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?

 Copyright ©2022 AuthorJeffKayser.com. All Rights Reserved.

A Life of Excellence, part 2

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Living a life of excellence means making the right choices, which are not always obvious from the start. It takes diligence to observe, process, and finally decide on what to do. Even then the choices we make are not always right. When wrong choices are made, it means taking appropriate action to get back on track. As the school of hard knocks teaches, this is not always an easy path to follow.

When I was a freshman in high school, they informed students that in our sophomore, junior, and senior years, we could spend half of the year at a vocational school. Since not everyone wanted to go to college, this was an alternative to learn valuable skills that could possibly jump start us into a career after high school. In the first two years, much of the coursework revolved around learning job skills. The senior year was meant to be an internship where students worked at their first full-time job.

My dad had already taught me a little about carpentry by that age, but I knew there was much more to learn. I signed up for my sophomore year and couldn’t wait to get started, as I was ready to jump in and start making money. When the time finally arrived, I spent that half the year learning about different tools and processes. One of the key subjects we focused on was carpentry. The class started out with the basics and taught us how to use hand tools. I had already built small items out of wood using hand tools using the knowledge my dad passed on to me. For this reason, I was impatient at first, ready to move past hand tools and learn about power tools. I can’t remember if the men grunted back then when using power tools.

The class progressed into making more advanced parts along the way. I remember pulling my teacher to the side after witnessing what I thought was unfair grading. I saw the work of several of my classmates and the grade they received. I was shocked when I received the same grade. At the risk of sounding arrogant, the quality of my work was better. A simple comparison would have revealed that, or so I thought. After approaching him to complain, he said the other students did the best they could. Since their dimensions were off, he couldn’t give them the best grade possible. Mine weren’t off nearly as much as theirs, which was why I questioned my grade. He looked me in the eye and said, “You’ve got better in you. I’ve seen your work. This was not your best.”

Was I mad? You better believe it. Have I remembered it years later? Yes, but not because I am angry anymore. He made me work harder to achieve better results. I didn’t realize it then, but he helped shape a spirit of excellence within me that I’ve come to appreciate over the years. Excellence doesn’t come easy. Yet, it is not without merit. It brings its own rewards; among them are self-confidence and satisfaction in a job well done.

Mail in Heaven

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A couple years ago, I went to a church service one morning in Dallas, Texas. The church reminded me of one back home that my brother went to. My group sat near the back, off the corner of the sound booth. In it, was a man running all the sound controls. He too, reminded me of my brother, who also volunteered in the sound booth. It’s one of the behind the scenes tasks that is more important than people realize.

During the sermon, the pastor shared a story about someone close to him that had cancer and passed away. He recalled the pain and suffering that person went through and how much it hurt him to see them suffer. One day, someone approached him with a question. If you had it all to do over again, would you choose not to have a relationship with that person? I knew exactly where he was going with that question. The person who asked the question was basically asking if the pastor would still choose to know that person, knowing full well what was going to happen years later and his own suffering that would follow after the loss.

It prompted questions I then asked myself. What if I could have known that my brother was going to pass away at such an early age? What if I had been given a choice to go back in time and choose whether or not I would have a relationship with him, knowing that twenty-five years later, I’d have to say goodbye. Would I still choose to know him, or would I spare myself the worst emotional pain I had ever gone through? Immediately I had to fight back the tears.

I knew the answer to my questions before he even had a chance to answer his. Despite the inevitable suffering I’d endure once he was gone, I would still say, absolutely yes. I would choose to be a part of his life all over again. In fact, I would have done everything in my power to do more with him. After he passed away, I immediately had regrets of not doing that. Since then, I learned that detaching yourself from the pain forces you to forget the past and ignore the future suffering without that loved one close by.

It didn’t happen right away, but I’ve come to the point of saying, no thanks to avoiding the pain. I will cherish my memories with him, no matter how much they hurt. I will continue to celebrate every special occasion as if he were right by my side. And I will ask God for the grace to bear my future as needed. My brother, if you get mail in Heaven, know that I’d do it all over again. I’d go on every adventure and climb every mountain. I’d hike every trail and fish every lake. I’d listen to every story and hear every exaggeration with a smile. All this and so much more I’d do with you. Yes, I’d do it all again!

Happy Birthday Big Brother! I love you!

The Hope of Love

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Something expectant mothers go through is the potential love that will emanate from that tiny human forming inside them. It’s truly remarkable how the creation of a human being works. Life doesn’t come with a guarantee for the child or the mother. They say a mother’s love is unique in many ways. I suppose when you have a person being formed inside your body, growing through nutrition provided by the mother, that would bring them very close to one another.

Day by day, the child grows from a small seed joined with an egg, into a living, thriving human lifeform. As mentioned, there is no guarantee made to the mother. Her child may despise her from the beginning, but that is unlikely. Even if she was convinced that this would be true, she still could hold on to a chance for love.

