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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Perfect Intentions

In my first Monday Message of 2018, I stated that I believe our primary job on earth is to “serve others”.  I then went on to say that I wasn’t sure what gifts God has given me, but I would try to figure out what those gifts are, and then find different ways to serve others using those gifts. Well, I thought about it and one of the gifts I have is that I know how to turn a screwdriver! I know that doesn’t sound like much of a gift, but I’ve always been mechanically inclined, and I enjoy fixing things, so over time I’ve developed quite a collection of cool tools. Surely somebody somewhere out there needs something fixed!

Then I received a sign! No, it wasn’t a heaven-sent sign… or maybe it was! I was dropping off some charity items to a thrift store in Laguna Hills that’s run by the South County Outreach. The store is called “Upscale Resale” and as I pulled up to the front of the store, I noticed that their sign was really faded and practically falling off the wall. It looked especially bad because the other businesses in that strip center all had nice new signs. I determined that this must be a sign… (get it!)…and decided right then and there to get a new sign made and install it for them for free.

I went to Fast Signs in Lake Forest and told them about the sign that the South County Outreach needed. It was finished within a week and when I picked it up, I was excited because it looked absolutely perfect. I immediately drove it over to the thrift store and as I pulled up, I realized I had made a stupid mistake. The new sign read, “South County Outreach” instead of “Upscale Resale”. What a dummy! My good intentions were definitely not backed up with good results!

Back to Fast Signs I went. I hate to say it, but I told the lady at Fast Signs a little white lie. When she asked why I came back, I told her that they loved the new sign so much they wanted to order another one, but this time with the name “Upscale Resale” on it. I guess I just didn’t want to admit that I made a mistake.

The new “Upscale Resale” sign was finished within three days. When I picked it up, it looked perfect for sure this time, so I grabbed a ladder and my tools and drove straight over to the thrift store. Wouldn’t you know it, when I took the old plastic sign down off the steel backboard, one of the screws broke off and I couldn’t get it out. That forced me to have to drill new holes but no matter what, I couldn’t hide the old holes and still get the sign perfectly straight. I fought with it for a while and ended up doing the best I could, but it still ended up being off about a 1/4 of an inch. It looked good, but it definitely wasn’t perfect.

And that got me thinking… It’s hard to admit it when we make mistakes. It’s even harder to accept that even when our intentions are perfect, we’re never going to be perfect. But then I realized that we don’t have to be perfect because somebody else already was perfect for us. And that makes perfect sense to me!
There are no perfect people in this world, only perfect intentions.
~ Pen Densham (Robin Hood) 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Time Well Spent

Overall the holiday season was absolutely awesome this year! I have to say that I am really thankful for all the blessings that abound within our family. The only exception is that my wife was sick the entire holiday season. She has been struggling with respiratory problems on and off ever since she had lung surgery back in 2003, but before Christmas week even began, she started having serious breathing issues. Two weeks ago, she got so bad and was struggling so hard to breathe, that she had to call 911 for help.

Wouldn’t you know it, I happened to be at a golf lesson that morning when she collapsed. I felt horrible that I wasn’t with her when this frightening episode happened. Fortunately, the paramedics were able to stabilize her and then I drove her to the doctor’s office where they gave her a new round of medications to try out. It took several more doctor visits and medication trials before she started to improve, but as of yesterday her breathing is almost back to normal.

I felt really bad that I wasn’t with my wife at the time when she needed me most. But I am also super thankful that we have the 911 system in place. I hate to think about what could have happened if we didn’t have paramedics available, and for that matter firefighters, police and military personnel and all the other first responders who have high stress dangerous jobs that force them to sacrifice their own health for the benefit of other human beings. We are lucky to have people on this earth who are totally focused on serving others.

And that got me thinking… I realize it’s not my job to “serve others” from a career standpoint. (Although I do kind of “light up lives” with my lighting business!) But from a biblical standpoint, I truly believe that my primary job here on earth is to serve others using whatever special gifts God gave me. So…What can I do to fulfill that obligation? And… What are those special gifts? I haven’t figured out the answer to either one of those questions yet, but I do know that whatever the answers are, “time” is a major component. Therefore, for the rest of 2018, I plan to set aside time every week to look for ways to serve others. It might be something small that only takes a few minutes of my time, or it might be something that takes me weeks to accomplish. Whatever it is, I have a feeling it will be time well spent!

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as 
if they were going to be dead by midnight. 
Extend to them all the care, kindness and service you can muster. 
Do it with no thought of any reward and your life will never the same again! 
~ Og Mandino

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Time For A Gift

One of the best things about the Christmas Holiday Season is that you get to be with your family and create everlasting memories. But one of the worst things about Christmas… for me anyway… is that I struggle with gift giving.

It’s not that I don’t care or that I don’t want to spend the money. It’s just that I’m not very creative when it comes to gift giving, so I really stress out about it. I always agonize over what is the really cool gift this season that everyone wants, or what cool new tech device is out there, or if I buy clothes I worry about what color or what size to get and then I end up asking the sales clerk, “Can they bring it back if they don’t like it?” I mean, I’m a mess… and I’m not even a hot mess!

