My Life on a Perpetual Diet…


dietingAs I reflect back on my life over the past 20 years, I realize that I have been on a perpetual diet for that same 20 years. And incredulously, as my goal of being 15 pounds lighter continues to linger on the horizon, I also recognize the insanity of trying to lose the same 15 pounds for 20 straight years. It would seem that with some discipline and force of will it shouldn’t take 20 years to lose 15 pounds. In fact, the task should likely take two to three months maximum. But, here I sit lamenting on the reality that I haven’t yet been able to figure it out. So, I had to ask myself why? Why would my body seek to regulate itself 15 pounds above that which I would desire. Is there something I am doing in my life that serves to thwart my purpose? Is a life of perpetual restriction the solution? Or, does a life of perpetual restriction work at cross purposes from the end I have in mind? And, assuming I’m not a swim suit model, does it really even matter? Is it really about dieting and obsessing and trying hard with no results or is there something else at play I might not yet have contemplated? I think it is fair to say that any issue that may have troubled you for the past twenty years begs for further inspection, whether it be feeling unhappy about your weight or not feeling good about any aspect of your life. Whatever it is that has served as a distraction in your life; that limits you from being your best; that functions as a source of constant angst and dissatisfaction, is worth digging into and finding a way to overcome. Have your past twenty years seen you trapped on a perpetual diet, in endless restriction and constraints, in modifying your behavior, in trying to get something and never actually being able to get it? If so, this blog is for us…

I guess the starting point in understanding is first being able to recognize the utter futility of trying to do something for twenty years but not actually arriving or seeing any lasting result. That alone should arrest our attention. Yes, it takes some time and some discipline to make needed changes in our lives, but for something to continue on for that many years is a clue that competing interests must be interfering with our goal. The straight line of effort should produce a result. No results or minimal results indicate the straight line of effort cannot be straight. Faithful persistence is the key. It doesn’t matter how hard you work at something, if you don’t do it faithfully, chances are you are not going to get there. By the time your effort to achieve hits the 20 year mark and you are still no closer to your goal, you have to look at yourself and ask the question why? Do you have some aspect of your life that when indulged works at cross purposes with your goal? Is there something you like more than the thing you say you want? Or, as time has passed, have you been convinced that you cannot reach your goal no matter what you do? Time, especially significant amounts of time, has an unusual way of encroaching on your belief system and limiting you that much further in your quest, as small failures add up and produce the larger failure; the ultimate failure being referred to as giving up. Often what feels like futility is really repeating the same circumstances over and over and expecting a different result. Nothing changes because you haven’t changed something or at least not long enough to form new habit patterns. The temporary nature of the diet promises that a short term sacrifice will suffice and then it is back to business as usual, adding in excesses to fill the gaps formed in deprivation. Short term fixes don’t fix anything and lead to 20 year fixes that don’t fix anything either. Before you can takes the steps to enjoy any success, you first have to get real honest with yourself about what you want and what you don’t want. Your reason why has to be bigger than all of the assailants that will come to thwart your goal. 

I have learned rather painfully that endless restriction turns you into a sort of crazy person. Although you haven’t stuck to your plans for any significant length of time in reality, your mind gets stuck there in an endless loop secretly upset with the endless deprivation. Low carb diets make you crazy about rice and bread. Extreme diets such as HcG require you to starve for 3 weeks and then eat like a crazy person for the next six. Fasting promises a fast fix, yet whoa unto the crazy eater when the fast is over. There is nothing wrong with time limited restriction and control as long as you stay the course and arrive at your destination. But sadly, the course also includes the weekends! Yet, deeper than dieting or any time driven period of greater control, is what is going on inside your head. You don’t feel like you can adequately control yourself for 3 months, yet end up spending 20 years rehearsing the same mantra. You have to get your mind involved and keep it involved. You have to decide what you are going to do and then keep deciding until you arrive. If you are like me, you may have taken on some habits over the years that don’t work so well with your goals. Chances are you have certain likes and enjoyments that you might like a little too much. All added enjoyments in life appear to have an end point or a place where the enjoyment ends. Yet on we press looking for more enjoyment when the enjoyment has run its course. Nothing tastes as good as the first bite, as the saying goes and nothing produces better effect than the sparkle of the first glass of wine. All unhealthy restrictions cannot help but lead to excess in some other place. The answer isn’t more and more restriction, the answer is in getting focused and staying there. 

To take things a step further, the real issue is found in your why. Why are you doing or not doing the things you want? What are you really after? Are you doing something you earnestly want to do or do you have another hidden motive in mind? Is the thing you are trying so hard to get to the real answer or is it masking something else you want to get to? It is so easy to get caught up into things in life and end up forgetting why you were doing them in the first place. I think often when it comes to the various life suckers, our reasoning behind doing what we do gets cloudy and vague to the point where we can no longer see something that we desperately need to see. We miss the real problem or else dismiss it as something unimportant when it obviously is. It is not normal to suffer defeat in a category of life for a significant length of time without opposing forces getting in there somewhere and causing the defeat. This applies of course to many, many aspects of life beyond a silly diet. All of us have beliefs and habits that at one time served us, but no longer serve us now. We have pictures of ourselves that we have long since outgrown. We are all on our own journey with lessons we must eventually learn. Yet God graciously continues to work with us right where we are. I think inside we know the changes we need to make, but are loathe to make them for fear of losing something we enjoy; something that supposedly defines us; something we may have always liked about ourselves. Yet, all growing and evolving creatures must learn to change as the situations and circumstances of life dictate. However, those changes are not always all or nothing, but rather adjustments we make along the way. Small adjustments, small modifications can go a long way in making needed changes. 

