Wait a minute…

There’s a saying that good things come to those who wait.  That sounds good, except it involves waiting.

I don’t know of anyone who likes waiting, myself included, but I can honestly say that I’ve come to understand the merits of it.  That doesn’t mean I like it any better.  I just understand the benefits.

The enemy of waiting is rushing.  People are forever rushing.  I’ve been as guilty as the next person.  But, while I have often regretted rushing, I have rarely regretted waiting.

blog 1To coin another phrase, “haste makes waste”.  Words said in haste, actions done in haste… often makes waste.

I’ve experienced the regret of those things.  Some to this very day.  I’d rather have the pain of waiting than the pain of rushing.

A good example of how rushing can lead to regret is found in the Bible.

Esau and Jacob were brothers.  As the eldest, Esau had the birthright which, in ancient times, included the inheritance rights of the firstborn.  Basically, it was a big deal.

One day, Esau went home to find Jacob making some stew.  He was hungry so he said, “Quick!  Let me have some of that stew.  I’m famished”.


Rushing… haste…

Jacob’s response was, “First, sell me your birthright”.  That sentence should have made Esau stop in his tracks.  But, no, he kept going.  “Look, I am about to die.  What good is the birthright to me?”

Ok, really?  He was about to die?  From missing one meal?  It’s a big leap from famished to death.

That was one of the first recorded exaggerations in the Bible.  And it perfectly illustrates a fundamental truth that’s been around since the beginning of time.

We want what we want when we want it.  And that can blind us to the consequences of acting in haste.

It blinded Esau.

Jacob gave him one more chance to reconsider.  “Swear to me first”.  (In those days, a verbal oath was all that was required to make the transaction legal and forever binding.)

But, Esau pressed on, swore to Jacob, and got his meal.  He exchanged his birthright for a bowl of stew.  It seems so ludicrous but most of us can probably remember a time where we made a similar trade-off.

And lived to regret it.

Just as Esau did.  That bowl of stew changed his life forever and not for the better.

The moral of the story?

Not so fast…

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What a character…

I recently watched an episode of the television show, “How The Lottery Changed My Life”.  They showcased several lottery winners, none of whom I felt I would ever care to meet… aside from one.

The last lottery winner described how, shortly after her lottery win, her husband unexpectedly went into complete liver failure, necessitating an emergency liver transplant.  A suitable donor was only found at the last possible moment.  Tears filled her eyes as she recalled just how close her husband had come to dying.

Through that experience, she realized that life isn’t about the money.  Her perspective was completely changed.  She spoke of how her relationship with her husband had become so much closer than it had been before.  It had become her priority, while her lottery winnings had taken a back seat.blog 2

The other lottery winners had become more self and possession focused after their lottery wins but this winner had become more relational and outward focused.  Her time and generosity have benefited many charities, and that isn’t about to change.  She never wants to forget the lessons she learned through the tough times.

I was reminded that character is rarely developed in the good times.  The saying, “no pain, no gain” can probably be extended to more than just exercise.  As much as we prefer otherwise, it usually takes pain, difficulty, and/or loss for us to learn the most important lessons in life.

The people I’ve met or have known who have had the greatest characters were almost always the ones who had a story of pain to tell.  But not just pain.  Gain too.  How pain had changed them and changed their lives.  And how it had changed their perspective and priorities.

I read that the 6 pillars of character are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.  I don’t know who came up with that list or if it’s exhaustive or even accurate.

But their summary is without debate…

Character counts…

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That’s great… or is it?

Growing up, my marks in school tended to reflect my interest in any given subject.  I either did really well or I barely scraped by.  History was one subject where I barely scraped by, in large part because it seemed to be just about one war after another.  The only saving grace were the times the teacher focused on individuals.  Even then, I confess I still didn’t pay close attention.  However, one thing I did take notice of was how many people were referred to as “the Great”.  The ones who readily come to mind are Catherine the Great, Alexander the Great, Herod the Great, and Peter the Great.

I didn’t understand then – and I don’t understand now – exactly what those individuals did to deserve such a moniker.  Oh I know they supposedly made significant contributions to society as a whole but did that really justify being bestowed such a significant title?  And, in the case of Herod – the king of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth – his cruelty and brutality were at distinct odds with anything having to do with goodness, much less greatness.

It makes me think of people I think were/are great.  People like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Florence Nightingale, Todd Beamer (think 9/11).  It also makes me think that if people truly are great, you don’t have to give them a special title to point out that fact.  And, that the things that make people great are the things from the inside out, not from the outside in.

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I have no doubt that the truly great people throughout history would be the last to ever think that of themselves.  The last to ever even consider accepting such a title.  Granted, in the cases where such a title was formally bestowed, it was generally posthumously but my suspicion is they were probably people who would have been happy to receive such an honour.  Perhaps even think they deserved it.

