It’s Ok to Cry


Whether traveling or taking a trip to the local grocery store, one is bound to run into a child who feels life wasn’t being fair to them when their mom or dad decided not to let them have what they wanted.  Their immediate reaction, without hesitation or regret, to scream at the top of their lungs followed up by a river of tears, sobbing, and whining. 

Our human nature kicks in at an early age and never leaves.  We may not throw fits or cry the tears when not getting our way today, but we do have to fight tears in other ways.  Thankfully, when we’re young, the pains of life haven’t yet hit us.  As we age, they come without prejudice to every one of us. 

My generation was one where men weren’t supposed to cry.  It made them appear less masculine (‘girly’ if you will).  As I’ve grown older, that old stereotype has changed to the point today where it sometimes seems that men, younger men, in particular, cry more than most women.  Go figure.

Not that there’s anything wrong with crying.  In fact, it can refresh the soul and release the bottled-up emotions we’ve been holding onto.  I’ve always been more sentimental than most men and, especially after a lack of sleep, find myself crying at movies or when I witness an act of love. 

Tears aren’t always about the pain of course.  Sometimes they’re tears of joy.  Such as when we see a loved one who we haven’t seen for a long time or when we make a commitment of love to one another.  I even cry when I see others acting out of selflessness at the store or on the street. 

The Mrs will tell you she’s glad I can cry (and, believe me, she has seen me in some moments when the picket was wide open over the loss of my girls).  That said, I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate me carrying a hanky around and waving it in the air every time I see something ‘special’.  Just saying…

If you’re wrestling with letting out the tears holding them back because of shame or from being told all your life that it’s not appropriate, I want to encourage you to find a private place and let them go.  It’s Ok.  God sees the tears and hears your heart.  He wants to heal those wounds of the past and wash away the shame.  He loves you unconditionally and will never reject you. 

His love is forever and without exception.   I guarantee, when you get those tears out, you will feel better and He will have a chance to come in and heal those wounds that you’ve kept hidden for so long…

Love Always

Pretentiousness – Where Does It Come From?


Tonight, the Mrs. and I watched another episode of a new favorite show on Hulu called, ‘The Kids Are Alright’.  It’s based on a Catholic middle-class family with eight kids (all boys) set in the early 1970’s.  Of course, we can both relate to many of the cliché’s and cultural references since we were both kids during that time; which makes the show even more funny to us.

The episode we enjoyed was about a drama program the church was putting on in order to raise money.  The middle son, who narrates the show as an adult, and his brother were in competition to make themselves stand out; one as an actor and the other a stage designer.  Both boys had an insecure need to be noticed by others and to find approval. 

The older son, normally the mother’s favorite who is always trying to please her, even risked his infamous status by standing up for himself when she tried to stop him from being a part of the play.  It was a moment many children who are afraid of displeasing their parents feel; the fear that their parents won’t love them or approve of them if they do what they really want to do instead of what their parent’s want.

Earlier today while traveling in Austin traffic, the thought came to my mind how so many in the world wrestle with pretentiousness when I heard a spot on the radio calling out how, because so many people today suffer from a fear of pleasing others, there is a lack of authenticity in our culture.  I have my own understanding of pretentiousness, but I decided to look up what Webster defines it as; ‘Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed’.

We seem to be so obsessed with being greater than we are.  This need is driven by an insecurity deep inside that says we won’t be good enough, or accepted, unless we are greater than we are.  I can’t help but to believe that this ingrained need comes from our childhood somewhere as in the show today where two brothers are competing for the same attention and approval, not only with each other, but with their six other siblings.

The challenge for all parents is to help their children feel a sense of self-worth, acceptance, and to have a positive self-image.  With so many things competing for our attention, providing that is not an easy task.  Even so, today we see some parents pour too much time into the effort and create a sense of entitlement in their kids.  So, where’s the balance?  How do we know when we’re giving too little or too much? 

Our children will most likely not tell us verbally.  Most will act out in other ways that may seem negative (I know because I did just that).  Because they can’t express what they feel in words, they make poor choices or rebel against authority.  All of which is a cry for attention, love, and acceptance. 

