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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Time For a Gift

One of the best things about the Christmas Holiday Season is that you get to create your own special family traditions. And the best thing about family traditions is that they create memories that last a lifetime. My wife and I started two new traditions this season and both were very memorable.

Our first new tradition was to take our grandchildren around town to look at Christmas light displays. Thanks to Google and Siri it’s pretty easy to find the neighborhoods that have gone crazy with Christmas Lights and the entire time we were driving around our youngest granddaughter, Penelope, who is all of 3 years old, led us in singing all the classic Christmas songs like Jingle Bells. Okay, so she didn’t know all the words, but she was really good at making up her own words, which cracked everyone up.

Our second new tradition involved the eight members of our immediate family including my wife, our three kids and their significant others. We started it yesterday by meeting at a restaurant for Sunday Brunch and then the 4 girls left to go shopping while the 4 guys left to go golfing. Our family is so close and we had so much fun that we even met at a Mexican Restaurant afterwards for drinks and tacos.


On the way home I started thinking about how far behind I am on my Christmas shopping and I started to get stressed out. I hate to admit it, but I have always struggled with gift giving for some reason. It’s not that I don’t care or that I don’t put the time into it, I’m just not creative when it comes to gift giving so I really stress out about it. As I started agonizing over who would want what and what color and what size, and “Can they bring it back if they don’t like it”, etc. etc. it dawned on me that I had already given my family one of the best gifts possible…the gift of time spent with people you love…and I didn’t even have to request a gift receipt!


"And lo, 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 14, 2015

It Takes Two

The number 2 has special meaning to me. For one thing it’s the centerpiece of my lucky number, which happens to be 524, and it keeps popping up over and over again in my life in different ways and in different circumstances. I shouldn’t be surprised when it pops up because it because it happens so often, but what I actually think is happening is that God is using it to remind me of my place in life and my place in His life. For example…

Twenty years ago when I was single, lonely and struggling, God blessed me with a wonderful, loving wife. The theme of our wedding was “If Ever Two Were One, Then Surely We”. That is probably the first time the number two created special meaning in my life.

Twelve years ago, I started playing baseball and I chose second base as my favorite position. (Not first, not third, no it had to be the number two position.) I have played it proudly ever since and even though some people think second base isn’t the most important position on the field, I love it and embrace it as a very challenging position.

Five years ago I attended an important a meeting with the Management staff at The Irvine Company. I noticed one of them (a man named George that I had never met before) wearing a black bracelet that said, “I am second”. I asked him what it meant and he told me that it was a reminder to always put himself second to God. I loved that concept and told him so and we stayed after the meeting talking about our faith. The next morning when I arrived at work, there was a black bracelet on my desk, a surprising gift from a thoughtful new friend.

Four years ago I made myself a vow to start reading my Bible every day, just 10-15 minutes a day, as a way to start out each day right. And I keep coming across the concept of “two” all the times. I noticed that Adam was lonely so God gave him a companion…and then there were two. When Noah built the Ark he took two of every animal with him. And I recently read the passage where Jesus says, “Whenever two or more are gathered in my name, I will be there.” How special is that concept!

So basically I love the number 2 because I don’t believe we were created to focus on just ourselves as number 1, but instead to focus on others first. I also don’t believe we can accomplish much on our own because it’s when we have two or more together that we can begin to create a team…and with good teamwork we can accomplish anything.  So if that concept is true, then it underscores the importance of treating other people right. And let’s face it, the nice thing about teamwork is that you always have someone on your side!

LSI Team Christmas Party - 2015
Alone we can accomplish so little. Together we can accomplish so much.
Helen Keller

Monday, December 7, 2015

Decision Making

As a business owner it helps to be good at doing a lot of things, especially providing strong leadership for my staff. But no one starts out as a strong leader, especially me. I was really shy in High School and lacked confidence, so when I started my own business at age 25, I had a lot to learn along the way…and unfortunately sometimes I had to learn the hard way.

In order to become a good leader, I’ve read a lot of books and attended a lot of seminars.  But the best training has always come from watching and listening to the good leaders around me. How do you know someone is a good leader? There are lots of signs of strong leadership, like having good character, excellent communication skills, confidence and creativity in problem solving. But in my opinion there is one trait that stands out among all the rest – the courage to make the tough decisions. Good decision making is a crucial component of leadership but it’s also vitally important for all of us throughout every aspect of our daily lives, regardless of our job or social position.

Yesterday I was reading my Bible and came across Matthew’s story of the birth of Christ, which is kind of timely since Christmas is right around the corner. I read how Matthew describes Joseph as a “just man” and how that simple description sums up the reason he was picked to be the father of Jesus. Joseph didn’t necessarily hold an important position in Bethlehem, nor was he a rabbi or a priest. But he was obviously well respected and was probably proud of his standing in the community as a local businessman who was seeking to marry the love of his life. Everything was going great and then all of a sudden Mary whispers in his ear that she is pregnant. Joseph has to make the toughest decision of his life, back out of the marriage and protect his reputation, or continue with the wedding despite the potential damaging fallout. Talk about a tough decision! I can picture Joseph on his knees, worrying about God’s plan for his life, and praying for the courage to make the right decision. Notice how I said “praying for courage” instead of “praying for wisdom”. That’s because I’ve learned over the years that most of the time we know what the right decision is…we just need the courage to make it.


