Sunday, May 24, 2020

Learning To React Out Of Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

~1 Corinthians 13:4-5

We all have those people in our lives that try our patience.  Kids.  Family.  Co-workers. If there's one thing I've prayed about and worked on over the years, it's been in trying to be more patient.  My wife says I'm doing fairly well considering I started out with zero!

With me, it's people that take things that are simple and make them complicated. The world is full of them.  I'm a simple guy. I'm a problem solver.  My solution to problems is to start with what needs to happen to resolve the issue, and then find the easiest way to get there.

My first boss and mentor was a master problem solver.  He told me that there are no big problems. He taught me to tackle big problems the same way I tackled small problems. Figure out where you want to go, and then come up with a plan to get there. The only difference between big problems and small problems, is how I view them.  That we should recognize that big problems are actually collections of unresolved small problems.  Break it down into small problems, and then resolve them one at a time. And that's what I've done during the entire length of my career. I don't panic.  I don't get intimidated. I roll up my sleeves and take problems on head first. I haven't run into one yet that I haven't been able to resolve--and I've seen some real whoopers over the years.

So of course, the one thing that punches my buttons is when someone takes a small problem and turns it into a big problem. Something that could have been easily and effortlessly resolved that becomes some huge ordeal because we've made it more complicated than it actually was, we've involved too many people, we've made unnecessary errors, or we've failed to consult the people best able to advise on the situation. And I get impatient most especially when I get brought into these messes late in the game when I could have resolved it in minutes early in the game.

And I have to take a step back (sometimes too late) and remember that I should deal with these individuals out of love. Take a deep breath.  Use the mistakes made as teaching tools.  Be a mentor.  Be an example.

We all know people that have a way of punching our buttons. We don't always respond in the best possible way.  But next time your patience is tested, remember one thing.  God made them, too!  God put these people in your life. Perhaps for a reason.  Perhaps so that you could learn something from them, or that you could learn something about yourself.

If an oyster was never irritated, it would never produce a pearl.

~TEC

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Father's Love

"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."

~Proverbs 22:6 

I saw this wonderful story on social media recently about a Chinese family.  Back in 1980, a new father took his one year old daughter on a trip to a lake in China.  Once there, they had their picture taken beside the lake.  The father loved the photo, and the next year, he decided to take his daughter to the same lake and take the photo again.  They continued to do that every year, except one, for 35 years!

I probably spent an hour looking at the collection of 34 photos.  You can find them all here.  They went from black and white to color.  The lake background changed from a wilderness area to being more of a public park.  One of the photos of the girl in her teens showed without question she didn't want her picture taken--I know that phase of female adolescence well.  And then the granddaughters arrived--first one, and then two!

And as his daughter grew and blossomed and started her own family, we watch the father fade over time.  That's the job.  Pour our love into our kids, and show them the right path to travel hopefully.  And then we pray that they use what we taught them.

What really came across to me is just how quickly time passes.  Sometimes we're unaware of the quick passage of time.  Changes in our life take place so slowly.  As a father myself, it's difficult for me to realize my eldest daughter is 30!  I've got a grandson who is already six.  My baby, who it seemed like we were just feeding in a highchair is in junior high.  And time marches on. 

This father understood that, and he built himself a time machine . . . a tradition that allows him to go back and enjoy each stage of his daughters life over and over again.  And his daughter has that available to her as well.  For the rest of her life, she'll have that collection that demonstrated just how much she was loved from the moment she arrived. 

There's many ways to build time machines like this.  Shared memories.  Trips to the ballpark and vacations.  Time we spent together doing things together.  When that young father from that first picture sits down now and looks at that last picture he took, I have a feeling I know exactly what he's thinking . . . where did the time go?

I wonder if this tradition will now continue with the daughter. 

~TEC

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Just Pray

"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive,
 if you have faith."

~Matthew 21:22

I see the sarcasm often on social media--after any natural disaster, shooting, terrorist attack, and now during the pandemic.  Somebody invariably makes the comment, "instead of so many people saying 'hopes and prayers' why don't you do something useful?"

Do something useful they say.  Like what?

What can I do to stop a hurricane from slamming into the coast of Florida?

What can I do to change the heart of a terrorist determined to kill innocent people?

What can I do to stop a virus?

What can I do to stop children from dying from a horrible disease?

