The Life Equation

A couple of years ago, I injured my shoulder surfing and was not able to surf for several weeks. I continued going to the beach and took photos instead while my body healed. I remembered watching the local high school surf team this day as they shouted, laughed, and scored really great waves during a winter swell. What stood out the most was watching some students stylin’ on cheap foam boards that are sold at the local Costco.

I heard a preacher on the radio say that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. I have heard this saying recycled and re-quoted many times in different forms like, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but is it not true? Anything “awesome” or “epic” usually depends on how you participated in it. The kids who surfed with the foam boards were carving out waves as good as the other kids who had boards that cost 10 times more.

Times have changed and now people reject sound wisdom and will react with, “What if I don’t like lemonade?” and “Why am I getting lemonade when those people get Arnold Palmer’s?”  The victim card is way overplayed nowadays. It is time to put that card down and take that 10% of crap that has been thrown your way and turn it into fertilizer for the 90%. Grow something. Change something. Overcoming obstacles in life is not easy nor comfortable. Stop wasting energy on leveling the playing field and just play. If all you have is that cheap foam board, then use it and make it awesome. The 90% is yours.

Balance? What Balance?

Do you know how many articles, blogs, books, videos, sermons exist on the internet just by searching the words, “balancing life?” I don’t know the number, but the list seems endless. I’m sure it seems that way because a lot of people feel like their lives are not in balance. I won’t claim to have mastered any kind of balance in my life. I believe it is one of the constant tensions in life that will always exist. (By the way, I believe tension is necessary in life, and it’s not always a bad thing.) We can pour massive amounts of time and energy into organizing our lives in a disciplined manner, and there comes along an event that can upend that balance.

Instead of getting hung up on the concept of what “balance” looks like, simplify it by prioritizing the people that are most important to you. I say “people” because people should be at the top of your list. It should be the people that you LOVE who should be at the top of your list. If I LOVE God, then He should be the top priority of my time and attention. If I LOVE my wife, then she should get a whole lot of my time and attention. If I LOVE my kids, then they should get a whole lot of my time and attention. If I LOVE my relatives…. If I LOVE my friends…. This list can extend far, but that’s where priorities help.

You should also make time to do the things that you LOVE. Those are the interests that you enjoy doing. That could be a simple as reading books. It can be extensive like collecting rare objects. Pursuing these interests take the edge off the roughness of life and fills the soul tank. However, the things that you love shouldn’t take away the time and attention that belongs to the people you LOVE.

There’s a 4-letter word that gets in the way of the endeavors we love, and that’s W-O-R-K. If you have a job or career that you don’t love, then shift your perspective to encourage yourself. Your work gives you the opportunities to do the things that you love.

One more thought. Be generous with your time and resources to help others. Volunteer at your church or the hospital. Be a coach on your child’s soccer team. You get the idea. Investing your time and resources to help others is not just a noble thing. It makes your soul rich.

Balance can’t be all the aspects of your life weighing the same amount to keep the scales level. Some aspects are more important than others. Some aspects weigh more than others. Some aspects should.

What are those priorities in your life? Chime in! Your comments are welcomed and hope you are enjoying a productive week!

How to help your children be happy (Without happiness being the goal)


“I just want my children to be happy.” How many times have we heard someone say that? There is an innate desire in our souls to want our children to be well and well-off. However, should happiness be the goal? Should it be one of the many goals in life? My answer to that question is no. Instead of the state of happiness being the goal of life, the goal should be living a life larger than self. Happiness becomes the natural result of living a life beyond taking care of one’s needs and wants. How do we get our kids to have that perspective?

Last Christmas, my daughter saw a sign in a store that advertised a Christmas project asking folks to donate small gifts to be delivered to children around the world. My daughter wanted to do it, so I told her that she had to do this with her own money. She participated in the charity. I remember the look of satisfaction on her face when we dropped off the shoebox filled with toys and stationary at the distribution center. That moment was a reminder for me to raise my children to have the perspective of living beyond taking care of their needs and wants. How can we help our children find satisfaction in their journey? It is not as simple as having a Top 3, but here are a 3 thoughts to get this discussion going.

God needs to be in the conversation. There’s a constant conversation happening in that space between our ears. That conversation changes when God is invited into the discussion. Teach your kids to read the Bible and pray. Why not just pray? God’s voice will never contradict what He already said in His Word. When God is in the conversation, then self-centered thoughts change to a perspective that looks to others. Any sense of entitlement will be challenged by God’s voice Who says, “What about your family?” and “What about your friends?” and “What about your neighbor?” Think about the Golden Rule. It is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated. One of the rewards is the “happiness” that results from living this principle. God takes this relationship beyond happiness. God becomes the source of joy that is not dependent on circumstance. Could our children be at that place? Could we adults be at that place?