In my opinion, many of the greatest people in history have been those who were/are unsung heroes.  People who consistently did the right thing when no one was watching.  People who never blew their own horn (to use a quite possibly antiquated expression).  People who made a difference in other people’s lives through selfless acts of service.  People who sacrificed their lives so others could live.

I believe that list is a lengthy one, which means that greatness isn’t as rare an attribute as some might think (particularly those who think of themselves as great).  The ones who attain it are the ones who didn’t aim for it because it isn’t about the title.

It seems to me that…

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Puppy love for people…

I’m staying with a friend while I work a short-term contract in a nearby city.  She has a little dog named Mia.  On a typical work day, I leave the house before anyone else is up.  But, when I return, all it takes is the beep when I lock my car to alert Mia that I’m home.

First the beep.  Then the bark.  I can set my watch by it.

By the time I open the door to the house, Mia is beyond excited.  She spins in circles, barks, and jumps.  She even occasionally has an asthma attack from too much excitement.  There never is any mistaking that she’s happy to see me.

blog 2Mia wants nothing more than for me to spend time with her.  She loves being pet, hugged, kissed, and cuddled.  When I sit in the easy chair, she lays alongside me as close as possible, for as long as possible.  No matter where I am, Mia is interested in what I’m doing.  She wants to be wherever I am, and preferably somehow connected to me.

When I go to my room and close the door, it’s not unusual to see a little nose poke under the door, trolling from one side to the other, with little whimpers in protest of the enforced separation.

That’s not to say Mia can’t be distracted by noise or activity.  Or the possibility of food.  But she quickly returns to her main priority.  Me.

This got me to thinking about spouses.  How many spouses are genuinely happy to see each other at the end of the day?  Or first thing in the morning, for that matter?

What sort of difference would it make in marriages if each spouse was intentional about being happy to see the other?  Happy to be with each other?  To be easily affectionate with each other?  To make it their priority to do things together and spend quality time together?  Or to do nothing at all together?

People often get a dog because of the unconditional love, acceptance, attention, and affection they so readily give.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a dog.  I’m just saying you don’t have to get a dog in order to get those things.  People have the same capacity to give them as a dog does.  It just takes time, commitment, and continuous effort.  But, if you think it wouldn’t pay off, give it a try for 30 days and I’m sure you’d be convinced.

Puppy love makes more of a difference than people might think.

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Needing iron…

blog 2When I arrived at work this morning, the Social Committee had taped a large Valentine to everyone’s computer monitor, each containing a message.

Mine said, “You are someone to be admired”.

I’ve only worked there four weeks so I’m pretty sure my message was randomly chosen.  But it was nice nonetheless.

I stopped to consider how nice it would be if that was truly people’s opinion of me.  And then I thought about the people I admire and exactly what it is I admire about them.

Godly, kind, caring, giving, gracious, consistent.  People who stand up for what’s right, who have the courage of their convictions, and who have gone through some pretty tough stuff but came out the other side better, not bitter.  People who I would like to resemble.

I’ve decided there would be a lot of merit in asking the people closest to me if they would give me an honest assessment of myself.  Without it, I know I could easily deceive myself into thinking I’m someone I’m not.

The Bible says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV).  Just as iron can’t sharpen itself, I can’t sharpen myself.  I need outside, objective, input so I can be the person God intends me to be.

Hopefully someone to be admired.

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The patience of Joy

I’m trying so very hard to be patient today.  I’m not sure how much I’m succeeding.  Part of the problem is I have way too much time to think lately… and thinking is usually counter-productive to patience.

For a very long time now, I’ve been having to do a whole lot of waiting in my life.  And, to be honest, it’s getting kind of tiring.  So much so that, today, I started to bargain with myself.  If I could only get a permanent, full-time job, I would be so much more patient with everything else in my my life that I’m waiting on.  I just need to be able to stop waiting for even one thing.

Uh-huh.  As if that’s even up to me.

Oh, it does involve effort on my part.  After all, it would be extremely unusual to be offered a job I didn’t even apply for.  But, the facts are that the outcome is up to someone else, not me.  And, so I wait.  Whether I want to or not.  Although, who really does want to wait?

I came across a definition of patience today that was a real reality check…

“Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity.”

Wow…  That deserves a moment of silence.  I’m thinking this could partially explain why people refer to the patience of Job and not the patience of Joy.

I have to say that I have a renewed respect for Job.  He lost everything.  His home, his possessions, his children, his wealth, and even his health… and only then did he lose his patience (if you consider patience in the context of that definition).  There’s a reason his story is included in the Bible.  Few, if any, of us are anywhere near as patient as Job, myself included.

But, if Job could be patient through such devastating circumstances, surely I can learn to be patient with the things I’m waiting on.  God is in control, and He’ll work everything out at the right time, in the right way.

He did it for Job, He will do it for me.

