Looking Up For Encouragement

 After a day of receiving horrible news, I just had a moment and looked up. I took this video of my view and reminded myself a few things.

  • Trials are temporary. A friend just reminded me that storms actually end at some point.
  • Always look at the big picture. It is way too easy to have my head caught up in the crisis or trouble and have a foggy perspective.
  • It’s not about me. It just isn’t.
  • I am not alone. We were never meant to do life alone. I am thankful for my wife, family, and friends who care about me.

When I look up and view the expanse of the sky and feel the wind on my face, my sigh is one of relief instead of despair. I remember that there is God who sees me and knows me by name.

The Paths We Take


“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own,
and you know what you know.
And you are the only one who’ll decide where you’ll go.”~Dr. Seuss

How could you not love Dr. Seuss? I found this picture as I cleaned out my photo library on my phone. When I saw it, I went into “deep thoughts” mode.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the paths we choose in life:

  • Regardless of your theology, you are never alone. Why even try to do life by yourself? It is way more interesting to walk this journey with others.
  • Have a destination, even though many of you know it really is about the journey and not the destination.
  • With a destination in mind, walk with purpose in every step. They count whether they were wasted or not and you can’t take them back.
  • There is no shame in changing course at any of point of the journey if you realize you are going the wrong way.
  • Don’t avoid paths just because they are too challenging or risk pain. No pain. No gain.
  • Enjoy it.

I am sure that is just a fraction of the list, but my attention span is limited at the moment. What would you add to the list?

Staying in V-formation

I think this shot illustrates the power of unity. Unity goes a long way. Literally. At least for this group of birds. Unity involves working together and then some. It doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. We do have to agree on the goal and how we are going to get there.

With us humans, it requires looking big picture. Big picture is usually, if not always, the greater good. It is usually win-win for everyone involved in a marriage, family, business, sports team, community group or church team. And if you want to talk bigger, then yes, our local community and even a nation of millions of people.

I’m not saying sacrifices aren’t required because unity comes at a cost. If selfish ambition is the cost, then isn’t that what has to be put aside to the agreed-upon goal to be achieved? Selfish-ambition has to be the #1 enemy of unity.

If I was one of these birds in this V-formation, I know I would be tempted to land here on the Southern California Coast and convince myself, “This place has mild weather year-round and plenty of food. Besides, that lead bird hogs up all the time in the front. Wasn’t it my turn like 4 birds ago? Hey, I could even convince a few to go with me. A few of them said they were getting bored.”

However, the “Big-picture” voice says that this destination is much more than just a place. I won’t know if I give up now. Sticking with the V-formation will get us there quicker and easier than anyone flying solo. Stay in the V.

Unity costs. Unity requires much effort and perseverance. Yeah, it takes a lot, but think of the alternative.

And if you are like me, you have experienced the alternative a few times. What’s your story? Your feedback is appreciated. Thanks.

The Need for Endurance

Endurance is becoming extinct in this must-have-it-now culture. Simply put, endurance is the ability to do something over a long period of time. It automatically includes challenges, difficulty, and pain. So many in this generation (and I am not excluding the older folk of this generation) want to avoid pain and difficulty as much as possible. Whatever you do in life, finish strong.

I found this picture of my son running at a track meet at the age of 5. I put him in track because his hyper-energy needed an outlet, and a co-worker convinced me to join his track club. This particular track team in Long Beach was huge and very competitive. There were many athletes who were competitive in their age division within their region and even at the state level. The 5-year olds just graduated from the “lollipop” races that got the parents to smile and cheer.

There are 2 things that are clear in my memories of that track season. First, my son’s uniform draped over him like a robe. Secondly, my son hated the starting gun. At the beginning of each 200 meter race, he would plug his ears with his fingers and most of the time would miss the actual sound of the gun. The coach would run up to my son and yell, “Run Christian!” In every one of those races for almost the entirety of the track season, he would end up 8th out of 8 places. Sometimes he would cross the finish line walking. One time, he ended the race walking and crying while I held his hand as we crossed the finish line together.

At one of the last events of the season, I remember hearing the parents of the his teammates encouraging him to run his very best and that all that mattered was that he finish his race. I wish I could tell you that I gave him a spirited speech, but I think the other parents were the true source of his inspiration.

Once again at the start of the race, my son plugged his ears. The gun went off. Christian stood there. The other 7 runners took off. The coach ran up my son and yelled, “Run Christian!” My son took off as if someone laced his Gatorade with turbo boost. Even though the pack had at least a 10 meter head start, Christian gained on them immediately.

With 100 meters to go the pack had thinned out. The elite 5-year old runners were well ahead of the pack to finish with medals, but in the back of the pack, my son had the 7th place runner within reach and caught him at the halfway point. The entire group of parents on our track club stood up cheering at the top of their lungs, “Run Christian!” The entire group of parents from the boy battling my son for 7th place cheered for their boy as loud as they could.

With 50 meters to go, the rest of the crowd did what they normally did for only the premier races with the top athletes. The crowd stood up to their feet and cheered wildly for the 2 little boys battling for the last place.

