Laughter is the Best Medicine

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We’ve all heard the saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” But no one seems to know who said it. A quick search online will tell you that we don’t really know who first said it. We just know it is true. I happen to be of the opinion that most attributable quotes are not that person’s original thoughts. They had been inspired and influenced by reading and conversation over many years. Almost everything comes from something they heard or read, and the bible is a great resource for that kind of wisdom. As a matter of fact, I believe this quote was first written down in biblical times.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

Today’s post is meant to be short, sweet, and to the point.

This past Sunday, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who died to forgive our sins. Many people posted “He is Risen!” or “The grave is empty!” as their Facebook status. Below are some Facebook posts from my news feed from Easter – exactly as the person posted them, no editing, no names included. Enjoy!

• If anybody has an inflatable sumo wrestler I can borrow- please message me! Thanks!

• You know you have a phobia when you check the entire perimeter of the break area outside for praying mantus before you sit down…

• Ummm it’s cold. I don’t like. Not at all.

• Who tryin to turn up on that loud with yo boy

• I can’t.never watch a movie without my son asking a thousand questions

• After organizing all the papers from class this semester I realize… “Wow I have a floor…”

And my personal favorite:

• Chuck Norris can pick oranges from an apple tree . . . And make the best lemonade you have ever tasted.

If you needed a boost today, I hope this made you laugh.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

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“I meant to [do the right thing.]”

Have you ever said anything like that? Fill in the brackets with your own good intentions. Where did good intentions get you? Probably nowhere.

To truly be successful in all areas of life – relationships, career, learning a new language, marriage, finances, and your relationship with Jesus – you have to live your life intentionally. There is a distinct difference between being intentional and having good intentions, and it’s such a stark contrast that the words really shouldn’t be so similar. Good intentions are when you say “I’m going to the store to get milk,” and you spend $100. Being intentional about grocery shopping is making a menu for the week, making a list from that menu, taking the list with you to the grocery store, and buying only what’s on the list. See the difference? Being intentional means you know what you want to do AND how you are going to accomplish it.

For example, prompted by a high blood pressure reading and the heart health issues in my family I wanted to eat healthier and get in better shape in order to lessen the chances that I would need to be on blood pressure medicine at age 26. I LOVE food. I don’t mean I really, really enjoy food. I love it. Especially junk food. You know, the stuff with so much sodium in it that you’d be better off just eating salt. (Sodium aka salt plays a huge role in heart health – most of us eat too much.) I used to go to the movie theater and get a large popcorn, a box of Milk Duds, and an Icee. I was in Heaven. I would sit at home playing video games and go through a box of Fudge Rounds and six Dr. Peppers per day. . . yes I said PER DAY. . . Without even thinking about it. To this day, if there’s a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the kitchen counter, I’m eating one every time I walk by it. If I sit on the couch to watch a movie and have one of these bad boys beside me, I will kill it. There will be none left in 90 minutes or less. And I can’t even pass by these in the store. Willpower was basically mythology to me. There was only one solution – get that stuff out of the house. My good intentions were to NOT eat junk food, but I couldn’t stick to it. By intentionally removing all of it from our house, I was able to eat way less.

One of my favorite hobbies is geocaching. Think of a scavenger hunt. . . And now that you are picturing a scavenger hunt, think of it more like a treasure hunt. That’s geocaching. (Click the link for a much better description. Video included!) Anyway, about 3 years ago, a friend and I decided to go find some really tough ones that required a boat of some sort to get to, because they are located on islands in Lake Hartwell, which is part of the Savannah River that is the border between South Carolina & Georgia. We borrowed my parents’ jet ski, hooked it up to his Jeep and set off on an adventure. We put in the water at Lake Hartwell just fine and after a short ride on the jet ski and walk on the first island, we easily had our first find of the day. The next one proved to be just as easy. The third island was a bit bigger and more densely wooded, so when we got to where the geocache was supposed to be hidden (following our handheld GPS), we had to look around a little. We finally found it lying on the ground about 50 feet away. Once we had signed our names and put it back, we looked up and realized we had no idea which way we came. Have you ever been hiking and gone off the trail? You can wander into the woods but you cannot wander out. You need to have a plan. You need to be intentional.

“We’re on an island, and it’s not THAT big. Might as well start walking.”