The child has the choice to say no to her love and utterly reject it. Doing such would likely bring devastation to her. Most mothers have the sincerest desire to have relationships with their children. Why risk having children in the first place if there is a chance that they will not reciprocate love back? When this chance for love is so strong, it cannot be ignored. Its value is so immense and so immeasurable that it must be considered. With all her heart, a mother hopes to receive that love, freely demonstrated back to her.

There will no doubt be heartache, suffering, and pain that she must endure through the long and tiring process. It doesn’t stop after the child is born but continues as the child is raised into an adult. Even when she feels that love missing in her adult child, she will keep returning to a single point called love because even the chance of love is worth its weight in gold.

So, why create a life that may choose to never reciprocate your love or even worse, come to despise you? As a creator of life, could the answer be…  for the hope of love?

Hide and Seek

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One of my favorite childhood games was hide and seek. One child closed their eyes, while the others went and hid. The ages of those playing determined how secretive of a hiding spot they would find. The youngest picked spots where they were easily seen. While hiding behind a plant, their eyes were covered and they could not see the seeker, which meant to them that they themselves could not be seen. They had no idea half their body was exposed. If generous enough, the one searching spoke out loud their confusion as to where the others could be hiding.

As the years passed, I liked the game less and less. When it was too easy to find someone, the game had no challenge and interest was lost. If it was too hard, I simply gave up. Those still hiding long afterward found the latter to be particularly disturbing. When they came looking for me, a surprised look crossed their face to find me inside watching television.

In adulthood, this childhood game of times past is reinvented. We hide but no longer want to be found out. Instead of hiding from people, we learn to hide things from people. What is hidden depends on our level of integrity. The whole point of hiding things is because we don’t want them to be found. People have cheated on income statements, taxes, cost of services provided, etc. Many have cheated on their spouses or partners. Students have cheated on exams and homework. For those who feel guilty, they try to hide these things from other people.

Hiding things can be easy to get away with but there’s no guarantee it’s going to last. Those in hiding find out that someone eventually comes seeking. When found out, the seeker doesn’t greet with a smile and a laugh, like they once did. This time, those in hiding are often embarrassed, ashamed, and hurt by their own actions. Regret eats away at them. Loss, pain, and a host of other terrible things can result from choosing to live this way.

Just because you can get away with something doesn’t mean you should do it. Even if no one else finds out about it, you will still know. Chances are it will eat away at you. It can cause unexpected fights where you go off on someone else, when in reality, you are the one at fault. Deep down, you know you did something wrong. It is almost like having a tracking device hidden within your soul, waiting to be found. Best to stay clear of all this mess by making better choices, ones that won’t need to be hidden.

You Did What?

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Of many things on my list of regrets, I swear this one must be up toward the top. In my defense, it was when I was quite a bit younger, in that invincible stage of life in which I thought I was unstoppable. I know better now. In fact, when I see some of the other things people do, it makes my face shrivel up as though I bit into a lemon.

Children are notoriously known to do unthinkable acts. Little babies and toddlers will put anything in their mouth, including their bare feet after walking on an airport floor. I’ve watched in horror as parents sit by while this happens but do nothing. I don’t know whether they have given up on establishing order or if they are trying to create an impenetrable immune system in their child. Since I’ve not had children, it’s not fair for me to really judge them. I want to shout, “stop it little human, you have no idea what you are doing!”

My own epiphany came when I was trying to prove a point. Sometimes guys can be stubborn when it comes to making our point. In this case, I was explaining how people worry far too much about germs. I could see my point was not sinking in, so like an idiot I improvised to prove my point. I licked the steering wheel in my car. Not like the whole thing, maybe two to three inches. I know what you are wondering… did it taste like cherry? No, it did not! Not only did it taste like utter filth, it tasted like what I imagine would be every persons’ dirty hands that touched a gas pump after eating French fries and Doritos and licking their fingers. It makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Not long after, I developed an infection in my throat. It became difficult to breath while I was trying to sleep, so I went to the ER. I was in there for about five hours. The doctor gave me steroids and after a while, it helped me to breathe better. I was extremely exhausted after the events of that night and wanted so badly to go home and sleep. When I finally got home, it was around 7 a.m. It’s frustrating to fumble around with the keys, trying to get in the door. On this occasion, the key wasn’t opening the lock on my door. Add to that, liquid steroids coursing through my veins and that equals door violence. Although I did not turn green, in half a second, I turned into a rage monster and smashed my fist through the glass in the door. Luckily it was just my fist that was bleeding and not the arteries in my arm from retrieving it back through the broken shards of glass. I must admit, I felt like a tough guy for a moment. It lasted only a moment. The feeling quickly wore off when I drove to the store and spent the next hour replacing the glass in the door.

