Brown Shoes- Black Pants

Ok fashion police!  Lock me up!

While packing for a trip to a wedding, I made a decision that I would wear brown shoes with black dress slacks so I would not have to pack and carry black shoes for only one event.  I can tell you that it certainly will not match and it will likely clash and I may even catch a glance or two.

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Your probably thinking- well your a guy and you can pull it off.  You don’t hang with the chatty girls who would love to make some comments about a real fashion error.  That’s is true- I admit.  So if you would struggle here read on!

I know that the look is not optimal, but I made a decision based on what I wanted, based on the costs and benefits, not on what others want or think.  I weighed out the choices and decided I would ignore the noise around me and focus on what makes sense for this situation.  What’s the message here?  Well it’s not about shoes.

It’s about the ability to tune out the voices around you.  The voices that tell you that you are obligated to do something.  You must follow the protocol.

It’s about resisting to jump every time the voices around you tell you to do something when you know it’s really not that important.

It’s about making your own decisions and judgements and swimming upstream when you know that you should.

It’s about being freed from the approval beast that will consume you and run your life.

Servant leaders often get bogged down by simply reacting to others instead of being proactive and getting in front of the voices.  The ability to be objective, concentrate on the big picture, and have the guts to say no is extremely difficult for someone with a servant’s heart.

Is this your struggle?  Do you want to blend in?  Do you have an insatiable hunger for the pat on the back?  Can you break away?

I say, take control of your life!  Live your life your way.  Make it your own.  Paint the picture of your life vibrant and colorful.  Tune out the voices that are
holding you back or taking up all of your time.

Go ahead- do black with brown. You won’t explode!  I promise!

Do you struggle with feelings of obligation and following the norm?  Click on like if you can relate or click on comments if you have a story to share.  Don’t be a stealth reader!  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

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!

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!

Men: 10 Shopping Tips for Christmas!

Ah, the Christmas season has begun!  A time for family, great food and gift giving!  One problem:  The thought of Christmas shopping makes most men cringe.  I would guess that most men would do diaper duty instead of hitting the mall!  Yet, we know we have to do it AND it’s coming up pretty quickly here.  When you think of shopping for your wife or special loved one, you can’t help but think of the scars from past failures.  The dress that was three sizes too big (How big do you think I am?).  The new vacuum cleaner (Oh, I guess the place is a mess, huh?).  The earrings that exactly match the set she already has (You idiot, don’t you notice anything?).   You try every year- yet it always ends in failure.  You want to give up- just go all gift certificates.  You know that this isn’t personal.  Doesn’t show you really care.  No, won’t work.  What can you do? Christmas in the post-War United StatesI am writing this based on wisdom gained from pure failure.  I have made just about every stupid mistake possible.  Yet, I am getting better.  Last year, I probably did about 80% not returned.  Not saying that this year will be as good, but I am gaining confidence.  I know I will get a couple gifts right.  And this is the way it should be.  Because it’s important to her.  You want to see genuine joy on her face on Christmas.  Not- “Oh, thanks Honey…” and then it gets returned.  You want it to be really special for her.

OK- so what do we do?  Here is a list of hints that have been helpful for me through the years.  Understand ALL women are different, so I may not have this exactly right for your loved one so adjust as you see fit.