I wish I had all the answers but, the truth is, I feel like a total failure in this area.  It’s taken me years to overcome my own insecurities, fears, and poor self-worth that have led to poor choices in my own past. 

Without a doubt, it’s not easy to be a parent today, but with God’s help, guidance from His word, and letting go of our own need for acceptance from our children, it will allow us to make some of those tough choices (and, believe me, they are some of the toughest choices we’ll ever have to make).  In the end, we may not be perfect, but at least we tried and loved the way we knew how.  And that’s really all that matters isn’t it?

Love Always

Guys Who Wear Too Much Cologne


Have you ever gotten into an elevator with a guy who didn’t know when to stop spraying on the cologne in the morning?  I mean, do they think we all have a sinus infection or have plugged up noses?  Were they hoping that special someone who they are attracted to would notice them from 20 feet away?  I mean, really?

It’s not that I have an issue with cologne, or as we called it growing up, ‘After-shave’.  I grew up with the ‘Old Spice Man’ commercials.  Yeah, wearing Old Spice was the mark of a real man.  Somehow, when women smelled it on you, they would just come running (so they tried to make you think but, in reality, they thought you were too cheap to buy a good cologne).   Not today.  No, today I couldn’t even begin to describe what they try to market in the cologne commercials.

It’s true, a nice smelling man (or, to be politically correct, person) is considered more attractive.  The Mrs even enjoys the cologne I wear (not Old Spice), but I’m sure she wouldn’t want me taking a shower in it.  On occasion, while traveling, I’ll pick up a rental car after the previous renter put on WAY too much cologne.  It then took at least two days to scrub the smell from my skin.  Somehow, I just felt violated.  Just saying.

My recommendation tonight for all you guys; less is best.  If the lady you love can smell you from a foot or two away, that’s great.  But if every man, woman, child, and animal can smell you from a mile away, maybe it’s time to tone it down a few notches.  Trust me, your manliness will still be there in the morning.

So, I’ll leave all of you tonight with a classic Old Spice commercial full of wisdom to ponder for the future…



Love Always

Getting out of the Weeds


This week has proven to be a great week, and a busy one.  The first half was spent in Tampa, FL for business training where I was able to connect with my teammates from around the country.  The training was mostly technical and around the future of what we’ll be selling. 

During our training, a common phrase used was, ‘Not to get too far down in the weeds’.   Meaning, not to get too detailed and specific about a technical point that would take away from the larger picture we were discussing. 

For whatever reason, it rang out in my head every time the expression was used by one of the presenters who was chasing a rabbit after one of our team asked them too many questions about a small point.  It was as though there was a lesson there for me.  Often in my line of work, the importance of paying attention to detail could make a million-dollar difference either in favor of or against the company.  So, you can imagine that I tend to pay more attention to detail these days.

Although paying attention to detail is crucial in my job, in life it can cause one to be myopic (single-minded and focused) and miss out on the bigger picture by being distracted with the insignificant details instead of seeing the broader picture.

I know, we’re all created (‘Wired’) differently and that certainly plays a role in what we do in life.  Some people will never be a visionary automaker because they’ll get caught up in how a stereo knob turns.  Others will never become engineers because they’re too concerned about what color the product is supposed to be.  But, even though we’re all different, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from each other.

The visionary would do well to listen to the engineers who tell them the product needs to be corrected before selling to the general public (i.e. Tesla).   The engineer would do well to listen to the visionary who can guide them in the correct route to take through the development stages helping to create a product that beats out the competition. 

For me, not getting too caught in the weeds helps me to see beyond myself.  It helps me to look past the problems I may think are big to see that I’m not alone in this world; others have problems even bigger than mine.   In fact, getting past the monocular focus helps me to find peace, hope, and a little less stress by not focusing on the negative.  It helps me to see the positive in a situation too. 

If you’re struggling to get out of the weeds in your life at times, I want to encourage you to step back and take a look beyond the small issues that tend to consume us all.  Sure, those weeds are important and could be hiding something dangerous, but if we miss the larger picture, we may be missing out on a lot.  The key is finding a balance.  Finding that balance, with God’s help, will make you more aware of the details in the weeds and allow you to enjoy the view more than you could ever have imagined. 

