Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heaven Is …

I am a child of summer. I would LOVE nothing more than living in a perpetual summertime. I love being outside in nature. I love hearing birds sing and lawn mowers at 6 am. I love wearing nothing more than shorts and a shirt and going around barefoot. I love open windows and cool breezes. I love green flowering and fruiting plants. I love the sun’s warmth on my skin like a blanket. I love summer.

I am not a child of winter. I don’t miss cold, snow and wind chills. I don’t miss frosted windows, windshields and mustaches. I don’t miss the hollow sound of creaking, empty trees dealing with overweight snow and brittle winds. I don’t miss bundling up in layers upon layers of clothing just to get the mail. I don’t miss the salty roads, dirty snow piles, and slush. I don’t miss the sunless days where cold comes on you like a prickly sweater. I don’t miss winter.

I tell people, who don’t live in the south that we have one spring, two summers and a really hot season. I don’t miss winter. Of course this is a preference and I know others who have EXACTLY the opposite view of mine. I have a distant relative with whom I share the same name, who lives in Norway and LOVES the winter and can’t wait for summer to be over. Others I know love the changing of the seasons and would miss summer leaves turning to fall, fall colors turning to a white blanket, winter white turning to the new growth of spring, and spring sprouting into a full blown summertime.

I cannot see myself in a cold climate again. But I can’t say I will NEVER be in a cold climate again. I find an even deeper truth than my love of summer. I find that God has plans that may not have ANYTHING to do with my preferences. What happens if God calls my wife and I back to Michigan, or to a church in Northern Alberta? No, sorry God, I prefer summertime. How about Hawaii or the Florida Keys?

Actually that is a picture of heaven for me. Right now, my preferences and God’s plan are often at odds. But there will come a time when they are one and the same. There is a place where I will be just where God wants me to be and that will be the same place where I prefer to be. That time and that place is heaven. I can’t wait (well, I can, but you know what I mean) to move there!

Heaven is where your preferences and God’s plan become one.

It is Really Very Simple

I didn’t do it again this week. I promised myself I would get it done and AGAIN, I didn’t. I will put it off again until next week and make sure I do it then. No wait! I have to babysit two days, I have a trip to go on and a bunch of meetings; I will do it the week after.

Why don’t we get things done? What gets in the way of getting things done? It really comes down to five very simple reasons:

The first reason we don’t get things done is because WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. We know that something is supposed to be accomplished or fixed but we don’t know what that SOMETHING is. I know that when I plug something into that outlet it would work but it doesn’t. What do I do? It is an IGNORANCE problem.

The second reason is that WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT. Here we know WHAT to do but don’t know HOW to get do it. I know that there is a wire not completing the circuit somewhere to cause that plug not to work but I don’t know how to get at it or where that wire is. How do I do it? It is an EDUCATION problem.

The third reason we don’t get things done is because WE DON’T HAVE THE AUTHORITY to do it. I would love to fix that outlet but it is in my neighbor’s house. It is an PERMISSION problem.

The fourth reason is that WE DON’T HAVE THE RESOURCES to complete it. I misplaced my screwdriver and my hot wire tester thingy so I can’t get it done. It is a PREPAREDNESS problem.

The fifth and final reason we don’t get things done is REALLY the main reason we don’t get things done. That is WE ARE AFRAID. Every time I open up a wiring outlet I get ZAPPED or when I open up one I cause two more problems to pop up. Fix one thing and two more don’t work. It is a FEAR problem.

So, once you figure out what’s getting in the way of the task you need to complete you should find it easier to get it done. What is the answer to why you don’t get things done? Your stuck?

Stuck is a state of mind, and it is curable. Let’s get unstuck together this week.

The Death of Ebay

I was an Ebay nut. I have the “collectors” gene in me which causes me to collect things. I have a coin collection, shot glass collection, mug collection (of shows I’ve gone to), Lord of the Rings memorabilia collection, Egyptian Ushabti collection, Lord’s Supper art work collection, Archeology and History Magazine collection, and probably a navel fuzz collection on me right now. One of my dreams would be having an “antique” Bible collection. I keep looking at an original 1607 Geneva Study Bible that is in Bauman’s Rare Books at the Venetian Hotel but it doesn’t get much cheaper than the $5000 they want for it right now. Still a dream. But now, my main source for my collections: Ebay, has died.

