I’ll Come Running

Photo by Luca Nardone on Pexels.com

In any moment, a crisis can occur that will literally take everything off the agenda and throw it out the window. Crises do not care about priorities, health, or your peace of mind. They act like robbers, coming in to take away that which is precious to you. They do not discriminate, and attack whomever they will. With no ulterior motive, their sole purpose is to destroy. Not every crisis that pops up is serious, but the ones that are, feel like they stop the heart and take our breath away.

When these sorts of crises happen, they become events where we ultimately find out who in our lives we can count on. Strangely, it almost happens in layers. The first layer is what I like to call the snowflakes. They blow away at the least little wind that comes along, so there is no surprise there. The next layer down is what I call the comfort zoners. Anyone in this layer will be there in the crises, so long as it fits their life. When things start to get too difficult, the comfort zoners leave for greener pastures, void of such problems.

The next layer consists of the loyalists. These people in our lives can be family or friends. If you are fortunate enough to have loyalists in your life, then you have a treasure that cannot be measured. At every opportunity you should be expressing how much you love and appreciate them. They are like the crutch that holds up the person with a broken leg. Becoming involved in their lives is like the union between the ingredients of concrete, which form a solid bond not easily broken and capable of withstanding incredible loads. If for any reason you lack this person in your life, then perhaps you can become that person to another. When the going gets tough, hang in there with them. Cry with them. Live through whatever experience they are going through, and you will find new bonds you never before imagined.

Last, but most important, is the relationship like no other. For me, it is the relationship I have with my Heavenly Father. Like David in Psalm 139, whether I am at lofty heights or find myself at the depths of the sea, God is there. When perilous darkness surrounds me with fear, it is but light to Him. Like the prodigal son, the path my foolish decisions take me down, ends the moment I decide to turn back toward home. It is only then that I can see the Father running toward me.

When trouble comes, as it always does, I hear the faintest whisper in the depths of my heart. “When you need me – I’ll come running.”

Copyright ©2021 AuthorJeffKayser.com. All Rights Reserved.

Good Riddance!

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

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, https://authorjeffkayser.com/2020/01/06/revise-your-strategy/. 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!

Copyright ©2021 AuthorJeffKayser.com. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Jump on Me!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Recently, I came across a tiny gecko on the floor. If it had not moved, I would not have been aware of its presence. It was so small, barely over an inch long. I could hardly recognize it from some rubbage on the floor. I said hello little friend and went about my business trying not to bother it. It crawled further into a corner; I suppose it was afraid of me. I proceeded to say, don’t worry friend, I won’t bother you. For a moment, the thought crossed my mind. What if he jumps on you? I looked down in the corner at it and said, “just don’t jump on me or we both might get hurt!”

I know my reactions to such stimuli, which usually result in an overreaction that involves me running around like a lunatic. I know many people who have had first row tickets to my crazy show. My old neighbors once asked me why I had been running all around the back yard, flopping my arms about wildly at nothing. They found my hysteria comical. It made more sense when I told them I was running from some angry bees. Here I thought it was just birds that had a problem. Fortunately, I have gotten somewhat of a handle on my fear of them and no longer respond to what I previously saw as a kill squad.

Many times the false alarm is a piece of fuzz or something irrelevant. Even when it turns out to be a bug, I try to slow my role and chill out. Still working on that part. It’s funny how some things cross our paths that aren’t really that big of a deal. However, our response is sometimes so ridiculous that it gets us into far worse trouble than had we reacted calmly. But the moment we sense fear, we look for the big red panic button.

At times it is like calling in fire trucks from all surrounding counties over a lit match. Overreaction is part of our nature. We are so fearful of pain and suffering that we go through significant effort to avoid it. As such, we sometimes create more trouble for ourselves in the process. If you find yourself suddenly with a reason to panic, take a step back to assess the severity of the situation. It could be that you are like me, ready to tear off running from an adversary that is not really there.

Waiting for a Feeling? Part 3

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I previously told a story about my video store dream at ten years of age. The original store was long gone by the time I got my driver’s license. However, my friend and I went to another store, where I formed a new video store dream. It was no longer about a game but something else entirely. We browsed the isles back and forth until we found a selection. Coincidentally, all the other customers in line had completed their transactions and left the store. We then made our way to the counter to check out. It also happened that there were two girls working behind the counter that were our age.

At first, talk was kind of slow as we were all nervous in getting to know one another. But my friend and I had a cure for this that was bound to work. We rented all kinds of movies in the coming months, far too many! It was not for the pleasure of watching movies but a merely reason to visit the lovely ladies that worked there. In the same way as we ate much of our summer profit at the local restaurant, we also spent a sizable portion on video rentals. It was remarkable how we could never find what we were looking for when neither of the girls were working. But when they were there, we always found something to rent.

