Carrying Life’s Baggage

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People tend to make a big deal out of decisions. Is it the decisions themselves that are difficult, or rather consequences of those decisions that are hard to live with? Decisions are like the baggage of life that we carry around, while consequences are the contents inside those bags. We tend to spend more time worrying about what our bags look like on the outside. Meanwhile, inside those bags are things we wish we never brought along on this journey of life.

It is easy to make decisions when we do not understand the consequences that follow. Ignorance is blind, and often leads to foolish outcomes. Some psychologists have said that reasoning is established over time, still being formed in young people well into their twenties. Without this reasoning, young adults fall prey to poor decisions because they do not know the outcomes, some of which may last an entire lifetime.

At first, it does not seem fair that a person would have to pay for an unwise decision for the rest of their lives. The lack of fairness does not change the fact that decisions will always carry consequences, good or bad. The interesting part is that when we do not have the foresight to know what our consequences will be, we can always ask someone who might know. The trick is the handoff between those who have the knowledge and wisdom, and those who do not.

It is a humbling experience to admit when we do not know. But when we can ask for help, it can steer us clear of many poor decisions in life. It is not the decisions we should be mindful of as much as it is the consequences. Working to understand the consequences makes it easier upfront to decide, especially when we cannot live with certain outcomes. It is when we can avoid those outcomes and make the best decisions for our lives today that we will enjoy carrying life’s baggage.

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The Curse of Won’t

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I cannot imagine that anyone wants to be a flop in life. Instead, most of us would like to achieve some level of success. Maybe not climbing the highest peaks, but it is definitely not falling into the lowest depths. Yet the moment we set out to do something big with our lives, we are met face to face with challenges. These obstacles are often due to external forces that are at work against us. We must then figure out a way to get around or over them.

How much resistance comes from within though? If you are anything like me, you have lived with the curse of won’t. The smallest things can prevent us from accomplishing worthy endeavors, not because we cannot, but because we will not. Circumstances may work tirelessly to derail us, but that is no guarantee that they actually will stop us. Most of what happens next depends on us.

I remember playing flag football in grade school. As small of a memory as it is, it has remained all these years later because of its powerful message. A guy in my gym class was a force to be reckoned with. Although shorter than others on the field, he did not let that affect his performance in the game. He was the only one on the field who ran straight toward his opponents. Even when he had the ball, rather than maneuver around people, he simply charged straight at them. It did not take long to realize, that guy took the game to a whole other level.

Fortunately, there are a select few people who are the trailblazers of life. They do things most others will not do. They will not be stopped by circumstances, nor the enemy of self. They demonstrate the possibility of what we could achieve if only we stepped out in faith. However, it cannot be an occasional event. We must be consistent in our daily routine, fighting the curse of won’t. That is the only way we can ever overcome it.

When we choose to act, it breaks loose the chains of this curse. There are many things that we could do today, if only we stopped right now and did them. If we made the choice each day to continue, remarkable things could happen. Instead of shrugging our shoulders, passively dismissing any form of action, we could awaken from our slumber and declare something new for a change. I will!

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Failure to Communicate

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When we fight, we fail to communicate. We think we are right, so we argue our point to the other person. We genuinely think we know what is true, but we do not always know, especially when it comes to literally everything. However, God knows all. Maybe it is time to stop talking, start praying, and let God sort out the other person’s behavior.

I saw something I had written down long ago, stressing all day about someone who was giving me a tough time. A book popped up out of nowhere that said give it to God. I wanted to throw my phone across the room. Are you kidding me, how could I? This was too important. If I got this wrong, what would happen to me? In my mind, it was if God was not completely aware of what was going on. How wrong could that be?

When we are thoroughly convinced of something, it is hard to receive any more input on the subject. Our brains tend to override our thinking and flush out everything that does not sit well with our beliefs. Obviously, those idiots did not hear the valuable words offered during the argument, so we feel the urgent need to express them much louder. Why else would they not hear them? We feel obligated to make sure they fully understand our point of view.

