When Life Turns Upside Down

What do you do when your life upends on itself? How do you handle a major shift (or even multiple ones), for which you likely hadn’t planned?

Much as my life is open on Twitter, Facebook and the like, there are certain things about which I am deeply private. Upheavals in my life, stresses I am enduring and tough things I am going through are things I do not share as I go through them, except with those closest to me. These are not for public consumption. If I do share them, I do so after, as a testimony.

However, Dear Readers, I’ve been grappling a lot with the questions I started this post with lately. I cannot say I have every definite answer on them. So why share such stuff now? Because as is my usual way on this blog, all I can do is share my journey and where I am in it, and hope it helps you in yours.

It all started on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the end of April. The weather was cool and the sky was cloudless. It was the kind of day that, when you woke up and looked outside and saw how gorgeous an early spring day it was, it made you happy to be alive in it. To make things better, we were attending a gathering that day with a group of our Life Leadership partners in Syracuse, NY, about a 3-hour drive from our home. It was a fun event, a reward for hard work and a time to spend relaxing with some of our favorite people.

On the interstate on the trip home, I was dozing in the front passenger seat of our minivan. I was tired from an exhausting week at work, and grateful I didn’t have to drive. My husband Bob was driving. Daughter Beth was in the middle seat, playing a game on her phone. Son-in-law Tom was in the back seat, sprawled asleep.

I woke to the rumble strip under us and saw the van speeding into the median strip on the left side of the road, heading toward scraping the guardrail. In a moment of panic, Bob yanked the wheel right, abruptly swerving us back onto the highway. Temporarily. The force of his yank caused the van to continue to careen to the right, swerving and tipping the van to the right, toward my side. I covered my face with my hands, and began to breathe the only prayer I could think of in such a moment, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!

I stopped praying when the noise and movement stopped. I moved my hands from my face, shocked to be alive, and not in the Eternal presence of the One on Whom I’d called in my moments of greatest danger and need. I was upside down, pinned in place between the remains of the van’s roof, dashboard, and my seat, held firmly in place by my seatbelt, but I was alive!

I heard Bob asking everyone else if they were okay as he helped them out. I heard another voice, who I later learned was a woman who lived nearby, asking the same questions. I saw blood all over me, but quickly realized not much of it was mine. As far as I could see or feel, I just wasn’t cut that badly. I was, however, still pinned, and having a panic attack over it. The woman (who I learned was a nurse practitioner in her professional life) told everyone to let the paramedics and firefighters get me out. But I moved my arms and legs, hands and feet, and determined my spine was not damaged. I was just stuck!

Overriding her protests, Tom crawled in and released my seat belt’s buckle, freeing me and assisting me out. The woman insisted I go to one side away from the van and sit down on the grass there while we waited for the police and paramedics. Happy at being freed from my prison, I was grateful to comply.

I looked around and realized the van, which we’d just paid off a few short months before, was a total wreck. But we were all walking, talking and none of us appeared to be seriously injured! The paramedics looked at the scene, checked the cuts and road rash on Bob’s arm, and told him it was a miracle it hadn’t been torn off as we skidded upside down across the pavement and grass. My hands were cut where the smashing glass from my window and the windshield on my side cut them, but because I had put them up to pray, they took the damage, and my face did not. Beth’s shoulder was sprained where Tom had grabbed her by it and her hair as we started to flip and she was about to fly out the shattered windows and be crushed by the skidding van, saving her life. Tom’s bad back and Beth’s and my bad knees were made worse by the crash, but we walked away.

God protected us all that afternoon in so very many ways that are miraculous. In that 20-mile stretch of road, there was only one place where such an accident could have happened, and we could have skidded across 2 lanes into the grass on the roof. Everywhere else, there are guardrails, embankments, steep slopes ending in ravines and/or trees, hillsides and all the other things traveling on an interstate through hilly country involves. There was no traffic around us to hit us. The road behind us was empty when we skidded across it.

When Bob and I went to where they’d towed the van the next day to gather the remains of our belongings that hadn’t been lost or destroyed, we realized the back 1/3 of the vehicle was completely undamaged. The roof above my seat, my door and the passenger door on my side had taken the worst of the damage and had held just enough in place to save our lives, particularly mine.

God protected us even to our clothes and belongings. The only items of permanently damaged clothing were Bob’s shirt and Beth’s jacket, his with its asphalt stains and small rips, showing the force of the scraping along the pavement, and God’s protection of his left arm, and hers with its multiple rips from broken glass. And the shirt was easy to replace! Even the blood stains came out of all our clothes, including to my white turtleneck. The only items (aside from the van) lost forever were a plastic cup I’d been using and a small stuffed Tiger Beenie Baby named Stripes on the dashboard.

