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How to Walk Through Darkness

I don’t like to be scared. I’ve never cared for scary movies or spook houses.  I never understood the appeal of having someone jump out of the dark at you while wearing a frightening mask.  Some people love this kind of thing.  I don’t.  Some spook houses have a room or hallway that is designed to put you in absolute darkness.  It is terrifying because you can’t see what’s coming.  The only way to conquer the darkness is to wait it out or to keep walking till you get to the light.  What keeps you from going crazy with fear is knowing that eventually you’ll get out of the darkness and the night will return to normal.

Life can be like a dark room in a spook house.  You can find yourself in a place of darkness.  Suddenly, you can’t understand what’s happening and even worse you can’t see what’s  going to happen next.  An emotional “dark room” can be terrifying.  To handle it you attempt to shore up your courage with the hope that light will return, things will get better, and hopefully, life will return to normal.

Struggling with the dark has been one of the more difficult parts of my wife’s and my experience with cancer.  Our lives were changed dramatically without warning and we struggled to make sense of it all, kind of like having the lights go off.  The darkness increased as we  faced the complication of medical treatments, the resultant body pain, the loss of control of time, and the steady stream of medical bills kept coming at us.  We fought to keep a positive attitude.

One of the worst aspects of “the dark” is the waiting.  As a friend of mine, whose wife is also struggling with cancer shared with me;           

The whole process is taxing on my wife.  It is all the waiting.  Every time we see one doctor, we have to wait another week or two until   we see the next one.  This weighs on us knowing that she has cancer inside her. The surgery is still probably at least 3-4 weeks out. 

I feel his pain.  Been there, done that, and we have that cancer t-shirt.

Maybe you’re in the dark right now.  Maybe you are facing:

  • The terror of a job loss.
  • The fear of ballooning debt.
  • The fright of a health crisis.
  • The panic of a child that is on drugs.
  • The apprehension of a spouse who is threatening to leave.

What can you do?  You don’t have a lot of choices.

One, you can curl up in a fetal position and cry in the dark.  You can whine incessantly about how unfair life is, and how God has failed you.  Of course, that will change nothing except to shorten the list of friends who will take your phone calls.

Two, you can choose to shore up your courage and keep on walking.   You can choose to believe that God is good, life is worth living even in times of struggle, and that eventually the darkness will end.  You can put a smile on your face as you make the inner determination that you will get through this with your integrity intact, and that the darkness will make you a better person when it is gone.

You can choose not to visit a spook house.  You can’t always choose not to walk through emotional darkness, but you can choose how you get through it.  Keep on walking. Keep on believing.  Next year will be better.  The darkness will eventually lift.

Leave me a comment about how you have dealt with the “dark rooms” of your life.

 

WHAT IN THE WORLD DO I SAY?

My wife is dealing with cancer and I’m learning some things about that far too common journey.   The ironic thing is that I’ve been writing a book on cancer with a friend, who is dealing with the strain of her second diagnosis of cancer.   For the past year, I’ve sent her a daily devotion and she has been journaling her response to each day’s post.  We hope to publish a book to help people find spiritual support and practical wisdom to help with their struggles.

It looks like I’ll be writing a chapter I never dreamed I would write….when cancer came to my family.

One of things I’m learning is how hard it is to support a loved one in a great trial.  It’s been said that it is harder to watch someone you love go through pain, than it is to go through it yourself. I know I’m finding it difficult to say the correct words to help my wife.  This is due to wondering “what is the right thing to say?”, not whether or not I want to be encouraging.    This dilemma is not a  “cancer”specific problem, but rather applies to anyone with a loved one in pain.

  • What do you say to a friend who says, “I have cancer?”
  • How do you encourage someone who says, “My husband left me for another woman?”
  • What expression of hope is appropriate for the one whose child just died?
  • How do you answer the question, “Why did this terrible thing happen to me?”
  • What can you say to the one who got laid off two weeks after his wife had a baby?

Now the problem is not having something to say.  The problem is not saying something that is trite in sentiment or that sounds callous to the one who is hurting.