Having to make tough decisions is always going to be a big part of life. But maybe if we pray for courage, and are willing to put God’s plan ahead of our own, decision making will be a lot easier!

Decisions become easier when your will to please God outweighs your will to please the world.
~ Anso Coetzer

Monday, November 30, 2015

Keeping Warm

The holidays are upon us and I noticed that the weather really changed this week. With a frosty chill in the air and the leaves on the trees beginning to turn orange, it’s obvious that winter is well on its way. We finally fired up our furnace this week that had been off all summer and I was forced to actually break out a jacket for the first time as I headed off to work. It was really cold outside and as I headed down Pacific Coast Highway I spotted a homeless man pushing a cart. It reminded me that I’m really lucky to have a jacket (not to mention a car, a home and a job).

It also reminded me that the holidays are a great time to get involved with a charity. My wife and I like to give back to our community, so we donate our time and money to several different charity events throughout the year. Last week we helped with the “Festival of Trees”. It probably sounds a little crazy but what we do is think of a theme for a Christmas Tree and then go out and buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of ornaments and decorations. The actual trees are provided by the event coordinator, but ordinary citizens and local companies get together to decorate the trees, which are then sold at auction in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel with the proceeds going to an organization called the South County Outreach.

For this year’s event we decided our theme would be wrapped around inspiration and affirmation. So we purchased beautiful white, silver and gold ornaments as well as lace trimmings. But we also made a dozen small wooden ornaments with handwritten words of affirmation on them, such as “loved, valued, and empowered”. My wife and I, as well as our daughter and a friend, worked on that tree all day long and when we were done we were really happy with the results. There is something about working together as a team to do something good for others that makes you feel really warm inside, kind of like fueling a fun fire from the inside out.


Our Christmas Tree and all the others sold at auction will raise thousands of dollars for charity and that will provide a lot of food and jackets for cold hungry people in desperate need of help. Ironically, since we live in a tiny beach house, we don’t have room for a regular size Christmas Tree. So we usually stick a tall piece of driftwood into the sand on the beach in front of our house and then decorate it with just a few special ornaments. I’m sure that when people see our tree they think it’s a pretty sad little Charlie Brown tree and that we must be really poor (or just lousy at decorating), but the truth is that every time we look at that little driftwood tree it reminds us of the big beautiful tree we helped make for others…which is more than enough to keep us warm…with or without a jacket!
Our Tree at The Fairmont Hotel
Our Tree at Home
Spring, Summer and Fall fill us with hope; 
Winter alone reminds us of the human condition.
~ Mignon McLaughlin

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Bump in The Road

Thanksgiving is coming up and it’s always been one of my favorite holidays. We have a huge family and even when I was just a kid I looked forward to having a house filled with people and an oven filled with a big turkey. I remember always having a lot be thankful for, except for this one time…

In November of 1970 I was 15 years old and loved riding dirt bikes. I would ride my Yamaha all over the hills around our house and then on Saturday night my friends and I would go to Elsinore Race Track to compete for trophies. I worked my way up the ranks from novice, to amateur and finally to expert class and although I was fairly small at that age, I was totally unafraid to go fast and absolutely loved racing.

One Friday afternoon my friend, Bill Anderson and I, were practicing about 20 miles outside of town in a remote area called DeLuz Canyon. It was late in the day and we were blasting down a rocky fire road at full speed. Bill was in front and kicking up a lot of dust so I never saw the huge rock embedded in the road. I hit that rock head on and my motorcycle somersaulted forward throwing me to the ground. Less than a second later my motorcycle landed directly on top of me tearing a gaping hole in my right side. When I finally skidded to a stop all I could think was, “I hope my motorcycle is okay!”

Bill came back and found me lying in a bloody heap. All I was wearing that day were jeans, a T-shirt and a helmet so the skin was gone from both of my shoulder blades, my right arm was broken, and just above my right hip was a huge gash that was pouring out more blood than I had ever seen. Bill’s face turned white. He knew there was no way I could ride on the back of his bike. He took off my helmet, or what was left of it, because the front piece of the full coverage helmet was completely missing. I remember him saying, “You should be glad you had your helmet on because it definitely saved your life.”  

And then a miracle happened. A man came around the corner on horseback. I recognized him as a customer that came into the gas station where Bill and I worked. I couldn’t remember his name at the time but he saw our desperate situation and offered to help. He gave Bill the keys to his truck and explained how to get to his house which was only a mile away. Bill took off while the man stayed with me and when Bill got back with the truck they lifted me in and the three of us took off for the nearest hospital.

I was in the hospital for five days but got to go home right before Thanksgiving. I know we’re supposed to be thankful at Thanksgiving time, but I was miserable. My motorcycle was totaled, my right knee had 18 stitches in it, my side had 38 stitches in it and my arm was broken. To make matters worse, every time I moved the cast on my right arm would bang into my side and tear open the stitches. I wasn’t thankful about anything and I’m pretty sure I was making everyone around me miserable too. But then I got a phone call from Bill who said he was going to stop by to cheer me up. It was dark and cold when he got to my house but I was glad to see him. We talked for a long time, mostly about motorcycles, and when he got ready to leave I noticed he didn’t have a helmet with him. I told him he could borrow my busted up helmet and although it wouldn’t offer much protection, at least it would keep his head warm.