Get relationships right. People will disappoint you. You parents disappointed you, and you will disappoint your children. Your children will be let down. Also, they will have their shares of disappointing others. It is important to teach your children to be at peace with people as much as possible. Bitterness has a way of destroying our lives when we let relationships go awry. Some things are beyond our control, but we all have the choice of holding onto grudges or choosing to forgive. Can your children experience the joy of having positive relationships?

Get money and possessions right. I tell my kids that it is perfectly fine to have a ton of money and enjoy nice things… as long as those things don’t have them. Acquiring money and things should not be life’s goal. The ancient Egyptians would mummify their royalty and encase them in gold and the finest things. They believed their riches would go with them to the afterlife. Centuries later, tomb raiders took the treasures that somehow didn’t make the transfer to the afterlife. A person’s well-being includes having a healthy perspective of money and things. I remember witnessing a young boy give his prize and rare Pokemon card to a new friend. The boy was just as happy if not happier than the new friend who received his gift. After all, it is better to give than to receive. Don’t you agree? Can your children get that perspective? Is that perspective in line with yours?

I am trying to keep this list limited to 3, but should there be more? Your comments are appreciated.

What do you want your children to know about money?

One of the pastors at my church preached on what the Bible says about personal finances. As each main point dropped like bombs on top of me, I sunk down in my chair realizing how much I need to grow in this area. My wife read my mind at that very moment. As soon as the pastor offered a budgeting workshop to the congregation, my wife registered both of us for the class before the preacher could ask for an “Amen.”

I thought about my children and asked myself the question that I now ask you, “What do you want your children to know about money?” I will list at least 3 thoughts that I believe in and if I haven’t been practicing what I preach, then it starts today. Let’s see if this list sticks after the budget seminar. Here’s what I have for now. This is what I want my kids to know about money.

1. If you can’t afford it, then you really can’t afford it. I think that I have had to learn and re-learn this lesson at least a thousand times. I guess it’s because I have to make this is a proven saying. I remember getting my first credit card from the table in front of the college bookstore. The year was 1986, and I was making $3 and some change per hour at Gemco 20 hours a week. Once I was approved, I made some trips to Disneyland. I also purchased a car stereo and some clothes. It didn’t take me long before I maxed out the credit card in a span of 4 weeks. I want my children to know that much discipline is needed with credit. I want them to know that if you can’t afford it, then you really can’t afford it until you save up for it or decide that it’s not an item or experience you’re not willing to pay for.

2. Have intentions with your money. Who’s guilty of that self-talk, “If I had more money, I’d help out so-an-so,” or “I’d give to that charity if I had money to give.” Me. I’ve said that. I want my children to know that they don’t have to aimlessly spend their money on whatever makes them feel happy. One of my favorite Jewish Proverbs says that a generous soul shall be made rich. I believe that your money should go beyond yourself and the four walls of your home. Helping those in need should be part of their intentions with money.

3. Who’s the boss? I want my children to determine that they are in charge of their money. They aren’t slaves to their money. I don’t agree with the popular saying that money is root of all evil. That is not what they Bible says. Money is good or bad. 1 Timothy  6:10 explains that it is the LOVE of money that sets us in the wrong direction. Our attitude towards money and how we use it is the heart issue that rich people, poor people, and everyone in the middle has to figure out. I want my children to be excellent stewards of their finances.

Money is such a big thing in our lives. It shouldn’t be the biggest thing. It definitely shouldn’t be the one thing that consumes our thoughts. That spot belongs to God. It even says so on our bills and coins. I should get one of those custom printed on my VISA to remind myself.

What are your thoughts? What do you want your children to know about money?

The Importance of Doing the Mundane

Almost every time I come to this beach before the sun comes up, I watch this man in his tractor level the sand on the beach. It seems like an mundane thing to do. He goes from one end of the beach to the other in his rolling machine turning the bumpy beach into a smooth one and stopping every once in a while to pick up a beer bottle or large object. My friends and I reaped the benefits of an easy walk through the beach to surf for a couple of hours. We didn’t have to worry about stepping on trash that the previous beachgoers left behind because of this man’s work.

The word ‘mundane’ is usually used in a negative context, yet the the dictionary says that it relates to the ordinary and commonplace. We all have the mundane every day tasks that we have to do at work and home. That could be taking out the trash. That could be reading the revised employee’s handbook. That could be leveling the beach. Keep in mind that as we consistently complete the ordinary tasks that we have to do day in and day out, most likely someone is going to benefit and even if that person is you. Someone is going to get to walk on the sand you just smoothed out.

Speaking of the mundane, I listen to music while doing chores to help the time go by. Which genre of music you like to listen to when you are tackling your to-do list? Share below and thanks for reading.

Encouraging Words

I was in bed that day with the flu a few years back. I’m guessing that you all know how that feels. I don’t remember how long I was sleeping, but when I woke I found 2 notes that my twins placed next to my pillow. At that moment, I started feeling better. I don’t know if somehow my antibodies were encouraged to start kicking the bacteria in my body, but I know that their encouraging notes lifted up my soul and adjusted my attitude to bring me steps closer to a full recovery.

