Stick to the Big Stuff!

Can you REALLY get all that you want?  Is that reasonable?

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I have always been amazed at leaders that have been able to be effective by getting the big things and accepting that not getting the small things is OK.  A great leader is able to distinguish what really counts. Unfortunately, the world has embraced a “winner takes all” mentality.

 

A great leader is able to transport themselves into the shoes of the other person.  They have the ability to be able to view the world from the other side.  The gift to truly understand and appreciate the good of the other viewpoint.

 

We have reached a point where we truly believe that our own way of looking at the world is the only correct way.  Everyone who doesn’t agree with me is stupid?  Really? Why have we become so intolerant?  Why is it all or nothing?  Is this the only way to get things done?

 

There are examples of leadership that leads to REAL victories.  Billy Graham was able to navigate the extremely divided Christian denominations by focusing on the big things.  He was able to avoid the things that divide the faithful.  Think of what he was able to accomplish.  He met with leaders of faith and leaders of countries.  How did he do it?  He concentrated on the big things.

 

Jesus.  Love for others.  Serving others.

 

The rest of the stuff- he was able to avoid.  He accepted that the BIG STUFF was what really matters.

 

We have wasted so much time and energy fighting against each other.  Compromise is the way to get things done.  This doesn’t mean that you give up the big things, but let go of the winner takes all mentality.  See it from the other side.

 

A great leader recognizes what is a big thing.  What can get things done.  The rest is minor stuff.  And that is all that really matters.

 

So what do your think?  Why have we become so intolerant?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

 

Teach, Love, and Peace Will Follow!

This is a guest post from my friend Cristie Powers.  She has been serving the homeless, needy, and many others in her neighborhood and her circle of friends for as long as I have known her.  Cristie gets it.  She knows how important it is to serve others.  She is selfless.  She is a beautiful person.  I wish you all could spend some time with her.  I know you would agree!   

This blog is in reference to our current word of the year…. “Community”.

A word that seems to be tossed around and thrown from one ball field to the next. Which isn’t a bad thing of course because it’s a sign that people actually care about each other and about the relationships we share. However, we’ve come to a point we’re not sure if we are playing baseball or soccer. Seriously. We talk a lot of game but who is really winning here?

Cristie Flower
The first important thing to understand is that today’s communities have become what we call cliques. Ok, now that is awesome for those who are in the cliques, but what about the rest of the world?

The word “community” derives from the Latin word “communitas” or “communis” which means all things in common.

Rather than looking at this as a small, communal, geographical area, I believe that if we are truly community driven individuals, then we need to learn how to be teachers instead of leaders. The world needs more teachers and less leaders. Instead of forming a community “clique” and stopping there, we should be encouraging everyone in those community “cliques” to spread the love and start new “community gatherings” all over the place. That is what we seek, right? We want to see a change in our world, not just our neighborhoods.

This means that instead of simply leading a community group in our own area, we should be encouraging everyone within that group to lead some other type of community group throughout the week in their own area of the world. This way the love and communal relationships are able to be spread and built stronger than ever before.

It’s extremely important to everyone around us that we lead by example. We must not get caught up in the glory of all the credit that we receive for being a community leader, but rather rejoice in knowing that we have made a greater difference around us by spreading more relationships than we can count. Even if no one else close to us knows what we have done.

Community is a great word but we need to change our way of thinking and realize that it is not defined by a small demographic area, like we once thought. If we define it this way, then our goal is not truly to change the world, but only the areas in which we live.

Now naturally things must start small, however our goal as community lovers should never stop at small. Again, this is not our ticket to fame and it doesn’t mean that we need to be this well-liked leader who people look up to (although that is important too). The first problem with this is that when there is only one man or woman carrying the weight of leadership without distributing the load the leader will become completely exhausted, which does not help anyone. The second issue is that dedicating all of this effort will begin to take time away from your own unit, which inevitably is quite contrary to the whole “community idea” that you’re trying to accomplish. It becomes vital then, to remember to teach instead of solely lead.

What would happen if every Saturday when we led that community event that we hold so dear, we reminded the whole group of the reason behind the gathering, the joy that it brings, and that each person has it in them to start something of their own wherever they go? At that point community may begin to spread its wings and begin to cover the whole world verses only hovering over our itty bitty neighborhoods. Which is what they are in the grand scheme of life.

If we can better understand the word, then I believe that we can better understand the world. It’s this “world” that is our real community and it’s the world that needs this change.