Sure, there's a few things I can do on my own.  I can support causes like the Shriner's Hospitals and St. Jude's.  I can donate to relief efforts after hurricanes and tornadoes.  I can volunteer in my community food bank or homeless shelter.  I can protect myself from the virus by doing those responsible things we know help to mitigate the spread.  But I can't stop any of these things on my own.

But one powerful thing I can do is pray.  I can talk to God, and ask him to intercede on our behalf.

Jesus said in Matthew 9:28, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"  And that's the entire question right there.  Do you believe?  The blind man Jesus asked that question of did believe, and because of the strength of his own belief  in Jesus his sight was restored.  If your faith is great enough, through God all things are possible.

Don't get upset when people say things like that.  They simply don't understand.  They aren't believers, and they've never seen the power of prayer--so pray for them, too!  Maybe someday, those same people that make remarks like that will come to understand God, and learn that praying is hardly useless. 

~TEC

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Getting Back To Normal?

I was so relieved the other night.  I'm a contributor on a podcast, and we were having a conversation between the four of us about the pandemic.  I've heard over and over the last few weeks how happy everyone will be when we can "return to normal" again.  One of my friends on the podcast said something that I'd been thinking a lot about for the last few weeks.  That's always a relief when you get confirmation that someone else is having similar thoughts.  And that thought?  Well, it's this:

I have absolutely no intentions what-so-ever of going back to what I considered "normal" before.

I have been habitually and chronically busy my entire adult life . . . and adding to my schedule every chance I get. I have aspired for 35 years to fill every waking moment with some kind of activity. Then on St. Patrick's Day everything came to a screeching halt.

Over the last 43 days, I've gone from pacing the house about to go nuts because I have nowhere to go and nothing to do, to finding myself in a state of peace the likes of which I haven't experienced since I was a very young man.

I have found calm and with it clarity.

But it didn't happen over night, and it didn't happen without considerable effort. I've had a lot of time to think, and I was way overdue for some very serious and very deep thought.  It's been like peeling an onion, one layer at a time, and getting down to what's at the very center.  And when you slowly peel away the layers one at a time and get down to that center, what you'll find there is what you're all about.  What's truly important to you.  Your beliefs. Your values and guiding principles. Your purpose and your mission are there, too.

The hard work was peeling away the layers. Some of those layers were ugly.  Some of those layers were things I didn't want to see or remember. There were some old wounds I didn't know were still there, and that I'd never let heal. And there were so many walls. And shields. And barriers.  Defenses I'd set up over time to protect myself--that part of me that's a lot more vulnerable than the thick skin and hard head I've developed over the years. 

These things at our center are timeless--they don't change.  They represent the best version of our selves.  But we pollute ourselves over time as we earn a living, interact with the world, survive the struggles, fight the battles, and struggle to shield and protect ourselves from the pain that life inevitably throws at us.

Over the last 42 days, I've reintroduced myself to someone I haven't seen in a long, long time. I've never been more relaxed.  I've never felt more grounded.  I've never been more focused.  And for the first time in many, many years I can sit still and just think.  I didn't have to decide anything.  I didn't have to make a list of goals.  I didn't have to create a plan.  I didn't have to make anything up.  I had to get down to the center and simply discover what was already there--what had always been there.

And we all have that, if we get down to it.

And the powerful part of this whole thing?  When you discover (or rediscover) what's at your core, you can apply it as a litmus test to every aspect of your life going forward.  It becomes your rule and your guide.  You can look at your calendar and say, "yes, that brings me closer to where I want to go" or "no, that doesn't."  You can look at your interactions with other people and easily tell if an interaction is in line with your principles or not.  You can look at projects you're involved with and easily tell which ones further your purpose, and which ones do not. And those difficult decisions we all have to make in life are so much easier when we apply those core values and principles to them.

So no, I'm not planning on "going back to normal" once we get through this pandemic.  My calendar will align with my purpose. My interactions with people will reflect my values.  And I will always live my life going forward in harmony with my beliefs.

~TEC

There's an excellent exercise that can help you in finding your center--it's creating a personal mission statement.  There are a number of books on the topic, but one in particular I'd recommend.  It's a very short book by Stephen R. Covey entitled "How to Develop Your Personal Mission Statement."  It might take you an hour to read it.  I used it to help me work through my process, and I'm sure it will help you in yours!  You can download it on your Kindle from Amazon for 99 cents!