In 1846 an Irish immigrant named Alexander Stewart opened a store in NYC unlike any that Americans has ever seen before. Stewart started many innovations like in-store fashion shows, street level windows for window shopping and a lavishly decorated store to appeal to shoppers. But his most important innovation was that all of his products came with a price tag. You see, before Alex got involved you had to haggle your price with the merchant which, as most of us know, can be a frustrating dance between the two parties and rarely do both go away happy with the transaction. So Alex marked everything with a fixed price, pay it or don’t, it is up to you. MANY decided to pay it and made Alex one of the most successful retailers in NYC in the mid 1800’s.

A century and a half later there was another innovator by the name of Pierre Omidyar. His new store was unlike ANYTHING that Americans had seen before. Pierre’s vision was to have the world’s largest open market, which would sell ANYTHING to EVERYBODY, where the small guy could compete with the huge corporations and where shoppers could find all kinds of products they never dreamed of buying. He called his “store” Ebay. Pierre’s greatest innovation was in pricing, just like Alex, but is replaced fixed prices with auctions. The prices were to be set by the ever changing supply and demand. Customers responded and made Ebay the world’s largest retailer and business experts called it the “perfect store”.

But Pierre’s model, just like Alex’s has been run through the cycle of changing technology and scam artists. Bidding on Ebay items used to be fun, but now it is not, with “snipers” electronically putting in the last bid in milliseconds to take that beanie baby you were hoping for. Winning a bid on Ebay no longer seems to be a bargain like it used to be or you would win an item for a good price and the shipping costs would kill you. Ebay, as originally intended, has died. Now auctions are a distant second to the “Buy it Now” button price. Shipping costs are set by Ebay based on distance to keep the scammers at bay. But the novelty has simply worn off.

It was fun while it lasted but my collections will have to grow in other ways. We grow, we adapt, we adjust, we move on. The problem is clingers, those who valiantly try to cling to past innovation while the world moves on. The buggy whip is no longer for sale other than as a novelty. The Minivan pushed out the Station Wagon which is gave way to the SUV which is now under attack by the Crossovers. Those of us clinging to land line phones will find that they will no longer be in service. I just heard that Amazon now sells more books electronically than it sells books that are actually made out of paper. Are you ready?

We MUST grow, we MUST adapt, we MUST adjust, and we MUST move on. The alternative is not too pleasant and potentially dangerous. So does anyone have hookups for a rare Bible for me?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Easy vs. Certain

The lottery is great, because it is easy. It is not certain, but it is easy. All you have to do is spend a few bucks and buy a ticket, pick the numbers, or even easier, have the computer pick your numbers for you; then you just sit back and wait for the drawing. Easy but not certain. You have more of a chance to get hit by lightning than you do at winning the lottery. Tens of millions to one are your chances. Still, it is easy.

Medical school is great, because it is certain. It is not easy, but it is certain. The average medical school graduate makes $120,000 right out of school. After being in the profession for a few years or getting into a specialized field a doctor can make up to a $1 million a year. It is certain that you will have a job and make good money but not easy. The studying and residency pressures knock out over 75% of the students before they officially become a doctor. Still, it is certain.

Most people are searching for a path to success that is both easy and certain. But, that path does not exist.

We all know people who are waiting for “their ship to come in” or that “big deal” that will make everything come together for them. We also know people who have been slaving away for years and have worked EXTREMELY hard for what they have.

Which are you? Are you working on the easy but not certain path to success? Or are you working on the certain but not easy path to success? Or are you working on the impossible path that is both certain and easy?

What we often forget is that there is a fourth path. A path to success that is neither easy nor certain. THAT path is the one that most of us find ourselves in. Getting out of that path (rut?) requires a LOT of energy.

However you measure success, there is an easy way and a certain way. How you balance and deal with those two will impact your life, your love, your career, your future, and even your eternity.

What do I Write when I don’t want to Write?

