Thanksgiving: Sending The Thief Away

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  It seems like it’s the complete package for me.  My busy family taking the time to gather together.  Deep family traditions.  Great food and drink.  Watch the Lions lose (former Detroiter- can’t help it).  No gifts to mess things up.  Afternoon nap.  Fall weather.  It’s just a great package- isn’t it?

Rainbow turkey for Thanksgiving decoration

Seems like we can easily reflect on how we are blessed at Thanksgiving.  Surrounded by family and friends, the love just seems to flow on this holiday. As you reflect on the previous year, you forget the struggles and the pain of the past.  The disappointments of life.  The things that really matter seem to stand out.  They just seem to get larger on Thanksgiving.  Why don’t we feel like Thanksgiving every day?  What stops us from having the grateful heart and joyful spirit that covers us in waves at Thanksgiving?

I believe that one of the major culprits is comparison.  We just can’t seem to separate ourselves from it.

Remember when you were a kid and you had to break the candy bar in half?  There was always a big effort to make it the same.  Exactly the same.  Seem like we are born with a sense that things have to be fair and equal.

We are seeing a great rebirth of the fairness principle in our world today.  There is a greater awareness of inequity, I believe, due to the fixation of this concept in the media.  The reality is that things have never been fair.  And they will never be fair.  There have and will always be people with much and people in want.  There will always be people with more than you have, and less than you have.  And much of our efforts to “level the playing field” has resulted in bad consequences- much of which are the direct opposite of what we are trying to repair.

Comparison destroys.  When you see someone else with more, and you desire what they have, it will drive you crazy.  Like a thief in the night- it will steal your joy.  What you don’t see, as you compare, is the added responsibility that comes with the package of abundance.  You miss that the folks with a lot of stuff are generally not any happier than people who have little.  You covet and the anger from the inequity burns inside of you.

What to you get from it?  You get misery.  You get discontent.  You get bitterness.

At Thanksgiving it seems like, regardless of where we are on the scale, we seem to get a pure view of what we have.  The gifts and abundance that God has blessed us with.  Family.  A spouse.  A home.  A job.  Friends.  You really can see it and we smile.  We cry.  We give thanks to the Lord for his blessing and provision.

So, how do you keep the joy flowing once Thanksgiving is over?  I say dump comparison!  It’s a thief that wants to turn your heart to stone.  Be thankful every day for what you have.  Even in the midst of the struggle.  Even when things are tough.  Remember the way you feel on Thanksgiving.  And send the thief away!

What do you think?  What are some ways that you stay focused on the blessings?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

There is no safety in safety

I have been confronted recently with the reality that safety is really an illusion.  We gather, save, protect, reinforce, double up, and anticipate in an effort to be safe and secure.  Yet, with all our planning and protecting- life will still throw the curve ball at us.

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

I have a friend who just found out her mom has cancer…again.  She fought breast cancer years ago and she just found out that its back.  I’m sure her mom has “insurance”.  So what?  Does health insurance, life insurance, annuities, trusts, or savings really help her situation much? She still has cancer.  And it hurts.  Really bad.

So what if you just said- the heck with it!  Live for the day and worry about the problems later.  Irresponsible would be the typical response- right?

I remember hustling downtown to an inner city friend’s house to make a meeting after work.  I was late.  Crazy busy day.  Continual chaos, giant problems and burning wreckage- the day of the construction manager!   Driving into the neighborhood, I immediately see life.  Men relaxing playing checkers on the porch laughing and enjoying the day.  I see a woman talking with her neighbor smiling and enjoying the company.  Kids playing outside with their siblings.  These are people we would say are “in need”.  So who is really the smart one here?  The folks in the neighborhood have little “safety”, however, many live with less stress, less clutter with stuff, and have the opportunity to enjoy a simpler life.

So where are you?  Are you on the porch enjoying the beautiful day or are your running 100 miles per hour trying to save, store and protect?  Are you filling up barns or living life to the full?

Here are a few ways to regain some REAL safety in your life:

Quit your job!  I read recently that the worst thing that you can do for your health is to sit at a desk all day long.  Maybe its time to abandon the big career dream that may be slowly killing you?  Go back to something that makes less money that you enjoy and keeps you more active.

