9/11

Having ideas and knowing what to write are two entirely different things. I have a list of ideas for potential blog topics longer than I care to tell.  Funnily enough, most of what I write does not come off of that running list.

Today is one of those days. I feel uninspired and I don’t quite know what to write. Maybe that’s because what needed to be written has already been articulated.

The following is an email sent out from a respected leader.  The message is succinct, poignant and worthy of reflection. 

Subject: September 11th

NMOTC Family, 
Seven years ago I was flying to Afghanistan when I noticed our charter flight was flying right by New York City. At night, Manhattan was clearly visible with all its lights. My thoughts turned to all those who perished there, simply because they lived the American way of life. How could anyone hate us so much?

My children have never known a time when we had Peace. Sadly, nearly half a generation has gone by and it appears things have not changed. Yet another generation has been raised to hate us and want nothing more than to destroy our way of life.

Today as we remember, let us never forget. Also, Thank You for all you do to train those who will go out and save those who fight for us, each and every day. 

R/
Skipper

“Don’t Bee a Hypocrite”

Thus far, my writings have turned out to be a swarm of ways to say essentially the same thing – that is to “Decisively execute the process of self-improvement.” Every day has been a new adventure in self-examination, idea expression and life observation.

I look for the best in others but am acutely aware of our shortfalls. Every challenge I give to “you” is also to “me.” Each time I point at you, the four fingers turned back at me are supercharged with interrogation.

I grow fruit trees. Spring has therefore grown to be my favorite time of year. I love to watch bees flip from flower to flower. No bees, no fruit, simple. I’ve watched documentaries and read a number of articles on colony collapse disorder (although to be fair, there is an opposing view). I’ve listened to lectures from a number of specialists speak to the value of bees and honey. I understand their importance in the cycle of life. Or do I?

In a few moments, I will execute a plan to bury an underground hive. I will fill a few buckets with beach sand and dump it upon the hive entrance.

dirt

Nobody asked me to do this. Nobody gave me the idea. I knew I preferred this method to chemicals and that I wouldn’t be doing it if there wasn’t a very high potential for the swarm to attack a number of shipmates during a training evolution. I watched a bee from this nest make several attempts to sting today and I cringed at the thought of a throng of buzzing madness. Did I do the right thing? I will know on Thursday. Unfortunately for the bees, a decision had to be made today. And, fortunately, I can dig them out in less than 48 hours. It might not work, but worth a try.

THE CHALLENGE: Not everything is black and white. In life, you will be tested to see exactly where you stand on principles that you hold most dear. It is not always easy, especially when the decision has benefits either way. Sometimes it’s a matter of determining if the benefit outweighs the associated risk. Sometimes it’s a matter of thinking fast under pressure. It might be a decision to stay committed to the long haul. The variables are infinite. Sometimes you will be right. Sometimes you will be wrong. Sometimes we may feel like hypocrites.  Sometimes we are. When a wrong choice is made in ignorance, remember that “Failure is an event, not a person.” Our personal development is a process.

Photo by skiena

Stay Humble

“Hey mom, we’re going for a walk?” I said. “Sure,” came the reply. We weren’t thinking about safety. After all, I had a friend with me, so why should anyone consider the fact that the lifeguards would be off duty in just 20 minutes? Or that we would step into the ocean right when high tide was in full fury?

Playing Russian roulette with mother nature nearly cost my life. The fierce undertow gripped my ankles like a creature under the bed. I didn’t stand a chance! After a prolonged struggle, I was desperate! I was 10 seconds from giving up when out of nowhere a monster wave turned me into a living surfboard. It was a thrilling ride, one of desperation. I knew it was my only hope. I let gravity pull me down hoping my toes could now get a taste of sand. I was in luck. The skirmish to get back to land was real. I had to fight for every inch. My body dropped to the beach as if it were a lifeless whale. I failed to look both ways. That was 23 years ago.

Today, I took my kids swimming in the ocean. They had fun jumping waves, that is, so long as they were less than waist deep. They were timid. I tried to coax them into deeper water. No such luck. But I’m convinced my aforementioned brush with death influenced how I raise them and contributed to their immense respect for nature’s power. Patience pays off and I know that in due time they will be ducking and dodging white crested ocean swells.

