Month: October 2015

It Takes Practice

I played sports regularly until I was about 21 years old, and some since then. I never walked onto a court or field without practicing first. We can’t expect to be able to perform at any kind of acceptable level without doing so. Even so, without a pre-planned knowledge of how we are going to respond to bad behavior from others, we will no do it well. If we simply react, it is usually not good.

When we venture into work or public life, it will eventually put us in a position to be ridiculed, criticized or laughed at by others. Knowing that in advance will help us have a better response. It pays to know where our “hot buttons” are. What makes us angry quicker than anything else. Be assured, someone will press that button, either accidentally or on purpose.

Putting ourselves at an emotional distance gives us the opportunity to think about our next move, if there is one. When there is an encroachment on our space or reputation, we naturally want to protect it. I once learned to hear a long list of complaints by simply taking notes, not taking any of it personally, and gave this man a good listening to. He got it off his chest, and was happy after that. I never did anything about the items on the list, yet he was satisfied he had told me some things. Going in, I left my ego in my desk drawer in my office, still felt great after seeing him, and did not do battle in the process.

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Yes and No

Under old English law two disputants would appear before a judge and plead their case. To convince the judge they were truthful, each would have a group of “oath helpers”. These helpers would affirm (or swear) that their man was truthful and would never tell a lie. As you would think, these groups of character witnesses grew larger as time went on. It’s as if “yes” did not mean “yes” and “no” did not mean “no”. Jesus had done away with all that previously when he said, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.”

Most of us grew up with additional verbiage that demonstrated our credibility, such as, “I cross my heart and hope to die”, then added the ultimate declaration of our truthfulness, “Stick a million needles in my eye”. (What were we thinking?) The old contract-by-handshake days are gone, unless it is a trusted neighbor or life-long friend. I use “neighbor” in a positive sense, as opposed to the people whose property is next to mine. It’s a term of trust, not necessarily of location.

We also rest our hand on a Bible when swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We then add, “So help me God.” This is added assurance that we will not lie. I wonder sometimes if that still means anything at all. It would be wishful thinking to believe we could ever go back to a time when we could simply be asked a question, and we would be expected to tell the truth. We would have to go back pretty far, to a garden where Adam and Eve hid from God after they disobeyed him and learned some things they weren’t supposed to know. Perhaps that is when mankind learned to lie. We don’t have to go along with that trend.

Keep Looking

Honest people in public life are more and more difficult to find these days. I can’t imagine how much pressure is on people to listen to all the demands and “needs” there are and not be able to possibly respond to all of them. It must be difficult (unless one is willing to lose an election) to remain faithful to one’s principles.

I suggest if you find a person who has high principles and seems to keep them, to give an extra intense look to see if they are worth your vote and active support. I’m starting to see one or two, and will give them a chance to prove who they are. I also look to see if they follow the wind and change with it. I believe a person has to be willing and satisfied to state principles, and allow people to ignore them rather than give up those principles in order to gain a seat in any level of government.

I will keep looking to find those who wish to lead, but also determined to honestly represent those who want  good things for society. There will always be room for debate and disagreement, but there is an honorable way to do that. We are in the same boat, and we must keep it afloat.

Stay the Course

It really doesn’t matter how others construe what you do or say. Just keep doing it honestly and for the right reasons. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in the political world on a national level and watch and read what you supposedly meant by what you did or said. Even worse, some would attributed to you things you never said or did. That would be a strain I don’t know if I could handle.

I do admire those who have braced themselves to the fact that this will happen and make a conscious decision to be out there anyway. Some have principles and won’t let go of them. If you know what true north is, then trust your compass to keep heading in the right direction regardless of what others claim about you. To do so, you must have a firm foundation that can withstand anything that comes along.

I love the story Jesus told about building a house on the rock and oh the sand. The former stood firm in the wind and rain. The latter fell. That tells us what we really need to know about life and about how we need to live it. So, I recommend once we get on track, stay the course.

Memories

Have you ever considered if we could not remember anything in our past? Those who have dementia in various types do experience a loss of many of those memories.  I recently saw the documentary of Glen Campbell’s final tour, after receiving his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Though there were many painful experiences about that time, there were other times when his sense of humor saved him many heartaches. He did not worry about forgetting because he didn’t remember that he forgot. Only when asked a question about a person or event did he realize he should remember, but didn’t. HIs last recorded song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” tells the story in a remarkably positive way in my mind.

If we had no memories, good or bad, would we be sad? I realize some diseases are also accompanied by fearful paranoia that is very disturbing to the person and their loved ones. Yet, if we simply had a loss of memory, or even never had one to begin with, would it be difficult? A new day every morning (as we joke about some people) might be fine, even anxiety free. Our view would never be backward, only forward. What was behind us is left there, in the past.

I believe that is what heaven will be like for those who are there. The past won’t exist, just the present. No planning (or worrying about) the future, just now. If we can know those we know here, it will be okay. If not, it will be okay. “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through” as the hymn says conveys some regret, but mostly anticipation that all this is temporary. While here, I want to remember you with love. But when this is all past, I will be okay with that as well. What about you? If you forget me, so what? You won’t miss me either.

No Longer Appropriate

When any organization begins, there is a certain amount of expectation, and those who have the vision of what could be look forward and believe it will last. Unless those who follow are dedicated to keeping the vision alive, it will change and may even die. So, that’s why the vision must be passed on to the successors. As long as they feel obligated to follow the initial purpose, it will live.