Bill never made it home that night. On his way home he took a turn too fast and flew his motorcycle down into a steep ravine. He hit a rock on the way down that shattered his leg and the only reason he finally stopped was because he smashed head first into a tree. With a broken leg and a broken collar bone, he couldn’t make it back up to the street. He laid in that ravine all night thinking he was probably going to die, but fortunately another miracle happened. Two migrant farm workers heard his cries for help the next morning as they were walking to work.

Bill called me on Thanksgiving morning and gave me the news about his accident. I was shocked and bummed out to hear about his accident, but although he was still in the hospital, he didn’t sound miserable at all. In fact, I was surprised by how happy he sounded. He told me that he found it incredible that one helmet could save two lives in less than one week. He also told me that he was happy because he was so super thankful to be alive. Bill’s positive attitude and cheerful disposition made me realize that I had been looking at things all wrong. Life may present us with a bump in the road from time to time, but if we still have life, then we still have a lot to be thankful for! 


All that we behold is full of blessings.
~ William Wordsworth 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In Abundance

My wife and I went to visit friends in San Diego over the weekend and stayed overnight in their beautiful home. It’s a huge Tuscan Italian style house with a long winding driveway that leads to a magnificent porte-cochere and when you enter the ceilings are over 20’ high. Everywhere you look their home is filled is gorgeous furniture and furnishings, not the least of which is the fully stocked kitchen with state of the art appliances, a dream kitchen for someone like my wife who loves to cook.

I mention this because my wife and I used to own a similar style Tuscan home in Coto de Caza. All the way home I kept thinking about the big beautiful house we use to have compared to the tiny beach cottage we live in now and I found myself feeling guilty that I am not providing a nicer home and nicer furnishings for my wife. I am not saying that I don’t love our beach cottage…I mean it is right on the sand…but sometimes as a man, I just find myself wanting to be the best possible provider that I can be.

And that got me thinking…
If I made a list of the five finest possessions I used to have - it would include a really nice home with a gourmet kitchen, a pool, an expensive BMW, a boat and a grand piano. If I made a list of the five possessions I have now - it would include a couch, a TV, a bed and a late model Ford Truck, that’s it. Oh yeah…and my golf clubs. Not a very impressive list for sure.

But what if I made a list of the five things God has abundantly given me. Love, Forgiveness, Mercy, Happiness and Everlasting Life. Now that’s an impressive list! And here’s the cool part. All that stuff, all those possessions we think we want to have and work so hard to get, we never really have, because none of it really belongs to us and we certainly can’t take any of it with us when we die. However, all the stuff God gives us, He gives us at birth…free of charge…and we totally get to take it with us when we go. Now that’s really cool!

I’m not saying it’s bad to want material things and work hard to have them. Been there, done that. But I guess what I started realizing as I fought through traffic to get back to my tiny little beach house last night, is that if I want to be the best possible “provider” for my wife, kids, family and friends, then what I need to give them are not things. What I need to give them are my love, forgiveness, patience, help and support…and do so in abundance!

Debby and I on the front porch of our Coto house in 2012
You give but little when you give of your possessions. 
It is when you give of yourself, that you truly give.
 ~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, November 9, 2015

Inspiration and Perspiration

I played in my final baseball game of the year yesterday. It was an annual charity event at Angel Stadium and although our Halo Baseball Club Team lost, it was still exciting and fun because we raised money for several charities thanks to awesome support we received from Dennis Kuhl, Chairman of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Dennis started this event 8 years ago to honor his father, Bud Kuhl, and I am certain his father was smiling down on him yesterday for so many reasons. Dennis and I are friends and I know he misses his Dad every day because his Dad was a real inspiration to him. I feel the same way about my Dad and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and strive to become a better man because of what he taught me. Isn’t it funny that no matter how old we get, if we had a Mom or a Dad that really inspired us, we still want to do our best to please them.

When we have a really awesome parent (or two) it can make a huge difference in our lives. Even to have just one parent that is truly loving, caring and inspirational is a blessing. I know we don’t get to pick our parents, so that is why when we’re blessed with a loving parent we need to make sure we honor them in every way. That led me to an interesting question.

We can’t pick our parents but we can pick our friends and our friends have a ton of influence on our lives, so shouldn’t we be careful when it comes to picking our friends? The people we associate with, have dinner with, or play sports with are people that we choose to make a part of our lives. When we choose our friends it shouldn’t be quick and easy. We should work hard at it, sweat over it, and be patient to find people who impress us, inspire us and motivate us to grow in character and integrity. When I look back at my life, I can see that there were times as a young man that some of my lazy choices for friends were questionable (and so were they) and that ended up getting me into trouble. Looking at my list of friends now though, I can see that I have been doing a much better job of picking because my current list includes dozens of people that consistently inspire me to be a better man.

Obviously one way we can honor our parents is to be the best people we can be. But becoming our best…works best…when we surround ourselves with the best!

