An Offering Of Tears In A Season Of Joy

How do you handle it when everyone around you is happy and you’re not? How do you cope during a time when the rest of the world celebrates, and you often want to cry?

I found myself in that place last year in the spring after my mother died. She died a month before Easter, two months before Mother’s Day and the birth of my 4th grandchild (her 11th great grandchild). The world was celebrating these holidays, and my heart was trying to find joy in them while grieving my loss. The paradoxes of the situation and the need to pay attention to the demands of the situations caused me to push my grief aside and not deal with it. It was only recently, when hit with another unhappy life event in yet another joyful time, that I finally began to process the griefs properly.

I wondered about this when I was listening to a sermon about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here was this young woman, a teenager really if you look at the culture of the time (perhaps as young as 14), engaged to be married to a (likely older) man. In our culture, it’s often the happiest time of a young woman’s life, and even in her arranged marriage culture, it likely was for her, too. She likely knew Joseph and knew her parents wouldn’t have picked out someone inappropriate for her. They might even have been friends or acquaintances, with the slight possibility they already loved one another. The wedding is being planned, the guests invited, the preparations made, the household goods for their new home arranged and everything is all new and exciting for her. It’s a time of great joy for Mary, Joseph and their families.

In Luke 1: 26 – 38, into the scene enters the angel, speaking to Mary, telling her of the coming Savior. The angel says she is the chosen one, the virgin spoken of by Isaiah the prophet so many centuries prior,

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His Name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

This news was as startling and upsetting as it was joyful. The Jews had been waiting centuries for their promised Messiah, yearning and hoping. But no one expected the Messiah to come as a baby, to be born to a young woman who would be viewed as an unwed mother, who could be quite literally stoned to death for her perceived crime of becoming pregnant without benefit of marriage. They never expected Him to arrive at that place in Nazareth, or that poor and insignificant family instead of to a wealthy or influential one. 

In what should have been her season of joy, Mary had good reasons for tears! But she kept things to herself, and went to her cousin, whom the angel had said was pregnant in her old age. And when Mary found Elizabeth, everything changed.

In Luke 1: 39 – 45, we read how Elizabeth encouraged Mary. Even John the Baptist, who Elizabeth was pregnant with, leaped in her womb at the very voice of the one pregnant with the Messiah. Elizabeth’s response was just what Mary needed to hear. In Luke 1: 46 – 55, we read Mary’s lovely response in the antiphonic poem called the Magnificat.

Mary’s praise glorifies God. Through her fears, in spite of her tears, Mary chooses to see the greatness of God instead of the smallness and harshness of her situation. She deliberately chooses to be joyful, not just happy, but to downright rejoice and celebrate over God and His love for her. Mary’s poem is called the Magnificat because she magnifies God, and makes Him larger in her eyes than the problems she also sees before her.

Sometimes, like Mary, we find ourselves grieving when the rest of the world is rejoicing. As I write this, it’s less than a week before Christmas 2015. I have friends who are dealing with some tough, stressful and unhappy situations in their lives right now. While the rest of the world celebrates, they feel like the only offering they have to bring is that of their tears.

And you know what? If the only offering you have to bring is tears, it’s okay. God knows we walk through valleys sometimes. In fact, He walks through them with us! In Psalm 23, David wrote,

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23: 4

The rod of a shepherd is meant for their protection. The shepherd defends them from enemies using it, and also uses it to count them and make sure they are all healthy. The shepherd’s staff is used for guiding the sheep into positions of intimacy, either with each other or himself. Thus, to be comforted by God’s rod and staff is to fall under His protection and to be brought by Him into a place of great intimacy with both Him and others of His choosing. This is a place of great comfort indeed when we walk through valleys!

Another thing to remember as we walk through valleys is that hurting people often hurt people. It’s a great temptation when we’re wounded to strike out, so we can protect ourselves and not be hurt more. But the more we lean into God, the greater we seek the protection of His rod and the comfort of His staff, the smaller the temptations become to use our own pain as an excuse to hurt others. 

As we go through our seasons of walking on mountain tops or through valleys together, it is good for us all to remember no one else is at the same point of their journey at the same time as we are, even when we travel together. May you have a blessed holiday season, and a joyful Christmas and find joy in your journey, even when your only offerings are tears.

 

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Not So Fast Food

A lot of comment has been made recently on social media regarding the decision by the New York State Wage Board to recommend a hike of the wages of fast food workers to $15 per hour incrementally over the next 6 years. I have a few comments and questions about it.

First, I want to address it from my personal perspective. Sorry, gang, like everyone else, I’m just a tad selfish, and think of my own interests first at times.

I work at a job that requires a minimum of an Associates Degree and prefers a Bachelor’s Degree. (I actually have about 1/2 of a Master’s Degree, but that’s beside the point.) I work in a business office setting, dealing with peoples’ confidential information. My work requires skills in multiple computer software products (including Lotus Notes, Microsoft Office Suite and work-specific software), high-level typing and data entry skills and dealing with the public. While it is not a professional position, it does require skills I needed to train to acquire to get the job, as well as experience in the field.

My starting salary was less than the Wage Board’s recommended $15 per hour. After almost 10 years with my current employer and multiple raises for high performance, it’s still less than $15 per hour.

Where will it end? I know professional teachers, health care workers, first responders and members of our U.S. Armed Forces who make even less, despite the incredibly higher stress levels of their jobs, let alone the greater physical demands placed on them. These people deserve much higher wages than I make and often make less, and in the case of our military, much less. But where does the “Me, too!” attitude stop??

