The Competitive Edge

I don’t understand the ‘competitive’ nature of people. I have never been very competitive minded. I know that sounds odd coming from someone born and raised in the South, where everyone takes their team spirit to the extremes, but it is true none-the-less. Why? For the simple fact that ‘competitiveness’ is just another way of saying you are trying to be better than someone else, and I have never had that goal in mind. I am not trying to be better than anyone. I want very much to see my friends and family succeed in all of their endeavors (adding the qualifier that they are good and moral endeavors that will help them to better themselves). So when I hear the whispers (shouts in Alabama) of my team is better than yours or other such chants, my eyes usually glaze over and I lose interest very quickly. I have the same problem with video games that only offer deathmatch in the multiplayer side. I really don’t see the enjoyment of pounding your friend over and over again until it causes them to get mad. Where is the fun in that? I enjoy working together with people to solve problems and overcome situations for the betterment of ourselves, but I have found out over the years that I am kind of unique in my mindset, and that most people do not think that way. The way I see it, I have my accomplishments and you have yours. I do not judge my success by comparing the two. I am not writing this to bash anyone, just pondering things at my keyboard. Perhaps competitiveness is a good thing for some people because it motivates them to better themselves, but I choose to find motivation elsewhere.

Maybe We’re Pearls

We had a visiting preacher where I attended church at this last Sunday. His name was David Marshall. He preached on heaven and it was a huge dose of encouragement for me. One that I badly needed. Too much has transpired recently that seemed to be conspiring to steal my joy. Anyway, as I listened to him preach, something he said shot my mind off on a tangent (a writers mind has a tendency to do that(a lot of times without warning or provocation)). He was talking about an oyster making a pearl. It was that reference in context with heaven that answered a question for me that my mother had asked me years ago. She asked me why God made this world and all of us people if He knew how bad we were going to mess it up. I don’t pretend to know God’s mind. He gives us examples of what He is like in the Bible. I know the things He does for me and my family, but I know that (as a mortal) I can’t possibly understand the workings of His mind. That being said I have come up with a theory of ‘why’. People say that science and religion are mutually exclusive, but I don’t believe that is true. I think one walks hand in hand with the other. They compliment each other and one is proof of the other. That is a whole different blog post though. I mention the science to give the example of the oyster, which I believe is a perfect example of why. The why is to create a pearl. In order to create something as beautiful as a pearl a process has to be started. The inside of an oyster is extremely sensitive. So when a grain of sand or some other particle gets in there and irritates that lining, a process is started to ‘fix’ that irritation. The oyster starts building around the irritant a crystalline coating called nacre. Over time the oyster completely encases this irritant in this beautiful coating. The result is this beautiful gem that is coveted by most of the human race. I thought about that and I realized that that is exactly what we are to God, a beautiful gem, precious to Him. So I asked myself, what makes us so? What qualities is it that He loves? He names them all in the Bible at one point or another. To make a pearl, you need to start with an irritant. God did the same thing. To make us into gems, He had to place us in a unique environment, an environment where all the things that He loved would be an irritant. We either become the gems that He wanted us to be, or we turn away from Him add to the environment, which in turns makes others turn into the gems. All this was a flash of insight that God granted me during Brother Marshall’s message Sunday. I’m sure that there are problems with my comparison. If there are, it is the fault of this simple wordsmith’s inept attempt to explain something that is beyond Him. I kind of like thinking that He is turning us into something so beautiful.

You can find out more about how a pearl is made at;

Just A Coffee

I took my son to the airport for his flight back the army yesterday. I truly enjoyed his visit. He has matured in so many ways, and I am proud of the man I see that he is becoming. As we waited for his flight we stopped by a coffee shop and I ordered the equivalent of a frozen cappuccino. They usually come with whipped cream on top. I don’t like whipped cream on my coffee so I specifically asked for them to leave it off. During the time that it took the girl to take our order one of the employees either came in to work or came back off of break. Apparently he missed the ‘no whipped cream’ order and I received my frozen treat with globs of the stuff on top. Yes I said something. I didn’t get irate, and I didn’t take it back, but I did say it loud enough that they could hear (It was a small shop, and there was only a few customers, so loud enough for them to hear was a normal speaking voice for me). My son thought I was being rude (he was paying so I guess he had that right) and said as much. This did annoy me a little bit. I rarely ever raise a fuss over orders gotten wrong at fast-food places. I totally understand that things can get hectic and people make mistakes. So I felt bad about it. I kept the coffee. I drank it all and threw the whipped cream away with the cup. The point of my little story was this; during the conversation the statement was made that we as Christians must set an example all the time, not just when it is easy and comfortable for us. I do agree with that statement, even if I don’t always set a good example. I am human, and as a human I make mistakes. I caution anyone who looks at a Christian and thinks that they are looking at a ‘perfect’ example of Christianity to remember that. Regardless of who it is you are looking at. It doesn’t matter who they are or how big their names are, they are only human and prone to human mistakes. They may do the right thing 149 times out of 150, but if you only see that 1 time they mess up, does that negate the other 149? There was only one perfect Christian that has ever walked this Earth, and He was the one that started it.

