A Do Nothing Day


Today in Flagstaff it’s raining.

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Last night it was raining.  It was raining in Flagstaff yesterday and the day before and the day before that.  I ran into the individual that takes care of the golf course up here and he said that he hadn’t watered the course for over three weeks.  Rain stops you from what you want to do outside and forces you inside to slow down.  Yes.   Slow down.  Read a book.  Make some hot chocolate.  Take a nap.  Stare out the window and watch the rain.  Look at the raindrops fall from the pine needles.  Or make a fire and watch the dance of the red, yellow and blue streaks of fire.

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Maybe today as I am forced to do you can choose to do.  Slow down.  This journey is a marathon and not a sprint.  Today take some time to enjoy the environment that surrounds you.

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Encouraging One Another


I have found over my lifetime fascinating people who have come into my life.  I remember having to go to a Christmas party with elderly people (I by the way am one of them now-a senior citizen- but don’t feel like one) that I would never ever come in contact with again.  It was an obligation that I had to do and was dreading it.  Have you ever had to do one of those things and hated it the whole time.  Well it was one of those experiences that we were going to have to endure for 3+ hours.

It was drudgery but I tried to make the best of putting on my happy face and meeting people who I would never see again.  I began to ask superficial questions of people and then move on.  When it came to the third person,  I changed my introductory question, and  I asked him if he had ever served in World War II.  My dad went onto Normandy beach D-day plus 2 and cleaned up the corpses lying on the beach.  I had seen the movie Saving Private Ryan and became interested in World War II history.  The man replied that he had so I asked him what was his responsibility.  I was shocked at his answer.  He said, “I was General George Patton’s personal tank driver.”  I had also seen General Patton, and for the next three hours I was engrossed with his stories of his interactions with Patton and the dog.  I could have stayed all night grilling him with questions that interested me.  Some of the stories he had never shared with anyone and tears came to his eyes.  He said that, “No-one had ever asked him these questions and talking about these things brought relief.”

There have been many communicative encounters that have happened to me as I have asked new people I come in contact with to tell me their story.   Nadine and  I interacted with one such person when Nadine happened to go in for a Doctor consult about some test results. As the prep assistant was taking her EKG and her blood pressure, I asked the assistant how long she had been doing her job and whether she loved her work.  She responded by saying, “I am studying to be an English teacher because I love to write stories and create poems.”  I asked her if she was publishing them anywhere so that others could read her poems and stories.  She said no so I told her about my jlog that I am at this very second writing.  She became really interested and got very encouraged to take steps to do the same.  The encounter was only a few minutes, but I encouraged her on her path toward becoming a writer and poet that others could be encouraged by.

On this journey, we meet people daily that we could encourage if only we took the time to ask a few questions of their life story.  Sometimes we can be the conduit to move them into passionate areas of their lives with just a nudge of affirmation and encouraging words.  Be aware today that the person you run into may need that nudge.

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Present Day Distractor?


I guess I have to define what I mean by distractor.  A distractor is a person or thing that consumes our attention and diverts our focus away what is most important to us.  I have recently become distracted by the very words that I used to speak to my kids about.  It’s wreaking havoc among the young as well as old of this and future generations.

There are all kinds of people and things that can and do get our attention and divert our primary focus.  When I was young the primary distractor was the television.  It came out in the early 50’s and it was so new that people would stare at the TV for hours on end.  It was and can be a distractor to living productive lives, but it’s not the primary distractor of today.  People and things aren’t detractors in and of themselves.  The distraction comes when we choose to take our attention away from the important things of life and allow people and things around us to grab our focus.

The present day object that causes present day distractions is the cell phone.  I am as guilty as the next in looking at Facebook, sports news, my email and texts, playing soduku, etc.  The list goes on and on.  I was always telling my kids to get off their phones, and I am subtlely, getting more and more distracted by the things that I can learn and play with on my phone.  The cell phone is NOT bad in and of itself.  The problem comes when I should be focusing on the more important things of life and my mind is diverted over to looking at my phone.  There are times that I could be reading uplifting material or writing a letter to my mom and the distractor draws me away from the important.

The reason I am talking about this subject was triggered by a passage I read this morning in Jeremiah.  “From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors’ labor— their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. . . .   We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the Lord our God.”  ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭3:24-25‬ ‭  ‬‬  Jeremiah doesn’t call them distractors, but “gods” that have consumed our time.  He says that the distractors have negatively affected our labor of looking after the flocks and herds, and the “gods” (distractors) have negatively affected our relationships with our sons and daughters.