Love Always

Free from Hate


All too often today we hear the rhetoric about hate speech in the media and press.  We see acts of hate caught live on a cell phone video camera and broadcast to the world through social media.  It’s no longer a story we read about in the newspaper and forget; it’s in our living room, on our tablet, and on our phone wherever we go.  But, how do we deal with hate in our own life?

Growing up we had a golden rule grilled into us; never hate anyone.  We could be angry with them, dislike them, and even want to smack them, but when it came to hate, we were told there’s nothing worse.  I’ve kept that moto throughout my life. 

In even the worst of people, including myself, I’ve learned to look for what God may see in them (and me).  I’ll admit, it’s not always easy when you see what some people are capable of; especially when it causes pain to you or your family.

Hate, as defined by Webster is, ‘Intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.  Extreme dislike or disgust, antipathy, loathing’.   Have you ever met someone who felt that way towards you?  I have.   Have you ever felt that way toward another?  I have. 

Albeit briefly, I have felt hate.  When I did, it was for a person who had brought great pain into my life unfairly.  They were abusive, manipulative, controlling, angry, selfish, vain, hateful, and basically sociopathic.  They felt no regret or concern for my pain or the pain they brought to my family.  All they wanted was for me, in their own words, to ‘Rot in Hell’ no matter what the cost. 

In all my life I’d never experienced such a thing and haven’t again to this day.  In the midst of it all, however, I found a way out of the pain, confusion, anger, and, yes, hate.  It was through the words of Jesus to love my enemies and to pray for them. 

In His own loving way, God reminded me that I was no perfect angel either.  He gently led me down the path of forgiving them daily (something I still do today).  Through the gradual act of letting go and forgiving them, I found peace in my heart and life.

God set me free from hating someone who stole memories from me and my family forever.  He has now brought me to a place where I can pray for them to be blessed and free from their own bondages to hate.   God has worked a full circle in my heart. 

Had I allowed that hate to fester it would have rotted me to the bones and brought great misery to my life (and the lives of those around me).  Instead, life sprang forth again and continues to grow.  That person is still hateful toward me, but I have given them to God and chose to pray for them.  Perhaps, one day, the love and forgiveness I send their way in prayer will find its way to them and return back to me…  God only knows, but I will keep at it because I choose to forgive and not hate.

Love always

My How Times Have Changed


The Mrs worked downtown at the antique store today which gave me time to get a few things done around the house like taking a nap, eating lunch, shopping for that next cell phone, and so on.  Despite all those physically exhausting activities, I ended the day feeling tired and, before I knew it, 5:00 came around and it was time to pick her up from her work.

I usually take the side roads downtown on the weekends because McKinney has become quite the getaway location for the weekend shopping trips and people, sadly, forget how to drive when they’re looking for parking places.  McKinney has also become a haven for photographers to take outdoor senior pictures, wedding shots, or just portrait shots using the alleys, which are all lined with old bricks and stone, so one needs to watch where they’re going. 

As I was driving down a well-traveled alley around the corner from the Mrs store, I was forced to wait for a group of students to finish taking their iPhone photos of themselves against one of those popular brick walls.  These were no ordinarily dressed students either.  They were dressed like they were heading to a high-class dinner party or prom.

At first, I was surprised that the students were already having Prom (something I later found wasn’t the case) but then was taken totally back by the way the girls were dressed, or to be more precise, not dressed.  The father nature in me reared its head and my mind was flooded with thoughts of giving their dad’s a good talking too for letting their girls go out on a date dressed like that. 

Over dinner, the Mrs and I discussed the students and how they were dressed remembering how our prom dresses looked in the… well, a long time ago.  The first thought that came to both of us was how people would have reacted if a girl had dressed that way back then; they would have been quickly covered up and escorted home.  Of course, if a girl dressed the way they used to now, with the poofy shoulders and gowns, they would probably be laughed out of the prom today.