Sell your house!  How much does a four bedroom house weigh?  I think most breadwinners would be able to tell you.  Trying to provide the “dream” is a tremendous thing to carry.  Maybe its time to downsize to something more manageable?

Dump the assets!  Put your money into building the next generation.  Start a trust, pour into young people, give until it hurts.  With wealth comes responsibility and headaches.

Don’t store up stuff!  We are brainwashed consumers who are obsessed with buying things on sale.  We eat way too much.  Food gets old and spoils.  Buy fresh food as you need it and eat healthy.  Buy organic when you can and use the higher food cost as portion control.  Live simply and stay away from the mall.

The pursuit of wealth and safety can cost you your life.  REAL life.  It’s not worth it.  Take care of your body.  Don’t dwell on the accumulation of stuff and live a life free of clutter.  Gather things that matter- friends and family.  Dump the junk that holds you back.  We start with nothing and leave with nothing.  Store up YOUR treasure in heaven!

Do you have strategies to simplify and streamline your life to give you real safety?  Do you think I’m crazy?  Click below on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

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!

Warm Bread: Irresistable!

Back in the early 90s,  Kathy and I particularily enjoyed a restaurant that had an appetizer specialty called teacup bread.  The bread would arrive warm and still nested inside of a teacup.  This was a really special treat.  The bread was light and soft and had a sweet flavor.  You really could eat this bread for dessert.  We loved the food at this place, but really, the bread always brought us back.  We would get several servings.  Warm, sweet bread.  I really want some right now!

Slices of French Bread

Warm bread is a great way to invite guests into your restaurant.  The smell, the taste- every sense gets bathed with great bread offered as an appetizer.  I remember several restaurant experiences where the most memorable part of the meal was the bread.  Warm and inviting.  Something really special that leaves a lasting memory.

I have also had the pleasure to meet people that I would say have the characteristics of warm bread.  Upon meeting them you are immediately enveloped in warmth.  You can feel the love ooze from them.  Like the bread, they leave a lasting memory.  You can’t help but think about them.  They are like the teacup bread- you want to go back for more.

What makes a person that you meet like warm bread?  What makes them irresistible?  Here are a few observations:

Focus:  They are completely focusing on you.  They look you straight in the eye as you begin to talk to them.  You are the only person in their world.  They have the skill to shut off everything else.

Smile:  They start with a smile and have a way to continue to smile throughout the conversation.  The smile is a powerful tool.  A smile disarms.  A smile invites you in.  A smile tells you that they are enjoying your company.

Genuine:  They are genuine in every way.  They want to know about you.  They are humble and authentic.  There is no agenda.  The focus is personal.

Listen:  They are skilled listeners.  The questions are based on getting to know you.  They do not lead you in a particular direction for their benefit.  They allow you to tell your story and let you enjoy doing it.

Connect:  They are skilled at connecting the wires between you and them.  They will seek out common characteristics and interests.  You will share ideas, struggles and experiences.  You will feel like you have known them for years.

Easy:  They have a way to navigate through a conversation that makes it fun and enjoyable.  No awkward quiet moments.  No challenges.  You will have the opportunity to share a little or a lot- your choice.  Time flies by as you talk and connect.

Have you been there before?  Can you think of someone you have met who is unusually warm and engaging?

OK- confession time.  I am not that person.  I would characterize myself as crusty rye bread- not tea cup bread!  I struggle with focus.  I tend to be serious, so I typically have to remember to smile.  I tend to talk only when I need something.  I am content to sit in silence.  This is my nature, however, I am aware of it now.  I have to make an effort to be the warm bread.  It doesn’t come natural to me, but I am learning and I recognize the power that warm bread has.  My typical nature is selfish and I know it.  However, I am getting better- much better!

We often overlook the effect that we have on others.  A smile goes a long way and it is such a simple gesture.  Are you a warm bread person? Do you focus on others instead of trying to get out your story?  Are there areas that you can work on as you interact with others to make yourself inviting?  Like the tea cup bread, once you master the skills of warm bread you will bring them back over and over again- a warm and sweet relationship!

Do you know someone with these skills?  Share your story by clicking on comment below!