I Can See Clearly Now

Over the years between glasses, contacts, Lasik, crossed eyes, and multiple eye surgeries to fix them, I’ve grown accustomed to not seeing clearly at times.  In fact, I’ve grown so used to ‘tweaking’ my vision that I’m now a bit OCD about it.  At the slightest hint of fogginess in my contacts or allergy gook, I whip out the eye lotion and begin the cleansing process.  I’m sure people often wonder what the deal is when I randomly stare at the ceiling spraying my eyes with that little bottle I pulled out of nowhere.

Being so attune to the difference between seeing clearly and not has been a benefit with my photography and has forced me to keep my focus more at work too.  There truly is a large of amount of detail that we miss in life when we can’t see clearly.  Yes, age is also taking a toll on the ability to see clearly but, thankfully, because of the way my Lasik went, I don’t have to wear the ‘reading glasses’ that hang from the neck like most at my age do. 

So often in our lives the ability to see things clearly is hindered as well.  Whether we’re blinded by the glare caused from the illusion of grandeur, the fogginess of uncertainty, or the darkness of depression, we all struggle at times to see the path ahead of us clearly.  Poor choices of our own or the effects of those made by others all pull us in different directions.  How do we gain clearer vision in this life?  What can we do to wash away the fogginess that hinders our ability to see?

People often look for clarity by using another person’s life lens and sometimes that helps and, sometimes, it can lead us down a wrong path.  If we can glean wisdom from others without having to learn the hard way, we can save ourselves a lot of pain.  Unfortunately, most of us choose to find out on our own or those we trust simple can’t see well enough for both of us.  

One sure way (the only guaranteed way I know of) is to look through the lens of God’s word and prayer.  Sure, it may seem ‘cliché’, but over the course of my lifetime, every decision that I’ve made without His guidance has brought nothing but disappointment and even hardship.  Those I’ve made with the guidance of His hand have resulted in blessings I couldn’t have dreamed of.  I wish all my choices were made with His help, believe me!  The truth is that we’re all traveling through this life on our own path and His light can guide us through to the end.   Without it, we are destined to run off the path and into roadblocks as I have many times.   With it, we will make it through those rough patches, over the daunting hills, and arrive safely in the final valley of peace where He will be waiting for us.

I know I’m being metaphorical; intentionally so.  Our life journey is full of challenges, errant paths, and potholes.  With His help, we can make it through them and, in the process, perhaps help others along the way on their journey too.  Ultimately, when we arrive at the end, He will look to see whether we believed in Him to get us through it all and the only answer I want to have for Him when He asks is, ‘Yes, Lord!… Not my will, but Yours be done’…

Love Always,

Brad

Seeing Beyond The Natural


Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like everything is fine but, for some reason, something is going on somewhere that you know isn’t right?  I have this happen often (today in fact).  Everything will seem fine, but inside my ‘Gut’ I have a sense that I need to pray.   I know, that may sound a bit far-fetched to some people if they’ve never experienced that kind of thing, but it can be a real, tangible feeling.

Earlier tonight I was watching a video interview with a man who was part of a secret team funded and directed by the CIA to do remote viewing.  If you’re not familiar with what that means, it’s basically using people who have a heightened ability to see beyond the natural; what they used to call ‘ESP’ or ‘Extrasensory Perception’.  

The show was quite interesting as it gave multiple examples of people who had worked for the government and helped to discover Soviet bases, ships, and spies.  They were able to find people who had been held hostage and had premonitions of the future.  Whether one believes in that sort of thing or not, the evidence was convincing, and the government kept the program going for over twenty years.

I find it interesting because of the many times I’ve either dreamed something that has happened, been wakened in the middle of the night with a sense to pray for someone, or had a sense to make a turn in the car where we found our first home around the corner.   Only with me, I know it’s not just a natural ability. It’s more than that; it’s a God-given ability that we all have.

Because God is a Spirit and we are made in His image, He has given us more than just a body and mind.  He has given us a soul and the ability to sense His Spirit (if we want to).   He wants to speak to us and guide us but how does He do that?  It only makes sense that, if God is a Spirit, He would need to speak to our spirit too.  Not to say He can’t speak through an animal if He wants to (which He did in the Bible), but I would think His preference is for us to hear Him in our soul. 

Whether one calls it ESP or a fine-tuned soul enabled to hear God’s voice, it’s something we have been given to help us through this life.  I’m thankful for His leading and His still, small voice in my heart as it’s saved me from death on numerous occasions.  It’s led me to find the Mrs who is my best friend, and it’s opened doors I never imagined would be opened.  It’s also comforted in times of pain and even made me laugh many times (God has a great sense of humor). 