Time changes things; that’s a certainty.  The realization that it’s changing so quickly around us is sometimes difficult to deal with.  I understand more than ever how my grandparents must have felt and how easy it could have been to stay stuck in a time that has passed long ago.

We must fight the urge to give up and disengage from the world around us.  Or, to become critical of the world around us always comparing it to the past.  We must continue to look forward no matter how old we are.  But, looking forward doesn’t mean that we lose our moral values or hide from them because they seem old-fashioned.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Every generation will be challenged to keep moral standards and will need to know where ‘the line’ is to be drawn. 

In what seems to be an age of ‘anything goes’, now more than ever, young people need the wisdom gained from the mistakes we’ve made in the past and our guidance to help them from making the same mistakes again.  Looking forward, while having a clear view of what’s behind, will help us all stay the course.  It’s ok to be a little old-fashioned too.  Someday, those young people will be right where we are and will probably be thinking the same thing I thought today when they run across a group of young people all dressed up for a date…

Love always,

Brad

To Give or Not to Give


Earlier today, while the Mrs. and I were enjoying a coffee at our favorite café downtown, a woman came in who we instantly knew was looking to ask for money.  She was probably in her 60’s, African-American, skinny, and dressed modestly, but you could see that she had worn clothes on.

We were sitting next to the door and were her first target.  She came right over to our table, opened her left palm where she was holding a few well placed coins and said, ‘Excuse me, can you spare…’.  I looked at her and kindly interrupted her by saying, ‘No, thank you’.   She looked in my eyes and knew I meant, ‘Not here’.  Over the course of the next ten minutes, she went to multiple tables eventually getting a few donations and someone to buy her a few bags of chips and a drink before taking off to the next place.  

As we walked home, I wrestled with my decision and how the choice brought about deep questions within myself about giving.  Please don’t get me wrong, the reason I said no so quickly came from my past experience working with the homeless in San Francisco. 

During a very difficult time in my life, I volunteered weekly at one of the largest homeless kitchens in the Mission District.  I quickly learned from those there not to give the homeless money.  They had free food, clothes, and even a bed to use if they chose to.  Many would also get a check from the city every month just for saying they were homeless.  Something they would quickly spend on partying and then they were back on the street where they could make hundreds of dollars a day by just sitting on the corner with a cup.   Granted, not all homeless people have the mental ability to do that, but there are a lot more who do than one might think.

The question really is, ‘When do we give and when do we politely say no?’  For every ten people there are probably ten different opinions on the subject. Certainly, the Bible says that if anyone asks to borrow from us we are to give (Matthew 5:42), but does that mean those who would be ungrateful or who would take advantage of us?

The Mrs. and I talked about it all the way back to the house and the one thing that kept coming back to me was the word sincerity.  Over the years I’ve trained myself to recognize sincerity in people.  Meaning, if someone is asking me for help, are they sincerely in need and grateful, or are they simply using me to get what they want?  The tell-tale sign for me this morning with the woman at the café was her shamelessness.  She had no shame or fear to work the room in a sneaky way without getting caught.  She seemed ungrateful and had her routine down pat. 

So, the key to knowing whether to give is wisdom and discernment.  Being willing to give is also crucial to helping us know the difference whether it’s just greed we’re feeling or sensing if a person is simply trying to use us.  Had I sensed she truly needed my help and was desperate, I would have gladly given her money, my coat, a ride, whatever.  But my gut and eyes said otherwise. 

No matter who you are, if you do give and find out later you were taken advantage of, at least you tried to do the right thing.  It’s never easy to know, but God can help us with those choices when they present themselves.  His heart is to always love and share.  But, He also wants to protect us from being taken advantage of and He may also want us to show tough love from time to time (as in the case of our kids); even when it seems like we’re being selfish. 

I still haven’t resolved the question in my own mind, but I feel a little bit closer to it after today.  How would you deal with that situation?  Would you say, ‘No thank you’ or would you open your wallet to give them something?  If so, how much?  Is a token gift helping them or is it something to help us feel better?  Perhaps. Whatever the answers are, God loves us all either way and only wants us to bless others who are truly in need.  In that, we can always take rest…

Love always,

Brad

Reinforcing the Heart


So often we concern ourselves with strengthening our home security, our job security, and our financial security.  All of which are great endeavors.  Less often, we spend time reinforcing the security of our hearts.  It’s something we all struggle with.  Ironically, what happens in our heart will affect everything else in our life.  If we keep that safe and strong, the rest will come together on it’s own. 