Something isn’t quite right with a system that demands fast food workers are paid higher wages than employees on jobs that demand higher levels of training and skills. Fast food has always been meant to be an entry level position for a teenager, a stop-gap someone older might get while training to get a better position, or a job a retired person might get to supplement their pension. It was never meant to fund a lifestyle, which is what the demands for a $15 per hour wage really is when you look at it realistically.

I am not meaning in any way to criticize families who are caught in a minimum wage trap through no fault of their own. I know some of them. They are good people, caught in a circumstance beyond their control. They are making the best of their situations, and working to get out. Such folks deserve all the help we can give them. I’m just not sure $15 per hour is the answer. It’s too broad a brush to paint across too many different lives and circumstances.

Many fast food corporations have training programs for ambitious young people to move up within the company, to take on more responsibility and make more money. McDonald’s Mike Andres started as a manager of a family-owned store. and is now its U.S. Corporate President.  McDonald’s Charlie Robeson started as a crew person and is now its U.S. Corporate  Chief Restaurant Operations Officer. Restaurant Brands International’s David Clanachan started as a crew person for Tim Horton’s and is now the Corporate Vice President, as well as President and Chief Operating Office of the Tim Horton’s chain.  (Their bios are easily found on the corporate websites.)  These are just a few of the corporate success stories available.

How are businesses going to afford this? Before you tell me, “Out of their corporate profits,” may I remind you of something? Fast food restaurants are generally operated as franchises. Corporate owned stores are the exception, not the rule, and the corporations tend to try to get these back into the hands of franchise holders as quickly as possible.

This means the corporation offers its name, training, and supplies and leaves management up to the franchisees. The corporate profits of an entity like McDonalds come out of franchise fees and a percentage of the daily take. The rest of the daily take is what the franchisees use to pay their bills for lights, heat, taxes, salaries, supplies, food, losses, improvements, training and whatever else is needed, and eke out a living for themselves and their families. When the employees or managers don’t show up, franchisees have to be ready to fill in. When there is a crisis at a store, the franchisees have to be available to fix it, or arrange for it to be fixed. In other words, franchisees, like all other small business owners, take all the risks, and don’t really net all that much in profit.

Speaking of risks, are you aware of how much it costs to become a franchisee in the first place? A simple internet search yielded some astonishing results! Someone wanting to take such a risk must have a minimum of $100,000 for a smaller franchise with low returns on investment. To buy into McDonald’s, a minimum of $1.1 million is required, and often you need to have extra for the land, and you don’t get to decide where you’re putting it. They do. The returns on investment on one franchise are so low, most own at least 3 to eke out a living wage for themselves and their families.

It is from these people the NY Wage Board wants to take the $15 per hour. Not corporate entities like McDonald’s or Burger King. But the owner of the store down the street, who must raise prices and/or let go staff, and/or find other ways to cut costs to meet these demands.

So where will these wage hikes come from? If these business owners don’t cut staff or otherwise cut costs, then the only pockets these raise hikes will be coming out of will be those of the consumers. Because sure as I am sitting here writing this, prices must go up to accommodate it if nothing else goes down proportionally. This means fewer people will be spending less at fast food places, and more will close for lack of business, causing job loss and business closures, leading to these workers making less money, instead of the more for which they petitioned so vigorously.

Do you want some proof? Here’re a couple of links: Fox News Article and Give Away Pundit Article.

Getting back to my own (perhaps a tad selfish) perspective, with this decision by the NY Wage Board, my already stretched budget just stopped including any fast food place that pays its workers $15 per hour. On my salary, quite frankly, I just cannot afford it. And the problem is, I don’t think a lot of others can, either.

Charlie, Get OFF My FEET!

Dear Readers, over the years on this blog, I’ve introduced you to various members of my family. There is, of course, the long-suffering Bob, who is not only my dear husband of almost 35 years, but also my editor. He patiently puts up with the life of a husband of someone obsessed with words and getting them down and out of my head before they drive me nuts with their clamor. His thoughtfulness of others gives him the right to edit all my work, suggesting less offensive ways of saying things, as I can tend to be too blunt many times. And he does all this with a gentle and sweet spirit, loving and easy going in his ways. Besides being my husband and editor, Bob is also my business partner and the steadfast emotionally stable rock of our family. He puts up with me when I go off half-cocked on some new wild scheme, and often just watches and enjoys the ride, preparing as needed to help clean up my mess after. (I can’t say enough good about him!)

Our oldest is daughter Beth, married to (acquired-by-said-marriage-son) Tom. Yes, we view Tom as just as much one of our adult kids as the two we birthed. They are, if you will recall, parents of our 4 remarkable grandchildren, Keyna, Ariel, Tommy, and Samantha. Beth and Tom have recently started a business in collaboration with ours, and we are rejoicing in their early successes. We adore the times we get to spend with our grandchildren and know our grandchildren are our rewards as parents for allowing our kids to survive when they were such seemingly impossible beings when we were raising them!

Youngest is our son David. David is in the process of launching into the world and leaving home. He has found a roommate, a job and they are now looking for apartments together. He had some struggles to find his way for a while, trying college and flunking out only one semester before graduation, but he finally seems to have found his niche, and a job he enjoys. We are pleased to see him finally find his feet in life, and now are just hoping a nice girl will catch his eye soon, so he can start giving us a few more grandchildren to spoil . . .