At the rate of one at a time, it turned out to be many trips. Although it cost us, the strategy worked, and we became good friends with the girls that worked there. But here is how dense I was and always have been when it comes to my interaction with women. As far as I could tell, she seemed to enjoy talking with me. I had previously spoken with other girls who did not react the same way and I could tell right away they were not interested in that type of relationship. I knew the difference, yet because of not dealing with rejection properly, I became fearful of rejection altogether.

It took me nearly three months to finally build up the courage to ask one of the girls out, the one I had focused all my attention on. When it finally came to the date night, the only thing I remember was that there were crickets. Well, not literal crickets but if there were, there would have at least been a sound. She was a sweet girl and there was nothing wrong with her. She was, however, noticeably quiet. Being shy myself, we barely spoke to each other all night when it was the two of us.

All that build up only to find out in one date it wasn’t going to work anyway. Inside, I no longer had the magic feeling. Instead, it felt more like she could have been my sister. We decided to be friends. For months, I fought my fear on a regular basis, only to discover it was all for nothing. Sometimes what we are afraid of can disappear entirely. Not once have I regretted the times, like this one, where I pressed past my fear to ask a girl out. I have, however, regretted all the times I failed to ask someone out that I really liked. Choose not to live with regret!

Waiting for a Feeling? Part 2

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you chose to face your fear wisely, then I send my congratulations to you. If you are still afraid, that is okay. When I said that courage comes once you face your fear, allow me to add a disclaimer. It doesn’t always come at one time. Sometimes it comes in small doses. When I was in college, they made me take a public speaking class. Being an introvert, I was not thrilled to stand up and speak in front of thirty or so students.

I had given presentations in grade school, and I disliked it then as well. But somehow this time it felt different, as the whole purpose of the class was giving me exposure to standing in front of people and speaking. This time around, I’d say I disliked it more than ever. I’ve heard it said that public speaking was one of the biggest fears people have. In fact, people who are great at it often make a lot of money. Since I was already working in the business world, I had many encounters with coworkers. As my responsibilities grew in the company, I saw the class as a beneficial thing to grant me much needed exposure to face my fear.

It was awful in the beginning. I got up in front and fumbled around with my words. Not only that, but my body language was totally inappropriate, and my eye contact was horrendous. It felt like those occasions when you know deep inside if you make eye contact with someone, it will bring about an undesirable action from the other person. With that in mind, eye contact was avoided at all costs. Even though I was embarrassed and disappointed in my performance, the next week I came back to do it all again. The same fear gripped me, but it seemed a little less this time.

The process of repeatedly facing my fear for weeks in a row led to the strangest thing happening. Somewhere along the way, my fear began to shrink at a faster rate. After getting through the encounter several times, I began to see it was not nearly as bad as I made it out to be in my mind. In our minds, the imagination runs wild if not kept in check. We plaster our brains with the question, what if, and it drives us into the depths of fear.

When your mind has new evidence to contradict what it previously saw as frightening, fear begins to lose its grip on you. By the end of the semester, speaking in front of people felt completely different than fifteen weeks prior. At my job, I later presented my ideas and projects with more confidence. I was already confident in my ability to do great work. However, when I lacked the confidence to openly share my ideas, others were not as confident in accepting them.

If you are trying your best to face something difficult, keep at it. It takes work and perseverance to overcome something that scares you. But when you do, it builds confidence in ways that not much else can. Part of life is experiencing hurt and then dealing with the pain that comes afterward. If we are not careful, the pain can be so strong that we chose to avoid what caused it in the first place. The possibility of what could be is then lost from that moment on. Don’t give in to fear like that. Instead, show it who is the boss!

Waiting for a Feeling? Part 1

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fear is sometimes a challenge. Many fears are irrational and unlikely to lead to grave consequences when we choose to face them. Yet there are others that can be deadly. Can we know the difference? If we genuinely want to be rid of our fear, then the onus is on us to research it. Facing fear requires courage, but if we wait for a feeling to tell us to make a move, it may never come. This is why many make the choice to bravely act, despite how it makes them feel physically, mentally, or emotionally. The ones that do, often experience an overwhelming sense that words don’t quite do justice explaining.

