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Blog Change Featured

How To Be An Idiot In 2019

(Subtitle: I Wish This Were Fiction)

Harder Every Day

It used to be easy to be an idiot. Just follow your feelings, don’t read books and stay away from positive role models. You watch a little TV, play a few video games and boom, you’re an idiot. 

Today’s problem is that so much of our fun is connected to the internet, and that’s how they get you. You can be surfing along watching YouTube videos about other idiots when, before you know it, you’ve clicked on something.

I know, It’s hard to talk about. But we’ve all been there.

Free This!

They promise you some cool thing for free, the comfort zone for idiots, and then it appears on screen – the dreaded email box. Some deep instinct gives you a feeling of foreboding. Your ear twitches. You snort and paw the ground a few times.

But then you click it. Because that’s never stopped you before.

The next thing you know, you’re subscribed. People are grateful. You’re important to them. They can’t wait to give you more valuable information. You’ve found your place in life. 

So, you click a few more buttons.

Congratulations!

You’re on an email list. You have a channel. There’s a profile to complete. You need a headshot. You have a survey to fill out. So much responsibility!

But still, it was free stuff. So, they’re your friend, right?

The problem with your new friend is that he has friends. And suddenly there’s a house party in your inbox.

Some stranger is offering more free stuff. There’s music playing. Someone’s dancing on the coffee table. Your neighbors are threatening to call the cops.

Seems safe enough.

So, you join LinkedIn to make your mom proud. Now, you have a business profile. And you start a free blog. And podcasting looks cool. And there’s that YouTube channel that’s just sitting there.

So, you take a course . . . 

And that’s how they do it.

But don’t worry. It’s not too late. There’s nothing here that can’t be undone. You can still get back to those carefree days of being a clueless idiot. 

For a free step-by-step guide, just join my email list at: youcanbeanidiot.com

Trust me. I’m an expert. 

Categories
Change Featured Uncategorized

Change The World? Why Settle?

Let’s face it. The world is big and full of people who are not obedient. They stubbornly want what’s best for themselves. If I want to rule them, it’s a terrible disadvantage. Change them? Forget it. But . . .

What if I want to serve them, as Jesus said?

Well, it’s still a problem. I can easily live the rest of my life helping people do what they want. I end up helping them rule over me. This is good for neither of us, or so I tell myself. There is a fine line between helping and enabling.

My best way to help people is to serve God, who loves them. I am now serving them with His resources. I am neither slave or dictator. I don’t have to run their world or change it. World changing is God’s department anyway. So, here’s how world changing looks for me now.

Change the world,
For a moment,
For someone.

I can handle that. I can love for a moment, talk for a moment, share for a moment, help for a moment. Moments are all we really have with people anyway. Even our family. And maybe, along the way, now that I’m not trying to run their lives or use them, I can share God’s love and redemption with them.

In this way I can change more than the world. I can change eternity . . .

 

Categories
Blog Change Featured Perspective Spiritual

How To Wake A Sleeping Brain

It is surprising to me that after 61 years of living on this planet that I should still be learning such simple things as how to wake up. I’ve been doing it, to varying degrees of success, all of my life. It never really occurred to me to do it in a conscious way. Usually I’ve just been trying to get conscious in the first place.

Some Good Days

I’ve been a snoozer, starting my day by setting goals that I plan to put off for another ten minutes. I’ve been a worrier, dragged from my few miserable hours of much-needed sleep by the continuation of yesterday’s waking nightmare that fitfully turned into actual nightmares at 4:00 am.

I’ve awakened in anger at perceived injustice done to me and actual righteous indignation over very real injustice done to those I love. I’ve woken up with the sad realization that today will be as miserable and hopeless as the day before, pulled from my covers by duty and obligation without possibility of change.

And I’ve had some good days, waking up to exciting possibility with all of the beauty of the world stretching before me and a new adventure laid at my feet; barely able to get to sleep the night before in anticipation of the glory of the coming day.