I wish it was easy to get a great gift for the people that you love, something that would express the real meaning of Christmas. Shouldn’t there be one special gift, that everyone wants, that doesn’t cost much, and that makes everyone happy? Something fun, interesting, unique and loaded with love. And that’s when it hit me. I remembered how I recently read in the bible how God is always with us. That He will never leave us. Which then reminded me of a poem called, Footprints in the Sand, where Jesus reminds us, “My precious child, I love you and I will never leave you.”

And both of those memories got me thinking… There is a special gift that I can give my family. One that everyone wants, that doesn’t cost much, and yet makes them happy. My time!

"And there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, and lo the angel of the lord came upon them and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid, and the angel said unto them, fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth - peace, good will toward men."


Monday, December 11, 2017

It Was Me!

Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong and people seem to be always in your way? Well, I had me one of those days last week… Friday was truly a doozy.

Problem number one. I had a lot going on and the first thing I had to do was to drive out to Murrieta to see my Mom who is terminally ill. But before I could even leave the house I noticed that the “Lilac Fire” in North San Diego County had closed Highway 76 and the 15 freeway, which was the route I planned to take.

Problem number two. I decided to take Ortega Highway instead, but 15 miles in I came to screeching halt due to construction. Turns out a section of the highway was collapsing and needed repair, so the delay lasted over 20 minutes. Of course, it seems like a lot longer when you’re in a hurry.

Problem number three. I stopped at my Mom’s old apartment in Murrieta to collect her mail and pick up her cable boxes so that I could return them to the cable company (she won’t be returning to that apartment). But I forgot the keys. I figured the Manager could help, but he was out of the office. Eventually, I tracked down the Maintenance Manager who helped me out, but it took a really long time to track him down.

Problem number four. When I arrived at the Time Warner Cable office, they informed me that my Mom also had a modem that needed to be returned. I didn’t think about that and now I’ll have to make a return trip.

Problem number five. My Mom wanted me to pick up some boxes of See’s Candies, so she could give them out as gifts to people who come to visit her. After standing in a long line, I realized as I went to pay that I had left my wallet in my car. By the time I got my wallet and got back, there were 5 more people ahead of me.

Problem number six. After finally getting back to Orange County, I was running late to pick up my wife at the Nordstrom’s Rack, and of course the parking lot was totally full. After making four laps around the entire lot I finally spotted an elderly man getting into his car. Never in my life have I seen anybody move so slow! This guy took at least a full 5 minutes to back up, going super slow, two feet at a time, constantly checking his mirrors. In fact, he was so slow, and so annoying, that I was tempted to get out of my truck and go back up his car for him. But then again, he wasn’t the one in a hurry, I was.

And that got me thinking… All day long I kept finding myself annoyed at the people and problems in my way. But I realize now the problems were not caused by the people around me. It was me that chose to go Ortega. It was me that left the keys at home. It was me that forgot my wallet, and it was me that was in too big a hurry when other people were taking time to enjoy their day. Realizing “It Was Me” all along made me laugh all the way home, despite the fact that the 5 freeway was of course packed full on a Friday afternoon.


Patience is something you admire in the driver 
behind you and scorn in the one ahead.
~ Mac McCleary

Monday, November 27, 2017

In Consideration

Several years ago, my oldest son sent me a card that I have always cherished. In fact, I use it as a bookmark in my Bible because in the card he wrote, “Your constant attempt to be a good person every day is a real inspiration to me.” That statement means a great deal to me for two reasons. First, it felt good to hear that I am setting a good example for my children and second, it serves as strong motivation for me to keep trying to be a good person every single day. Well…please don’t tell my son, but last week I blew it, big time!

I hate to say it, but I was totally and irreversibly inconsiderate to another human being. Let me explain. On Tuesday morning at 6am, I loaded my truck with two heavy pallets of steel base covers and then noticed my two back tires looked like they were half way flat. I decided to stop at the first gas station along my route to San Bernardino and it’s a good thing I did because they were both really low. However, as long as I was stopped, I thought I would go inside and get some snacks for the long road trip. When I got to the counter, I remembered I didn’t have any cash, but they had an ATM machine. So I got out of line and went to go get some quick cash. Then I got back in line which was now 5 people deep. It took forever but I finally paid and went back out to my truck. Then I thought I might as well check my front tires while I’m here. As soon as I bent down to start filling up a front tire a man came around the front of my truck and said, “Really! Are you serious! I’ve been waiting ever since you pulled in to get air for my fricking’ tires. How the hell much longer are you going to be?” I immediately realized my mistake and apologized over and over again, and then jumped in my truck and left feeling like dirt. That guy must have been waiting for at least 15 minutes or more, so I’m surprised he didn’t punch me in the nose!

Obviously, I didn’t do it on purpose. When I first pulled in I didn’t notice that another car had pulled in right next to me and was waiting for the machine. But the reason I didn’t notice is because I wasn’t paying attention to other people and the world around me like I should have been. Instead, I was totally wrapped up in my own self and my own needs. I felt really bad about what happened, because I constantly see other people being inconsiderate and acting unaware of their surroundings…and now I was truly one of them.

