Up in Flames


I sometimes think about driving home one day and finding out that our home had burned down.  All our life’s savings, memories, clothes, and furniture had gone up in flames.  It’s not a pleasant thought that’s for sure.   But, it’s one that many men may have as they comb through their minds trying to think of all the possible ways a fire could start in their home.  Even after all of the forethought and taking care, nature may still win out.

Several years ago, some friends of ours had a bolt of lightning hit their home and send electricity through the house shorting out all the wall units and starting a fire.  The fire quickly took hold.  They were fortunate enough to get of the burning house, along with their pet dog, only to watch their life’s work go up in flames.  Because the fire department arrived quickly, they were at least able to preserve the structure of their home, but the water and smoke still had done tremendous damage.  Since then, they have rebuilt their home into something even better than it was before.  The journey has been a long one and the cost has been very high.  Not everyone can say the same, however.  Many will lose their home and not have anything left but ashes and smoke.

Sometimes, relationships can end a lot like those homes burned down by ‘natural’ disasters.  We may be in what we think is a solid relationship only to see it go up in flames from an unexpected random event that brings destruction when we least expect it.  We may not lose the entire relationship, but what’s left, we may not feel is worth saving.

On the other hand, we may have very little left when a relationship falls apart but with hard work, lots of effort, sacrifice, and persistence, over time we may be able to rebuild it into something even better than it was before.  It may look the same on the outside to those who didn’t know what we had to do to repair it, but inside, we will know.

I know I’m speaking in what some may consider hyperbole, but the truth is that every relationship will come under fire.  That fire may wreak havoc on us.  It may even seem like there’s no way to repair it and that it’s better to just walk away.  Yet, with enough love, care, and time, nearly any broken relationship can be rebuilt.  

Tonight, I’m praying for one specific relationship in my own life that had burned up in flames long ago by a random flaming arrow that was shot into my life.  What’s left is but a shell of what it could have been.  I’m still holding out for it to be rebuilt into something better than ever.  I have the vision and desire for it to be rebuilt.  I also know that, with God’s help, it can be done.  It won’t be easy and there will be lots of painful moments in the process, but in the end, it will be worth it.

If you’re facing the loss of a relationship that went up in flames, be encouraged.  What seems to be lost can be rebuilt.  You may not even want it to be rebuilt, but over time as wounds heal and forgiveness is granted, you may find that openness to try again.  This time, it could work out into something even better than it was before.  With God’s help, all things are possible…

Love always

Reflections


If you’re like me, the older you get the less you want to look in the mirror.  Some young people spend hours checking their face, their hair, their muscles, and even taking selfies in front of it.  Me, no way.  Sure, the close-up mirror is good for a few things, but there’s no need to spend countless hours looking at myself only to be reminded of how age is creeping up on me more and more every day.

Mirrors have been around for thousands of years, although not like our modern mirror which has been around for only a couple hundred years.  That fact that they have been around so long only tells me that people were the same then as they are now.  They were conscientious of their appearance.  Or, they just loved looking at themselves which is more of what we find in our culture today.

Being conscientious isn’t a bad thing.  In fact, I’m probably one of the most conscientious people I know.  There’s just something inside of me that is constantly concerned about what others around me might be thinking about practically everything.  Call me insecure or naïve, but that trait has been helpful in sales and it goes a long way in keeping the Mrs. happy too.  Just saying.

What if we could take the same conscientiousness that we feel about ourselves when we look in the mirror and turn it inward?  Meaning, what if we concerned ourselves more about how we looked on the inside than how we looked on the outside?

Over the course of my life I’ve made a habit of not only looking at my face in the mirror but looking at my eyes and my soul too.  Because the eye is the window of the soul, one can often tell how they’re really feeling on the inside by looking at them instead of their smile.  It may be difficult to do but peering into one’s own soul can be telling and humbling.

Sometimes I see vanity, pride, anger, emotional fatigue, and selfishness.  Other times, especially after praying in the morning, I can see God’s light, an aura of peace, and a soul at rest.  Looking into the mirror before prayer certainly can be a motivator for me to turn around and get on my knees to pray for sure. 

If we don’t like what we see when we’re looking into the mirror of our soul, the good news is that we don’t have to stay that way.  There is One we can turn to who will wash the stains, cleanse away the anger, show us His beauty instead of our vanity, and reveal His humility instead of our pride.  He will fill us with His peace and His light so the next time we gaze into that mirror, we will see more of Him and much less of us…

Love always

Out to Pasture


I was thinking earlier this week about what the appropriate age might be to get out of sales.  Right now, I feel like I’m more effective than I’ve ever been.   I guess there’s just something about the grey beard, and a lot more experience, that gives some credibility (along with, most importantly, God’s help). 

