March, 2011


31
Mar 11

Easy Writer

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Welcome back.

When people find out I write a blog I get a lot of interesting questions or comments.

Usually I get the question, “What kind of blog is it?”

Since I’m not sure what they are expecting I say something like, “I write about my thoughts and observations about life… and stuff.”  And yes, I tend to down play the fact I write a blog because… because… I don’t know why.  That is one of my personal flat spots.

They usually respond with a kind, “That’s nice.” Or “That’s interesting.”

I hear their words but in my mind’s eye I see their head tilt in that inquisitive sort of way and their voice cautiously saying something like,

“Ohhh… kaaaaay, and what makes you believe that you have something to say about life that is worthwhile enough for me to intentionally surf the net, find your site and take time to read it?”

This is along the same line of thinking as a friend of mine.  He openly slams people who write blogs.  He says the only reason people write blogs is because they are narcissistic and ego centric.

Side Note: Humm… maybe I need to redefine the term friend.  Anyway, I digress.

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He blurted out something like, “What makes anyone (only ego centric people obviously- my addition) think that they have something to say significant enough for anyone to read?”

Strangely enough, I ask myself the same question every time I write the blog.

I don’t know, maybe I am narcissistic and ego centric.  I don’t think so.  But then again, maybe his rationale makes me narcissistic.

All of this ties into another question that I am asked periodically, where do you find things to talk about?

Personally, I find it easy to talk about stuff… having something to say meaningful is a different matter.

There are some people who naturally exude substance and wisdom.  Their every word seems to carry a weightiness worthy of examination and meaningful consideration.  I wish I were one.

I, like most, will occasionally (or accidently) articulate a thought deserving deeper reflection.

If I had to guess, my blog is kind of like one of those mystery grab bags where something valuable occasionally shows up.  Hopefully the occasional prize is good enough to warrant the ongoing visits.

Now before you think I am into some sort of masochistic thrashing of myself, I am not.  But with that said, I have no illusions of who or what I am in regards to my writing.

There is actually a point to all of this.

God Alert:  Yes I am going to mention some God stuff.  To my non-believing friends, as you know, I am not trying to make you believe the way I do.

I am providing context as to why I write this blog.

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Apparently there is something in these writings that seem to encourage people, or at least, make them think.

This is an amazing aspect of being a Believer.  It is the fact that God uses ordinary people and simple words to touch and move us.

I don’t feel particularly spiritual when I write.  But I believe by writing I am being obedient to what He wants me to do.  Those of you who read my early blogs know that writing is not my thing.

But that is the way it works in the Spiritual realm.   Simple ordinary things that are touched by God has the power to transform.

And if there is any good that comes from writing this blog… all the credit and glory go to God.  I sure know that I am not (NOT) capable.

That’s why I continue to encourage you.

Step out!  Step into the unknown and enjoy an amazing ride.

See you Monday.


29
Mar 11

The Payoff

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Hi there.

I’m not sure what happened, but I fell off the earth yesterday.  All I know is that I had to attend a meeting and somehow and somewhere the blog fell out of my head.  I think it has to do with the Law of Displacement thing I talked about a couple of blogs ago.

Sorry about the delay… my bad.

Last Thursday I talked about the difficulty of giving up negative things in our lives.  I ended by saying that there is a payoff for keeping negative things in our life.

I tend to believe that we don’t do anything (positive or negative) without some kind of payoff.

In many ways we are just like animals.  We do things for a reward.

With animals it’s pretty simple.  They concentrate on food, sex and sleep.  For our animal friends, food is usually the greatest motivator, except for maybe a couple of times during the year… if you catch my drift.

Humans are more complex.  We are able to think, reason, analyze, and logically sort through options.  We can create things out of the abstract, and to top it off we have a conscious.  We delineate between right and wrong, and good and bad.  All of this makes things much more complicated.

The good things about these amazing gifts are we can rise above our baser nature.  We are not relegated to a stimulus response life where we are doomed to function solely by our instincts.  These gifts provide freedom to choose.

But like any good thing there is some negative fall-out.

As I said earlier, these gifts make us much more complicated.  Because of these capabilities we can fall into the trap of taking abstract bits of information and form totally erroneous assumptions and act on those faulty beliefs.