God protected our grandchildren. We could have brought them with us that day. Other people had, and the option was open to us. But we’d decided to leave them home with a sitter. So other than some emotional trauma because the sitter had the phone on speaker when Tom called to say we’d be late arriving and why our oldest granddaughter heard it. It took almost a week to reassure her that we’d be okay every time one of the adults walked out the door! (We now have a rule that no one answers the phone on speaker anymore!)

The paramedics and police arrived, and things moved rather quickly after that. They bandaged Bob and mopped up the rest of us. Tom initially objected to being transported to the hospital, but relented when our friends (who were following some miles after and would bring us home later) informed him they were not stopping to pick him up! (It was a good thing they did. His concussion needed further treatment the next day.) They brought us to the hospital, and we went through an evening of the usual Emergency Room “hurry up and wait” that non-life-threatening injuries have to endure. We didn’t mind. After rounds of tests, multiple bandages both large (Bob’s arm) and small (my hands), volumes of paperwork and what seemed like a million questions from marveling hospital employees, we were finally allowed to leave. We went to the nearest fast food drive-through, got food for all of us and our dear friends who’d waited so patiently for us and who we’d scared so badly (and who were bringing us home!), and went home.

We had minor concussions (everyone), several large cuts (Bob), multiple smaller cuts (mostly mine), 1 strained knee (Beth), 2 bruised knees (mine), 1 road rash (Bob), 2 bad backs made worse by the crash (mine and Tom’s, his being the worst) and multiple bruises (everyone, but mostly me because of hanging in the seat belt). In the hours and days to come, we also discovered a bit of post-traumatic stress as well among all of us. And we are alive.

Yes, I know, I keep repeating that. It’s the first lesson I learned from this. When your whole world turns (literally, in my case) upside down, find something or some things large or small to be grateful about. In a near-death episode, alive is a good place to start! We are also grateful for the other miracles, saving Bob’s arm and my face, the preservation of our belongings, the timing and location of the crash. We are grateful for our friends who came to us at the hospital, and who called our Life Leadership leaders and let them know, so they could pray. We are grateful for the prayers of our church family when they found out. We are grateful so little was injured, and that most are already healed and restored. We are even grateful for our insurance company, who was so quick with settlements and whose paperwork processes were so simple to navigate.

I took the next day off from work, to deal with the remnants of my concussion, get the stuff from the van and recover somewhat. We spent a lot of time over the next week with one another and our grandchildren, reassuring the children we were okay, and that we return home again whenever we left the house. Family time was more important to us than it ever had been over those days. When your whole world turns upside down, you get a chance to assess and perhaps even reassess your priorities. The traditional North American priorities of money and stuff can seem rather pointless when your paradigms get shifted so radically. We got a chance to affirm our faith and our family, from our immediate to our extended members, are some of the highest priorities in our lives.

Our lives have changed since the accident. Because Bob’s inattention (which caused us to go off the road to the left in the first place) was likely caused by a medical issue that had been previously unknown, Bob went the following week to his cardiologist, who is now doing tests and may send him to a neurologist for more tests. Until he gets a firm diagnosis and treatment, Bob is not allowed to drive. That leaves all the driving to Tom, Beth and me, and we’re now down one car. It makes life more inconvenient for everyone. In the inconvenience is the second lesson I’ve learned from this. When your whole world turns upside down, tolerance, patience and striving for excellence is required of those of us who live a life in service to others. You don’t have to fall into the trap of perfectionism when more weight falls on your shoulders than you are used to carrying. Perfect isn’t demanded. Your best is required.

There’s another lesson in Bob’s medical tests and current inability to drive.  These add uncertainty we didn’t have along with their inconvenience, creating a “new normal.” I grieved for our old “normal,” expressing my fears to my best friend (the same one who came for us that night). She reminded me fear is not from God, Who promises differently:

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3

When your whole world turns upside down, living with uncertainty is almost always a sure thing. Being uncertain is normal. Having a transition to a “new normal” and understanding grieving for what used to be “normal” is acceptable. Dwelling in it is fruitless. I tried that for a few days. It got me nowhere. It was only when I accepted the uncertainty as being part of the “new normal” and accepted it as “normal now” that I began to find peace in my situation.