If you’ve never experienced that sense, I want to encourage you that it’s possible.  It may take time and practice, but the first step is asking God to speak to you and the next is just to listen.  You may just have a strong feeling or a single word may pop into your head.  You may have an image of someone and a feeling of burden for them, or you may even have an image of a place where you need to be or to go.  It could be anything. 

The key is being open to His voice and then trusting Him to lead you when you hear Him.  It may feel like you’re being led around with a blindfold covering your eyes, but over time, you will get used to His nudges and recognize them when they come.  He wants to have that type of relationship with you because He loves you.  It’s exciting and can even be a bit frightening too, but it’s worth it.  Trust me, it will change your life forever…

Love always,

Brad

Getting Over Status Symbols


Back before most young people were even born, the white-wall tire was a sign of class stating to everyone passing by that you were driving in style.  The broad brush of white paint on the rubber tires often accompanied shiny spoked wheels glistening in the sunlight.  There was no doubt, if you had those tires, you were in the upper crust.

One day along the way as society changed, those white-wall tires that once were a status symbol became a sign of extravagance and gaudiness being replaced by the black-walled tires we have today.  It didn’t happen overnight but was a gradual change as the white-walls became thinner and thinner until they were eventually gone.  Today, the only place you may find them is on a restored car of old reminding us of what life was like when those cars were on the road.

Anything can be a status symbol today.  It’s often the first thing I look for when watching old movies; what was the ‘thing’ everyone had to have, wear, or do to be in style?  80’s movies are always fun to watch with the polo shirts, Ray-Bans, and pastel colors.  Oh, I remember those very well.  If you didn’t have your collar flipped up, then you were just a ‘nerd’.

Why do we need status symbols anyway?  I mean, why is it so important to tell others who we are by following the latest fads?  I was in the Sprint store the other day and made a comment to the young salesman how I thought the AirPods looked goofy and were more of a status symbol.  I’m a Sony in-the-ear-high-fi guy myself.  He laughed and gave me a look like I was from his grandfather’s generation.  Yeah, he was probably right. 

The bottom line is, it’s ok to enjoy the popular fashions, gadgets, and car tires for that matter.  It’s when we begin to identify ourselves by them, that we start to fall into a pit of emptiness.  So many times I’ve seen people feel down about themselves because their clothes, car, hairstyle, or phone wasn’t the latest,  The superficial need had created a sense of inferiority that they struggled with every time they stepped outside. 

God wants us to build our identity on Him.  He give us these things in the world to enjoy, but one day, they will all pass away. It’s who we are inside that will last.  Some of the most beautiful people I have ever met or been around, are those who have no need to ‘Compete with the Joneses’.   They are content in themselves and in their faith.  Quite often, just being around them makes a person become aware of just how much they may have fallen into the status trap themself.

I’ve never really been too tempted by having the latest & greatest; maybe to a fault.  Yet, I do feel that pressure of competitiveness when it comes to my electronics to be honest.  Not to brag, but to enjoy the latest technology of course.

Tonight, here’s to finding the balance between having the biggest and best verses being content with what we have.  I’m still working on that character trait and want to encourage you along that path too. It’s possible to have nice things and not be driven by them.  When everything in this life is said and done, we’ll leave them all behind and the only thing that will matter then is Heaven.   Who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised when I get there and be picked up in a heavenly chariot with white-walled wheels… Yeah, that would be just like Jesus…

Love always,

Brad

Facing the Unknown


Why is the unknown so frightening for us?  Fear of it is something that keeps so many people bound by self-imposed restrictions preventing them from stepping out in new directions.  Of course, if any of us could predict the future we’d be God.  Still, the thought of what could happen is enough to keep us from choices that may make a significant difference in our lives and in those around us.

Truth be told, the unknown isn’t as bad it seems.  Once we get past the stigma of fear and uncertainty, there lies a road full of potential just waiting for us to explore and discover.  Finding what’s behind the self-imposed blinders we hide behind may very well be an exciting journey. 

The Mrs. and I enjoy watching sci-fi shows; make no qualms about that.  Probably one of the most popular themes today is the thought of time travel.  So many programs are focused on what would happen if we could cross between dimensions and see ourselves as a child or during those pivotal moments that changed the direction of our lives.  What would we do?  How would we react today verses how we did then?  Would we try to change those choices or leave them where they are because we now see how, though some of them were painful, they made us who we are today?