Many of us experienced the power of words in this past presidential election. The rhetoric was negative. (When is it not?) The name calling and mud-slinging continues on and instead of uniting a nation has further divided it. You don’t even have to leave home or bed nowadays to get bombarded with negative words. All you have to do is turn on the TV or look at your connected world from the convenience of your phone.

Think about your children. Growing up can be a cruel experience at times. Because our connected world is bombarding our children like we have never experienced before, we should make it our highest priority to make our home the true “safe” place.

Parents, we should be always building our children up. When you first held your child do you remember the dreams you had for him? Do you remember what you promised her? Your words are what steers your child towards his hopeful future. You won’t be able to shield your her from the negative words that will come her way, but you can help her overcome malicious words do tear down. Show them they also have responsibility over their own words.

It starts with you. Your child listens to your conversations about your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your in-laws, your boss, your coworkers, your neighbors, etc. How do your speak to your child? What do you tell him about himself? What do you say when she needs to be corrected about her attitude? When he is asking for acknowledgement about something he has accomplished how do you respond?

I say that the majority of your words towards your children should be with intentions to build and heal. I can think of Jewish Proverbs that comment on the power of words. Proverbs 12:6 (NLT) says, “The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.” Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

After looking at the picture of these cards, I’m challenged to go beyond the daily conversations I have with my kids and going to send cards to them. Encouraging me kids via text messages are many times timely and convenient. Yet, nothing beats a card sent via air mail. Do you remember the last time, other than Christmas and the local real estate agent, when you received a greeting card in the mail? How did that make you feel?

 

 

Aging Well

John proudly has his birthday on his chest when he surfs, 2-2-30. He’s aging with style. I am considerably younger, but am I aging well? I want to. Do you? Are you? I’m sure there’s more, but there are questions to ask because I want to enjoy my family as long as I can. I know you do too.

Question #1. How long can I go eating like crap? Recently, I chose not to anymore. When the doctor said I have to go on medication indefinitely I realized changes have to be made. I believe his analogy was something like, “You wouldn’t put soda in the fuel tank of your car because it wouldn’t run right.” I got the picture.

Question #2. How do I play? That play should lean more on doing something instead of sitting and being entertained. I remember the last time my wife and I binge-watched a TV drama on Netflix. It was a great series, but I got seriously tired for weeks. Apparently, the folks back before cars were tempted to stay sedentary as well. Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”

Question #3. Who am I sharing life with? The person missing in this picture was John’s son. John was 80-something surfing with his 60-something son! Life was not meant to surf alone. Make time with family and friends as much as possible. I read somewhere that pets help too.

Living with purpose changes everything. We weren’t put on this earth to just take up space. Why live that way? We all have a calling to do something for the Creator who knows us personally and I’m 100% sure it will benefit this world. Discovering what that something is make sense of all the do’s and do not’s and turns them into what you want to get out of life. It makes the “good” food taste better. It makes the hard work not feel so hard. It makes playing a lot more fun. It makes our relationships with our family and friends sweeter.

That’s the short list. Thanks for reading it. Do you have anything to add to it?

The Paths We Take

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“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

Why do we spend so much time and energy trying to avoid the hills and valleys of life?  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.
  • Speaking of theology; I’d rather trust in the One who knows more than me for directions.
  • Have a destination because that’s your goal. What makes you is the journey.
  • Walk with purpose in every step. They count whether they were wasted or not and you can’t take them back.
  • Swallow your pride and change your course at any of point of the journey if you realize you were going the wrong way.
  • Don’t avoid paths just because they are too challenging or risk pain. No pain. No gain.
  • Enjoy it.

What would you add to the list?

“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.”

Thank you Dr. Seuss.

Life getting you down? Here are things to look at.

img_0564An encouragement to you if you are in a storm of your life or even battling depression. Here are some things you can “look at.”

Look at your watch. Trials are temporary. Sometimes, you even have a say-so in how long the trial will last. Storms don’t last forever. They end at some point.

Look at the bigger picture. It is way too easy to have your head caught up in the crisis or trouble. Take a step back if you have to have a bigger perspective. That helps you thoughtfully respond instead of reacting out of emotion.

Look around for others. You are not alone. You were never meant to do life alone. As much as you would could claim that your situation is unique, most likely a family member or a friend has gone through something like your situation and can provide a listening ear or encouragement.

Look up. The first opportunity that you have, go outside. View the expanse of the sky. Feel the breeze on your face, Listen for signs of life even if it’s a car driving by. Your sigh can be one of relief instead of despair. Remember that there is God who sees you and knows you by name.

If you’ve never done this before, lift your hands towards Heaven and open up your hands and ask God to take the heaviness that you are under. If you have never asked God to help you, then ask. If your challenges have a name or names, like names of kids, say their names verbally. God knows them.

Allow yourself the chance to be surprised. The result may not be an instant miracle. However, when you are the one who changes in the midst of the storm, then the win lasts way after the storm is done.