We also grieved. When Bob and I went to get our stuff from the van the next day, as we left, I looked at it and silently said, “You were good to us. You did not deserve the death we gave you, but I thank you for it, that in your death our lives were saved.” Yes, it was just a thing. But saying goodbye to a vehicle in a culture that depends on and almost worships transportation can be emotional in such circumstances.   We remembered what was, and thought a lot about what could have been. In the end, with counsel from friends, we chose to set the event as a time of what did happen, instead of what didn’t. In Joshua 4:6 – 7, God commanded the people crossing the Jordan River to take up stones from the bottom and set them as a memorial to His power for stopping the river in flood so they could cross it on the far side. This was counsel I got from our friends: When your whole world turns upside down, the hardships of yesterday and today become the memorial stones of tomorrow. We pass that site going back and forth at least a couple of times monthly in our travels for Life Leadership. The first time was incredibly difficult for me, and I had a panic attack. On the way home, I decided to ignore it. It was on that trip we got the counsel, though I did not receive it well at the time. The second time, I took that counsel from our friends and made a memorial stone in my mind there of God’s grace and protection. On the way home, the memorial stone was there. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The memorial stones of our lives are proof to us of it.

So, where are things now? We still face the uncertainty of Bob’s tests. The insurance settlement sits in savings, awaiting the day he will (hopefully) be allowed to drive again, so we can replace the van. If the tests never allow him to drive again, we’ll eventually replace my car with it. We are living a life of uncertainty, and just grateful to God to be living it. Because when your whole world turns upside down, remembering Who is in ultimately in charge is essential. As we are learning now, He Who saved us is also He Who continues to sustain us. And when the One who sustains you has saved you from something like what we went through, trusting Him to sustains you becomes a whole lot easier to do . . . 

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Impossible!

What seems impossible to you? What idea or plan or dream seems so unlikely as to be almost impossible right now?

In the 1965 version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother (played by Celeste Holm) told Cinderella (played by Lesley Ann Warren) it wasn’t impossible for her to go where she most wanted, to the prince’s ball. In my favorite song from the show, the Fairy Godmother sings “Impossible.” Here are some of the words:

Impossible! For a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage! Impossible! For a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage! And four white mice could never be four white horses! Such folderoll and fildeedeees, of courses! Impossible!

 

But the world is full of zanies and fools who don’t believe in sensible rules! And won’t believe what sensible people say! And because these daft and dewy eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes . . . Impossible! Things are happening every day!!

In the musical, because Cinderella believes what the Fairy Godmother says, she goes to the ball. Because she goes to the ball, the prince sees her and falls in love with her, and she falls in love with him. They go through trials (what good story doesn’t?), and eventually celebrate their love by getting married.

Wouldn’t it be great if all our impossible dreams worked out so well (and so quickly!) as Cinderella’s? However, the story tellers had only a scant hour or two (including commercials) to tell a tale. Real life usually takes quite a bit longer, unfortunately.

According to the Fairy Godmother, what was the key to Cinderella dropping her dirty appearance and socially unacceptable status, and walking into the ball like she belonged there? It was in Cinderella’s own beliefs the world could be, and should be, a better and kinder place to her. Cinderella was a princess in her heart and soul before she was one on the outside. The Fairy Godmother just supplied the magical window dressings.

We can apply the same principles of belief Cinderella used for ourselves, if we learn how and properly use them! Now, mind you, I’m not advocating some hokey “Name It and Claim It Because You Tell God (or the Universe) You Should Have It” kind of mumbo-jumbo. I am talking about real belief, real faith and real trust that you can and should have what you earn and deserve in life.

It’s a mind-set, really. So many of us get ourselves convinced for whatever lousy reasons we don’t deserve good things in life, so we self-sabotage ourselves into not getting them. We want them, we yearn for them with all our hearts. But until we convince ourselves we’re worthwhile and worthy of them, until we believe they are possible in our lives, they won’t happen. Because until we do, all our work will be in vain, as we continually self-sabotage all our efforts.

I have been an expert at this. I see good things in life and I want to work to get them. But my underlying image of myself always told me I didn’t deserve them, so I would self-sabotage any efforts of working toward them. It hasn’t been until I’ve begun to deal with my self-image that my efforts are finally starting to bear fruit.

So, if we get our self-sabotage under control, how do we believe? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to believe. I only know it’s necessary, and it’s a decision.

It’s like the boy who is the main character in The Polar Express. The boy is on the train because he’s a skeptic about Santa Clause. He’d like to see before he believes. When he gets to the North Pole, he sees all the evidence around him, but cannot see Santa for the crowds of elves. He cannot hear the sleigh bells, either. Finally, he just decides to believe, saying,

Okay! Okay! Okay! I believe! I believe! I believe!