As a teenager, I rode several roller coasters with my brother and our friend. The first one was utterly terrifying. My favorite hat flew off within seconds of the ride starting. The ride jerked me around at ridiculous speeds and it felt like death lurked around every turn or drop. At the end of the ride, I was saturated with terror and felt lucky to be alive. Then they took me on the next ride, where I stood up the whole time as the thing hurled me around and upside down. When I got off that ride, I said to myself, never again. That turned out not to be true and I later rode a kiddie roller coaster that did not bother me the slightest. But as for the thrill rides, I considered my days of riding them over.

Many years passed since that day. A few months ago, though, I went to a theme park I had never at before. At the urging of those with me, I reluctantly joined them for another roller coaster. I was curious how I would react twenty some years later. One thing is that I am no longer am afraid of what is on the other side of death. It almost felt like an experiment to test my faith to see if I could overcome my fear. The way the line worked out, I ended up having to ride by myself. They went on ahead of me and their ride quickly took off. For the next thirty seconds or so, I was left alone to dwell on my decision. The next ride came in and the people exited it. For a few seconds, I glanced at the exit. It was my final chance to turn and run from what I was afraid of. Instead, I got in the ride and pulled the bar down over myself. It clicked in place and I knew there was no getting out now.

The ride took off, but this time I had my hat lodged underneath me. For part of the ride, I actually enjoyed myself, although I must admit, a few times I still closed my eyes. But I no longer felt like death was waiting for me. I was able to get excitement out of the fast speeds and turns, all the way until it flipped upside down. After that, things went downhill. It felt like something in my head was suddenly out of whack. I could feel the dizziness when I got off the ride. I knew after that; it was over for me once again. Ever since a bad case of vertigo years ago, although I recovered, things were never quite the same for me again. The good news was that I faced my fear.

It seems simple, even silly, to anyone who isn’t afraid of roller coasters. Yet there are lots of fears that seem silly to some. But do not be fooled by anyone; we all are afraid in some area. Be wise in what fears you choose to face. Then take the next step and face them. When you overcome them, it will prove to yourself that you really do have what it takes to face your fear and not back down!

Groundhog Day

Photo by Miri on Pexels.com

When I was young, our house had a long yard that stretched all the way back to a large field. Our friend was one of the neighbors in an adjacent property about halfway back our yard. For the most part, the neighbors let the children play in any yard, although some did not want us playing on their property. Being little misfits at times, one could hardly blame them. Most of the time, there was at least two of us that went outside to play, so either my brother or friend would join me.

One day, for whatever reason, it was just me outside running around by myself. I went all the way to the back of the yard, close to the field. There was a row of trees that went alongside the field into our neighbors’ yard. It was a sunny day like so many before and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. That was until I saw two large animals running in my direction from the tree line toward me. At first, I didn’t know what to make of it. I had seen groundhogs before but not like this; not like them.

These two evil beasts charged straight towards me, side by side, in attack formation. For a moment, I thought they would turn and run into the field. I did not have long to think, however, as they continued to make their way toward me. Abandoned by family and friend, I had to face these monsters alone. Momentarily facing them, I dug my feet firmly into the ground, and took off running. Not towards them of course; I was not stupid. I ran like the wind back toward the house.

When I first started running, I looked back one time and saw the two of them still chasing me. This encouraged me to run even faster. I glanced ahead upon a giant rock that stood between me and the house. As I was running, I never looked back again until I stood upon the rock. It was so large in size, even those hounds of evil couldn’t climb upon it. It was around five feet long and two to three feet in height. I finally looked back to see where they were. To my relief, they were nowhere in sight.

I never forgot that day. I was not bothered by a groundhog before, but after that happened, I never trusted them again. I felt totally threatened by them from that point forward. It is interesting how terrible things that happen to us can affect how we view certain people, places, or things. Anyhow, when I got older, I grew braver and began to chase them around the fields. It was a retaliation born out of fear and ignorance that all started with the two that chased me. Maybe they had rabies, which could have caused them to behave that way. Strangely, I never even got close to one again though, as all the other ground hogs wanted nothing to do with me. They were probably wondering what was wrong with the crazy idiot chasing them. Either way, all were being treated differently because I thought they all were out to get me. It turns out, it was just two bad ones. Luckily, it was a phase that didn’t last long, and we peacefully coexisted ever since.

Trust Me

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Don’t you hate hearing those words? It really depends on who is saying them and whether you believe them or not. If you don’t know me, the first thoughts you probably had were, yeah right! Who does this guy think he is? Why on earth would I trust him? Everyone has heard these words before. In fact, most of us have heard them from the wrong people. As soon as we hear someone say them, the doubt process starts in our mind. Why is that? My guess is that somewhere along the way, you got hurt like I did. It was by someone who said those exact words, “trust me,” and then later give us reasons not to.