Yes, life is simpler with animals.  They just eat, sleep, have sex and occasionally fight if threatened.  Interestingly, animals don’t have the emotional baggage or hang-ups we humans have.   They have no concept of a low or high self esteem.

Now what does this mean in respect to having a payoff for our actions (or inaction)?  What is the payoff for people to hang on to negative things?

This topic is far more complex than a quick blog entry can remedy.  But the intent of the blog is not to provide easy solutions but to us think.

Payoffs

For illustration and to make this real world I need you to identify something negative that has been pestering you for a while.  Ok, have something identified?  I will throw out some payoffs for you to consider.

Immediate Gratification: This is the most obvious of the payoffs.  This is the one that taps in to our most base nature.  The payoff is the immediate presence of pleasure or the elimination of pain.  The focus is primarily on what I want NOW… pleasure or relief.

Immediate gratification quickly translates in not addressing the hard issue with your spouse; taking the drink for pleasure or escape; buying something for yourself when bills are piling up; eating the cupcake; or going out when you need to study or work.

Immediate gratification was the easy one.  Now we get into the more subtle and insidious payoffs.

Validation: This is hanging on to something negative in your life because it validates a faulty belief about yourself.   These are beliefs such as, I’m a failure; I will never overcome this issue; I can’t handle this; I’m no good; I don’t deserve better; etc.

Pride: This is the twisted notion of hanging on to something negative because changing announces that you were wrong.  Or even worse, you are weak and not in control of your life.

I do not wish to over simplify very complex issues.   Nor do I believe my few blog paragraphs will be the “silver bullet” of change in a person’s life.  But hopefully I have increased your awareness and made you think.

See you Thursday… yes Thursday, not Friday.

Ciao


24
Mar 11

What keeps you from running?

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Hello, me again.

As you know, the last few blog entries we have been poking at the phrase “to move forward you must surrender something”.

Last time I talked about the challenge of giving up good things to move to greater things.

What I am about to say may sound absurd.  The greater challenge comes to those who must surrender bad things to move forward.  It’s more difficult and it takes more courage.

The obvious logic is if something is crappy in a person’s life they would eagerly surrender it for something better.

Logical yes… reality, no.

Everyone has bad stuff happen in their lives.  But like every experience in life (good or bad) it leaves a mark.

Some seem to have more than their share of bad stuff.  I don’t know why… they just do.  We could argue all day long as to the “why”.  Also it would be very easy to build a good case for how much bad stuff people bring on themselves.

The “why” is not the focus of this blog entry, and on one level, irrelevant.  I am focusing on the “how” of moving forward regardless of how the bad stuff got there.

Bad Stuff

This may sound silly but bad stuff is… bad stuff.  Bad stuff distorts, bruises, even cripples.

It is important to note that we are all bruised and crippled somewhere in our lives.  Of course, some people live with more crippling issues than others.

Here’s where it gets a little messy.  For example, it is easy for a person with healthy legs to stand up and run…  but not for a person with crippled legs.  What is effortless to one is a struggle for another.

For the person who can run it is very easy to be judgmental and to question the motivation of the person who can’t.   That’s especially true if the person shows no obvious injury.

True Confession: I am typically not a very judgmental person.  But I get pretty judgmental when I see someone who looks healthy park in a handicap spot.  I hate to say it, but it really bugs me.

I am sure you’re above that sort of thing… obviously I’m not.

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Now we are getting to the heart of why it is more difficult to surrender bad things than good things to move forward.

I contend that the extent of crippling is more perception than reality.  Let’s be real world here for a second.  There is no question that bad stuff injures and cripples.  But the greater crippler is the acceptance of a reality that is not real.  The belief that the “dye is cast” and life is what it is.

You start thinking crippled.

What magnifies the deception even more is if the bad stuff that crippled was self inflicted vs. imposed.  There is this morbid sense of “I deserve this” that adds to the crippling effect.

These self imposed beliefs become attached to us.  Like a ball and chain that drags along behind us serving as a reminder of… bad things… and our contribution.

The sad thing is that we have the key to the lock but many never use it.  Why?  Why would anyone want to keep something that slows our step and allows the crippled part of our lives to stay intact?

Sometimes there is a payoff to keeping the ball and chain.