It is in that magic moment of his decision to believe that he hears the sleigh bells, and sees Santa Clause, too. His belief opens the door to a personal encounter with Santa, and a life long joy.

During the closing credits of the movie, a song sung by Josh Groban plays called Believe. Here’s the words of the chorus, in hopes you can believe, too:

Believe in what your heart is saying

Hear the melody that’s playing

There’s no time to waste

There’s so much to celebrate!

 

Believe in what you feel inside

And give your dreams the wings to fly!

You have everything you need

If you just believe!

As I write this, it’s 3 days before Christmas 2014. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

May your 2015 be filled with impossibilities, because you believe . . . 

Be Still And Know — A Not So Perfect Family Christmas

Have you ever received what seems like an impossible suggestion or request or even command? How do you deal with it?

It was late December. I’d been sick for about a month, and found out the previous Tuesday I had a sinus infection. I’d probably been sick with it most of that month, but at least now I was on antibiotics. The Friday after my diagnosis, we learned my husband, who had also been sick all month, had one, too. He was given the same antibiotics.

Being sick, however, didn’t stop the massive, out-of-control freight train that was my “To Do” list and schedule. I tried to delegate some. I asked my husband (who was home and retired while I was still working full-time) to wrap the gifts. Our son took on a majority of the cookie baking, as he had every year (whether I wanted him to or not) for the past 4 or 5 years. (I still had to do the ones for the Cookie Exchange at work, and of course I’d signed up for the most complex and painstaking monster of a project imaginable!!.) The pair of them even decorated the house and yard with lights, and put up the tree, though it stayed without ornaments for over 2 weeks. My husband helped me stuff the stockings. I asked our daughter to make our traditional Christmas dessert which her husband adores, Pumpkin Cheesecake. But I was still rushed, frazzled and quite frankly, worn out. There was just too much on that “To Do” list, too little time to do it, and I was still sick . . .

Finally, at church on the Sunday before Christmas, a friend read a Scripture that touched my heart. It spoke to my illness, my “To Do” list, my hectic schedule and my lack of joy in what is normally my favorite time of year. When I heard it, I felt like God was speaking the words to me, gently slapping me upside my head.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God.” The words spoke life to my rushed, troubled heart. Sweeping aside my “To Do” list, my schedule and my self-imposed Christmas insanity, the words of Psalm 46 demanded a paradigm shift of my priorities, my schedule and my life.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They called me to rest. Not just sleep, which my still sick body desperately needed. No, these words were calling me to true rest and peace in God. To know that perfect isn’t required, and okay is good enough. To know that the menu isn’t important, it’s who is eating the food, and making sure was Jesus our Guest, too.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They called me to remember the Reason for the season. They reminded me again of what I’d known since childhood: Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior. It’s about His life, His sacrificial offering of Himself for us so that we can have a relationship with Him and His Father. It’s not about the food, the presents, the lights and all the other trappings, no matter how good they are. Because they are the “good” of the season, while the gift of Jesus was, is and always will be God’s greatest and best.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They insisted I deal with the emotional weight I’d been avoiding, of that first Christmas without my Mom being among us after her death the previous March. I was reminded she was celebrating the holiday with Jesus, and even though it’s different without her, and always will be, that’s okay.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They reminded me I’m not in control of my life, and God is. Even when I tried to give in to the illusion and deception of being a (recovering) control freak, the words cut through my feeble efforts to direct my life and reminded me there is One who is ultimately in control. And He is in control not just of my life, but of situations and circumstances beyond my comprehension, even reaching to the far-flung galaxies of the universe. The words reminded me I can trust the One who spun it all into existence, and holds it together by His will.

That last reminder was very helpful 2 days later (and 2 days before Christmas), when I got a call at work, telling me our daughter and 6 month old granddaughter had influenza, despite having gotten flu shots! (CDC says the shots don’t cover every strain, and they got one it didn’t, of course!) Our daughter and son-in-law wanted us to take the 2 older children (who were not sick), and have them stay with us from that day, through Christmas and for several days after.