Some Assembly Required

I have tried to instill in my children a sense of ‘family’. What is that?” you ask. It means different things to different people. Sometimes it depends on the situation. To me it means ‘safety net’. All my children are very independent. They have shouldered their responsibilities and tried to do it all on their own. They haven’t always succeeded, but that is all part of life. If you’ve never failed at anything, then you’ve never attempted anything. I don’t look at as failure as much as learning a way ‘not to do something.’ But family is my fall back. Regardless of what happens, I know I can always come back to family. That includes extended family, adopted family, friends who share a bond deeper than words can convey. I find it sad that there are people out there that the word family means absolutely nothing. Any endeavor you undergo requires a solid place to launch from. I have worked hard to make sure that the word family means that my kids will have that launching point. Just as my parents did for me. All that I have and have accomplished is thanks to God for placing me with a loving and caring family who support me in all that I do, and are always there to catch me should I fall. Can you make it in this world without family? Yes, but I don’t envy the person who attempts it. If you don’t have a family, maybe you need to start building one of your own. It doesn’t require being married, or having children. All it requires is unconditional love and being there for the people you choose to make up your family. Life is soo much easier when you share it with family.

Monkey Trap

I heard a story once about a monkey jar trap. The basic gist of the story was that a jar was secured to the ground with a banana or some other bait inside. The mouth of the jar was just big enough for a monkey to put his hand in. When the monkey puts his hand in the jar, grasping the bait he finds that he cannot get his hand back out of the jar. All he has to do is let go of the bait and his hand would be free, but the monkey usually lacks the sense to do that and remains trapped. Sometimes I think I’m that monkey, holding onto something so hard that it keeps me trapped, unable to move forward, and unable to enjoy the ‘treasure’ that I am holding onto. Things come an go in this life. This physical realm has a lot of desirable ‘bait’ for you, but if you can’t let it go, you won’t be able to enjoy having it either. It remains stuck in the jar, held in your hand, but out of your reach. Sometimes it’s better just to let go. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do.

Just Keep Swimming

I have a bad tendency to look to far ahead. I try to plan things out, and always have contingencies in place in case something unexpected happens (which usually does). And when it does it totally undermines my positive attitude. When those things happen I have to just pick myself up, brush myself off and say ‘this too shall pass.’ Which helps a little, but it’s not the ‘insta-fix’ I wish I had. Usually the only way to recover from it is to endure it and focus on damage control. Try to lessen the backlash of events that are caused by the crash. I find myself in that situation these last couple of weeks, and it is very hard to find something positive and uplifting to post about when you’re at battle stations trying just to maintain. My wife, ever the optimist doesn’t understand the fugue state I find myself in, and I’m glad she doesn’t. I actually hope she never does. She is one of my anchors that helps bring me through those storms, and I thank God for placing her in my life. Her optimism may rub me the wrong way sometimes, but it also keeps the darkness from taking me back over. So this week I’m just going to shine the spotlight on her for a bit. Thank you for helping me keep swimming, my love.

The Dream

I had a dream last night. I was out with my wife, and we were having dinner with another couple. When we left the restaurant things got a little strange(as they often do in dreams). We wandered about the city, trying to get our bearings and find out where we were (our guests were the ones showing us around. It was their city). I noticed that everyone was wearing masks. They were all staggering around, but they were basically headed in the same direction. One of them approached us. It was a woman and she was wearing the mask of some kind of alien. Do you know who you were? She asked my wife. My wife said yes she knew who she had been. Do you know who you are? She asked my wife. No was my wife’s answer, she didn’t know who she was. The strange lady then turned to me and said; Do you know who you were? As I nodded and thought about all of the bad things I had done over the years, I realized there was a reason this woman was asking these particular questions. I already knew the next question she was going to ask. Do you know who you are? “Yes,” I answered, but I didn’t stop with that answer. “But it doesn’t matter,” I said. “If you focus on who you were or who you are, you lose sight of who you can be.” And then I woke up, but the words stayed with me, a gift from God. What will you focus on today?