There’s still that thought in my head that says, ‘At what age will I either not be able to do this any longer or that I’ll be so old that I won’t even have the ability to walk into a customer’s office?’   It inspires me to evaluate my health regularly that’s for certain.  The fact remains, in order to afford a lesser paying role, or even retirement, I’ll need to have a much bigger nest egg built up than we do now.

Please don’t take me wrong, I trust God to always provide for our needs both now and in the far distant future.  Who knows what that may include when we’re in our seventies?   All I know is that those days are approaching quicker than ever and I want to be ready for them. 

So tonight here’s to not being obsessed with the day that we too will be, ‘Put out to pasture’ and focusing on the here and now.  Here’s to trusting God with our finances and our provision no matter what our age we may be. And, here’s to walking in the assurance that He will always be there with us no matter what lies ahead…

Love always

Rocky


Just like children, our dogs all have different personalities.  Even the ones from the same bread.  We have two Yorkies and they couldn’t be any more different from each other.  Daisy is the loving, dominant, and loyal one who follows you into every room just to be sure she’s with you.  Then, there’s Rocky…

Rocky is our oldest dog named after the movie for being small but tough (so we thought).  He’s nearly twelve years old now and starting to show his age.  He lost most of his teeth over the past year, may be losing his hearing, is starting to get cataracts, and walks a little slower in the morning (sounds human doesn’t it?).   Unlike Daisy, he’s the independent one who likes his own place on the couch and likes his ears scratched only when he feels like it.   He’s also a little bit of a whiner; mainly when he’s not getting something he wants or the spot he claimed on the couch is being occupied. 

What I’ve come to realize about these three dogs of ours with their different personalities, is that they are each teaching me something about life.  Daisy is the easy one with her loyalty, strength, and love.  Rocky, well, he’s the one who teaches me patience and to cope with those aging around me. 

One of those patience teaching quirks he has is to sit and wait for the other two dogs to finish eating before he does.  Then, if his dish isn’t sitting in just the right spot, he will look at me then back at the dish than back at me and so on.  Over and over.  Commanding him to eat, rewarding him, and even praising him won’t work.  As long as I’m in the room and not looking at him, he will gradually decide it’s ‘time’ for him to eat and mow his food down.  If money wasn’t an object, I would seriously consider taking him to a dog therapist (if there is such a thing). 

For all his little quirks, though, Rocky is still the grandad of our three dogs and worthy of respect.  We hope he’s with us as long as God will allow.  In the meantime, I’ll keep learning about patience from this little friend of my mine…

Love always

The Barber Shop


If there’s one thing in life I like to avoid and yet am glad I still have the need to do so, is getting a haircut.  For those of you who may be slightly OCD like me, just the thought of sitting in the chair where countless other men, women, and children have sat while their hair fell to the ground and on that chair, sort of grosses me out a bit.  Granted, the entire experience usually depends more on the hairstylist than the actual chair.  Their personality, styling ability, and overall kindness, will make or break it for me. 

Being blessed with straight blond hair and a cowlick on the side of my head, there are few choices for my styles.   In college, while in Navy training, I thought I would get the aviator flat-top cut that later became famous with Top Gun.  The barber on base was a funny man from the Philippines who said, ‘I cut yo hair like aircraft carrier…. Flat so birds can land.  Haaa…!’.  I’ll never forget that.  Needless to say, the 80’s girls back in college weren’t too thrilled about the style when I got back. 

Today, it seems that the hairstylist can even be more of a counselor.  I will admit, it can be humorous, and slightly uncomfortable, sitting in the waiting area having to hear some of the things people tell them while they’re getting their haircut.  I mean, it’s everything from their pet dogs to what town they grew up in to their work and so on…  They do have a captive audience there, but I’m not one to divulge my whole life story to a room full of strangers no matter how many times they try to ask about it.

How we keep our hair says a lot about who we are.  In today’s society hair has become a status symbol, a fashion symbol, and even a social/political statement depending on the person.  For me, now that my grey hair is coming in (beyond just my beard), I tend to go for the brushed back look with a few waves.  The Mrs doesn’t like my hair getting too long, but she does approve of the ‘Most Interesting Man Look’…

Whether our hair is brown, blonde, red, black, or grey, we’re all in the same boat.  We all need to get them cut sooner or later.  Most of all, under that hair, we’re all human.  So, if you want short hair, long hair, bleached hair, or curly hair, it doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters most is who we are underneath.  The rest is just the icing on the cake… 

Love always

Persistence – Turning What’s Abandoned Into a Beautiful Home


This week has raced by while the Microsoft whirlwind continues to build into Q2.  For guys like me, that means high stress every day, millions on the line for our customers, and Microsoft pushing what they may not need right now.  You can imagine that Fridays look better all the time.