Bud Kuhl Wood Bat Invitational - Angel Stadium - Nov 7th, 2015


Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.
Charles R. Swindoll

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Response Time

Last week I played in the MSBL World Series in Phoenix and all I can say is that it was one heck of a rollercoaster ride. Last year was my first time playing in this event and instead of my regular team, I played with the South Bay Zehpyrs out of Long Beach. Last year could not have gone any better because although I’ve never been anything more than just an average player, for some reason my batting was off the charts, and I was able to contribute to our team winning every single game including a come from behind win the Championship. So I wasn’t sure what to expect this year.

But the best thing about this year was getting to play with my regular Halo Baseball Team, an awesome group of guys that define the true meaning of friendship. I was a little nervous before the first game because the WS is the toughest tournament you can possibly play in and I didn’t want to let my friends down. I was also nervous because last year I only played defense about half the time, but this year our new Manager told me I would be the starting second baseman. So I committed myself to playing the best second base I possibly could, shook off the nerves, and took my position in the field.

We lost our first game but I thought I played well getting 2 hits, 2 RBI’s and scoring 2 runs. I also felt my defense was solid because I turned two double plays, made three ground ball plays and fielded a tough pop up behind first base. However, I did make one throwing error late in the game. The next morning as I entered the dugout I noticed my name was no longer in the starting defensive lineup. I hate to admit it but I was shocked. Our team made 5 errors that first game, so we all contributed to the loss, but I was the only defensive starter who was now sitting on the bench. Our Manager never spoke to me about it or explained his decision or said a word to me. He just took my name off the list. Unfortunately, I got angry about it and ended up striking out my next two at bats. And oh yeah…we lost that second game too.

That evening when I got back to my Hotel room I contacted a friend who played with me last year. I needed someone to talk to because I was totally bummed out. I told Danny what happened and he told me exactly what I needed to hear. He basically said, “You can’t control what someone else does but you can control how you respond to it. Don’t let the Manager bring you down or change who you are. Besides, one of your best attributes is your positive attitude and the way you help everyone around you become a better player with your praise and support. Whether you’re on the bench or in the field you need to focus on helping your teammates do well, because that’s what you do best!” 

Those words of advice really hit home with me and I realized that getting angry was only hurting me and the rest of the team. I immediately changed my attitude and went back to being upbeat and positive…and guess what…the Manager put me back in and we won the next 5 games in a row, making it all the way to the Semi-Final Game! I guess Danny was right, in the game of baseball or in the game of life, we can’t control what happens to us…but we can definitely control how we respond to it!
 


Baseball is the only place in life where a sacrifice is really appreciated.
~ Anonymous

 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sand Bags & Bumpy Roads

Have you ever had a really bad day? What about a really bad week! I am not complaining because I expect there to be some bumps in the road, but last week it seemed like I was driving down a bumpy dirt road filled with cavernous craters just waiting to bounce me to bits.

Early last week I was at work when I got a frightened phone call from my wife. She had our sliding glass doors open to the beach when all of a sudden a rogue wave engulfed our patio and blew through our living room, kitchen and hallway, filling our home with saltwater, sand, and seaweed. When I rushed home I couldn’t believe the damage. Our heavy beach furniture was tossed through 30’ through the air and our big propane BBQ was knocked 20’ across the patio. It would take me days to clean up the mess.

Two days later I had to rush my wife to the ER due to breathing issues. The doctors at Mission Hospital were great (she has had multiple lung surgeries there) and after giving her breathing treatments and medicine for bronchitis, we were back home the same day, exhausted but glad to be home.

Three days after that I was with a customer in Fountain Valley when I got another scary phone call. My wife had taken a severe turn for the worse and was being taken by ambulance to Mission Hospital. I drove so fast I actually beat the ambulance to the hospital. After several hours and great care from a skilled pulmonologist, I was able to take her home once again.

Throughout the week I was also dealing with some really difficult issues at work. So all things considered it was a pretty rough week and I found myself getting more than just a little depressed.

So when the weekend came I decided I needed some exercise. I would kill two birds with one stone by building a “Sand Bag Seawall” to protect our beach from further erosion (and our home from becoming a swimming pool). I bought 20 concrete bricks to form a base and about 200 sand bags to build the seawall and then went to work filling them one by one. As I filled each bag I thought about both the good things and the bad things going on in my life. It dawned on me that there were a lot more good things than bad things, especially in the area of family and friends. The more I shoveled the more I thought about how many times in my life I have faced a difficult situation, only to have a friend step up to help me out. I realized I am incredibly blessed to have so many great friends and a thought occurred to me, “Why not let each sand bag represent a friend in my life, by placing that person’s name on each bag.” What a cool way to remind myself that building friendships is one of the best ways to smooth out the bumps in life.
 

             I haven’t completed the project yet because I still have 50 more sand bags to fill.
But once I’m done I’m going to write a name on each sand bag as a tribute to my awesome friends!
 

A true friend never gets in your way
unless you happen to be going down.
~ Arnold Glasow
 

 
 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

No Phone Zone

We all live in a very busy and very loud electronic world and my life is no exception. The majority of the time I am at my office I’m either on my phone or have my head buried in my computer. I always have a ton of voice mails to listen to, emails to answer, quotes to prepare and reports to write. But I also have a steady stream of employees stopping by to ask questions and seek my help.