There are a few family members I know I haven’t introduced you to yet. These are our fur babies, 3 cats named Simba, Boots, and Charlie. We adopted them from a local animal shelter a few months after a couple of other of our former cats had died, when the time seemed right to do so. I went in that day with the intent of only getting one, but when I saw the trio in the cage and began to interact with them and saw how well they got along, I just couldn’t stand to break up the set! Poor Bob was at the gym working out that afternoon, and had no clue what I was doing (or how much I was donating to the shelter for them!) until I got home with the 3 borrowed cat carriers in the back seat of my car! He took it all in his usual affable stride, removing the carriers from the car and helping me bring our new acquisitions into the house.

Simba came with the name of “Red” originally, but it just didn’t suit. He’s not red. He’s a caramel and peanut butter colored tabby, with virtually no white. He’s our shy guy and avoids the noisy grandchildren like the plague! He has decided he is my cat, and I am his person, and we’re both content with that arrangement. He’s very playful, and always game for a string chase. He’s young, healthy and athletic though he’s very timid of loud and sudden noises. It took Simba the longest to get used to us, hiding for weeks before we managed to coax him out. Simba likes to sleep at night on our bed, near Bob’s feet.

Boots came with the name he still has. He’s a traditional orange tabby, with a white chest, belly, and feet. Nothing flusters Boots. Grandchildren don’t phase him. He puts up with their fumbling attempts at affection until he’s had enough, and then leaves. Boots prefers comfort above all things and a full belly. He is also young, but not tremendously athletic. Honestly, he’s fat. Really fat. His nickname is “Lard Fur.” Boots likes to sleep at night at Bob’s side.

Charlie is our elder statesman. He’s a few years older than the other two. Charlie is a muted toned dark traditional tabby, with white highlights. He came with the name of “George,” but my father (of the same name) had died within a year or two of his acquisition, and we knew it would freak out both my mother and us to hear us refer to the animal with my father’s name. He got his name the first night home, when he crawled right up on our bed with Bob, purring and cuddling. Bob said he was a Good Time Charlie, and the name has stuck. He is also good with the grandchildren, and mostly very affable and easy going.

However, Charlie has one particular quirk that drives me nuts, and thus the reason for this post. Charlie likes to do what cat experts have termed “cat piling,” meaning he likes to rest against something else for warmth and comfort, preferably another cat, although any warm body will do. He will also snuggle the back of the couch, or a pillow if there are no bodies available.

Charlie’s habit of cat piling with me has led to some memorable skirmishes between he and I over the years. Due to chronic sciatica issues, I sleep with a pillow between or under my legs, depending on my position. Charlie likes my pillow. He likes it so well, it’s his favorite spot to lie down in our room, cat piling next to it as it sits under the covers. When I am not in bed, I’m fine with it. However, I have a bit of a quirk of my own, which runs completely counter to his — I cannot in any way stand to have more weight than the covers and pajamas on or adjacent to my legs or feet when I am trying to sleep. I’ve had cats park themselves on my stomach or chest (one tried my face, but that was a bit much!) while sleeping, and been fine with it. But Charlie and I go through almost nightly battles for dominance of who will be sleeping where when I lie down. These often involve me pushing him away from under the covers, with ever-increasing fervor, using my legs and feet, until he gets the hint I truly mean business yet again. Grumbling at him on my part is another important part of the ritual, whether aloud or silently.

So, why am I telling you all this? It’s not to complain about it. Nor is it to hear from you, dear readers, how horrid I am to Charlie about my own quirky likes and dislikes. It’s because last night, as we battled yet again, something occurred to me. My battles with Charlie over the dominance and position on our bed are remarkably similar to the battles we all face when dealing with faults and failings that so often beset all of us.

The Bible talks about these things, calling them “besetting sins.” Our modern language might refer to them as “nagging issues.” The meaning is the same. Hebrews 12:1 – 2 has quite a bit to say about it

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith.

We’re surrounded on a daily basis by people who witness our lives. Oh, I don’t just mean the people with whom we interact, and neither did the writer of Hebrews. The writer was talking about a crowd in a Heavenly stand, of those gone in faith before us, who now cheer us on as we run our daily race of life. Yes, the ones we interact with daily are visible, but that doesn’t make the Heavenly ones any less real.

The writer likens it to a runner who has tossed off everything unnecessary to the completion of his race. We’ve all seen Olympic competitions. The runners are seen prior to the race, wearing warm-up suits and often have a towel around their necks, and possibly some other gear to keep warm and dry. But just before the race starts, everything that isn’t his or her minimal uniform and sneakers is shed. The runner doesn’t need the weight or drag on them as he or she moves. Can you imagine trying to run an Olympic sprint wearing weights? It would be impossible! In the same way, we are called to daily toss off those besetting sins to run that day’s race with our best efforts.

There is also the issue of the goal. In an Olympic race, the goal is the finish line and the prize is a gold medal. While as a Christian my eventual eternal goal is Heaven, there is a goal here on earth, too. Evangelist and theologian Charles Finney called it the striving toward personal sanctification in this lifetime. The way the writer of the book of Hebrews puts it is to keep Jesus in our view at all times, seeking to live in His Father’s perfect will moment by moment.

The writer of Hebrews is saying just like Olympic runners shed everything unnecessary to their goals, it’s the same with us. Just as I work nightly to shove Charlie from my legs and feet so I can sleep in peace, I need to examine my life on a daily basis to see what is holding me back, to be aware of what is hindering me, to repent of the sin entangling me, so I can move forward freely in peace with myself, God and others once more.