The trouble is, as much as we think we know how to communicate, we do not. This is why we need an advocate; someone who knows the other person better than we do and even better than they know themselves. It is God who knows their thoughts and hearts; plus, yours also. What better way to bridge the gap of understanding between two people, especially those in conflict with each other.

Do all that you can up to a certain point, at which the hardest part becomes letting go of the rest and trusting God to bridge the gap.

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What’s Pulling at you?

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When I was growing up, there was a game we used to have so much fun playing called tug of war, where two teams pulled on the same rope but in opposite directions. To make it challenging, we tried to even up each side with similar capabilities. That is when the tug of war started. Both sides pulled with all their might, trying to pull the other team forward, across the middle.

On occasion, there would be a bystander who watched. I remember whenever it was someone stronger who came along and saw the struggle to win. Everyone desperately wanted that person on their team and the pleading began. We knew if they suddenly joined our side, it would be over in seconds, and we would be victorious. Sure enough, the additional pull from the team who got them was the game changer that finished the battle. Those on the opposing side tasted defeat.

The struggle between such opposing forces reminds me of the cartoons I watched as a child. Sometimes they showed an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Both sides had arguments that were equally appealing to the character stuck in the middle between them. Whichever side pulls hardest wins; that is the nature of this game. It does not matter if one side is strong if the other side is stronger. When the forces are similar in strength, the battle lasts until one side grows weary and decides to let go of the rope. Sometimes the battle is short lived, while in others it can last longer than we ever thought possible.

In many cases, the outcome may have a lot to do with how long we entertain the thoughts from these opposing forces. Generally speaking, we know right from wrong. However, it is in the questioning of things that we create a gray area that blurs our focus. We start reasoning in our minds, sifting through our thoughts of right and wrong. Although sometimes unaware, we drift into the gray area, leaving black and white areas far behind.

It is here that we dream up a multitude of excuses, pushing the human mind to the furthest extents of its imagination until we reach conclusions we never dreamed of. Our minds work to convince our consciences that we are justified in our action or behavior, particularly when someone wronged us first.

Like it or not, we will always face struggles. When both sides of the tug of war are at a standstill, the side that wins will always be the one that gets the extra pull. If you are struggling today, on which side will you allow that extra force to join?

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Capture the Memory

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Before smart phones, hardly anyone lugged around a camera. The only ones who seemingly did were the tourist type who stood out to the locals like a sore thumb. Since phones with cameras became popular, everywhere you look is a person taking pictures or recording videos now. Some capture and share, while others like me store them away for another day.

There are some people on social media who are irritated with the sight of your posted pics. Many will not care what you ate, especially if they are eating a plain bologna and cheese sandwich while you chomp down on delicious cuisine. If you are on vacation, doing something amazing while the rest of us work, what do you think runs through our heads? If you are a cubicle warrior like me, you undoubtedly wish you could escape the mouse life, with cheese in hand, and run off into the sunset to enjoy your reward.

In spite of your children meaning the world to you, others may not see them the way you do. But who cares? Capture memories when they happen and safely share them with whomever you choose. Regardless which choice you make, one important thing to remember is to not just spend all the precious moments behind a camera. Once in a while, put the camera away and live in the moment. Most scenes are not nearly as breathtaking on photo as they are when viewed in person.

First, take some pictures and videos, and then fully experience that once in a lifetime moment. Memories are meant to be enjoyed now and forever, so go experience them!

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Free Will

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The power to do something different at any given time; free will. Humankind is the only creature that can wake up without a plan. Chances are you have met someone who has lived this philosophy like it was actually a good strategy. Everything else around us has a plan. Birds know exactly what to do when they wake up. Trees stretch toward the sky. Grass strives to grow a little taller. Ants wake up and start busily working.