We’ll talk about the payoffs on Monday.

Ciao


21
Mar 11

Pack or Unpack?

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In the last blog entry I tried to unpack why I was stirred by the phrase “to move forward you must surrender something”.

Today I feel the need to poke around on the topic a bit more.  I am not too sure why I feel I want to continue the topic.  Maybe there are some more insights to capture or it could be just an intellectual dance of morbid curiosity.

I do believe part of the stirring of the phrase is directly tied to the beginning of my blog journey well over a year ago.  To move forward in my life I had to be willing to surrender something.

Side Note: If you are interested in how all this got started, my first couple of blog entries in January of 2010 will give you a pretty good flavor for the journey and the angst I experienced.

On the right side of the page are the blog archives.  Just click on January 2010.

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To move forward there is always the sacrifice of the present.  In the last blog I referred to the Law of Displacement.  The fact that if we want to add more then something must go… good or bad.

Sometimes it may mean giving up good things to experience something better.

Giving up something good is tough. The nagging question is, if I possess something good now, how do I know for sure that what I am shooting for is going to be better?

The answer: You don’t know for sure.  That’s the adventure of life.

Now let’s be real world here for a second.  I am not talking about someone who willy nilly discards good things on an “all in” bet of life.  We are not talking about the fickle adolescent whims of likes and dislikes of things in our life.

So the question beckons, why would we give up a good thing?  We do it because something or someone is calling us to more.  That’s the adventure.

Deep calls to Deep.  I am talking about deep divine stirs that cause us to lift our eyes above the present to realities beyond our line of sight.

If we are open there are times in our lives we sense a compelling call to beyond.  We don’t fully understand it, but it’s there and it’s real.

We can choose to disregard the call and continue a “good” life and possess the good things.  No one would blame us and we have every logical reason not to step out.  The only thing that will nag is the haunting question of… “What if?”

Or we step out and experience the thrill of a heeded call.

It is the kind of step that sucks the breath out of you in a mix of both fear and anticipation.  For me it was mostly fear.

We have been talking about giving up good things.  As strange as it may seem, I don’t think the sacrifice of good things are the most difficult.

This will sound weird but I tend to believe giving up bad things is the greatest challenge and requires the greater courage.

I will talk about that on Thursday.  See you then.


17
Mar 11

Spilled Milk

Good to see you again.

In the last blog entry I ended with a phrase and a quote.

“Now here’s an interesting realization.  Every step toward something requires that you leave something.”

“We never take a step forward without surrendering something…”
- Virginia Hanson

The words struck me then and have continued to gnaw at me.  Something in the deep struggling to take form as it works its way to the surface.

This is one of those deep churns that one dares not ignore.  I cannot, I must not force it.  I only nurture and support the process.

So what is this all about?  What is the learning that is trying to find fulfillment in my life?

I don’t know for sure but here are some of the thoughts that the two lines above from the last blog dislodged.

Side Note:  I hope my ramblings don’t get too heady, abstract or obtuse.  I will try to keep it “sound bite” simple, not for you but for me.  It helps minimize distracting clutter.

The random thoughts poking through are just that.  They are incomplete… not tied together… and one can easily poke holes in the logic.

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Random Insights:

-  Constant movement. 

We are constantly moving, evolving.  Our lives are never static.  At first I was going to qualify the movement only toward positive or good things but so far the logic holds true for movement toward negative things also.

-  Fixed limit or amount. 

This a bit complicated and tricky but stick with me.  It is sort of like a glass full to the brim with milk.  You spill the milk and it will spreads out in all sorts of strange configurations and depths, but the amount is the same regardless of the form.

In essence, we as individuals cannot increase our size.  We can take on new things but it requires us to release something… new displaces old.   Displacement is the key element.

A perfect example is the blog I decided to start.  Writing two entries a week for over a year means that something had to be displaced.  This morning it is sleep. 

It is important to note that we are not talking about a fixed amount of time.  That is only a snippet.  The issue of fixed amount is broader and deeper than just twenty four hours in a day. 

- Making a choice is the only choice.

We are constantly making choices and we have no option.  There is an old phrase that says; not making a choice is in fact making a choice.

But we cannot choose everything.  We have to remember the principle of displacement. 

            “You can do anything you want but not everything you want.”