In my world there is a little homeless Asian lady who walks the neighborhood (who should never be hungry again, or be without adequate clothing, shoes or blankets because everyone in our area knows that she’s there), there’s the black man who walks up and down McDuff St. speaking gibberish, so everyone thinks that he’s lost his marbles (and who knows, maybe he has), there’s the white man who lives in a tent in Lackawanna (who turns to drugs every chance he gets because relationships have failed him), there’s the old man who rides his bike all over the city yelling as if he is pissed off at the world because he suffers from PTSD, then there’s the young man standing outside of CVS in Boulder Colorado for hours in the snowy weather probably just needing a real friend (not just a temporary conversation but a life long connection), there are the men and women sleeping in the streets of Asheville, NC in front of almost every shop downtown (every time you go for a visit to the mountains they are there), then there is the neighbor “Bobby” that walks up and hands me these flowers as I sit on the side of the road writing this blog.

What does this mean? How is this our problem? Can we fix people? Is it our fault why they are the way they are? The answer is no, probably not. But the point is we have the power in us to bring change. We have been given the authority as humans to help and to heal.

Once you make change, move on and make change somewhere new. We cannot allow ourselves to get stagnant.

Personal example: Feeding homeless in Jacksonville verses where ever we are during that time of year.

I have been serving Jacksonville’s homeless community on Christmas morning for over 12 years. Until last year that is. For some reason I no longer felt that burning passion inside to get downtown and to serve. I later realized that it was because the need had been met. I served because I knew there was a need and once I saw that other groups were beginning to serve, I realized that I was no longer needed in that area. And that is ok.

Now it’s time for me to move on to a new place where there is another need to be met. Whether I move to a different park down the road or to a different city makes no difference. The move is what’s necessary. People learned how to do what I did by watching and by wanting to make a difference. Many different people came with me throughout the years and it stirred up passion. I taught by example, but we can also teach by reminding people of what community really is (ideally these two are the same thing).

Don’t stop where you are. Keep going, keep giving, wherever you are, and see community as something that can be created by everyone and not limited to a few outgoing leaders. Keep serving and teaching others and the rest will happen…naturally!

Cristie Powers

So what do you think?  Have we have lost our desire to teach things that are important and needed?  Is our sense of community dying?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Money Wart

I grew up in the construction business- literally. My father had a subcontracting business and fact that he was in the construction business affected many things growing up. He would be fixated on the weather. The weather determined the schedule and a large portion of his life. Also as business was good and bad it influenced the family purchases and the grip on the family purse strings.

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My father taught me a great deal about business and how to take care of the customer. He had a great reputation and worked for some of the most respected builders in the business. He also taught me about the importance of doing a great job and letting your work product speak for itself.

I remember him telling me- “Don’t worry about the money. Do a great job and the money will take care of itself.”

This really made an impression on me and it has been one of my guiding principles. Make the customer happy. If it costs you some money, don’t sweat the costs. Do the right thing and the money will follow because of your actions, your commitment, your heart. Don’t worry, it will happen naturally. Don’t be a money wart!

This is really simple business logic. However, do your actions really support the principle that money is not your primary concern in your business? Do you get hung up just continually counting your money like a Monopoly game just obsessed on the financials? Is the mark your trying to hit always a financial target? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Where do you spend your time? Do you spend your days pouring over cost projections. profit and loss statements, cash flow projections, etc? Yes, we are in business to make money and you must be good stewards of the resources you are blessed with but at what percentage of your time? Are you completely consumed with the numbers? You are just counting your money.

What is your focus? Do you spend significant company time and resources on improving your product? Are you an innovator and continually looking for ways to improve your product? Or are you satisfied with producing the same acceptable product because being an innovator costs money. You are just counting your money.

Is it costs or revenues? Do you focus on the cost side or the revenue side? If you are continually trying to squeeze costs you may be a money wart. Working the revenue side is about expanding your business and your influence in the industry. Increased revenues have a way of taking care of financial issues. More revenue helps with overhead and fixed costs. Expanding revenue will reduce the need to squeeze and reduce the pressure on the company and it’s clients. If you are a squeezer, you are just counting your money.

What do you spend on product improvement? If you are not improving your product you will eventually be out of business. What are you doing as a business to get better? Are your improvements always focused on reducing costs. Are you recognized as a market innovator? Focusing on your product and being a leader requires resources. I was recently in Rochester, NY, the home of Kodak. What happened to Kodak? They were convinced that digital photography would never be better than traditional paper photographs. Look what happens when you fail to be an innovator. They were just counting their money.

