RSS

Category Archives: God

37 Days

It’s been a month…A MONTH…

Actually, 37 days to be precise…which is more than a month. But somehow, 37 days doesn’t sound as bad as a month. And that’s my problem…I’m trying to make it sound less bad than it really is.

It has been MORE than a month since I wrote a blog.

When I started writing, I had this vision of trying to share my life from a quirky perspective. I wanted to be able to encourage my readers. I wanted to make you laugh while offering a humorous view on the ups and downs of life. I imagined myself to be a modern-day Andy Rooney.

Andy Rooney died…

And so will this blog if I don’t get more serious about it.

The truth is that life, as is so often the case, is getting in the way. Health, wealth (or LACK of it), family, and friends have all bubbled to the top of my priority list, and I haven’t maintained my writing as a priority in life.

And that’s a shame.

Because I really do love to write.

I feel energized and motivated when I write. My brain engages, and the words come so fast and furious that I have trouble writing them coherently. As I get older, that “brain engagement” seems to come less frequently…so when it does, I get very excited.

I woke up this morning, and my brain was fully engaged. I was so excited to write, that I wish I could have taken my iPad into the shower. And as I sit in front of my computer, typing away, I glance at the clock…5:17 am. I am wide awake, fully engaged, and excited about the day before me. With a cup of hot milk tea by my side (my newest addiction, courtesy of my son, Matthew), my fingers are flying over the keyboard, capturing my thoughts as quickly as they can, straining to keep up with the voices in my head…and I can’t help but think:

“Why can’t writing be this easy ALL the time?”

The answer is simple…if it were so easy, everyone would be doing it. And then it would no longer be special.

So as I write this morning, I feel the energy…and I am embracing it. This is very much a spiritual experience. In the Academy-Award winning movie, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

I understand what he meant by that.

Because I believe that we are all made for a purpose. And when I take time to slow down and listen, time to let the words flow, not from just my brain, but from my heart…

The noise of the world fades away and I can feel God’s pleasure.

I get filled…filled with energy, passion, focus, motivation…all the things that give me the fuel to get things done in life…

My brain is slowing down now…the words are coming less easily. My fingers aren’t flying across the keyboard as quickly as they were just minutes ago. The pressures of the day are starting to dance around in my head. And I know that it is time to bring this rambling post to a close.

I hope that the words will continue to come easily to me over the next days, weeks, and months.

But even if they don’t, I need to sit down, in the quiet of the early morning, like I have done today…

And write.

Advertisements
 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Focus, God, Procrastination, Self-discipline, Writing

 

Tags: , , , ,

It’s Not All About ME…(Anymore)

I’m a big weenie.

I hate to admit that, but it is becoming more evident to me every day.

Three weeks ago, I ran my first 5K. I made a big deal about it to anyone and everyone who would listen. I didn’t want to fail, so I put myself so far out there publicly that, if I DID fail, I would look like a weenie.

I didn’t fail in running the race.

But I have failed in the three weeks since then.

You see, I haven’t run at all since that race.

I haven’t written anything since the race either.

The two go hand in hand…

You see, a couple of days after the race, I injured my back. The doctor doesn’t believe it was race-related (thank goodness), but I have been in quite a bit of pain for three weeks. Multiple trips to the chiropractor and daily ice and heat treatments have been intermingled with my teaching course load, making it difficult for the back to completely heal. That’s the main reason I haven’t done any running for the last three weeks.

So why haven’t I done any writing?

Well, that’s where the whole, “I’m a big weenie,” thing comes in…

I am someone who has difficulty compartmentalizing various parts of my life. In other words, when one area of my life is not functioning smoothly, I can’t avoid having it spill over into other areas of my life. This is very frustrating.

And being in chronic pain has sucked the enjoyment out of my writing.

Even now, as I sit on an ice pack, I am struggling to force out words. It’s an effort, not a joy.

And to me, writing has been all about the joy.

Therein lies the rub…

I want my writing to become more than just a creative outlet…I want it to become a meaningful place for others to reflect and discover something in themselves, borne out of shared experience. I want people to resonate with my words…to be encouraged, chastised, convicted, and motivated. I want my words to drive people to take action.