Two Pages

Then, while reading C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity for the first time since college, I read two pages that stopped me cold – the last two pages of chapter eight to be exact. I have been re-reading those two pages every morning, ever since.

. . . the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first. But for those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through…

C. S. Lewis: Mere Christianity

At first I went back to make sure that I understood it, then to remember it, then to make sure that I never forget.

Those two pages started a fire in me that is only burning hotter. It ignited the possibility of real change in my life. At my age, that’s not just surprising, it’s downright shocking. Here’s how it connected with me.

Old Dog

Science has known for a while that our thoughts are constantly re-wiring our brains. As we think, new connections are made. The term they use is plasticity – as in moldable like Play-doh.

This is how someone with a mild stroke can get much better with therapy. A friend of mine had a small stroke recently and has improved to the point that it’s hard to tell he ever had a problem. The doctors said they expected full recovery. Full recovery!

The way it works is intentional training forces the brain to grow new connections and wire its way around the problem. It’s hard. It takes a lot of work. But the fact that doctors now consider this kind of recovery normal shows how far we’ve come in our understanding of the human brain.

New Tricks

So, what does this have to do with C. S. Lewis? It’s how brain science connects with the phrase,”now we are letting Him work at the right part of us.” When we say that what we think rewires our brain by making new physical connections, one scientist put it this way – our thoughts are creating matter!

That’s part of why change is so hard. Our fleeting thoughts are slowly set in the concrete of our physical brain. We physically become our thoughts. These thoughts become what we call “ourself,” our personality, our identity.

And our brain puts an awful lot of weight on those past thoughts because that is what helped us to survive this long. Our brain wants to get up every day and do the same thing as yesterday because, from a survival standpoint, it worked.

But the obvious question is was what we did yesterday really the best thing we could have done? Or are we just stuck in a loop with success being defined by the fact that we woke up the next day? And there’s an even bigger question. Is what I did yesterday really who I am?

We Are Not Who We Think We Are

I was once and foremost a crier. When things went in a way that I didn’t like I simply took a long deep breath and began to wail until my face turned bright red and things got better. That was who I was. Thank goodness this was not last week. When I was an infant without speech or experience to know what was wrong or how to fix it, I just screamed until things got better. And that worked for awhile because I had a mother. Thanks, Mom.

But now, thankfully, I no longer define myself as a crier. I have grown bigger than that. I am more than that.

At one point my life was limited by doorknobs because I couldn’t work a doorknob. I could have just given up and said I am a person who lives on this side of the door. That’s all there is to me. I am only this. We all can see what a limiting line of thinking this would be. It would be self-imprisonment.

When we add the fact that I can grow and learn and become more, everything changes. Doorknobs turn. Limitations fall away. Unimagined possibilities become everyday facts. So, what I think is me, – my personality, my self – isn’t what I thought it was.

I Am More Than My Brain

It becomes obvious that, if I’m thinking my brain into existence, rewiring my brain by my thoughts, there is more to me than my brain. There is a spiritual part of me which transcends my brain. Who I am is more than just the physical. I am also spirit.

This means changing my mind is more than just behavior modification techniques. It is more than mind control and habits. It is essentially a spiritual task. That puts it squarely in God’s domain, which should be no surprise to me since God is the ultimate changer of lives and thoughts. There is no one better.

This means that if I seriously want to change my brain for the better, I should ask God for help. I should pray,”Lord, change my brain.” In doing so, I’m asking God to change who I am.

Giving Up Myself

In this way I have, for the first time, a real chance at becoming a better me, not merely by my efforts but by the one who created me. But this seems a little scary at first. I don’t want to give up who I am. That’s all I have. I don’t want to become a mind-numbed robot, a clone doing another’s bidding, a cultish, unthinking slave. I’m afraid of this.

But God isn’t interested in making me the same as everyone else. All I have to do to reassure myself is look around. This is the same God who creates individual snowflakes. The one who makes fingerprints different – even between twins! He is creative beyond my wildest imagination. He would never want a stamped-out, assembly-line, production-model person.