The only way to get back on track is to admit to the distractors in our lives that have consumed our attention.  Sometimes on this journey we take side roads that are dead ends in our lives.  Getting out of a dead end is admitting that we have turned our attention away from the main path that leads to health, healing and eternal life.  On this journey become aware of distractors that tempt you off the important roads of life.

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Playing Traffic Cop


Have you ever seen one of those traffic cops in a large city directing traffic?  They make an art of stopping one lane while encouraging another lane to move forward or turn left.  It is mesmerizing to see the beauty at which they direct trucks and cars, let alone getting people from one side of the street to the other.  I have seen a couple of traffic cops in England that cause you to stand and stare.  Most of the streets in the USA are electronically controlled so the traffic cop is becoming extinct.  Chicago is one of those towns where rarely you will find a traffic cop directing traffic.

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This last week we happened to be walking to the “L” (it’s really a subway, but in Chicago they don’t call it a subway but the “L” train) to go to a favorite eating establishment of my daughters when we encountered an interesting sight.  A woman had turned onto a one way going in the opposite direction of her car.  All the cars were stopped and had taken up all the lanes so she was face to face with the cars and nowhere to go.  Unfortunately the street behind her had the right of way and were zooming by.  She was stuck with nowhere to go.  About 25 people at the cross walk were being amused by the whole experience, but I could see that the woman was very distraught and had no way of getting out of the pickle she was in without intervention.

At once, I stepped out in the street of the oncoming traffic (there were only a few cars coming at the time) and put up my left hand to signal the cars to stop.  I then wanted to see where the lady wanted to go and she motioned across the street.  I used my right hand to motion her to turn her car in the opposite direction and she proceeded to make a half-moon turn of her car and off she went across the intersection to her intended destination.  Several of the cars that were stopped were totally amused and a couple of cars honked at me in approval.

The light turned green for the one way traffic and off they went and off we went crossing the street.  Everyone at the intersection including the pedestrians and the parked cars waiting have the light turn green were observing the dilemma of the woman, but no one was taking steps to help the person in distress, except for me.  It reminds me of times when we are all too preoccupied with getting to our destination that we fail to look up to see those God has put in our path to give a lending hand.

I am reminded of Phillip in Acts who was doing a great ministry for the Lord when God called him into the desert to share the claims of Christ with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) Even though he was preoccupied with a ministry, he was sensitized to God’s call to help someone in the desert.  Someone who was turned around and needed help in getting unstuck.

On this journey, keep your head up to see opportunities to help people in need.  Who knows if God might call on you to help someone get unstuck from their life’s obstacles.

 

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Tai Chi with Mom


Nadine and I flew into Colorado to celebrate our third grandson Greyson’s 2nd birthday.  They live in Denver so we have been staying with them.  My 97-year-old mother lives in Colorado Springs, just 50 miles to the south, so it made sense to drive down and see her.

Yesterday I got in our Dodge 300 dark green rental car and made it to her apartment in less than an hour.  I pushed the 2nd floor button of the elevator and as I emerged, my mom’s door was open waiting for me to arrive.  She was alert, and was completely recovered from a fall a few months ago where she cracked her pelvis.  She was walking and clear thinking. What a joy to see her back to her before fall personality.

We spent time catching up on the family and their whereabouts.  Let me digress a bit.  I call my mother 5-6 times per week so she knows whats happening in my life and the lives of my children.  But I know that as my synapses have taken some disconnects and I can’t remember where I put my keys, my 97-year-old mom has fallen to the same demise.  We got caught up and decided to go down to the dining room for some chicken fricassee, green beans, tossed salad and peanut butter caramel ice cream.  Mom loved to introduce me to all of her friends as her son from Arizona.

The surprise came when after lunch, my mom wanted to know if I would like to join her in her regular exercise class of Tai Chi.  Tai Chi is often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.  I was honored that she would ask me and I jumped at the idea.  Exercising with my mom.  Doing Tai Chi with my Mom.  It blows my mind even to write these words down.  I have never even thought in my wildest mind to exercise with my mom and here in her 97th year, I was sitting next to her as Chris, the instructor, began to instruct us in the moves that would take us through 45 minutes of leg raising, arm twisting, and hand moving.  I often looked over to her and she was very serious in seeking to do all that the Tai Chi instructor instructed us to do.  The picture below was taken right after we had finished the experience.