And if that’s the case, then I need to be writing daily…not just when I feel like it. Good writers are disciplined…good writers write nearly every day…even if they write something that no one ever sees except themselves. And I haven’t even been doing that.

Instead, I have been completely unmotivated, resulting in a complete waste of time on mindless junk…like Facebook Scrabble and BTD5.

So here I am on Labor Day, 2012, celebrating the spirit of the American worker…and I’m not doing anything worthwhile.

I have to get up and go…I need to move. Even if it hurts…and I need to set a goal that will motivate me to run…and to write.

I have set that goal:

  • On October 20th, I will be running another 5K.

Now before you go, “Oh no, here we go again,” let me explain.

My last 5K was all about me, I admit that. I had to prove to myself that I could do something I did not imagine possible. But life can’t continue to be “all about me” or it becomes pointless. I firmly believe that our lives need to be centered on serving God and serving others.

Food Bank of Northwest IndianaSo on October 20th, I will be running in the “Hope’s Harvest” 5K run/walk to benefit the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana. I am looking for sponsors who are willing to donate any amount in support of the run. All proceeds will go directly to the Food Bank, whose mission is to support area food pantries.

I also want to encourage people who may want to walk or run themselves to be a part of our team! The entry fee of $25.00 also goes directly to the Food Bank and will provide all participants with breakfast, lunch, and a goody bag, including an event T-shirt. You can join the Cornerstone Food Pantry Team by clicking on the “Hope’s Harvest” banner at the end of this blog.

There you have it folks…I need to have a goal to pursue, or I get complacent…sluggish…unproductive… ok, I admit it; LAZY! But now that I have another short-term goal to pursue, I feel so much more motivated!

I also have the opportunity to help those in my community who do not have the resources to feed their families. What better way to serve? So get motivated yourself! Set yourself a short-term goal-something you can accomplish in the next 6-8 weeks, and something that will be a service to someone in need. Then, get off your butt, and get going!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Chasing Down a Dream

I can put the napkin down…I do not have egg on my face. And I am so relieved.

After highly publicizing my intention to run a 5K race-something I have NEVER done before in my life-yesterday, I did it…and I finished.

With a good luck kiss from my wife, and the encouraging words, “just don’t throw up” echoing in my head from my good friend Rachael, I was off. And my life was changed forever.

I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true.

You see, when I weighed 360 pounds and I could barely walk up a short flight of stairs without stopping because of severe knee pain and extreme shortness of breath, running a road race wasn’t anywhere on the radar of plans for my life. In fact, I genuinely believe that if I had tried to run at that point, I probably would have had a heart attack.

And I was probably right.

But that was then…In the last four years, I have lost weight…close to 100 pounds.

And with the loss of fat has come a gradual gain in self-confidence.

But it was a series of challenges that brought me to the point where I am able to write this particular blog post:

  • Steve challenged me to run one mile, because he saw my lack of belief in myself;
  • Larry, Bryan, and Mark challenged me to run a 5K with them;
  • And I challenged myself to risk looking like a fool if I failed by telling anyone and everyone who would listen what my goal was.

So here I am, 24 hours later, reflecting on my first 5K. The race route has been cleared, the road has returned to normal, and the only reminders I have of the race are a couple of tired legs, some great memories, and a few nice pictures.

And, oh yeah, I also have more than 100 comments and “likes” on Facebook from well-wishing friends and relatives. Thanks to everyone for their well wishes.

To be honest, I was a little bit surprised at the massive groundswell of support. People who had friended me and then disappeared from my Facebook feed are popping back up to congratulate me or to tell me that they are inspired to set a similar goal.

You know what that means?

It means that during a time when the stock market is down and gas prices are up…when the politicians on both sides of the aisle can’t stop the attack ads and negative campaigning…when the Middle East situation continues to spiral out of control…

People from all cross-sections of society NEED to hear a feel-good story.