Speaking personally, I wouldn’t change them.  I would leave them just as they are; good, bad, and ugly.  Over the years, through God’s grace, I’ve come to accept the past for what it is.  I’ve learned to cherish the good and let go of the bad.  It has been a long journey that I’m just now at 50+ years old, finding peace in.  It may take the rest of my life to fully see things clearly, but as I move forward, accepting that there’s still the unknown is enough for me to stay hopeful that life will bring about even more good, along with the challenges.

Tonight, if you’re wrestling with fear of the unknown because of pains in your past, or even in your present, know that you have an all knowing, all loving God who knows what your unknown is.  He knows our past, present, and most importantly, He knows our future.  His plans for us have been in motion from the foundation of the Earth and those plans are for our good.  One of my favorite quotes from the president of the college where I attended says it all, ‘God is a good God and the Devil is a bad devil’.

Trusting in His goodness will help us to face the unknown with confidence knowing He will be there through whatever lies ahead.  His plans, though it may not seem like it at the time, are for our good and in that alone, we can walk into the unknown without fear…

Love always my friends,

Brad

Not the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer


There used to be a saying long ago to describe someone who may not be the most intelligent or perceptive.  People would say ‘They’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer are they?’.  Being the blonde that I am, I’ve been perceived to be one of those dull knives more than once in my life.  Probably, it was because I wasn’t paying attention, was preoccupied with something and not listening, or just not interested.   Still, the label stuck with me. 

Labels are that way, aren’t they?  Once that label is glued onto you it’s hard to get off.  I’ve tried to remove labels from cans before and, trust me, it’s a lot of work.  Once that glue hardens, it stays there even if you rip the paper off.  It’s like super glue!

Name calling can be the same way.  Every day we hear labels being thrown around in the toxic political environment we live in. So much so, it’s like we’re all living as adult children back in the 2nd grade playground. 

Now, it’s true, there are those who may not necessarily be as quick to perceive, understand, or ‘Get it’.  They may not even be aware of it either.  I often run into them while waiting at stop lights for them to realize the light turned green; 30 seconds ago.  Moments like that do make it difficult not to label that person in front of us (among other things). 

We all label ourselves in many ways too.  We go by the label of our job description, family role, marriage status, sexuality, income level, skin color, hair color, musical preference, and so on.  It’s as though everything in life has a label! 

The Mrs recently purchased labels to stick to our airtight plastic containers in the cabinet so I won’t get the sugar and the flour confused.   Granted, those labels are a good thing.  Not to mention the labels that direct us where to go, what to eat and not to eat, warn us of danger, and even encourage us with positive feedback.  So, all labels are not inherently bad.

The key is knowing when we are using labels to either limit, look down upon, degrade, demean, negatively influence, falsely accuse, and even destroy another person.  Those labels need to go.  Imagine taking a label we may want to put onto our political opponent like ‘…Blank…tard’ and replacing it with something we can find about them that’s positive?   It may just change our perspective about a lot of things.

Tonight, here’s to re-labeling those people in our lives who we’ve kept under a negative label by finding something good about them and focusing on that.   Here’s also to re-labeling ourselves by stopping the negative internal talk (i.e. ‘I’m such a dummy, etc.’) and replacing it with positive talk; maybe even reinforcing ourselves with words of what God says about us.  If we can begin to re-label others, and ourselves, with something positive, I guarantee that it will change our lives forever and for the better…

Love always,

Brad

Born to be Wild


The movie that changed the landscape of cycling in America was truly Easy Rider and Born to be Wild was the iconic song they used in the movie.  I would dare say that everyone my age can remember the song and most will remember the movie (although I didn’t see it until I was older since it was rated R and, back then, you weren’t allowed to watch movies with that rating until you were eighteen with no exceptions (well, at least until HBO came along in the mid-70s). 

The movie was about a group of guys who set out to find America on their bikes and wound up running into a ‘backward’ world full of people who didn’t see America the way they did.  It was a counter-culture movie deliberately making a statement to the older generation from a younger generation at rebellion against societies rules at the time.

Whether we’re born wild, or to be wild, is another question altogether.  But the song’s lyric does raise a good question.   What if we were born to be wild by nature?  What does that mean?  Does it mean that those who choose a life of recklessness and random choices that buck the system are naturally born to be that way?  I doubt it.

‘Wildness’ is something I’ve never been accused of personally (I’ve been accused of many other things…).  In high school, my idea of being wild was driving with the windows of my Mustang down while playing (AC/DC) louder than my ears could handle (a time before I met the Lord).  I was really a rebel…  Although, I did have a motorcycle in college for a while that rode around with my Navy fighter pilot’s jacket on (not a chopper, but who’s counting). 

