Photo Friday: Overwelmed

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Here is a picture of a gentleman who is convinced that one trip is much better than four! Do you feel a little like this guy? Carrying the weight of the world on your back?

Trying to be supermom, superdad, superfriend, superemployee…

The fact is: This never really works! There are consequences. You will suffer from problems like health issues. You will sacrifice other things like time with your loved ones. And many other things that are very important.

So why do we do it? Why do we take on so much stuff ourselves? Why can’t we give it up?

Generally its plain and simple pride and control. We can’t let someone else take care of things. Can’t give it up. Your convinced that you are the only one that can do it right. Can’t take our hands off the wheel and let go. You feel like disaster will happen if you don’t steer things in the right direction.

The fact is: It’s your problem.  Don’t blame it on everyone else. You are the only one that can fix this.

Say no sometime.  Off-load some stuff.  Learn to delegate.  Let others take over.  Let things run by themselves. It will be ok. The world will keep spinning. Your life will be better. You’ll see!

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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.

"The best way to make dreams come true is...

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!

Mastery

Today I will share a poem that I wrote last night.  I have been captivated by colors and light the last few days.  This is a tribute to my celebration.  Hope you enjoy it!

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Mastery 

 

Color wakes

Vibrant and moving

The brush pulls color across the white

Making the canvas come alive

 

He begins with blue and green

The colors of life

Then the large to the small

Balanced but extravagant by design 

 

His eye is keen

As the finish is already done

He guides his brush

Waves of color splash forth

 

The brilliance of a king

Crimson love and golden shine

Colors blending as they touch

Chasing out the dark

 

He continues to craft his art

The colors shout out

Form replaces the abstract

You begin to grasp the plan

 

Clarity and focus

His vision springs to life

You tingle with delight

More than you can contain

 

He smiles

Tomorrow will bring a new work

As the beauty never ends

For the artist of life

Eyes Wide Open

I took this picture Saturday morning: 

Azaleas

 

Yes, it is remarkable that an azalea is blooming this early- easily a month early.  But this is not the thing that makes this picture special. 

Yes, this particular azalea is brilliant in color and a beautiful flower.  But this is also not the reason I am sharing this picture.

This is the where the picture took place:

White House

The picture of the flower was taken in the front yard of a run down house in a really rough neighborhood.  The second picture is not nearly as special as the first, is it? 

Here is the message that I took from the experience:  There is beauty all around us.  Sometimes we just need to stop and look!  Amidst the chaos, despair, and decay that we encounter every day, there is still beauty.  We just need to open our eyes to see it!

It may be as simple as a smile.

It may be a mother with her child.

It may be the birds singing.

It may be the laughter of the children.

Take the time to stop and really look around you.  I bet you will be surprised.  We are bathed in beauty every day.  Don’t miss it!

Have you had these moments before- where you are confronted with beauty in unlikely places?  Please click on comments and share your story!

Laughter Wreckage

They say that laughter is the best medicine.  However, this is not always the case…

I was sitting in a meeting last week and I made an observation regarding my personal experience on a topic.  What followed caught me completely off guard.   The person at whom I was directing my comments laughed at me.  Not a laugh like something funny.  This was a “you naïve boy” kind of laugh.  A real belly laugh!  I wanted to fire back with a statement like- “so wants so funny?”  I knew that it would be out of place (the conference room was full) and it would be provocative, so I left it alone.  I sat and wondered how long it had been that someone truly laughed at me.  Sure, I get laughed at when I do something funny or silly, but this was in response to an observation that I knew was factual on a subject in which I have thirty years experience.  There was no real purpose in the laughter.  If he disagreed with me he could have simply told me so.  Instead he chose to laugh in my face.

 English: LOL

I have to admit that it struck a nerve for a moment or two.  And this nerve runs deep.  It brought me back to schoolyard days of being laughed at by my friends.  It’s really amazing the damage that a little laughter can do when it is used as a weapon.  There is some really amazing irony here.  The thing that can give you such pleasure and fun can also be extremely painful.

It’s really character assassination…

We must treat a person’s feelings like a very fragile instrument.  Like an egg.  You should hold it gently and protect it from damage.  I have been on both sides of this, yet there is only one side that you can control.  I have been quick to speak or direct without considering the other side and have left the burning wreckage in the road.  As leaders, we must be extremely careful to consider how our responses will be received. 