While working at my desk this week, I was able to watch the neighbor’s home across the street getting a major landscape upgrade.  It’s the final piece of the puzzle being added after nearly three years which has seen the house go from being a mediocre rental property, an abandoned construction project with no roof, to a fully refurbished home mostly done by a couple of local handymen.

Witnessing the transformation has been a way to take the focus off work for a few minutes at a time.  Somehow, seeing the framers, the roofers, the painters complete their projects, and now the landscapers have helped to keep things in perspective for me both at home and at work.  I know, it probably seems like I’m a nosy neighbor (well, maybe a little bit), but knowing the work someone else is doing across the street is making that abandoned project better along with helping our home’s value increase, sort of worms my heart a bit.

As crazy as life can be for a lot of us, there’s always someone out there who has it worse than we do.  To see other people’s lives, grow and change for the better after being abandoned for the worse, is something worth watching.   It’s inspiring to see the result of hard work, dedication, and persistence through the tough times result in something others will admire.

Tonight here’s to persisting even when it’s tough.  Here’s to not giving up when the pressure is on and realizing that, as hard as we have it, there’s always someone out there who has it worse than we do.  Here’s to keeping our focus when everything seems to be going in different directions.  Most of all here’s to taking joy in other people’s success after they’ve been thrown to the side of the road.   They deserve our appreciation, encouragement, and admiration because when they make their lives better, ours improves too.

Love always….

Ms. Daisy


I never really considered myself as a ‘Dog person’, but over the past eighteen years of marriage to the Mrs. who helped bring dogs into my life, they have grown on me.  When I was little we had several dogs I’d loved but, over time, they either ran away or passed away.  Cats became the staple of our home and remained a part of my life for another twenty years after leaving home.

Today, we have three wonderful friends we share our home with; Rocky (a micro Yorkie and the oldest), Watson (a micro Schnauzer all white and a ball of love), and Daisy (the middle-aged girl and another micro Yorkie).  Tonight, I wanted to share a little bit about Daisy.

Too often in our American culture we tend to assign human attributes to our animals.  We talk to them like our kids (I’m guilty of this as well), we feed them food we shouldn’t, and even take them on planes with us.  The Mrs. and I are not as ‘extreme’ as some may be that way, but we do get them the custom sweaters to wear. There’s no plane trips, doggie carriage rides, or doggie harnesses to carry them around in, though.  We believe they are dogs and they should enjoy being dogs.

Still, even though they are dogs, they remind me of some of the best character traits humans can emulate. Traits like unconditional love, faithfulness, self-sacrifice, joy, loyalty, strength, fearlessness, and even compassion.  I know there are some out there who believe all a dog wants is food and attention, but having them in our lives for so long, I would say they truly do feel emotions.  Most of all, they know, feel, and show love.

Daisy is no different.  She is loyal, protective, strong, loving, sweet, determined, and sticks by me no matter how grumpy I may be that day.  She loves food a little too much, but we keep an eye on that too.  She’s the leader of the three dogs and faithfully sits by my side every night on the couch.  That’s her spot and that’s the way it’s going to be.

From the time she was a puppy, I bonded with Daisy.  She sensed it and bonded with me too.  She loves the Mrs., but she is definitely a daddy’s girl.  Many times, she has been there to help comfort my heart in times of sadness and there when I just needed a little attention.

Tonight, here’s to you Ms. Daisy.  We love you and I am so glad you are in our lives.  You bring joy and security to our home.  The love you feel as a little animal is something to admire and learn from.  We just hope we can be as loving to you as you are to us…

Love always…

Men’s Feet


Over the years, the Mrs and I have had a continuing difference of opinion about sandals.  The bottom line is that she likes them on men, and I hate them.  The reason for me is clear; the majority of men’s feet are hairy, most men don’t care for their toe nails, their toes are odd shaped, their feet are usually neanderthal looking, and just plain ugly. 

I’ll be careful not to ‘over generalize’ because I know some men actually do have ‘nice’ feet.  Me being one of them (according the Mrs).  By nice, I mean high arches, toes all aligned symmetrically at even, descending lengths, and very little hair.  That would be mine.  So, she thinks I need to wear sandals because it will show off my feet, keep them ‘aired out’, and even make me look more masculine. 

Masculine is where I draw the line.  Being raised in a cooler climate and during a time when only ‘Hippies’ wore sandals, I find it hard to view them as manly.  Very much the opposite in fact.  To me, manly men wear shoes, boots, hiking shoes, cowboy boots, or fashionable tennis shoes.  If they wear flip flops, well, I won’t even go there… I will admit that I did break down and began to wear ankle socks with my tennis shoes a few years back (that took some time for me to do).

It’s just that most of the men I see who wear sandals, wear the open-toe kind and they often have big, hairy toes that usually are out of whack and just nasty.  I find them more in line with men from the dark ages than with modern day fashion. 

