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Monday, April 16, 2018

Allowance (By Debby Thrailkill)

Recently, I was listening to a radio talk show and the topic of children receiving allowance came up. This got me thinking back to the days when I received an allowance from my parents. I recalled receiving this money for good behavior, completing my chores, and doing my school work. I started receiving an allowance at age 10 and it was small ($5-$10) but it was quite a treat. I remember hopping on my bike and rolling downhill to the shopping center about a mile away, buying a triple scoop ice cream at the Savon counter for 75 cents, and then cruising the center for anything else that caught my eye, like tiny frogs and turtles from the pet store, a stick of perfume for my mom from the drug store, or maybe a McDonalds Big Mac. Having purchasing power was exciting but having earned the money was an even better feeling of accomplishment, which bolstered my self-confidence. I was proud and happy, and I always eager to share my allowance with others.

The talk show host spoke about how the allowance system gives parents a tool to teach their children about responsibility, hard work, and saving money, while instilling self-worth. It enables parents to teach their children to follow rules, contribute to the family, and receive rewards. I would wash and dry dishes, vacuum around the house, rake leaves and help with yardwork on the weekends. Of course, all of this should be expected in a family, but motivation to please and succeed were important to me as well, so I am thankful for the valuable lessons I learned.

As I matured in my life and faith, and with help from my husband and wonderful friends, it became important to me to please God and succeed in receiving His allowance. So, what does God offer, and what does He expect of me in return? I've learned that He wants me to be faithful to Him, to follow His commandments and rules, and communicate with Him through prayer. I know He wants me to help others and always contribute in a positive way and I am confident that the reward He offers us is far greater than any reward we could ever imagine.

I like to talk to God, so I pray, most of the time silently, but sometimes out loud. I praise His Name and His will be done. I thank Him for my family and friends, for the food on my table, and for those who risk their lives to provide freedom for us all. I ask forgiveness of my sins, and for the courage, strength and smarts not to keep sinning! And I pledge myself to Him. In return, He offers me eternal life with Him in Heaven and I fall to my knees knowing I am not worthy. But I am constantly trying and that’s what counts. I guess what I have learned is that an allowance is much more than a payoff, it is an opportunity for accomplishment upon faithful and loyal service… and that motivates me more than anything else!

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, 
and no mind can imagine the things 
that God has prepared for those who love Him.
~ 1 Corinthians 2:5

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Middle

Last week, in the early morning hours, I found myself driving down Antonio Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita. Antonio Parkway is a major three-lane thoroughfare that is almost always crowded with cars. But on this particular morning, there wasn’t a single car in site. Not one car in front of me nor one car behind me. It was really weird and for just a moment I felt like I was on a different planet.

Then I realized something kind of cool. I have the whole road to myself! I can drive fast in the slow lane, or I can drive slow in the fast lane, or I could even make lane changes as often as I want without a care. Today must be my special day because I totally own this road! I know what you’re thinking, but it was early, and my mind was wandering, so yeah, I guess I do sound kind of crazy. But I’m not crazy because guess what I did. I drove at a safe speed right down the middle of the center lane. Man, am I boring or what!

So why did I choose the middle lane? I could have driven in the slow lane, but I like to move at a pretty quick pace, so slow people really bug me. So maybe I should have chosen the fast lane? But the fast lane is full of people who are in way too much of a hurry and they’re usually distracted as well. So, I definitely don’t want to be part of that crowd either. But as soon as those thoughts crossed my mind, I realized I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing… and I’m not talking about my driving.

I’m talking about being judgmental. I don’t mean to do it, and you probably don’t mean to do it either, but if I’m being honest, I bet I do it ten times a day. Most of the time It’s just a bunch of unconscious thoughts flopping around in my head that dissipate as fast as they arrive. Yet, I know those thoughts are still wrong. I know I should always do my best to be open minded and accepting because people deserve the benefit of the doubt. Not long ago, I remember I was “the old guy driving super slow” in the slow lane because I bought my Mom some flowers and I was having a hard time holding on to the vase without spilling the water. A month before that I was “the crazy guy speeding down the fast lane” after getting a phone call from paramedics who were transporting my wife to Mission Hospital. Maybe it would help me to be less judgmental if I simply remember that there is only one planet that matters, and that we’re all on that same planet, made by the same Creator, for the same reason… and let Him take care of judgment!

It is only the long and patient road that leads to anywhere.
~ Muriel Strode

Monday, April 2, 2018

No Small Thing

Easter is a special time, a chance to be with family, share a meal, and hopefully spend some one on one time with the people you love. But if you’re a Christian, it’s also the most important holiday of the year where we should probably take time to reflect on the sacrifices made on our behalf.

It’s obvious that the sacrifice Jesus made to suffer and die for us was absolutely amazing. I will forever consider Jesus to be the kindest and yet bravest example of a loving being there has ever been. But I think it’s important to remember that God also made a huge sacrifice. He not only gave up His only son to be beaten, scourged, pierced and spit on, He actually allowed him to die. He did it out of love but what a huge sacrifice that was. I have four children, and I know there is no way I would be able to let any of my children suffer like that, no matter what the cause. But God did it out of love and Jesus taught us what true sacrifice is all about. But as I thought about that concept, and all that Jesus did while he was on earth, I realized that sacrifice can come in many different forms.