THE APPLICATION: We enter life naked and helpless. The ocean is a long time coming. We must learn how to crawl, then walk and maybe endure a little pain such as hot sand, cold water, rocks, and an occasional jelly fish sting. We need strength, energy, and endurance. Eventually, we may graduate to a boogie board, surfboard or wakeboard. From there it might be a jet ski, speed boat or cruise liner. But the one thing we never graduate to is trading limbs and lungs for fins and gills. Try as we may, fish we are not.

THE CHALLENGE: Stay humble. Born broke, die rich? Fine. You may own some boats, but the ocean will always own you! True riches are found in listening to nature’s sermons.

Photo by Dave

Topsy Turvy

I bet you have observed the “Law of Disorder.” In simple terms, this scientific concept states that anything, when left to itself, will tend towards chaos.

Without proper maintenance and preservation every car lot, stocked with a surplus of sparkly new automobiles, will eventually look like a junkyard. Rust, chipped paint, broken glass, dirt, decay, mold and dilapidation are always manifested in abandoned vehicles. Anything subjected to mother nature over time will eventually return to dust.

Humans are no different. Me, you, your mom (no offense – don’t beat me up), dad, brother, sister, uncle, etc. We are all the same. We gravitate towards chaos. We take the shortcuts. We get lazy. We embrace mediocrity. We quit. Don’t believe me? How’s your New Year’s resolution coming along?

Bats are weird right? I mean…after all, they sleep upside down! But did you read my last paragraph? Take a minute to read it again, let it marinate. If bats could talk, they’d probably say we are weird. Furthermore, we are a bit more “batlike” than we might suppose. There is a portion of us that stays head first towards the gravitational pull. There is a fraction of our being that loves it there. It’s normal, comfortable even.

Leaders of all sorts (including parents) know that it takes LOTS of repetition to get someone to execute a certain behavior or abide by a particular principle. When it doesn’t happen the first time (or twenty), you may begin to question yourself. But remember, popcorn doesn’t all pop at the same time. Bats won’t ever come occupy your bird house and sleep right side up.

THE CHALLENGE: Keep in mind that those you are entrusted to lead and teach have a bit of bat in them. There is a morsel of their nature that won’t change. Accept it! Instead of trying to flip the bat, flip the bird house. And don’t forget, even the house will tend towards chaos, so be sure to schedule time for maintenance.

 

The Freaks Come Out at Night

I heard the following remark while conducting security rounds at work, “That door must not have been opened in weeks, just look at all the cobwebs.”  At first, I thought the observation was brilliant and perhaps for this particular application it was.

I began to ponder this concept and realized it may not be brilliant thinking when applied to our own lives. When is the last time you walked into a spider web and thought, “Darn it! That web must have taken months to construct. I’m so sorry for that poor spider!”

Answer: Never.

Most webs are temporary, assembled overnight – here today, gone tomorrow. We assume the webs on the door have been there for ages. Maybe so, but in most cases the homeowner has long since vacated the sticky premises. Granted, this analogy will be limited since some spiders don’t spin webs or may even come in superhero format.

For our purposes though, let’s consider common varieties. Think of the spider that seems to spin a web at precisely the point you need to walk through. Before you go to bed at night there isn’t a spider in sight, the yard is free and clear. Inevitably, when you walk outside in the morning you get ambushed by silky strands dispersed across your path.

These spiders are smart. They don’t work in the sunlight when it’s dry and hot. They weave at night. This protects them from predators, increases the longevity and functionality of their web and increases the odds of trapping nocturnal insects such as moths. Spiders are also diligent. If you knock their web down one day, it will be back the next.

THE APPLICATION: We all have cobwebs in our lives. Everyone has a “spider” that they can’t seem to get rid of. Your spider might be a negative thought that encourages you to stay home from the gym and sit on the couch. “I don’t want to have to deal with that cobweb today,” you think to yourself.

Maybe your spider is a lack of faith in doors that you would otherwise have the potential to open. So, you lecture yourself with the same old narrative, “I can’t become president, I can’t get a raise, I can’t ask that person out, I can’t find a better job, I can’t write that book etc… just look at all the cobwebs on that door. It has never opened up for me, why should I try now?”

Your spider might be you as a whole. Yes, that’s right…you might be the spider. You might appear “creepy” and put others off, perhaps you make them scream (if but silently). Maybe you spread fear, irrational or even legitimate. People want to avoid you or squish you.