            – Roger Merrill

 

There is an old running joke in the construction industry, but the principle holds true to virtually any product or project.

The three primary things a client wants in a construction project is…

-          High Quality

-          Lowest Cost

-          Done Quickly

The common response is – We can do all three but you can only PICK TWO.

For me the scenario today is:

-          I want my sleep

-          I want to write the blog

-          I have an all day meeting that I have to attend

PICK TWO

I am not sure where this churning is taking me but I have a feeling I’m in for a ride. 

See you Monday


14
Mar 11

Step Back to Leap Forward

As you know Daylight Savings Time (DST) snuck up on us and stole an hour this past weekend.  I don’t know about you but my body clock is still on regular time.

DST is one of those blessing curse things.  In the fall I don’t hear any complaints about gaining an extra hour, but loosing an hour is another matter.

Let’s be real for a moment, DST is not something we had a choice in.  The powers that be made the decision a long time ago to adjust the time twice a year because of a plethora of rational reasons.

Side Note: Those of you who are regular readers, have you ever seen me use a word like plethora before?  Uh… NO!

I am getting a bit frightened that a word like plethora just popped into my head.  It felt weird typing it and weirder reading it.  I am not sure what to make of it but I’m sure it will conjure up a plethora of theories as to why.

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OK, back to DST… hang in there with me because I think I may actually make a pretty good point about life.

As I said earlier, DST is a decision made for us.  But what if we could personally choose to adopt it or not?  What would it be?

The decision made would depend on our point of focus.

For example, it you were tired and it’s 2:00 a.m. this past Saturday, your point of focus would most likely be on getting the immediate reward of an extra hour of sleep.

But if you are able to lift your eyes beyond your immediate desire of and extra hour of sleep, you would see the greater reward of the many extra hours of daylight to be enjoyed during the entire summer.

Here’s the real world impact.  We are faced with all sorts of decisions every day, virtually every hour.  Most tend to be small seemingly insignificant choices.  Some are important choices that have a broader and longer term impact on our life.

How do you go about making your decision about the things of life?

A few minutes ago I choose to have a small bag of potato chips.  Small decision, right?  Maybe, maybe not.  A few years ago I struggled with my weight and if I continue to make small choices like I just made I would have a weight problem again.

Just so you know, I don’t feel a bit bad about eating the bag of chips.  But you also need to know that because I chose to eat my bag of potato chips a few minutes ago, it will impact the choices I make later in the day.

Life is made up of ongoing decisions that have both sacrifice and reward.  No question the level of sacrifice and reward varies but the principle remains the same.  We make these small and large decisions based on what best satisfies our ultimate desires.

Here’s the key… the hard question.

Do I tend to make decisions that satisfy me now or satisfy me later?

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In essence, what tends to be the focus point of our decision?  Reward now or reward later?

Our focus and point of sacrifice or reward tells us a lot about ourselves and what we value.

I tell people that I got a degree but didn’t get an education.  I valued the short term reward of goofing off and sleeping more than the future reward that studying would have provided.  Well, intellect could have played a role in there somewhere but that’s another issue.

Some of you may look back and wish you socialized more in college.  The fact that we all would go back and make some different choices in life is not the point here.

The point here is the question, what drives our choices now?

I am not trying to make this a heavy burdensome topic but it is important to keep in mind that every choice we make is a step.  It is a step in a direction.  And a series of steps take us to a destination.

Now here’s an interesting realization.  Every step toward something requires that you leave something.

“We never take a step forward without surrendering something…”
- Virginia Hanson

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Humm, that may be something we need to unpack a bit more in a later blog entry.

See you Thursday.


10
Mar 11

20/20 Blindness

Hello, welcome back.

It’s hard to believe but today is blog number 121.  I have people ask how I come up with stuff to write about… frankly I’m not sure.  Stuff just pops in my head and I go with it.

Some people may call it being lazy by just making up crap.  I call it being serendipitously creative.  You call it one thing, I call it another.

It’s funny how that happens in life.  We see someone do something that’s irritating or goofy and wonder why they don’t see it.  How can they be so blind to something so obvious?

The weird thing about it is that people may be saying that about you.  “Who me?”  Yes, you.