“Be still and know that I am God.” These words ran through my mind repeatedly as I spoke to my husband, working out first if we could do it. Then, when we decided we could, we discussed the logistics of my work schedule and transportation needs, all now more complicated by the presence in our house of 2 girls, ages 4 and 6, for a few unexpected days.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Stuff I’d planned and we “always” do didn’t get done. Our daughter didn’t get the cheesecake baked before she got sick. Since small granddaughters prefer Christmas cookies to cheesecake, we were okay with that. My husband and son decorated the tree with the help of 2 small girls. As long as my delicate, breakable ornaments were put high by one of the men, I didn’t care what it looked like.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  The 4 year old and I started having coughing fits on Christmas Eve. I suspected exposure to my daughter (for me, prior to her showing symptoms on Sunday) was the culprit. Instead of the “perfect” family Christmas, we had one that was a different and not so perfect kind of family Christmas. We were missing Mom, and almost 1/2 of us were ill. But in its own way, it was perfect, because those ancient words prompted me to remember Christmas is perfect when we are with people we love and we have invited God and His presence and peace to be in our midst.

“Be still and know that I am God.” I pray your holiday season will be filled with the gentle stillness of God’s loving presence and at least some of the people you love.

Merry Christmas!

When Pain Mocks The Song — Even In The Christmas Update Letter by Terri Brady

Success 301 — The Power of Compounding

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 #3, The Power of Compounding.

If you will recall, I started this series with a story about talking to someone about whether they wanted a penny a day doubled, or $1 million. They chose the $1 million, not understanding the concepts of The Power of Compounding.

So, what happens when you use The Power of Compounding and double a penny daily for 31 days? The following chart is eye-opening!

DAY AMOUNT
1 $0.01
2 $0.02
3 $0.04
4 $0.08
5 $0.16
6 $0.32
7 $0.64
8 $1.28
9 $2.56
10 $5.12
11 $10.24
12 $20.48
13 $49.96
14 $81.92
15 $163.84
16 $327.68
17 $655.35
18 $1,310.72
19 $2,621.44
20 $5,242.88
21 $10,485.76
22 $20,971.52
23 $41,983.04
24 $83,886.07
25 $167,772.16
26 $335,544.32
27 $671,088.64
28 $1,342,177.28
29 $2,684,354.56
30 $5,368,709.12
31 $10,737,418.24

Now that we see the amazing things The Power of Compounding can do, how can we put it to use for ourselves, in our lives? Author Jeff Olson wrote about it in his book The Slight Edge.

He said small activities compound themselves over time. These result in big changes in our lives. When considering the impact incremental changes make in our lives, think about how much your body would change in a year if all you did was eat 1 donut every day, in addition to what you are eating now, without adding or subtracting anything else, or any exercise. What would happen? You’d gain weight!

In the same way,  saving a little money every month for years, slowly accumulating it, letting interest compound and never touching the balance will result in a nice nest egg years later if you start young. That’s why noted scientist (and acknowledged genius) Albert Einstein called The Power of Compounding Interest the 8th wonder of the world!

As you can see by these examples, The Power of Compounding can be used in our favor, or for our harm. In my next post, I’ll put all of what we’ve discussed so far together, and see where we’ve come out.

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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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We They or Us

Who decides in a society who “we” is, and who “they” are? How are we “us” and those folks “them”? What makes the one human race so divisive we feel we must devolve into different groups, competing for everything, instead of sharing it?

These are the thoughts that have run through my head recently as I have pondered my stance on the subject of illegal immigration in the U.S. I thought my opinions clear and logically held. “They” (meaning the undocumented immigrants) are not here legally, which was wrong. “They” take jobs from Americans. “They” take entitlements to which they are not rightfully entitled as non-citizens. “They” . . . I could go on, but you get the picture.

I’ve had my paradigms on the subject radically shifted lately. Two events have caused me to reconsider everything I believed about this politically and socially charged topic.

The first was the TEAM LIFE Fall Leadership Conference I attended in October. At this conference, a couple was recognized for achieving the ranks of leadership in the company held by only 11 other couples. As part of their recognition, they told the riveting story of how they earned this achievement and their success.

Thelmar and Sandra were born in Guatemala. Both of them came to the U.S. as illegal immigrants, and Sandra was deported the first time she tried to come. Thelmar had been a Communist revolutionary in Guatemala, but left when he realized his life was in danger there. He came here to work against the system in the U.S., and by working within it, learned to love it. Thelmar and Sandra earned their places in the U.S., and their eventual citizenship, by hard work, dedication and a commitment to give back to the country that had taken them in when they had nowhere else to go.

Hearing their moving story, I felt like my whole accepted point of view was turned upside down and shaken. On a break later, I told my mentor I was going to have to do some serious rethinking of my views on illegal immigration, given what we’d heard.