It would be like asking the world’s greatest artist to spend his days running a photocopier.

What I Get Back

When I give my brain to God, I get something far, far better in return.

I turn in my beleaguered, battered brain that has been pounded into submission since childhood, hammered into conformity in middle school, melted into societal molds in high school and carefully ground into sameness in college. It has been filled with oft-repeated lies and discouraged from serious thought. It has been bedazzled and video-gamed into a stupor by vapid entertainment. It has been dipped into Facebook and polished by the abrasion of relentless political correctness into a work of avant-garde art.

But what I get back is reborn. My brain has come back to life. Instead of being conformed, it has been released.

At this point in my life, I am discovering a capacity for love that I never knew. I find myself having patience. In traffic! I didn’t work and fret and train myself into patience. I didn’t go to a patience seminar. Instead, I find it hidden there. I find joy and music like a thawing mountain stream in springtime. It’s an amazing discovery, an exploration of the me I could have been all along.

I’m Not Perfect

It doesn’t really need saying that I’m not perfect. You know this. But I am becoming someone I didn’t think I could be, and in fact, couldn’t be in my own strength. My perspective is slowly changing. My courage has sparked into flame. Hope has begun to melt my cynicism. I am not so judgmental of others.

Instead of working very hard to beat myself into submission until I can eek out a smidgen of love for the unlovable, I find myself loving them and seeing myself in them. I understanding how unlovable I am and how amazing it is that someone, like my wife, could love me when I don’t even like myself very much.

But it is not something I’m doing on my own. I’m no longer alone in the weary task of trying to better myself under my own power. I am relieved by humility. The weight of pride is lifted away.

listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

This certainly feels better than trying to carve myself into a new creature from the outside in.

Flying Eggs

Lewis continues:

When He said,”Be perfect,” He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder–in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

Please, do not miss this point. As of this summer it has been fifty-five years since I first accepted Christ. I have taken it seriously.

My parents had me in church before I could say “Da Da.” Sunday School, Sunday night services and Wednesday prayer meeting followed as steadily as the Earth turns. I accepted Jesus at age six in Vacation Bible School. Church choir, youth musicals and mission trips led to contemporary Christian bands. I majored in Bible at a Christian university where I met my wife.

We were married in church and in turn delivered our own children almost straight to the church nursery. We taught Sunday School classes and our church, with grace and determination, carried us through our darkest hours. I prayed regularly. I studied my Bible.

I say all of that only to point out this.

What surprises me is that, at sixty-one years old, I find myself still being re-born, from the inside out, not who I thought I was! I am a stranger to myself in the best possible way. At this age, I am new. And that is good news.

Birth Of A New Brain

All I did was ask God to change my brain. All I had to do was ask each morning. At the birth of a new day, I am also reborn. God’s quiet, daily object lesson is not lost: sleeping and waking, night to light, brand new day.

He gave me the strength to shove back my many plans, to fill my early mornings with intentionally inspiring music, read my Bible and listen for that quiet voice. I’m not just beginning a new day; I’m beginning a new me.

Now some part of me is embarrassed at discovering such life at this age. My relentless inner critic reminds me that making so much progress shows how far I have not progressed until now. But age is no guarantee of maturity. And C. S. Lewis was 54 years old when he published Mere Christianity, just a few years younger than I am.

So maybe growing up at all is the trick. And maybe the fact that there is still so much to learn of this great mystery means life will never grow dull. And maybe, compared to what is to come, we’ve barely begun to learn at all.

What we have been told is how we men can be drawn into Christ––can become part of that wonderful present which the young Prince of the universe wants to offer to His Father––that present which is Himself and therefore us in Him. This is the only thing we were made for. And there are strange, exciting hints in the Bible that when we are drawn in, a great many other things in Nature will begin to come right. The bad dream will be over: it will be morning.

Perhaps it is to this dawn that I am slowly learning to wake. Practicing here for that day, that first good morning, when the snooze will be forgotten and coffee will not cross my mind.

