Clarity


Clarity.  Or, as Webster defines it, ‘The quality of being coherent and intelligible’ as in clarity of thought and communication; i.e. speaking clearly and thinking clearly.   Or, it could be used to describe how easy it is to see through something, ‘The quality of transparency or purity’.

In photography, many of us use a tool called Lightroom to touch-up our photos before releasing the final copy.  One of the toolbars commonly misused by newcomers is the Clarity Bar.  As you adjust it back, it makes the picture more hazy, or foggy.  As you adjust it ahead, the picture becomes more ‘clear’, or sharper, by causing some objects to look unnatural if moved ahead too much.

Many young photographers, including myself, fall into the trap of adjusting the clarity to far ahead and ruin their photos by making them look fake, or ‘overly enhanced’.   It’s an easy habit to fall into thinking you’re making that bland photo look ‘cool’ or something you think you see with your eyes, but in reality, it’s not.

Certainly, in life, clarity is a two-edged sword.  On one hand, we all wish we could see more clearly our future or how to handle a specific situation.  On the other hand, too much clarity can cause pain; such as knowing something someone close to us may have said behind our backs or learning through a DNA service that we have a sister or brother we never knew about from infidelity in the family. 

To say ignorance is bliss, may be an overstatement.  Yet, turning off the TV, shutting down the phone, and leaving everything behind to simply sit by the water as in the photo today (which, by the way, has too much clarity adjustment), may be just what we need. 

We’re so saturated with information that we lose sight of what’s right in front of us.  Many people are so blinded by their anger, hate, and ideology that they fail to see the truth right in front of them.  Stepping outside of the static we live in may be the best thing for us.

For me, nothing helps me more than a good night’s sleep.  It seems to be the time when my mind is able to take all that I’m wrestling with in life and put the pieces together through dreams.  I’ll often wake up and have a much clearer sense of what I must do, where I need to go, or what the answer to a problem is that I couldn’t figure out at work. 

Seeking clarity may be too eye-opening for some and, for some, it may be just what they need.  This weekend, if you’re on the side of needing more clarity in your life, I want to encourage you to ‘step outside’ of your daily life.  Focus on something totally outside of the box.  Perhaps that’s going for a walk, going to the lake, visiting with a friend, or just sitting in a chair outside with a cup of coffee to talk with God.  However you find clarity, most of the time, even if it seems like a painful thing at first, in the long run, the truth will set you free. 

Love Always

Recognizing Danger Ahead


Spring in Texas is the time of year we spend a great deal of focus looking to the skies (and the weather app) to see when the next line of thunderstorms is going to be passing through.  The threat of flooding rain, straight-line winds over 50 mph, tornados, and hail all come together to give any responsible home and auto owner angst. 

Any weather forecaster worth their salt will tell you one of the best things we can do to prevent loss of life and property is to prepare and recognize the signs of danger ahead.  One of those signs in the sky is the color of a storm cloud.  If they turn blue, you know there is a very high probability of a hail core above and that it’s time to take cover.  The photo today was taken several years ago just south of Dallas off highway 45 during one of the worst hail storms in recent years.  Although slightly enhanced, you can clearly see there’s hail on the way.

In many ways, life can be just like living in Texas during the Spring.  Changes come at a moment’s notice, the winds blow from the north in the morning and the south in evening.  One day the heat may seem too much for us to take and on other days it may seem as though everyone around us is as cold as ice.  Unexpected storms kick up and we may find ourselves with little shelter and exposed to the dangers that come with them.

Being able to recognize when these changes in life could occur is half the battle to living above them.  Knowing the warning signs of when a relationship may be going bad, when our job may be in jeopardy, or when we need to make changes in our diet before major health issues occur, will keep us ahead of the surprises and possibly allow us time to prepare so the damage will be less.  There is no doubt, just like bad weather, bad things in life will come our way no matter who we are.  The Bible even promises they will.  How do we do recognize them? 

One key to helping us through those storms is by recognizing the signs of their coming from facing them in our past.  There is no better teacher than life itself.  Having been burned once, we’ll know better not to put our finger in the fire again.  Having been surprised by negative experiences in the past will help us to recognize the possibility of them happening to us in the future.

Another way is to take time to evaluate where we are in life.  It may be our relationships, our career, or just our living situation.  By taking time to look for what we like, don’t like, what’s encouraging to us, and what’s hurting us, we’ll be able to determine if there’s potentially a change coming; or needed.

Looking for signs of danger doesn’t mean we should live our life in fear or paranoia. Just the opposite in fact. It does mean we should take prudent steps, become more willing to accept the realities around us (good and bad), and be willing to make changes before it may be too late.

Above all things, seeking the help and guidance of a loving Heavenly Father who can warn us, prepare us, and protect us from the storms of life, will keeps us safe from more dangers than we may ever know.  He may not stop the storms from blowing against our home, but He can protect us from their damage; or worse.  In that truth, I take refuge knowing I can face the challenges of life head on prepared for whatever may come my way and so can you…

Love always,

Brad

The Peace You’re Looking For


Tonight, I don’t have a lot to say about things (well, I could type all night but will spare you).  However, there has been one word that has been resounding in my mind all day.  Peace. 

I don’t know why, but I feel like there may be someone reading this tonight who is in the midst of a storm and needs to find the peace that passes all human understanding.  Not the peach the world offers through pleasures, diversions, and denials.  You’re needing the peace that comes from within that no man can take from you.

If that’s you tonight, be encouraged that God is with you.  He hears your cries and knows your tears. He will look over you and shadow you from the heat of the day and bring light to the darkness.  He knows the plans He has for you and those plans are for your good.  He wants you to find peace and to be whole.