I saw my son barely one length ahead of the other boy as they neared the finish line as I screamed as loud as I could, “Run Christian!” I remembered jumping up and down on the bleachers looking up at the parents with tears running down their faces as I had tears run down mine. I realized that in this particular race, it wasn’t going to matter who finished 7th and 8th place. Their spirit and determination to win inspired a stadium of witnesses. They were both winners.

It’s time we need to finish strong in the face of difficulty and even pain. You may not finish in 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd, but finish and finish strong. I’m in the stands cheering you on, “Run!”

 

Blooming late is better than never

This is me a few weeks ago surfing at my local beach break. I started surfing 5 years ago after I was told I was doing a great job of working myself towards an early grave. I’m a workaholic, and “working hard” has been my mindset since my youth. I remember convincing myself not to take art classes in high school and college because I didn’t think it was “real” work nor a good way to make a living.

Yet, although buried under busy-ness for decades, there is a creative side of me that is determined to bloom and keep blooming. Blooming at middle age is still blooming, and blooming late is better than never. This creative side surfs because he likes to look at the expanse of the ocean and dream. This creative side takes pictures because he likes to capture images of this world and attach words to tell stories. This creative side writes little poems and make believe tales because he believes his expression needs to be shared. This creative side is me.

So I’m not 24 anymore and still fresh out of college, but I feel like one. Who figures that stuff out at that age anyways? I didn’t. Some may think, “Well, it’s just timing,” and I say, “Maybe so, but I’ve been thinking of writing since I was a sophomore in college and today 50 is just around the corner.”

You may have told yourself before, “Don’t take your dreams with you to the grave,” and I agree! Do something about it! Go on and put together that art studio in the garage that you have put off for years. Take that dance class. Sign up for that 5K. Register for that photography class.

If you are decades younger than me, then don’t waste your head start. Being an early bloomer or late bloomer isn’t the focus. Just be a bloomer. Blooming late is better than never.

(Photo by Dave Peeters. Thanks Dave)

 

Lessons from my iPhone camera

Yes, I became one of the millions who all of a sudden became a photo snapping fool after discovering that I could actually use the camera on my iPhone that was within an arm’s reach 24 hours of the day. After some basic tips from a couple of pro photographer friends, how-to’s online, youtube videos, and learning from fine artists on Instagram and Flickr- I think I am actually gaining some skills on the art of capturing life. But that’s not what this post is about.

For the past 6 years of taking at least 1 photograph everyday, I realize that no matter how much technology is crammed in this pocketable and delightful device, the camera is very limited when compared to dedicated cameras. The lesson that I am repeatedly learning is that it is about what I do with what I have.

  • Photography Lesson #1: Composition is crucial. I learned that the decisions about what’s stays in the frame and what doesn’t and where the things are inside the rectangle makes a difference. Life Lesson #1: Be intentional and even more thoughtful of my priorities, relationships, and endeavors. I know it is easier said than done, but I need to live every day with vision.
  • Photography Lesson #2: Lighting is everything. Great lighting usually results in great results. Poor lighting brings a lot of challenges. Life Lesson #2: Lighting is the same with the decisions I make. Ok, most choices made in my waking moments are not a matter of life and death, but informed, thoughtful decisions usually have positive results. Doing some homework, getting insight from the sages in my life, and praying are the best ways to bring light into my situations.
  • Photography Lesson #3: Edit with a cause. Most photographs aren’t complete without an editing process. Enhancing or desaturating color, adjusting lighting, and even cropping something out are done to develop a pleasing image. Life Lesson #3: Most accomplishments are not going to be right the first time. There’s always a process. Adjustments have to be made. Things may need to be cropped out. My edits determine my results.

I will eventually get a dedicated camera with a lot more features and capabilities, but what matters right now is what I have in my hands and what I do with that. The best compliment that I have received was from an event photographer who asked me, “Did you really do that with your phone?”

Don’t wait for whatever upgrade or next big thing you are waiting for. Do the best with what you currently have. Be intentional. Do things on purpose. Do things with purpose. You may not get it right the first time, so edit until you get the right results.

Yes, I took the picture of my cat with an iPhone.

 

Sense of Wonder

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Never be so “grown-up” that you lose your sense of wonder.
Chuckle when you squish the wet sand between your toes.
Study the glue as it dries on your fingers before you peel it off.
Shriek at the moment waves of exploding fireworks shudder your bones.
Stare at the lightning flashing through the sky from the window.
Wave your arm out the speeding car window and let the wind push it up and down.
Ad-lib the words to a song just because it’s silly and makes no sense.
Be surprised. Be amazed and never lose your sense of wonder.

The Essence of Childhood

Innocence is the very essence of childhood and pure, unfiltered freedom is its reward. Joyful screams mixed with laughter are the evidence leaving us with snapshots of hope and promise.

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The Essence of Childhood

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The Essence of Childhood

Innocence is the very essence of childhood and pure, unfiltered freedom is its reward. Joyful screams mixed with laughter are the evidence leaving us with snapshots of hope and promise.

See the rest on Backspaces.