And just like my nightly battles with Charlie, some sins will take longer to throw off than others. Some will be blind spots, for which I will need the wisdom and grace of a mentor and trusted friend to point out what I cannot see. Some will be deeply ingrained, requiring God’s Holy Spirit to completely renovate my character. And some, though unfortunately very few, might just be as simple a solution as encouraging Charlie to cat pile on Bob . . .

I pray you are able to see your goal, throw off your weights, and come run with me!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Simba (top left), Boots (bottom left) & Charlie (right) cat piling with my pillow on our bed:

Here’s a cartoon I found, just for fun!

Listening Or Talking?

Who talks to you the most? Who has the most influence over you? To whose words do you listen the most?

If you think about my questions, you might come up with answers such as your spouse (or domestic partner), best friend, sibling, parent or child. But I want to invite you to look into it a little deeper.

Think a little harder. Whose voice do you hear most often? If you are like most of us and think about it for a bit, you will realize quickly the voice you hear is none other than your own.

Our inner voices are our constant companions. We think with them. We use them as our inner creative muses. We consider decisions, process information, work through feelings, remind ourselves of things and think about what to say to others.

Our inner voices can be quite busy at times. In times of stress, our thought lives can run rampant with “could have, should have, would have” scenarios. When we are processing emotional events, good or bad, they are equally busy. And when it’s quiet, if we have a tendency toward it, our thoughts will get busy when we are not.

The most important thing to pay attention to about our thought lives is what our thoughts are saying to us. Are they contributing to situations in life, or detracting from them? Are they building others we are thinking about up, or tearing them down? Are they viewing the world through a positive lens or a negative one?

Once we understand what the tendency of our thoughts usually is, we can take steps toward controlling them. In other words, instead of just listening to ourselves, we can take positive and productive steps toward talking to ourselves!

What do I mean by talking to ourselves? The first step in talking to ourselves is one I’ve already outlined, being aware of what the general tendency of your thoughts. If your thoughts tend toward the negative, be aware of it. Understand that of yourself, and realize you will need to work toward a healthier thought life. Most of us need to do it to some extent or another, and some need it more than others.

The next step in talking to ourselves is called Pattern Interruption. When you notice your thoughts tending toward the negative even slightly, say “STOP!” to yourself. Throw up a mental stop sign, or a hazard warning or whatever works for you. Do it as quickly as you notice it.

The next step in talking to ourselves is called Re-framing. Take the situation or emotion that’s bothering you, and reword it into positive terms. See the good side of it, however small. If someone was cruel to you, realize your mission in life might not include that person, and know you are doing all you able to be polite and pleasant, despite their bad behavior. If it is raining, and you wanted to have a picnic, think about how good the rain will be for the plants, and how you can have your picnic indoors. You get the idea!

The final step in talking to ourselves is to do just that — Talk to Yourself! Look at what you can do, instead of what you can’t and change your focus to that. Tell yourself things only look impossible until someone does them. Instead of listening to your inner critic, tell your inner critic to be silent!

Most of us have an inner critic resulting from experiences from somewhere in childhood and as we grew up. Maybe a sibling or parent told you that you couldn’t do something. Maybe you failed at something you tried and the kids at school laughed at you. Maybe you weren’t attractive enough, or smart enough, good enough or something enough to get the attention of a special someone. The more negative experiences we had as children and young adults, the louder our outer critics, the louder our inner critic will likely be for us. 

Quite frankly, for many of us, if someone outside of us talked to us the way we allowed our inner critics talked to us, we’d sever all ties with them! Think of your relationship between yourself and your thought life the same way as you would between yourself and a friend. Would you allow your friend to talk to you that way? If not, then why are you allowing yourself to do it?

Using these techniques of being aware of our thoughts, Pattern Interruption, Re-framing and Talking to Ourselves are vital steps in silencing our inner critics. Once you start to master these steps, you will find you have a healthier thought life. And a healthier thought life leads to healthier relationships, and more happiness in your life overall.

Success 201 – Delayed Gratification

In my earlier posts, I discussed the idea the secrets of success are available to all of us, and not just the fortunate few in life. I mentioned best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki and his Cash Flow book series, and the clues he shares in it. In this post, we’ll discuss clue #2, Delayed Gratification.

What is Delayed Gratification? If you ask some people, you might get a blank stare of confusion. It is unusual to find people who actually understand it today.

However, prior to the 1960’s, Delayed Gratification was common in Western culture. Previous generations understood it very well. Credit was almost unknown to them. Purchases were made with cash or barter. Some of the only parts of society that had credit were businesses (though most operated on a cash basis) and the few who had mortgages for their homes or farms.

Today we have a credit driven culture. We often hear of young people graduating college many thousands of dollars in debt, not just in their student loans, but also because of credit cards, overspending and a failure to practice Delayed Gratification. We often hear of coworkers and relatives struggling with their finances because they got mortgages they couldn’t really afford or credit card debt due to not practicing Delayed Gratification. Some of this debt is due to life circumstances, such as job loss or catastrophic medical bills, but much more is due to a failure to practice Delayed Gratification than for other reasons.

We use Delayed Gratification when we see something we want, but don’t buy it immediately. We use the Long Term Thinking we discussed in my last post and set a goal to reach toward, understanding after we do the work to meet the goal, we can reward ourselves with the desired item.