The second event came from FaceBook. I saw a link to a video by a group called UpWorthy. It was about a high school student, a political refugee from Albania, who was planning to go to college to be a doctor. Ala’s immigration status was tangled in a paperwork mix-up that was no fault of hers, and the government threatened to deport her.

Ala’s story is part of a larger documentary, “The Dream is Now,” a film by Davis Guggenheim (Academy Award-winning director of “An Inconvenient Truth”). I will be honest. I was prepared to dislike Mr. Guggenheim’s film, simply due to his earlier work, since I disagree with his subject of the other film. But the short clip about Ala softened me enough to watch the 35 minute documentary, and I was glad I did. (Here’s the link if you want to see it: “The Dream Is Now.”)

Touro student demonstration. 11 Sept 2006

The documentary is a series of portraits of young people, denied access to employment, education and military service because of their “illegal” immigration status. These young people have done everything we tell our children about getting good grades and working hard, but success is denied them because of their “illegal” presence in the U.S.

Thelmar and Sandra’s story, and the stories of the young people as told by Mr. Guggenheim, have upended my paradigms on “illegal” immigration. I am now wondering many of the thoughts with which I opened this post. I am questioning why we deny access to our citizenship to those who have proven they are willing to become productive assets to our society. 

I used to argue illegal immigrants take jobs away from deserving citizens. Most, in fact, work undocumented jobs that most citizens don’t want. And if someone who came here illegally was able to prove themselves better equipped and able to do any other kind of job, they have earned the right to work at it by their skills and willingness. Isn’t that what we tell those born here “legally”?

I used to argue illegal immigrants took entitlements. I now understand if they are allowed to work and pursue careers like those of us born in the U.S., they wouldn’t need to seek entitlements to which their country of origin does not entitle them.

I used to argue illegal immigrants were here illegally, so that made it wrong. But then I remembered something: Who was in charge of immigration when the Mayflower showed up? Who controlled it while the U.S. was a struggling bunch of disjointed colonies? Why did we suddenly start shutting our doors and denying the truths of the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty?

Let’s look a little deeper into that poem I just mentioned. If you’ve studied poetry or history at all, you know a line or two of it. But do you know it all, or what it’s even called? It’s significant in this discussion, so here it is:

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty I...

The Statue of Liberty

The New Colossus

By Emma Lazarus, 1883

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The last few lines of the poem are without question the most famous. But I want to call your attention to something about them. There is no reference to the legality of how people come. There is no commentary on where they come from, their skin color, religion or culture. There is only an open hand, and behind it an open heart, of welcome for those who would come and seek it.

If someone has come here “illegally,” and that person wants to better themselves and then work to better this society to which they have come, I now say, Let them come! Let’s accept them, give those who want to contribute a viable path to honest citizenship and deport those whose behavior suggests they are here to break laws or cause trouble. And of those who are already here, let them stay.”

How can we as a society end the “we” and “they” mentality that is so poisonously pervasive? What will change the paradigms of a whole nation, as mine were so radically altered? How can we get back to the feelings which prompted the words Emma Lazarus so eloquently penned?

“They” are not our enemy. In this issue, a strong case can be made “we,” with our hatred and fear, are our own worst enemies.  To paraphrase from the immortal Pogo, we have met the enemy, and we are us.

Yours Mine Or Ours (The Encroaching of Collectivism)

How do we define where our rights as individuals end and our responsibilities as members of collective society begin? Is it fair to define what is mine without society telling me what I can or cannot do with it within the confines of reasonable laws and sensibilities?

I recently came across an article online that got me thinking about this question. It also got me thinking about something that came up about 6 months ago along the same lines. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

The article was about some people vacationing in Europe and having dinner at a restaurant. The group ordered their food, and received more than they could eat, leaving about 1/3 of it behind. Others got upset with them, and called local officials, who fined them 50 Euros for wasting food. The article, from http://36meals.blogspot.com/2011/10/money-is-yours-but-resources-belong-to.html, went on to say the following:

The officer then told us in a stern voice: “ORDER WHAT YOU CAN CONSUME, MONEY IS YOURS BUT RESOURCES BELONG TO THE SOCIETY. THERE ARE MANY OTHERS IN THE WORLD, WHO ARE FACING SHORTAGE OF RESOURCES. YOU HAVE NO REASON TO WASTE.”

A senior police officer of the Hamburg police ...

