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Monday, December 30, 2013


Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and therefore a good time to look back on 2013 and reflect on all that happened over the past 12 months. For one thing I remember setting goals last New Year’s Eve (some people call them resolutions…I call them goals) and being really sincere about achieving them. However, I have to admit I failed at most of my goals, but fortunately not all of them.

I’m the type of person that enjoys setting goals and I think it’s because I love challenging myself. And actually, some of my goals were really fun ones. I set a goal to improve my batting average in baseball by 100 points. (That didn’t happen, not even close thanks to too many curve balls!) I also set a goal to play at least one round of golf with a score in the 70’s. (That didn’t happen either, but I did get an 80 several times.) Those are fun goals and even if you don’t achieve them, you have fun trying.

The more important goals though…the serious goals…are the ones that help us become better people both in our personal lives and business careers. Those are usually much harder to achieve. First, it’s not fun to admit to ourselves that we are not perfect. Second, self-improvement takes hard work, sacrifice and dedication. And third, we need to remember that life is always going to throw us a curve from time to time and that’s when we need to turn to God for help. We can’t do it alone but fortunately we are never alone. He walks with us every step of the way.

For me personally, I did set two serious goals this past year. One goal was to become a more patient person, to open the eyes of my heart and appreciate other people more fully. My second goal was to write another 52 Monday Messages with the purpose of inspiring people and perhaps drawing them nearer to God. I can’t say that I totally succeeded at achieving both goals because there were several times when I know I could have been more patient and there was one week late in the year when I failed to create a new Monday Message.

But that got me thinking…. I may not have fully succeeded with my important goals, but I certainly didn’t fail and I’ll tell you why. Life will always throw us some tough curves along the way but as long as we keep trying, we cannot fail. We only fail when we stop trying. So my New Year’s resolution is to keep trying to be a better person each and every day. That’s a curve ball I know I can hit!

There are times in our lives when God throws us a curve,
To intentionally make things unclear.
It’s always for growth or to help us to serve,
Or simply to draw us more near.
       ~ Pastor Michael Cummings

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's A Brighter Life

Have you ever wondered whether or not you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing? I mean, I’m just a light bulb salesman, so how important can that be? How can I make a difference…and is this what God intended for me to do when he planted my seed in this overgrown vineyard we call our world? How do we ever really know if we’re on the right path?
Last week I received an unusual email from a potential customer located really far away. Apparently they’re a company that specializes in making affordable toys for children and they had a difficult lighting problem. Their employees were struggling due to poor light levels in their main warehouse caused by the extreme height of the ceilings. As a lighting consultant, that’s a problem right up my alley so I emailed their Rep, “If you need a lighting problem solved…I can definitely do that! The only problem was that their facility was 3,300 miles away in a city called North Pole, Alaska.
When the Rep offered to pick up some of my travel expenses to their location, I was surprised but immediately said yes for two reasons. First, it seemed like a challenging lighting problem…and of course I love challenges. Second, a company that brightens the lives of children is definitely a company worth helping. So I packed my bags (and my foot-candle meter) and took off for the airport. The Rep suggested I stay at the Hotel North Pole, so I booked a room on line there for two nights.
Hotel North Pole - 449 N. Santa Claus Lane, North Pole, AK 99705
The next day the Rep, an older gray haired man named Nicolas Abraham, picked me up and drove me to their main warehouse. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the largest manufacturing complex I had ever seen, hundreds of thousands of square feet with super high ceilings. The light fixtures were so high I had to ride a huge forklift 50’ up to the ceiling to identify the lamp types. Once I had the information on the lamp types I knew I had a solution. They were using “wide 60 degree flood lamps” when what they really needed were “narrow 15 degree spot lamps” that would project light all the way to the floor of the facility. They were thrilled with my suggestion because they thought they needed expensive new fixtures, when in fact all they needed were different light bulbs.
Nicolas was so happy with my recommendation that he wanted me to meet the CEO. As we walked down a long hallway, I asked him how he got started in the business and he proceeded to tell me how he and his wife, Sarah, had tried for over 30 years to have a baby. When she finally got pregnant they were both fairly old and couldn’t believe it was finally happening. They considered it a miracle and thanked God over and over again for the blessing of their baby boy, whom they named Isaac to honor God. Nicolas told me he and his wife decided long ago that making and distributing affordable toys for needy children was their way to “give back” for all the blessings they had received. 
When we finally arrived at the CEO’s office, I was totally surprised by what I saw. An elderly woman dressed all in red greeted me with a huge smile. She was the friendliest, nicest, jolliest woman I had ever met. As she put her arms around me and gave me a huge hug, Nicolas said, “Meet my wife Sarah, the love of my life and co-founder of this company. You see, after God blessed us with our son, we decided to dedicate our lives to making children smile, especially those who don’t have much to smile about, so Sarah runs the manufacturing side of the business and I take care of distribution. Actually it requires the help of hundreds of employees, whom I call my “special elves” to handle distribution, but every year we make it happen.”
I stood speechless for a long time. Finally I spoke up, “Nicolas, I am amazed at what you and your wife have accomplished. You two are just like a real life Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. You must feel really good about the work you do, in fact, maybe I should start calling you Saint Nick.” Nicolas laughed and said, “Well, all I can say is…we do it out of love, therefore we love what we do. And I might add, with your help with our lighting….we can now do even more for the children!”
On the long flight home I kept thinking about what Nicolas said, “We love what we do.” It started to dawn on me that, I too - love what I do! Maybe it’s only light bulbs, but I really enjoy working with my fellow employees, plus our vendors give us great support and our customers are the best people you could ever meet. Maybe this truly is what I was meant to do on this earth, and maybe, just maybe, I am on the right path…which is to “brighten up” the lives of other people. I can definitely do that!
Nicolas and Sarah at home with Isaac
 Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing and giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.
~ Norman Wesley Brooks

