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Monday, April 24, 2017

Absolution - Absolutely!

I am going to do something really hard right now… which is to make a confession. I confess that sometimes I get angry and lose my temper. That’s a hard thing to admit because I’m normally a very positive person with a great outlook on life who wakes up happy every day. So I don’t lose my temper very often. But the fact that I do get angry sometimes and raise my voice towards someone, is totally unacceptable. I know we are all human and make mistakes and everyone needs to vent once in a while, but I don’t want to keep making the mistake of getting angry at another person, especially a loved one. So what can I do about it?

As I read that last sentence above, a thought occurred to me. We are all human - so therefore we all make mistakes – so maybe that’s an important point to consider! About two weeks ago someone got angry at me in a parking lot when I made a simple mistake. I didn’t do anything wrong on purpose, I simply got distracted and caused the other person a minor problem. I felt bad when I got yelled at, but the truth is there’s a huge difference between making an honest mistake and purposely doing something wrong.

Looking back, I can see that I myself have also gotten angry at someone when quite often it was probably just an honest mistake on their part. At the time, I let my emotions get the better of me. If I would have taken time to step back and given them a chance to explain, I would have seen that there was no reason for anger. Mistakes are just that, mistakes, and not an indication of bad intent. However, if someone does try to hurt you on purpose, that’s a whole different story. I remember teaching my children as they were growing up, don’t judge others unless you want to be judged and never throw the first punch. But if someone throws a punch at you or your friend, you better stand up to them and do something about it because we have an obligation to protect ourselves and the other innocent people around us.

Wait! As I re-read that last sentence, another thought came to me. If I truly am a man of faith then I have an obligation to protect the innocent… even if it means protecting them from my own anger when they make an honest mistake. Now that’s two awesome ideas! I need to remember that people are human and I need to remember that they need our protection. Hey…. Maybe an old dog can still learn something new!

Footnote: Easter Sunday, April 16th, happened to be my 62nd birthday. Surrounded by my crazy, fun-loving, wonderful family as we vacationed at a mountain-top home in Lake Arrowhead, I was reminded how they are so very, very precious to me. So, on Monday, April 17th, I got down on my knees and made a vow to God to never raise my voice in anger again. Will it be a hard vow to keep? Yes. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely!

Easter Bunnies spotted at Lake Arrowhead 
Before you give someone a piece of your mind, 
make sure you can get by with what you have left.
~ Anonymous

Monday, April 10, 2017

Level C

I saw a something last week that sparked my imagination. On Friday afternoon as I left work, the freeway was totally backed up (what a surprise), so I decided to take side streets through Laguna Niguel. As I traveled down Alicia Parkway I noticed small groups of runners. One group included two girls who were wearing frilly purple skirts over their running shorts, and in fact, a lot of the runners were wearing strange costumes.

It was decent weather when I got home, so my wife and I decided to go for a bike ride. As we neared the public beach parking lot, we noticed a large section coned off that was jammed with people, including a dozen white “Ragnar Vans” decorated on the outside with words of encouragement. One Ragnar Van even had a frilly purple skirt attached to its rear bumper. This was apparently a checkpoint because we could see runners pouring in and tons of people stationed there to cheer them on. Sure enough, as we took in the sites, I noticed the frilly purple skirt group cruising in covered in sweat but also covered with huge smiles.

When we got home we did some research and found out this was a “Ragnar Relay Race”. Ragnar events are long distance, team, overnight running relays that take place in some of the most beautiful places in the world. According to their website, teams come together to conquer a course over a 24-hour non-stop period where they push their limits, on little amounts of sleep, with friends, and a community of runners by their side. Most teams are raising money for their own particular charity of choice so that provides the extra motivation needed to push through the pain. This particular race was nearly 200 miles long, stretching from Huntington Beach to San Diego, which is why it passed through our little piece of paradise.

Seeing all those people putting themselves through torture for the good of others got me thinking.
  • When we are children everything we need is given to us free of charge. If we need food, shelter or clothing, Mom and Dad pretty much take care of it. Let’s call that Level A.
  • Then when we become adults we realize that we, ourselves, have to work hard for everything we want and need because nobody is going to do it for us. Let’s call that Level B.
  • But some people take their lives to Level C. (Maybe C stands for Charity.) Level C is where a person is willing to struggle and sacrifice for the good of others. Not everyone can get to Level C or even wants to get there because it’s so painful and draining. But it’s a great concept that’s based on sacrifice, service and sharing. In fact, I think it’s probably a concept that goes back over thousands of years. Hey, maybe C stands for Christ!
The "Sparkles" Team in the Ragnar Relay So Cal Event 4-7-17

Down in their hearts, wise men know this truth: 
the only way to help yourself is to help others.
~ Elbert Hubbard

Monday, April 3, 2017

Criticism and Commitment

Seven years ago, I made a commitment to try to write an inspirational message every week. My goal was to remind people about the important things in life like faith, family, honesty, and integrity, but I also hoped I would be able use my faith and life experiences to draw people nearer to God. I look at it as one small way of giving back for all the blessings I’ve received in my life. However, it can be very difficult to come up with a good story every week and sometimes I struggle. Even worse, sometimes I’ll receive harsh criticism about my messages that makes me want to quit. But when I make a commitment, it’s like giving my word, so I do my best to stick to it.

Speaking of commitments, on Wednesday my wife and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. I took the day off from work to spend it with her (because I know how important spending time together is to her) and she surprised me in a very special way. She asked me to go for a walk up to the top of Palisades Hill, which has a towering view of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. It’s a pretty long walk but I wasn’t about to object. As we approached the top of Palisades Hill we came to a gazebo on a small look-out point where tourists can view the ocean. I stopped before we got there because a man was already standing there enjoying the view. She laughed and said that’s not just some man, that’s our friend Don (who is a pastor) and if it’s okay with you I would like to renew our vows today with this beautiful view that overlooks our little beach house by the ocean.

It was a wonderful surprise that I will never forget. Don even brought champagne and we toasted our friendship as well as our marriage. Since Don knows us so well and knows how committed we are to each other, he brought some special vows that he wrote for us that were perfect. Some commitments are hard to keep but I have to say my commitment to love, honor and cherish my wife is the easiest commitment I have ever made.

So this message is about making commitments and sticking to them. Whether it’s your marriage vows, your responsibilities at work, or writing a Monday Message, a commitment is a promise, a promise do your best each and every day. If you stick to it, you will become a towering example to all those around you… that no amount of harsh criticism can ever tear down!
View of the Ocean from the top of Palisades Hill

Commitment is a big part of what I am and what I believe. 
How committed are you to winning? 
How committed are you to being a good friend? 
To being trustworthy? To being successful? 
How committed are you to being a good father, teammate, role model? 
There's that moment every morning when you look in the 
mirror and ask, “Are you committed, or are you not? 
 ~ Lebron James