  • Don’t say – “I know how you feel.” Nobody knows how anyone feels
  • Don’t say – “I am sure everything will be okay.” You don’t know that.
  • Don’t’ say – “I have a friend who had the same surgery, etc.” Your friend’s experience is not relevant.
  • Don’t’ say – “let me know if I can help.” Find a way to help.
  • Don’t say – “God needed your loved one in heaven.” That makes God sound cruel.

What do you do when someone you know gets the worst news ever? Maybe, don’t say anything at all. Do something!  Anything.   Say a prayer. Write a personal note. Make a personal visit.  Bring a meal to the house.   Make a phone call.  Make yourself available to listen.  Or try this, just go sit by their side and saying nothing at all while you hold their hand.

When someone gets the worst news ever, do something that will make you their best friend ever. Show them that you care.   That’s what they really need.  They don’t need a solution, they need to know they are loved.

P.S.  Let me know in the comment section you’d like to receive the cancer, or going through trial devotions, I mentioned in the last post.  I’m still compiling a list.

How Long Will You Be Limited by Your Past?

How long do we have to be limited by our past?

Are we ever safe from our failures?   Is there a shelf-life on our mistakes?  Can we overcome painful memories?

Far too often, we suffer internally because of things we remember that we did wrong or past embarrassments.

Memories shape our lives. If they are negative or painful, they become a prison of self-limitation.  The most interesting thing about memories is that they are unreliable.   The longer we have a memory, the more we embellish and color it with nostalgia.

I occasionally visit a home I lived in over 50 years ago.  I love to go by and see where I played as a boy with brothers and friends.  I am always amused by how small everything is compared to my memory.   A small shed still stands that we used to jump off of as boys.   In my memory it was 20 or more feet high.  In reality, it is only about 5 feet and most people would have to stoop down to walk under its low hanging roof.  The discrepancy in my memory is because I was only about four-feet-tall, when I made my daring leaps off its tin roof.   Everything looks different to me now from my current six-feet height.

We also tend to add details to our memories that were not really there.  The more you tell a story, including the more you tell it to yourself, the easier it is to incrementally add to the tale.   This is why your father’s memory of walking to school when he was a child morphs from a couple of city blocks to a couple of country miles. It’s also why his exploits on the baseball and football field become tales of legendary skill and success, when in reality, they were just stories of an average kid making an average team.

The truth is our memories are flawed.  What you remember so vividly probably did not happen exactly as your picture it.

It is time to take the sting out of your painful memories.  When they show up to limit you or shame you, remember they are being blown out of proportion.  When they give you that familiar unpleasantness, remember that you are remembering from who you were, not who you are today.  You wouldn’t make that mistake today.  You wouldn’t choose that bad decision as the person you are today. Don’t let a flawed and exaggerated remembrance trouble your peace of mind.

Good coaches teach us that though the past is always with us, its ability to hurt is a personal choice. Decide today that your memories from years ago are out of date and toss them into the trash.  Move forward, focused on who you are becoming, not limited by who you were.

Make your personal mantra: I’m not who I ought to be, I’m not who I’m going to be, but thank God, I’m not who I was, and quit allowing yourself to be shamed by an out of date past.

When You Get The Worst News

Other families have cancer, not us.”

That’s what my daughter said when my wife, her mother, was recently diagnosed with cancer.  It is a body blow to hear that someone you love has the disease that is the second leading cause of death in America.  You would think that I’d handle the news better.  As a Pastor of many decades,  I have made countless hospital calls and prayed with hundreds of people diagnosed with cancer.  I still struggled to get my mind around it.  Maybe, all my exposure to other people’s battle with the disease made my own acceptance of it more difficult.  Ignorance sometimes really is bliss.  But, cancer is now part of my family’s journey whether we like it or not.