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Just a few small thoughts…

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I have been small my entire life.  I don’t mind being small but I recognize that I’m small in a society that celebrates bigger.  The Beyonce’s, J. Lo’s, and Pamela Anderson’s of the world.  None of whom I will ever resemble or even aspire to be.

Bigger is widely touted as being better.  But I don’t believe that’s necessarily true.

Consider a big gesture.

Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate a big gesture as much as the next person.  But too many big gestures – too often – lose something in translation.  They become more about the big and less about the gesture.

On the other hand, I don’t know of anyone who tires of small, meaningful, thoughtful gestures.  I think we actually have an endless capacity for them because they show someone cares enough to pay attention to the little things.

It can be easy to focus on bigger because small is easier to overlook.  Bigger isn’t necessarily bad but never underestimate the power of little things.

Small is bigger than you think.

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Choosing 20/20 vision…

blog 3I used to have perfect vision.  In fact, at one time, I had better than perfect vision… 20/10.  But, as time went by, my vision began to fade.  First my reading vision and up close vision, then my distance vision, and now I need to wear glasses with progressive lenses in order for my vision to be 20/20.

But, the truth is that true 20/20 vision has nothing to do with sight and everything to do with seeing.

I’ve been thinking about all the people I encounter in any given day and what possibly lies behind the various facades they present.  If I knew what was really going on in their lives, the things they were coping with, would I see them differently?  Would I interact with them differently?

The short answer is yes.

So, my goal is to treat people as if I already know those answers.  I want to give people the benefit of the doubt more, to go out of my way for others more, to be more compassionate in general.  To hopefully add a bit of joy to someone’s day that they might not have experienced otherwise.

It has been said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”


Sometimes we don’t see that because we’re too caught up in a hard battle of our own.  But, far more often, I think we just forget that everyone has a back-story.  We’re not the only ones.

I’ve found it somewhat amazing what happens when I take the time to really see, and to let it change how I interact with people.  People’s defenses come down and many times, they volunteer part of their back-story unprompted.  When people sense you care, I find they will tell you most anything.  I always feel privileged when people confide in me.  It helps sharpen my vision.

Of course, there are always people who make it extra difficult to see past the walls they’ve put up.  Often, they’re angrier, more blog 4confrontational, more in your face.  To be honest, I’m not always successful at being as kind and patient and compassionate as I would like in those instances but I’m working on it.  Personally, I think people with the biggest walls need kindness more than most.

I have to remember that I may never know the difference I made in someone’s life, or even in their day.  There are people who have touched my life who would be very surprised to know it.  I also need to remember that I may end up making a difference in the life I least expect to.  All reasons to be consistent in how I treat people.

20/20 vision is a choice.  And I don’t mean Lasik.

It’s simply three words

“Be kind anyway”.


Get out of the zone…

snoopy 3The past year has shown me how important it is to step outside of my comfort zone and just live life.  Sounds easy enough, eh?  Well, when you do that, you never know what will happen.  What you can count on is that you will almost never expect what will end up happening… when it will happen or how it will happen.

I’ve experienced my share of ‘unexpected’ over the past few months.  Some of it quite frankly not so good.  Some of it good.  And some of it very good.  All of it surprising.

But, if I’d stayed in my comfort zone, I never would have experienced any of it.  If I’d been too worried that something bad would happen, I never would have experienced any of it.  I would have missed out.

And consider this.  Staying in your comfort zone only means that it’s a familiar place.  Not that it’s a productive place.  Or a positive place.  Or an interesting place.  Or a healthy place.

My comfort zone became so uncomfortable that stepping outside of it became the only viable option.  The unknown became far less scary than the known.snoopy 2

Here’s the thing.  Living life involves risk.  Just because some risk doesn’t turn out well doesn’t mean you should hold your cards even closer to your chest.  It just means you should dust yourself off, get back up, and keep living life.  Learn from the bad, embrace the good, and cherish the great.

But, live.

I only have one life to live, and I am determined to live the length and breadth of it for as long as God grants me time.  The good, bad, and the unexpected.

No fear.

Well, ok, I have to confess that I do feel fear more than I would like.  But I’m not going to let fear stop me.  Fear paralyzes, faith mobilizes.  God has brought me this far, and I have faith that He isn’t about to let go of me now.

The bad has increased my faith and changed me in ways that I probably needed to change.  The good and the great have made the trip worth it.

I still don’t have either a permanent job or even a permanent address.  The sum total of my belongings doesn’t come close to filling a 5″ x 5′ storage unit.  The things I expected to happen haven’t (yet…) but other things I never expected to happen have.  I have a lot to be thankful for.

Expect the unexpected… and then expect something else.

There’s no sense in worrying about what may or may not happen because the one certainty is that I’m never going to be able to accurately predict how things will unfold.  And, even if I do, worrying will never have a thing to do with the outcome.  Worry doesn’t change things.  It only feeds fear.

So, no worrying.  Well, less worrying.  More faith.  Less fear.  More living.

Just do it.

Live life.

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