Are your employees well compensated? My father also told me, “Don’t look in your employees pockets. If they are making good money then you will too!” Again, simple logic, but the employee pockets can be an easy target. You can always find cheaper help and squeeze payroll. But, what is the cost? If your employees are not making a superior wage, then how can you expect superior work. If you are known to pay better, the best of the best will end up coming to you to find work. Trying to save on payroll is just counting your money.

So, like the saying goes, where you put your time is your treasure. Are you continually focused on money? This is a sign of plain and simple greed. Life is not a race to make the most money. You were put on the earth to serve others by producing a product or providing a service to address a need. The goal must be the product or service first. What if your mission statement read “Make as much money as possible by controlling costs and providing a mediocre product.” Look hard at this and determine what is truly first in your business! Obviously, costs and money are important. Just don’t get them in front of everything else. Don’t be a money wart. Produce a great product first and the money will follow. It always does!

So what do you think?  Do we get hung up on the money too much or am I full of you know what?  Click on “leave a comment” or click “like” if you agree!

The Jewish Wedding: Families and Tradition

Kathy and I had the pleasure of attending a wedding a couple of weeks ago.  The wedding was stunningly beautiful and dripping with the sweetness of tradition and family.  See this was a Jewish wedding and there is no wedding ceremony and celebration that I have experienced that is like a Jewish wedding.  Every part of the ceremony and celebration is rich in tradition and symbolism.  The Jewish wedding celebration is truly a family event that brings in relatives from all over the country providing:

An opportunity to reconnect with family.

An opportunity to strengthen the bonds to each other.

An opportunity to be in community together.

An opportunity to have fun as a family.

Frankfort Lighthouse- Wikipedia

Frankfort Lighthouse- Wikipedia

There is an incredible amount of power in the Jewish traditions that is harnessed in the strong bonds of family.  Although there is certainly exclusivity, the Jews have managed to stay bonded together even in the face of the mixing bowl of the United States.  This bond of ethnicity is a powerful propellant.  To be Jewish means to take care of your own.  Provide opportunities for the youngsters and offer deep respect for your elders.  This power, I believe, we loose in our hunger to assimilate here in the U.S.

How can we reconnect with this power?

Take every opportunity to celebrate your ethnic roots.  As a family, we sing a Polish birthday song called Sto Lat.  I learned it from my father and we have continued to sing Sto Lat at all of our family birthday celebrations after the traditional American happy birthday song.  We continue singing after everyone else has stopped- in Polish- as a tribute to our family heritage.  I feel like its our way of saying- this is our family and this is our tradition. There is also some exclusivity here.  Our family, our heritage, and our tradition.  We have sung Sto Lat loud and proud in restaurants and housefuls of friends outside of our family.  I suspect my children will continue this with their children, and so on it goes.

As I write this, I am sitting in a bed and breakfast enjoying some R&R in Frankfort, Michigan.  Every year at the 4th of July we would travel as a family and vacation here for the 4th holiday.  So many great memories here.  They flood back as we have visited the places we went years ago.  Another sweet tradition for our family.  Traditions and family are powerful.  If you don’t leverage these two forces you are missing a great opportunity to bind your family together and harness the power of the family unit.  As a group you can do much more good than on your own.  A family can be unstoppable. Tap into this power.

Happy Father’s Day and….Mazel tov!

What are some of your family traditions?  Do you celebrate your culture or do you hide it?  Click on comments and tell us your story!

Wake Up Sleeper!

Last week a friend of mine had a headache and vision problems, so he went to the emergency room. A little more than a day latter, he passed away. A stroke they say. He was in good health. No signs of any problems. He left an amazing family and a beautiful wife behind and alone. You just can’t make sense of this stuff.

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This is the third friend that I have lost recently. All around my age and all very sudden. I think we all get the fact that we don’t get to choose when we will die. And many of us will die suddenly. The thing we can control is how we will live.

Wake up sleeper…the days are evil!

On Sunday, our pastor shared a message about this choice. We must learn to live our lives with a sense of urgency. Our plan for greatness usually goes something like this: I plan on starting my dream once I get finished with… Leaders are great planners. We think through the details and methodically move each piece in place. We are convinced that this is the best way, but really, its just the safe way. To reach greatness takes risk. To accelerate the process you probably will need to jump early. Waiting until everything is perfect just chews up time- you may never find just the right time.

Fear is a great motivator.
Fear is a clarifier.
Fear is an accelerator.

