Thursday, November 27, 2008


There is a verse, from the Psalms, I think, that reads: "Be still, and know that I am God."

Today, Thanksgiving, marks on the calendar the official jump day from the merely normal mad scramble of juggling job, family, bills, special obligations, a second job and special projects (and the list goes on) to the truly insane mad scramble of shopping, getting the best deals, measuring to the penny how much we can put on the charge card, getting the emergency car repair done ("Why did it have to break down now?"), baking, special concerts, special programs, travel (and this list goes on as well), on top of the "normal" amounts of everyday craziness.

Is it any wonder that people tend to fly off their nut a little bit this time of year?

It didn't used to be this way.

So, before you sit down to the turkey and gravy (or ham, or lobster, or lentil loaf, depending on your preferences), take a moment to be still. Be still in your activity, be still in your mind.

Be still in your soul.

Remember the five kernels of corn the Pilgrims called supper that first winter. Remember the help the Native Americans provided. Remember the long days of toil and sweat the Plymouth colony exerted the following summer in preparation against a repeat of that winter.

Remember their thankfulness to their God, who taught them that, there would be troubles, but that, with Divine Providence (I believe their term was), they would win through.

Thanksgiving is not Turkey Day. It's not just the kick-off to the Xmas season, or the day we pull names from a hat to see whom we will gift this year. It is not just a day we gather with family for the obligatory nod to the people that we would not ordinarily associate with if we weren't family. It's not even a day to renew old friendships in that same family. All of this goes on, it is true, to a greater or lesser extent, in each family.

But that's not what Thanksgiving is all about.

It is a time to indeed be still, and know that God is God, and to properly observe and recognize all that He has done throughout the year, and throughout our lives.

Don't be like I was, blaming God for all that was wrong in my life. He may have allowed it, but He did not cause it. And He was there to lend me a hand whenever I let Him. Not choosing to let Him help, that was me. I've learned a little, though.

My life is by no means perfect, or even calm. And I still have days where I go off my nut (this past week, for example) when the crises become too many for me to handle, and I forget to ask for help. That's an old habit, and hard to break. (And besides, it goes against my prideful nature.)

But God is still faithful, even when I am not. And He is sustaining me and my family.

And, looking over the last week, the last year, the last five years, the last ten years, in fact, my entire life, I have a lot to be thankful for. I'll spare you the list. Just know that it begins with my first breath, and ends with my last breath, whenever that will be.

Be still, and KNOW!

Yes, You Can!

Friday, November 14, 2008

"I Screwed Up. What Do I Do Now?"

Have you ever said this?

Yeah, I thought so. Me, too.

All of us have, in one way or another.

So, what do you do about it? Blow it off? Walk away? Pretend nothing is wrong?

What if the screwup has BIG consequences, something you can't just walk away from? What do you do then?

In my own life, I've tried to duck the consequences by various methods. I've covered it up, lied about it or scurried to fix it before consequences came to light (one of the better of the bad ways, but still a bad way of dealing with it).

What is the best way of dealing with a screwup?

Face it. Admit it. Fix it. Apologise for it. Don't repeat it.

What if this is just the latest in a long line of screwups and apologising doesn't work any more? Now you have to do the hardest part of dealing with the last of a string of screwups:


I'm not talking about just the particular little thing that caused the problem, though certainly that needs to be done.

I'm talking about looking at the whole fabric of your life. It may be a small, little item in your life; a tiny idea that has gotten hold of your soul. A tiny thesis statement of a philosophy, no matter that it sounds trivial, that you (or I) have based our existence around.

These tiny ideas are powerful.

My folks tried to make me into an optimist, imbue me with the "Can Do" spirit. I preferred to be a pessimist. My thesis statement: "If I'm pessimistic about something, I'm pleasantly surprised when I'm wrong."

I was pleasantly surprised now and again. Looking back, though, it wasn't enough. If you look hard enough for the hole you'll find it, and completely miss the doughnut.

But being a pessimist requires little effort. That was the unspoken, little, idea that held sway over my thinking. As a consequence (there's that word again), I put forth minimal effort to take care of my immediate needs, and not much else.

The odd thing about pessimism, is that it tends to have a hidden bit of blind optimism: things will work out somehow. Or if they don't they weren't meant to anyway. One more rock on the Pessimism Pile.

One thing more: it backs up another thesis statement: God Hates Me. Maybe you've said or thought that yourself. Maybe you are even blaming God for the mess of your screwup? Me, too. I didn't always think that way, but a string of big trials came my way. Instead of trusting that He would get me through it, I blamed Him for the problems in the first place.

That's okay, though. God has big shoulders. He can take it.

But you have to realize something: God DOESN'T hate you. In fact, God loves you, and he has a plan for you. He even has a reason for all the hard rocks in the road. You may never know the reason, but it's there. Even if the only reasons are to toughen you up, or encourage you to trust in Him.

That's a hard lesson to learn. And a freeing one. Then the "It'll all work out," notion actually makes sense.

At this point I can tell you, I've screwed up. I'm trying to learn from my misteaks, er, mistakes. I'm trying to fix it.

It's hard to try to fix your life when you've lived more than half of it. But if I'm not done by the time I die, I'm going to make sure that it won't be for lack of trying. Yes, I can.

So can you.

Yes, You Can.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Spoonful of Sugar...