The tourists were sympathetic to the officer’s position, and the blog went on to condemn the Western attitude of being able to order and eat as we please, perhaps wasting some in the process. While I cannot condone the greed and gluttony which prompted ordering and wasting of large amounts of food, the attitude of the officer and the reaction of the tourists disturbs me. Greed and gluttony are two of the Seven Deadly Sins, the others being wrathslothpridelust and envy. However, society has had a history of failing to successfully legislate and enforce legislation against any of these human ills. This is because morality is an issue of the heart, and not of just behavior.
English: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four La...

The Seven Deadly Sins

The other side of it, the one from 6 months ago, was a report of an MSNBC network news reporter stating children belong to the community at large, and not their parents. (http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/04/09/critics-slam-msnbc-hosts-claim-that-kids-belong-to-community-not-parents/

Melissa Harris-Perry recorded a commercial for the network in which she stated that children do not belong to their parents, but are instead the responsibility of the members of their community.

“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children,” she says in a spot for the network’s “Lean Forward” campaign. “So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”

Melissa Harris Perry

Ms Harris-Perry faced a firestorm of criticism from pro-family, religious and politically conservative groups for her statements. Many considered her comments to stem from elitist thinking, while there were those who supported it. To declare parents are not the primary responsibility for their own children, as they have been since parents started having children, was radical at best and polarizing to say the least.

In both cases, there is an allegation being made that the rights of the collective societal community are greater than the rights of the individuals within it. It is asserted the state is a tribe, collective or hive, protecting the resources for the good of all within it to distribute as it sees fit. It is this collective mentality I seek to address.

The U.S. was founded on the principles of human freedom, dignity and individual rights over the rights of a collective state society. The founding documents are clear in these areas. It is only when the rights of the individual overstep and move into the rights of another that the state has a right to step in and declare the boundaries have been violated. To put it in more simplistic terms, as I learned it as a child, my rights end where yours begin, and it is the state’s job to make sure those lines remain clear. And the state’s job ends where my rights, and yours, begin.

In this individualized paradigm, for the most part, the needs of the few outweigh the needs

Individuality

Individual

of the many. The few or one are given as great a weight in considering decisions as are the many. Individual rights are more difficult to trample, as are the rights of minorities. When everyone has rights and they are all honored and respected, it becomes easier to accord rights to others, and the society as a whole benefits. In such a society, leaders come from within, rising as defenders of rights of individuals and minorities. Leadership becomes something possible for the many, not the few.

The U.S., Austrailia and Canada have been good examples of this individual societal paradigm. Founded on the beliefs the rights of individuals are paramount, these states have enjoyed social and economic freedom envied around the globe. Historical examples can also be found in Greece and pre-Empire Rome.

bee hive

bee hive

The attitude I see in both stories is the rights of the hive or collective or tribe is greater than the individuals within it. When a tribe is given the rights of the resources, whether these be food, shelter, clothing or children, the tribe becomes more important than the individuals within it. The needs of the many in this case therefore outweigh the needs and rights of the few or the one. Only the needs of the society as a whole are considered.

When no one has rights to be respected, it is rule by majority, with individual and minority rights being lost in the mob. In this society, leaders are those with best access to resources, or who are given power by those who already have it. Leadership becomes something impossible for the many, but not for the few.

Examples of the collective societal paradigm can be studied in the communist societies such as pre-Glasnost Russia, East Germany, North Korea and Cuba, to name but a few. It’s not a paradigm that’s not been wanting and not tried. It’s been repeatedly tried and found consistently wanting.

Best-selling author, blogger, leadership expert and business leader Orrin Woodward said

Orrin Woodward

Orrin Woodward

the other day on Twitter,

Societies, Civilizations & Corporations all decay from within before they are overcome from without.

Any attempt to move the U.S. from its fundamental principles of individual human freedoms as clearly outlined in its founding documents is decay in its society. I’ll say that again: Any attempt to move the U.S. from its fundamental principles of individual human freedoms as clearly outlined in its founding documents is decay in its society. Attempts such as these examples, and others like them we see on an alarmingly almost daily basis, are to be resisted.

The only way to remain a free society is to decide we want to be one, and then to take the necessary actions in the social media, the mainstream media, the voting booth and in legal protest to make sure our voices are heard and clearly understood. Sometimes, all it takes is someone standing up and saying, “NO!” Let’s all be that someone.

LeaderShift

LeaderShift

The Courage To Stay (Part 2) – Historical Examples and Lessons

Hernán Cortés

In 1504, explorer Hernan Cortes left the island of Cuba and landed on the mainland of Central America. He and his 500 men were sent to explore and conquer the territory they found.

