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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Good Riddance!

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Yesterday I reflected over the year 2020. It’s amazing how the year started off so well. I made many goals and for the first few months, I was able to achieve them daily. I was crushing it and it felt awesome. But then an unwelcome guest came onto the world stage and life as we knew it completely changed. It is a broken record that everyone is tired of hearing about. We just want our life back.

For me, the second half of the year had something great that happened, for which I am grateful to say the least. However, as the year went on, with the amount of bad news I felt incredibly weighed down. On top of that, disappointment in the remaining months of the year continued to pile on. Some people I thought I could be counted on, could not. Some things did not go my way. The list goes on.

In my time of reflection, I wondered what I was thinking the year before around the same time. I pulled up the draft of a post I wrote December 30, 2019 and published on my blog a week later. I read through it and thought about how much it pertained to me, as if it were specifically written just for me at this stage of my life. If you would like to read it, here is a link, Without realizing it, I lost sight of my strategy last year. When that happened, other things crept in, one specifically.

There is something that I’ve wanted for a long time now. The more that time passes without it, I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable with not getting it. I felt like I could not be genuinely happy unless I got it, abandoning thought of everything else that I had. It was the one area I struggled with in my walk of faith. I’ve been able to believe God for nearly everything, all but this one thing. I thought I had it but, in the end, it was lost. My faith in this area felt like the stack of wooden blocks, with each one being removed by a bad experience as I waited for it all to come crashing down.

So, what happened? I finally realized that this one area had a major impact on me emotionally. As with so many things, I found myself being troubled by it on a regular basis, which affected every area of my life. Why would I allow such a thing to control me so? Great question. It took over without me even realizing it. Fortunately, I got a glimpse of it for what it is and now I have a chance to do something about it. The year ended last night, and now the new year brought a chance to say goodbye. That’s the amazing thing about a fresh start. It gives us a chance to take what is good with us into the new year. At the same time, it gives us a chance to get rid of that which we choose to leave behind. As for me, I am tired of living the way I was in the latter part of 2020. I am tired of being afraid, worried, sad, and at times broken. It’s time to say good riddance to that garbage and welcome something far better in its place. I hope you will join in. I pray the best for you all in 2021. Let’s do our part to make it happen!

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Goals Really Work, part 1

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Set goals! All our lives we’ve been told to set goals, yet no one bothers! Does anyone else wonder why that is? I know why I have not in the past. It takes discipline and effort to plan your life in a diligent manner. There were more compelling reasons not to set goals. Personally speaking, it is easier to set on the couch after a long day of hard work. We deserve a break, right? Most of us can come up with any number of excuses that fit our lives perfectly; reasons not to strategize how to make our lives better.

If you are like I was, you find yourself at a crossroads numerous times. There are indicators that help you know when you are at one. For me, I found myself repeatedly saying how I should do something. It got to the point where I drove people around me crazy talking about all that things I was going to do. Although I received encouragement, I could feel a storm brewing. One day I realized, maybe I should shut up and do something, rather than always talking about what I should do. That’s when I realized I needed to turn my mental “should-do list” into written goals.

If you’ve never set goals, I recommend looking up SMART goals before you begin. This method creates an excellent framework to build your goals in a way in which they will benefit you the most. I was previously exposed to these types of goals in the business world, so I already had experience setting goals like these for years. For whatever reason, I chose to ignore applying this same practice to my personal life.

During the last week of the year, I make it a point to reflect over the entire year. That part has never been a struggle for me. Like most people, I would get motivated and start thinking about setting new goals. It’s easy to get fired up when a new year is coming. We convince ourselves that we will do it right this time. If we already screwed up this year, we are tempted to wait to start until the new year. The whole idea of waiting is totally illogical and irrational! Start now!

The whole reason for setting goals is because our lives are not where we want them to be. After some deep reflection, all it takes is some strategizing and then putting a new plan into action. There have been so many times in my history when I did not set any goals at all. When this happened, I never did anything consistently to bring about a better life. Through the years, I’ve set numerous goals that soon drifted off in a matter of time and never amounted to anything worthwhile. At the end of 2019, I began my deep reflection again. This time, I came up with a better plan. For the past four months, I found out an exciting fact. Goals make me a doer! I’ll tell you more about my experience in part 2.

The Right One

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It is fascinating to me, as I believe it, how God sends people into our lives. It could be said they are sent at just the right time. However, even when it seems like it is the wrong time, it could turn out to be the right time. Years ago, I met a young man in his mid-twenties at my job. For his age, I was not shocked to see the behavior and hear of the things he was doing.