That was our general consensus. We walked and walked and finally reached an unfamiliar shore. No jet ski in sight. “Time to walk around [the perimeter of] the island.” That took even longer. Eventually we found the jet ski. We loaded up and headed on to the next island, but we had learned our lesson. This time we had a plan. Our handheld GPS had the ability to save new locations, so we marked the GPS coordinates where we parked the jet ski, and THEN set off into the woods. This time, once we had found the cache and were ready to leave, it was much easier to get back to the right shore, because we had a plan. We were intentional about where we wanted to go, and had a plan to get us there without as much stress (and without all the walking).

Think about your job. Or your career. Your job and your career are two different things that might end up being one and the same if you aren’t intentional. If you just show up at work every day with no plan on where you want to go in the future then you’ll stay right where you are. Your job will become your career. To advance your career – get promoted, make more money, have more influence, etc. – you have to have a plan. Plan to take some classes or plan to volunteer to do every single extra thing that comes up that nobody wants to do. Whatever it is, if you’re not doing it, you can bet that someone else is. And while we’re on the subject of career and money – if you want to really get a handle on your finances and quit living paycheck to paycheck, you have to intentionally tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NLT)

To remain in Jesus, you must be intentional about it. Husbands: think about it like your relationship with your wife. Can you just spend an hour one day a week with her and have a great marriage? Let me help you with that: NO. You have to tell her every day that you love her. Surprise with flowers (or ice cream) every now and then. Take her out to dinner (McDonald’s does not count, go somewhere that has a waiter) from time to time. You have to spend your life serving her to have a great marriage. Ladies, that doesn’t mean you get to be the Queen ruling over your slaves. The best marriages are between two people who are obsessed with serving each other. The best relationships are based on mutual servitude.

So you are ready to change things. You’re ready to try something new. You’re ready to “do better.” What now? If you’re like me, then you’re saying to yourself: “Ok, I’m going to read my bible more.” & “I’m going to get in shape.” & “I’m going to spend more time in prayer.” & “I’m going to serve my wife.” & “I’m going to ‘remain in Jesus.’” That won’t work. You’ll stick to that for about 3 days max. You need to have a plan, and then act on it. Plan to read your bible for 10 minutes every morning from 6:37-6:47 AM. Ok, you don’t have to be quite that strict but when you have a precise plan of action, it’s easier to stick to. Now that you’re convinced that you need a detailed plan, I’m going to completely flip your paradigm . . . because I just love confusing people.

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Don’t over-plan. You do need a plan but don’t spend all your time planning and forget to act on that plan. Even the greatest plans fail. Make a plan that’s good enough and act. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

“An inch of action is worth a mile of good intentions.”

Don’t just intend to do the right thing, make a plan to do it. And don’t just plan to do the right thing, DO IT! ACT!

P.S. I ‘intended’ on posting this Friday, but I didn’t take steps to make sure I would follow through. How ironic is that? I need to read this post again and learn from it!

What is Love?

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What is love?

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” – Aristotle

“Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.” – Barbara de Angelis

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

“Love is a better teacher than duty.” – Albert Einstein

“Love is a game that two can play and both win.” – Eva Gabor

“We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.” – Tom Robbins

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What is love?

Ok . . . Sorry for that. Please don’t sue me if you are head-bobbing the rest of the day and hurt your neck!

Today is Valentine’s Day. Oh wait . . . that was Friday. This post was meant for Valentine’s Day, but I accidently left it on another computer that was 40 miles away and due to “snow-mageddon” or “the snow-pocalypse” that happened around here last week, I’m just now getting back to it. It kind of helps make my point anyway, so just go with it. Although there is much debate about the origins of Valentine’s Day, it is “widely recognized as a day for romance and devotion” (Wikipedia). I’m not sure that I agree with that. Romance, yes. But devotion? Anybody can be devoted to almost anything for one day. True devotion lasts throughout the year. Most women (ok, all women) love getting flowers on Valentine’s Day. But come on, guys, you can’t really claim that you are romantic for buying your lady flowers, or chocolate, or a giant stuffed bear on February 14th. If she’s that special to you, buy her flowers in mid-August. Take her to dinner on a random weeknight in January. Stop and pick up her favorite ice cream one day on the way home from work. True devotion and real romance cause you make special occasions out of everyday circumstances. You don’t need a holiday to show your love to someone.