To practice Delayed Gratification like that produces self-discipline as we do it over and over. Instead of acting on our impulses like small children, we grow into ourselves maturity and self-respect. We know we can see something we want, set goals, practice Delayed Gratification, apply some hard work and see the fruits of our rewards become manifest in our lives.

Toward this means, another purpose of Delayed Gratification is to teach us the stuff we set goals to acquire is just that, stuff. We learn the process and growth within the process is more important than the reward. By learning these things, we also learn some of the proper place in our lives of stuff, below invaluable things like relationships and undefinable things like life lessons.

I didn’t understand Delayed Gratification early in my adult life. I was a college student, paying for my needs with student loans and part-time jobs. A bit later, we got married. He’s a bit older than I am, and came equipped with credit cards, savings and cash to buy whatever we wanted and needed. A long series of financially unwise choices, including a failure to live frugally, and emergencies led to a crushing load of debt. Almost all this was debt we could have otherwise avoided, had we practiced Delayed Gratification.

It took us several years and information from our mentors and what we learned through the materials (particularly the best-selling Financial Fitness package) from LIFE Leadership to straighten out our financial mess caused by our own personal failure to practice Delayed Gratification. Now, we look at things we want, and if it’s not an immediate need we cannot live without (like necessary car repairs or medical bills), we look at our list of goals, decide where it would be appropriate on that list to reward ourselves with it, and put it on there.

Delayed Gratification is why our relatives think we’re out of touch with reality because we have smart phones but don’t use our data plan (as they do), and don’t have tablet computers (as they do). Do we have the money? Most folks have the money for something they really want, and if we looked, we could probably get a tablet. But practicing Delayed Gratification is teaching us discipline, self-denial and is an undeniable cure for the instant gratification culture in which we live today.

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Success Is For The Fortunate Few – Or Is It?

I had an interesting conversation a while ago. I had been listening to a recording by LIFE Leadership claude-speakingfounder Claude Hamilton about some of the thinking he used to be successful. It reminded me of something I’d heard before, so I tried asking the person I was talking to about it.

I asked, “Which would you rather have, a penny a day doubled daily for 30 days, or $1 million?” The person I was talking to said $1 million. Unfortunately, because that person doesn’t know the rules of success I’ve learned, they answered as most of us would, which sadly is wrong.

Many of us start out in life thinking success is for people who have talent, or who are “lucky,” or smart, or “born on the right side of the street,” or whatever. And yes, while there are a few who do win life’s family lotto and are born into wealth and seemingly instant success, most of the rest of those who succeed do it in largely the same ways. I don’t mean they use the same paths of occupation. Hang with me, and I’ll explain.

Best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki points out in his Cash Flow book series those who win life’s birth lotto are born into families who have learned the secrets of success, and pass these on to their children. These families account for about 1% of the population in the West. Any family in this group that doesn’t teach success to their children and grandchildren loses its wealth, no matter how immense and painfully accumulated, in a generation or two. 20th Century Industrial Age history of families who were successful show these concepts quite clearly.

The rest of us, not born in that 1%, account for about 95% of the Western population. However, I’m sure you’ve noticed there is a math discrepancy, which can be easily explained. The final 4% or so are those who were born into the 95%, but who through diligent work, study, learning and application of a few simple success principles launched themselves into the rarefied air of the 1%, making that total about 5%.

Kiyosaki goes on to explain, among other things, there are three concepts which make up the means by which “ordinary folks” can employ to attain the kind of success of which I speak. These are:

  1. Long Term Thinking
  2. Delayed Gratification
  3. The Power of Compounding

In the next few posts I will further discuss these concepts in detail, as I understand them. While I have learned much about them, I will be the first to admit my understanding is still incomplete. If you want to know more, you may refer to information available through LIFE Leadership, where I learned it, for further study.

Oh, and in case you were wondering when I was going to explain how that person was wrong in their math in the story which started this post, stay tuned and be patient, please. I will get to it in a future post in this series, I promise.  😉

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When Life Just Stinks

Have you ever had a time in your life when you look at what’s going on and think, “This stinks!”?? How do you handle times like that?

Sometimes, we’re drawn up short by the harsh reality stuff in our life stinks. It might be because of illness (either yours or someone close to you). It might be because of financial difficulties. It might be because you get an unexpected shock, like hearing of the death of someone you loved. Or it might be because of a combination of stuff. No matter the causes, the stinky realities in our lives exist. Sometimes, we can prevent these stinky realities. However, often we cannot. They just happen to us, with nothing we can do or say to prevent it. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus is quoted as saying,

He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Both unfair and fair, stinky and wonderful, things happen to all of us. Sometimes they are a result of our actions, because as I’ve said before, actions have consequences. But often it’s just sun and rain, as Jesus said. I thought at one point of calling this post, “Life Isn’t Fair,” until I remembered something I always told our kids. Life isn’t fair.

Gifts like intelligence, beauty, humor, birth place and wit are doled out completely unfairly. Curses like illness, sudden death, poverty, birth place and handicapping conditions are equally unfairly measured. (Yes, I just said “birth place” twice, for a reason. Think about it.) People who “deserve” good things to happen to them have bad things happen, instead of the good we believe they deserve.. And the opposite is just as true, too. Any way we look at it, life just isn’t fair.

It’s a common misconception in people going through painful circumstances that no one understands what they are going through. But as we’ve just learned, everyone goes through them. So, what do we do when our life seems to stink? How do we cope? Some people cope by escapism. They seek relief in mindless games or television, activities or other distractions. Speaking as someone who has tried escapism, I can tell you it doesn’t work. All it does is put off the issues until we come out of our escapism reveries. Then, we still have to face them.