At the time, I had not attended church for a number of years. After my older brother passed away about five years prior, I wrestled with many questions. Even though I was not a churchgoer, I still considered myself to be a Christian. Based on some of my decisions and how I behaved at certain times, one may not have guessed it. But whenever the topic came up, I tried not to deny my faith. Maybe at that stage of my life, I ran from God. All I can say for sure, is that I was not running toward him.

The young man and I became good friends and shared similar interests. One day, a shocking turn of events happened in his life when he found out he was going to be a father. Over the next two years, I watched his life transform before my eyes. I won’t say what all happened, but it was remarkable. In that time, he began seeking God with a passion. That passion, to some, would have been considered extreme. Eventually, his enthusiasm bubbled over into my life and I wondered why he was so excited all the time. He knew that I was a Christian and our talks shifted toward the spiritual side of life. Since I was older and a Christian for as long as I could remember, maybe he thought I had answers.

He spent roughly six months discussing scriptures with me and passing notes with Bible verses scribbled on them. At the time, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was not looking at most of them. Every once in a while, I would take a quick peek though. He shared some materials that were available online for free. One story was from a book that took me months to get through because I could only do so in rather large chunks but spread out over time. The strangest thing happened. After stopping, each time I started up again days to months later, I was in a different place in my life that corresponded in the book. If I had rushed through the whole thing right away, it would not have had the same impact on me. The timing, in other words, was perfect. Words I desperately craved to hear jumped out at me, not just on one occasion but many.

My heart told me to go back and look through some of the other materials my friend had referred me to. At the time, free was the only price I could pay for something. Anything available for free is often deemed less valuable. However, there are times when nothing could be further from the truth. I remember downloading a series from a pastor who put all his material online at no charge. People argue until they are blue in the face over what preachers say and do. What I know for sure, is something in those messages reached out to me. The material wetted my appetize like salad and breadsticks, and I was ready for more.

Friendships can come and go throughout life because it is easy to lose touch. I have to admit though, since that point in time, my life has never been the same. For me, after years of struggling and wrestling with my thoughts, God started to do a new thing in my heart. To think, it all started when he sent the right one into my life.

Carry All That?

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When I was a teenager, my father regularly took my brother and I hunting in the fall. My brother was really into it. I, on the other hand, was in it for the trip. We even had a best friend that tagged along with us on occasion. One time when we were all together, my dad took a picture to capture the memory. In the picture, the most noticeable thing was the large blue tarp tied between several trees to keep rain from falling on us. Underneath the tarp, he had a small setup in which he made himself coffee. The flame came from one of those small cans with flammable contents. A plus for us, was that he also brought something to cook chicken noodle soup in. Later in the day, we also had sandwiches and snacks. Add to all that, I asked him to bring a gallon of water to make sure we never ran out.

So there my dad was, weighed down like a pack mule on a distant voyage. After “base camp” was painstakingly set up, it looked like a sporting goods store in the middle of the forest. I know he did it out of love for his boys though. I remember when another friend of the family joined us. At the time, he was the youth pastor at my church. When our friend saw the backpack my dad had packed, he asked my dad a question. Are you really going to carry all that?

It was a funny memory I’ve held on to ever since. It can also be a fascinating question when reflected upon. When visually seeing someone carry a large backpack filled to the brim, we see it as a tremendous burden to carry on their back. But what about some of the burdens carried around that no one sees? Since they are not seen, most often these loads are ignored. Before realizing it, they can be carried for years.

Think about the types of burdens carried. Parents make sure their children have enough food to eat and other basic necessities. These are a burden of duty, fulfilling an obligation for bringing life into this world. However, there are other burdens, not born out of duty but of our own making. Some things we choose to carry on our backs that we have no business carrying. Rather than letting go, we hold tightly to these burdens as if they brought us a reward.

The past, for example, is one of the biggest burdens held on to. For some, they can’t get past what someone did to them and are unable to forgive them. For others, it is something they did to themselves, and they are unwilling to forgive themselves. The point of fascination lies in what we make ourselves carry around, even without realizing it. Others tell us to let go. We may know the right thing to do is let go, yet we cling to the wrong stuff anyway. Think hard about the unnecessary burdens you may be carrying around in life and answer a question. Are you really going to carry all that?

The Right Time

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If you are kind to someone, you may never know the effect it has. It is possible that it may have no impact whatsoever. But to be fair, one must take into consideration that it may be the exact thing needed to help another person change direction. At these turning points, which occur at a specific time and location, lives begin to change for the better. It has to start somewhere.