 

Photo by Aris Sánchez via Flickr.
Categories
Blog Change Courage Encouragement Featured

The Only Way To Start A New Year . . . Seriously!

Every day is the beginning of a new year. A year from now it will be a year later . . . or something like that. But sometimes, like today, we can see the new year ahead in better perspective. We make plans to make this year different, better even. It’s the best time I know to remind myself that there is only one way to begin anything new . . . BADLY!

I’m going to start adding more video to TAoS in 2016. This is my first attempt at using Adobe’s Voice app on my iPad. It’s a start.

[s3video s3url=”StartingBadly.mp4″ responsive=”on” /]

 

Cover Photo by Andi Sidwell via Flickr
Categories
Adventure Blog Change Courage Featured

This Will Leave A Mark

The Bench Mark

Today I changed something about the way I blog, about the way I live. I’m marking it here with this post for future reference. Like a signpost. Like a dropped pin on a Google map.

The date matters because time is our most important gift, but time is slippery through our fingers and hard to pin down. We need to be reminded of its value and limited supply. So, on this date, in this place, a mark is made.

Surveyors call it a bench mark. It’s a beginning place. A starting point. A mark to show progress, should I make any. A fixed, documented reference that is set in stone and not to be moved.

Because Things Move

In this world, things that you can count on are rare. People are ripping up bench marks for sport. They do it with wild-eyed glee. As if they hate points of reference and things that stay the same.

They do it because they are on a mission to change the world and anything that does not change disturbs them. Makes them twitchy.

A bench mark implies that there was something here before them that was good and didn’t need changing. Or that they are not making progress at all. Or that they might even be wrong.

Each A Bench Mark

Today’s predictable idea is that we should be our own bench mark. We should make our own path and ignore the depth and breadth of human history. As if the problem with human history is only that we weren’t there to do it right.

I am the captain of my fate, the master of my soul. Accountable to no one.

Freedom

We call this idea freedom and if that’s all there were to it things would sort themselves out soon enough. What worked would work. What didn’t would disappear.

But Soul Captains seem to want more. They want us to acknowledge the glorious discovery of their vast superiority. Their relentless rightness, brilliant better-ness, colossal correctness.

It seems that being right is not enough anymore, nor even being superior. One must change the world.

Enforced Correctness

Political correctness leads them to believe that they should be in charge. That all who came before or who stand here now are so wrong that they must be corrected.

Old ideas that don’t conform should be hammered into place. Individual thought should be chastised. Ideas are dangerous and must be policed.

I am to be freed from myself.

Human history is a pounding repetition of this dull theme. We are not good enough. We must be brought into alignment, hammered and straightened – or eliminated.

What should be a life of glorious exploration of the magnificence around us becomes mere existence in a chain gang by the side of life’s road. We are conformed.

Long live the sameness.

The Explorer’s Heart

But we were meant for more. We know it in our bones. We feel it when we see the stars or watch a bird in flight. We feel the tug from beyond the next hill to see what’s there.

And there is something there. It is glorious. And in pursuing it we will find that there is more to us than we imagined. There is sterner stuff within than we have been told.

We are stronger than we think. We have a higher purpose than conformity. The journey ahead will show us, reveal us to ourselves.

So, A Bench Mark

Here is the beginning point, our reference for the journey, the spot where we set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Here is where we are. Where we will be tomorrow is the most exciting question of all . . .

 

Categories
Blog Change Featured

Things Can Change For The Better!

Things Change

Things change in massive ways every day.

The pictures above were taken seventy-eight days apart – less than three months.

I don’t know what the temperature was in February but the temperature yesterday hit 88 degrees.  That’s more than fifty degrees above freezing, at least.

(Yes, this is my granddaughter. Yes, she is awesome.)

Nobody Bats An Eye

Nobody even thinks this is unusual. We take it in stride. We pull out warm, fuzzy caps or swimsuits. We drink hot chocolate or iced tea. We sit in the sun or the shade. It’s no big deal.