After two return visits to the ER in the middle of the night for similar breathing troubles and multiple rounds of different antibiotics, my life eventually returned to normal. Note to self… never do that again! So, my advice this time, is more like what not to do. Don’t lick steering wheels. Don’t punch fists through glass of any kind. I realize this is not the most helpful advice as most everyone that reads this won’t be ignorant enough, like me, to make such decisions. But hopefully it was at least entertaining to hear of my trauma in the world of germs!

Revise your Strategy

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If you have ever been disciplined enough to develop a strategy for life, that is awesome. My question for you would be when was the last time you reflected and revised it? Strategies can be highly effective but sometimes only for a period. In competition, if a person makes the same play repeatedly, their opponent will soon catch on. Charging headfirst into battle may work against one person but is a terrible strategy if going into battle against a hundred. The point is strategies must be reviewed to make sure they are still effective and giving the desired results. If not, then it’s time to make some adjustments.

Even worse is if you have no strategy at all to revise. You do have one but fail to acknowledge it. If you won’t take the necessary time to look deeply into your life, then your strategy is to have no strategy at all. By making no choice, life chooses for you. Life is filled with consequences, especially when we live with the mindset of whatever will be, will be. We either own our life or surrender it to circumstance.

I’ve wrestled over the issue of not strategizing in my own life. At my job, it is much easier to identify problems and work to find and implement solutions. But outside of work, it is so easy to let life happen to me rather than design the life I would like to live. My own lack of discipline led me to live without a strategy. After a long day at work, it is simply easier to let whatever comes next just happen on its own. Everyone is tempted by different things, but the downfall often lies in overconsumption. Too much television, time on phones, gaming, eating; all common things that make us slip.

Without a strategy in place, we fall prey to poor decisions. The common argument is that to live restricted is not to live at all. With that mindset, we feel robbed when we deprive ourselves of something. Unknowingly, we chain ourselves to all manner of addictions and lose freedom in the process. People often come up with new year’s resolutions, but the truth is, your strategy can be revised any day. The best choice is today, regardless of what day of the year it is. By putting forth thought and effort, you can create a strategy for your life that will in time deliver the life you want, not the one you must live with.

The Power of No, part 4

Things seem innocent enough where we may not distinguish a difference. If we are not taught that something is wrong, we will likely try it. But even when we are taught something is wrong, there is a small part of us that wants to partake in it anyway. As in life, anything that is fed usually grows. A baby starts off drinking a mother’s milk or formula. As they grow, it’s not enough to sustain the life of the child. In the same way, what we are feeding (our wants) tend to grow over time. Before we even realize it, they overtake us. In the busyness of our lives, we scratch our heads and wonder how we got to the point we are at.

We must analyze our lives, as if under a microscope, looking for harmful patterns and behaviors that affect our lives in a negative way. Thoroughly examine your wants and desires. The tendency is to minimize their importance. For example, a common saying I’ve heard is, “it’s ok to look, as long as I don’t touch!” That may be where it starts but not necessarily where it ends. Think of it as a seed that grows. It’s ridiculously small but if you water and nurture it, it will grow. By not uprooting the seed from the beginning, it has its roots planted deeply in your heart, making it harder to remove.

Matthew 5:28 issues a warning, which confronts that seed from the very beginning it was planted in our hearts. Jesus warns that if you even look at a woman with lust, it’s just as bad as going through with it in its physical form. What happens when the heart is no longer satisfied with looking? Trivial things often lead to bigger things. First, it may be as simple as seeing someone other than your spouse in an inappropriate way. Then, it becomes something altogether different and ends in broken relationships. If a person is single, it’s just as bad. They may feel they have no one to remain faithful to, so their eyes lust after anyone, fantasizing over who knows what. When they finally meet the love of their life, now that person must compete with a dirty Dave, a nasty Nancy, or goodness knows who else. (I’m so sorry if one of those names is yours, I wasn’t talking about you!) What was meant to be sacred is robbed of its cherished value, cheapened by insatiable desires that no one person could ever satisfy.

Quickly recognize when wants cross the line and become unhealthy desires. When they do, action must be taken to eliminate them from our lives before further damage is done. When something breaks, it doesn’t matter into how many pieces, it will never quite fit together the same way again. Broken trust is extremely difficult to regain. Lustful desire leads to a longing for that which we do not have. The urge can grow within until the most unspeakable atrocities are committed. It is easy to look at the people who do such things and condemn them as monsters. Recognize, they didn’t start out this way. They fed the wrong thing inside them until it took over. The heart is susceptible to wickedness in ways many of us cannot imagine. For this reason, we must exercise the power to say no to wrongful desires before they take us down a path we cannot come back from.