our joy back or find the joy we have lost? Instead of focusing on what is wrong, we should seek out what is good. Look for the good things in life, in others and in ourselves. We are responsible for our own joy. It is our choice. Always do your best, but even the best of us cannot live up to other people’s expectation. You always want to improve but you still have to be yourself.

Know what you can and cannot do. Try new things out of your comfort zone. If you succeed, you improve your confidence. If it didn’t work out, you still have improved your confidence because you know you tried, you learned that it was difficult, and you learned where you need to improve if you want to tackle it again.

Life will sometimes let you down. That is just the way it is because there is so much that we cannot control. We can learn from all these times, both good and bad. Having expectations of how everything should be will definitely lead to disappointment. Again, even if people don’t live up to your expectations, be patient with them. They may need nurturing, guidance. It could even mean that the person cannot meet your expectations. Your expectations may have to change.

Bottom line, your joy can be be stolen by others, but joy is found within yourself. You don’t have to let others steal your joy. This is a difficult skill to learn. It is one that I struggle with. Even those of us that try to stay positive all the time allow others to steal the joy we have. It is up to us to return the joy to our hearts and minds by trusting in ourselves, trusting in God, and being thankful for all the good in our lives. Look for and find the joy in your heart.

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.

You mean … me?

   About 7 or 8 weeks ago, I came down with the flu which, after 3 weeks, morphed into a long lasting case of bronchitis. I was taking a mixture of decongestants, mucus thinners, anti-inflammatory steroids and an inhaler. All this medicine kept my brain fuzzy. I am not telling you this seeking sympathy. I am setting up why my mind was fuzzy and I felt exhausted.

   Now the point of the story. My manager called me into his office. He expressed his concern that I was irritable and seemed short with people. He inquired if I was upset with someone or something within the company. He had forgotten that I had apologized to him early on that I needed to concentrate harder to get through the fog caused by the medicines.

   I apologized again for my behavior. I try to be very upbeat because I know that I influence others by my demeanor, as we all do. Just as other’s actions and reactions can affect us, our attitude and candor towards others affect them.

   Even though I do not feel well, my trying to fight through the illness left me vulnerable to agitation. Luckily, my bronchitis is finally clearing. It was a great wake up call from my boss. It was a great reminder that even when we are not feeling well, our actions still have an effect.

   I tried much harder today to be mindful of how I responded to others. It is too easy to be tired and allow our reactions to go unchecked. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that our actions do matter. Yes, even me. And that other guy, you know, the one in my mirror.

Another Round of Layoffs

Yesterday, I hugged some co-workers  as they were processed out. It was their last day. They were victims of the latest cost saving measures and right-sizing of my employer. A year ago my position was deemed no longer necessary, but fortunately, I was able to move from a management to a non-management position. Although I was not overjoyed at first, it actually has been a blessing. I now have more time to dedicate to projects and get overtime pay for over 40 hours.

I certainly hope that those let go yesterday will find something that they can be passionate about. The transition of our economy to whatever lies ahead is going to be tough. Our parents, grandparents and maybe even great grandparents went through a transition out of the Great Depression. Even though I do not think we will experience the Great Depression as our ancestors did, I still think it will be tough. We have been accustomed to much more than our ancestors had. This will probably lead us to be impacted more as we have to do with less.

These are uncertain times. Everyone knows that there will have to be cuts, now or eventually, but at the same time, no one wants to feel the pain. That is understandable, that is human nature.  I believe that industry and jobs will come back. Will they look like they did before?  I don’t think so. We are a resilient people. We have, and always will have, talented entrepreneurs whose passions will shine. It can be hard to keep positive in our current environment, but keeping alert for opportunities, even from the most unlikely sources, is vitally important. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we definitely need the creativity. My very best wishes go out to those who must start a new chapter.

A Question of Prosperity

I have quipped in the past that I am the richest man in the world – now all I need is money. Most people measure prosperity as monetary wealth or possessions. Money can be important for survival  and to live the life you want. I am not sure it is the end all. A person’s self-worth and attitude go a long way in determining their contentment. People say they want to be rich (with money) and yet many of the rich seem to be troubled with many of the same things as the not so rich. They can face loneliness, doubt, health problems and other adversities that money cannot cure. Money can buy you a companion, but not a real friend. Money can buy you the best of health care and the newest medical technology but cannot stave off the ravages of cancer and death.