Last night I watched a movie that I hadn't really watched in twenty years or more. The first time I saw it was in 1966, at a theater, I forget which one, in the Denver area. Probably the Woodlawn in Littleton. This was back when especially good (read: profitable) movies were chased through the theaters a second time before being turned into TV specials.

I remember growing up with Saturday matinee movies in my home town of Stoughton. The Badger Theater was just around the corner from where my mom worked at the library. On Saturday I'd get up, clean my room (sort of), and watch cartoons. Around 11:30 or so, I'd collect fifteen (15!) cents and walk the umpty-ump blocks (give me a moment and I could count them, but it wasn't far, even though it was sort of across town).

By the way, that fifteen cents went like this: a dime for the movie, and a nickel for whatever candy I wanted. What I wanted, typically, was the cherry licorice whips (not the black), but those cost a dime a package.

I never figured out saving a nickel one week and doing without so I could get the licorice whips the next week. At five, six, seven, eight years old the idea didn't stick in my head.

I saw oh, "Dondi", the original "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (tacky sci-fi by today's standards, but it did get turned into a TV show, and made the transition to Color TV, about the same time as "Gilligan's Island"), one or another Santa Claus movie around Christmas time, the various "Lassie" movies, and many, many others. Most movies didn't catch my attention that much, but since it was a movie it was special.

Really special movies were things like: "The Three Lives of Thomasina," "The Sword in the Stone" and "The Absent-Minded Professor."

And any of you are bristling about all of those being Disney movies, remember how old I was, please.

I was about seven years old when "Thomasina" hit the theater, and my toy kitten was promptly renamed "Thomasina" in honor. I cried when the little girl's cat was hurt, seemingly dead, and very glad when she (the cat) started her next life. The next time I saw the movie was decades later, with my own little girl. I cried again, but for different, more adult reasons. Say what you will, Walt Disney knew how to tell a story that got your attention.

"Mary Poppins" was one such story. I hadn't gotten to see it when it first came out. It was a Special (about fifty cents or more) for-the-evening showing, we were busy, money was tight, and we were going to move to Colorado soon. I didn't appreciate all of that, so I was disappointed when "Mary Poppins" was replaced by "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

But, I did get the soundtrack record.

Seeing the movies years later, I, as an adult, noticed things like a slightly younger Jane and Michael Banks were the little girl and one of her friends in "Thomasina". Mr. Banks had been the street corner vendor/magician teacher in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks", and I think Michael Banks had been the little boy in that movie as well.
Watching Mary Poppins with the newest tow-headed member of the family, I got to see the story-telling all over again, with enough time to help me forget and make it new again, and with my grown-up perspective.

Folks, I'll say it now, and I'll say it again: don't just drop your kids off at these "kid's movies." Watch the movie with them. This does many things: it helps you bond with your child (believe me, we can ALL use more bonding), if there's a scarey part in the move the ads didn't warn you about (anymore, filmmakers are not as aware of children's and parent's sensibilities as perhaps they should be), you can answer those delicate questions ("I don't know why the Hulk's pants don't rip to shreds like his shirt does, son."). And occasionally, you'll get hit by piece of story-telling intended for you, not your child.

That's what happened last night.

Despite all the movie magic, and glitz, the story was really aimed at the grown-ups, and we see it clearly in the duet between Mr. Banks, the bank officer, and Bert, the chimney sweep. It's summed up by Bert's lyric: "You've got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone/Though childhood slips, like sand through a sieve./Pretty soon they've up and grown, and then they've flown,/And it's to late for you to give."

The little one had slipped off to sleep by then, but I wept bitter tears.

I'll spare you the details of the missed years, missed love given, missed ... well, you get the idea.

I WILL tell you that I have renewed my resolve not to let it happen again. This little one will get the best of my love and attention that I am able to give. Success at any other level takes a backseat to this.

It's not often life gives you second chances. Make the most of them.

Yes, You Can!

P.S. Free plug for Disney (not that they need it): rent, better yet, buy a copy of Mary Poppins and watch it with your kids.

You'll all have fun!

Yes, You Can!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Is It Fun Being You?"

You know that the whole idea of this blog is to encourage you to be better at what you do, to achieve more, stretch more, learn more, be more. And I hope you accomplish all of that.

I hope you clear out the dead wood, winnow the wheat from the chaff, throw the dross on the slagpile and keep the precious metal of your personal art and craft.

But at the end of the day, after you've paid that bill, banked that dollar, put away your tools, and put up your feet to rest, ask yourself the question: "Is it fun being me?"

If you can answer "Yes," or "Yes, most of the time," then you are probably striking that balance that makes sure you aren't getting lost in the shuffle of your life. If it's "No," or "Not often," then do the reevaluation of your life, to see what you want out of life, and where you want to be in the one year, five years and ten years.

In other words, it's time once again to make sure the path you're on will get you where you want to go.

This is a small blip on your radar scope today, today being the day after the presidential election. Some of you are elated, while others are sad at the outcome. Still others of you (amazingly) couldn't care less about the outcome. Whatever camp you fall into, take it in stride, remember that ancient phrase: "This, too, shall pass."

Whatever else happens, I want to be earning enough that I am a net tax payer, instead of a tax receiver.

Whatever you need to do, within the limits of legality and ethics, do it. But, remember your core, the you that you are. Make others around you smile.

Have fun being you.

Yes, you can!