The individual entities called states united to form the best union they could imagine. They knew, and stated so, that this union could only work if a certain level of morality existed among the people. If not, the vision could not continue. The nation, as the company or club, will be something different. This is why we keep saying we need to “take our country back”. If “In God We Trust” is still our focus, we could retain the vision. It doesn’t seem to be happening. I always allow for God to work directly in this situation, but in the past he has allowed nations to change to the point they no longer exist. In spite of the awareness of those who sacrificed to begin this union that men will hunger for control and power, they could not completely provide safeguards to prevent it. Loopholes have been discovered and used to subvert the morals that once existed. Some would say those morals are old-fashioned and no longer appropriate for our current world. I agree, the republic is not appropriate for an immoral people. What will be the result? I hate to think about it. If everything is relative, then nothing is solid, and tomorrow there will be another “solution” for what ails us. That’s why tradition is important, even critical to our well-being.

I have a strong belief that since we no longer base our federal level of government on the same morals with which we began, we will wind up with something that may not resemble what we think we have. Only locally and perhaps statewide can we maintain something akin to the original. Neither politics nor policy will correct this trend. It will take hearts and souls who still believe we had a good thing going. Perhaps we can find that among those who are campaigning. I pray that is the case. But, if that persons is running, we still have to elect them.

If this piece depresses you, that’s not the intent. I want to be realistic about us, and encourage us to look for the soul that has been the foundation of our union all along, and may still be present, after all the promising is done. So, we need to pay attention.

Civility

Sometimes when I read the latest political news, it feels like we are in a war. One person is said to have “destroyed”, “shredded” or “owned” another in an interview or debate. This is what politics has become, and mostly what it has always been. It’s rare and refreshing to hear someone actually speak to and answer another in disagreement but as if both are adults. This is what the art of debate used to be. This is the uphill “battle” (forgive the term) we face as we attempt to treat each other with dignity and respect.

Some will ask, “Why treat them with dignity and respect? They don’t treat us that way.” We treat them with dignity and respect not because of who they are, but because of who we are. Hopefully our roots are deeper than that, and our foundation is more solid. We can emulate our God who has taught us better things. He has shown us virtue and integrity where too little of either exists. He does “own” us, but not in a destructive way. He owns us as his children, who are learning from him how to act.

If we want to move our message forward, we must lead the way in conversation, dialogue and civility. It’s how who we are, and who others are watching. It’s a simple idea.

Leave Taking and Room for Peace

Peace seems to have escaped many in our country. We are afraid, excited, anxious or angry nearly all the time. This brings forth adrenaline that comes immediately but dissipates slowly. This continuous ebb and flow is hard on our bodies and our psyche. Too much of this for too long results in a sort of “burn-out” that leaves us feeling as if we have been in a long fight. It seems we have taken leave of our senses.

The reasons for this are many, but some of them can be eased if we simply turn off media (yes, including the social variety) for a while and focus on the source of peace. With God not just in our lives but with our lives in him, we can know that the ultimate solution to every problem we face and know about will be resolved in time. He is never surprised and never off-balance. This is really a trust issue. We must be willing to let go control of things we cannot control, and trust him to handle things.

The key to letting go (and I want to avoid some of the popular slogans for this) is to remove ourselves from the business of fixing everything in our path. Additionally we can be at peace with the state of the nation and the world. Remember, the threat of something is almost always worse than the thing itself. Just trust, and keep focused on the ultimate problem-solver.

A Slightly Different Direction

The theme of this blog has been about trust, and I have attempted to keep it in that area. Sometimes I have written that  the trustworthy person must have character and integrity, and I believe he/she does. Now I will ask and answer from where that integrity comes. It doesn’t originate from the person being morally trustworthy, but from the divine taught to and within that person. The origin is God.

With that in mind, I will from now on address that divine source more than in the past. This is fair warning that if you don’t want to see it from that point of view, then you can cease reading any time. I won’t be preachy but will go deeper into what God does in a person to set the tone for leading and working from a moral standpoint.

I believe a person has that foundation, whether he/she sees it that way or not. He has been taught by someone in his past (or sought it out himself) that morality doesn’t just happen or evolve with human advancement. The point is, humans do not advance on their own without divine guidance. There can be self-made wealth, or wealth not inherited, but there is no such thing as self-made morals.

Expect much of the same, but with more emphasis on how that same came about.

Legacy

What do you want others to say about you 20 years from now? Some of us will still be around; some of us won’t. Regardless of when we die, our friends and family will have some idea of who and what we were during our lives. Sometimes I’m okay with that; other times I’m not so sure. What if someone only remembers me at my worst? Either way, we are creating those impressions now.

I don’t want to spend much time worrying about that future impression, but I do want those I encountered to say I may have at least been helpful. Today, what did I do? Tomorrow, will I still be able to explain it? I had a co-worker about 25 years ago say he always asked himself, “Will I be able to explain a month from now what I’m doing today? I have remembered that, and have used it to the good. He was a trustworthy man.

Can we create the type of memories that our kids will one day say, “Dad always told me _________” ? I like that idea, so I need to keep doing and saying things so they may learn from my mistakes. I hope we all do the same.