THE CHALLENGE: Realize that cobwebs are strong and deadly…to insects. But you are not an insect. Running into a web will be frustrating. It might feel nasty and require your attention. But then it is gone. You are still free. A web has no power over you. Identify your spider.  Get into the corners of your life and knock the webs down. Find your cobwebs, get beyond them and open the door. Just remember, the web will be back tomorrow. Accept this fact and life will become a whole lot easier.

If you ARE the spider. Seek help you freak! Open yourself up to frank feedback from others.  Develop a little self awareness. Make a change!

 

Photo by Sebastian Galiano

Two Lessons I Learned From Moving

My good mother often joked about the number of pages I filled up in her address book. You might say I’m a bit of a vagabond or as she would put it, “Son, you have a restless spirit.”  This week would mark another address crossed out with a new one to fill in. I suppose she’s rolling over in her grave.

Truth be told, I long to put down roots, but I’m on a toll road – therefore, a forever home won’t come to fruition any time soon. So here I am, new environment, new internet provider, new backache from a makeshift desk. I learned many lessons from this latest move. I provide two for your consideration.

(1) TRUE FRIENDS: Moving is tedious. It takes sweat equity. It takes a little thought. It’s draining. Nobody wants to come touch your junk. They don’t want to figure out where all your little odds and ends (that inevitably aren’t boxed up) should go. They don’t want to break the fragile or priceless items. Then again, they don’t even know what is fragile. They don’t know what you want to unpack first. They don’t know your priorities.

You will know a true friend by their prolonged presence at such an event. You won’t have to beg or bribe an authentic friend to be there. They just will be.

The presence and assistance of a true friend isn’t limited to a physical move. They will be there with you for any move you make in life weather that journey is professional, physical, intellectual or spiritual. They will grab your “crap” so you don’t have as much to lift.

(2) SPACE: The physical dimensions of your abode is only “small” in relationship to the amount of possessions you own! In other words, you don’t need more square footage, you need less “wants”. For this reason, I am grateful that I keep only a handful of close friends, this requires me to do the majority of my own work. While moving, strive to lay hands on every possession you own.  In a prosperous country, it will open your eyes. How can you really evaluate your level of gluttony when there are 10-20 hands playing Tetris with your belongings?

THE CHALLENGE: Be a true friend. Next time there is an opportunity to help someone in a big way, volunteer your time and effort. (Not everyone thinks like me.) They want your help. They need it. The payoff is substantial.

Go through your belongings. Take serious inventory. Identify something you don’t really use anymore. Donate it. Dispose of it. Re-purpose it. Breath new life into it. Gift it. Every item you own that is not of real value eventually becomes a burden to those true friends. Decide now not to kick the can down the road.

Everything you own, owns you!

Photo by Pelle Sten

 

Nature’s Sermon

Sunday
I’m on a pew
front row…this is my norm
I’m 20 minutes early
I can tell my ears will be exposed to a typical “amen”

Time is scheduled to expire in one hour. I review the speaking assignments and make a hasty (but accurate) assessment that the meeting is bound to go longer than scheduled. I tend to tune out speakers who cannot honor the constraints of time. It’s painful, but I’m okay with it. I think of Paul’s words, “not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” I’m middle gray myself, so I suck it up. 1 Corinthians 1:27.

To my left is a door
Glass stretches from top to bottom
The pulpit is to my right but my head gravitates to the left

Outside the door is an old tree. The canopy is breathtaking. Healthy green leaves stretch heavenward while offering refuge to a variety of birds. I observe a butterfly dancing across the scene. A lizard bathes in the sun. Bees are buzzing. This sermon never fails me. I listen to it every Sunday. Nature and all of creation are a perfect model.

I feel a vibration
It’s a text message
“When is the last time you climbed a tree?” Ben
“Feb 11th.” I send a photo to supplement 1,000 words.
I follow up with a question…
“When was the last time you climbed a tree in which you planted?”

I discovered my green thumb about 7 years ago. Putting hands in the soil awakened me to the fact that a part of me had been dead.  The more I garden, the more I’m alive. Difficult to explain, but easy to understand – that is, if you’ve tried it for yourself.

THE CHALLENGE: Plant a tree. Climb it. The time between those two events is where you will hear the greatest sermons!

Photo by Guyon Moree