Think of trading places…

The skilled leader has the ability to actually move out of their shoes and into the shoes of others.  This includes being able to visualize how the direction will be perceived including all of the personal characteristics that are at work in the situation.  Yes, there are some that need a strong voice.  They are accustomed to that style or that style is necessary given the circumstances.  However, some are very fragile.  A loud or harsh response will cause them to withdraw.  In trading places you have to consider the effort that they are making, not necessarily their results.  If you recklessly trash their work, you are sure to hurt their feelings.  You may have to authority to say what you want in any manner that you see fit.  However, I promise that you won’t be happy with the results.  If they disengage, you will struggle to win them back.  You may never win them back.  You may hit that nerve that brings them back to the schoolyard.  Remember that the goal is results- not just exercising your authority.

What do you think?  Press “Like” if you agree!  Have you experienced the “wreckage in the road”.  Press “Comment” and let me know what you think!          

Get Rich!

Ah- the American Dream!  Big house, fancy cars, fat retirement account, 2 kids, a dog and a white picket fence.  Is this really a dream or is it a curse?  For your typical overachiever (like me) the pursuit of wealth can be all consuming.  It can swallow you and ALL of your energy.  Is this what life is all about?  Is this really the DREAM?

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

If you ask any successful person about their life goals you will likely get a response that refers in some way to money.  While I understand that money brings a level of security and clarity to the future, I am convinced that we place far too great an emphasis on the need to have money and possessions to feel successful.

I remember telling the lady who took my high school senior pictures that my only goal in life was to be happy.  Have I really lived up to that statement? 

In my mission travels and service work, I have had the pleasure to meet the most remarkable people.  In many cases these folks have very little money or possessions, yet they live as though they are wealthy with an amazing attitude and a genuine zest for life.  I have other friends who have abundant resources and wealth and they are simply miserable.  This is an amazing paradox- Those with less are often happier than those with more.  As I have examined this phenomenon, I have begun to redefine my view of what it means to be rich.

How can the poorest folks in the world be so happy?  How can they have any feeling of security and peace not knowing where they will get their next meal?

Living the rich life is really about depth.  The truly rich people that I have met take the time and make the effort to cultivate deep relationships and love for their families, friends and communities.  This is so contrary to our modern lifestyle today.  We try so hard to be everywhere and everything at once.   We typically have nothing but “drive-by” relationships.  Even our relationships with our families can be weak and superficial.  And the worst part is that we model the behavior to our children and coworkers.   

We must take the time to value others. 

We must take the time to give back to our community. 

We must take time to see the beauty that is all around us.

We must take to time to pour into others.

What we all have to give is truly priceless- and it cannot be duplicated.  We must fight the urge to remain on the surface.  We must go deep.  

Yes- it is dangerous. 

Yes- it is complicated.

Yes- it can be painful.

However, the rewards far outweight the risks.  So here is your “get rich” plan:

Put Things In Perspective:  Carve out things in your life that are consuming you only for the purpose of making money.  Yes- We all need to eat.   Yet, what kind of life are you living if you are killing yourself to make a living?  You will not starve.  You will be fine.

Slow Down:  You do not need to be the fastest at everything.  You are missing the world- it is passing you by!  Slow down and really SEE what is going on around you.  If you have conditioned your boss, friends, or spouse to expect lightspeed this may be a tough transition- but this is your life!  Take control of your time and your life.  We all experience stressful times but your life should not be a constant race.

Go Deep:  Take your relationships deeper by asking questions and sharing your own personal struggles.  To “go deep” you must be transparent and vulnerable.   The root of superficiality is really self-centeredness.  You must be willing to get closer to friends, family and coworkers in order to enjoy the richness that results from the deep bond of great relationships.

Get Involved:  Get off of the sidelines and get involved!  Give back to your community and those in need.  My wife and I have been in dirt floor huts and been offered food from the poorest folks you can imagine.  They get it! They want to serve us!  Find a service project or get involved in your church.  Find a young person and pour into them.  Share your knowledge and your life experiences.  Take time to train up the next generation.  They want your help.  They NEED your help.   

The rich life is a choice.  You can choose to chase money, fame, or possessions or you can choose to go deeper.  You can break free of the bonds of superficiality and enter a world of true love focused on others instead of yourself.  Are you ready?  Would you like to be rich?