As I ran this race, I was energized by the people along the 3.1 mile route, shouting encouragement, clapping for the runners, handing out cups of water, and even spraying willing runners with a hose to cool them off.

I joked with a couple of people sitting in lawn chairs at the end of their driveway that I would trade places with them if they wanted. They laughed, politely declined, and encouraged us to keep going. As I approached the finish line, the race director was standing at the top of the hill, shouting encouragement, “Keep going! You’re almost there! Good job!”

And then I heard the calls from my friends, my wife, and my kids:

“Keep going, Jon! You can do it! Go Dad! WOO HOO!!!” I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and was immediately mobbed by my favorite people in the world…my family and friends.

With my son, Andrew, who finished 17 minutes ahead of me. 🙂

And as I thanked them for their encouragement, I also thanked God for giving me the strength to do what I could never have done on my own.

So now I have done something I never IMAGINED would be possible…I’m looking for my next challenge…and I’m excited to figure out what it will be.

In the meantime, I am planning to run my next 5K. It’s at the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival. And it’s in three weeks.

I guess I better keep running.

Because I can’t accomplish my dreams if I’m not willing to chase them down.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The “Domino” Life

When I was young, I watched a TV special about these guys who wanted to set a world record for tumbling the biggest field of dominoes. They spent weeks and weeks meticulously setting up dominoes, one at a time. If their placement was off at all, it would cause a failure in the pattern, and not all the dominoes would fall. On the other hand, if, during the setup, they accidentally knocked over a domino, it would cause a cascade effect that would cause hundreds of dominoes to fall early. They would frantically find a place to remove a domino somewhere up the line that would stop the untimely chain reaction, and then they would have to clear the fallen dominoes and start to rebuild from the point of failure.

As I reflect on the patience one must have to undertake such an effort, it reminds me of my life. I spend a lot of time trying to maximize my effectiveness in so many areas: spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, relational…and when one area of my life is not going well, it tends to cascade over into the other areas of my life, like dominoes that aren’t meant to fall until the entire “puzzle” is set up just right.

Recently, I have been struggling mentally. As the summer semester draws to a close, I find myself completely drained. I’m having mental lapses, making careless computational errors (not good when you’re a math teacher!), and just having trouble focusing in general. This has made it difficult to run.

Yes, I said run…

You see, I have come to realize that what everyone says about running really IS true. It’s all mental. In the last couple of months, I have increased my base running distance from one mile to two miles. And it has been that mental focus that has enabled me to do that. Being mentally drained from teaching has made it difficult to run.

Being the emotional person that I am, this has been discouraging for me. I have felt slightly depressed over the past couple of weeks, and a lot of it is rooted in my self-perceived lack of progress with running. I have my first ever 5K in just nine days, and I do not feel ready for it. This makes me worried, draining me emotionally.

Being drained emotionally has made it difficult to give to my family in the way that they need me to. I am a husband and a dad. My wife and kids require and deserve that part of me which meets their emotional needs…and it has been hard to give the way I need to.

And when I am having trouble meeting the demands of life, I often find myself being frustrated with God. I ask Him to give me the capacity to meet the challenges of daily living, and yet, at the end of the day, I look back and see a series of little failures along the way that add up to a non-productive day.

Does anyone see the problem here?

I believe that the victories in life flow from my spiritual relationship with God first and foremost. When I look back at what leads me to ultimate spiritual frustration, I recognize that it is because I am coming to God with the scraps that I have left at the end of the day. And I’m mad that the scraps are not pleasing to God.

My most useful, productive days are those where I place God at the forefront of my day, where He belongs. Drawing on His strength enables me to be more focused and mentally tough. And then, like the fall of the dominoes, the rest of my day cascades into place.

And when the dominoes fall the right way-the way that they are intended to fall-it creates a beautiful design…one that I can look back on and say, “Thanks for using me today, God.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Make a Difference

“I’m trying to make a difference; I’m not trying to make a dollar.”

-Seth Godin

Too many people think that the only way to make a difference is to have lots of money that they can throw at a problem, thinking that this will fix the problem, or at least make it  go away.