(And honestly, do you really want to be with someone who gets mad because you didn’t buy her some stuff to celebrate what has become a completely commercialized “holiday?”) Don’t get me wrong: I’m not mad at Valentine’s Day. In America we have over-commercialized every holiday. We are led to believe that the depth of our celebration of a given holiday is based on the amount of stuff we buy for it. Don’t say “Not me.” You know you felt like you didn’t celebrate Christmas hard enough when you spent $800 on gifts and someone at work spent $5000 on a trip to Disney World. You are not exempt. We have to remind ourselves not to place our value in things. It’s really hard to do. I see it all the time. There are people in my own extended family who we only see every fifth Christmas or so (who live in the same town), but feel as if they somehow love my son more, because they bought him some extravagant Christmas present. No one would ever admit that, and I’ve never actually said that to anyone, and I’ve done this on some level myself, and so have you. Have you ever gotten a gift for someone and found out that they really, really like it? How does that make you feel? It feels awesome! Did you tell everyone “I got them that thing?” You see? You made it about you. You didn’t say to yourself “They really enjoy that thing.” You said “They really enjoy that thing that I got them.” But love isn’t about you, and it isn’t about how much stuff you buy.

So what is love?

Love is a gift. You cannot earn it. You cannot buy it. You cannot achieve it. You cannot find it. You CAN work for it, but even then no amount of work is enough. It can only be gifted to you. True love, true devotion is something that we all hope for. We crave it. And yet, we can never satisfy our own desires. Because love is a gift.

Love is the greatest gift God gave us. Let’s not waste it on stuff. Let’s use it on His favorite creation, the one created in His image. Let’s love each other.

Change We Can Believe In

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In his State of the Union address* on Tuesday, President Obama stated that he believes what “unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.” I couldn’t agree more. He went on to say that, with respect to personal incomes of Americans, “inequality has deepened” and that “Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.” The president offered up a few solutions that he wants Congress to take and run with including a new “MyRA” and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour (it is currently $7.25). I agree with the president that we should “encourage folks to build a nest egg,” but I’m not sure I like the idea of returns guaranteed by the government. We already have student loans guaranteed by the government and we have people borrowing upwards of $120,000 to get a degree in whatever they want (i.e. Basket Weaving is still available at my alma mater) and then ultimately taking a job that pays $20,000-$30,000 a year. That doesn’t make sense. You’ll be in debt forever that way. Government guaranteed loans encouraged loan companies to make loans to people who would never be able to pay them back. The loan company (aka bank) doesn’t care because they’ll get their money either way. Meanwhile, the student is coaxed right on in to a bad decision and the tax payers are left footing the bill. If we do decide that government guarantees are the way to go, I pray that our leaders will be very careful in how this system is structured. We could take a few lessons from Chile’s social security reformation, and maybe we could even find a way to improve upon that. If you whole-heartedly agree with a guaranteed return, then you’re in luck! Guaranteed return investments are already available!!! This is not something new. They don’t make enough even to outpace inflation so they aren’t exactly sound long-term investments but they are available today, so no need to wait on the MyRA to come out! Herein lies the problem: the guaranteed return investment is available today. You don’t have to be in a special club or know somebody who knows somebody. And people still do not save enough money for retirement. The problem isn’t that we need a particular program or that there isn’t anything to put our money in. We need a behavioral change. We have to decide to change our own future.

The other solution President Obama suggested to Congress was to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. While this may seem like a good idea if you are making $8-$9 an hour, it ultimately will not help you. Let’s say you make $8.10 an hour. That would mean you would get a $2 per hour raise. Have you ever stopped to think where that money comes from? It doesn’t come from the government (which ultimately gets its money from you, the taxpayer, anyway). That $2 an hour (or $4160 per year if you’re working full time) comes out of the pocket of whoever owns the business you work for. If the business has only 10 employees, the owner just got hit with a $41,600 a year pay cut. Did you ever stop to think that instead of taking a pay cut, they might just fire you? Or move you to part-time instead of full-time so you lose any benefits you may have had? Or cut your hours? Obviously there are a lot more moving parts than you may have realized. Let’s look at it this way: minimum wage was never meant to be what you got paid forever. What if a business owner wants to hire someone with no training or special skills (maybe a teenager) to do a job that is worth $8 an hour? They would not be able to afford them. This causes the same person to NOT qualify for even higher paying jobs. Many people would say that you can’t “start from the bottom and work your way to the top anymore.” The reason you can’t is because the bottom is too high. It’s a classic case of “the chicken or the egg paradox.” You can’t get hired because you don’t have enough experience and you can’t get experience because you can’t get hired. We’ve priced the unskilled, unexperienced workers out of the marketplace. If we could let people come to work for cheap to learn, then they could use the skills and experience they gain to move up. This again requires personal responsibility. You have to decide to change yourself. If you just drag yourself to work every day for 40 years and let everybody know you hate it and just do your job so you don’t get fired, then you will just get paid minimum wage forever.

