The Santa Clause Effect… (Trying to Earn What Cannot Be Earned)

santa-claus-arrested-black-friday-walmartAs a kid, I remember joyfully anticipating Christmas Day! Somehow this dude named Santa Clause traveled the world  in a single night depositing presents under people’s Christmas trees. He must have been all-knowing because almost everything you asked for was right there waiting for you. This Santa fellow was pretty awesome. But, he had a dark side. You had to be “good” in order to get his blessings. If you were naughty you might just get a lump of coal. (I know, pretty random bad gift, right?) Some of his commandments were: 1.) No pouting 2.) No crying 3.) Do not be naughty 4.) And the all encompassing, you better watch out! Why you ask? Because he knows if you are sleeping and he knows if you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. Add to that, he keeps a detailed list of what you do and even checks it twice before deciding to give you things! And the final clincher? We teach this to our children.

I’m sure you noticed there are some strikingly obvious comparisons between Santa Clause and God. In fact, many people believe God functions the exact same way. He’s up there somewhere watching every move you make. And, He’s not only watching and judging, He’s also keeping track on a list. If your good doesn’t outweigh your bad, He is not going to bless you and might even curse you with something awful and black! So, my friends, you better watch out!

Have you ever noticed how people pray? They say things like, “Oh Lord let me get this new job.” Or, “God, let me win this lottery.” The not so subtle implication being that God is somehow stopping good things from happening in your life, presumably because you have been very naughty. And because He is all-knowing you figure you better behave properly if anything good is going to happen in your life. The evil behind this pervasive concept is two-fold. First, what exactly is good and second what are the degrees of bad? Some folks say it is a sin to drink alcohol. Others say there are hierarchies of sin including “little white lies” all the way to murder or something. How can you know? Well, you don’t know and if you’re honest you simply conclude that you’re not very good. I mean after all, didn’t you just watch Cinemax (Sex-a-max) last night?

In the words of a famous man, “I can assure you, God doesn’t bless you because of how good or bad you are, but rather because of your believing.” Read that again! In order to receive anything from God you have to believe. You must be fully persuaded that God can do it AND will do it for you! Now back to Santa. If you have bought into the notion that God will only bless you because you are the very nebulous “good,” then chances are you aren’t expecting Him to bless you. Actually, you are so convinced of your “badness” that you now have to pray for God to “NOT” do something or worse, allow something you want to happen. This concept could not be further from the truth!

Everything we have in this life we have because of God’s grace. Grace is unearned divine favor. You cannot earn something that cannot be earned. Read that again! Now, think of it this way. If you have children, I’m sure you do your best to make them happy. You not only supply everything they need, but you actually go out of your way to do things that make them happy. Yet, how do they measure up on YOUR naughty list? Pretty dang naughty, aren’t they? They disobey; break your expensive stuff; injure themselves; get in trouble at school; mess up the house etc., etc. And despite it all, you still want them to be happy… And you are a parent that sometimes pouts, cries and other things on the forbidden Santa list of commandments. Can you see how foolish that idea is?

God is not an ongoing list of moral requirements. You can be plenty moral with or without God. You can be so damn tightly wound that you squeak when you walk. And mid squeak you’re still begging God to “not let” something happen! Nah man, you gotta get that insanity out of your mind. God never wanted you to live that way. Even the Old Testament laws, all 86 million of them, weren’t designed to make people good. They were designed to provide a written standard of “good” someone could fulfill later in order for God to end that crazy logic once and for all. (I would say read that again, again but I’m over my limit!)

The truth is that God won’t withhold anything good from you…ever. Quit measuring your sins and remembering your mistakes and cataloguing your misdeeds. God knows all about you and still loves you! You can receive every blessing God intended for your life if you’ll just get rid of that Santa Clause logic. Don’t ask the preacher… Read it in God’s Word.

You better watch out, you better not cry… Ah shut up Santa! My God reigns supreme!



Decide Already…

2441There is a great conundrum in life that holds you back from being the person you would really like to be. You have these wishes; these dreams for yourself that you fondly imagine, but you are waiting for something to happen in order to bring them to pass. In short you are waiting, waiting, waiting. You’re waiting for the “right” time; the “right” circumstances; the “right” situation. As for me, I fancy myself as a writer. I mean I love to write, right? But finding the “right” time to write, I can’t get right!  Right? Or, I’m waiting for some inspiration or good feelings or some passion. But here’s the thing, inspiration doesn’t start until I decide to write, whether the time is right or not. (Okay, okay I’ll get off the write/right pun…) So…Life is like that my friends. You are waiting on life to happen to you and life is waiting on you to happen to it! You are waiting to finally decide and life is waiting for your final decision. Oh the conundrum!