Prosperity can desensitize us to the difficulties of others. Many of the poor in our country still get enough to eat, have a TV in their home, and have access to medical care, while 40% of the world’s population seems to subsist on less than $2 per day.  Paul Sweeney (Author of Ireland’s Economic Success: Reasons and Lessons) made this observation, “How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” We want everything now. Sometimes we aren’t willing to wait or work for what we want. But even still, we are extremely fortunate to live in a country so richly blessed with abundance.

Sometimes we covet the riches of others. We do not always realize what people went through to get where they are today. Many of our greatest people started out with empty pockets and difficult situations. Yes, some of them seem to have been handed the “golden ticket” but most worked hard for what they have. They have built companies, written books, used their talents to create wonderful careers. We should all work to propel our talents to their fullest potential.

Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”  This is why I stress the importance of reminding ourselves of the blessings that surround us. Think about those who love you. Think about all that you have instead of what you do not have. Measure your prosperity not only by the balance of your checking account but by the love and blessings in your life.

I am a follower of Christ, a father, a brother, a son, a husband, a lover, a friend, a hard worker, a passionate learner, a pet owner, a writer, a mentor, a student, etc., etc. I have my faults, my scars, my mistakes and have learned much from each. I have much to be thankful for and I am sure you do too. So, are you rich with what really matters? I hope so.

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The Human-ness of Jesus

It is hard for some to wrap their heads around that Jesus was both God and man, fully God and fully man. While He was among us on earth, Jesus was fully human. He was born to a woman. He grew up just like you and I. He became angry and distressed. He sought answers and asked questions. He thirsted and hungered. He was tempted by Satan, and I am sure He was tempted throughout his life. He befriended Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He knew the love of friendship and the joy of company. He worked hard and rested to rejuvenate and contemplate. He suffered terribly and experienced pain.

We celebrated Easter a little while where we remember Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. I know that Jesus died for me. He redeemed all of us through His blood sacrifice that covered for the last time and completely the sins of all man before, then, now and forever. As much as I appreciate what Jesus did for me, I am equally amazed and grateful that Jesus lived for me – lived as a man for me.

Like a worker has more respect for a manager who worked their way through the ranks because even though they are not in the trenches they know what it was like to be in the trenches. Jesus knows and has experienced the temptations, drives and emotions of being human. Satan tempted Jesus with the most basic of drives: hunger, pride, ambition, riches and greed.

How human was Jesus? Jesus was fully human. He was born like us, He even looked like us. He probably wasn’t the tall, blonde, blue-eyed European that I have seen in a lot of pictures. I have no idea what Jesus looked like. He did not walk around with a halo levitating a few inches above His head. Before Jesus was arrested, Judas told the guards that he would kiss Jesus so that the guards could know which man was Jesus. So He must have looked very much like the other Jewish men in attendance. He died for us. He could have used the immense powers available to Him to keep Himself safe. But He came here for a purpose, to live for us, to deliver a message and to give His human life as a final sacrifice to redeem all of us.

Jesus was fully God. He was resurrected and returned to his previous glory and lives forever. Jesus had a dual nature. Paul, in his letter to the Philipians, in Chapter 2: 5 – 11 NIV, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

God knows that we are imperfect. He created us with an incredible gift called “free will”. That means that we make decisions all the time, both good and bad. Jesus became the “perfect” sacrifice for the “imperfect” us. Jesus suffered horribly in the end, rejected, dejected and betrayed. He knows how you feel. He knows what drives you. He knows your struggles and hardships. Jesus loves you now and always.

Jesus became human so that He can know me. For this I am grateful. Jesus died so that I can have a way to dwell with God. For this I am thankful. I have accepted that He loved me so much that all this was done for me. For this I am forgiven. I make mistakes, I will continue to make mistakes but I know Jesus understands and I take comfort in this and seek his understanding. Please know that you are never alone. Know that Jesus is always there for you.