I have to say that our family is as prepared for this challenge as any can be.  We have all the factors for a successful treatment in our favor.  We are blessed with insurance to help with the enormous costs. We are blessed with outstanding physicians and hospitals and are receiving excellent treatment.  We are surrounded by loving family and friends to encourage us.  We are strengthened by an amazing church family that is so supportive.  Most of all, we are people of faith that live in confidence of our God’s active role and plan for our lives, including this cancer.  With all these supporting factors, we are confident of success and moving ahead as bravely as we can manage. Our struggle, compared to those faced by many others, is small.

However, this blog is not about our battle with cancer.  It’s about how to deal with the day when the worst thing you can imagine happens in your life.   All of us will face such a day.  How do you manage it when the prognosis is negative, the balance sheet is shockingly red, and the divorce papers show up in your mailbox?   How do you cope with middle of the night phone call that begins with the words, “I sorry to have to inform you?”

Here are some suggestions I give my coaching clients:

  • Start to prepare now for what you don’t know is coming.
  • Strengthen your bonds now with those who truly care for you.
  • Exercise your problem-solving muscles now with easier issues.
  • Do your best to get your finances ready now for any crisis that may come.
  • Develop your spiritual life now before the crisis appears.
  • MOST OF ALL DON’T PANIC

My family is doing well with our cancer journey.  It’s early on in the struggle.  We’ve had a couple of minor surgeries, and we are reviewing our options as our wonderful doctors lead through this journey.   We are believing for a complete recovery and learning to love each other more every day. But, whatever comes, we know our God will get us through.  May God bless you if you are facing a daunting challenge in your life.   I know you can find the strength to not just, “survive, but thrive,” if you’ll keep your attitude positive and your faith strong.

P.S.  I have been writing a daily devotion, for another cancer sufferer that will hopefully become a book. If you are interested in signing up to receive these devotions contact me on this website.

 

ARE YOU AS LOVEABLE AS DANNY?

TO CLAIM THE REAL YOU – ELIMINATE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK

 

To allow yourself to step forward and claim your worth in the world, you need to overcome lingering beliefs about your self-worth.  How can you boldly put yourself in the public eye if you are being slammed by critical statements within your mind?   Do you have doubts about being worthy of God’s blessings?  Do you fear that you are not good enough, smart enough, talented enough to achieve your goals?  Even worse, do you constantly tell yourself these things?

This negative self-talk has to stop because:

  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • You are the only person exactly like you in the entire universe.
  • You were put here with unique gifts and talents with which to bless the world.
  • You are just as worthy of success as anyone else.

For a primer in self-esteem study, let’s look at the career of actor, Danny DeVito. DeVito’s short stature is the result of a rare genetic disorder that affects bone growth in those afflicted.  This diminutive actor has won the hearts and minds of millions in spite of his unorthodox appearance.  If Danny can refuse limiting beliefs about his success, so can you.

Realize that how you feel about yourself could be putting a “lid” on your success.   Search your mind for any trace of poor self-esteem and commit to purging it from your life.

Things to remember to overcome poor self-esteem:Remember everyone is a jerk sometimes.

  • Remember that your past does not have to predict your future.
  • Remember that you are a work in process and cut yourself some slack.
  • Remember that if you disqualify yourself, someone who needs your gifts will miss out.
  • Remember that mistakes and failures are part of life.

Past mistakes and failures are not disqualifiers for success.  In fact, they are usually a prerequisite for real impact in the world.  Do a quick study of some of the game changing leaders from history and you will see that all of them overcame something on their path to success.

Decide today that you are going to boldly go after your dreams.  Refuse to allow any false beliefs to limit your success.  Danny DeVito has legions of fans.  Why don’t you put yourself out there and see how many people will love you, too?

Claiming The Real You

HOW TO FIND THE COURAGE TO BE THE REAL YOU

The advertising campaign “Be All You Can Be,” promoting recruitment for the US Army, was one of the most successful in advertising history. It ran for 20 years.  It motivated enlistment with the idea of joining the armed forces in order to become a better you.

Here’s another good idea; simply allow yourself to be.

I wrote my last blog about not being afraid to be yourself.  Now, I want to give you four ideas in finding the courage to be yourself. The first is to value your uniqueness.