Over Easter Weekend, my wife and I rented a house in Lake Arrowhead and invited some of our family members. Unfortunately, my wife came down with a severe cold the day before we left (on top of her ongoing pulmonary issues) so she was really feeling weak and sick. But there she was anyway, cooking, cleaning, and showing everyone a good time. As impressive as that was, there was one small thing that she did that really highlighted her self-sacrificing nature. Despite being super sick, she made time to wash and style her Mom’s hair, which made her Mom super happy. I should probably mention that my wife’s Mom is suffering from a severe illness herself and has been for over a year, so she hasn’t had a lot to smile about. Anyway, it touched my heart to see my wife, as sick as she was, making the time and expending the love and energy to make someone else feel special. It may sound like a small thing, but it’s not. Every time we take some of our own time and energy to help someone else, even in the smallest way, we mimic Jesus… and that’s no small thing!

The world is made better not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, 
but also by the millions of tiny pushes of each and every faithful person.
~ Helen Keller

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Circle of Life

I hate to say it, but sometimes people suck! Okay, I know that’s harsh and I don’t really mean it, but here is what I do mean. Last week I kept running into really rude people. Speeding cars cut me off, store clerks ignored me even though I was standing right in front of them, a pharmaceutical company billed me for medicine I didn’t get and then argued with me that I did get it, and worst of all somebody stole some of my tools while I was renovating a new house I bought in Ladera Ranch. Nobody should ever steal a man’s tools!

I found myself getting really frustrated and losing faith in my fellow man. Normally I am a very positive person who truly believes that most of the people in this world are good and try to do what’s right. But the bad people in this world must have had my number last week…  that is until Friday!

On Friday I took a trip to Home Depot to buy some renovation materials and to replace my tools that were stolen. That one short shopping trip quickly turned my attitude around.

  • While shopping for new closet doors, I struggled to lift them onto a cart. A Home Depot employee saw me and came to my aid. When I thanked him for his help, I found out he wasn’t actually an employee, he was vendor cleaning up his product section. Nice of him to come to my aid!
  • After going through the Self Check Out Counter, I left the store but heard someone calling after me in the parking lot. Apparently, I had left two items on the counter and a woman chased me down to give them to me. Nice of that lady to go out of her way to help me out!
  • As I was loading material into my truck, a guy walked up behind me and told I had dropped some paperwork in the parking lot. It was my “to do list” with a lot of important info on it. Nice of that guy to notice and save me a lot of grief!
  • When I arrived at the Ladera Ranch house, the contractor I hired to install new baseboard molding was waiting for me. He said he borrowed my drill and drill bits earlier in the week because his drill battery ran dead. But then he forgot to put them back in the garage. He not only apologized, he gave me a discount on his labor. How nice is that!
I know those four things that happened on Friday might seem inconsequential to most people. But they all happened on the same day, so I think they might have happened for a reason. Maybe I just needed a reminder that sometimes I too... drive too fast, ignore people, make mistakes, and forget to return items. I guess the world isn’t a perfect place and people aren’t ever going to be perfect, but the world is round, so maybe that means… what goes around comes around!

In the circle of life, there are no straight lines.
~ James Dolan

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Right Prescription

There are some good things about getting older, such as maybe getting a little more mature and a little bit wiser. Okay, so that’s about it as far as the good things. The bad things on the other hand can be a long list, including gray hair, wrinkles, hearing problems and declining vision. In my case, my vision has been slowly declining for about a year and it’s been really bugging me. It’s not so bad that I need glasses all the time, but as a highly competitive baseball player, I rely on my vision in order to perform at the highest level. Plus, it can really hurt if you don’t pick up that baseball hurtling 70 miles an hour at your head!

So, I decided to go see an eye doctor. I won’t give you her name but let me just say it didn’t go well at all. A vision test showed me at 20/25 in one eye and 20/30 in the other, which is not too bad, but definitely enough to need prescription sunglasses when playing sports. At her advice I ordered a pair of really nice Oakley prescription sunglasses, which of course took 3 weeks to come in. After they came in and I tried them out, they didn’t help my vision at all. So I took them back, had my vision re-checked, and the eye doctor said, “Whoops, we made a mistake, so we will remake the glasses.” After 3 more weeks a second pair came in and they were even worse than the first pair! When I went back for the third time, I was really upset and let the doctor’s office know it. It isn’t like me to complain but after 6 weeks, and with baseball season already started, I was really frustrated. However, I guess the eye doctor was even more frustrated with me… because she sent me off to see a different doctor in a different office in a different city.

I’m still waiting for my third pair of prescription sunglasses to come in and feeling more frustrated and upset than ever. But then something caught my eye… my Uncle Dick. He is in his 80’s and his vision has become really poor, forcing him to use a cane to feel his way around, which I had never seen him use before. The doctors cannot fix his vision, so he has accepted his situation and is doing the best he can. He was smiling and joking the day I saw him and never once complained about his situation.