And that got me thinking… Being human, it’s hard for me not to mess up once in a while. So I came up with three things I can do when it happens. First, I can offer a sincere apology. Second, I can do my best to make it right. (Like instead of speeding away I could have given the guy an “In-N-Out” Card to make up for wasting his time.) Or if that’s not possible, then third, I could give extra consideration to a random stranger. So- in consideration of being stupidly inconsiderate - I went golfing the next day and gave out $20 tips to three different attendants with a note card that said, “Your constant attempt to give me good service every time I come here, is a real inspiration to me!” Maybe those note cards will make good bookmarks some day!


Being considerate of others will take your children 
farther in life than any college degree. 
~ Marian Wright Edelman

Monday, November 20, 2017

GG's Thanksgiving

In October, my wife and I went to Kauai for a long awaited two-week vacation. We’ve never been more relaxed, happy or thankful as we were during that time. As we laid out in the warm tropical sun with the beautiful blue ocean right in front of us, we talked about how good life was at that moment. Our family was healthy, and our relationship was stronger than ever. So, we had a lot to be thankful for… until we got home.
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As soon as we got back, bad news struck. My 83-year old Mom was rushed to the hospital due to multiple health issues. She was diagnosed with severe COPD, congestive heart failure, pneumonia and failing kidneys. The doctor gave her only days to live, so I have been driving out to Murrieta every day to be at the hospital by her side. She is so frail she can’t even move her arms to hug me, so I make sure I hug her… a lot. But there’s one thing about my Mom, she’s always been really strong, and she became even stronger when my Dad passed away in 2001. For the past 16 years her strength has helped her to make a good life on her own, while she has helped her family and her many close friends have a good life as well.

My Mom’s favorite thing in life has always been celebrating holidays. I have never met anyone who has more Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations than my Mom. Even now, she has a huge mini-storage unit packed with decorations, which she refers to as “treasures”. It was always so much fun to visit her because she would totally deck out her house with those beautiful decorations and treat her guests to great home style southern cooking as well. Therefore, the house would always be packed with loving family members who affectionately refer to her as “GG”, greatest grandma ever! So I will truly miss those times, especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner.

And that got me thinking… Looking back on our Kauai vacation, I can see how easy it was to be thankful when everything was going right. Being thankful is easy when you have a lot to be thankful for. The hard thing to do, is to be thankful when things are not going so well. For example, it’s really hard to be thankful when you’re holding the hand of someone you love, and you know you might be holding it for the very last time. As strong as she is, I don’t know if GG will be here for this coming Thanksgiving celebration. But one thing I do know… because of all she gave to others throughout her life, she will always be a treasure to me!  
Joan "GG" Thrailkill, circa 1952
We can only be said to be alive…  
in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
~ Thorton Wilder

Monday, November 6, 2017

Give Me A Break

I’ve been living in a small beach house right on the sand for over 5 years now and I absolutely love it. It’s such a beautiful place to live, but there is one strange thing that happens here that probably doesn’t happen as often at other beaches along our coast line. The sand will be smooth and shining and totally inviting one day and then the next day millions of rocks show up out of nowhere, completely covering the warm soft sand, making it super difficult and painful to get to the water. A day or two later, they are gone.

Some people have told me that the rocks don’t just “show up”. They say that the ocean occasionally churns up a ton of sand, washing it onto the beach, which then covers up the rocks, and then the sand washes back out. Well, that’s not true because I’ve seen the rocks washing in and heard them clanking up onto the shore many times. The rocks come and they go and yet there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it.

On Friday evening I witnessed a perfect beach scene. The sand along the shore was totally pristine white and the ocean was so blue and calm that I figured I would get up early and take my paddleboard out for a ride. However, when I woke up the next morning, the sand was once again completely covered by rocks and all I could do was mutter under my breath, “Oh, give me a break!” I was really looking forward to paddle-boarding, but walking over the rocks and then getting slammed by the smaller stones as I waded out in the water made me turn around and hang my board back up.

As I went back into the house, I thought about what I had just asked for, “Give me a break.” Then I paused to ponder, who was I talking to? Was I asking the ocean to give me a break? The ocean doesn’t have ears. Was I talking to the plucky pelicans who were resting nearby on the top of the water? They have ears but I doubt they can understand me. Or was I asking God to give me a break? He has ears to hear and He understands, but I hope He wasn’t listening to me because I wouldn’t want Him to think I was complaining, especially since most of the time the beach, the water, the sand, and my life are pretty darn perfect.

So why was I angry and complaining and asking for a break when I shouldn’t be? I’ll tell you why. Because I’m a stupid, selfish human being who gets frustrated when things aren’t exactly the way I want them to be. I don’t just get frustrated with the ocean, I get frustrated with my fellow man as well. But yet how many times in my life have I asked other people to give me a break because I messed up and didn’t do something the way they wanted it done? Lots of times, for sure!

And that got me thinking… What would the world be like, if everyone gave everyone else the break they hope to receive?

Sometimes life can be pretty smooth...


And sometimes life can be a little rocky!

If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size?
~ Sydney J. Harris