Parents always tell their children, “Don’t trust strangers.” It is because children trust everyone, not knowing the danger of such a belief system. They hand out trust because they have loads of it to give. They don’t know how rotten people can be. Give them time and they will learn. The hard part will be guiding them, so they do not become bitter and resentful through this process. Friends, parents, or adults start doing things that cause children to doubt their truthfulness. In time, they become increasingly reluctant to trust others because they have been let down so many times. By adulthood, we more suspicious of everyone than ever because we have been hurt countless times. Depending on how much pain we endured, we are tempted to think, never again!

Trust is easily shattered. Even at an early age, a child’s trust can be broken. Let’s say a child wants to jump down from something. The parent says, go ahead, I will catch you. Most of the time, they do. But what happens if the parent accidently drops the child? Every time the child repeats that event, fear plagues their mind. There is a chance that jumping would mean another fall. If you are not positive you can catch your child, don’t tell them to jump.

Relationships are tested on a regular basis. When you tell someone that you are going to do something for them or meet them, and then don’t show up, trust is lost. As far as friendship is concerned, many of the friends we started out with are not always the same as the ones we have now. There are good reasons for why this happens, but the bad reasons stand out the most. People you thought were your friends did something that made you feel awful. In regard to significant others, they develop bonds with each other. Feelings are shared and they open themselves up to a deeper and more meaningful relationship. If ever one day one of them cheats, trust goes right out the window!

Like it or not, we live in a broken world. Trust is not always freely granted because we are fearful of being hurt once more. However, we usually expect a clean slate when it comes to our own chances to earn trust with another person. It is unwise to make a person pay for the mistakes of another. Doing so will limit your ability to form new or better relationships. At the same time, exercise caution and guard your heart. Don’t overcommit yourself. If you say you will do something, keep your word. Do your best not to let others down by betraying the trust they have placed in you. Be loyal. Live with integrity.

A Life of Excellence, part 8

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Living a life of excellence means having enough, especially for the glorious day when retirement comes. Many people today are scared right now about their investments, including my parents, who are retired. They look at the dollar amount and see an immediate crisis. Over the years, I’ve tried to help them with their financial planning, but of course they work with an advisor to manage things because they have the expertise in that area. Lately in the world of finances, all we hear is unwelcome news. It is true, economic downturns have happened regularly throughout history. The value of shares will likely soar to new heights again, but it hardly ever happens quickly. When trust is lost, it takes a while to return.

I remember joining my parents for an appointment and listened to the financial advisor throw facts and figures at them. It didn’t take a genius to see they were drowning in a sea of information. It was clearly over my head too, but I took some concepts away from it. After leaving the meeting, we sat in the car and I looked at my flustered parents. They still had income at the time that they were living on. The scary thing was what they were saving appeared to be dwindling away to nothing. What will we live on, became the concern. While the financial advisor was trying to ease their concerns, he was doing so purely on historical facts, mathematics, economics, and so on. Much of what he said made sense to me. However, I could clearly see none of it meant anything to my parents because they were thinking emotionally. I will share below some of the things I shared with them and hope that it might help you.

Emotional reactions like fear, anger, and depression are common during these downturns. Everyone sees the numbers drop and thinks what they have worked so hard for all their life has been severely diminished. Not everyone has time on their side. If they are forced to sell shares by withdrawing from their retirements, they are selling what they spent years accumulating at a discounted price. It’s kind of like a make-believe bully that sees you have ten dollars in lunch money, then decides you now have six. The whole point of investing is leaving your money in as long as possible to let it grow. Even though your statements say the value is whatever amount today, you technically have the exact number of shares you had before. That is likely conservative to say so because you may, in fact, have more due to the dividends possibly earned.

When we look at the dollar amount, our brains see it as unfair. I think in the U.S. it is because the value of our paper currency seems stable to us. Every day we wake up, a dollar bill is a dollar bill. If you have a hundred-dollar bill, next week, no one will come to you and say now it’s only fifty dollars now. That is what happens with stocks. The values always fluctuate based on lots of factors. When stocks are combined into mutual funds, such as for 401k, it could be a hundred stocks jumbled together. It may not be that one company in the mutual fund is doing completely horrible, but if enough companies are not doing well, then the whole thing is worth less.

Imagine the emotional reaction if you had a thousand dollars in the bank one day and woke up to five hundred the next, you would freak out! This is, and seemingly will always be, the disadvantage of investing. It can be a difficult battle to conquer our emotions. If time permits and you can hold out though, the risk is worth the reward. Our money can increase over time if left alone long enough to double, triple, and even become far greater than the amount we originally invested. Let’s say for a simple example, you put in a hundred dollars. Forty years later, you get back four hundred dollars. How awesome is that? That is one reason rich get richer.