Yeah I totally get where you are coming from. You want to decide on something, a direction; a future; an end to “that thing,” but you feel like there’s a bunch of stuff to line up before you can decide. Therein lies hidden the catch. The starting point for making anything happen is the decision. The feelings come after the decision and never before! Again, because you have to get this point, the starting point for anything is the decision! You decide fully and the feelings, the inspiration, the desire, all follow in accordance with your decision. So you muse, “Well, how come you call yourself a writer and have already decided you are, yet struggle finding/making time to write?” The simple answer? I really want to be a writer; really love writing; honestly believe I can write, yet haven’t fully decided I’m going to do it yet!  LOL Yes I’m that honest… You see, a fully resolved decision has no plan B, no turn back point! Procrastinating, hoping, wishing, waiting all point towards an un-finalized decision. Make the decision!

You can change, revolutionize, or drastically alter any aspect of your life from your health status to your personal prosperity simply by making an informed, serious, fully resolved decision. Your job isn’t to worry about how it is going to happen or when or where and in what form! Your job is simply to decide. The details of your desire are preceded by your decision. Decision comes first! Okay, let’s just say you are full of fear. It’s easy to be that way because not only is the world a very scary place, but the media does a supreme job of pointing out all possible dangers from what you eat to where you live to even the air you are breathing. Before you realize it you can become afraid of your own shadow. “Frit to death and done note” according to the wisdom of my British Mum. You find yourself living in fear most of every day. You can’t relax. You’re restless and anxious. You live in the perpetual fear of WHEN the other shoe is going to drop with disaster on its heel! (that was funny!) You don’t like the fear. You wish you could stop it and get over it once and for all. And, you can by deciding. Decide by God that you are sick and tired of being afraid and running from what might happen and just acquiesce in the idea that you will deal with “it” when/if “it” comes! And, if you will truly resolve yourself to the idea, you will find that life is ever waiting and conspiring with you to bring it to pass. No fear. It works this way with anything you want to do; want to stop doing etc., etc. For real!

You don’t believe me? Okay, find someone tomorrow and ask them if they could do anything in the world they wanted to do, what would they do? Now, I don’t mean play in the NBA if they are 50…LOL I mean anything they would do “today” if they could. Listen carefully to their answer. Then ask, why don’t you do that now? Then get comfortable because you are going to be there awhile listening to all of the reasons they have to wait; get more money; finish their schooling etc. Notice if you hear any indicator that they have already decided fully and completely. Then come back and read this blog with an increased vigor. The truth about this awesome life you and I are privileged to live is that we can change anything in it if we will only decide to do so.

If your life isn’t turning out the way you planned (and whose does?) then get quiet, do some serious thinking and make some real decisions. Your good life is still waiting on you!

1. Decision

2. Desire

3. Details

4. Deliverance!

Just some good thoughts…

The Simple Joy of Living Today…

living-in-the-present   Think back to the last time you were on vacation.  Whether it was lounging on a sandy beach or taking in the gorgeous views during a mountain hike or languishing in your hotel room in a beautiful city or the smell of bacon frying in the morning while camping by the side of the lake; what makes your vacation time so much better than the rest of your time?  You may argue that it is so sublime because you don’t have to go to work.  But many folks exert as much energy playing as they do at work and sometimes more energy.  You may conclude that it is the change of environment; the sand, the trail, the room, the water etc.  Certainly there are many factors involved with vacations that cause us to feel joyful, but there is one common theme that is the subject of today’s blog.  On a vacation intended for relaxation we shift our focus from the past and the future to the wonderful present.  We purposefully don’t think about the bills that “will” be due or the work we need to finish later or what the boss said to us in anger last week.  No, we make some loose plans and then get busying enjoying the wonder and beauty that is today.  It is as if we free ourselves from all the illusory burdens of time and focus ourselves on “right now!”  And since right now is all we can experience, we decide to thoroughly enjoy it.

