Bridge Over Troubled Water


Anyone from my generation, and even today’s generation, if asked whether they’ve heard of the song, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, would say ‘YES…’  It is an iconic song released in 1970 by Simon & Garfunkel.  It came out at a time when our country was going through tremendous turmoil over the Vietnam War, race relations, the cold war, and a dramatic rebellious cultural shift away from ‘The Great Generation’s’ traditional values.  I remember those days well.

Many times, over my life, this song has spoken to me when going through challenges, heartaches, and loss.  It has also motivated me to befriend others who were going through the same.  One thing that occasionally happens to me at times when hearing classic songs such as this one, is for God to speak in His still, small voice to my heart and say, ‘I’m your friend and will help you get through your troubled water too’. 

He’s good about speaking to our hearts at just the right time.  It’s just like Him to take a song written to address the culture around us at the time, even if it’s 49 years old, and apply it directly to our own situations in a personal, loving way. 

Tonight, if you’re going through a challenge and feel all alone, I wanted to remind you too that there is a friend ‘Who sticks closer than a brother’ and who wants to help you through the challenges you may be facing.  I want to encourage you to listen to this song below, read the lyrics, and imagine it’s God speaking to you; because He says this to us every day (classic song or not).   And remember, you are loved, and you will get over the troubled water to find peace again.  Whatever It may be…


Having a Positive Outlook


As I get older it seems one of the main topics of conversation has become none other than the weather.  It may also be due to the fact that I live in Texas where the weather can make dramatic changes from one day to the next.  When I lived in Northern California, the weather was the least talked about topic.  Every day it was sunny and 65 degrees.  Not bad, I know. 

When I was young, we were lucky to know what the weather may be like in the morning let alone the hourly forecast for the next two weeks.  It seems technology has brought all of the science right into our hands these days which can help us plan our entire week around the forecast.  Or, cause one to be OCD about every cloud in the sky (me).

Having a positive weather outlook seems to change our view of our entire day.  Having the thought of possibly facing thunderstorms on the way to or from work can also dampen our day.  Why does our outlook on life tend to follow the weather outlook anyway?  Does the weather have anything to do with how well I do my job?  Maybe, but probably not so much.  Does it affect my relationships?  Not really.  Does it affect my ability to live life comfortably?  YES. 

Life seems to have enough stresses these days and the thought of having to deal with baseball sized hail falling from the sky is just about the last straw. It’s enough for most of us to keep our lives in order let alone have to deal with flooding waters coming into our home, tornados, and in these southern states, even hurricanes.  Can’t it just be sunny all the time?

The truth is that life is like the weather.  We don’t always know what we’ll be facing every day.  Our life may be stormy one day and sunny the next.  Having a positive outlook will help us to deal with those changes as they come.  Life will throw those baseball sized hail balls at us and they may even do damage we weren’t prepared for.  How we prepare and how we react to them will make all the difference. 

If there’s one thing I know more than anything else, it’s that we have a loving God who cares about every aspect of our day.  He even cares about the weather.  He cares if we’re flooded, have hail destroy our car, or have winds blow over that tree in the front yard. 

Most of all, He cares even more about the storms we will face in life.  During the worst of storms, He will be there to shelter us and guide us through to safety.  He knows the future and will prepare us for that day when we face the unexpected changes that try to wreak havoc in our life.  In the end, He will be the light that shines on our path. He will bring warmth in the cold, clarity when it seems foggy, and new life by washing away all the dirt.  We can have a positive outlook no matter what the weather is like outside.  Because of Him…

He Ain’t Heavy


I don’t know about you, but I know I can safely say there have been times when I was asked by others to help with something or to commit to time that I otherwise had planned for something else, that I hesitated while contemplating the weight of the decision. It was as if each decision was measured by some invisible scale that I had constructed over time to help determine whether I could afford it financially, emotionally, or physically.

Having been raised in a home which, at times, had very little money, I learned to make what I had go as far as I could.  Even so, for as long as I can remember I’ve been generous and shared what I had with others.  Regardless, at times there has been a little voice in my head that pulled back and hesitated from letting go of what I had; for whatever reason.

Our decision to help others is usually based on how well we know that person; whether they’re family or a close friend verses some stranger off the street who we’ve never met.  Due to the influence of social media, today we’re more guarded than ever with trusting others who ask for our help having seen so many people taken advantage of or stolen from.  One thing is for certain, though, if that person is someone we’re close to, say a family member or close friend, most of us would do almost anything to help them if they truly needed it.

Ironically, if we can break through our fears and hesitations to help, the sense of joy and wholeness we have afterward far outweighs the self-preservation we felt to start with.  It’s as though the burden we thought would ensue has lifted and we now feel better than before knowing we made a difference in someone else’s life; that we had a purpose. 

It’s when we see that person not as an object or someone taking from us, but as one closest to us whom we love (possibly more than ourselves) that we’re free to let go and give.  It’s love that takes away the burden of helping and turns it into an act of joy.  It’s love that takes the fear we feel of letting go of something we own and turns it into satisfaction knowing that someone else was helped by it even more than ourselves.

There’s a song from the 60’s by The Hollies called, ‘He Ain’t Heay He’s My Brother’ that really puts it all into context.  The song talks about helping to carry another’s burden along a long road with many winding turns.   Yet, their burden isn’t heavy because ‘He’s my brother’.  