Some people cope by medicating their emotions with alcohol, drugs or food. They drink, use drugs or eat to feed the inner hunger or numb the inner pain caused by the outer circumstances. Speaking as someone who has tried medicating my issues (my drug of choice being food), I can tell you it doesn’t work, either. Like escapism, all it does is put things off. Unfortunately, if we abuse these medicating tendencies too much, it also adds addictions, weight and/or long term problems we have to deal with for years after the original painful issues have disappeared.

Some people cope by withdrawing. They close in on themselves emotionally, and sometimes physically, and shut the world out. They may or may not do what is necessary to continue the mechanics of daily living, but when they do, it’s mechanical. There’s no joy in their journey. But when we withdraw, the challenges from which we are withdrawing don’t go away. Often, the very act of withdrawal can make them worse.

Sometimes, we cope by reaching out. We seek a listening ear to pour our troubles. In moderation, this is a healthy coping mechanism. Receiving the gift of compassionate listening from another person is a great way of realizing we’re not alone, that others have traveled similar roads, and we will survive this, too. The challenge we face is not to overwhelm our listeners and being viewed as being too needy. Compassion has its limits, too, and we have to remind ourselves of that sometimes.

Besides reaching out, my personal favorite method of coping with hard times is with prayer in my Christian faith. When I pray, I reach out to God, who, in the words of the Old Testament, is named

The name of God is Elohim – My Creator

The name of God is El Roi – God Who Sees

The name of God is Adonai – My Lord, My Master

The name of God is El Shaddai – God Almighty

The name of God is Jehovah Nissi -The LORD Our Banner

The name of God is Jehovah Mekeddeshem – LORD Who Sanctifies

The name of God is Jehovah Jireh – The LORD Will Provide

The name of God is Jehovah Ezer -The LORD our Helper

The name of God is Jehovah Roi – The Lord is My Shepherd

The name of God is Jehovah Rapha – LORD Who Heals

The name of God is Jehovah Sabaoth – LORD of hosts (of armies)

The name of God is Jehovah Shalom – The LORD our Peace

The name of God is Jehovah Mekeddeshem – LORD Who Sanctifies

The name of God is Jehovah Shammah – The LORD is There

In times of trouble, when life just stinks, I especially love the ones I made bold! Why?

  • God Sees me. I am not forgotten, lost in a sea of humanity. I am noticed.
  • God is my Helper. I am not without Someone to help me. I have a strong Defender.
  • God is my Banner. He goes before me to fight off what troubles me, and to carry the banner of His victory over sin, death and Satan with Him
  • God is my Healer. When it hurts, he heals my body, my heart, relationships, finances and everything that’s broken in my life.
  • God is my Peace. When all is craziness around me, He is my Sanctuary, my place of rest.
  • God is There. He is ever-present. I don’t have to worry about where my friends are. I am not alone.

My faith helps me to keep going, to hold on, even when times are hard and life just stinks. It helps me to fight off my tendencies to escape or medicate my pain with overeating (or eating stuff I know I shouldn’t). It helps me to more than cope, to more than survive. It helps me emerge stronger and better than ever. By now you might be saying, “Sure, she can talk that way. She doesn’t know what I am going through!” You’re right; I don’t. But at the same time, you don’t know where I am walking now, either. That’s neither here nor there, except to say I’m in a painful place as I write this, going through tough stuff. But as the Native American proverb said,

Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

I’m not walking in your moccasins, as it were, and you’re not walking in mine. But I am still walking, and I do have a question for you: Are you still walking? Are you still moving on, or are you escaping, medicating or withdrawing?

Come, let’s walk together.

The Committee of They

How often are we ruled by the opinions of others? How often do we allow what we believe other people “might think” to dominate our own thoughts, attitudes, choices and actions?

When our kids were younger, they often tried a classic child persuasion ploy on my husband and myself for things they wanted. “But everyone’s doing it!” was their plaintive cry, usually after a parental “NO” had been already been heard. Upon closer questioning, it was usually found “everyone” was not doing it. Some were, and some were not, and we almost always remained firm in our resolve our kids would be in the “not” group. When told  due to budgetary restrictions to wear a style that was last year’s, or banned from an activity that was either against our beliefs or we couldn’t afford (or we didn’t have time to do), I was told “they” didn’t wear such dorky things, “they” had cool Moms and “they” got to do all the best stuff.

One day, I got sick of it. I looked at my young teenagers, interrupted one mid-rant and firmly informed them, “The Committee of ‘THEY’ don’t live here any more!” The non-ranting sibling quietly asked in the shocked silence what I’d meant. Stunned by the simplicity and profound truth of what I’d said, I told them we would make our decisions as we always did, with discussion between my husband and I, based on our values and lifestyle needs, and not based on what “everyone” else was saying or doing. “They” were not to be used as an arguing point any more, because I’d just decided “their” opinions and behavior never had any influence on us before, and therefore didn’t deserve to have any now. The kids were thunderstruck.

When told of the conversation, my peace-loving husband (bless him!) said simply, “I love it!,” backed me completely and eventually began using it himself. It took some time to get the kids to understand a “they” argument meant an almost sure automatic “NO” from us, but they eventually got the point.