Safe and Sound

We are programmed to prepare for the impending disaster. We are convinced that no one will be there for you. American individualism. We must store up and save. Seek safety and all it brings. But are we really ever safe? There are countless events that could occur that will make all of your wealth and comfort useless. Safety is really an illusion. You can store your entire life and loose it all in an instant.  Struggle your whole life for nothing instead of enjoying the ride! Are you seeking security or seeking life to the full?

Check the Box

In the midst of trying to get to where we want to go we spend our time trying to check off the items we have completed. Trying to get done. Happy that something is over. I just need to get through this. What is that? We live as though the goal is to be done. Just survival. Is this all there is? Don’t you want to live, not just survive?

The Megaphone

The thing we try hardest to avoid is actually the thing that can wake us up. CS Lewis said that pain is a megaphone.  It wakes us up and brings us back to reality. When everything is going smoothly, we live in a kind of slumber of ease and security and we loose touch…

With what is really important.
With how fragile our lives really are.
With our dreams and what we were uniquely created to do.

Pain is the wake up call. It’s a way to bring you back. I hate it, yet it is like a slap on the face. You remember why you are here. What is really important. What you are doing now and what you want to get done.

Loosing these friends has awakened me. The world seems different. My priorities have changed.

Wake up sleeper-there is much to do!

Can you relate to this?  Why do we dwell on safety and security?  Do you find yourself living just to “get done”?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

Something Stinks…

I am an avid gardener.  I love to grow all types of plants.  I have often described myself as a farmer trapped in a builder’s body.  There is something truly fundamental in nurturing a plant from a small seed to maturity.  One of the important components to a healthy garden is fertilizer.  Without fertilizer and proper nutrition, plants will grow but they will struggle and grow very slowly.  So, add a bit of fertilizer and poof, they will explode with growth!  Amazing really.  I have also found that too much fertilizer is no good.  If you over fertilize you can actually kill the plant or cause severe damage.  The other interesting part of fertilizer is how they make it.  A common ingredient is urea which is actually found in urine.  You will surmise this if you put your nose in a bag of fertilizer.  How can something so nasty be a catalyst for growth?

Rape Fields

There is a parallel to this in another element of growing your project or business.  This element is self- promotion.  Chris Brogan, a renowned blogger, recently wrote in a newsletter that self-promotion is “very tricky”.  I completely agree.  Yet, without self-promotion, you are similar to the plant without fertilizer.  You will likely limp along and the growth of your idea will be painfully slow.  If you over promote, you will probably turn people off.  They will actually run from you.  And it will be stinky.  Kind of like the fertilizer.  So where is the sweet spot?  Where is the proper dose of fertilizer for your idea?

The best promoters have a sense for this stuff.  You must develop skills in order to build interest and curiosity.  I think that the most effective promoters accomplish this through the power that comes from a sincere belief in themselves and their project.  You have to truly believe in what you are doing.  They push out the self-doubt and take a firm hold on to the dream.  A skilled promoter is able control the negative feelings and transmit genuine excitement and dedication without overdoing it.  Staying just this side of the stinky line.

If you are fearful of promoting yourself, you are like the plant without proper nutrition.  You must promote and sell yourself.  The trick is to do it in good measure.  So be careful.  Don’t overdue it or your message will have the opposite effect.  It will be a powerful repellant- like stinky fertilizer!

So, what is your take?  Have you personally experienced this from either side?  Click on comments and tell me what you think!

What Your Wife Really Wants For Valentines Day!

Oh, yes! It’s that time again! Time for the red cards, chocolates, and roses. Valentines Day is a special time to tell your loved one that you really care. A time to celebrate love and romance. For some men, this can be a bit frightening. Getting just the right gift is really hard. You may need to have a sixth sense when it comes to women. I think most ladies don’t think much of the traditional gifts. She wants more than a box of chocolates or pretty flowers.

An array of Valentine's Day-connotated candy d...

She wants her boyfriend back!

Somewhere in the midst of building the family and the career, being a Dad and a Husband, and providing a safe and secure environment, the knight in shining armor gets a bit tarnished. Men will slip into the leader role at work and bring it home and miss the tenderness needed to continue to grow in their relationship with their wives. Wives want more than a family leader. They want friendship.  They want closeness.  They want to go deeper. They want your heart.

Remember when you were dating? What were the things that you liked to do together? This is what she wants. This is what she needs. Can’t remember very well? Let me help you a bit.