There is a way to live your life that escapes the thinking of the masses.  There’s a way to make the most of your experiences.  There is a simplicity to life that is so simple we have missed it all our lives.  The culture of our world is ever seeking ways for us to move faster, get more done, accomplish more and maximize our time.  We laud multi-tasking and efficiency and “to get err done…”  Just do it and do it and do it again is the mindset of today.  And for all of our inventions and efficiencies and time savers, where has it gotten us?  Are we happier?  Are we joyful?  Do we feel blessed and content?  I would say no.  Yet it’s not the speed at which we move that bogs us down.  It’s where we have learned to put the focus of our minds.  Humans are designed to live in one time period and one time period only – right now!  The only time we have available to us is this present moment.  Yet how much time do we spend focused on the present moment?  While we are at work today we focus on getting home.  During the week we focus on the upcoming weekend.  During the work year we  focus on the coming vacation.  While we are at school we are thinking about being done with school.  While cleaning the house we are thinking about how great it will be to sit down and relax after the house is clean.  But the real joy of living is found in 100% commitment to the present moment.  It is persisting in a state of experiencing and enjoying right now.  If the duties of right now call for some house cleaning, so be it.  If it’s time to go to work, go to work and be 100% involved in your work while you are there.  Don’t spend one idle moment wishing you were off work as that shift of focus will make your work a misery.  What is the best way to experience school?  Don’t mentally leave the classroom before you physically leave the classroom.  In fact, don’t mentally leave any moment you are still in, as departing from the present moment takes the enjoyment out of it.

Interestingly, the vast majority of our concerns and our anxieties and our fears are found where?  In the future!  Unless a large tiger is currently gnawing on your calf muscle, you probably don’t have anything to be afraid of right at this moment, correct?  So do this moment and refuse to do the future moments.  Can’t you see how huge and life changing this is?  Uh huh, but what about the future?  Am I supposed to just let everything go now and make no plans for the future?  Well of course not, silly!  Make the most grand and glorious plans that you can, then do today, today!  Maybe in your future you see yourself as an author?  Then take some time to write today (smile)…

And what about the past?  How do we handle all of those times we zigged when we should have zagged?  Or that one big thing?  Well, the past is ummm past…  We can’t go back to those moments, can we?  Shoot we can’t even go back to fifteen minutes ago when we were eating those three donuts, to not eat them, right?  LOL  In reality, the past no longer exists.  It’s gone man!  Over.. In the books!  Thus imagine the sheer FUTILITY (yelling now) of spending any of your present moments regretting your past moments.  Sure, encourage your sweet memories; your times of love and success and appreciation, remember the people you cherished, but do it while you are wholeheartedly choosing to live today.

I realize the simplicity of this is almost too much to take.  But if you have ever believed anything I have ever said, believe this; living 100% in the present moments will cause your “joy” and “appreciation” levels to go off the chart!  And while you are seriously giving this a try, take a look at your children or your grandchildren.  Notice the joy they experience by living in the moment?  Oh they don’t have to pay bills?  LOL  Maybe not, but neither do you at this present moment!  (You are reading, right?)

So how can you thoroughly enjoy the simplicity of living life today?  Get your vacation mind-set working for you!  Decide to be fully alive and observant and mindful of these very moments you find yourself in.  Don’t go back in time and don’t go too far ahead in time.  Do, be, live, love and enjoy today, as tomorrow will have it’s own issues for you to deal with “tomorrow…”

Mmmm is that the smell of bacon by the campfire?  No, it’s the smell of many minds that just came back to life!