If you desire for things to change, then you must change them. You are one of the only beings that actually can create change. Do not waste an opportunity to change your life for the better. Remember, eventually minor changes lead to major ones. The important thing is to be consistent, day in, day out. You might think you have to make a giant leap to get to your destination, but a series of small steps will get you there also.

Be patient because it might take time for change to occur. During this moment of waiting, do not quit. It is tempting to give up and go back to the way things used to be. This is especially true if of things are not going your way. After you did what you could do, then wait until more action is required on your part. Otherwise, what is left to do? Most people think worrying will help, but when you find a way it helps, please let me know.

Animals, bugs, and plants have a plan every day, and always know what to do and when to do it. They do not have a choice. It is humans who have free will and the power to change one or lots of things. Many people end up lost because they do not use this gift properly. The use of free will can be harmful when used in a wrong way, so be sure your motives are pure. Your will can be used to help others live a better life or it can make life miserable for them. Whether you believe in it or not, at least consider the idea that one day you will be held accountable for all the things you did or did not do. This adds a strong perspective and may cause you to think differently in the future about how you use your free will. 

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Living by Strings

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Do you like to pull on others’ strings? When you try to control the decisions of other adults it creates a huge source of stress, not only in their lives but yours too. People are naturally selective and prefer their decisions over yours. Can you believe that? I know, absurd, right? But I find this out every time someone else does not do things my way.

While they swim in a sea of regret over their foolish decision, a self-righteous thought comes to mind. They followed their bonehead plan but perhaps they would not be in this mess if they had listened to my plan for them. Then God, with superior quality mental video, reminds me of the stupid things I did in my life. After each humbling experience, I am brought to the conclusion to just keep my mouth shut. None of us really knows what is best for ourselves, let alone the business of others.

I have learned opinions are not always wanted! I seldom ask others for advice and now trust God to help me make my decisions. I believe that the best place to get advice is to humble yourself and pray to God for it. Teachers teach students to think and not just to memorize. One day, the situation may be different, and they will have to figure it out for themselves based on what they were taught.

For most of my life, I fumbled along making countless decisions without praying. I am thoroughly convinced that a great deal of my pain and suffering has been a direct result of me seeking my own way. Hindsight is the clearest vision possible, but it comes at an excessive cost. Sometimes nothing can be done to untangle the past; it is what it is. But every decision moving forward can be in the right direction. I believe when a person earnestly seeks God to help them with their decisions, that they will receive guidance.

Let go of the stress of pulling someone else’s strings. Encouragement is good, but if they decide not to do it your way, do not lose your peace by holding on to something that needs to be let go of. Life is too precious to waste it being upset over things that do not really matter. Learn to let God guide you on your journey through life. When I finally grasped this concept, it made a world of difference in my life and now I hope to share this joy with anyone who will read and practice it so they too may experience it.

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Win or Lose, Together

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Win or lose, the whole team experiences it together. When a team wins, each player might think about how much effort they individually put into it. Their ego wants to cry out, “I did it!” But in reality, they never did it alone. Absolutely there are gifted people out there. But talent alone will not win the game; teamwork does.

When the game is about to end, that final pass, field goal, homerun, whatever method of scoring all could shift the score to a win. But if they miss it for any reason, we tend to blame the person who missed as if it were completely their fault. Had the team itself played a little better, perhaps the remaining seconds of the game would not have put so much pressure on one individual.

Similarly, God placed support systems in our lives to help us win at life. These people give us emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual support. They can act as mentors guiding us to better decisions. But as important as winning is, we must recognize that we also lose together too. If you are a parent, when your child loses, you feel pain as well. If your spouse loses, you will feel their pain. So, if you happen to lose, do not run away from your support system, your team.

Together we must share each other’s victories and defeats. When we win, we must not boast of our efforts, but of the commitment of our team. When we lose, we must all accept the blame and learn from our mistakes. We must encourage and challenge one another. Win or lose, let’s do it together!