I am one of those people…are you?

How often have you said, “If I ever win the lottery, I’m going to fix (insert your own world problem here).” I tend to say this every time the Mega Millions jackpot exceeds $200 million…because that’s the only time I ever buy a lottery ticket.

Because “you gotta be in it to win it…”

So I buy a lottery ticket about once every three years or so…I spend the days leading up to the drawing telling all of my friends about all of the noble things I am going to do with my winnings, and then I check my ticket the morning after the drawing.

Then I pitch my losing ticket in the garbage and go back to my life…and nothing really changes.

Except…

Maybe I become just a fraction more cynical…maybe I become just a fraction less likely to make a difference in the world…because there is something engrained in my psyche that believes I cannot make a difference if I don’t have “enough money.”

My problem is in the scope of my focus. I have this idea that if I do not make some huge difference in the world-a difference that will be a game-changer for a large number of people-then I have not made enough of a difference…so I don’t try.

In other words, it’s all about me….

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever shied away from a situation because you didn’t think that you had the resources or the ability to make a difference? I do it all the time…

And I’m sick of it.

That struggling single mom might be raising a future research scientist who will find a cure for cancer…the abused child on your son’s baseball team might grow up to become a pro athlete with the resources to help other children who are being abused like he was. That drug-addicted high school dropout might find a way out of their lifestyle and start a recovery program for other dropouts.

We have no trouble envisioning what our “million$” will do for nameless, faceless people across the country or around the world…but we have trouble imagining what change might occur if we make a contribution within our own community.

I don’t need to make a dollar (or a million dollars) to make a difference…and neither do you. In a recent blog, Jeff Goins summed it up best: “In a selfish world obsessed with celebrity, we need more generosity. We don’t need more rock stars; we need more servants. It may be the only thing that can save us from ourselves.”

I’m done trying to be a rock star…I want to be a servant.

So…

How can I help?

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Taking the Final

As I gaze out over my class, watching frantic students punch buttons on their calculator and glance furtively toward their neighbors to see how far they’ve gotten, I can’t help but think…

“I’m so glad that I don’t have to take a final exam…”

Students who have been preparing throughout the semester seem confident, but not cocky. They take their time…but, inevitably, they are the first ones to turn in their exams. They are not fearful…but they let out a sigh of relief that one more pressure point has been relieved from their lives…at least for the moment.

On the other hand, there are those who punch their calculators a bit more aggressively…those who glance toward their neighbors, perhaps not just to gauge their progress, but in hopes that they might catch a glimpse of an elusive answer that might give them the last few points they need in order to push them over the threshold from a C- to a C, the bare minimum necessary to receive credit.

These students are not confident or cocky…they are fearful.

The irony of this situation is that they have been confident-some of them even cocky-throughout the entire semester…until now. Even though it was detailed to them throughout the life of the course that their efforts were not going to accomplish their goals, they skipped class, failed to complete homework, did not seek assistance from those able to help them, and generally ignored their responsibilities to themselves and their future. And now, time is winding down at the end of the final exam, and they are unprepared.

That’s a lot like life, isn’t it?

I’m learning this now, in my 40’s. Throughout my life, I have ignored the doctor’s advice to lose weight and take care of my health. I have ignored those who have encouraged me to develop my leadership skills and public speaking ability. I have passed up chance after chance to pursue the goals that I want to achieve. I have been confident (sometimes even cocky) that I will eventually accomplish all that I have planned to accomplish.

And now, I find myself “punching the buttons” of life a bit more aggressively…glancing at those around me who have been preparing for their whole life, and hoping that I see something in them that might give me the “answer” I need to push me the last little way that I need to succeed.

Is it too late?

Just as my students should have been preparing throughout the semester, I should have been preparing throughout my life…

Why did I wait until I was in my 40’s to finally get serious about my health?

Why did I ignore the advice of the people I respected who told me that I had the relational skills to reach those in need?

Why did I waste all those years on frivolous stuff when I could have been preparing to more completely serve others?

Because I didn’t want to do the work…because I was focused on short-term satisfaction, rather than a lifetime of gratification…because I was lazy…

Just like my students.