There are actually two sides to the equation: income & expenses. If you just can’t get your income up, then you need to get your expenses down. “But there’s no room to make any cuts in my budget!” How detailed is your budget? How much is your car payment? How much do you spend each month on going out to eat? Did I step on any toes? I’ll bet I did. Let’s take a look at a typical middle-class family (mom, dad, two kids) budget (source):

  • Median income – $50,054** (2011, Wikipedia) – This amounts to approximately $3128 per month after taxes.
  • Home – average value $231,000 accounting for $17,600 in mortgage payments and other related costs per year – or $1467 per month
  • Cars – average $12,400 a year ($1033 per month), new car value of $45,000 on average
  • College – Saving for two kids: $4100 per year ($342 per month)
  • Vacation – $3000 for a week at the beach ($250 saved per month)
  • Retirement – 3.2% or about $134 per month
  • Debt (credit cards, student loans, etc.) – 18% or about $750 per month.

Ok. Well going down that list, we’re over $800 per month in the hole, and we haven’t even eaten yet. That’s not good. Obviously something needs to change. First of all, the car is ridiculously stupid. You make $50,000 a year and bought a $45,000 car? And you honestly don’t know why you are broke? Sell the car. Like yesterday. Buy a $3000-$5000 car and shut up. The housing is a little bit high. I’m assuming those numbers include utilities and repairs. When buying a house, it’s a good rule of thumb to keep your mortgage payment (principal, interest, taxes & insurance) under 25% of your take home pay. That leaves you room to breathe. You aren’t going to have enough to retire with that small of a savings rate. It should be around 15%. There’s no way to do 15% with all the bills you have to pay though. What if you decided to change things? What if you decided to take responsibility for this? If you paid off the credit cards, cars, & student loans, you could afford to save more for retirement and go on vacation. If you cut your lifestyle back temporarily in order to get your finances under control, you could make this work.

Again we run into this same issue. We don’t need a government program or certain legislation to allow us to succeed in life. We have the resources available to us right now to go out there and make something of ourselves. The problem is that most people won’t do it. We are too busy keeping up a certain lifestyle, buying things that we “need” or that we “deserve” and wasting more effort complaining about where we are rather than doing something about it. Galatians 6:5 says “For each one shall bear his own load.” We need to take more responsibility for ourselves. We need to have a plan. Speaking of having a plan: If your boss caught up with you as clocked out of work today and told you that you were being let go, what would you do? Would you be in the unemployment line tomorrow? You shouldn’t. You should be delivering pizzas or walking dogs or raking leaves tonight. “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” (Proverbs 13:4 NLT)

It’s time for a change America. But I’m not advocating a policy change. I’m not advocating new legislation. We have enough laws as it is. It’s time for a change in attitude. I’ve had enough of this “It’s not fair!” and “It’s the 1%’s fault!” and on and on. I don’t want my son to grow up in a country where everybody thinks they are owed something because they breathe air. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” It’s time to earn your keep America. Imagine an America where you can hold your head up high because you freaking earned everything you have. I agree with the president: “The America we want for our kids” is “a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. And yes, Mr. President, I wholeheartedly agree:  “none of it is easy” and it “has never been easy.” We can definitely agree that we want equal opportunity for all, but the results are up to us as individuals. A new way to save for retirement does you no good if you don’t put anything into it. A $2.85 per hour raise does you no good if your hours are cut in half. We can make a difference in our own lives “if we summon what is best in us.” It won’t be easy though. We have to make the tough choice to change ourselves. Change our attitudes from “entitlement” to “pride in hard work.” Change our thinking from “it’s not fair” to “I am going to do everything I can to better my situation.”  Change our outlook of the future from “perpetual failure” to “hope.”

Now that’s change I can believe in.