That’s where I want to be.  I have a long way to go still, but on this road of life I’m bound to come across others nearly every day who will need my help.  If I can see them though love’s eyes as my brother, that load won’t be heavy.  Indeed, it will be light and we’ll both get there together…


Sensitivity in an Insensitive World


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a sensitive person.  Looking back, I can see times when that sensitivity caused insecurity, self-consciousness, and sometimes, a little bit of paranoia.  Being the one to pick up when others were angry, being judgmental, or the opposite when they were truly being kind, was something I thought everyone could feel.  I later realized that it was, and is, something not all people have.  In fact, some people are the exact opposite and railroad everyone around them.

It’s not that I want to be constantly sensitive to things around me. Far from it.  It has caused me more moments of angst than I can count.  As life has progressed and I’m now in my fifties, I’m able to understand those senses and see them for what they are. I no longer allow them to determine my emotional state.  It’s now something that can be used to help make wise decisions, understand people who may not want to share their true emotions, and even sense when others living miles away are hurting about something (don’t ask). 

Being sensitive to others is a trait often associated with the female gender.  Men, typically, are the ones who are thought to be insensitive often consumed by their pride.  Today, more than it was thirty or forty years ago, it’s the male who tends to be the ‘sensitive’ one.  What has contributed to that is something for a sociologist to determine.  Suffice to say, it’s no longer the ‘Man’s world’ we used to know; and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

If that’s you and you’re one of those sensitive types, there are a few things you can do to manage those feelings to prevent them from overwhelming you.  It’s not easy, but it is possible to control those feelings. 

The first thing I would suggest is to realize that every emotion you sense isn’t necessarily reality.  Our mind, and hearts, can play tricks on us in ways we won’t understand until it’s too late; if we let them. 

The second is to ask yourself, ‘Is that emotion something I’m feeling as a result of my own fears, wants, or desires?’  Meaning, ask yourself if you are feeling something because of what you hope or fear to be real.  Often, it’s something we fear more than reality.

Another is to think about the emotion you’re feeling when around another person as possibly something they are dealing with.  The cold truth is that we all feel a vast array of emotions throughout the day. None of us are perfect.  Even the most polished, confident person on the outside may be dealing with such things as depression, addiction, shame, and fear.  They may have a poor self-image that they try to counter with perfectionism.

Finally, before assuming what you’re sensing is just you, take a moment and ask God if He may be trying to tell you something about another person. He may want you to pray for them or encourage them.  He does that.  A lot!  He knows all our feelings, needs, and emotions and is likely to share some of those with others who have a heart of compassion.  That sensitivity may just be something God can use to help bless others.  I know He has in my life. 

Take joy because it’s a special gift to have sensitivity.  It’s not something to be ashamed of or to hide behind.  It’s something to mature in and allow God to use to bless those around you.  When you do, I guarantee you’ll be blessed, and so will others…

Love always,

Brad

Emptiness – Life’s Not Just About Being a Hunk of Burnin’ Love…


All of us have felt it.  That gnawing, cold sense of emptiness inside.  Often, it’s accompanied by events we think would make us happy; winning the contest we’ve been working so hard for, accomplishing those goals we’d been chasing, wearing that new suit that will give us the prestige we’d like from others who notice, or finally landing that ‘perfect job’.  Odd isn’t it?  Culture defines a full life as having those things that set us apart yet, once we attain them, we’re still empty.  One doesn’t have to look far to see how fame, fortune, and accomplishments fail to fulfill people.  Many of those who seem to have everything, also seem to be some of the unhappiest. 

Earlier in my life while planning a youth event, I was able to have lunch with the step-brother of Elvis.  Ironically, the one table the waitress took us to in the restaurant was the one with a large poster of Elvis hanging above it.  His response was, ‘That’s what I have to live with; Elvis constantly overshadowing me’.   I felt sad for him because he’s had to struggle with his identity his whole life. 

During the course of our meal he told me several things that struck me.  One was how Elvis and his entourage were walking past a statue of Jesus and Elvis looked at Him saying, ‘Jesus was God, but who am I…?’  The other was how he was there the day Elvis died.  He told me the story of how he’d discovered him on the bathroom floor bloated and purple having died from a drug overdose.  In fact, he said Elvis had asked him for more drugs than usual that day (he was the one who helped him keep track of the drugs) because he was especially depressed. 

Sadly, Elvis had everything the world said we should have to be fulfilled; wealth, fame, beauty, talent, friends, family, and power.  Even with all that, he was empty inside and turned to drugs (among other things) to fill the void in his heart.  Don’t take me wrong, I love Elvis’s music, I grew up watching his concerts on television and his music on the radio.   His life impacted millions and still does today.  But, inside of his heart, he needed more.

The truth is, Elvis was no different that Joe Dirt.  His life was no more important than any one of us.  He struggled with the same emotions we all deal with in life (rejection, insecurity, fear, anger, love, passion, jealousy, etc.).   Sadly, our society puts people on pedestals and then loves to pull them back off of them once they do something they don’t like.

Perhaps I’m just getting old, but I’ve lived long enough now to see the dangers of fame, wealth, and the trappings of life.  There’s nothing wrong with those things if we don’t allow them to define who we are.   Like Elvis the day he walked by the statue of Jesus, that’s the question we all need to ask; ‘How do I define myself?’ 

Defeating emptiness comes down to how we manage the expectations we have of life.  If it’s all about me, then there’s nothing that will ever fill the void.  But, if it’s all about less of me, more of God, and sacrificing for others, then we will live life with a full heart and never lack for anything. 

Books could be written, but keeping a check on our expectations of life, being content with what we have, giving ourselves to God, and putting others first whenever possible, will keep us grounded and full.  And that is where I want to be because, being a ‘Hunka Burning Love’ ain’t gonna do it… (not that I have to worry about that mind you…)

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