We often think our impact has to be some huge thing that totally alters the course of human history in order for it to make a difference. We expect to have great revelation come to us with which we can share. How about simplifying it? If it were just you by yourself, it might take something of grand proportions to make a difference. But you are not alone. The world is filled with many compassionate people.

When our efforts interlock with one another, it can bring a sweeping change over our communities. The trick is, it does require that enough people work harmoniously together. When they do, it will generate a much bigger impact. It can start with something as easy as a smile. The one who receives the smile may hold the door open for someone. The generosity continues to trickle down through multiple channels and becomes widespread. Even though negativity spreads quickly, so can positivity.

For all this to work, it requires us to be in the right place at the right time. These are times when we must be the thing that prompts a turn in another person’s life, for the better. The trick is you won’t know where the right place is, nor when the right time is. That’s why the right place is right where you are now and the right time, is all the time!

Jeff v3.0

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Recently, I found myself reminiscing about times past. If you ever used a rotary phone, you undoubtedly remember the frustration of your mistake at the end if you selected the wrong number. Start over! The first cell phone I saw belonged to my grandmother, although I’m not sure if it would be more appropriate to call it a car phone. It looked more like a house phone, but sure enough, it felt like magic making a call from the car. Going back further, I remember learning DOS and using computers as a child. By the time I got involved, it had gone from what I remember as 16K of RAM to the lightning speed of 256K. I remember when my parents got a computer with 256K; it made me feel like a rock star.

The graphics of my PC games were very clunky, resembling much of the other gaming technology available in the 80’s. Nonetheless, I was completely thrilled with the experience. When you’ve never seen or experienced anything like it on screen, it’s quite a thrill to see. I know it was similar to when the games came out with cameras that observed our movements. There are now also games with controllers that have sensors in them that allow the game to know our movements. It is almost like the game becomes a part of our being. When we do things like pressing buttons or moving a certain way, the game reacts accordingly and displays the results for us to see on.

Anyway, as the years progressed, the 5-1/4” floppy drives disappeared. Right before the 3-1/2” disappeared, I tried a racing game I found from my earlier stash of games. On the newer PC, it operated with crazy speed. My reflexes were not quick enough to react to the hundredth of a second I had to make a turn. After crashing twenty times in a matter of seconds, I realized life progressed into a new world where things could not operate the way they once did, despite my expectations for them to.

Technology has showed that if we don’t change, we will quickly get left behind. Even perfect device with brand new software can be released. Yet it is only a matter of time before changes need to be made and upgrades are made available to keep those devices safe. We upgrade our phones, tablets, computers, and any other device connected to the internet or Bluetooth. Most of the time we are given a choice as to whether we upgrade or not. For those that like to wait until the last minute, they are usually overruled in the end by a forced update. That is when they are through asking what your opinion is and decide, you’re going to get an update… today! Talk about exercising authority!

What if life was like that? When we get too far behind, what if it gave us a little kick? When we get a little too comfortable with the way things are and start to settle, what if it knocked us flat on our rear ends? What if it turned our world upside down? You know what, I think it does. If we don’t move forward in life, it will move us forward. The disruptive thing about it – life never asks for our permission! In addition to upgrading all your devices, upgrade yourself! It’s best to be at the front, pulling life in the direction of your choosing than have it up front, dragging you behind it to a place you don’t want to go.

A Change of Mind

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If you have convinced yourself change is not possible, perhaps it time to change the way you think. Changing how you think can steer your life in a new direction, which will take you to a different place than where you are. Life is too short to fill up with more negative experiences. They suck anyway, why add more? Instead, why not change the way you see things? Start to see things in a positive light.

Give yourself reasons to smile more often. Look around and you will see that adults don’t laugh or smile nearly as much as children. It’s because we let the cares of this life get to us. We focus on many of the wrong things. I’m not saying to disregard everything. But don’t let things consume your thoughts to the point that they rule your life. Your brain is a tool; your tool. Don’t let it work against you. If your computer were to start mixing up words and images all over the screen, you would immediately recognize something was wrong and take steps to correct it. Yet when our thoughts race repetitively through our mind, we don’t stop and recognize that something is not right.

Think about security guards for a moment. Why do we have them at airports, events, and places of business? Many are placed at entrances to keep unwanted visitors out and to make sure nothing leaves the property that was not meant to. What happens when things get out of control? Security jumps in and takes control of the situation and brings things back to order.

In like fashion, not every thought that enters our mind is worth entertaining. People will say hateful things. Sometimes you will have the thought to be disrespectful toward yourself. If you read any comments online, you will find some of the most hateful things ever written in history. In cases like these, you need to take control of the situation. Grab hold of those thoughts and throw them out of your mind. Replace them with something more powerful, more vibrant and filled with life.