As time went on, we saw how this rule applied in other areas of our lives. When faced with opposition after we started our own non-traditional business, the Committee of They chimed in with a nearly unanimously negative response. My husband and I considered “their” response, and promptly ignored it. “They” didn’t provide for our family; we did. When Committee of They told us we were not raising our children properly, we considered “their” response, consulted trusted counselors (who were also successful parents themselves), and ignored “them.” We decided we were the parents, the ones to whom God gave the responsibility to raise the kids, not “them.”

As I look deeper at life, I realize the voices of the Committee of They are persistent, pervasive and proliferating. They are persistent because we hear it constantly, no matter what we do. They are pervasive because we hear them everywhere, from our friends, family and the news media. And they are proliferating because like critics, who go nowhere and do nothing yet tear down those who do, “they” are everywhere, criticizing everything.

And “they” are growing. Think about it with me for a minute. When was the last time you had an idea you didn’t follow through on because of what “they” might think, say or do? Come on, be honest with yourself, because we’ve all had them. The incredible irony of it is we never realize others think and speak about us way less than we believe they are, just because, like us, they are too busy thinking and speaking of themselves and what “they” might think of them!  (Did I confuse you yet?) Recently, best-selling author, successful entrepreneur and leadership expert Orrin Woodward said on Twitter,

If you poll the crowd for your success advice, expect the success of the crowd.

Orrin’s partner, best-selling author, successful entrepreneur and leadership expert Chris Brady quoted recently on Twitter,

When you don’t march to the same beat as everybody else, then you have to be able to stand up for what you believe in. — Gary Major

It takes inner toughness to stand up to the Committee of They. It takes willingness to listen to trusted voices of counsel and reason, come up with a decision together and stick to it in the face of opposition. Critical bombs will be lobbed your way by The Committee of They who disagree with you. Heck, at times you’ll think it’s a war zone with all the shots “They” are taking at you!

But if you stand firm, stick to your convictions and what you believe to be your best course, you will find an inner satisfaction no outside approval from The Committee of They can offer.  And sometimes, you even get the immense personal satisfaction of showing the world (sometimes in a public arena) you were right and “they” were wrong, without ever finding a need to rub it in. The rest of the time, just knowing it for yourself is plenty good enough . . .

The Courage To Stay (Part 1) – A Parable

Once upon a time, there was a land ruled over by a benevolent and kind king and his council. His subjects, though few, were happy. His dukes and princes came from the ranks of common people and acquired their titles through great service to them.

Each duke and prince was responsible for the well-being of the people in their region, and they worked hard to help they prosper and succeed. It gave the common people joy to know they could aspire to their ranks. As word of the happy kingdom spread, more people came, desiring to be subjects of this good king, and thus the kingdom grew and prospered.

Eventually, as time passed, the good king grew old and tired, and passed the rulership of his kingdom to his sons. He counselled them to listen to the advice of the council, as well as the dukes and princes. And for a time, as the sons learned to rule, they took this wise advice. So the kingdom continued to prosper and grow.

After some time, however, some of the older council members passed their titles on to newer ones the sons chose. Unfortunately, the sons began to slowly choose people who would want to do things to help the sons and the council, and not always the people. They also began to build up armies, which quickly grew great in size and influence.

Many of the dukes and princes started telling the sons and the council how their decisions were harming the people and the kingdom. Some started visiting other kingdoms, and the sons sent their armies against them, declaring them traitors. The dukes and princes who stayed kept telling the sons about the harm they were doing. At the same time, they were encouraging the people to do the right things for the kingdom, telling them not to visit other kingdoms or rebel.

Finally, the sons, their council and the generals of their armies met with some of the leaders of the dukes and princes who were speaking out for the people and kingdom. The dukes and princes were told if they did not stop speaking, they would be called traitors and the armies would be sent against them, too. With great courage, these dukes and princes said they’d rather be called traitors and have armies against them, then to harm the people any more.

The dukes and princes went to a no man’s land, where no kings dwelt. Many of the people who were encouraged by them followed them. Life was hard there, with no livelihood, and the armies of the kingdom coming against them. The dukes and princes gladly gave of what they had so the people would be able to live. Most of them stuck together, and the strong survived the wilderness.

Eventually, another kindly king heard of their plight, and offered to give the dukes, princes and people land to build new homes. The offer was gladly accepted, and all the people rejoiced at the compassion of the king. The people, who had grown weak and almost starved on their journeys, began to recover and thrive once more.

But the armies of the sons’ kingdom still came against them again and again. Time after time, the dukes and princes would have to go to war, while the common people were able to rest in safety, and often in ignorance.

Eventually, a few of the dukes and princes tired of the war, and signed a peace treaty, while the others fought on. The peace treaty divided the dukes and princes, and eventually the people. Those who signed the treaty went to another part of the new kingdom, farther from the borders and war, to live in more safety. Most of their people left with them, but some stayed. These were called turncoats by their dukes and princes.

Those who refused to sign the peace treaties stayed with their people, refusing to sacrifice their honor for some safety. It took great courage for these dukes and princes to stay! The dukes and princes saw some of the people who stayed had no one to lead them, and accepted them as their own. These people had great gratitude towards their new dukes and princes! Most of the people knew very little of the fight of the dukes and princes, and the toll it was taking on them. But the dukes and princes continued the war, because now it was a matter of honor to them.

After long years and much struggle, the dukes and princes won their war. The victory was a quiet one for them, because most of the people still didn’t know how hard they’d fought. Soon, though, they went to the new king and told him they wanted to start their own kingdom, in alliance with his. They would move mostly out of his territory, into uncharted lands that looked to their scouts to be very prosperous, which were right on the borders of where they now were. They offered trade agreements and exclusive accesses. To their delight, the kindly king agreed to all their requests and gave they his blessing! The dukes and princes who’d moved into safer areas tried to join them, but the king and the brave dukes and princes who stayed said only those who’d had the courage to stay during the hard times of war were welcome during the prosperous times of peace.