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Provoked to Awaken

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Our enemies provoke us. Something in them calls out to something in us. We may not even realize it, but at the moment of trial, something inside awakens. There is only so much we tolerate. At first it is just uncomfortable but quickly moves to fearful. We want to flee the moment, but our adversary will not remove their foot. We start to squirm, trying to free ourselves but they press down harder. How long does an enemy’s foot have to stay on our neck before we decide enough is enough?

Something happens when the pain inside turns to anger at the injustice. Everything inside of us suddenly gets stirred up. Our anger pushes through some barrier, beyond fear and pain. We decide to give them a strong reason why they never should have put it there in the first place! Where did that come from, we suddenly wonder afterward.

Whatever rattled your cage now has a reason to be intimidated. Before, they were messing with the little you, the one that ignores the threats and confrontations. Now they are face to face with a giant that dwells inside you, one who will not stand for the injustice. They take a few steps back and now shy away from you. After all, nobody wants to mess with crazy. This may sound a lot like a physical encounter here, like in the case of a bully, but that is not what is being referred to here.

Life throws many punches and hits us in unexpected ways. While some can be avoided, no one can escape them all. Adversity has many faces. There have been so many challenges in my life when I thought I could not go on and simply could not see my way through something. Looking back, the road to where I am now was filled with numerous, seemingly insurmountable obstacles. However, in hindsight, they no longer look as big as they once did.

When something new and intimating comes knocking on your door, of course use good judgment, but also know there is something inside that will answer the call and declare when enough is enough.

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God Does it for me

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Something my dad taught me to do many years ago was to start every day with prayer. Hearing and practicing are distinctly different though. Throughout the years he continued to emphasize the importance of alone time with God and how it helps us deal with whatever comes up during that day. I have lived long enough to know the truth of that statement and cannot recall the number of days wondering how I would make it through. But by grace, I made it through each one.

In recent months, I realized once again that I simply have too much on my mind. My career is challenging and with it, the stress comes often. Solving problems is part of the process but it is not something easily turned off. I see problems everywhere and ponder solutions to most of them. Add to that, the constant need to be connected and stay up to date with the latest on everything. It feels like a mouse spinning on a wheel, moving with great haste but getting nowhere.

Well, I finally took my dad’s advice. Shortly after waking up, I pray over the day, family, and friends, and give the day over to God. At times I listen to short clips of sermons or positive messages to let the first thing heard be something good. On my drive to work, I often witness the most gorgeous sunrises, especially a new one by a lake on the way. The vast array of colors is truly remarkable and nearly takes my breath away each time.

On break, I often walk around and take in rays of sunshine. I gaze up into the clouds and out over the blue sky. The birds soar freely in the air and squirrels chase each other around in the trees. Not every day appears beautiful, and on those I watch the rain fall tirelessly, as if there were no end. Yet eventually, the blue-sky returns, and the chirping of the birds resumes.

Far from the city lights when the day ends, the blue sky is hidden by the night. Up in the sky, I am witness to hundreds, maybe thousands of stars that fill the dark country sky. Another day has come and gone. I used to pray only shopping list prayers, as if God only existed to answer all my requests. While I do still pray like this at times, I came to appreciate more, simply by taking notice.

In the busyness of life, the rush tries to take away the little moments of peace. The loudness of everything that cries for my attention tries to drown out the softness of God’s voice. Matters of urgency will always be there but not all are as important as they first seem to be. One of my favorite scripture verses in troubled times is Psalms 46:10. When I am still, I notice more. Over the years, it has become something of immense value to me.

Some days in my communion with God, I express my gratitude for some of these things mentioned. Doing so seems to multiply the moments I have like this, to take in all the beauty that surrounds me. I cannot help but think to myself, God does it all for me. Not because there is anything special about me. Not because I have done everything right. No, simply because I pay attention, not to all that is wrong with the world but all that is right. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. I believe God does it all for me but would for you too.

Find a way to pull gratitude out from a mixed-up life; it will change the way you see things.

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