Be mindful of the words you choose to speak to others. We have all said things we regretted saying. Once the words are out of your mouth, they can never be taken back. Our words are so powerful. Some words said, especially by those close to us, seem to cut right into our soul. Yet, other more powerful words are said that rescue us from despair. Use your words to change your mind. Change your mind to change your life. It all begins with you!

In Your Dreams

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Many songs and movies have been made about having our dreams fulfilled. It is a common desire to live out our dreams, so much that many of us spend hours, days, even years in pursuit of a dream. Chasing your dream is not an easy path, which is likely the reason many dreams are given up on. Layers of resistance seem systematically designed to keep us from achieving them. That is why we must fight so hard to hold on, when we feel so much like letting go.

An interesting thing about dreams is that they often change relative to where we are in life. As a child, we may have wanted to be an astronaut. But when we got a little older, we realized that dream changed, especially if you’ve ever had a pair of eyeglasses. Part of being an astronaut is having 20/20 vision. Also, as much as I liked playing any sort of ball growing up, I knew I was not gifted enough in that area to pursue a career in professional sports. One by one all my childhood dreams disappeared out of sight. I already started working in a restaurant as a teenager but knew that was only going to suit me for so long.

In high school, they asked me if I liked being hands on. I did and ended up going to vocational school half the year and regular high school the other half. I learned carpentry and other skills that piqued my interest back then. There was more yet than what I imagined life had to offer. My teacher challenged me, and I grew. Eventually, I became a senior. Finishing out my vocational school required that I do an internship. I found employment working for a local contractor in the construction industry. I soon found out it was demanding work. I was only a laborer, so my pay was less than a carpenters’ pay would have been. I did decent work though and wanted more money, but it just wasn’t available.

Therefore, I switched to another industry altogether, running machinery. Not long after that, I went back to school again to become something else. What I am trying to say is that things will always change. In looking for our calling in life, we worry about making the right decision. Sometimes it blocks us from making any decision at all. However, in life it is usually not one decision. By taking a glimpse of my own history, it’s easy to see I have never been just one thing. If I would have waited to find out what I would be today, I doubt I would be who I am today.

Humans always change. It’s part of life. As such, our dreams will change too. Sometimes, it is for the worse and we no longer believe in our dreams. Hope must be reborn inside us to bring about change. But there are those still clinging tightly to their dreams, inspired to get more from life. Others may call you a dreamer. So what! Keep the dream alive by taking action daily to see it become a reality.


Weary in Well Doing, part 7

Do you want to see this world become a better place? Don’t just fight to change the world, fight to love it. It’s a fight because in the process of trying to save it you risk losing yourself. Going down this path can cause you to grow to hate what it was you loved in the first place. But when you fight to love it, despite its ugliness, blemishes, and flaws, you and the world are changed because of that love. People are on separate, yet intertwined journeys. As such, they are likely in different places in their lives as you may be in yours. Be patient with them no matter what category they fall into.

It is understandable that you may want the best for someone else, but they must want it for themselves. Regardless of their choice, respect their right to choose. After all, we’ve been given free will to make decisions and do not wish for our choices to be taken away from us. Don’t look down on them if their decision doesn’t side with your objectives. I know this part seems impossible because other people’s decisions can have a significant impact on our own lives.

When you first start out seeking to do good, there will be many situations in which you won’t have a clue as to what to do. Stop trying to figure everything out ahead of time. Sometimes showing up is the biggest part of the battle. From there, you will figure out what to do next along the way. Always remember what you are fighting for. Sadly, there won’t always be recognition nor appreciation for your efforts. Your search for how to make a difference should never be based on glorifying yourself on a platform. If it is, then you will receive your reward, the praise of humanity. History has taught us that with praise also comes being despised. People may, in fact, turn on you. The moment the people praising you stop; a void begins to grow in your heart.

Even expecting the other to be thankful is at times folly. It helps to energize you, to know you are making a difference. The positive feedback can inspire you to keep going. This is particularly good when you feel like your tank is running on low. However, my challenge to you is to you stretch yourself. You may find an amazing thing happens when no one is around looking to see what you did; it’s just you. You look in the mirror and know that it was your character that brought about the results and not the expectations of gratitude, flattery, or praise.

Developing your character in such a way will enable you to endure when you simply have nothing to go on. You go on because that’s who you are! It’s what you do! Let everyone else quit and admit defeat, but not you. When you become exhausted, and still push forward despite the way you feel, it will do something inside you. What, you might ask, is for you to discover because words simply will not do it justice. It lies just beyond the point of being weary in well doing. Find out for yourself!