And for my students, it is likely to late for them to bail out their grade…

But it’s not too late for me to make an impact on the world…By reaching out and serving others.

That’s what I hope to do…with my weight loss, with my speaking ability, with my relational skills…

And with this blog.

It’s not too late for you either. Are you still focused on yourself, as the world passes you by? It’s time to jump out of yourself and jump into the rest of the world…find someone who has a need…

And meet that need.

Serve others…give of yourself…use the talents and abilities that God gave you…

And give to someone else…

Because someday, we will all face the ultimate “final exam.”

And for me, I want to know that I prepared for it the best that I could.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Are My Dreams Weird?

This might end up being the stupidest blog ever…

Or I might just find out that I am not as weird as I think I am…

Or that you’re all as weird as I am.

I’ll let you decide.

Have you ever awakened in a really foul mood because you are mad at someone for something that they did to you…in your dream?

It happened to me this morning. One of my very best friends did me wrong in a dream I had last night…and now I’m really ticked off at him…

What’s really interesting is that this “very best friend” of mine is someone I haven’t seen in 10 years…this is someone that I was very close to in high school. We have kept in touch sporadically over the last several years, but I haven’t seen him since my 20th reunion.

But oh, he did me wrong in my dream last night.

You see, in my dream, he went with me to the funeral of one of my relatives in Minnesota. This was a dream, so the relative in the coffin was someone I have never actually seen before. But in my dream, we were very close. Anyway, my uncle is a pastor (that part is true) and he was performing the ceremony for my deceased relative. Of course, I was devastated over the loss of this person (who doesn’t REALLY exist), and so I was grateful to have my friend (let’s call him Harry) to support me.

Now Harry is ex-military (which is true) and he came to the funeral in his dress blues to pay respect to my dear departed relative (who isn’t real). It seems that my relative left me a large inheritance of some sort (which is how I KNOW this was a dream, because my family doesn’t have LARGE inheritances to leave to anyone), and my uncle (the pastor) was the executor of the estate. As soon as the funeral was over, I introduced my uncle to my friend Harry, who was all duded up in his Army dress uniform. My uncle was so impressed that my friend was a veteran that he decided to give my inheritance to Harry…who TOOK it! My friend took the inheritance (that doesn’t exist) that was given to him by my uncle (who DOES exist) from my dead relative (who doesn’t exist).

So I woke up, and now I’m mad at my friend Harry (whom I haven’t seen in 10 years) and my uncle (whom I dearly love).

What’s the point of this little anecdote?

The point is this: I really WAS grouchy this morning, because of this stupid dream! I allowed something non-existent to dictate my mood…it was only after a hot shower and some quiet, reflective time that I was able to focus my mind on the day ahead with a modicum of anticipation.

Do you ever find yourself in this situation? Maybe it isn’t something as innocuous as a dream. Perhaps it’s the guy who cuts you off in traffic, or maybe it was the neighbor’s dog that left a present on your back patio this morning. Could it possibly be that co-worker who is perpetually negative and has decided to target you as their object of derision today? Or perhaps it’s the student who has decided with two weeks left in the semester that it’s now time to start attending your class and expects you to allow her to make up all of the homework that she has not turned in for the last 14 weeks…

What is that thing (or who is that one person) over which you have no control that has dictated your mood for the day?

Or for the week?

If you’re like me, you allow the frustrations from early in the week to carry you through until Friday. And then, when you look back, you find that your week has been generally unproductive, because you have spent the better part of your mental energy all week being mad at the world about something over which you had no control. And this lack of productivity keeps you grouchy through the weekend.

Silly, huh? Yet all too real…

So what are you going to do about it?

Personally I am through allowing that which I cannot control to control ME. Our attitude is a choice. What we think about is a choice. The Bible tells us that we are to take every thought captive. I choose to do this. This will take some practice, and I will fail along the way. But I will be happier and more productive along the way.

I think I need to give Harry a call…ten years is far too long.

Hey, I feel better already.

 

Tags: , ,