Summer will be here soon and the battle will be on again with the Mrs over what footwear to don while outside.  This year, I decided to pull a one-up on her and purchase a pair of sandals that hide the toes and look, well, manlier than most; they’re more like hiking sandals.  These, I think I’ll be able to wear without too much self-consciousness happening.  Maybe I’ll even wear them with socks (just kidding).  Needless to say, she was pleasantly surprised and even slightly shocked.  We’ll see how many times I actually put them on (probably only when we go out on a date or for a walk around our town square). 

I know I’m not alone out there, I’m sure there are women and men alike who would agree with me who wish some guys would just put some socks on already…please.  I understand that there’s probably a few people who will read this and think I’m just an old-fashioned guy who needs to get with the times.  That’s ok.  They can wear their sandals whenever they want.  I’ll just avoid them on airplanes.  Just saying…

Love always…

Holy Cow!


One of the things I would do to drive the kids crazy while on road trips was call out, ‘Holy Cow!’ every time we passed by some cows in the field.  It worked the first few times, but over time, they would just look at me with a scowl of annoyance and contempt.  Of course, that only made it even more fun for me than making them laugh.  Just knowing I was annoying them was somehow even better (especially when they were going through the teen years).

Between the gastric sound effects, the corny jokes, occasional long-winded ‘Life lessons’, or having to make a pun out of every business we passed by, it was enough to make the kids (and the Mrs.) long for the trip to be over.  Thankfully, time has a way of changing those memories into something we can laugh about now.  Well, mostly laugh about anyway.

Whether it’s a road trip or just a trip to the store, being a dad is never an easy task.  I sometimes long for the days when the biggest problem was getting them off the Xbox or saying no to something they wanted at the store.  It seems the problems we all face as teens only grow into bigger, more complicated ones as we get older.  That is why I find it fun to joke about stupid things at times. It helps to take our eyes off the problems even if it’s just for a minute, and humor is always good for the soul. 

You may not like to torment your kids with goofiness like I did (and still do with the grand boys) but taking a break from our problems and finding some humor in even the smallest of things will help lift the burdens we tend to hold onto.  Thankfully, I have a wonderful wife who likes to laugh at my silly jokes and tolerates my juvenile behavior.  If she didn’t, I’d probably need to have a few cold packs ready to put on my swollen eyes from time to time. 

So, for all the men out there, the next time you are driving around with family and pass by a herd of cows, if this blog pops into your head, feel free to blurt out, ‘Holy Cow!!’ You might just get a laugh or two.  Or, you may get the rolling eyes and a few ‘Ughs!’.  Either way, at least you had fun…

Love always.

Lost Memories Found


This week brought back a lot of memories of my childhood. Many of which I hadn’t even thought about for years. My dad found a box in his attic in South Carolina where he had kept some of my memorabilia while I was moving all over California. 

He asked if I’d like the box sent to me not really knowing what was in it and I almost told him to trash it thinking it was just some old college books and papers.  We decided that it was probably better if he sent them to me just to be sure there wasn’t something in the box I may want and boy am I glad we did.

The box arrived a few days ago (Dad must have sent it express). When I opened it up, I found a bag full of memories my mother had given me years ago that was put away for safekeeping in that box.  As I pulled each piece from the bag, I began to realize just how much my parents loved me back then and how sentimental they were. 

Mom had saved every report card, teacher note, school picture, newspaper clippings, graduation cards, report cards, class photos, and even my class letters.  To top that, my baby book, baby announcements, baby pictures, and baby journal were all kept safely in that bag.  It was truly one of the best gifts I could have been given and I am so grateful we didn’t agree to trash the box and thankful for my dad having kept it safe all of these years!

I doubt many people can open a drawer and look at their kindergarten class picture, their sixth grade report card, their school crossing certificates, and nearly every school picture ever taken of them like it was yesterday.   Truthfully, I don’t know what I’m going to do with them other than save them to show the kids, and grandkids, one day. But, just knowing they’re there is special.

More important to me than all the memories, is the reminder that both my dad and Mom loved me enough to save those memories.  It reminds me of the show, ‘This is Us’ that the Mrs. and I FINALLY decided to watch.  We’re starting with season one and have already had to wipe the tears from our eyes more than once!  

Tonight, you may not have those memories of your past all in a drawer where you can look at them when you want. They may have been thrown away long ago because they were too painful, but know that, no matter what memories you have of your early years, you have always been loved by a Heavenly Father. 

His love is eternal, and He has always been there in your life.  Not only that, He will never leave you or abandon you.  His acceptance of you is 100% because of Jesus and He will never let you down even if our natural parents do.  Most of all, He can make those broken memories new again and help to restore what was lost long ago because that’s just what He does…

Love Always…