Brave

Brave

One night this Spring after supper I let the kids play outside while I cleaned up the kitchen. “You can’t be out long,” I told them, “dark clouds are rolling in.” My weather app predicted severe thunderstorms.

I was loading the dishwasher when, suddenly my youngest screamed and came running to the back door. He sounded scared. I ran to let him in, expecting to see a loose dog chasing him. There was no dog. I opened the door to let him in but he just stood there. I couldn’t tell if he wanted me to come out or if he was worried about his older siblings still out in the yard. 

Then, as if he suddenly realized what he must do, he blurted out, “I get my gun.” 

He was given a bubble gun for his second birthday. You dip the ring on the muzzle in a shallow dish of bubble solution and when you pull it out and squeeze the trigger it pumps a gentle stream of air through the ring and makes bubbles. 

He found his bubble gun and went back out on the deck and announced, “I scare the thunder!” 

Yes, yes! Little man, be brave. One day you’ll grow up. You’ll put down your bubble gun. What will you pick up instead?

As I stood there watching him face is fears as best he knew how, I turned introspective. What do I cling to for security and to help me feel brave when disaster threatens? Insurance for health, home, and automobile? Constitutional Rights? The U.S. Dollar? My job? Religion?

Are my fears even legitimate? Is there anything substantial behind the thunderclap threatening my safety, or is it just noise? Can the things I fear really hurt me? And if so, can the things I trust really protect me?

Even as a grown man there’s a part of me that still feels like a lost boy. So I wonder, am I just a two-year-old brandishing a bubble gun at thunderstorms?

My Morning Miracle

My Morning Miracle

I’m trying something new. Well, not really new, people have been doing it since, well, probably since the beginning of human civilization. It’s not even entirely new to me. The thing is, I am now doing it with new motivation, expectation, and purpose.
This “new” thing is called The Miracle Morning(TM) based on the book by Hal Elrod also titled, The Miracle Morning. The not so new part is waking up early, the new part is why.

See, before, I believed that getting up early was merely a good idea, but I didn’t understand that it was essential to living up to my full potential.

So a couple weeks ago, after reading Hal’s book, I decided to give The Miracle Morning(TM) a try and I committed to getting up at 5a.m. to work on my personal development. Hal’s program is still new to me and I don’t do everything exactly as he prescribes, but this morning I learned there’s more than one way to have a Miracle Morning. 

My alarm was beeping. I got out of bed, walked to my dresser and turned it off. My alarm is across the room so I have to get out of bed to turn it off. Then I grabbed my clothes and went to the bathroom where I can turn on the light without disturbing my wife who was out late last night. Once dressed, went to the kitchen for a glass of water, drinking water helps me wake up. Well, that and the coffee. 

I set my now empty glass on the table and turned around and then I saw it – the pile of dishes in the sink. 

Now, last night I had a choice, stay up to unload and reload the dishwasher or save it for the morning. Either way, I had already set my alarm for 4:50 AM and it was after 10 PM at that point. If I stayed up I knew my wife would be happy when she came home and heard the dishwasher running, but I felt like I was going to pass out, so I went to bed. 

So there I was, staring at the dirty dishes and I realized I had a choice, I could leave the whole mess for my wife and just get my coffee and get on with my Miracle Morning, or I could put off the reading I wanted to do and give my wife a Miracle Morning by doing the dishes. I did the dishes. 

Once the dishwasher was running, I picked up my mug of coffee and stepped outside to enjoy the first light of day. I love being outside early in the morning! The sun wasn’t up yet but there was enough light to see what I was doing. I stood on the deck and just listened to the birds for a moment.

Looking around I noticed that everything was dry, no rain, no dew. I could sit in my favorite deck chair without getting a towel to dry it off. But I didn’t sit down because since it didn’t rained in the night the garden needed watering.

It takes a little time to water everything because I use the water from the rain barrel, and that means filling the watering can multiple times. But that also gave me time to enjoy the peaceful morning. Even our relatively quiet neighborhood gets noisy with activity during the day, so I was grateful to be outside and hear only birds. 

After filling and emptying the watering can a few times, I noticed the world changing from grey tone to full color as the sun peeked over the horizon. I turned to face northeast, smiling to welcome the coming day. The clouds were aglow with pink light. THIS is worth getting up early for!

I still had not exercised or done affirmations or the reading I was hoping to do, but though I did not plan to, I had practiced kindness, silence, and gratitude. I made positive choices and that turned into a positive attitude. I was feeling great. It was going to be a good day!

I may not have done things quite like Hal Elrod but I ended up having a good morning anyway. I was up early and got things done before sunrise and that put me ahead of the game! And that’s what The Miracle Morning(TM) means for me. 

What I had discovered was that you don’t have to follow someone’s program exactly as they lay it out. I took the concepts and adapted them to what I needed this morning, and I got a positive result, because doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing at all.

Daddy Cooks Lunch

Daddy Cooks Lunch

Daddy’s in the kitchen today. The baby’s due in about three weeks and Momma’s resting. So I get to cook lunch.