It’s been my experience that those who choose a wild lifestyle are doing so because they’re trying to either compensate for something they feel is missing in their life or rebelling against an authority of some kind.  Both are paths that will only lead to choices which bring with them pain and hardship. Unfortunately, when we’re in pain or angry, we’re often at a point in our life when we have the least visibility to the consequences of our choices until it’s too late.

SO, tonight, for all those out there who enjoy getting ‘wild’ like me by getting that extra side of fries once in a while or having one more cookie when you know you shouldn’t, here’s to you.  For those who are truly running from pain and rebelling from an authority in your life, you will always be welcome home no matter where your choices may lead you because you are loved…

Love always

Indecisiveness – Breaking Free from Fear


Decisions are a normal part of life.  From the moment we’re born we begin to make them and never stop.  Throughout our life we make good ones and bad ones not always knowing the difference until later.  Some decisions take more time and others are spontaneous; subconscious if you will.

Depending on the person, it may be a burden overshadowed by fear just to decide whether they want to have Chinese food or a Burger for dinner.  Not to make light of indecisive people because it really can be a challenge for some to make the smallest of everyday decisions like when to eat, what to wear, what television show to watch, or simply whether to call a friend when they need to talk.

What drives our inability to be decisive?  Without any doubt, fear of the unknown is one of the primary influences on a person when they are making a choice.  But, is that a bad thing?  I would contend it can be both good and not so good. 

All too often when we’re young the lack of fear allows us to make irrational and impulsive choices often leading us to a destructive end.  As we age and have the scars to show for those impulsive decisions, we tend to be overly cautious and may miss opportunities because of it.

So, yes, fear of not touching the hot stove or walking out into the middle of a busy street will keep us safe.  But when fear begins to bind us in knots leaving us crippled by it, is when we need to break free.  Every decision becomes a burden.  When making the smallest of decisions we hear that, ‘What if?’ ringing through our minds.  The larger decisions may even lead us into a panic attack rendering us helpless.

As parents the fear factor is something we must contend with every day.  On one hand we want to protect our children from every kind of harm and on the other we want them to learn from their mistakes like we did.  I cringe when I think about the things I did as a child while playing outside.  Parents today would NEVER allow their kids to do most of what we considered normal.  Kids today are in car seats until they’re in elementary school.  I don’t remember ever using a seat belt.  The back seat was our territory to fight over and use as a trampoline if we wanted (well, maybe not quite that bad, but you get the point). 

How do we know when fear is keeping us from making decisions or binding us so badly that we are ineffective?  For most of us it’s not whether we know it’s there because we live with it constantly. It’s knowing what to do about it.  So, how do we overcome fear so we can be free to take chances again and let go of the constant worry?

There really isn’t a quick solution, unfortunately.  Most of our fears are built from years of hurt, failure, mistakes, or being told by others to be afraid of one thing or another.  The first step is to recognize where fear has us bound in our life (easy one).  The second step is to realize that fear is not always reality because, if we can see it for what it is (usually a lie) then it will be easier to overcome.  The third, most important step, is to ask God to help us by giving us courage, wisdom, and faith. 

Having the wisdom to know truth from a lie also comes from experience and open-minded research.  Not believing everything we read on the Internet is a great start.  Then, having the courage and faith in God knowing that He is with us, to step out on what we know to be true, even if we fail, will begin to break the chains of fear in our life.  Every time we do that, whether we fail or succeed, we take one more step to freedom, and one day, we’ll look back and see how far the chains of fear have fallen behind us on our way to a brave new way of living our life…

Love always

The Old Fan Reminding Me of The Simple Things


By the desk in my office I have an old red fan with one of those metal ‘covers’ made specifically to be a hazard to anyone who accidentally (or not so accidentally) sticks their finger in there while it’s running.  And, I will admit, I have done that before, and it did not feel good.

What’s cool about those old fans is that they have an art deco style and bring to mind memories of the old private detective movies I used to enjoy watching as a kid.  You won’t find them around stores these days, however; there are too many injury lawyers out there ready to sue after the first scratch of the blade. 

I occasionally use my fan in the summer when the heat is too much even for the air conditioner, but most of the time, it sits on the shelf along with other memorabilia from times past.  I like it because it reminds of the ‘Good ‘ole days’ and helps to give my office that ‘Look’.

