Monday, March 23 2020
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but you your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
Good morning, dear friends. As you well know, these days are unlike anything seen in the past 100 years in America. These are uncharted waters in a sense, so I am taking these Encouraging Words far more seriously than in the past, and that’s saying something. Please pray that I find the words each week to be a bright spot in your week. That really is all I want to be. Now, let’s get to it.
I think I have a pretty good understanding of pain. I’m not an expert, but my experience gives me validity to speak. My greatest pain was three years ago when I had a kidney stone. Have you ever had one? If not, then thank God. It was (pardon my language) hell. When the pain first hit me I thought I was dying. I thought that “this” was the way otherwise healthy people died; their bodies simply revolted. The knife in my side and back was bound to cut me in half and leave me lifeless. When I got to the emergency room and was told of my condition and that I wasn’t going to die my attitude changed. I prayed to die. I had no interest in living with this pain. I asked the nurse to hit me in the head with the biggest thing she could find. When she refused, I begged her to point my wife to it. She wouldn’t refuse. But they all were against me; I was attended by sadists. And when they said, “Just pass the knife.” I thought it was a horrible nightmare. It was a pain about which I could do nothing. And the knife did eventually pass.
How are you dealing with the pains of social isolation, of distancing, of shortages, of constant news bombardment? Do you have moments, or prolonged periods, of fear, or anxiety, or anger? If you are like most of us you likely do. Recently I was reminded of a concept I first met in Steven Covey’s wildly successful book, “The Seven Habits of Successful People”. It was a circle of concern vs. a circle of influence. The circle of concern included things that could actually be touched or internalized as personal. The circle of influence included items of external nature, things out there but belonging to someone else. Sometimes the circles have a slight overlap. I wonder if that’s today?
A few years ago I heard that worrying means you potentially lose twice: losing all the time that could have been better and finally losing when the deed is done. Worse is worrying when the deed never occurs. How does that relate to these days? For me, it simply means that I have little influence over most things I see on the news and little of the things I hear from other people. I have only my internal self; what will I do with me? If I choose to reject the fear-mongering, the frustrations of modern challenges, and the pains of petty problems then what do I have left? I’m left with the blank slate of me. I can write on my slate joy, for the relationships I have and the time I always want. I can write blessings, for anyone I do contact and certainly the people I speak to. I can write peace for situations in which I find myself. I honestly can make anything of myself I want because all this stuff outside me is just noise. Scary noise, perhaps, but still noise not of my making or concern (in Covey’s language). What about you?
Whatever you do this week remember this: any pain you feel from what is happening right now is solely in your mind. And there’s never been a better time in your life to reject the noise of the world and be something incredible, a beacon of hope, love, joy, and peace. Can you think of anything better? I cannot. Have a wonderful week, friends and remember that you are not alone and you are loved.
The Book of Jonah
Monday, March 16 2020
“We will either find a way, or make one.”
Hannibal (Carthaginian general, 247-181 BC)
Good morning, friends. These are serious times and your time is not to be wasted today, so let me get to it.
Has anyone ever experienced anything like these days? Not me. Pieces, perhaps, but nothing in the totality. Measles, chicken pox, and mumps were all the rage when I was a child. I had the pox, as I remember, and had to be isolated from school for a week or so. Friends did, too. After 9/11 air travel was risky, so the skies were empty for a week or four. But what we’re dealing with now is wholly different.
From my perspective, the real challenges of these days have little to do with the outbreak of a virus or even the leadership abilities of authorities. The master challenge, to my understanding, is fear. How do we manage our fears, appropriate them, and overcome them? Sadly, I see fear running rampant in our culture these years, and birthed by it plenty of hatred, anger, resignations, power plays, and more. Societies don’t typically thrive on the fuel of fear, yet here we are fully in the grips of it. What do we do?
Some of the best change agents I’ve studied have taught me that systems have limited capacities to manage change at any moment. It’s like a juggler; he/she can add a new ball, bowling pin, or chainsaw to the act but only one at a time. So too it is with change. We need time to adjust. And these days we just don’t have that luxury. Ten chainsaws have been tossed into our routine at once and we’re desperately scrambling to adjust. It is so in my home, in my work, in my community, and everywhere. What do we do?