Are you ready to enter the life of the rich?  Will you get serious about making the tough choices to add depth to your life?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!   

Multi-Tasking Danger Zone

One of the characteristics of a gifted servant leader is putting others in front of you.  You may be thinking- check that box- I do that!  I am humble.  I always put others ahead of myself.  I have a servants heart.  I’m all over this!

attention

Let me give you an area in putting others first that is real struggle for me.  This is giving others my attention.  Yes I may look, respond, nod, and give them some affirmation that I am with them- but I have the tendency to give them only part of my attention.  I multi-task, I focus on what I think is important and I only want to give away a part of me.  Horribly selfish!

The message that they receive is that they are not important enough for all of my attention.  They are really a nuisance to me.  They are simply interrupting me.

I know this is terribly disrespectful, yet I still struggle getting a hold of this issue.  Leaders need to realize the power that is available here.  By focusing and giving others your undivided attention, you are delivering them a message of their value to you. Here are some tips in this area.

Stop!  The first step is to stop what you are doing.  Put down whatever you are working on or enjoying.  Yes, you are being interrupted, yet you can go back to it and continue later.  Guard you reaction.  Put them first and stop!

Turn!  After you stop and put down your task, turn away from what you were doing and turn toward them.  This provides them with reassurance that you value them more than your task or activity.  This will provide them with confidence to continue to address you.  If you simply look up you can appear to have one foot in each activity.

Focus!  You must shift completely away and focus on them.  This can be very difficult.  Sometimes I am buried in numbers, spreadsheets or contract language and I don’t want to go backwards and give up my spot.  The rub here is that you must.  Focus on them.  Respond in complete sentences.  No head nods.  Ask questions.  Engage.  Give up your spot.  You can go back and pick up where you left off.  There is no other way to do it correctly.

I struggle so much with this.  I am a multi-tasker to the core so concentrating on one thing seems foreign to me.  Yet I know it is wrong and disrespectful to try to remain focused on my task.  I need to give the person my complete attention.  One strategy to counteract my tendency is to engage the person in conversation adding some elements outside of their current needs.  A personal question shows that you are really concentrating on them.  This is not just another “drive-by” interaction!

I know what I need to do and I am getting better, yet I have a ways to go.  Stop, turn and focus.  Quit the multi-tasking. Honor them with all of you!

K-LOVE: Girls Give Up Their Dreams

I listened to a discussion this morning on the radio that was really troubling.  The K-LOVE morning show was discussing a statistic regarding young women.  According to a newpaper article that they referenced, 6 out of 10 girls give up the thing they love to do because of the way they look.  Really, not the way they look, but how they think they look.  Young women don’t feel that they look good enough to accomplish their dream.  They will actually just give it up.  I was really saddened by this statistic.  Honestly, I don’t question the numbers.  In fact, I wonder if they may even be low.  What a tragedy.  This really hurt me.

English: Two young women.

We all want to feel desirable and wanted.  With women it is generally much more important than with men.  A major part of their identity is centered on how they feel about themselves and how they think they look to others.

The world is giving young women impossible expectations.  They see the runway filled with emaciated models.  They are bullied by their peers and called hateful names.  Clothes are getting smaller, tighter, more revealing.  Images of supermodels pasted everywhere you look.  Eating disorders abound.  What can we do?

Men:  Encourage the women around you.  Complement them on the way they dress, their new haircut, or their outfit.  Tell them that they are not fat.  They yearn for this.

Dads and Moms:  Encourage your daughters.  Talk to them about the truth.  They are wonderfully and perfectly made by their Father in heaven.  Tell them that the message that the world delivers is not true.  It’s stinking garbage.  Tell them the real truth:  They are beautiful.  They are special.  They are loved.

I have a friend named Courtenay Bowser who struggled with these issues and she wrote a book that describes her journey to freedom.  The book is called “Beautiful”.  If you click on the title it will take you to her website.  This would be a helpful read for you or someone you know that is struggling with self-image issues or trying to meet the world’s warped expectations for women. 

Don’t let your girls give up their dreams.  Fight for them by encouraging them.  You may think your girl is well adjusted yet- you are probably getting fooled.  Give them what they need.  Tell them.  Do it now!

Do you know of any resources or strategies that can help young women fight this battle?  Let me know by clicking on comments and providing your input!

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!