But what to make? I find sausage in the freezer and put it in hot water to thaw. Next I find rice and get it in the rice cooker. I use chicken broth for part of the water for the rice. It adds good flavor.

Now with the rice cooking I finish loading the dishwasher and start it. As it hums along, I check the sausage. It is almost thawed through, so I warm the skillet. There is only a small bit still frozen and after a few minutes in the skillet it’s thawed and soon all the sausage is browned.

Now, rice and sausage are wonderful staples, but what to have with them? A vegetable? I find broccoli in the freezer. I scoop the sausage into a bowl and put the broccoli in the skillet to sauté. But is this enough? Should I add something for flavor? An herb or spice? How about one of the onions I got at the farmers’ market last Tuesday?

Just then my daughter comes in and wants to know what we are having for lunch. I tell her it’s food. She wants to know what it’s called. It doesn’t have a name. She wants to give it a name. She calls it rice sausage broccoli topping. She sees me chop the onion and says not to add it because she will have to change the name. I tell her I want onion in it. So she tells to cook it ’till it’s soft. Which I was planning to do. 

I remove the broccoli and sauté the onion. The rice cooker beeps, indicating the rice is done and the cooker has switched to “KEEP WARM”.

Soon the onion is soft and beginning to caramelize so I put the broccoli and sausage back into the skillet and turn the temp down to “Lo”. 

I tell the kids to set the table for lunch. Then I go to the bedroom. Momma is awake now. I tell her what we are having and she thanks me.

Back in the kitchen we sit down and enjoy a delicious, made-up on the fly, meal. With a little practice, cooking without a recipe is easy.

Why Not Make New Year’s Resolutions?

Why Not Make New Year’s Resolutions?

I have a confession to make: I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. That probably makes me a heretic. I mean, it’s what you’re supposed to do. it’s like an unwritten rule or something. Everywhere you go right now someone is saying, “New Year, New You!” Everybody’s doing it, and nobody questions it.

Maybe I have rebellious streak. I mean just because everyone else does it, doesn’t mean I have to. Or maybe I’m afraid to fail. After all, if I don’t make any major commitments, I won’t get frustrated later when my plans get derailed. And sometimes I wonder why all the resolutions I’m expected to make are all about me and my little life. I mean, if I really want to make a difference in the world, shouldn’t I resolve to donate more to charity, or volunteer at a homeless shelter, rather than focusing on my own self development? Besides, what if I don’t know what I want to do yet? What if I don’t figure it out until June?

  • No Magic

There’s nothing wrong with pausing to evaluate yourself and resolving to do better, but I don’t think there is anything magical about doing it at the beginning of the year. January first is really just a date.

A new year does have an element of excitement, I’ll grant you. It’s like clicking “New Document” in the File menu: it’s fresh and full of possibility. I just think we should open new documents often all through the year, not just in January. Everyday we should be asking, “what can I do today to make a difference?”

  • Go Big?

The problem with making yearly resolutions is most people want theirs to be big and impressive. “Go big or go home,” they say. “This year I’m going to crush it!” they say. I genuinely hope they do, but for me, sometimes it would just be nice to have an good day, never mind a whole year. Don’t get me wrong, doing big things like publishing a book or running a marathon would be awesome, but it’s the little things sometimes that make a biggest difference.

  • One Day at a Time.

Maybe you enjoy making New Year’s Resolutions, and that’s fine. If I were to change my ways and join you in this practice I would start by asking, and then answering the question, “how can I serve others?”

I hope you and I can crush it this year. You do it your way and I’ll do it one day at time. Who knows, maybe this year will be my year to do something big, and if I’m lucky I might even have it figured out by June.

Why You Should Not Go Big

Why You Should Not Go Big

 They say, “Go big, or go home,” and in a game show that might be a good idea. Unless you know you will be happier with the smaller prize, go for the big one when you have the chance, no matter how slim the chance is. But what works for a game show doesn’t always work for life in general. Yesterday I was reading about the contrast between Craft and Success, in Rob Bell’s book, How To Be Here. Basically, Craft is doing something because you want to and the thought of doing it energizes you and gets you out of bed in the morning. You don’t care if it will make you rich or famous. Success on the other hand, drives you to pursue more, even when you already have all you want or need. You tell yourself, “I’ll know I’ve arrived when ____________________.” Then, when you achieve whatever it is you would put in that blank, you realize it doesn’t feel as satisfying as you had imagined, and you ask, “I worked hard all those years for this?” It’s what Solomon called “chasing the wind.”

 In a similar vein, going big when starting new habits will make them harder to keep. I heard Tim Ferriss explain that it’s better to set the bar low at the beginning. Just go to the gym for ten minutes twice a week, for example, just to get in the habit. You want to make getting into the habit easy because you have a better chance of making it stick. 

 As I pondered these things I realized that writing is my Craft. I do it because I want to do it. I like knowing that I have encouraged someone. Even if I help only one person, I know what I’m doing is worth while. I don’t need Success, and I don’t need to write long posts, I need consistency. Long or short, I need to write something everyday. I write because it’s my Craft and I want to make the habit stick.

Why You Should Get Your Hopes Up

Why You Should Get Your Hopes Up

My mom had a little proverb she used to say. I didn’t always like hearing it, but eventually I understood that it was actually good advice.