The Beauty and Enjoyment of a Simple Life…

A great man once said that the zest of living is increased in simplicity.  Yet, how often do we think it is just the opposite.  Have you ever stopped to think about the things “you think” would make you the most happy?  You see a huge house in the foothills and think, wouldn’t it be great if I lived there?  Would it?  How much space do you really need in a house?  Oh, I’m not promoting the tiny shoebox either as there is such a thing as too little space.  I’m talking about too much.  My home has exactly 3,000 square feet of living space.  During the holidays we have been known to actually go into the basement and stay there longer than 30 seconds.  The rest of the year…not so much.  So, what’s the point?  That no-one should have 3,000 square feet?  Haha hardly!  The point is that the arrangement of the space (5 bedrooms) worked perfectly when we had four kids at home, but not so perfectly now that we have no kids at home.  (Maybe that’s why it is for sale?)  Okay back to the gargantuan house in the foothills.  Do you know what you would do with that 10,000 square foot home?  You would use approximately 25% of it and the rest of it would sit there as a testimony to just how successful you are.  You see what you are really after is that symbol of success.  But, to earnestly pursue it and then to pay $7,000 a month for it won’t seem to make as much sense.  It seems much of life in the United States works this way.  The large SUV in the driveway is more of status symbol than a practical form of transportation.  I know this because it is almost too large for the garage; gets 12 miles to the gallon; has tires that cost $200 each and requires very large parking spaces.  So, should everyone scale down their desires, get the condo and a Smart Car?  Definitely not!  My manhood wouldn’t let me buy the Smart Car even after the vasectomy!  Haha.  My (most likely lost) point here is that the beauty and enjoyment of life is ironically found in the simple and not in the complicated.  Do you vaguely remember the old TGI-Friday’s menu?  There were about 20 pages grouped according to certain themes.  The problem was that there were so many options we didn’t know what to think.  And, by the time I got to the salads I had long since forgotten what I was leaning towards earlier.  “Ummmm…could you give us a few more minutes?”  There is such a thing as too many options.  Have you ever taken a close look at your closet?  I’m guessing (see, I don’t even know) that I have about 25 pairs of pants.  Wait that doesn’t include suit pants.  (I digress)  I also guess that I probably wear about 7 pairs on a regular basis.  There are those jeans I like; those ‘cords’ I like etc.  Towards the back there are all those pants I don’t like.  Why are they there?  LOL hmm who knows?  Dieters have all heard the catchy slogan that says, “nothing tastes as good as the first bite.”  How many times do we gorge ourselves trying to replicate the taste of that first bite?  How many delicious entrées are available at the Thanksgiving Day feast?  How many do you enjoy?   And what about the desserts?  By the time they show up I am a bite away from vomiting (smile).  How about my beloved red wine?  I’m standing at the kitchen counter, steaks are grilling outside, and people are starting to arrive for the dinner party.  I pour a glass of Cabernet and have a few delightful sips.  The “sparkle” of the wine kicks in and suddenly, God is good, life is good, and I couldn’t be happier.  Then I finish my glass and have another and then another and then another.  What happened to my sparkle?  It is replaced by a numb glaze that I now must maintain the rest of the night.  Is that what I was after?  Not really.  What I was after and am still after is the “sparkle” of the first glass.  I think life is like that…Everyone seeking after the “sparkle” of those first, first experiences.  (Again, I digress) 

Everyone loves to go on a vacation right?  What is the ‘oh-so’ glorious allure of a vacation?  Well, for me when I go on vacation I like to go somewhere that is warm and preferably has a beach.  And, of the multitude of things you could do on a vacation, what do I personally want to do?  I want to go and sit down on the beach, read my book and enjoy a cocktail.  Simplicity! 

Happiness isn’t made in the many, it is made in the few.  It is produced in simple enjoyment.  A walk on the trail in the evening with someone who you love; sitting on the back deck basking in the sunshine with a great book;  a hike in the canyon on your way to the waterfall; these are the things that inspire beauty and enjoyment in us.  A single man boasts that he enjoys being with many different women and that he can have a new woman every night.  Yet, how much happier will he be with one woman whom he loves and who loves him, that he gets to share life’s experiences with every day?  You see we all think we require so much when in reality we require so little.  We buy a new home and sit down for dinner with our little family and think to ourselves, could my life be any better?  Yet, all that changed was the location and design of our residence.  In the midst of the hCG diet there’s nothing quite so tasty and so grand as a gummy multi-vitamin.  But, when eating returns to normal, our perspective changes dramatically. 

All of us should seek to get back to the simplicity of life.  Simplify our desires, simplify our tastes and enjoy the little things.  At the end of life, no-one remembers the new car, the new house, the size of the bank account.  What we remember is the smile on our daughter’s face when we told her how pretty and smart she is or how we proud we are of her for graduating from college.  We recall the joy in the eyes of our son as he received his first offer to play Division One football, his lifelong dream.  We think how could we ever love our second grandson as much as we love the first one, yet somehow we do.  We acquiesce and joy that our oldest son faithfully takes his siblings under his wing and steers them away from life’s dangers. 

Life is simple.  Love God, love other people and rejoice in the beauty and enjoyment that is waiting around every corner for us when we look beyond the clutter and confusion of things and discover what life is really all about.