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By the way, the picture above was also a first as Mom and I took our first selfie together.  I’m not the best at taking selfies, but it didn’t turn out too bad.  Mom has taught me several things as she has matured.  The one thing today is that you are never too old to exercise with your son.

On this journey through life, seize the moments with those close to you and say yes to opportunities that bring joy and fulfillment that you never would have imagined.

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Washed Out but Not Washed Up


A week ago Friday, Nadine and I flew to Chicago to be with our oldest daughter Debi and her roommate Patty.  We were detained by an incoming plane and finally reached our destination at 1:30 on Saturday morning.  After catching up with the girls we slid into bed around 3:00 and slept accordingly.

We were given our agenda for the Saturday experience which consisted of a lot of down time and an impromptu experience at the Shakespearian theatre.  We walked about a mile to a fantastic meat experience were you pick out your barbecue meat (pork ribs, beef brisket, Italian sausage) with side dishes of cole slaw, beans, and corn and bacon.  The meal was served on aluminum trays with our drinks.  It was the best barbecue I had ever eaten and was stuffed when we finished.  We walked a couple of blocks to catch a bus and rode to within 3 blocks of our destination.

The problem wasn’t the walk.  It was the rain.  Torrential rain.  Horizontal blowing rain.  Lots of rain.  And no umbrellas.  We just so happened to be standing in the doorway of Sacks 5th Ave store so we went in and they had two umbrellas that are wind proof left.  I also eyed some large bags that had under the counter for large purchases.  Lightbulb.  An Ah ha moment.  We could also use the bags and cut a couple of holes in the bags for rain coats.  You can see the results below.

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We stayed relatively dry with the parts of our selves that were covered by the umbrellas and the rain coats as we quickly made our way to the Shakespearian Theatre.  As soon as we opened the door for our impromptu experience, the loud-speaker blurted out, “Due to the flooding of the stage and the bar area which hasn’t happened in years, we are canceling tonight’s performance.  You can get a refund of you tickets at the ticket booth.  Washed out.  Canceled performance.

But not washed up.  The whole experience of being presented with a dilemma and figuring out a solution and working as a team was a wonderful connector for the four of us and we loved the interaction that the situational environment produced.  Romans 8:28 is a perfect verse for what we encountered.  God causes “washed out” experiences to turn out for His good if we choose to see the positive in the experience.  The relationships grew to deeper places with an experience we will have in common for the rest of our lives.

On this journey through life, there will be experiences that seem to wash out what we had planned, but we have the opportunity to turn those washed out experiences into opportunities for deepening our connections.

 

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How To Pray: Part VI


Closing the deal.  Closing the sale.  When you go to buy a car, an effective salesman knows when to put the close on.  Closing too soon my hinder a customer from saying yes to buying the car because they feel pressured.  Never asking the customer to purchase the vehicle may cause the person to walk out the door without driving away with their new car.      Asking for a decision at the right time is paramount toward securing what you ultimately want.  Don’t get me wrong.  We are not trying to sale God on what we want for our good.  Praying is seeking to get on the same page as to what God wants.  But when we know what God wants, we can ask with boldness as to our requests.

Nehemiah closed his prayer by asking the Lord to act and give him success.  The end of the prayer is Nehemiah’s close in bold letters.  “Then I (Nehemiah) said:“ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.” ‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Nehemiah knew that before he could ever go back to his country and begin to rebuild the wall that had been torn down, he needed to get the approval of his boss the king to go back.  He was asking God to change the heart and mind of his boss to do what God had burdened him to do–rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah was praying for God to act on His behalf.  Sometimes our prayers are focused too far in advance, yet Nehemiah was just focused on the next step he needed before any of the wall could be built.  Maybe that is why Jesus in Matthew 6:34, He said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.  Each day has enough troubles of its own.  May our prayers need to convey more immediate needs to see Him work more immediately.

On this journey, when we recognize who God is and His attributes, we recognize our sinfulness and seek His forgiveness through confession, we realize the truth of God’s word and His promises to us, and we ask God to hear us and our requests, we can then ask God to act and give us success in whatever we pray to Him.

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