  1. Planning:  Start thinking about gift giving NOW.  Very often she will give you hints about what she wants.  Some will be subtle and others are not.  Be careful with the non-subtle hints.  This is when she is all but TELLING YOU what she wants.  Write it down!  You will forget- trust me.  Make a list of these hints and ideas.  Start now!
  2. Do the Recon:  Before you hit the mall, a reconnaissance mission is required.  When she is out of the house, go through her closet and dresser and write down the sizes for her clothes.  Be careful here.  Her closet can be full of traps.  There are often things in there that she wishes would fit.  Find the clothes that she always wears.  Look at the tags for the brands.  You may be able to get hints on the stores where she shops.  Write down the sizes and the brands.
  3. Right Style:  Really LOOK at what she wears.  You do not want to be a pioneer here.  Even if you don’t really care for the style she likes, buy what she wears.  She’ll tell you that she loves what you bought her- yet she will never wear it.  My daughter tells my wife that she dresses like a hippy while my daughter dresses conservatively.  Don’t generalize.  Buy what she will wear!
  4. Get the List:  Ask her for a list.  Don’t think that you are so good that you don’t need a list.  Get a few slam dunks in along with some more risky items.  Nothing worse than seeing it all go on the return pile.  Quiz her on her list.  She will likely give you more ideas as she describes what she wants.  Get all of the details- stores, sizes, colors, everything.  These are givens- so go get em!
  5. Shop with Her:  Go Christmas shopping with her.  While she is shopping for others she will spot clothes or items that she wants.  She may tell you to get something specifically or she may just be drawn to something.  Typically she will see something that she wants but thinks it’s too expensive.  Jackpot.  This is good target.  Snap your mental picture and return later and make the buy.  Shopping with her is gold.  You will get great hints here.  So do it!
  6. Danger Zone:  There are certain gifts that are very risky.  Stay away from risk- this isn’t Vegas!  Here are a few:
    1. Practical Gifts:  Household items, TV, blender, toaster, washer, new roof.  May be really needed, but not at Christmas.  Unless it’s a list item- stay away!  This is REAL quick sand here.  Stay with personal gifts.  Practical some other time- not Christmas!
    2. Fitness:  Exercise equipment, gym membership, workout clothes, yoga classes, etc.  Risky, very risky.  Realize the message that you are giving.
    3. Cooking  Items:  Careful here.  Unless she is an avid cook, you may be delivering that same bad message.
    4. Victoria Secret:  Stay away- this is also a trap!  The sizes are about impossible to get right.  There is a fine line to trashy.  And, what is the message- not sexy enough?  Too sexy?  Don’t do it!
    5. Jewelry:  This is a typical “go to” for many guys.  Spend a bunch of money in one spot- and be done.  Easy choice.  However- if she is not a jewelry girl- she’ll take it back.  Trust me on this one.  And then because you chose the “nuclear option”- she’ll have no other gifts that were good.  Now you really stepped in it!  Be careful here.
  7. Go it Alone:  Don’t bring your buddy or your daughter with you.  If you bring your buddy you know where you will end up- Ruby Tuesday’s with a cold beer.  Don’t do it!  You will just have to go out again.  If you bring your daughter and you mess up she will be collateral damage.  Ask her what she thinks, but don’t bring her.  Keep her out of it.  Come on…she’s family!
  8. Use the Mannequins:  The mannequins can be your friend!  See how it looks on them.  They generally put some of the best selling styles on the mannequins.  Look at colors and styles.  Stripes, black, paisley, whatever.  You will know what’s in by looking at the mannequins.  You can also see what it looks like on.  Things look way different on a person than on the clothes rack.
  9. Ask for Help:  Ask the sale people for help.  They will help you find sizes and match things up.  I am not suggesting that you take ALL of their advice.  This is also a trap.  I have wrapped suggested outfits that were a total bomb.  Stay with the look that you are sure she will like.  Don’t experiment with someone else’s taste.
  10. Start Early:  Don’t wait for the last minute.  Start now!  Get a few things bought and stored away.  I will admit that I like getting some last minute items.  Getting out a couple days before Christmas with all the other guys is kind of a tradition.  I do love the last minute excitement- but if you wait too long you will be stuck with what’s left.  All of the common sizes to the cool clothes will be gone.  Many of the good gift ideas will be sold out.  There are great last minute sales but try to be nearly wrapped up.  The internet is a great starting point.  Get a few internet purchases done early and start to look for ideas.  Do your research on-line so your time can be concentrated on hunter/gathering (pick-up and pay!).

These are a few tips that I have learned through the years that I think are most valuable.  Most men would say it’s only Christmas and what does this have to do with leadership?  I can assure you that Christmas gifts are very likely much more important to her, than they are to you!  I also know that being a bonehead and doing a crummy job sends a really poor message to your kids and others about how much you care about her and the importance of completing a task with excellence.  So suck it up and get it done!  It’s not that difficult and when you get it right- it is truly magic!

Merry Christmas!

Can you share some stories of mistakes or victories in Christmas gift selection?

Ladies:  Any ideas to share with the guys?

 Click on comments and tell us your story!     

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!