Rest in that assurance.  It’s the only place I know where true peace can be found.  Just open your arms and heart to Him and He will bring His grace to your situation; no matter what it is.  He will bring rest to your soul and calm to your storm.  Trust in Him with all your heart, and He will make your paths straight…

Love always,

Brad

Life Can Be a Ferris Wheel

As a child, one of the things we would look forward at the end of every summer was the county fair.  Having the second largest fair in the state of Michigan brought many great rides, games, entertainment, and food.

There was one ride that stood out among the rest; the double Ferris wheel.  It stood far and above all the other rides and, when both wheels were turning at the same time, it was a site to behold.  I didn’t find the courage to take a ride on it until I was nearly ten or twelve years-old.  When I did, I saw the whole fair from high above and it was spectacular!  It could also be a bit frightening when the wheel would stop turning at the top and you were left two hundred feet in the air being held down to a slippery seat by only a metal bar.  Those were the days…

Today, most of those double Ferris wheels are gone for safety reasons.  They’ve been replaced by more modern ones with glass enclosed seats.  The principle is still the same as it was then; getting high above everything and enjoying the view.  Coming down, there was always a sense of sadness that we couldn’t stay up there longer (well, for those who were afraid of heights, they were glad to be back on the ground).

In some ways, life can be like a Ferris wheel at times.  We long for the high moments while waiting for what seems to be years for them to happen again.  Then, when they do, the momentary euphoria ends quickly bringing us back down to earth only to start the process all over again.

For some, every day can be like that Ferris Wheel ride going from lows to highs back down to lows again in just a matter of a few hours.  The emotional ups and downs seem more like a roller coaster than a Ferris wheel.

The reality is that we can’t be at the top all the time.  Life is full of challenges, hardships, and monotony.  But, when those high moments do come, it’s worth taking the time to slow down and enjoy the moment.  It’s one of the reasons I love photography.  Because it can capture those high moments and allow us to relive them again.   

You may still be waiting in line after what seems to be an eternity for the ride back to the top.  It may seem like Disneyland; every time you feel closer in line, you get turned around and go back the way you came.  

Be encouraged tonight.  Even if you’re not riding at the top of life’s Ferris wheel, remember that those times may come again when we least expect them.  It may be a random acquaintance that turns into a lifelong friendship.  It may be a stranger who helps us through a difficulty that lifts our spirits and hopes back to where they need to be.  And, not to mention that our time at the bottom will only make us stronger and help us to appreciate the high moments even more.

I’ll sign-off tonight with something one of my family members recently stated so well, ‘The bad news is nothing in life lasts forever.  The good news is, nothing in life lasts forever’… 

Love Always

Tailgating


Just what is it about people who feel they need to pull right up to the back bumper of your car while you’re both traveling down the highway at over 70 mph?  Do they think they’re going to push you off the road?  More likely than not, it’s just the intimidation factor. Or maybe they’re just in such a hurry that the millisecond of time they may save by getting a few feet closer to their destination will save them from being late to work.

Whatever the reason, mark my words, there are very few things that annoy me more while driving than when the dreaded pick-up truck gets right on my tail trying to ‘encourage’ me to get out of their lane so they can move past.  A part of me just wants to tap the breaks (and I have a few times) but that could cause an accident that I don’t want to be responsible for.  The other part of me wants to roll down the window and wave them the universal peace sign (two fingers of course). 

This week has been a travel week for me, and part of that travel was the drive to and from the airport (not to mention all the driving visiting customers).  While driving to the airport at five in the morning, I was amazed by the number of people who like to practice tailgating to get a step ahead on the highway before rush hour hits.  Their lack of concern for others was almost breathtaking to observe.  Nothing else mattered to them than their own agenda to get where they wanted to be.  Speed limits and turn signals were nowhere to be seen. It truly was also a good lesson in life.

In life, we all know someone who pushes so hard to get ahead that they figuratively tailgate others hoping to drive them out of their way on their road to success.  Their self-absorbed lifestyle is consumed with narcissistic thoughts of how life owes them a favor while they remain blind to the damage they may be causing to those around them.  Throwing safety and caution to the wind, they are ‘Pedal to the Medal’ not looking back to even say they’re sorry.

There’s a reason we’re supposed to keep several car lengths between us on the highway; it’s pure physics around what’s called ‘Stopping distance’.  Trust me, there are many websites dedicated to the mathematics around stopping distance that would bore you, but suffice to say, they speak to life itself as well.  Just how do we apply it then?

Throughout our life, if we’re always in a hurry to get to the next point or goal, we’ll miss out on many things.  We may push others away missing out on valuable relationships and memories. We may hurt others causing them to feel taken advantage of, or used, just to help us get ahead.  Whether it’s someone close or a stranger we may never even know about, rushing through life can cause collateral damage to others because we’re too busy focusing on our own path. 

The key to keep from tailgating is to slow down and leave some distance between ourselves and the next stop ahead.  If someone seems to be slowing us down, there may be a reason we’re not even aware of.  That person may just be the person who helps us get around some other obstacle we can’t yet see ahead.  They may be there to prevent us from being hurt by dangers in the road or from hurting others by our own recklessness. Or, maybe God put them there just to teach us a little patience and trust.

Rest assured, the future will take care of itself.  Whether we get to the next stop sooner than later is nowhere near as important as how we get there in the first place.  Breaking every rule to get there only a few moments sooner could cause regret we don’t want to live with.  Being a little late and getting there safely is much better than not getting there at all.  If that’s you and the thought of slowing down may be a tough pill to swallow, if you can see the benefit in following the path you’re on with patience, it will make the journey much less stressful. And, you may just find you don’t want to get to the next point as soon as you once thought you did…

Love Always

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