So it’s hard to suddenly stop working when somebody walks in. But I realized several years ago that if I don’t stop, focus and listen, I’m not going to be able to truly help anyone. Besides it’s a sign of respect and caring to put down your phone or turn away from the monitor and focus on the living breathing human being in front of you.

Speaking of phones, I checked with Siri and found out that 6.97 billion people currently own an electronic cell phone. How crazy is that! And I am pretty sure that 6.96 billion of them are constantly on their phone all day long. Cell phones are now a major fact of life and they have truly changed the way we live our lives in both good and bad ways. But I am hoping that we don’t forget how to communicate face to face, and how important that personal connection is. If that happens, heaven help us!

Speaking of heaven, maybe we need to look to God for an example. I am pretty sure that every time I speak with Him, He is focused and listening (and not on His new I-Phone 7 that Saint Peter bought Him). I know He listens to the painful plea of the elderly in the rest home, the gruff confessions of the prisoners in the OC Men’s Jail, the young mother with an infant in the ER at Mission Hospital, the alcoholic who steps off the street and into a church for the first time. To all of them…God listens. So maybe heaven is the one…and perhaps only…“No Phone Zone” left.

We shall one day navigate the air as we do the sea, 
rain will be made to pour out on the desert, 
bread shall be made from stones in the street, 
the man of a hundred years shall yet be in his prime, 
and men will take a little instrument from their waistcoat pocket 
and communicate with a friend a hundred miles away, 
without wires, as if face to face.
James Gillingham, circa 1901
.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Wrinkles

Last week I had the worst day of my life! Okay, maybe it wasn’t the absolute worst day ever, but it did cause me some pain and it forced me to stop and think about where I am in my life.

I stopped to make a sales call on a large contracting firm and see a friend of mine who works there named Benny. When I walked into the main lobby there was no receptionist, so I waited a while and then peaked down the hallway where I saw a young man walking by. I asked him if Benny was available and he said he would get him for me. When Benny came up to the lobby he was laughing and I asked him why. He said, “They told me some ‘Old Guy’ was out front looking for me”. I had to wait for him to stop laughing, which took a while, but finally I shook my head and said, “Wow, I guess I am an ‘Old Guy’ to some people, but I’ve never really thought about myself that way…until now.”

On the way home that night I felt really demoralized. Yes, I know that I’m 60 and I have a few wrinkles, so I definitely qualify as old. But inside my head I still feel like I’m 35. So when I went home that night and looked in the mirror I discovered by golly, that guy was right! I am physically old on the exterior. It was kind of shock but it got me thinking… Can there be anything good about getting older?

- When I was young I was always in hurry and not very patient with people. Now…I’m much more patient and forgiving.

- When I was young I wanted so many material things, cars, boats, houses. Now…I am happy renting a small house and only owning a single Ford truck.

- When I was young I had a temper and would let things get to me. Now…I am much calmer and can usually let things roll right off my back.

- When I was young I wanted to own my own company and be really successful. Now…I own my own company but it’s far more important to help my employees become successful.

- When I was young I was always asking God for His help. Now that I’m older…I am always thanking God for His help.

I am not sure I will ever achieve all the goals I set for myself as a young man. But if one of my main goals was to find happiness, then aging is something I need to be thankful for…because I might have wrinkles on the outside, but a lot of the wrinkles on the inside…have now disappeared!
Father Time
Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
~ Mark Twain

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Few Simple Words

Have you ever had a friend suddenly turn their back on you? It can be extremely painful and I know that because it has happened to me several times.

Just last month I had a close friend that I have known for many years write me a really harsh email accusing of something I didn’t do. I immediately tried to contact him to straighten out the situation but he wouldn’t take my call. I still feel really bad and totally confused because I don’t know why he would assume bad things about me without even talking to me, but I guess I just have to get over it and move on. I may never know what happened but I do know a true friend doesn’t do that to someone they care about. I will get over it eventually but I have to say…it sure felt bad.

Then last week a young man who worked for me for several years at my previous company stopped by my office. He was all smiles as he came in the front door and it was so great to see him. We gave each other a hug and a handshake and sat down to talk for a minute. He told me how much he missed working for me and how my faith in him had given him faith in himself. He said working for me felt like being part of a family where everyone truly cares about each other. He also reminded me of the time I visited him at a jobsite and gave him a handwritten note of encouragement. He remembered it really well because he still carries that note with him wherever he goes. When he showed it to me, it surprised me, and I have to say…it sure felt good.

Years ago, when I wrote a simple note of praise to a young man who worked for me, I did so because I felt he deserved it. I didn’t know then that it would make such a powerful impact on him. I also did not know that years later that very same note would come back and make a powerful impact on me as well. In fact, it made me realize that I shouldn’t waste time feeling bad about a friend who bailed out on me because a true friend doesn’t disappear when there’s a problem, they try hard to work things out because that’s what real friends do. Instead I am going to remember to focus my time, energy and words on doing good for others. I’m going to remember that a compliment or a few simple words of praise can have a huge impact when they are offered up with true sincerity.
Friendship isn’t a big thing — it’s a million little things.
~ Anonymous
 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Sporting Life

Looking back at my life I realize that because I never got to play sports as a kid, I have been trying to make up for it as a grown man! When I was young my Dad was in the Marine Corps and we kept moving all over the county, so it was hard to join a sports team. Then later on in life I got married and was busy raising four kids, so that left me very little recreational time as well. But now, as an “older man” I am having a blast every week. Besides playing baseball with the Halo Baseball Club for the past 12 years, I also work out regularly and have tried my hand at volleyball, tennis, golf and paddle boarding…and I absolutely love every sport I try.