*Ok. I admit I didn’t watch it. I read it later. So all my quotes come from the transcript “as prepared for delivery.

**I realize this is the median income of the US population and not the median of the middle class. That skews my numbers a bit but the principles are the same. Just go with it.

You Are the One

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“What’s happening?”

“He’s starting to believe.”

That’s the scene from the Matrix when Neo realizes he is “the One.” He’s literally been shot to death, but he stands up, gathers himself, and opens his eyes with a new sense of purpose. He begins to do things that no one ever thought was possible. He stops bullets in midair just by raising his hand in front of him. He flexes his muscles and the walls (and even the air around him) stretch out as if they were made of rubber and then bounce back into place. As soon as he believes, he can literally do absolutely anything.

Let’s look at a story in the bible where Jesus’ disciples tried to do something but couldn’t without their faith:

And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:14-20 NKJV)

Move mountains, dodge bullets or just stop them altogether, nothing will be impossible for you if you have faith. You don’t even have to have faith that fills your whole being or faith that fills your whole heart. You only need faith as big “as a mustard seed.”

Why a mustard seed?

First a mustard seed is tiny. In fact Jesus calls it “the least of all the seeds.” (Matthew 13:32 NKJV) We know today that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed in the world, but in Jesus’ day, it was the smallest seed in their world. Jesus is illustrating that all you really need is the tiniest iota of belief and anything can happen.

Have you been called by God? Has He called upon you to do something for Him? If not, then either you have not heard it or you have heard it and ignored it or He will call you soon. Be ready to listen. He once called a young boy named Samuel:

Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!” So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”

And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down.

Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!”

So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.)

And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.”

Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

God will call you soon. When He does, be like Samuel. Be ready to hear. Don’t just listen, but hear. You can listen to background noise at the mall and not actually comprehend any of the conversations that anyone is having. But to hear, you must focus on the sound. To hear is to understand its origin and its meaning. At first, when you hear His call, you may not realize it was Him. What you were called to may not seem significant enough to be from God. If it doesn’t seem important to you, then you can’t assume that it’s not from God. That nudge to take a particular job. That feeling that you need to volunteer for the task that nobody else wants. What you may see as useless, God can use. “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)

God has something for you to do. It might even seem useless to you. Asking someone to come to church with you who DOES NOT want to go. You might think, “It’s useless. They are never going to come.” But it’s not useless. You may be the only person that ever asks them. Whatever God has for you to do, you are the only one who can do it. You don’t believe that, though. I know you don’t. It’s tough to imagine that every person has some unique task that absolutely no one else can accomplish. It seems impossible for that to be true, but it’s not. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37 NKJV)

Whatever it is that God calls you to do, get on it! You alone can accomplish what He asking of you. But you need that “mustard seed faith” to do it. You have to believe. And this is where most people get stuck, so I’m going to unstick you right here and right now. Go. Start. Most people are still waiting to believe before they start God’s work. But that’s backwards. The faith will come as you begin to work with and amongst His people. And when you finally begin to believe, you will do things that you once thought to be impossible. You will move mountains and dodge bullets. You will believe. You will slowly but surely begin to realize that:

You are the One.

Who Are You?

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Think about how you act around different people. If you act and speak and think exactly the same around every single person on the planet then congratulations, someone has invented you, a robot that can read. If however, you are not a robot, imagine yourself around your significant other. The way you carry yourself, the language you use, the subject of the conversation. Now imagine yourself around your boss. Is it the same? I didn’t think so. If it is, you are weird and you won’t understand anything I say. You are reading the wrong blog. Go somewhere else. Even if you try to be the same person around everyone, you inherently pick up on other’s different mannerisms. And the more you hang out with someone, the more like that person you become. Think of a couple you know that’s been married 20+ years. I don’t mean a guy you work with (you likely are very familiar with him and really only know of his wife); I’m talking more like an older couple at church. A couple that you see together more than you see separately. Until Charlie passed away, he and Elly were that couple at my church. When I think of that couple, I don’t think of Charlie . . . And of Elly. It even seems weird to say it like that. Their names almost seem to be meant to be said together. Charlie & Elly. Heck, they were together for so long, they spent so much time together, that they even LOOKED alike!

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

Who do you hang out with the most?

