Ask the Experts!

Recently, Kathy and I were sitting on our back patio (lanai is the fancy realtor description) in the cool of the morning enjoying a hot cup of coffee and the fluorescent beauty of the morning.  The birds were wide awake.  We have a bird feeder and we keep it well stocked with a high quality seed mix that keeps them coming back.  We have generations of cardinals that are now permanent North Florida residents as well as a group of morning doves, mockingbirds, and a host of other songbirds that are regulars each morning.

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As I sat and watched the show, I began to consider the way the birds really love the morning.  I can remember times camping when the birds would start singing at 4 am.  My response- gosh guys go back to bed!  It’s way too early!  Yet the morning is a truly special time for the birds.  They wake and they sing for the morning.  It’s like they are screaming,  “You need to get up and see this amazingly beautiful day!” They are the epitome of the morning person!

The morning is their choice.  They could easily pick the afternoon or the evening.  Unlike our comfortable living, the birds live in close contact with the natural.  They experience the earth like no other creature, living outside and largely unprotected.  They are the experts.  And they choose the morning.

So what is so special about the morning?  Here are a few reasons I think that the birds choose the morning and why you should too!

The stillness and quiet of the morning.  The birds know that their song will really carry in the morning.  They know they really own the morning.  For us, the morning gives us stillness that allows us to rest, think and let our mind wander. The stillness provides insulation from the distractions and noise of the day.  We can let our minds sing- released from the bonds of obligations and schedules.  Are you singing in the morning?

The coolness of the morning is a great time to get your work done before the heat of the day.  The birds know that they can get their business done and wait out the heat in the shade of the trees.  The morning is a perfect time to plow through your work so you can shift into a lower gear as the day heats up.  If you get the heavy lifting done in the cool of the day, you will extend your energy and be more productive.  Do you run at hyper speed in the heat of the day?

The morning is a safe place.  The predators are still sleeping and the birds group together for protection.  The birds know these facts.  The morning is theirs.  The can relax a bit more than normal.  They have the numbers and they watch out for each other.  You can also own the morning.  Seems like only good things happen early in the morning.  Evil is asleep.  Do you get up early and enjoy the protection of the morning?

The morning is a time where we are refreshed and recharged.  The batteries are on full again! The birds are darting around with extra vigor.  If danger is present, they are able to make a quick get away with strength stored from the night of rest.  This rest is also powerful for us too.  The morning is the best time to exercise and do physical activity.  Your body is designed for this.  Are you taking advantage of this stored energy?

The morning screams of His perfect design.  The beauty of creation.  Diversity.  A new day and cleansing of the old.  You can see the vigor and playfulness in the birds in the morning.  They are out enjoying life and exploring the abundance of this earth.  The morning is a great time to reflect and begin anew.  Put yesterday behind and embark on a new day with discovery and adventure.  Are you taking advantage of the extravagant beauty and gift of the new day?

I love the mornings.  I always have.  My mom never worried about waking me up, I was always the first up and out the door.  I remember being mesmerized as a kid by the beauty of the morning.  I still love everything about it.   How about you?  Can you break the love affair with your pillow?  The experts know the secret.  Give it a try- you’ll see!

Do you follow the experts advice?  Do you love the mornings?  Click “Like” if you do!  If not so much- click on comments and tell me your story!

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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!

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!