Humans have a unique ability to shut out or avoid things that are negative.  To complicate the situation more is that we have the remarkable ability to re-frame things to make them look and sound better… even be seen as a positive.

Confused yet?  Let me share some examples that may make things a bit clearer.

Others see you as aggressive – you see yourself as assertive

Others see you as stubborn – you see yourself as opinionated

Others see you as judgmental – you see yourself as observant

Others see you as passive – you see yourself as cooperative

Others see your children as spoiled – you see them as being independent

Others see you as lazy and making up crap – you see yourself as serendipitously creative

Obviously my point is that we see ourselves differently than the way others see us.

The big question is how do we know what’s true.  For example, how do I find out if I am actually too aggressive or if the other person is a whiny quiche and tofu eater who is overly sensitive to people who speak up.

Side Note: Just kidding about the quiche thing.  I like quiche… but it has to have chunks of bacon.

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If I am really interested in growing as a person I have to be willing to face truth.  To find truth I have to be open… not gullible… open.

Open means that I am willing to take the information in and honestly test it.

This begs the question, how do I test this information for truth?  It is rather simple, not easy, but simple.  It’s not easy because it requires honest examination.

To test information you must look back in your life and honestly compare it to things you have heard before form different people over a period of time.

This is key – different people, over time.

If you are honest, you will quickly be able to recite the messages you have heard.  Things like…

… you’re too abrasive

… you’re too defensive

… you’re too rigid

… you’re too negative

… you’re too _________ (fill in the blank)

The next thing is that you have to be willing to accept truth.  If you are serious you will do more than give an acknowledging nod to truth.  You will internalize truth.

This is not an internal whipping where you beat yourself senseless because you are a bad person.  No!  Truth does the work.

Truth in its purist form is potent.  In a mysterious way truth begins to transform you.  As long as you nurture it and continue to be open, you start to change.

Uh oh, now that I have completed this blog entry for today, I have the nagging sense that I recently wrote about this very topic of seeing ourselves differently that others see us.

I hope not, but if I have, so what.

It means one of three things.  First, I personally need to hear something again; Second, it may be truth knocking on your door; or three, I’m just lazy and I’m here making up crap.

See you Monday.


7
Mar 11

The Spice of Life or A Life of Spice

Howdy.  Thanks for checking in again today.  Hopefully I will be able to say something that will make your visit worth your while.

Those of you who have hung out with me for a while know that I don’t talk about God things much.  Every now and then I will allude to some aspect of my faith but I try not to be preachy or even expect you to believe the same way I do.

I just share things from my perspective and if they make you think… great.

Today’s topic is about one slice of the amazing gifts life gives us.  Personally, I attribute these gifts directly from God.  But regardless of where you attribute the origin of the gift, I am certain you will appreciate the reminder of some of the small yet amazing blessings of life.

The big things in life are pretty easy to pick up on.  They force our attention pretty quickly.  Big things grab us around the neck and whack us on the forehead.  Or, like a child wanting mom’s attention, it reaches up, grabs our cheeks and pulls our face forward forcing eye contact.   When big things come we stop and engage.

But then there are the miraculous small things, the things easily overlooked or forgotten.  These are things we have known about or been aware of, but the responsibilities of life dull our sensitivity to these small blessings and miracles that surround.  It’s as though the droning monotonous cadence of daily duties has a way of taking over and crowding out the awareness to these joys of life.

I believe that love is most revealed in small things more so than the large.  I am talking about the small unsolicited acts that reveal the true nature of the person who loves.

What tripped this domino of thought was… spices.  Yep spices.  I think I briefly mentioned this in an earlier blog a few months back but I want to press in a bit more closely.

Have you ever thought about the gift of the amazing variety we have in life.  Spices are just one category.  The incredible variety of colors, music styles, plants, birds, on and on and on.

Now I am sure many of you are sitting there going… uh… spices… uh… music… ok?  These are nice but I think this fellow is getting a bit too excited about ordinary stuff.

Think about it, a multitude of variety for us to experience and enjoy.  Cool huh?

Now I know that lot’s of people who do not believe in God enjoy, value and appreciate the variety of things life gives us.

But this is where I really like my beliefs about God and my relationship with Him.  It is the fact that God created the multitude of spices and flavors, totally for our enjoyment.