Self-improvement is important, but it can become an addiction.  While we are busy getting better, we should also enjoy being who we are.

How can we allow ourselves to just be?

Remember that today’s you, may be one of the best versions of yourself you ever produce.

This is true in the fitness arena.  I used to whine and groan about being fat.  All through my thirties and forties I was constantly disappointed in my body. But, I sure do miss that body today. If I could just turn back the clock, I’d never criticize myself again.  The body I had then was in some ways the best one I’ll ever have. The reality is that age brings deterioration, so today’s you may be one the best versions ever.

Remember you are a work in progress and cut yourself some slack.

Memorize this code: PBPWMGINFWMY   It will reduce the stress in your life.It means: “Please be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet.”Everyone has flaws. Most would like to be a better version of ourselves, but masterpieces      are not created overnight.  Don’t miss the glory of this day, because you are disappointed in how your diet is going or some other frustration on your goal list. Be gentle with yourself. You will get better.

Step one on claiming the real you is to accept yourself with all your “warts and weaknesses,” as being part of a human race that is flawed and broken.   Keep working at your goals, but enjoy today.

Other people love you. Love yourself and you’ll be better able to love other people.

Claim the real you, because the real you is pretty fantastic right now.

QUIT BEING AFRAID TO BE YOU

Quit being afraid to be you. If you want to create something that has power and lasts, then you have to be the authentic you, no matter who that annoys or makes angry.

A copy has no power to inspire.  A cheap knockoff has limited appeal.  People want to see and hear something that is real, and they get pumped when they encounter leaders who are irrepressibly themselves.

Why do we fear being ourselves?

  • We fear we are not good enough.
  • We buy into the lie that other leaders have it all together, all the time.
  • We have the tendency to overemphasize our failures and downplay our successes.
  • We feel arrogant to assert our ideas and opinions.
  • We wonder why people would want to hear what we have to say.

But, you are the only you in the universe.  You have life experiences that no one else has.  You see things in your own unique viewpoint and that viewpoint might just set someone free.

In the biographical movie “Walk The Line,”the young singer, Johnny Cash tries to get a record deal by singing a gospel song that has been recorded by Jimmy Davis.  The producer Sam Phillips stops his performance and says “this is awful.” Then he asks this question.

If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in a gutter and you had time to sing one song—one song that people would remember before you’re dirt, one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth, one song that would sum you up—are you telling me that’s the one song you’d sing?  That same Jimmy Davis tune that we hear on the radio all day about your peace within and how it’s all real and how you’re gonna shout it.  

Or would you sing something different, something real, something you felt?  ‘Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear.  That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.  It ain’t got nothing to do with believing in God, Mr. Cash, it has everything to do with believing in yourself!”

I don’t agree with Sam’s theology, but I agree with his plea for authenticity, and so did Johnny Cash. He put away his props and sang for the producer a song he had written called “Folsom Prison Blues.”  The rest as they say “is history” and a new star was born.

I ask you, what are you meant to say, sing, do, or produce?  Will you continue to spin out weak copies of other people’s work and ideas? Or will you start singing the song you were put on this earth to sing?

Quit being afraid to be you. If you want to create something that has power and lasts, then you have to be the authentic you, no matter who that annoys or makes angry.

 

 

Surviving Your Vacation with Your Goals Intact

I am republishing this popular blog to celebrate the special time of the year where we get to take a needed vacation.  I hope you enjoy it and I hope you survive your time away with your goals intact.

 

I am probably guilty here of making up a word, but I think every goal oriented person has suffered from this ailment.  Vacationitus- is the depression and grief we feel when we return from a vacation five or ten pounds over our normal body weight and suffering the pain of having to try to reconnect with the pre-vacation disciplines of eating and exercise.  Vacationitus is a setback, a reversal, a loss of ground toward our significant goals, and even worse a feeling of being unable to re-establish the good routines we once were on.  Having just recently gone through this crisis myself, I wanted to share five techniques that helped me over come Vacationitus and shed the excessive weight and get back to work.  Here they are.