You are probably friends with certain people because, at some point, the two of you realized you had a common interest. At that point, that was about as far as your similarities went. After days and weeks and months and years of hanging out, you know how the other person thinks. Not because you studied them so intently for years, but because you spent time together, and you became more alike. They think more like you now and you think more like them. Whether you want it to happen or not, it’s so subtle that you don’t notice it. Stop and think about it. Your friends aren’t trying to constantly teach you to be like them. You have conversations and learn from each other almost by accident. “Inside jokes” are a perfect example. You have a friend that you have inside jokes with. Something that makes you laugh but that no one else in the world would understand. That’s because two people have spent so much time together that they are beginning to think alike. I’m not trying to tell you who you are. I’m trying to tell you how to become the person you want to be. I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for ‘bad company corrupts good character.’” If you want to be a better husband, you need to find some couples with healthy marriages, and hang out with those dudes for a while. If you want to learn how to become wealthy, then hanging out with your high school buddy who is still playing Xbox in his mom’s basement at 30 years old is probably not a good idea.

If you are beginning to realize that you spend an inordinate amount of time with people that you do not want to be like, don’t be discouraged! You don’t have to break up with your friends. You probably should quit spending EVERY weekend with the ones that you don’t want to be like, though.

Do you want to become a more optimistic person? Hanging around negative, pessimistic people all the time is not going to help you. Do you want to stop cursing? If the people you spend most of your time with can put sailors to shame, it’s going to make it difficult for you.

The whole point is: if you want to become like someone else, talk to that person, take them to lunch or out for a cup of coffee and pick their brain. People love to talk about themselves so just ask them questions:

“You lost 100 pounds? How did you do that?”

“What was the hardest part of becoming a nurse/engineer/mechanic/rocket scientist?”

You may be thinking: “Well, these people would never give me the time of day, much less go have lunch with me.” That may be true, but I doubt it. Most successful people understand that someone helped them at some point and they would to pay it forward.

However, if you’re shooting for the stars (literally), and requesting an audience with someone who has any sort of celebrity status, you may meet with more resistance. The people you strive to be like may know the secret of keeping good company. They may know that they don’t want to spend a ton of time with you because you are at a place they used to be and they don’t want to go back. That’s ok. Most of them will still be glad to talk with you for a few minutes, to help you out in some small way, probably much like someone helped them out somewhere along the way. A few minutes are not enough to really change YOU though . . .

Good news: You can spend time with some pretty inspirational and exciting people without them knowing it! Confused? The quote “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” comes from motivational speaker and author, Jim Rohn. Rohn does not personally know everyone that he has influenced. He has not spoken to or even met everyone that he has influenced. A better example would be the SportsCenter guys. How many men do you know who spend more time with Chris Berman, Scott Van Pelt, John Anderson, and/or Stuart Scott than they do with just about anyone else? Then the same men are discussing sports “around the water cooler” at the office as if they were veteran sports analysts. They may not be able to admit it, but they are influenced by the sportscasters. Chris Berman has not been influenced by Joe Six-pack. Van Pelt, Anderson and Scott have not been influenced by Tom, Dick, and Harry.

The point is: to make a positive change in yourself through association with someone who possesses a quality you wish to have, that person does not necessarily need to be associated with/influenced by you. You can read their book. You can watch their TV show. You can listen to their podcast. You can learn habits from someone without them learning habits from you.

You can Face Your Giants without ever meeting Max Lucado. You can learn how to handle money like a wealthy person without ever meeting Dave Ramsey. You can “Sweat to the Oldies” without ever meeting Richard Simmons. You can even get roundhouse-kicked without ever meeting Chuck Norris.

Obviously the experience is likely to be more beneficial and the effects more lasting if you were actually able to be around real people. These people have millions of readers, millions of listeners, millions of fans. They cannot spend time with everyone that they influence. That’s the beauty of our God. He can. He can be with you and with 10 other people, all individually, all at the same time. It’s unreal. It’s not even possible for our human minds to comprehend. We don’t understand how He can do that, but He can. The Bible is His book. Prayer is His conversation. Fellowship with His children is being in His presence.

As Christians, we are to strive to be more Christ-like. Making God your number one, and building your top five out from there, is the best way to do that. Find where God speaks to you through prayer, bible reading, listening to music, hiking (maybe not in this weather), or whatever. Make it a priority to spend more time there. To spend more time working on your relationship with Jesus.