We Would Talk For Hours…. Remember those conversations? You would share your dreams, your goals, your passions. The time would fly by. You talked about your feelings, your fears, your frustrations, what you loved, what you hated. Fast forward. Now it’s often three word sentences. “Can you pick up some milk?” A quick OK, a nod, a grunt. Is this communicating? Not even close. Guys, she needs this. It’s knit in her being. She has to hear from you. She needs to talk things out. this is how she deals with stress. This is how she will stay glued to you. Stop communicating with her and she will loose the bond. Share your deep stuff with her. She needs it. I promise.

We Did Everything Together… It didn’t matter what you were doing, you loved to do it together. Even doing dishes was fun! Remember? Guys, you need look for opportunities to spend time with your wives. It’s really about getting creative and maybe about doing something you don’t really care to do. Go to the grocery store or head to the mall and go shopping with her! If you are not intentional, it won’t happen!

We Held Hands Everywhere We Went… How long has it been since you held your wife’s hand? Are you struggling getting physical with your wife? This can really vary by the particular woman, but many are starving for physical contact. This may or may not involve “going all the way”. I know some woman would love to get the back rub at night and have it stop at that! You know what she wants. She needs to feel your touch.

We Were Out On Dates Every Weekend… Are you planning date nights with you wife? This is a super important way for you to help her get away from the house and the kids and plug back into your relationship. These date nights don’t have to be spectacular events. The only requirement is that you are alone with her. No double dates. Just the two of you spending time together. Get the babysitter. I can tell you first hand that it will be the best money that you can spend for your relationship. Plan these dates nights! They will not magically happen by themselves.

We Would Laugh For Hours… Do you have fun with your wife or is your marriage based on the family “job”? Raising a family and keeping up with all the expectations is exhausting. Having fun can leave the house along with your energy. Don’t take everything so seriously. I can tell you the exhaustion of life can leave you analyzing every word that comes from your wife. Don’t take everything to heart. Learn to lighten up the situation. Remember how you used to make her laugh? You need to reconnect with this! It may save your marriage. Saying something insensitive is not the end of the world . Truth is, it’s most likely your pride that is the problem!

We Would Take Long Walks On The Beach… We’ll if you don’t live on the ocean, a trip around the block in the evening is a great second option. Steal a few minutes away. Talk about your day. Let her talk and you listen. If she’s been with the kids all day, she’s probably just about ready to explode. She needs some adult talk! Help her out.

We Would Surprise Each Other With Little Gifts… If she likes clothes, bring some home sometimes when it’s not her birthday or other event. She will be shocked and will ask you if you got hit really hard on the head! Plan a weekend and take her away. Send the kids to the in-laws and and do a weekend at home. Do something to surprise her. She needs the change and the romance.

I’m sure there are many more that you can think of. Things that made your relationship special. The stuff that brought you together. The bottom line is this: she still needs you to pursue her. She needs to feel desired. You know the wedding cake joke? Well this is the male version! Yes, she’s yours, but she needs more than safety and security. If not, she could have stayed at home with her Dad! She needs to reconnect with you and it takes time and intentionality. If you spent time on this like you work on your golf swing, your front lawn, or your fantasy football league I’m sure there would be no issues.

Reconnect with you sweetheart! She needs you!

What do you think? Are you being intentional about you relationship with you wife? Wake up call or full of you know what? Let me know by clicking on comments and giving me your view!

Living the Adventure

Last Sunday night, my wife and I went to a party at a friends house.  It was a cool night, at least by North Florida standards.  The house had a great outdoor patio with brick walls and garden areas.  In one corner of the patio was a firepit that turned out to be a very popular spot.  I settled into a comfortable couch next to the fire- I knew I wasn’t moving.  The only distraction was that the fire was a bit smoky.  I knew my jacket would need a wash when I got home.  I was comfortable and drifted away in conversations about books, travel and the restaurant business.

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After about an hour, my friend Ron joined us.  Ron was just beaming.  Ron is generally a positive and upbeat guy but today he was particularly aglow. 

“Ron you look great”, I commented.  He proceeded to update me on what he was up to.  He told me that he was painting (artist) again and that he was really enjoying it.  Ron told me that he has been waking up each morning and having coffee with Jesus before he starts his day.  He also told me that he was feeling good physically.  Ron and I often trade bad back stories as we both suffer from back pain from time to time.  Normal type chit-chat until he made this statement: 

“Joe, everyday I wake up and I look for an adventure each day.” 