As I sit at my desk tonight looking over at that old red fan and listening to Glenn Miller playing in the background, the Mrs is in the kitchen baking cupcakes for our grandson’s birthday party tomorrow and I’m reminded of God’s blessings over the years that have led me to where I am today.   Even though the road has been full of potholes, sharp curves, roadblocks, and frightening moments when it seemed as though there was no way forward, the road today seems much different; It’s more like a wide-open West Texas road with plenty of sunshine ahead. To look back at the challenges past only brings thankfulness as the pain that came with them grows further and further away.

So, tonight here’s to the simple things in life that remind us how blessed we truly are.  It may not be an old red fan sitting on the shelf next to your desk, but if it takes you back to a simpler time and helps you appreciate what you have today, then it’s a good thing and something to hold onto.  Because, we won’t be around forever and the longer we live, the more we’ll learn to appreciate the simpler things of life as it’s they which help us to hold onto the good memories and to let go of the past pains until they’re just a distant memory in the rearview mirror…

Love always

There’s No Place Like Home


One of our favorite movies to watch growing up was, ‘The Wizard of Oz’.   Back then there were no pay-per-view services, Blockbuster video stores, or DVDs.  Nope, our favorite movies came on national TV once a year (Poseidon Adventure, The Ten Commandments, Planet of the Apes, etc.) and, if we missed it, we would have to wait a full year to watch it again.  No VCRs then either.

In many ways, I miss those days when the whole family came together to watch our favorite movie.  It brought us all together.  When watching the ‘Wizard of Oz’, Grandma would usually use Dorothy’s journey to the land of Oz as an opportunity to teach us a few life lessons (something I learned from her and drove our kids crazy with) about how the family is most important. 

We learned many other lessons from the movie of course.  Lessons like the importance of friends, overcoming evil with good, that having a heart is more than physical, fear isn’t a sign of a lack of courage, and that the glitter of the city can’t replace the love of a home in the middle of Kansas.

With today’s commercial video world, kids can watch the yellow brick road scene until their parents break the disk and grab a bottle of wine just to calm down.  There’s a constant need for more visual sensation and many of the life lessons are buried under a pile of DVDs.

With our families so divided by distance it becomes very difficult to enjoy those times when we can all come together just to watch a classic movie or simply play games.  Our family is no different with relatives in South Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Alaska, Washington, and California, the time that we are able to have together is limited to an annual plane trip (if we can afford it) instead of the annual movie on the television.

Some families seem miles apart even though they live down the road from each other.  It’s not the distance in miles that keeps them apart, but the walls built up by bitterness, misunderstandings, anger, selfishness, and pride.  Dorothy learned that, more than anything else, her family was what she cherished the most.  Sure, it’s just a movie and maybe a little bit cheesy, but it makes a good point; that, at the end of the day, there truly is no place like home.

There may not be a way for us to click our heels together and take us back to a time when we were all together (whether physically or emotionally), but we do have the ability to pick up the phone and make a call, post a note on Facebook, or send a ‘Just because’ card to let our loved ones know we’re thinking of them.  Whatever we do to help keep the family bond together, after everything is said-and-done and we look back on our life, it will be those things we remember.  So tonight here’s to the family because there truly is no place like home…

Love always

Restored and Refreshed


The Mrs. and I recently watched one of our favorite home shows where they took a small house located on a giant lot and restored it into something beautiful.  The highlight of the home wasn’t only the renovation, but the fact that there was a private pond (small lake really) in their backyard where they could step outside and enjoy the relaxing view.

When they began, the home had every issue one could imagine; everything from termite damage, foundation issues, water damage, rodent infestations, outdated electrical, rotten plumbing, and every floor had to be replaced.  By the time they finished the work, it was almost completely new.  Having only paid fifteen thousand dollars for the home and land, the owner then spent another fifty thousand into renovating it (all she could afford).  With the pond in the back combined with what the show did for her, it is now probably worth more than double what she put into it. 

In many ways, that old rundown house reminds me of life.  So many times, life tears at us and breaks us down.  The infestation of greed, anger, and bitterness eat into us all the way down to our core.  Over time, the enemy comes to steal from us, poor decisions cause the loss of structure, and fear wreaks havoc with our security until, one day, we’re only a shell of what we were.

It’s at that point, if we only ask, that the Great Carpenter comes in and brings new life to our weather worn hearts. He kicks out the enemy, reinforces our inner foundation with joy and peace, heals the wounds that brought brokenness, and refreshes us with a new coat of Spiritual paint. 

When He’s done, we’ll look better than we ever did before; inside and out.  The wounded, broken home of our heart will be completely restored, and He’ll put His peace where chaos once was.  When we open the door to our heart, we’ll look out and see the fresh, clear water of His Spirit.  All that was meant to destroy us will now be gone leaving only a beautiful work completed by His very hands…

Love always