The heart I’m referring to is our spirit, or soul if you will.  It’s an easy thing to neglect, frankly.  The heart is something we sense and know is there, but all too often, our minds and bodies rule the day.  Our mind is consumed with the cares of the world, the tasks of the day, and the ever-growing stresses of life.   Our bodies, for most of us, just go along for the ride and provide the escape from the mind’s pressures when consuming that beloved coffee or chocolate on the sly. 

It’s the soul that is so difficult to define.  I see it as the knowing of truth vs lies.  It’s the love that comes from within us for our fellow man.  It’s the questioning of our existence and why we’re here.   It’s the belief system that tells us there is a higher power and that He loves us.  It’s the part of us that lives beyond this life for eternity; our spiritual body.  So, how do we protect it?  How do we make it strong?

Unlike the safety zones around our military bases surrounded by walls, our hearts are the opposite. If we build walls around them, we will shut out others and, possibly, even God.  The healthier our heart is to be, the more open it needs to be. 

Like our physical bodies which become strong through exercise, weight training, and a healthy diet, our soul becomes strong through feeding it God’s word, exercising our faith, and carrying the burdens of others.  It’s when we put aside the mind and body’s demands and allow our hearts to take center stage that the soul becomes stronger. 

Tonight, I want to encourage you that, if you feel weak at heart (‘soul’), you can get stronger.  God says that it’s in our weakness (our soul’s weakness), that we become strong through Him.  He will give you the strength of heart when you feel like giving up.  He will guide through His word and make it alive in you.  He will fill you with His power to stand up against the weight of this world.  In Him, you can do all things.  And, in Him, your heart can be reinforced and you will become strong…

Love always my friends,


Brad

Unexpected Blessing


Have you ever had someone surprise you with a blessing you weren’t expecting?  You know, those times when you were totally surprised by a gift in the mail, a friend calling you just to tell you how much you’re loved, or even that time when the anonymous person paid your bill at the restaurant (I’ve had that happen several times). 

It was more than just the surprise that made us happy, it was the thought that we did nothing to earn it or ask for it.  It was completely unexpected and came for no apparent reason over the walls of our daily life to bless us.  Sure, that doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, it makes us feel special.

This weekend, I had one of those experiences.  I can’t say how exactly it came to me, but I can say it was as though God was speaking right to me to tell me that He loved me, was proud of me, and has taken joy in my faith.  Needless to say, I cried (yes, I had to go looking to find my Man Card afterward too).

Over the past year or so, I’ve been dealing with feelings of spiritual failure; as though I haven’t done what I felt long ago I was supposed to do and now it’s getting to be too late in life.  In some ways, I’ve felt like those dreams and hopes were maybe even just a fantasy in the mind of my youth.  On top of that, other family changes and health issues with loved ones have been heavy on my heart in ways that have made me feel inadequate.   Yet, despite it all, I know God is good, He’s able and will fulfill His promises in my life.

He definitely has a way of reaching us when He knows we’re feeling the way I have been.  He’s never late and He’s never early; His timing is impeccable.  Those blessings that come flooding over the walls of our lives are nothing less than heaven sent.  They are His way of reminding us just how very much He loves us.  His grace is so deep that it flows over even the tallest walls we can build.  His love flows and washes away the feelings of failure to give us a fresh new sense of purpose. 

Tonight, I just wanted to share with you the small blessing I had this weekend in my life to say that He wants to do the same for you.  He’s looking out for just the right time to send the flood of His blessing over the walls of your heart to wash away the fears, doubts, pains, and emptiness you may be feeling too.  He’s just looking for that perfect moment to spring it on you.  I know it’s coming, and it will happen when you least expect it because that’s just the way God does things…

You’re loved tonight, my friend,


Brad