For Me And Mine

In 2006 I gave up. I was trudging along, day by day struggling to make ends meet, trying desperately to gain financial freedom so that I could enjoy life. I couldn’t do it. It seemed the more I struggled, the more problems I had. That jackpot reward was always out of reach. So when 2008 rolled around, I stopped and took a good hard look at all I had accomplished. I wasn’t impressed. As a matter of fact, I was down right dismayed. I was almost thirty-five years old and all I had done was manage to keep my family from starving. Bill collectors were calling, I had chronic pain in my lower back, me and my wife were always fighting about money. It was devastating. It was a blow that my ego couldn’t recover from. So I gave up. In my despair I took a walk. It was a Sunday morning. The weather pretty much matched my mood, stormy and bleak. As I hiked through the woods around my house, I tried to sort things out in my head. I had been saved, but I was away from God and the Church. I had been raised that if I ever had problems to pray about them. So I did. I stopped right where I was. Standing on a large flat rock in the middle of a creek, and I turned it all over to Him. I said “Lord, I tried it my way and it didn’t work. I’ve done all I can. So it’s all Yours. Take my life and do what you will. I will do whatever you want me to. I’m not going to worry about it anymore, because I give it into your hands. All of it.” I no sooner finished praying that than my boot slipped out from under me and I landed flat on my back. I lay there as rain began pouring down. The funny thing is, I felt this calming peace settle over me. The worry was gone. The anger and frustration was gone. I knew I had done the right thing. From that day on, I haven’t had a problem with my back. I stopped trying to live like everyone said I was supposed to, and focus on what He wanted me to do. Since then, I have written and published four books. I have sat in on author’s panels in Tennessee and Virginia (and plan on doing one in September in Kentucky). I have a better job, and although the finances aren’t what I would like them to be, I don’t have bill collectors calling me at all hours of the day. I have lived more in the last eight years than I ever did in the first thirty-five. Now you can say what you want. You can claim it was all coincidence. You can explain it all away however you want, but I KNOW it was God. And as for me and my house, we shall serve Him.

The Problem With Being Right

I love my family, but there are times when disagreements arise. The family ends up in turmoil and chaos, and people start taking sides. Its easy to lose your objectiveness and once that goes the whole situation can escalate into a rift that can damage the unity of the ‘whole’ beyond repair. This is how you get a ‘broken’ home. The people involved choose to distance themselves from the problem and pretend that it will go away if they ignore it long enough. This is not the case. Steps have to be taken to contain the damage and prevent the rift from forming. I have a secret I use whenever I deal with such problems. I use it so much that it has become like second nature, like ‘muscle-memory.’ Whenever I get in a disagreement with any of my loved ones, the first thing I think of after squabbling is what if I never see them again? That one sobering thought puts the whole argument in perspective for me. That one question leads me to think of the validity of my argument. It lets me consider how much ‘me being right’ is worth. During all of this I continue to remind myself that it is okay to disagree. Everyone is unique and looks at things in their own special way, and that okay, but is it worth me not being able to overlook that disagreement? I can still love someone and disagree with them, but I can’t always comeback and apologize for harsh words and over-reactions. I know, I know. You’re thinking But you’ve already done the damage when you started arguing. This is true too, and sometimes it may still take time to repair the damage done by the things that were said. But the more I use that one little secret question, the faster I become at it. The faster I am at it, the quicker I can react to fix the damage I have done. Who knows; maybe one day I’ll be able to catch myself before the argument starts.

A Dreadful Soul

I have a bad habit of dreading things. When there is a job to be done, I usually dread starting it right up until I actually start the job. Well, to be truthful about it, I usually dread it until I get into it good. Then I realize its not really as bad as I have been envisioning it in my head. I know that I do this, and yet still I find myself doing it every time. Very rarely is it ever as bad as I picture it. Why do you suppose that is? Am I alone in doing this? I actually think this is another weapon in the Devil’s arsenal. The whole time you’re thinking of it (whatever it may be), he is setting there telling you how ‘awful’ its going to be. I have taught myself to ignore this feeling of dread. Its something that has to be done. Yes I would rather someone else do it, but what would be the point? SOMEBODY has to do it, and if its me then at least I know its done. Now if I could just figure out how to skip the ‘dreading’ part, I would have it made.