The dukes and princes who had the courage to stay became the ruling council and set up a peaceful kingdom, where the people flourished and the kingdom grew quickly. New dukes and princes arose, and some even rose to the ruling council. The alliance with the kindly king held firm, and the agreements blessed both sides. The kingdom was a happy place, and the people rejoiced in the wisdom and courage of their rulers.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There are many examples of courage in literature and history. In my parable, I have explored with you, dear reader, a few aspects of the courage it takes to stay when others are running away. In my next post, The Courage To Stay – Historical Examples (Part 2), I will go more specifically into it.

Our Endless Pursuit of Perfection

English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCost...

I recently ordered a pair of glasses from my ophthalmology office. I have some specific needs in any pair of glasses I wear regularly. It makes for a tricky order.

They came in. And went back, because they weren’t right. The office said the prescription for one of the lenses didn’t quite match mine. It needed to be right before they’d release them to me.

I went through this several years ago, with another office, a national chain. It took them 6 tries for the lab to get my glasses right, over 3 months! The store manager was so frustrated after the 4th attempt, he called his boss’s boss, and informed him the company was reimbursing every bit of my costs, to make up for my delay and inconvenience. After the 5th attempt, corporate gave in.

I am not telling you this so you can feel sorry for me, with my challenges in ordering glasses. It is an effort to think about where the search for perfection might be a positive thing to have working, and where it might not.

A medicine icon.

The search for perfection in things like health care is a good thing. We want our prescriptions perfect, whether they be glasses or medicine. We want our doctors to diagnose us right, the first time, and prescribe the right course of treatment. We want to be having correct billing, and not pay more than our insurance company says we have to, assuming we have insurance.

We want things as close to perfect as possible when we deal with food,

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

whether buying it or ordering it. We want to know it’s fresh and good for us. We want to know it’s not contaminated, or handled by someone who’s ill. If we’re eating out, we want it to taste good.

Most of us seek for perfection in our work. We want to do a good job for our employers, to give an honest effort for the wage they pay, whether we feel we deserve a larger one or not.

How many other areas can you think of where people seek perfection? I can think of dozens, right off the top of my head. Society gives us the message we should want perfection in our life partners, our bodies, our families (though I am beginning to think it is now pushing dysfunctional as “the new normal”), our extended relationships and so on.

English: Mid drive fluid motion quantum ellipt...

What is the result of all this search for perfection? Health clubs have booming memberships. Diet plans are everywhere you turn. A new career has sprung up and gained popularity, the Life Coach. (Not that I am knocking it, since Life Coaches with LIFE know what they’re talking about and have the fruit on the tree of experience to prove it!)

And everyone keeps searching for the elusive butterfly of perfection. never realizing it will ever remain just out of reach. Modern society tells us we want to be married to super models, be super models ourselves, have homes out of decorating magazines, kids who win all the awards and get all A’s, have perfect greeting card holidays, own the latest and greatest whatever, never have problems, never get sick or be stressed or tired . . . The list is as unrealistic as it is endless!

Even God never demanded perfection of us after the Garden of Eden. What He

English: The Garden of Earthly Delights [detai...

said as recorded in Leviticus 11:44 was,

I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

The expectation God Himself has on humans is holiness, not perfection. A standard of excellence, not something He knew we’d find impossible to reach. God didn’t make it easy, but He did make it worthwhile.

Perfect poise

When I demand perfection of myself, or demand it of those around me, I childishly insist on  something God never expected me to do. When I insist life must be in perfect balance at all times for me to be happy, I set myself up for disappointment on a daily, even hourly, basis. If I were to insist everything I did were perfect, you would never read a single post from me! I’m careful in my editing, to say all I want to say (hopefully without offending anyone too badly!), but if I demanded perfection, I’d be editing every entry forever, and never get one of them posted! (Maybe one or two of you are saying, “Good, that means she’d shut up!”, but I hope not!)

So, how do we solve this problem? The Apostle Paul addressed it in Romans

Rembrandt - Apostle Paul - WGA19120

16:19b when he said,

I want you to be excellent in what is good and to avoid what is evil.

So our goal is excellence, not perfection. Like God’s own standard of holiness over perfection, excellence is attainable. It’s not easy. It’s hard, very hard. But it is something we can do. And perhaps, should do.

The world makes room for those who seek excellence. Excellence opens doors mere talent may only crack. Those who seek excellence in whatever they attempt eventually rise above their competition. The landmark book Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Calvin speaks to this. In it, he cites several case studies in which those who practiced their craft attained higher levels of achievement than those who relied on mere talent alone, without the discipline of continued practice applied over time.

Chris Brady

Chris Brady

Leadership guru, best-selling author, business leader, and award-winning blogger Chris Brady discussed excellence in his post, A High-Def Life. In it he said,

There is no substitute for hard work. Tim Tebow said, “It’s not hard to beat talent when talent won’t work hard.” The most successful people in life are not the ones with the most talent, but rather those who have the ability to push themselves to excellence. Remember: You won’t reach high if you won’t push on.

The secret to excellence, then, is in pursuing it. It’s a goal, not a destination. It’s one I’m headed toward,and I am one of many in the pursuit. If you’re not already, why not come and join us?