1. Remind yourself of how successfully you have been in the past

For instance in the area of weight loss your thinking would go like this:

You lost 35 pounds in the last two years! People were walking up to you and  saying “Boy you’ve lost weight.”   Remind yourself how good those comments felt and remind yourself you have the power to deal with this issue.  The fact is       that since you have already done it once, you can do it again.  Your pep talk  should be,  “You know you can do this… you already have, just get your mind around it and start today.

2.  What are you about?   What are you up to?

It’s time to review your goals. A reversal is a great time to remind yourself of what you really want out of life and why you want it.  Again if the concern is vacation pounds, here are some good questions to ask yourself:

“Why is it necessary to lose the weight? “

“What are the benefits of staying in shape?”

My answers revolve around Self esteem.  I just feel so much better about myself when I am at my goal weight.  It is boost to my sense of personal worth    to control my weight rather than to be controlled by my eating.

I remind myself of that confidence is necessary to reach my goals, and that I am so much more confident when I am working out and my weight is under control.

3.  Start today

Every vacation ends, yours is over, you had a great time, and you ate what you wanted, now’s the time to get back to the real world.  Vacations are not the real world. They are meant to give us a break from reality and to free us from our disciplines long enough to relax, and that’s why we love them.  But vacations are meant to be temporary so grow up, get tough, and get back to the routines that have been bringing you success.

4.  Dealing with a setback.

There are other kinds of reversals than simple weight gain on vacation, but many of the same principles still apply. Maybe you have had an injury that is hindering your physical workouts. This can be very frustrating when you are pursuing physical training goals, but we have to be careful not to let it cause us to simply give up our pursuit of fitness.

I recently have been dealing with a knee injury that has slowed by workouts and led to much frustration on my part.  Here a couple questions I asked myself to get me going again in physical activity.

All right my leg is hindering exercise, but is it eliminating it?

Be honest, Kim, are there some things you can do physically?

Where can I get some good advice?  An injury is the time to invest in the cost of  getting good advice from qualified professionals.  Don’t quibble over spending  a few hundred dollars now, which might save you thousands in medical costs in  years to come.

5.  Others have done this, look to them.

This is the final technique and it’s an “oldie but goody.”  Success leave clues, and if others have overcome vactionitus and reversals in their lives they no doubt  have written or blogged about it.  Find them, read them, and copy them when they make sense.

Vacationitus happens to us all.  Reversals are part of life.  You can get back on track and reach goals.  So put down that doughnut and get out your workout gear and get started again on your dreams.

What’s Intimidating You?

What’s Intimidating You?

Subtitle:  Adventures in Car Hauling

My son-in-law bought my dad’s old truck from my mother.  The truck no longer ran and there was a lot of confusion about what might be wrong with it. But, Charley figured it would make a good starter vehicle for my grandson, who was fast approaching driving age.   He learned that other family members possessed a long bed trailer suitable for car hauling and he decided to drive down and haul the truck back home to Tyler. I decided to go along with him on the 3-hour trip, so I could see my mom, sister, and the rest of the family, and because I had brokered the deal.   We made a boy’s trip.  My son-in-law Charley, myself, and two of my above average grandsons set off on a distinctly, masculine adventure.  How hard could it be?

We thought we could do this. I mean it wasn’t rocket science. But, the more we talked with an experienced person, the more our insecurities mounted.  Neither one of us had ever pulled an 18-foot-long trailer, and we had never hauled anything as large as a truck.   As we learned about the things we needed (tie down straps, come-alongs, and weight-centering strategies, our fears began to mount), we realized this was serious stuff.  If we messed up, at the very least, it could be expensive, and at the worst, someone could get hurt.   But, we did it. We faced our fears, we loaded that truck and safely hauled it back to Tyler. We were feeling pretty proud as we rolled into the Rose City, thinking we had once again earned our “man cards.”

This adventure of car-hauling and the mental gymnastics we went through made me think about how people get intimidated out of attempting things that will take their careers to new levels of success. 