We adapt easily . . .
– because we have to
– because we think it’s normal
– because conditions have changed
– because it’s what we do.
– because it’s who we are!

Alpha Changers

Think about that. It’s who we are. We are masters of change. The most flexible species on the planet. Alpha changers!

People give cockroaches too much credit. WE are the survivors. We eat change for breakfast. We sip it for dinner. We have it for dessert and midnight snacks!

In fact, if things don’t change we complain about it. We love the heat now but just wait until the middle of summer and we will be dreaming of hot fires, snowmen and ski trips.

We’ll forget about garden fresh vegetables and luscious fruit. We will – you can count on it – complain.

Moms will get tired of kids everywhere under their feet and start dreaming of school supplies. New winter coats will hit the racks and kids will start their Christmas lists.

We Thrive On Change

We go shopping for something new to have a little change. We don’t really need another (insert whatever you bought lately here), we just want it.

A new hair style, new clothes, a new lawnmower or breakfast cereal is what we want. We look for new places to travel, new ways to make money, new ways to beat the traffic.

We even need new news! And please make it live and up to the minute lest we be burdened with something that happened in the distant past, say like ten minutes ago.

It’s Often Better

It’s odd that we should have to think about this at all but much of the change that happens is for the better.

Good things happen all the time. Good things happen to everybody. Things improve. Life is good.

And we didn’t even do anything. Good just happens.

So . . .

– Why are we afraid of change?
– Why do we feel stuck?
– Why do we feel powerless?
– Why do we think we can’t do anything about it?
– Why do we give up and let today stagnate back into yesterday?

Imagine

Just imagine if you had more control than you think.

Imagine you could change things for the better. Imagine what kind of life you would create, what kind of family, what kind of job, what kind of world.

That’s all. That’s enough for today.

Just imagine . . .

Categories
Blog Change Dogs Endurance Featured Pets

If It Was Easy . . .

*Please note – I started this post last Saturday and couldn’t finish.

Unplanned Interruptions

Today I bandaged a dog’s foot. It was not my plan.

Daisy, my nervous, tiny, loving, competitive, unobservant, endlessly shivering Boston terrier, got stepped on by my massive, loving, competitive, unobservant, big-footed, rake-clawed, tightly wound Labrador retriever, Nessie.

Though Boston is assuredly capable of winning endless Superbowls, in the battle to get through our back door a decade old pup bred to sit on the lap of a Boston blue-blood is no match for a hound the size of a walrus bred to swim the Labrador Sea in the icy north Atlantic, dragging fishing nets behind.

Competitors, Sisters, Best Friends

It can’t be easy for Daisy living in the house with Nessie, but she doesn’t believe that it’s the size of the dog that counts. Daisy is, in a word, fearless.

She can often be found barking at the back fence at our neighbor’s giant black mastiff. Not just barking but digging in a frenzy while throwing frenzied doggie challenges to the unconcerned bear-sized monster. She wants a piece of him.

Daisy has clawed down chunks of wooden fencing in her pursuit, and if she wasn’t stopped would dig through. I’m certain she would stand her ground between us and Godzilla if the need arose.

But her late night dance at the back door in between Nessie’s lumbering paws did not go so well. She squealed as she got stepped on twice. Last night she bounced right back but by this morning she couldn’t put her left foot on the ground. Closer inspection revealed a nasty gash between her toes. Something had to be done and since Suzie was at work it was up to me.

Ideas Are Easy

My plan this morning was to change the world. I would bound out of bed, work out furiously, get Suzie to work and write something that would make a difference. I would start a business, invent time travel, find the cure for heartburn and take a break for lunch.

Instead, I stumbled out of bed, shuffled my way to the back door to let the dogs out and found that Daisy couldn’t walk.

After debating an emergency trip to the doggy ER, I decided I could probably take care of her paw. I drove to one store for bandages and another for a doggie boot to keep the bandage on. I washed the foot, applied antibiotic pain-killing goo, bandaged and booted a bull-headed dog and fell asleep cuddling her. Sigh.