The variety shows a God who loves His creation and gives us things completely for our enjoyment.

This may sound weird but let me use our dog as an analogy.  We feed our dog a good brand of dry dog food.  We only feed him this one thing and he is very happy.  Basically he doesn’t know any different.

God didn’t have to create things for us to enjoy.  We would not know any different if there were only five flavors, six colors, and two types of music.

Can you imagine food without basil, cumin, salt, or thyme?  Or having only polka music?  Or having only one shade of green when the leaves begin to bud in the Spring?  We would not know any different.

Take a look around.  What are the small seemingly insignificant things that bring pleasure and enjoyment?

These are gifts… just for you from someone who loves you.

See you Thursday.


3
Mar 11

No Picasso

Hi there.  Good to see you again.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to take the leap and start painting. 

Me… PAINT?!!!  Yep, hard to believe, me painting. 

Painting, like writing, was a big step.  But when you make such a public announcement like this you better be prepared to follow thru.  This is especially true when the entire family bought me painting supplies as gifts for Christmas, and a friend gave me a very cool easel.

Now before I jump into the perils of painting, let me ask you a couple of questions.

  • Are you willing to start or do things out of your comfort zone?
  • If you do start things, are you pretty good at following thru or do these things die a slow death?  Seriously, do you have a history of unfinished projects or hobbies that lie around becoming tombstones that mark failure?
  • When is the last time you took a big leap to try something new?
  • What one thing has been wiggling around inside that has caught your attention that you may like to try? 

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 Now these questions aren’t meant to judge, make you feel bad, or present an opportunity to pat yourself on the back.  They are meant to stir and challenge.

Personally, I have absolutely no room to judge.  Up until a couple of years ago my track record was pretty abysmal. 

First, I wasn’t very willing to try anything out of my comfort zone because I didn’t want to look bad.  And to add insult to injury the odds of finishing things were pretty low.  Embarrassing, but true. 

The weird thing about having a history of not completing things or doing things well has the insidious effect of making you reticent to try anything new because the outcome was already determined.  

The last few years have been different.  I can’t fully explain it but the first couple of blog entries (January, 2010 on the right side of the page) talks about my exodus from the safe confines of my small world to a more risky and fulfilling life.

This is why I made a big deal of the one year anniversary of my blog.  This blog thing was an extremely big and risky step for me.  I felt exposed and completely vulnerable.  But I started, I have faithfully continued, and I have done the best I can. 

I am not saying that I believe what I write is that good or meaningful.  But I feel good about doing it and sticking with it.  If it happens to help or encourage someone else, all the better. 

Side Note:  Once again I feel the need to say, if no one reads this blog, it is something I am to do… for me and my journey.  Although writing it has been grueling at time, it has been worth it.

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OK, now for my next big step, painting.  I kind of feel the same way about painting as I do about writing, inadequate and vulnerable.  But it is something that stirred, I listened and I’m doing. 

Like writing I did not casually start.  I have taken my time, got things in place and then at the time I felt was right… with palette, paint and brushes in hand I took the leap. 

Let me say that it has not been a pretty sight.  I feel totally weird.  But I must say it has been fun.  It’s fun since I am trying not to put to high of expectations on myself. 

Side Note:  A supportive wife really helps.  I make a few dabs of paint on the canvas that are honestly pretty bad and my wife will find something nice to say.  

She will look at it and say something like, “That’s a nice color.”  She makes it safe to look stupid.

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Since taking the leap of painting I have learned something pretty significant.  I have learned that the picture I have in my head doesn’t necessarily come out on the canvas.

I thought all I would need to do is just open a tube of paint, dip my brush and Wa La… masterpiece. 

Oh, did I mention that what I lacked in talent I made up for in naivety.

Honestly I have gotten a bit discouraged.  I am finding that it is not nearly as easy as I thought.  Although it is discouraging I am not deterred, and that’s a very nice feeling.

The learning curve and discouragement are part of the process.  This is normal. 

So what about you?  What are you thinking about doing that you know you should try to do?  Or, what are you thinking about giving up on that you know you should press forward?

I will continue to paint, take some lessons, and have fun.

Just so you know, the picture at the top is NOT one of my paintings.  One of these days I will show one.

Thanks for hanging out with me.

See you Monday.