5 Things I Learned in the Last 5 Weeks

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About 5 weeks ago, I broke my ankle. On both sides. It’s called a bimalleolar fracture. I was not allowed to put weight on it at all for 12 days and I was on crutches that entire time. Then I was allowed to put as much weight as I feel comfortable putting on it, but only if I keep “the boot” on. Finally, the day after Christmas, the boot came off. My ankle is uncoordinated. I lose my balance often but it’s getting stronger. I wish I had kept a journal and wrote down something new I learned each day since then, but I didn’t. Hopefully, this is the next best thing.

1. A sprain REALLY does hurt worse than a break. – I got up and walked off the basketball court after I broke my ankle. I sprained the same ankle twice before and couldn’t walk on it for weeks. Spraining your ankle means you’ve stretched the ligaments farther than they were meant to stretch. If you do something extremely selfish in your marriage or any relationship for that matter, you’ve stretched the other person’s trust farther than it was meant to go. It really would hurt less to break the relationship than to sprain it. But in the end, a broken relationship is harder to fix than a sprained one.

2. I needed to learn to rest. – I found out VERY quickly that I could no longer do everything I used to do. Balancing myself on crutches did not leave me a free hand to carry even a cup of coffee to the kitchen table. I am the type of person who does not slow down, who does not let up until I’ve done EVERYTHING on my checklist for the day. I don’t flop down on the couch and watch TV as soon as I get home from work. I get right to the household chores or start cooking dinner or SOMETHING to help my wife out. Now I had to rely on her for everything. “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10-12 NLT) My wife is definitely capable and she proved it during the “12 days of crutches.” Crutches are not exactly easy to get around on. And my arms, hands, and armpits were extremely sore after almost two weeks on them. “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3 NLT) I was not accustomed to resting, but I had to learn to. Besides, resting and enjoying my family is more important than making sure the chores are done.

3. Some people just want to tell their story. – Whenever people saw my “boot” they would ask, “What happened?” I would respond, “I broke my ankle. On both sides. Playing basketball.” Some people would then ask how, and I would explain that I hit the wall behind the basket with the ball of my foot at full speed. I would further explain that it’s a miracle my Achilles tendon did not rip in half right away. And I went to relate how the doctor explained that the tendons on either side yanked so hard that they pulled the bone apart. But that was rare. Most times, people didn’t care. They just wanted to tell their story:

“I broke my ankle one time . . .”
“I broke my arm playing basketball . . .”
My mom had to wear one of those boots . . .”

Most of the time people do not care about your story. They just want an entrance into the conversation. You seem like an easy audience. They aren’t being inconsiderate; they just don’t know what else to say. Sometimes people just want to tell their story, and sometimes the best thing you can do is listen. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19 NLT)

4. While exercise is important, so is sleep. – I used to get up at 5:00 AM almost every morning to go for a run. Now that I couldn’t run, I didn’t need to get up early. I caught up on some much needed sleep. It put me in a better mood, and I just felt better throughout the day. I had to learn to balance sleep and exercise. Living a “balanced” life is something a lot of people strive for, and I fully understand why. But it’s not realistic. “Re-balancing” is probably the most productive way to live your life and probably more accurately describes what people mean when they say “balanced” anyway. If you are classified as obese and decide you want to whip yourself into shape, you will be spending inordinate amounts of time at the gym, planning meals, and just sweating in general. Some other things in your life will have to take a backseat for a while. “Re-balancing” is going back to those things later, but like sleep, those other things can’t wait forever. Focus is the key to getting things done. A lamp will light a room but the same light focused into a laser can cut through steel. A “balanced” life to me sounds like you’re shining a lamp on the 19 different things you want to accomplish. You’ll never do any of them that way, but if you focus and concentrate on one thing at a time, you’ll never cease to be amazed at your abilities.

5. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. – With a broken ankle, I couldn’t do everything the way I want to. I usually like for things to be just right. To be done just the way I like them. I like things to be perfect. But I soon learned I had to forget that because I was basically incapacitated. Even this post is evident of my learning experience. This was meant for last Friday. It was meant to be titled “4 Things I Learned in the Last 4 Weeks.” I posted my New Year’s article instead. And it’s not even Friday (when I usually post new stuff)! Good grief, I’ve got things all out of whack now! The good news is we don’t have to be perfect for God to love us. He already sent someone who “never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.” (1 Peter 2:22 NLT) He sent His Son, Jesus, to cover our imperfections with His own blood, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV)