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  They’ve been replaced by more modern ones with glass enclosed seats.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

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

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

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

Getting Over Status Symbols


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love always,

Brad

Born to be Wild


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

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

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

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

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

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

Love always

Indecisiveness – Breaking Free from Fear


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love always

The Old Fan Reminding Me of The Simple Things


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

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

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

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

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

Love always