The system is set up to make your money work for you. The tough part is getting money, investing it, and then leaving it alone for long enough. What’s even better is continually adding to it for forty years and ending up with a nice sum. Sadly, many people never save anything and end up with nothing. The younger you are, the more you can change your lifestyle later. Will your future self be thankful you saved over the long term, or will they suffer because of your short-term decisions today?

If you are struggling financially, and thinking of withdrawing from your 401k, here is one more thing to think about. Many companies are fully aware of the struggles facing their customers. Talk to each of them and see if there is any way they can work with you on deferred payments, reduced payments, etc. You never know the answer until you ask.

Some key takeaways:

  1. Check with your financial advisor if you are uncertain about what risk category your investments are in, to make sure they are in the right ones. If they are, then they will likely advise you to leave them alone.
  2. Financial advisors often say never sell your mutual funds because you are afraid. During economic downturns, stocks are on a super sale. If you are selling, everyone is benefiting from your loss. Now is actually the time to buy more, if able.
  3. If savings are depleted and you have to sell, try to sell as little as possible, from the most conservative of your investments. Unless something catastrophic happens, things are highly likely to return to normal.
  4. Although the value of your account has changed, the quantity of shares you own has not. For me, I don’t look at my statements during troubling times like these because it only adds to my fear and panic. One day, when I look again in the future when things seem bright again, it will be magically higher.

My hopes and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

Perspective of Today

Photo by Luca Nardone on Pexels.com

With what is going on in the world today, fear, doubt, and worry have forced their way into most homes, businesses, and governments. The financial burden many people are facing today is unbearable. The loss some people are experiencing ranges from life itself (or loss of a loved one) to a loss of supplies. The number of cases increases, and our future seems uncertain. With all the social distancing, we are encouraged to stay distant from each other.

The loneliness of isolation further deepens our sorrow. Our hearts long to be close to one another again, to touch and to hug. Each day can be difficult to get through. There is no definitive end in sight to what is going on. We’ve heard good news from some areas that reignites our hope. Later, we hear some of those same areas are in trouble again. Questions plague our minds. What will happen in the next two weeks? Two months? What if it goes on longer, what will happen then? Can we make it?

You have a choice. You can put your faith in politicians, and hope they take appropriate actions. One thing is for certain, they themselves will be taken care of. You can put your faith in people, although many things happening is beyond peoples’ control. Many are losing jobs or being laid off. You can put your faith in the media, who are treating this epidemic like a ninety percent off sale, grabbing all they can get their hands on, further spreading the mass production of fear and hopelessness. You can try everything under the sun and see them all fail to bring the peace your soul longs for. If in that moment, when life has you on your knees, in your hearts you can cry out to the one they call Immanuel (God with us).

People are quick to assert what God is or isn’t doing but let’s not forget that God is sovereign. He understands the end from the beginning. It is only we who are dumbfounded by what happens. Rather than focus on all that is wrong, I am believing in all that is right. I’ve witnessed numerous human beings accomplish amazing feats with little to work with. Think of a potter that turns a lump of worthless looking clay into a fashionable vase. Think of Michelangelo who spoke of the masterpiece that lay secretly inside a block of stone. There have been countless lives who have taken a total disaster and created something beautiful. Imagine what the creator of the universe can do.

I said countless, but I believe God has numbered every life. I believe that he works in and through us, both believers and nonbelievers to accomplish his purposes. He tugs at every human heart, to hear his voice and follow. We are also instructed to love one another. Not everyone follows and many will make the wrong choice not to love one another. Here’s the thing though; enough will. We likely won’t hear about it, but you will see it in action. A neighbor will check on their elderly neighbors to make sure they have what they need. Grown children will do what they can to provide for their aging parents who are scared to go out. Some places will even give away needed supplies in order to make sure everyone has enough. Friends and neighbors will sacrifice and share with one another. Medical personnel will put their own health and safety at risk to care for those who have been infected with this virus.

All the bad is screaming during this epidemic. However, if you listen for it, you will hear the whispers of the good. Good works tirelessly, outside the spotlight, and often in the shadows. Good brings life and light to the darkest of places. Don’t just witness the good. Be the good! Understand that strength is not given for tomorrow, nor for any time in the future. It is given only today. In other words, strength is given for today’s battles, not tomorrows. We will get through this, day by day.

Do what you can not to spread the virus. Do all that you can to spread love.

I’m praying for you all. God bless, take care.