He proceeded to tell me about a clerk that he friended who has children and is struggling to make ends meet and how he has been helping her and encouraging her.  He shared stories of how he has been buying the book “Love Does” by Bob Goff and giving away copies to friends and folks that he meets along the way during his adventures.  All along, I couldn’t help but see the delight in his face. 

Ron could easily stay secluded in his world.  Ron is semi-retired and lives by himself.  He could be lonely and bored.  But Ron chooses the adventure.  Ron knows that the world is built on relationships and service.  Ron is not afraid to make the introductions- he has seen how it works!  Ron is not satisfied to stay inside of himself.  He seeks the adventure.  And it has made all the difference.

So how can you live the adventure life?  Here are a few ideas:

Dump the Routine:  Look at ways that you can do things differently.  We are such creatures of habit and efficiency.  Yet, do you want to live an efficient life or a life of fullness and adventure?  Mess with your schedule a bit.  Leave early for work and relax a bit when you get there.  Try new restaurants, new music, new places.  Get out of the rut!  When you change things up you will see opportunities for new relationships, skills and service.

Slow Down:  When you are always in a hurry the world is travelling at the same speed.  Slow down and give yourself time to really see what is going on around you.  I guarantee you will be surprised.  I am often the worst offender of this.  I am so tuned in to speed and efficiency that it really hurts to slow down sometimes.  Yet, I know I have to.  When I am operating at warp speed, I am missing- not gaining.  Tunnel vision will not allow you to see the opportunities to enjoy life and serve others that are all around you.

Be Observant:  By learning to be observant, you will also begin to see opportunities for fun and learning.  You must learn to really look deeper.  Additionally, there are often clues that identify the need for service to others.  It could be a simple frown or some tattered clothing that gives you a glimpse of the trouble that exists.  These clues can be subtle and the ability to see within someone often takes some practice.  You will not always get it right and you may be rejected.  As you hone your skills, you will get better and you will begin to see the impact of careful observation on your life.

Take a Risk:  Adventure and risk go hand in hand, right?  We understand risk in terms of jumping out of a plane, yet we generally don’t get the connection between adventure, risk and relationships.  In order to be allowed into a persons life, someone has take the first step which involves risk.  Simple small talk will provide only the superficial- to get deeper you need to be prepared to ask the risky questions.  Yes, you may get rejected.  However, when the time is right, they will let you in.  And when they do it is beautiful– even if the story is messy.  Now you can serve.  Now you can make a difference.  Now your day has adventure!

Are you tired and bored?  You don’t need an expensive vacation to add adventure in your life.  The world is happening all around you.  Are you going to slow down, change things up, and look for opportunities to make a difference?  Living the adventure.  It’s waiting for you!  

What are some ways that you have found that have added excitement into your life?  Are you ready for some new excitement?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

Andy’s Sailboat: A Love Story

Sometimes it’s about finishing that really counts…

I grew up on a lake in Michigan.  Two doors down was a boyhood friend named Andy.  Andy and I were good friends growing up.  Andy and I were way different in many ways.  Andy was a tinkerer.  He always had a project that was in progress.  Maybe rebuilding a bike, a lawnmower or repairing the family camper.  Andy always had a project or two that was in progress.  His father was an engineer, and Andy had a mechanical mind that I am convinced was at least partially genetic.  His father also encouraged him to figure out how things really worked.  I remember visiting his house and helping him repair the oil burning furnace in his basement.  Now this is a 13 year old kid- yes with direction from Dad- repairing an oil furnace!  I admit, there was generally an excitement with doing these projects.  My dad would never give me the latitude to tackle a project like this but Andy was encouraged by his father to do crazy and challenging projects.

English: Sail Boat Fairhaven Lake

One of Andy’s projects was rebuilding an old wooden sailboat.  This boat was not pretty or remarkable.  It was a common sailboat, probably about 16 feet long.  Most everyone thought the boat was simply junk and was a lost cause.  The boat was made entirely of wood with many parts broken, missing or in need of stripping and refinishing.  Andy kept the boat on the side of his family’s house under a tarp.  Andy completely dismantled the boat, and over time, began to rebuild it.  This process went on for several years.  I remember going to his house to see what he was doing and getting a lesson on how the keel worked or what repair was necessary for the rigging.  The boat contained many typical marine materials, weathered teak, marine plywood, brass screws, stainless steel cables, etc.  I learned a great deal from Andy about boat construction and marine components.