And that got me thinking… Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own problems, wants, needs and desires, that I forget how truly blessed I really am. I am 62 years young, still able to play hard ball baseball with guys half my age, and simply need to find the right sunglasses. Maybe the prescription I need to have filled is the one that enables me to see the “Big Picture”!

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, 
the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.
~ Anonymous

Monday, February 26, 2018

Calendar Your Blessings

Each week since the start of this year, I have been trying to find ways to use the gifts I have been given to be a blessing to others.  It hasn’t been easy though… because for starters, I’m not sure I personally have all that many gifts, and secondly, I’ve had several very stressful things to deal with the past few months.

But at the beginning of the year, when I first sat down to think about it, I realized something else as well. Trying to use my gifts to be a blessing to others is certainly a good thing, so I will keep trying to do that. But so is recognizing and appreciating the blessings I have been gifted with myself! Things like a loving wife, 4 kids, 6 grandkids, dozens of close friends and a job I truly enjoy. Those are obvious blessings that God has bestowed on my, but there are many other blessings as well. My health is excellent right now, I play on two different baseball teams so that’s really fun, I get to go golfing on a regular basis, and I even have time to work-out each week, which keeps my mind sharp and my attitude positive. Those are a lot of blessings for sure, but unfortunately, I don’t always remember to appreciate them like I should.

So with that in mind, I created what I call my “2018 Blessings Calendar”. I came up with colorful symbols to indicate some of the different blessings I receive each week and started posting them to a Calendar. A Black W is for work outs, a Blue B is for baseball, a Green G is for golf and a Red F is for family fun. It’s kind of eye-opening to stand back and look at the month of January for example and see all the blessings that I received in that one month alone. However, I also posted a purple heart  each time I made an effort to use my God given gifts to serve others. And you know what… the calendar makes it obvious that the blessings I am receiving greatly outnumber the gifts I am giving, so I better work on turning that around!

Counting our blessings is an exercise we should do on a regular basis. It will sharpen our minds and strengthen our souls. But if you think it’s easy to do when things are going well, it’s even more important to do when things are going bad. For example, my Mom has been extremely sick for months and sadly, she passed away a few days ago. My heart hurts and the loss is overwhelming at times, but when I look at that calendar, it makes me smile… and that’s a gift I definitely think my Mom would consider a blessing!

May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day.
May songbirds serenade you every step along the way.
May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that’s always blue.
And may happiness fill your heart each day and guide your whole life through.
~ Old Welsh Blessing 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lighting My Fire

The overarching theme of my Monday Messages this year is about finding ways to serve others. I am supposed to be figuring out what gifts I have been blessed with and then use those gifts to help others.  Well, the past two weeks were certainly filled with multiple opportunities, but for some reason most of them involved lighting, or at least lighting up people’s lives a little bit… as well as my own!

1. The first opportunity came when I received an urgent email from a friend that the lights for the Cross on top of Battle Mountain in San Diego were out. He asked me for help, so I grabbed my tools, drove to San Diego and climbed to the top of the mountain. It ended up taking several hours to disassemble the electrical components and troubleshoot the system, but I eventually found a burned wire buried below one of the lighting vaults. By the time I was done, I was hot, tired, sweaty and dirty. But when I stepped back to view the cross with the lights shining brightly, I got this warm feeling inside that’s hard to explain.

2. The second opportunity came when I noticed my neighbor’s hallway lights were burned out. My neighbor only comes out from Scottsdale 4-5 times a year, so when I heard he was coming out that evening I did a quick inspection of his house and noticed quite a few lights out. I didn’t have time to drive to my warehouse in Irvine, so I ran down to Home Depot instead. As I was putting the lights into my truck I noticed the lady parked next to me had a large bag of concrete in her shopping cart and was just standing there looking at it. She appeared pregnant, so I walked over and started to say, “I noticed you’re pregnant and need help”. But then I realized, hey… she might not be pregnant, which would be just like me to open my big mouth. So instead I just asked her if she needed help and she immediately said yes and started glowing with a big smile. So I figured if she was “glowing” then she maybe she was pregnant, but either way, I was once again got that warm, hard to explain feeling inside again.

3. The third opportunity came when my Father-in Law mentioned that an elderly friend of his needed help with the lights in her garage. She is a really sweet lady who has had some serious health issues recently. Then a few months ago her husband passed away, so life has been really hard for her. She lives alone in a house in Mission Viejo, so I grabbed my tools and drove over there. All of the fluorescent lights in her garage were in bad shape, so I replaced them with new T8 lights to save her money on her electric bill. It didn’t take me long to do the work, but it sure did make a difference. She had been wanting to clean out her garage for a long time and now she could finally see again! As I packed up to leave, she asked me what she owed me, and I explained that as a friend of the family, it was simply my pleasure to be of service. About that time she started to cry, and I mean really truly cry, and all I could think of to do was to give her a hug. As I drove away I felt that same warm, hard to explain feeling rising up inside me once again.

Like I mentioned above, it’s hard to explain that mysterious warm feeling that happens whenever you go out of your way to help someone. But maybe it too is related to lighting… lighting my fire!

Wherever a man turns, he can always find someone who needs him.
~ Albert Schweitzer