At the end of the day, you and I can achieve anything we want to achieve. The only limit is ourselves. We have to learn to approach the things of our life without fear and dare to chart a new course. We aren’t after a quick fix, we are after long term solutions. Some aspects of life we simply need to overcome or at minimum overcome their grip on our lives. “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any…” Figure out what it is you are really after in your life and then go and get it. Sure you are going to fail and falter along the way, but that doesn’t matter as long as you get where you want to get. Whether you have been trying to lose the same amount of weight for two decades or you are trying to rid yourself of any negative aspect of life, you can get there no matter how long it has gone on if you will just get honest with yourself and change what you already know you need to change. Whatever has succeeded in getting a grip over your life has an opposite side that will give you everything you ever wanted instead. Life is way too short to live without the things that are important to you. Don’t pray for more discipline, pray for understanding. God has an uncanny way of making things crystal clear. Having you been living your life on a perpetual diet? Have you not thus far been able to realize your dreams? Is there some aspect of life that has been defeating you? Get quiet, get honest and get God involved. Life is to be enjoyed in every aspect! Freedom awaits you.

Just some good thoughts…

A New Year to Reconnect with Life…


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As we reflect on the past year, it is easy to think about all of the things we didn’t like and make grandiose plans for the coming new year. But, do we really need to do that? If we want to lose weight, did we not want to lose weight last year? If our aim is the elimination of bad habits, did we engage in those bad habits in the year that is ending now? The same logic could be applied infinitum. Thus it seems it’s not so much changing the small parts that make up our life as it is our attitude towards life as a whole. There is a reason we get too heavy; we engage in unhealthy behaviors; we become bored and depressed and seek something new, exciting and different. But, that which we seek really has nothing to do with the date on the calendar as much as it has to do with our overall general approach to the life we are living now. The life you are seeking underneath your list of new year’s resolutions is actually here already. You just need to reconnect with it. You need to reengage with life.

All living things are either living or dying, thriving or deteriorating. There is no status quo when it comes to life. And, as you no doubt have guessed already, living in this world there is a tendency towards deterioration and decay. It’s not how God originally planned it, but it is what it is at this point! The world is a frightfully negative place. Social media is negative. Your friends tend towards being negative. The circumstances you find yourself in – negative. It is how the world runs and it is how the world functions. Ever since that old snake got involved with God’s creation, decay replaced flourishing with loss and defeats becoming the order of the day. As such, it is no wonder we have all become disconnected with life. It’s not so much the world’s way that has defeated us as it is how we have let the world into our hearts. We expect things not to work out. We peer around the corner in good situations waiting for the the shoe to drop; the bad things to appear. We are not gluttons for punishment, but rather have been systematically trained to expect negativity; to look for the cracks; to find reasons not to maintain any semblance of hope or positive expectation. In this, over time, we have been swept away from life and not to life. And, in our ignorance, we have been led away from the source of life and all that could ever be good about life. We chase money and status and sunny days without troubles. We long to feel good again and long for the energy and enthusiasm that accompany that goodness. We promise ourselves to get better at this and stop doing that in the hopes that we can discover or rediscover that which we seemed to have lost. Enter the new year and its promise for better things ahead.

Curiously, instead of taking the time to think and consider what might have occurred that robbed us of our life or our happiness in life, we flap around on the surface of things assuring ourselves that if we only had more money or more time or more favorable circumstances, things would quickly take a turn for the better. Surely dry January will do the trick instead of learning what all that alcohol is replacing in our minds. We eat too much and hate the result, but never quite figure out why we are eating so much. All excesses, a thing we are all guilty of, point us to some missing element in our lives, some unresolved issue, some fear allowed to hang around and plague us. Fears and worries and our constant preoccupation with ourselves and whether or not we are going to be okay, suck the very life from us. The more we think we have finally figured out, the less we actually know, yet we keep persisting in the same game year after lousy year, loving life less and less as every year transpires. What, you’re thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years old and you already have figured everything out? You don’t need to make any changes in your thinking or your conclusions? You don’t need to consider that you have perhaps been led astray in some capacity? I submit to you, with all the honesty my soul can fathom, that if your life sucks it does so because you have been deceived in some category of life which you have yet to discover. You have, as my wife is wont to say, gotten entrenched in some fixed mindset that serves only to limit and curtail your life rather than to enhance it. Look, we are all in this thing together and there is nothing you are experiencing that all of us haven’t experienced at one time or another. We all get down in life and feel miserable. We all get wrapped up in stupidity and the things that rob life from us. We all get perplexed, lost, confused and afraid. That isn’t the issue at all. The issue is whether or not we can humble ourselves to figure out why and then at last find the way back. The way back exists regardless of the date on the calendar!

When you reconnect with life, you will find that life and God and goodness have been here all along. God is more than willing to teach you something new. He is infinitely capable of exposing the darkness that has been wearing you out. He sees all and knows all. If you are going to make a New Year’s resolution, resolve yourself to rediscover life. Step down from that old, high horse of ego and be willing to admit that something has gone astray. You know if things aren’t working for you so you might as well admit it! I’m not sure what it is about being a human being that convinces us there is nothing new to know; no new path to discover; no new road to take. Sometimes you just need to find someone you love and trust and talk things through with them. Then while you are discussing your plight, listen to what they have to say. There will be errors of thought and subsequent actions you are taking. Be open to it. Lord knows we all need help from the people that love us most. But, in the end, seek the help from the One most capable of providing it; the One that knows you better than you know your own self. Don’t spend any pointless time lamenting your past errors. If there wasn’t an adversary, all of us would likely remain error free. But, there is an adversary and he happens to be dang good at his game. Forgive yourself, learn and find that life you have been missing. No matter what has happened to you or how low you may have sunk, underneath it all are the everlasting arms of God, ready, willing and able to give you a fresh start! Reconnect with life. Reengage life, your life. Look for the promise of brighter days ahead no matter what the calendar is reporting. Happy New Year my friends and I love you.

Just some good thoughts…

Change Your Mind!


two-split-minds-heads-0618211Nothing changes until you change. The changes you really want and beg for and wish for and complain about and lament concerning, are not going to come about on their own. The circumstances of your life, be they what they are, are ultimately a production of your own mind and heart, played out in infinite variations within your own existence. When you find yourself bogged down and mired in negativity, nothing is going to counter that negativity until you finally decide to change your mind. And, while you wait and endure and long for a positive end, you will be waiting a lifetime unless you get determined to confront the source, your own thinking and subsequently your own expectations. As a great man once remarked, “You cannot travel within and stand still without.” As your thoughts go, you will continue to go. Where your thoughts remain, there you will remain. If you are serious about wanting something to change, you have to become serious about changing your thoughts. Change your mind!

It is common for man to think that his thoughts are simply a reaction to his circumstances. He fancies that he is merely a reactive force in the world. Where the world goes, he must go. Instead of commanding control of his mind, he waits for something outside of him to alter something that exists within him. He waits in vain for his ship to come in; his luck to turn around; some grand, cosmic intervention to occur thereby setting him free from his misery and pain. In not knowing, he fails to cooperate with the reality of things. He foolishly waits for God to do something that he must do and exhausts himself trying to do what God alone can do. In his ignorance, he rebels against his own self. He desperately pleads for circumstances to change, while encouraging those same circumstances with the thoughts he continues to think. He persists and they persist. He cleaves to the wrong and the wrong cleaves to him. He continues to walk in darkness then curses the darkness for plaguing his life. As another great man once remarked, “Dwelling on the darkness won’t bring forth the light.” Complaining, whining, bitching, rehashing, playing the victim, rehearsing wrongs done, replaying the evil, remaining in the darkness can only lead to more and more darkness. Endeavoring to command God’s light into circumstances of darkness while remaining in the darkness and refusing to depart from the darkness, is a fool’s game, which many a suffering soul has lived in and for a long, long time. In order for anything good to come, you have to be willing to change your mind. You have to change your mind!

People bring their troubles to God, as He would have them to do, and then refuse to change their thinking. They stay focused on their problems; talk only about their problems; and live firmly within the confines of their problems. They refuse to let things go. In doing so, they remain in the darkness. God is not found in the darkness, He is found in the light, for He is light and in Him is no darkness at all. To earnestly pray for God’s deliverance from some negative circumstance, while persisting in the negativity and embracing it instead of moving to the light, is a recipe for an unanswered prayer. It’s never that God is unwilling to answer the prayer, but more so that the person praying is unwilling to do their part and change their mind. Changing your mind to some thought that is based on the light of God’s Word is the antidote to darkness. Then, once you find the light, you must be determined to stay there. You will find yourself tempted to return to the darkness, the negativity, the defeat, but in order to prevail you have to stay in the light. It might surprise you to know that the reason your circumstances are negative, if they are, is because you have thought it so and continue to think it so. You have knowingly and unknowingly persisted in your negativity. You stuck with it. You stayed in it. You set up shop within it. You failed to take charge of your own mind and your own thoughts and have received the fruit of your negativity. That is not God’s fault, that is your fault. Do your part. Change your mind.

If you give this stuff more than a cursory glance, it will become apparent that you have a part to play in this equation. You can literally think anything you want to think. You can picture yourself successful, delivered, blessed, just as easily as you can picture yourself defeated. The problem is that you (and I) have been schooled by the world to dwell on the darkness. The slightest circumstance; a sore throat, a cough, a twinge in our back, a sudden lack of energy, a market dip, all send our minds reeling towards some frightful, pending, negative outcome. It feels hard to do because it goes against the grain of thinking we have been taught. We already know that worrying serves no good purpose, nor does it lead to any good outcome, yet we insist on running some dark variable through our minds, hoping that somehow, in some indescribable, mysterious way, we are going to stumble upon some light, some answer of peace, something! But, we won’t find the light there. The light comes when we let the thought go, when we refuse its continuance; when we calm down, get peaceful and remember how much God loves us and cares for us. In that space, our answers appear and in no other space. Agitation, unrest, anxiety are not addresses where God lives. Change your mind and walk in the light. 

The only way to get the change you are seeking is to change your mind. Think thoughts of positivity and light. Stop waiting for circumstances to change and change your mind first. You change it. You grab control of your thoughts and think only of things you want and not on things you don’t want. It is your mind, which is the gateway to the great citadel of your heart, from whence your life proceeds. Be positive and expectant not only when it looks good, but when it looks awful. Even in the midst of hell, God is still here and He will help you (and me). Don’t spend another day a victim of your own wrong thinking. Stop allowing the darkness to hold sway over your life. Get to the light and dwell in the light. Light dispels darkness and it’s never the other way around. Change your mind!

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

Just some good thoughts…

 

You Are Not a Victim!


2018_12_01_59766_1543625917._largeWhen you get right down to it, all of us have had negative things happen in our lives. We have all been deceived at one time or another. We have all been taken advantage of in some capacity whether it be by the people who we love and trust or even outsiders like our bosses or other people with whom we interact. It is not necessarily an uncommon part of our human existence. And none of us liked  it, even remotely. Yet for all we may have experienced, suffered through or endured, it still does not determine who we are nor define our future lives. Whatever may have happened, holds no power over us nor does it have the ability to impact the days ahead, that is unless we allow it. In this, we are not victims. You are not a victim! 

In order for the victim mentality to begin directing our steps, we have to falsely assume that we are powerless to effect change in our situation. And, while someone may be physically stronger than we are; may hold a position of influence and authority over us; may be well skilled in manipulation and using our emotions against us, that still does not make us a victim in the scenario or force us to continue being victimized and minimized. Each of us has value and worth and none of us has less value and worth than anyone else. Your feelings matter as much as the other person’s feelings matter. Your right to be treated with dignity and respect is equal to the other person’s right to be treated with dignity and respect. To be a victim, you have to conclude that your life holds a lesser position than the oppressor. High ranking people with titles and great authority, while potentially having more influence over others lives than you do, still are not above you in the human sense. Rankings and societal strata come via people, not from God. You are not a victim unless you have decided thus. And even if a circumstance victimized you, you do not have to remain a victim. 

The way that you can tell if you are playing the victim is by the things you say and don’t do. Constantly complaining about your boss at work, while doing nothing to remedy the situation, is playing the victim. If you think about it, all complaining about situations is really an acknowledgment or agreement on your part that there is nothing you can do to make a change. Yet, there is always something you can do. Instead of complaining to everyone else, complain to the source instead. If you find yourself in a situation that pains you, frustrates you, chews you up inside, and that situation persists, you owe it to yourself to make a change. Maybe you are making a lot of money and fear you won’t have the same opportunity elsewhere. Not only is that not true (as evidenced by your ability to do it in the first place), but it also serves to lower your value as a person. No amount of money or comforts or power is worth the compromise of your own soul. Your life is more than that. Your value is higher than that. The victim mentality runs rampant today. It runs unchecked because people have learned to blame everyone and everything rather than take ownership of their own lives. Maybe you were not properly nurtured as a child. Well, you are an adult now and can get your needs met elsewhere. Whatever your oppression, whatever cruelty you faced, whatever horrendous thing that may have halted you in life, does not need to subject you any further. Negative situations seem to last just about as long as we allow them to last. When we are done, they are done. The circumstances change as we finally decide our value exceeds the misery of the situation and take the first steps to engender change. .

In life, we are always accountable for our own lives. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but it is true. Now that does not mean that our circumstances are always positive or that we are not challenged, tried and tested. Nor does it mean that we are the source of all that happens to us. There are literally a million variables involved. But, in the end, it is our life and we are responsible to do our best to overcome and to prevail. It’s not the amount of challenges we face or the opposition. It is what we are willing to accept for our lives and in that which we have determined within worth persisting. If you value yourself highly, your tolerance for mistreatment is very low. If you value yourself as lowly, your tolerance for mistreatment and abuse will be too high. The circumstances of your past, the terrible humans you encountered, those in authority that failed to protect you do not determine your self worth, you do. All those things had in common was the collective ability to convince you of something that was never true. No person arrives at low self esteem on their own. 

You are not a victim! There is always something you can do, the greatest of which is to get God involved. Those same wicked despots working behind the scenes to torture you and defeat you will persist absent a greater power, a greater source from which you can gain support. God never made a victim, nor was it ever His will that anyone should be one. People become victims when they are overpowered by forces unseen and virtually unknown. People become victims by not having a clear understanding of the truth. (God said My people are destroyed from a lack of knowledge.) Once you get God involved, you find that the evil things that have been governing your life quickly fade away by God’s love, presence and power. At last you can see your tormentor clearly and as such make the required changes that lead to freedom. But before any of that can take place, you have to take full ownership of your own life, both the good and the bad. You must become willing to put away the blame and the complaining and learn instead to take the necessary steps to turn situations around. You can do it my friend. You must do it. You are not a victim!

Just some good thoughts…

Do Hard Things…


hard thingsI think it sort of dawns on you over time that you have aspects of your life that need some revision. If you look up hedonistic in the dictionary, you may find a picture of me. Nobody likes to have a good time more than I do. But, sometimes with your good times you discover excesses that require modification and those modifications aren’t always easy. Excesses can appear in any category of life and you recognize them by their impact on your life. There’s a reason God says all things in moderation. Whatever fun stuff you enjoy that may have become too much fun requires a change in your behavior and more importantly your thinking. Vices are called vices when they replace the real you with some added activity you need in order to function normally. That’s not to say that you must give up all vices, but rather those vices that no longer assist you but instead seek to control you. If you can’t have a good time without adding something else in, you may be getting tripped up. If you have lived any length of time, you know this is true. With life comes an expectation of control, not servitude or slavery, but rather setting limits and sticking to them. In this, you sometimes have to do hard things.

All people love liberty and freedom to do as they please. This is part of the foundation of the American way of life. But, when your personal freedoms begin to impact you and other people negatively, a change will be required. No-one sets out to become a drug addict or an alcoholic. Yet both result from a lack of control. No-one chooses a life of obesity and the litany of related health issues that accompany it, but those consequences remain hidden in the pleasure of consumption. No-one plans on ending up a workaholic, until that satisfaction from always working ruins family and health and the future. It doesn’t really matter which areas of your life have excesses; too much; a lack of control, what matters is being able to discern them before it’s too late, then take steps to modify and choose new pathways. This will require you to do hard things.

On the other end of the spectrum of control is over-control. There are people that deny themselves all pleasures. Some even go as far as to say that they are doing it for God. I can assure you that God who invented pleasure isn’t opposed to pleasure. Yet, He also sees through the deception of pleasure excesses. Emerson aptly stated, “Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed it.” Pleasure and pain both have the capacity to deceive you or at minimum influence your decisions. In this, man always seeks to add rules such as taste not, touch not, handle not, yet God was not behind it. Instead He said, “Prove all things and hold fast to the good.” In life we are free to experience our lives in all of life’s manifold variety and stick with those things that are the best. Some things begin well but end poorly. Other things appear to be good but have poison hidden in them. And many, many things are good as long as you enjoy them in moderation. But, lest I put chains on you that are difficult to extricate yourself from, you and you alone must make that choice. It is your life and you are the one that best knows what works for you and what does not. Some people choose not to eat meat and it’s their mouth, not yours. Others abstain from alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you must. Some people require ten hours of sleep and others only six. All of us have free will, unless we surrender it by excess. If there is something you do that is too much for you and begins to hurt you, you may have to do some hard things.

Even the term “hard things” is really a misnomer. Control is no harder than making a firm decision. What becomes hard for us is changing habits that have solidified over time. Habits are great for useful endeavors, but habits spell disaster when connected to our excesses. Worse, habits become invisible to our awareness and we are forced rather to experience some pain or consequence before they come into view. Doing hard things is really more about making hard decisions. It’s about proving to yourself that you can. I think one of the most important aspects of our own mental health is in sticking to the decisions we have made. Nothing like following your plans for needed improvements to boost your self esteem to record levels. Conversely, there’s nothing like saying one thing and doing another to bring you down into the dumps. If it’s going to improve your life immeasurably, do hard things.

Finally, in some cases, certain things or harmful activities have gotten away from your control . Maybe you have traveled too far down a certain path. Perhaps you got caught up in something that was bigger than you are. Certain aspects of life have forces working behind them that exceed your personal ability or strength to overcome them. In these unfortunate, but common cases in human beings, you will need God to help you escape; God, the Higher Power. God who sees all, knows all and is over all is well able to rescue you. All that is required on your part is some humility; some willingness to admit it (whatever it is) has gotten away from you. God has not left you without remedy, nor will He ever. It doesn’t matter how hard your hard thing is, with God nothing shall be impossible.

My friends, we all need help at times; we all get tripped up; we all end up at places we never thought we would end up. There’s no sin in getting tricked. But, when you know what you have to do, you must require of yourself that you do it. Make the change. Modify your behavior. Cut back. Limit yourself. Control yourself. You will be so incredibly happy on the other side. Change doesn’t happen overnight, especially when dealing with well grooved habits of thought, but it will happen and God will make sure you are real blessed along the way. Try it for yourself. Do hard things.

Just some good thoughts…

Humans Ain’t Static!


Stuck-ImageHuman beings are not static, meaning not fixed nor unable to change. Yet, how many people live that way? You can literally be anyone you want to be, without limit or holdback. You are not defined by anything you have done or have not yet done. You always have the capacity to change. The very hallmark of living things is their ability to change. Yet, that is not how things usually play out. We tend to get stuck in these narratives about who we are, most commonly generated from within. We are fed this negative concept of ourselves, typically based upon our weaknesses or past foibles, and then act as if that notion of our existence must be our destiny and something from which we are powerless to change. We accept various monikers and cannot quite seem to extricate ourselves from them. We have to be the “funny” one and then are loathe to disappoint our audience. How silly it is to consider that some characteristic of ourselves could possibly encompass the totality of who we are. Or worse, that some negative aspect of ourself would become the key component in understanding who we are. As humans, we are absolutely free to change anything and everything we want to change, no matter the opposition. You are not stuck, my friend, because human beings ain’t static!

If you have lived long enough, you know how hard it can be to redefine yourself. People like to assemble you neatly into tidy little categories and keep you there so you can be understood and properly handled. It becomes a source of distress when you begin to act in ways that are not congruent with your predetermined definition. I can recall a friend once saying, in the midst of a cleverly supplied string of my admittedly funny comments, that he could not picture me being a manager in an organization, as if I lived for the joke or could not exist without it. Once my wife suggested I stop posting comments on Facebook about excellent red wine because pretty soon, all I became was the guy who drinks wine. Do you see where I’m going with this? People don’t define who you are, you do. When you allow other people to define who you are, you will be stuck with some limited version of yourself seen simply from one narrow angle. Growing up you may not have been very good “at school” but that doesn’t mean you lack intelligence or a willingness to learn new things. Maybe you weren’t good at sports, but here’s a secret, no one is at first! It may have escaped your conscious attention, but the world seeks to define you every single day. There are literally a million angles capturing your attention in a day; helping you to define yourself against some fictitious standard. You are probably not as fit as a fitness model because your full time job isn’t fitness model! Yet, there you are perusing the pictures and comparing yourself woefully, wishing you were something that you are not. That doesn’t mean you can’t be that, but the larger question is do you want to be that? When it comes to your life, it is your opinion of yourself that matters most. Why continue to define yourself as something you do not like when you are the one doing the defining?

By now, in my writings, it probably comes across as a broken record, but the culprit in this dilemma is the thoughts you are thinking about yourself. When you make mistakes, as you necessarily must, it is one thing to err but another thing altogether to allow those errors to define who you are. You are not the sum total of your behaviors, as a modern philosopher surmised, but instead a growing, living, thinking organism with unlimited capacity for change. We all have these parts of our lives that privately plague us, whether admitted or not, yet those places are not the total of who we are, nor can they ever be. Problems, weaknesses, troubles remain only because we refuse to let them go. We carry them around with us like a badge of honor (or dishonor) and are far too quick to assign them as a part of who we are. For some folks, the thought of past mistakes, though they perhaps be many, come to represent the totality of that person and render their precious lives perpetually defeated in the process. Change is certainly not simple, but can only become a reality with a conscious decision to change; held onto and perpetuated daily. If you find yourself hating who you have become, you have unknowingly allowed negative thoughts to permeate your being. You have allowed someone or something to define the narrative of who you are. I can assure you that whatever evil you may have done was not done alone. No person does wrong or evil on their own, but instead has been deceived in some manner. Forgive yourself as God forgave you the first time you asked Him to and let it go. Be the person you want to be, one that you love and think of yourself in that light. You don’t get a child to change by harping on their bad behaviors, but by highlighting their good behaviors instead. Change the way you think of yourself and you will have taken the first steps towards real change. Keep thinking properly and your change will absolutely follow.

Many folks spend their whole lives waiting on some favorable circumstance to magically change the way they think of themselves. In futility, they await some stroke of good fortune to rewrite a story only they alone can write. It’s not the outward trappings of success that define who you are, but rather those powerful changes you have made from within; deep inside your heart. You remain stuck in life for just about as much time as you want to remain stuck. Once you at last tire from the constant pain and decide ‘no more!’ – your wish is granted though not by a genie, but from a decision that you decided to make. Your life, my life, is a series of decisions we are making throughout our days. Be careful, very careful about what you decide. Be careful concerning who you think you are!

My dear friends, being a human being guarantees you the constant possibility of change. None of us have been destined or predetermined to be a certain way, no matter how long we may have been that way. Change yourself by changing the way you think about yourself. Think in terms of being the best version of yourself and no matter what setback you may face, you will move closer to that ideal. You define the narrative instead of relying on others to do it for you. Let your foolishness and absurdity go as we all wrestle with that same ghoul! Start each day with a fresh, clean slate and for goodness sakes, stop being so hard on yourself. Your life can be anything you want it to be and you can be whomever you desire! Accepting yourself as stuck or defeated is always a lie. Always! Humans ain’t static, not as long as they are alive.

Just some good thoughts…

Good Vibes…


Palm-TreesMuch research has been done concerning the energy levels that all of us are producing. Some folks even go as far to say that our energy levels meet before we actually meet. New Agers call it vibrations and posit that higher level vibrations or frequencies attract other high energy frequencies. Higher level vibrations encompass things like love, positivity, abundance, kindness and gratitude, while lower level frequencies consist of things like fear, worry, anxiety, poverty and lack. Whatever you want to call it, however you want to frame it, there is such a thing as good vibes and good vibes appear to lead us to good things. The questions then become, are you living with good vibes or bad vibes? Are the vibes you express automatic or is there something you can do with your mind to encourage or if needed, discourage them? And finally, are the vibes you find yourself living within a product of your circumstances or are they something you are putting out in every situation that you encounter? 

Whenever we travel to southern California to visit our children, I always feel as if the vibe in that sun soaked environment is more relaxed and conducive to good times. The people we encounter seem more comfortable with themselves and the conversation with strangers is almost always pleasant and warm. Conversely, some folks find the California vibe distasteful, filled with liberal thought and people lacking the capacity to understand real world issues. Yet despite that rather narrow view and even more compelling to me, those folks with lots of resources, as evidenced by their beach zip codes, appear so calm inside and willing to engage with others as if they found a secret to living and are content to share that kindness and goodness they enjoy with other people. It was just the strangest thing. So, I have to ask myself, is there some magic in the land of sunshine or is it the vibe I’m sending out in anticipation of a good time? I’m guessing it is the latter! 

As I flash back on that brief, long-weekend jaunt, there was something different I was doing with my mind. I purposefully determined myself not to think about pending issues at work or rehearse difficulties I might encounter. I refused to worry about anything going on. In fact, I decided I would be flexible and wherever possible, just go with the flow. On our first full day, my plans got rearranged by circumstances, but instead of allowing it to mess up my adventure and remain pissed about it, I changed my mind and changed my plans, consoling myself with the idea that I was going to have fun no matter what we did or when. I purposefully greeted people with kindness and warmth and was hopeful I could positively impact someone’s day simply by treating them well. I didn’t complain or bitch about anything. I dwelled on all that was sublime about being with my family and refused negatives no matter the form they showed themselves in. The more blessed and happy I chose to be, the better things felt and the better the end results. And, as I dwelt in good vibes nirvana, it dawned on me that perhaps I should pursue every day in this manner. 

If you really give it some thought, what is it that takes away our happiness or our positive expectations; our good vibes? Most of the time it is circumstances, not so much what is going on around us, but more so our thoughts and beliefs concerning those events. People are both happy and miserable under the same warming sunlight. Whether we would like to admit it or not, we choose fear, we choose worry, we choose negativity and complaining. We hold our own selves back waiting and waiting for it to appear that good things are lining up for us. It never enters our conscious thought that good things and good times are waiting for us to get on the same frequency from whence they originate. We fail to hold up our part of the bargain, but instead beg God to turn things around for us, despite our own sour thoughts and negative disposition. We but half live our lives, afraid to embrace pure positivity should we become disappointed in our expectations, all the while remaining half negative and half positive just in case. In this we are deceived and are coerced into cooperating with the very things that seek to hold us back. The choice to be happy and to remain happy is always ours and ours alone. We don’t really need it to look like things are going well before we decide to act as if things are going well. We just need to change our energy. We need to improve our vibe. We need to be it before we see it!

After you have engaged in the proper amount of reflection concerning this, while all the while staving off thoughts that suggest it isn’t you but rather the circumstances that surround you, test the theory with a personal decision to put your quest for good vibes into action. Choose right now to be happy and stop dwelling on the things that are endeavoring to bring you down. Stop being so negative about everything. Quit rehearsing defeats that may have occurred and lay aside those nagging fears hell bent on predicting your future. Nothing can accurately predict your future as well as you. Lay aside those incessant complaints about people, your job or your circumstances. For God’s sake let it go. No man living ever improved his circumstances by bitching about them. Act as if today is the best day of your life. Look for the good in things, where good exists, and leave all of that monumental fear of loss with God, the only One with power enough to prevent it from happening. Change your thoughts for real. Oh yes, you are going to be challenged. For sure, circumstances will pop up to remind you of something negative. Things will appear to spell some pending disaster or impossible potentially life threatening health issue. That is the contest you (and I) find ourselves in.  Almost as quickly as you work to make positive changes, negative challenges will appear not as reality but instead an ‘imagined’ reality to drive you back into your former lifestyle of defeat. You won’t know until you try and if you never try, you won’t know! What have you got to lose? Put those good vibes into the crucible of your experience and see for yourself. Good, good, good vibrations lead to good, good, good results and they are not limited to the golden coastline of California…

Just some good thoughts.

 

Be Patient…


We live today in the culture of hurry. We want our food fast, our internet fast, our weight loss programs fast, our test results fast. We tend to seek out the quick fix, the shortcut. We don’t want to invest the time, just get it done, the sooner the better. Microwave beats stove top and temporary repairs are preferred over lasting solutions. We just don’t have the time to invest in doing things properly or the right way because we have to get to the next thing. Can’t we just pay a guy or order it on Amazon and get it done already? And while technological advances have certainly made life easier, we seem to have lost our ability to exercise a little patience. The best things in life always seem to take a little time. Do we even know anymore what it means to be patient?

If you have ever watched a craftsman at work, it becomes apparent rather quickly that there is always an element of time involved. The craftsman isn’t just trying to get the job done, but instead is seeking to get the job done where the result is perfect and beautiful and pleasing. People are willing to pay more for that person because the quality of the work speaks for itself. And as much as our frenetic world says otherwise, quality always makes the lasting impression. It’s quality, not quantity that we are after. The lowest bidder’s work generally reflects a lower quality because of the time and effort they are willing to exert on the task. If you pay less, you generally get less. The cheap clothing doesn’t last and for every dollar you save in your purchase, you pay for in terms of its longevity. It is better that you spend more on the front end than count on the bargain to stand the test of time.

In life, the best things take time. Relationships take time. Raising children takes time. Perfecting a skill takes time. Success takes time. Learning to live life the best way takes time. There are no shortcuts. Shortcuts always promise a faster result but fail to deliver, though they appear to do so at first. Whatever is easy generally isn’t worth it. That’s not to say that everything good is hard, but rather that good things require an investment on your part. Expecting good things without investing your own personal time and energy into those good things cannot fail but to produce loss. You may be able to count on the conveniences of technology to make things happen faster, but the real things in life; the most important things, require time and with time, patience.

Patience is a lost virtue in the helter-skelter of life today. We have been seduced by technology into thinking that there is always a way to obtain a result more quickly. We carry that mindset into our important life activities and expect a similar result. We seek to get the degree quickly in order to advance, but leave off the learning. We pursue important changes in our lives by employing the method that seems to get us there the fastest. We are all hat and no cowboy. We look good not by patient training and self control, but by the cosmetic surgeon’s scalpel. We want the diet plan that offers to burn the calories via a pill that requires neither exercise nor portion control. We want to have our cake and eat it too. In terms of our mental health, we don’t want to invest the time in discovering where our thinking patterns have gone astray, but instead seek for a diagnosis with its subsequent promised medication fix. And while medication is a beautiful addition to life, the goal was always that we arrived at the good place naturally, even if it took a little time. Modern advances certainly succeed in making life easier, but sometimes the ease and the convenience are not what we really need. It’s the pricks and the obstacles and the difficulties of life that really put us on our toes and awaken us to life’s more important lessons, as Emerson masterfully noted. Give a man a serious challenge to contend with and note how quickly he engages himself fully until a solution is at last found.

The reason we do not exhibit patience in life is that we have bought into the illusion that we have no time. We fail to recognize how forcefully we are being pushed and pulled towards activities that have little impact in helping us to live our best lives. We feel as if we don’t have time to think things through, much less the time required to actually solve our problems and make strides towards a brighter future. We are loathe to engage in something uncomfortable or new even if that new thing might serve to completely revolutionize our lives. Instead we go to work expending our best efforts for someone else and leave ourselves and our happiness undone. When we try something new or endeavor to move in a different direction, we feel that we don’t have the time or the energy to make the necessary changes though we only gave it a minimal try at best. Living this way, we soon find ourselves at the end of this brief life, full of regrets regarding the man or woman we always knew we could be. And all along all we had need of was a little patience. All we needed to do was step off the hamster wheel and take ourselves to account. We only needed to slow down a little and give our lives a little more consideration.

It’s never too late to begin practicing patience. Patience isn’t as concerned in getting the job done as it is in getting the job done properly. Patience knows that all good things take time and allots its time accordingly. Patience is required to live a successful life and to allow yourself the love and the space to get it right! Be patient with yourself and extend that same patience to everyone and every thing that you love. Be patient.

 

A Fresh Start…


 

The past version of you no longer exists, except in your memory or someone else’s memory. The only moment you can occupy is the moment called, “now!” Everything you have ever said or done is passed away making way for today. Your mistakes, your failings, your errors, your missteps gone…all gone. Your successes, your victories, your triumphs are also gone, though you savor fond thoughts of them. You cannot live in the past no matter how sublime it may have been. You cannot change any elements of the past, no matter how much you wish you could. Life was designed with an ever present opportunity for a fresh start! We need it…

We all develop this idea about who we are and we cleave to that image be it good or bad. Inside you are still that awkward teenager worried about his place in the world. Some of you are that guy that usually fails in his endeavors because he has always failed in his endeavors. Some of you are still that little girl masking her insecurity and working feverishly to appear confident to others. Some of you are unlucky and never catch a break. Some of you struggle with relationships and they just never seem to work out. Some of you never have enough money. Some of you are always sick.  And no matter what, some of you cannot stop struggling and never seem to figure things out. The question that begs is why? Is it your destiny? Were you chosen by God to suffer the most in order to make you better? Is life unfair and out to get you? Again, the question is why? You’ve been carrying around some false image of yourself for years and years, desperately cleaving to it and not recognizing the things that no longer serve you. You need to give yourself a fresh start!

Have you ever considered how foolish it is to hold on to the things of your past? You did whatever you did when you did it because that is where you were at the time. We are all at some point on the learning spectrum and we all have more to learn. Holding on to some negative aspect of yourself as if it is truth is in reality insanity. It’s insanity because it fails to take into account where you have changed and where you have grown. It is being falsely affixed to some past moment in time, not by anything other than your own thinking and your own images of yourself. You have not been chosen for failure. You fail because you keep making the same choice. You cling to sparks and specks of your existence that represent only a minute portion of your experience. You have the exact same opportunity to be the polar opposite of what you are experiencing as you have to be a carbon copy of that same experience. You are living in and living out days gone by. You are not making any modifications but expecting a different outcome. As a great man once remarked, “You cannot solve your problems with the same thinking that caused the problems in the first place.” Each day is a brand new day and you need a fresh start!

When you give yourself a fresh start, you refuse to keep yourself held down under the burden of your past. Just because you did something a thousand times does not mean you have to keep doing it or keep thinking it or keep accepting it as true. If it hurts your life, if it limits your opportunities, if it holds you back in any way it is simply not true. It is error skillfully using your own thoughts and memories against you. They are false conclusions, false assumptions, false pictures of reality that are not your reality at all. They remain only as your past realities in which you foolishly participated and continue participating perhaps. When you give yourself a fresh start, you get to breathe in the fresh air of opportunity. You begin to challenge those assumptions you have held onto for many years. People live in a misery of their own design. They are entrenched in a script they are writing for themselves. They beg and plead for a change, yet wait for the change to come from somewhere else. Change in your life only happens when you change. What is it that you are habitually thinking about yourself that hinders your progress? What sad, defeated stories are you telling yourself about yourself? What failures and losses do you persist in imagining? It’s your head and it is your heart from which proceeds all of the issues of your life. You have to change your heart and then the circumstances will change. Until then you will be thwarted by a monster of your own making; of your own choosing. Grant yourself a fresh start!

I often think the reason God made days to be separate 24 hour periods is because He wanted to give us endless fresh starts. Every day is a new day pregnant with chances for something good. When you awake in the morning, the day is brand new and never existed before. Anything can happen in that day; things that change your life and heart and your experience forever. Your job, my job, is to embrace the day. It’s not the same old – same old, it’s new and fresh and exciting. It’s a day for you to decide who you really are and be now done with that skeleton of a past. It’s a day for you to look forward, not backward. It’s a day for you to decide and no longer have your choices made for you. It is the day the Lord has made for you to rejoice and be glad in it! What a glorious fresh start that is…

My dear friends, it does not matter what happened to you in the past as that time, however frightful, is gone forever. What matters always is today in the moment called, “now!” Start fresh and stay fresh and see if your life won’t change for the better. God is giving you a perpetual fresh start!

Just some good thoughts…

Get Back in the Game…


There was a time when you were incredibly enthusiastic about life. You had your dreams for the future and felt that your possibilities were absolutely endless. You woke each day excited about your future and what you might contribute to the world. Maybe your enthusiasm continues to this day. But for many, sadly, this is no longer the case. Many folks have resigned themselves to the sidelines, not dead yet, but not in the play. What happens to us that so artfully talks us out of our dreams? Who convinces us to give up on the things we so desperately want for our lives? How can we, no matter our years, get back in the game? 

Everything you ever wanted in your life, you can have, if you can believe for it. Life and circumstance aren’t responsible for the limitation. God isn’t behind it, no matter how many Facebook memes claim otherwise. It isn’t your background, your education or your upbringing. It’s you, my friend. The limitation, if there is one, is you. It sounds simplistic, but it’s true. In the final analysis, at the core, at the very root is you and what you believe in your heart. The reason you don’t get the things you want is because you don’t believe you can have them. Your friend, who is ten years younger than you and makes three times more than you, does so because he believes he can. He isn’t highly favored or lucky, nor was he born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In his heart he believed he could and in so believing did. You can achieve the dreams you have for your life, many of which God put in your heart, if you can believe you can. But, believing is a process and sometimes that process takes time. The devil cannot stymie your dreams or take them from you, absent your cooperation. You cooperate by adhering to and believing all the evidence to the contrary. In short, you get talked out of it. Achieving your dreams will never appear to be easy, but will come with obstacles and challenges you must surmount. Neither the obstacles, nor the challenges can stop you from receiving, unless you give up on what it is you want. You are not in the game because you gave up on yourself.

In the game of life, no one puts you on the sideline except yourself. The coach didn’t bench you. God didn’t bench you. You benched you! You gave up. You surrendered. You decided along the way that you were not worth (or worthy) of the things you want. Oh you weren’t functioning in a vacuum.  Your ideas, your beliefs, your expectations were influenced. That influence, call it what you may, succeeded in getting you to believe and accept something that isn’t true. It chipped away at you, day by day, week by week, year by year, until it convinced you to settle for something far less than God’s best. Maybe it spent considerable time outlining how your previous bad behavior disqualified you from receiving something good from God today. Perhaps it persuaded you that your efforts were futile and that you didn’t make any impact worth pursuing. Possibly it just distracted you and got you caught up in activities that wasted your time and didn’t lead to anything. Whatever happened, however it happened, if you are sitting on the sidelines and not in the game, it happened. There’s no point in lamenting how it happened to you. The solution is simply to get back in the game!

You get back in the game by remembering again the things that are most important to you. What is it or was it that made your heart race? What do you well that is easy for you to do that could benefit others in some capacity, that you foolishly stopped pursuing? Where and in what is your impact obvious? Start there… Maybe those things aren’t clear enough for you yet. Instead, what parts of life do you no longer participate in? Life, if left unchecked and unguarded, has a funny way of reducing things down to the bare minimums. Over the years, a thousand interests turn into a hundred interests, then to ten interests, ending in no interests. Who took away your interests? What gave you a reason to give up on your interests and convinced you that you had seen and done it all? Who stole away your uniqueness and individuality? What persuaded you into believing that you had nothing left to offer; are now too old, or that it is too late for you? It’s bad enough that we all have to die one day, but worse that we can die before we are actually dead. 

Your life, my life, is frightfully short. Frightfully short! You owe it to yourself and to God to live your life to the fullest. Get outside your own head. Quit stewing and brewing over whatever has gone on thus far and check yourself back into the game. Challenge those age old assumptions you have been making about yourself and your situation. Challenge those limitations that say you can’t. Get up off the ground, dust yourself off and check back into the game! The same way you unknowingly checked out, the same way you can check yourself back in again. Try something new. Make a new friend. Pick up a new hobby. It’s not really about your age or your energy level. It’s about not giving up on yourself and believing to see where your life still has the capacity to make a lasting impact on someone else. Every single day of your precious life holds the promise of something wonderful. But, it’s not going to knock on your door and find you. You have to find it, though it was never really hidden from you to begin with. Have you been living on the sidelines hoping, wishing something would change so that you could live again? That something is you and it always was you. Get back in the game! We all need you…

Just some good thoughts…