I don’t know what it is that makes sporting events so fun but I am sure I am not alone in my love of sports, both playing and watching them. On Saturday last week I went to see a Pop Warner Football Game that my youngest grandson was playing in. The teams are made up of 5-7 year old boys and I was really impressed with what I saw. They played on a full size High School Field (Tesoro High) with regular football uniforms and pads. They had coaches, referees, statisticians and assistants (Moms) distributing Gatorade on the sidelines just like in real football. Not only that, they had a whole bunch of really cute 6 year old Cheerleaders pumping up the crowd in the bleachers. Quite an awesome site!

I know some people might think it’s crazy to involve kids as young as five in sports, especially football, but the more I think about it the more I see the potential benefits in it. I’ll give you an example. During the game, right after the whistle blew on a pass play, one of the smallest kids on the field walked over to a bigger kid who was still on the ground and kicked him right in the stomach. It was probably retaliation for something I didn’t see earlier, but the referee threw a flag, the team received a penalty and the tiny kid who did the kicking got a stern lecture from the coach about the rules of the game. I’m pretty sure the lecture included the following, “If you want to win the game, you have to play by the rules.”

And isn’t that the way it is in life as well? In life we find ourselves on all kinds of teams; our family team, our team of friends, our office team and maybe even a fun sports team. But no matter what kind of a team it is, we can’t win if we don’t play by the rules…and you’re never too young to learn that lesson!

Colin Hunnel, #75, Tesoro Titans (Age 5)

“And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not
crowned unless he competes according to the rules."
~ 2 Timothy 2:5

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Good Day

When you live at the beach you see a lot of wild and crazy things. We’ve seen dolphins jumping 10’ out of the water, whales spouting and breaching, hundreds of pelicans dive bombing for fish and recently a large shark swimming within 20’ of the shore. But we’ve also seen crazy things wash up onto the beach like baby seals and a glass bottle with a message in it. This week however takes the cake. In the middle of the night a huge 50’ wooden sailing vessel mysteriously crashed onto the beach with no one on board.

Isn’t there an old saying…“The best days of your life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell your boat.” I guess that’s true because boats can become a maintenance nightmare as they get old, but what about the day your boat becomes shipwrecked on a beach. That can’t be a good day!

When I saw that sailboat, beaten and battered and lying on its side in the sand, it reminded me of the story of the apostle Paul and all the hardships he endured. He was beaten, stoned, jailed multiple times, shipwrecked twice and one time drifted alone in the ocean for several days. I am sure he prayed for help every time and fortunately his prayers were answered. He survived and went on to write a large portion of the New Testament, but what impressed me most about Paul is how he never got upset about his troubles. Even as he was lying on the cold floor of a jail cell, shackled and beaten, he kept praising God. That can’t be a good day, but yet he believed that every day was a good day… and I think it was because he had such a strong, trusting relationship with God.

I admire Paul for his unrelenting faith and would love to be more like him. It’s a great goal, but to be honest, I’m not sure I can do it. I think back to 2003 when my wife was hospitalized with a very serious lung disorder. I remember praying over and over again for her to recover. Fortunately my prayers were answered and I immediately got down on my knees and thanked God profusely. But what if they weren’t? What if God said no? Would I still have been down my knees praising Him? That’s a tough question!

Even now I have friends who are struggling, one with cancer and one with a brain tumor. I find myself praying daily for my friends and I will keep on praying because I know the power of prayer, but more importantly I know the power of God. He gives us His grace and the promise of eternal life and I can’t think of anything better than that. And yet even beyond grace are all the other blessings we have during our short time on this earth. We have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to feel. We have the beauty of nature and the love that we share in our relationships, so that’s kind of like grace and goodies! Anyway, I guess from heaven’s perspective grace should be enough and I also guess that the day we go to heaven….well, that is definitely going to be a good day!
Call on God, but sail away from the rocks!
~ Indian Proverb

Monday, August 24, 2015

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Last week was kind of a long, tough week for me. I was super busy at work and had to start early every day, putting in long hours dealing with a lot of large projects, operational issues and employee reviews. By Thursday evening I was beat, so I told my wife I was only going to work a half day on Friday. She said that sounded great and that she would go in to the office with me that day.

When noon rolled around on Friday I was excited. I had it all worked out in my head. We would drive through a fast food place on the way home to save time. Then I would grab some beach towels, situate the umbrella just right, pour myself a cold ice tea and grab the latest edition of Sports Illustrated. It was going to be such a relaxing afternoon…and I was really looking forward to it.