I find in times of trouble a helpful effort is to focus, deeply, on more important values. Faith. Confidence. Courage. Peace. Love. Forgiveness. I find it a time to concentrate, deeply, on my better angels, to remind myself consistently of higher matters. And though we cannot see much beyond the end our noses in this fog of fear we will indeed find our way, or make one. What matters is the way we find, or make. May it be of our best, even in the seemingly worst of times.
Be at peace these days, friends, and remember that you are loved, remembered, and valued.
Monday, March 09 2020
Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become."
Good morning, friends! I’m a bit behind this morning, actually since about 6 a.m., so let’s get right to it, shall we?
Never in my life did I ever think I would become well knowledgeable about presidential elections, but darn it hasn’t happened anyway. I may not be an expert, but I know a lot more than I really want to know. And one thing that I’m certain about is that every vote matters, and also that not enough people vote. Don’t get political with me, but we show up, we vote, and we hope our candidates win. (Remember, DO NOT get political with me.) Why do we vote? Because our vote may be the one. Imagine if your life, your chosen life, the one you really, really want, came down to one vote of your actions? And then ask yourself, “Why did I let it get so close and come to one action?”
Success is a complicated issue, far more than we understand. If it were easy more of us would be, that’s for sure. But somewhere in the milieu of success is the matter of focus, consistency, dedication and action. And none of these words is easy. Every time I’ve tried to be healthy, or increase my health, I have encountered votes against that focus. “One time won’t hurt you.” “Balance is the key.” “Moderation is everything.” “You look unhealthy.” On and on it goes. Too many times I gave in to votes against the person I wanted to become. But health is an easy matter, and blaming others is easy too. What about internal matters and internal votes?
* Say you want to be “successful”. Do you vote with your actions every day?
* Say you want a different path in life. Do you vote with your actions every day?
* Say you want new outcomes in life. Do you vote with your actions every day?
* Say you want new, better, more, anything of yourself. Do you vote with your actions every day?
The answer to all these questions is, “Yes!!!” You do vote with your actions, every day; the only question is, are you voting to win or lose? Every action is a vote for or against the person you want to become. How are you voting today? For what are you voting today? Have you even decided what outcomes you want? Those things matter, yet what matters more is that, aware or not, you are voting right now. Make sure your votes for you count and win by a landslide! I’d love to be at your inauguration! Have a wonderful week!
Monday, March 02 2020
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
Good morning, friends. Time is precious today, so let’s just get to it, shall we?
I don’t know when or how it happened, but sometime in my lifetime “busy” became the gold standard of the desired life. Everyone, it seems, wants to hail themselves as “busy”.
* I never knew how much I had to do until I retired.
* Man, I’m exhausted.
* My kids keep me on the run all the time.
* My calendar has no white space.
The clichés are plentiful. We honor busy and think that people not busy are failing, somehow. When did this absurd pursuit of exhaustion become so important to us?
Recent studies that have crossed my awareness remind me of the power of focus. Yutang calls it “the wisdom of life.” Basically, not everything we do has the same value to us, yet we treat everything as if it does. The “wisdom” is to eliminate, to the best of one’s ability, things not of the highest value and focus on the matters of the highest value. It sounds reasonable and easy, but changing our life patterns is anything but easy.
Most of us can at least say what is most important to us. Health, family, success, faith, rest… plenty of choices for “most important”. Is your time prioritizing that essential? Likely not; the “busy” virus is powerful. If you are blessed enough to be able to name your top three priorities then you have a starting point.
Why not begin small? After all, “busy” is a powerful foe. Again, with a clear focus on your top three priorities, whittle away one non-essential for a month. Don’t do that one thing and replace the time with one of your top three. Next month, whittle away a second non-essential activity. Make the swap for a month. Then a third, then a fourth, and so on. At some point, you will have an over-balanced focus on your top three and I guarantee you will feel great about your success.
Be aware: I know that nothing I have said is mind-bending or earth-shattering. But there are personal investments in every activity on your schedule, some yours, others by expectations. And there’s the whole business of slavery to busy-ness. And if you want success you have to focus, and focus is a narrow vision that eliminates peripherals. There are things to lose, but what you will gain by focus is greater than you can imagine. Can you see me now?! Have a wonderful week!