Spoiled Rotten

I must remember this. There has never been an idea or a dream worth pursuing that didn’t immediately spawn buzzing distractions, urgent interruptions and downright emergencies.

I’ve been spoiled by recording studios. Imagine a sound proof room designed for creating with people turning away distractions at the front door and holding all calls. Cell phones are off. There are electronic locks, intercoms and buzzers to preserve your creative privacy.

No clocks are allowed. People actually expect to work late into the night. Talk is kept to whispers and flashing technology dances at your fingertips. Producers crack the whip and you can really get work done.

Change The World . . . Tomorrow

But out here in the real world I have no dog-bandaging interns. Puppies need love now. So do the rest of us. And there’s the point.

All of my world-changing ideas are a poor substitute for simple kindness and committed love – right now! Not movie love or novel love or internet love but the plain old, everyday, hard-working kind of love that the real world needs: take-out-the-garbage, clean-up-baby-vomit, change-diapers, bandage-the-dog kind of love.

Change The World A Little At A Time

In the end, this kind of love is probably more valuable than the self-glorifying, big-idea, propose-while-skydiving, rent-a-limo, one-up-this, post-it-on-Facebook kind of love.

I know there’s a lot more everyday need.

All things added up, the everyday love that we give yields a lot more real-world results than a few big idea fireworks. Just imagine a world where no one took out the garbage.

Kindness happens one person at a time. It doesn’t trend, make headlines or stadium kiss cams. It’s more powerful than that.

It’s Cumulative

Persistence is the most powerful tool available to mankind. Persistent love is the best application of it.

It adds up every day like God’s version of compound interest. How does that work? Like this.

I can’t change the world in a day. But I can change the world everyday. I just can’t change it very much.

So, the thing that matters the most is not the thing I do today; it’s the thing I do everyday, consistently. All I have to do is do it again.

First = Last

On the big list of world changers my name would probably be close to the bottom. Few people know who I am. I have an average number of friends. I haven’t invented anything amazing. I haven’t discovered any breakthroughs. I don’t have a billion dollars to give away.

But I have as much love as anybody. And I have today. Fortunately, in God’s economy cash is not king. Instead, love reigns supreme.

Added up over a lifetime, that’s the investment that counts that most; it’s what matters.

Daisy’s example

That’s why I smile at my little terrier barking at my neighbor’s mastiff. It looks comical, like she’s taking on too much, but she’s not.

Her method is my example when facing big, scary problems. She knows fear is not an option. She knows it’s not the dog who barks loudest that matters, but the one that barks longest. She knows that silence never wins; persistence does.

Truth needs a voice.

Update

It’s been two days since Daisy’s foot was hurt. She’s curled up on the love seat, not because she’s hurting, but because the mastiff is banished back inside his house.

She pulled off the boot and bandage the next morning. I re-bandaged for one more night. She’s not the only stubborn one.

Now she’s running around like nothing happened. Time for me to get back to work.

The world won’t change itself . . .

Daisy's Favorite Place

Categories
Change Creativity Featured Mental Purpose Service

What Happened When I Shut Off My TV?

My New Year’s resolution was to add joy to the world, not see what joy I could get out of it. Part of adding meant writing.

Between Suzie and I, my Mom, our son and two dogs, I needed space to write without distraction and with a full house there was only one place left. Yep, the room with the television. So, I moved the cable box out and turned it off to see what would happen.

Nothing. Nothing at all happened.

It was boring and long and quiet and eventually sad. It wasn’t the lack of TV that was sad. It was the long stretch of me doing nothing with no excuses.

Except think, a lot of thinking was going on. Then I had a mind-bending, future-changing thought.

I realized I’d always been doing nothing. I was just doing it with the TV on.

Now, when I’m staring off into space with a blank look, I’m not doing nothing. I’m writing. Though it looks almost the same it’s anything but.

I’m contributing, not consuming. I’m trying to add the joy instead of flipping channels to the next distraction.

I’m serious about my New Year’s goal. I still watch TV with Suzie. But I watch it less and only the shows we love and only after I’ve done something good.