But as soon as we got into the car and I asked her what she wanted for lunch, I knew I was in trouble. She had a slightly different vision, one that included lunch at her favorite little Italian restaurant, then shopping for plants and trees on the way home and me spending the rest of the day reworking our front planter area! In my head I was momentarily bummed but I didn’t want her to know it or feel bad. I had been telling her I would do that gardening work for a while, so I had to keep my word. We had a nice lunch at La Famiglia and then went to Home Depot and loaded up three full carts with plants, trees, flowers and top soil. It was nearly 3:00pm when we got home, but not too late to start digging. Our two front planter areas are fairly small but since I don’t have a wheelbarrow, I had to remove all the old rocks and top soil by hand with a 5-gallon bucket. It must have taken me about 35-40 trips just to clear the area before I could even start digging holes for the new plants. By the time the sun went down, I was so tired and so dirty I looked and felt just like that character Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

But something changed inside me as I did that gardening work. There’s something about working with the earth, digging down into it, giving new life to plants and trees and really getting your hands dirty that feels good. After I took a long hot shower, I went back out to the front of the house and admired the newly planted area. I realized that I felt a whole lot better having completed the gardening work, then I would have had I just been sitting under an umbrella…and it looked awesome! My wife actually is the one that deserves most of the credit though. She picked out the right plants and laid out the perfect design. All I did was put them in the earth. But then again…maybe we make good teammates that way!

And that got me thinking… I wonder if God felt really good when He was getting His hands dirty creating the earth and designing all of nature so perfectly. And…I wonder if God looks at us as His teammates on earth…because if so, we better not be afraid to get our hands dirty right along with Him!

 

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station,
through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
~ George Washington Carver


Monday, August 17, 2015

Life's Paragraph

Last week 23 of our family members spent an entire week together vacationing in Tahoe. And when I say together, I mean all of 23 us shared the same house. It was a beautiful four-story home that was secluded in a wooded section above South Lake Tahoe. The home had seven bedrooms and a huge game room with couches for the two teenage boys, so everyone had their own “private space” to get away from the chaos, but yet there really wasn’t a lot of chaos. Even though our group ranged from 2 year olds to 70 year olds we had a blast!  We took turns cooking dinners each night and we went fishing, hiking, golfing, gambling, para-sailing and swimming at the beach at Lake Tahoe.

Obviously I can’t say every moment was pure joy. For example things got pretty competitive at the family poker tournament mid-week, but I can say that taking a family vacation together is a great way to spend time with the people you love and re-ignite the reasons why you love each other. When you have to share a bathroom, wash dishes together, and take turns watching toddlers, you bond in a very special way that you’ll never forget. One of the most memorable moments was when my wife’s parents announced that they had a special gift for every family member. For over a year they had been working on-line with Ancestry.com to put together a family genealogy album that listed family members dating all the way back to the 1600’s. What caught my attention was that there was a brief paragraph, just a few sentences, describing the life of each person. And that got me thinking… What would my “life’s paragraph” say?

As I pondered that question I thought about the fact that each one of us has a unique destiny. Each one of us is given special gifts from God and probably a certain destiny as well, but how many of us have the determination and good sense to use our gifts wisely (hopefully to serve others) and how many of us are truly able to fulfill our unique destiny. I am reminded of the story about the baby eagle who fell out of his nest and ended up being raised by chickens. From the floor of the barnyard he spots an eagle in the clouds and his heart stirs. “I can do that!” he whispers quietly. The other chickens laugh, but he knows better. He knows he was born different… born with a unique destiny.

As I look back on my life I can see that God did give me some special gifts and for that I am very thankful to Him. While I am using those gifts…I can’t say for sure I have fulfilled my destiny yet because I recognize that I still have a lot of learning and growing to do. But I can say that I truly love the journey I am on. Hey, maybe that’s what my “life’s paragraph” will say. He wasn’t the brightest guy on earth…but he was smart enough to appreciate every moment of life’s journey!

Family Vacation Picture - Lake Tahoe 2015


When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have
 a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me."
~Erma Bombeck

 
 

 
 

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Re-Directed Duck

This weekend my wife and I saw an unusual site as we rode our bikes along Beach Road. Beach Road is a narrow single lined street with houses on one side facing the beach and railroad tracks on the other. There is a large block wall that separates the railroad tracks from our street and it runs the entire two mile stretch. It blocks people from going onto the railroad tracks and the only way out is to head north to the entrance gate. However there is a very small hole in the wall at the very far south end and sometimes animals come into the community through that tiny opening.

As we were riding our bikes we noticed a baby duck on our side of the wall, all by himself heading north. He was obviously lost and unfortunately heading north was only going to get him killed by incoming cars at the entrance gate. I figured he must have come through the hole in the wall at the south end and I guess I felt a certain responsibility to help him out. So I got in front of him on my bike and turned him around so he would head south. He got scared and started running and I have to say I have never seen a duck run so fast. His two tiny legs were scrambling at full speed and it was a pretty funny site to see. I followed him to make sure he made it all the way to the hole in the wall, where he disappeared into the inlet stream that washes out to sea.