Boats are a hole in the water that you throw money into…

Andy had a paper route that financed his boat rebuilding efforts.  I was often his back-up or companion while he delivered the Detroit News.  He had a relatively small route and I knew first hand that the money that he made was hard earned.  For several years, Andy poured much of his earnings into that sailboat.  Marine parts and supplies are very expensive.  My father was convinced that the label “marine” just was a way to double to price!  I remember Andy telling me about his latest purchase- marine varnish, brass fittings or mahogany and knew immediately that I would never spend that much money on that boat.  Yet, slowly over time he was making progress.

One year as the summer was waning, Andy and I talked and agreed that we would- somehow- sail the boat before the lake iced up for the winter.  The idea was to just put the boat together so we can sail it.  We were missing parts and some stuff needed some pretty intensive work so we would overlook those items and just make it sailable.  Let just sail the boat.  So, over a period of several weeks, we worked after school and into the night under lights reassembling the boat and working to put the boat in service.  Andy was especially committed.  I did my best to sneak off from my parents to give him a hand, but it was really Andy that was determined to sail the boat that year.  See, Andy bought the boat in disrepair, so he had never experienced the boat under sail.

Where is the rudder…

We worked tirelessly putting the boat back together.  Many of the parts had been refinished, yet many were missing, so we found ways to fabricate temporary parts.  We were especially concerned about the keel area.  Andy patched and sealed the keel and was still unable to get the area completely sealed.  It still leaked.  We would make sure that we included a suitable bucket for bailing if the keel was still leaking.

The weather was getting increasingly colder.  Most of the docks on the lake were out in anticipation for the winter ice up.  Andy put the finishing touches on the boat and we targeted the next day for the sail.  We were under the gun.  This was early November.  So after school, we fitted the boat for the first sail.  We were bundled up and there was a steady wind.  The weather was cloudy and it looked like rain.  I was a bit nervous.  The boat had never sailed.  Many bad things could happen- we could have a giant leak, broken mast, the keel leak, rudder problems, etc.  There were no boats on the lake to help us out.  The water was real cold.  We knew we were on our own.  Yet we pushed the boat out  into the lake and prepared to raise the sails.

Do we have life jackets…

The first minute was a bit chaotic.  We were not a very experienced crew and we were really tripping over each other.  Yet, after a few minutes, the boat began to lean over under the weight of the sail and we were picking up speed.  The boat was actually sailing.  I wish all of the naysayers could have been sitting in the boat with us!  The “POS” boat that was nothing but junk to most was actually sailing!  I felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.  Yet, this was really underscored by the delight that I saw in Andy.  He was glowing.  My involvement in his project was limited- yet he was involved in every screw, every component and every piece of rigging.  His joy was amazing.  I will never forget it.  We let out a few hollers of joy across the cold water and laughed in victory as we made our way across the lake.

We took a quick look at the boat.  The keel was still leaking.  We had some issues with the rigging.  We talked about the future repairs and improvements that we would make.  Yet, for the most part the boat performed pretty well.  After sailing for about an hour it stated to rain.  Not hard, just enough to make it ridiculously cold.  We looked at each other and decided to head in.  We planned another sail the next day when it wasn’t raining.  We pulled the boat up on shore and pulled over the cover.  What an amazing day!  We actually sailed Andy’s boat!

Well, the next day came and went.  And the next and the next.  We didn’t get to sail the boat again that fall.  In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the boat was never sailed again.  The boat sat covered on its trailer for another year or two until Andy eventually sold the boat.  I don’t know if the act of sailing the boat was enough victory that Andy lost interest in the project or if he just couldn’t get the time to properly complete the process.  It really didn’t matter.  In my eyes, Andy did it.  He took a project that was viewed as impossible and he pulled it off.  I learned a great deal from this project.  Some of it was practical marine stuff, but the more valuable lessons were about  love and not giving up.  You see, Andy loved that boat and he wouldn’t give up on it.  He put his heart and all of his money into the boat.  I think he would say that it was worth it.  Even after all of his time and money.  Even just for a single solitary sail on a cold November evening!

Simply Beautiful

 I am an avid gardener.  I love to grow just about anything.  I tell folks that I am really a farmer trapped in a carpenter’s body!  I particularly love growing two flowers– roses and dahlias.  Now these flowers are a real challenge in North Florida.  Roses are susceptible to disease from the excessive moisture.  It’s a constant battle with black spot and fungal diseases.  Dahlias don’t grow well in Florida.  Sun is too strong; soil is not rich enough, spider mites, etc.  Both of my favorites are ridiculously difficult to grow.  A crazy passion that few understand.  My family often thinks I am crazy to put forth the lopsided effort necessary to grow a few good flowers.  But I love it.  I get so much satisfaction from an outstanding flower.  I’ll admit- it is a bit of an obsession!