But things have changed. Nothing never happens at my house anymore. There’s always something.

 


 

Photo Credit: jambina via Compfight cc

Categories
Blog Change Featured Success

Why A Dream Is Better Than A Resolution

I Resolve

Saturday I posted my New Year’s resolution. Here it is:

I will measure my year by how much
joy I can bring into the world rather
than by how much I can get out of it.

I’m not big on resolutions.

They tend to be lists of things to do, or things to do better than I did before or things to stop doing. This makes them baseline negative. They are easy to make and easy to break. But breaking them comes with a price. It feels like failure. It brings disappointment and makes me believe I’m stuck.

Change

What I really want to do is change, to improve myself and my situation. That’s the point.

But it’s more urgent than that. I NEED to change my situation. It’s been a challenging year. You know what that is code for.

I’d share the details. I don’t mind but it would include details from other people’s lives that could use some privacy. You don’t need details. Insert your own from a tough year . . . Yep, that will do.

Anyway, change is not an option or a good idea or a pleasant goal. This year, change is essential and I’m deadly serious about it.

Joy

So, why the cute clouds-and-bluebirds resolution? If I’m that serious, why not a gritty, hard-core, blood and guts, smash-mouth type of resolve?

Because joy is what I need. And joy is what the world needs more of.

Joy will give me more determination, more energy to spread, more clarity to fight the good fight. Joy will keep me relaxed and healthier. It will lower my blood pressure and take the steam out of my stress.

But I SHOULD Be Angry!

There are riots in the street, terrorists bombing marathons, planes going missing, all of which make me angry. I could be the Incredible Hulk and respond with anger but then I would only be increasing the problem.

All the Hulk leaves behind is the debris of destruction in the name of justice. But the Hulk doesn’t bring justice. Puny Hulk. Justice is much more complicated than destruction.

Destructive Change

The philosophy that destruction is necessary for change is wrong. Destruction kills everything without regard. There is a lot of good to be kept. There is precious potential that should be protected.

We need a better type of change. Something more powerful and focused, a laser scalpel instead of a bomb. We need healing change, a bandage not a bullet.

A Dream

The greatest change agent the world has ever known is a dream. It is magnetic and positive. It pulls people to it like a sunrise after a storm. It is rich and sumptuous in detail. It is grand and inspiring in scope.

Here’s how it works.

As a teenager I went on a camping trip with my cousins by motorcycle. Everything was fine until we went off-road. When I hit the winding trail through the woods my inexperience reared its head.

Magnetic Trees

The trees seemed to magnetically pull me closer. The very trees I wanted to avoid seemed to jump into the path ahead and try to take me out. I ground to a stop inches away more than once. I was holding people up. It was dangerous, and worse for a teenager, embarrassing.

Then my cousin revealed the secret. You automatically go where you look. He told me to look at the trail, not the trees. Focusing on the danger kept pulling me off course. It was hard to do with limbs reaching out and grabbing for me but I finally managed it.

Look Where You Want To Go

That’s the reason for my resolution. It’s easy in the virtual world to focus on the problems. Fear sells newspapers and websites. The more disturbing and salacious the headline the more hits the article gets.

Greed makes us harbingers. In the competition of ideas the bad ones seem to win and it’s easy to let the reward of easy attention lead us to controversy and fear. But that results in focusing on the problems.

We Need To See Hope

Without joy, hope and positive truth, things begin to seem beyond our control. We feel helpless simply by our choices. We have learned helplessness where there is help.

Things are not beyond our control. We control where we focus. We control the dream.

If I dream of bringing joy then I have to focus on it. I have to have it to give it. Joy doesn’t come from taking. That’s merely fleeting, selfish happiness, a vapor compared to true joy.

I Dream Of Joy

So choose your dreams well and do not let them out of your sight. Let them fill your view and you will automatically head for them.

My wish for you is to have great visions of positive things. Then none of us will have as much to worry about.

This year resolve dreams.