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

I love golf so my wife recently bought us tickets to the Tiger Woods World Golf Challenge. So this weekend we traveled up to Sherwood Country Club to watch 18 of the world’s top golfers battle it out. It is an absolutely beautiful golf course surrounded by insanely expensive Victorian Mansions and 100 year old oak trees. As I watched the athletes make incredible golf shots on the perfectly manicured fairways and greens, it occurred to me that pro golfers remind me of Jesus. Okay….I know that sounds a little crazy… maybe even a little blasphemous... but let me explain.
First of all, what’s the difference between pro golfers and amateurs like me? I can sometimes hit my drives 300 yards, and occasionally make great approach shots and drain a long putt. The difference though….between a pro golfer and a beginner… is that pro golfers hit great shots about 95%-100% of the time, whereas a rookie only hits great shots about 10% -20% of the time.
Obviously if you want to get better at golf you have to practice and play more often. So over the last 5 years I have dedicated myself to practicing and playing more often and it has definitely paid off. At this point in time I am probably hitting great shots about 30%-40% of the time and my scores have improved tremendously. If I keep practicing and keep working hard at it, I know I can get better. I may never be as a good as a pro, but I can get definitely improve depending on how hard I work at it and how dedicated I am.
So that is why when I saw Rory McIlroy hit an absolutely perfect approach shot to within 12” of the pin, it reminded me of Jesus. Why….because the difference between Jesus and the rest of us is that Jesus was perfect 100% of the time and we are only perfect about 10%-20% of the time. But…like amateur golfers (or amateur Christians), if we practice being perfect, if we work hard at it every day and if we dedicate our lives to it…we can definitely improve!
I know I will never be able to live a perfect life on earth like Jesus did, but that’s okay, we’re not supposed to be perfect. What I do know is that I can improve every single day if I work at it. Think about it, just like in golf or any sport for that matter, if we were to practice being sin free several times a week and perhaps dedicate one day a week to trying to be absolutely perfect, we would definitely get better just like we do when we practice a sport. And if we love the Lord like we do our sports…what could be more important!

Rory McIlroy works on becoming perfect!
Practice doesn't make perfect.
Practice reduces the imperfection.
~ Toba Beta

Monday, December 2, 2013

Breath of Life

Last week we had two of our younger grandchildren staying over. Andie Rose is only 5 but she enjoys watching me work out and likes to be my “assistant”. She changes the weight slots on my gym machine for me and writes it down in my log. At one point she said, “Hey Grandpa, you forgot to breathe.” She’s heard me talk about how important proper breathing is and how you need to breathe out when you exert and she noticed I wasn’t doing it right. Apparently she takes her “assistant job” very seriously!
The reason Andie Rose is a good workout assistant is because she is the type of person who cares about others. And she reminds me of someone else who might well be the most caring and considerate person I have ever met. His name is Antony and he runs his own Personal Training business, which is a combination of physical fitness and physical therapy combined. You might even say it is partly a counseling business because you can’t go in in there and not come out feeling better both physically and mentally. Antony’s approach is unique because of his total commitment and concern for his clientele. He greets every woman with a kiss and every man with a hug and means it. He will look you right in the eye, ask you how you are doing, and then actually listen and care about what you say. He will call you to make sure you are coming in and then call you after your visit to see how you are feeling. I have never met anyone so committed to helping others who also enjoys it like Antony does. He has such a great time at his job. However, he will push you during training sessions. I remember him getting on me for not breathing properly and making me do extra lifts until I got them right. So I guess you could say he takes his “assistant job” seriously, just like Andie Rose does.
Having people like Andie Rose and Antony in my life is a real blessing. They are not only teaching me to breathe properly during a tough workout session, they are also reminding me how important it is to step back and take a breath during the tough times of my life as well. Let’s face it we all go through tough times, especially during the hectic holiday season. So if at times your life feels really crazy and difficult, just remember what Andie Rose and Antony are trying to teach us…slow down and make time to take a breath. And if you really want to enjoy life, help someone else learn how to slow down and breathe!

Breathe in the breath of life, all the way to the bottom of your stomach.
Inhale peace and exhale chaos.
~ Tara Sutphen