My Second Dahlia- 2012

I have often wondered what makes a flower beautiful.  So what makes something beautiful?  A sunset, a mountain range, a song, a building, a boat (for you Ed), a dress, a meal, a face.  There are so many things that we measure with beauty.  Why is blue better than black?  Why is green better than brown?  Why are we drawn to beauty?  What is beauty?

I believe it must be written on our hearts by the Creator.  A picture of what is to become.  What is truly good.  Something that we cannot explain, but points us forward.  To something better. Something beautiful.

So what is a beautiful life?  Can we measure our lives the same way we judge a painting?  Do you know someone who lives a beautiful life?  I’m sure you know someone that lives an amazing life.  Maybe they are very successful, or influential, or wealthy, or charitable, or a spiritual powerhouse…  Yet- is their life really beautiful?

I believe that your life can be like a flower- truly beautiful.  So how can you live a beautiful life?  Here are some characteristics of the beautiful life:

  • Balance- This is really important.  If something is out of balance it just doesn’t look right.  For instance, you can have the most beautiful flower, but if it’s missing petals on one side it’s just no good.  Balance in life is super important.  A beautiful life must include all of the elements- family, faith, friends, love, work, learning, fun, giving, and health- in balance.  The most insidious components are the areas that are essentially good that can become damaging and all consuming.  Pastors can fall into this.  They will pour themselves into their flocks- essentially a good thing- and neglect their wives, families, health, etc.  I think even Mother Theresa could be another example.  Jesus promised life to the full.  That means all components of life!
  • Color- Beauty is often defined by color.  A brilliant sunset of orange, pink and purple would be much less impressive in a black and white photograph.  So it goes in life.  If you are truly alive, then your life should be vibrant and colorful.  Colorful people are attractive.  They may or may not have raw beauty, but they are different, not afraid to be noticed.  If you hide in the shadows and remain dull you are not living, you are just surviving.  What can you do to add color to your life?  Do something different.  Take up a new hobby.  Learn to play an instrument.  Go back to school.  Volunteer.  Be outgoing.  Be funny.  Be different –don’t follow the crowd.  It’s OK.  Different is good and you will enjoy it! 
  • Scale- The majesty of a mountain range is defined by the grand scale of the image.  Yet the beauty of the tiniest flower can also be truly amazing.  Scale needs to stay in proper proportion in order to be beautiful.  How are you doing on the large and the small?  You may be enjoying a season of great success as examined by others, yet there may be smaller items that can derail your journey.  One of these may be your health.  A serious health problem can destroy your future.  Do you have some bad habits or addictive behaviors that need to be addressed?  Don’t underestimate the power of the small things.  They can take you down in an instant!
  • Groups– A single flower in a field will not have the same impact as a field full of flowers.  You may be living a beautiful life, yet you will do so much better in community with others.  We are designed to be in community.  Isolation is lonely and it can be a very dangerous place.  Realize that our society celebrates individualism and this is not always healthy.  You must fight the urge to withdraw.  Join a group of folks that are like-minded to do something fun.  Get involved- do not stay on the sidelines or hide in the shadows.  Living in community will help to strengthen your relationship skills and enrich your life.  Do it today!
  • Soothing– Music has a way of bringing relaxation.  I love to put on music to unwind and relax.  Beautiful music has a way of soothing the soul.  Would you say that you are soothing to others?  If you tend to be loud, abrupt or have a need to be heard, maybe you should work on a quieter approach?  Along with music, I get great relaxation from conversations with particular friends.  Do you focus on kind words and words of encouragement coming from your mouth?  The soothing counsel of a great friend can be a huge comfort.  Turn down the volume a bit and relax!

Appreciating beauty is really the result of the connection.  When you see the majesty of a mountain range, you are connecting to it through the image.  You can see the snowy mountain caps, the colors of the rocks and the slopes to the valleys.  As you observe, you become wired into it.  The beautiful life is also about the connection.  By truly living a beautiful life and connecting with the amazing gifts that are part of the journey, you will be experience those moments of wonder and grandeur in everyday life.  No need to go to the mountaintop.  It’s right in front of you.  Are you ready to experience it?

What makes a beautiful life?  Am I missing something?  Please click on Comments and tell me what you think!