 

*Photo Credit: dileepeduri via Compfight cc

Categories
Blog Change Connections Emotional Featured

Borrowed Rocks and Purloined Shells

On a bright blue-sky fall afternoon with the wind tugging cold at my face, I stood ankle-deep in an icy, clear stream, tipped a bag of stones and released them back into the wild. The rocks flashed in the sun, fell into the rippling water and nestled in the stream bed in apparent relief. Many of them were heart-shaped.

In a small, private ceremony, I returned Mom’s rocks to God.

Next came the shells, all hand-picked from beaches along the Florida coast. Each a work of art unique in some way to the eye that spied them and the hand that rescued them from unappreciated anonymity. They also flashed and fell and sank with bubbles of joy, reunited with the sea – or as close as it gets to Tennessee.

Along the carved stream bottom the treasures shone bright and out of place, their original places long forgotten. The current location of the stream lined with hearts and seashells is known only to hikers, close family and it’s maker.

It was a fitting depository for so valuable a collection, so carefully curated for so long.

It all began in the 1930’s when a great-uncle in the middle of a farm project reached out a hand and demanded,”Give me a piece of string!”

Dad, a boy fascinated with his uncle’s work, replied that he didn’t have any string.

“What?” came the incredulous reply. “Why a boy always ought to have a piece of string and a rock in his pocket.”

No explanation was given. Apparently a boy was supposed to know such things. So, Dad found a piece of string, just in case. Easy enough.

The rock, however, proved to be a bigger challenge. There were so many choices. Which one was the rock? As soon as he chose one, another better rock appeared to tempt him with curious shape or intense color. It became a lifelong fascination.

As long as I knew my Dad he had a rock in his pocket. I don’t know what happened to the string.

As a result we all developed rock collections. I specialized in throwing and skipping rocks, another art Dad taught us.

Mom preferred bright colors and heart shapes. After Dad passed it was like finding a love letter from him, left just for her in the sand or mud. She couldn’t pass them up.

After an unexpected reaction to a medicine, Mom’s recall wasn’t as sharp as before and it made the treasures and memories even more precious – and plentiful.

When she moved in with us, there were countless times I held my breath as she stopped and stooped to look at a possible treasure, head close to the ground. I pictured falls, fractured hips and hospitals while she saw endless jeweled memories.

They soon covered every available surface – night stands, book cases, Great Grannie’s pie shelf and Singer sewing machine, window sills and dressers. When, for the sake of my wife, I asked that she clean up a little the collection was sealed, bagged and tucked into drawers.

Memory lapses increased to the point that she needed notes to remember how to unlock her bedroom door. When Mom called Suzie from a block away to ask her address it was obvious we were not up to the job.

This week I returned Mom to God’s care. After three years of doing my best, I signed an endless stream of papers checking Mom into an assisted living facility – Willow Something, ALF.

Willow Something is nearby, lively, social and safe. We can pick Mom up any time. But there was no room for her collection of geological treasures. There were too many.

Throwing them away was an insult, like tossing diamonds into a landfill. Storing them was impractical. That’s when I decided to return them to nature where they belonged.

They are God’s rocks after all. They were here long before us. And will be here after us.

We do not own the rocks in our pockets any more than the leaves own the trees. Eventually, we all must let go.

I marked the spot carefully so that I could bring Mom by later, waded out of the stream and into a river of memories.

On the walk home the brush beside me exploded in movement as some large animal fled with a crash. It was too fast to be seen as I slowly pried my mind out of the past.

I was suddenly aware of the beauty around me.

A dozen robins settled across the path ahead and fed until I walked through them.

Four chattering young girls came toward me, settling on a wooden bench to take pictures of this fleeting moment.

I shook my head clear. Better to soak up this rare day rather than lose it in reflection.

When I walked back into the house Suzie held up two large bags of rocks for my inspection. “Want to go back?” she asked.

I didn’t. There were undoubtedly more rocks to discover tucked in drawers and pockets.

We may never find them all . . . I hope.