“Zip up you coat,” she would say.

“I can’t,” I would say.

“Can’t never tried,” she would say. And sometimes she would follow it up with, “is it that you can’t, or you don’t want to?” 

She was on to me. I am grateful that she taught me early that before I say “I can’t,” I have to give the thing an honest try. Mom was helping me to overcome my limiting beliefs.

A limiting belief is a mental block that makes it impossible for you to imagine yourself doing something. Let’s say your wild imagination says, “wouldn’t it be neat to have a book on the best seller list?” But you think that your writing isn’t good enough and you don’t have anything to write about anyway. That’s an example of a limiting belief. 

Someone might respond, “well, it’s hard to get on the best seller list so it’s better to not get you hopes up.” 

People are always saying, “don’t get your hopes up.” Well, why not? What is so bad about hope? I know they mean well. That’s one of those things that well meaning people say to help you avoid the pain of disappointment. But without hope for better things, how can you expect to live anything other than an average life?

We need hope.

Hope is the belief that the desired outcome is possible. When you believe that the thing you want is achievable, you will go out and get it. What do you dream of doing? Write a book or start a company? Stop telling yourself it’s impossible and go after it. I hereby give you permission to get your hopes up.

Believe you can.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” my dad was always reminding me. He wanted me to know that if I wanted something badly enough I could figure out a way to get it. But if I tell myself that it’s impossible, I won’t even try. That’s what happens to a lot of people, like our would-be author. They believe something like “Best Seller” status is beyond their reach, so they give up on their dreams before they begin and never write their book at all, because “can’t never tried.” I don’t know about you, but I would rather try and fail than live with the regret of having never tried.

Pie in the Sky?

I know, this sounds like a lot of pie in the sky. If you are thinking, “You can’t just think your way onto the best sellers list,” you’re right. I’m not saying that all you have to do is think, but that is were it starts. It’s about motivation. If you don’t think something is possible, you won’t even try. What I want people to do is reach for more. You won’t accomplish big things without believing you can. Hoping and dreaming are only the first step. I don’t want you to stop there and miss out on living an awesome life.

Do the hard work.

I would be doing you a disservice if I just filled your head with wishful thinking. The fact is if you want to be awesome you have to do the work to get there. We’ve all heard the silly little story about the Little Engine That Could. There is an important lesson in that story. The little engine didn’t just repeat a cute mantra, she did the hard work of pulling the train. I heard Lisa Nichols tell about her experience on the swim team. She was getting tired of all the hard work and wanted to quit. Her grandmother heard her talk about quitting and said, “quitters never win and winners never quit.” That Saturday at her meet, she repeated that phrase to herself all the way down the pool and back and when she stood up she was alone in the pool. At first she thought she had done worse than ever, until she saw that the next closest swimmer was still half the length of the pool behind her! She turned her mind into her ally by believe she could win if she didn’t give up. Then she did the hard work and it paid off. 

I’ll leave you with this: make your mind your ally, believe you can and do the hard work. 

You can listen to Lisa’s interview with Sean Croxton here.

For more on this topic check out Jon Acuff’s book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters 

Don’t Criticize What You Don’t Understand

Don’t Criticize What You Don’t Understand

You might have heard the Native American proverb, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his moccasins.” I was wondering where it came from so I looked it up found out it came from a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895. The original title was “Judge Softly.” Mrs. Lathrap’s poem reminds us that everyone has struggles that we are not aware of and if you or I were in his situation, carrying his load we would likely also stumble and fall along Life’s journey just as he did. I encourage you to read the full poem here.

It would be good for us to remember that we don’t have enough facts to judge people objectively. We are distracted by outward appearances most of the time and fail to see who they are as a person, and so we misjudge them. 

Isn’t it funny that we judge people on shallow things like their skin color or how they dress, but then we get offended when they want to judge us by the same standard? We should remember the Golden Rule and not judge people, since we don’t want them to judge us.

What is it about human nature? It’s like we have an urge to divide people into arbitrary groups and label them. Who is this helping? Politicians? Social anthropologists? Not the bright young man you called an idiot hipster. Not out loud of course. You would never call anyone an idiot out loud. But in our minds we do and then we form opinions of individuals based on the group label we think they wear. As if every member of any given group is alike in every way. How is that fair?

I get it, it’s so natural we don’t even realize that we are doing it. I remember working with a guy one afternoon when I was at the Missionary Training Center. I don’t remember what I said, but he responded, “don’t make me wear that label.” Then it hit me what I had just done. I had decided he belonged to a certain group and I had failed to get to know him as an individual.

Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if we could slow down and try to understand what people are going trough. Could we help people instead of criticizing them? In addition to the Golden Rule, perhaps we should practice another simple rule: Don’t criticize what you don’t understand. (Thanks Bob Dylan!) Let’s try to resist judging people, and putting labels on them, and just let them be who they are.

And the next time you feel the urge to criticize or label someone, first try to see life from his or her perspective and walk a mile in his or her moccasins.


Photo Credit: Seattle Department of Transportation Flickr via Compfight cc