I don’t know why that baby duck was all alone and I don’t know why he was on our street heading the wrong way. But I’m glad that I was able to turn him around and get him going on the right path. But doing that got me thinking….There are so many times in my life when I have been on the wrong path and yet looking back on it I can see that God always placed somebody in my life to inspire me, motivate me or lead me down the right path by their own example. Sometimes it was a friend, sometimes a family member, sometimes a pastor or a mentor and I can see now that they were there to re-direct me down the right path, without maybe even knowing they were doing it. I know it’s not possible for me thank everyone who has helped lead me down the right path during my lifetime, but at least if I try to do the same thing for other people (or ducks), I won’t be “ducking” my responsibility!

The Re-Directed Duck


"I must do something" always solves more problems than "Something must be done."
~ Anonymous  
   

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Passion Play

How would you feel if you had a huge passion for something, but weren’t able to do it? I know life isn’t ever supposed to be perfect, but I often find myself asking the question, “Why do bad things have to happen to good people?”

I have a close friend named Danny who is a long standing member of our Halo Baseball Club. We’ve been playing baseball together for years and Danny stands out as one of the most passionate baseball players you’ll ever meet. He is always loud, always enthusiastic, always happy and always positive. You can’t miss him when he’s playing in a game, but then again you can’t miss when he’s not playing in a game either, because even when he’s not playing…he will come to the games and sit in the bleachers and root loudly for every player on both teams.

The last time we played together was last October in Phoenix. It was an incredible moment in our baseball lives because our team won the 55+ MSBL World Championship. Danny was a huge reason for our success, not just because of his outstanding play but because his positive attitude carried all of us through some really tough situations. It seemed like we started every one of our nine games by falling behind, but Danny never acted like it was a problem. His passion and enthusiasm helped us to stay positive and come from behind to win every game. When I got a walk-off hit (with God’s help) to win the final championship game he lifted me in the air and carried me around the infield like I was a feather. But the actual truth was that a car accident a few months earlier was causing him tremendous back pain. We celebrated together for a long time that day, but nine months later he still hasn’t played another baseball game.

At my game last Sunday, there he was in the bleachers cheering loudly for me and everyone else. I couldn’t stop thinking how unfair it was that Danny had to sit in the bleachers while we got to play on the field. Suddenly I had a curious thought…If I was the one injured, would I travel an hour on the freeway to be at every single game just so I could cheer on my friends? I hate to say it, but probably not. Danny is just about the only guy I know who cares enough about the game and his friends to drive that far every Sunday even though he can’t even put on his uniform. Danny is truly one of the “good guys”, which brings me back to my original question…and perhaps an answer. When truly good people face difficult situations, their perseverance and character serve as an inspiration to the rest of us…and I’ve noticed something else…they never lose their passion!
 
Danny...making a play at Angel Stadium!

And not only that, we glory in tribulation,
knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
and perseverance character; and character, hope.
~ Romans 5: 3-4

 
 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Final Destination


I’ll never forget what she said…or the way she said it. It was more than 20 years ago and we had just started dating when she said to me, “You probably don’t realize it yet…but you are my destiny”. She said it with such serious conviction that all I could do was smile and nod my head. I guess she was right because we’ve been married now for more than 20 years and we’re still madly in love and totally inseparable. But what is the true and deeper meaning of the word destiny? Is it possible that many of the people we meet in our lives are destined to be there for a reason? I think it’s definitely possible.

Last weekend was the 4th of July so my wife and I went for a long bike ride down to Doheny Park. Along the way we passed a crippled, homeless lady who was lying on a tattered old blanket on the hot asphalt parking lot across from the public restrooms. We had seen her before over the past few weeks, but the stark contrast of her dire situation just yards away from hundreds of happy Fourth of July beachgoers was a real shock. There were tons of people surrounded by their friends and family with food cooking and frisbees flying and yet here was this one lonely, disabled person, obviously hungry and absolutely ignored.

My wife suggested we ride back home and put together a care package for her. My wife is so great. She actually took a nice Victoria’s Secret black and white leather bag and filled it with her own clothes, socks, sandals, and bathroom necessities. She then filled a large grocery bag with food and I chipped in a soft blanket and some bottled water. It was hard to carry all that stuff on our bikes but we eventually made it back. But when we got there all of her meager belongings were still lying out in the blazing heat of the parking lot, but the woman was gone. I searched the area and finally found her wheelchair on the back side of the restrooms. Eventually she came out and I took a moment to speak to her and tell her that my wife and I left some “things” for her at her “spot”. She thanked me and seemed to smile a little. So I got braver and asked her for her name. She said, “Hill Jilly”. Our conversation didn’t last long and it was obvious she had some mental health issues, but her smile said it all…somebody cares! I know we didn’t make a lasting change in that poor woman’s life, but on that particular day, we did make a difference.

Yesterday my wife and I went jogging towards Doheny Park again but my wife wasn’t feeling good so she stopped short. She asked me to go on without her and check to see if Hill Jilly was doing okay. As I rounded the building I spotted her sitting on a concrete bench all by herself staring out at the ocean. I didn’t think she would remember me, but when I greeted her with a boisterous, “Hello Hill Jilly. How are ya?”, she lit up with a huge smile. We spoke briefly and I headed back but I couldn’t shake the thought that kept going through my head. Maybe if we realize that everyone we meet is part of our “destiny” then maybe it will help us to reach our final…heavenly…destination!
 
Hill Jilly's Parking Lot Spot

There's nowhere you can be...that isn't where you're meant to be.
~ John Lennon