There are times when writing is cathartic for me. ( the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art as tragedy or music.)

There are times when writing is fun for me. ( something that provides mirth or amusement; enjoyment or playfulness)

There are times when writing is a pain for me. ( a distressing sensation in a particular part of the body; mental or emotional suffering or torment; laborious or careful effort; assiduous care)

There are times when words just gush out of me. ( to flow or issue suddenly, copiously, or forcibly, as a fluid from confinement; to have a sudden, copious flow of blood or tears; to emit suddenly, forcibly, or copiously)

There are times when words just trickle out of me. ( to flow or fall by drops, or in a small amount; to come and go or pass bit by bit, slowly, irregularly)

I read a lot and listen to a lot of college level classes on CD while driving around. It is rare that you will find me without my Kindle and my note cards or sticky notes. I am probably the only person you know who keeps sticky notes and highlighter pens within easy reach in the bathroom. I have plenty of books on philosophy marked up, 4x6 cards with ideas from classes I’ve taken or things I’ve heard and want to remember. Usually when I sit down to write a column I go through these cards or marked up books and find something that hits me; something that compels me to write ( to force or drive, especially to a course of action; to overpower; to have a powerful and irresistible effect, influence.)

But what do I do when I don’t want to write? What do I do when I just don’t feel like it? What do I do when none of my notes, highlights or printouts inspires me. ( to produce or arouse a feeling or thought; to fill or affect with a specified feeling; to influence or impel; to guide or control by divine influence; to give rise to, bring about, or cause.)

I have read books on writing and how professional writers treat writing as a profession. You set a time, you sit down, you put your fingers on the keyboard, and you WRITE. It has nothing to do with feeling like it or wanting to. It is your job, you don’t work at a factory only when you FEEL like it, so don’t treat your writing like a pastime, treat it like a job. BE a professional. ( following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain; following as a business an occupation ordinarily engaged in as a pastime; expert.)

So, I guess I just don’t know what to do when I don’t want to write and I sure don’t feel like writing today. Any suggestions?

Sucks to Grow Old?

Three years ago, while playing softball, I was running to first base and heard and FELT a crunching in my foot. Ouch … another sprain, last game for a while until it heals. Didn’t heal and I ended up having surgery to remove pieces of the bones I broke and to remove the feeling of walking barefoot on stones that I had for months. JUST FROM RUNNING TO FIRST BASE! Boy it sucks to grow old. I remember running ALL DAY at school playing ball, at home to escape my brothers, by myself just for the fun of it. Running and running some more, never having to worry about a broken bone.

Well I signed up for a softball team for the first time since that injury and we had our first game last night. After losing 65 pounds and triking 50-60 miles a week I was feeling pretty indestructible. Just had to get the swing back and work on the throwing arm a bit. My first at bat was a mighty swing and I popped it up to the first baseman but at the end of the swing was a silent pop and a lightning bolt of pain in my elbow. Hyper-extension. I grinned and bore it for the next few innings playing with just one arm but too many balls were getting hit to me and I had to concede to the handicap. Asked Coach to take me out of the game and probably out of the season. Man it sucks to grow old.

I had ice on it last night and heat on it now as I type. Luckily on my left arm I can still do most of the things I could before, just with more pain.

Pain has a way of making you aware of things around you: how good it was NOT being in pain; how I take my left arm for granted; how old I am getting; how I need to exercise more; etc.

In life we find that the more extreme the pain, and the closer to death we come; the more seriously we take life. NOT that there aren’t fun things when you are terminal but there aren’t PETTY things when you are terminal. Cancer patients will tell you how sweeter life can be when your recognize, because of the cancer, how special it is. Every moment with a loved one is precious. Every flower, sunrise, unseen-before sight, is now brighter and more colorful.

How great would it be to live life like that all the time? How great would it be to NOT take life for granted? How great would it be to drop all the pettiness and prejudices of life? How great would it be to live like you are dying?

I thought I was indestructible again and was AGAIN proven wrong. Now I appreciate health and life more because of it. I would encourage you to be smarter than me … appreciate it BEFORE the pain comes. Appreciate it NOW because you know, it really doesn’t have to suck to grow old.