  • They turn down a promotion, because they’re not sure they can handle the stress of leadership.
  • They change their minds about relocating to a dream company, because it’s out of state and they have never moved before.
  • They own a company that is offered the chance to bid on a contract that will pay them the kind of money they have been dreaming of, but turn it down, out of fear they can’t hire enough quality employees to fulfill the contract.
  • They perhaps are encouraged to write a book about a life changing experience, but refuse to take action, because they have never written anything before.

All of these opportunities have the same key factors.  One, they offer tremendous potential for improvement in life. Two, they require the learning of new skills or the need to enter into levels of leadership, not yet experienced. Three, they are fear inducing.

These tips from my car-hauling experience might keep you from missing your opportunity.

  • Refuse to be intimidated. Everything is new the first time you do it.
  • Remind yourself that it can be done. Others have hauled cars, so can you.
  • Seek out good instruction. My brother-in-law provided needed expertise that greatly increased our chance for success.
  • Have confidence in yourself. You have made it to your current level of success through hard work and discipline and you can make it further using the same tools.

I don’t want to encourage you to do anything foolish or dangerous in life.  But, I also don’t want you to get intimidated out of what may be one of your greatest chances for success, because you’ve never done it before.

Take on the task.  Take up the challenge.  Haul a truck if you need to.  You might even earn your “man card.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stupid Human Tricks

Every so often, I attend youth events like summer camp.  One of the staples of these high energy gatherings is a game called “stupid human tricks,” that the camp director will use to warm up the crowd before a service. The idea is to offer a reward to anyone who is willing to demonstrate an unusual trait or behavior before the crowd. There is never a shortage of participants.  The “tricks” run the gamut from joints that can be bent backwards, to the ability to turn your tongue upside down in your mouth, or some such oddity.  My youngest daughter was a regular winner of these games, but I am sworn to secrecy not to tell her “giftedness.”

This silly game reminded me of the even sillier games that some people, who really should know better, play in their interactions with each other.   I call them “stupid human avoidance tricks.”

They include:

  • Jumping relational canyons to escape intimacy; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “Bob sees his wife even less than I do and she never complains.”
  • Pulling unrelated complaints out of a hat to distract from intimacy; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “I might come home more often if you didn’t park your car on my side of garage.”
  • Using verbal sleight of hand to hide uncomfortable truths; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “Oh, you always look so cute when you are so serious.”  This is said with a wink and nod.
  • Hiding painful truths in hidden pockets; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “I know, we’ll talk about that this weekend. Now let’s eat.”
  • Piling unimportant words so high that crucial words are never spoken; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, and saying, and saying, and saying… you get the point.

Which of these is your favorite?  Is one of these “tricks” limiting communication in one of your relationships?   One of the most frustrating relationships to be in is when someone you care about is emotionally distant.  If someone is distant, they are probably using one of the stupid human avoidance tricks.

All of these techniques serve the purpose of avoiding confrontation.  But, the problem with avoidance is that the problem is still there.  Avoidance is just relationship procrastination.

If you want anything to improve, you have to start with honesty.   No suffering relationship ever improved while people were utilizing avoidance tricks.  

Suppose your friend is “hiding painful truths in hidden pockets.”   Every time you bring up a troubling behavior of theirs, they tuck it away temporarily in a fake show of connection.  It doesn’t take long for the behavior to show back up and you know you haven’t really dealt with the issue.  How do you get past this trick?     

  1. Pick a time for the confrontation, where conversations will not be interrupted.
  2. Pick your words to demonstrate that your goal is improvement, not blame.
  3. Pick apart surface attempts to hide the offense by refusing to accept meaningless praise.
  4. Pick a powerful memory to share of a time when the relationship was thriving and growing.
  5. Pick a demand that will demonstrate real improvement from your partner on which you will not compromise.
  6. Pick a time to put the relationship on hold if the promised improvement does not come.

Much of our joy and most of our misery flows from our relationships.  Refuse to indulge in “stupid human tricks,” and don’t let those you value, get away with it either.