When the men learned they were severely out numbered, they tried to return to Cuba. Cortes stopped them with threats and promises of treasure. He then sent his most trusted officers to sink the ships they came in, to cut off their means of escape. The tactic was initially unsuccessful, and attempted again the following night. By this time, the men knew what Cortes was doing, and there was an angry confrontation. Cortes convinced his men this was a war they could win. They agreed to burn the remaining ship, cutting off their last hope of retreat. History records they conquered the Aztecs, taking back much wealth and treasure of many kinds to Spain in colonial glory.

In 1849, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, along with his fellow members of the Petrashevsky Circle, was sentenced to death for what the Russian courts considered

Photo of F. Dostoevsky Русский: Фёдор Михайлов...

subversive activities. At the last moment, his sentence was commuted with a note from Tsar Nicholas I, and changed to 4 years of hard labor in Siberia. Raised in wealth and opulence, the imprisonment was hard on Dostoyevsky’s health, and he suffered life-long consequences. He took out of it a firm resolve to make his writings count, and write each as if it were his last. By facing death so clearly, Dostoyevsky allowed it to rise himself above the trivialities of his life. Initially a journalist, he became one of the most beloved classic Russian authors.

Baden Panorama

Baden Panorama

In the stories of King Arthur and his Round Table, there are tales of the battle of Baden Hill. Arthur and his knights were surrounded, and hopelessly out numbered by their foes. (Who their foes were differs from story to story.) Using the stones of the hill, it is told they built a fort, where they took a small time to regroup and rest. Then, using what they had with horses, men, arrows and spears, they engaged their enemies. They had a great victory, with almost total defeat for their enemies, and some injury but almost no loss of life for them.

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

Like the parable in my earlier post, in these historical examples,I have explored with you, dear reader, aspects of the courage it takes to stay when others are running away. I know, there is a proverbial saying, “He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day.” But oftentimes, he (or she) who runs away might not get their chance to fight another day.

Sometimes, standing and fighting, even in the face of what looks to be insurmountable odds, is the thing you have to do, because you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s often been said the toughest fights are not seen out of people (or creatures) until their back is against a wall, whether the wall be physical or proverbial.

Strategists call this place “death ground.” When a person or group is on death ground, they will fight as if their very lives depend on it, because they do. Sure, running away evades and avoids a conflict that might end in death ground. But staying, even if it means risking a conflict on a death ground, leads to a greater potential of reward, even if the reward is in honor and personal satisfaction, and not treasure or riches.

So, what can we do if we find ourselves on death ground, or with a good possibility of being there?

  1. Take that one and only chance approach. If you’re not already on death ground but it’s close, sincerely consider its risks and rewards. 
  2. Act as if it’s you, or you and your companions, against the world. There is almost nothing more exhilarating than a death ground fought with a good and trusted company of warriors. King Arthur’s Round Table was just such a group.
  3. Do not wait to be ready. Act sooner. “He who hesitates is lost” is a proverb more often than not true.
  4. Stay restless. Don’t seek comfort. As New York Times best-selling author and award-winning blogger Chris Brady says, It’s not a comfort zone. It’s a familiar zone.”

What if you are the aggressor, and your opponent is on death ground? Be aware that opponent has nothing to lose. Death ground works for them, and against you.

The wise understand death ground will come at times, whether they look for it or not, and meet it with courage and strength. Fools run around looking for it, even when they don’t need to, and will even make it happen, for the thrill it brings. Cowards avoid it, fearing its losses and not seeing its potential rewards. Those who have the courage to stay and wisely face the death ground they are given are the ones who rise, rewarded by the love of their followers and the wealth of their experiences there.

Paradigm Shifting

You take the long view.

As for me, I only think I do.

You see the entire big picture.

I can’t even see one small corner of its frame,

though sometimes I think I do.

You know every consequence of every action

and every chain of events that will follow after.

I can’t even think beyond one or two of them

most of the time.

You planned humanity’s future

before even our First Parents had ever sinned.

Some days, I have trouble planning

what I’m serving my family for dinner.

You planned Israel’s deliverance from Egypt

many generations before any of them ever lived there.

I have to make lists in advance to organize what to pack

when I go away for a weekend.

You want me to see eternity.

I’m sitting in physical time and space.

You want me to understand and contemplate forever.

I live in the here and now.

You want me to live in Your Rhema, Kairos words and world.

I live in a Logos, Chronos time and place.

Like Nicodemus, to understand You, I must be born anew.

My paradigms must shift.

My vision must change.

Only then will I fully understand

how it is to live

as a fully spiritual being

in a wholly physical existence.

(Written after a sermon on John 2:23 – 3:15.)