Spinning Around in the Chair of Life


Let’s face it, half of the battles we face in life are those brought about by our own decisions; whether we thought they were from good intentions or bad.  Others come our way naturally through interactions with those around us whose decisions affect us (both good or bad).   How do we navigate this life of seeming uncontrollable circumstance?  We never really know what the next day may bring us.

Like many my age, I’ve wrestled with the natural inclination to turn inward and to look backward second-guessing decisions made long ago by myself and by others.  It’s a process of reconciliation we all go through as we realize later in life the things we once thought to be true are not and those we never thought true are.

As I get towards the end of that phase of maturing, I’m finding a sense of peace that I hadn’t had before brought about by a letting go of the things I had no control of and the realization that I’m not alone with the poor decisions I’ve made.  Learning to forgive one’s self is a good thing even when others still hold onto what they believe in order to appease their need for self-justification.

Occasionally spinning around in that chair of life allows us all to look back at life today and forward at life in the future.  It can be a difficult process at first as the enemy of our soul will try to condemn us for the poor choices we’ve made or tempt us to overly self-inflate ourselves taking more credit than we deserve for the good choices made.  The one reassuring thing that has given me healing and peace of heart & mind has been the still, small voice of a loving Father who has shown Himself real to me through it all.  In that, I can find rest; and so, can you.

Tonight, if you’re near that stage where you’re able to turn around in that chair of life and look around at the past, present, and future, I want to encourage you to ask your loving creator to show you when, and how, He was with you through those times.  I know that He will.  When He does, don’t be surprised if you begin to see things differently.  Most importantly, you will grow in your faith knowing He will always be with as you as you travel through this short life here on Earth.   And, that, is exciting!

Why Aspire to be at ‘The Top’?


For most of us, the allure of being at the top of the ladder has been something we could only dream of.  A few of us, though we think about how great it may be, resist the idea of being at the top of the heap or in the front of the crowd. 

The dream of ‘Having it all’ is something our culture promotes continually.  Everywhere we turn we see billboards, magazines, television shows, and the commercials showing the perfect figured young people sipping a glass of fruit drink while dangling their feet from a pool’s edge overlooking the ocean.  To that I say, ‘Yeah, whatever…’

Reality can be quite a slap in the face with our daily rituals of being to work on time, fighting traffic, stressing over nearly every part of our day, and then finding time to just relax when we get home. It’s about enough to make us all wish for that top place.  Yet, for the few who do attain it, though they may say it’s wonderful, often regret their now vaulted position having missed out on many of life’s simpler pleasures.

It’s no surprise that many today who can’t take that vacation to the luxury hotel by the beach look for a place where they can just get away from it all for a while.  If being at the top isn’t available, the next best thing is to sit outside and leave everything behind.

How we approach the aspiration to be ‘Top Dog’ is often a part of our personality makeup. Being a mixture of Types A, B, and D, the three sides of me often compete with each other between drive, social aspirations, and the security of a set routine.   Personality wise, to put it bluntly, I’m a mutt, for which, I’m glad.  I wouldn’t want to be too much of any trait. 

Learning who we are and how we’re built will help us to set realistic expectations of ourselves in life.  Part of us may want to be at the top (Type A) but the part of us that likes order (Type D) may be too strong to allow us to take chances.   Or, the part of us that is fearful of social settings (Type C) may keep us from the hidden desire to be the social king (or queen) that our other side (Type B) would love to be.

Mostly, knowing how God created us is essential to finding the right path in our life; knowing why we have the desires we have for success and what our natural gifts are, will allow us to have attainable goals.  The person He made us to be probably won’t be the person at the top of the heap. In fact, it may be the person who helps others to get there before we do ourselves.  Which, in His eyes, would be considered greatness. 

So, the next time you feel the need to be at ‘The Top’ or to just get away from it all instead, remember that you’re created for a purpose.  That purpose may be the opposite of what the world says you should be; and that’s ok.  If you don’t do anything else with your life other than learning what, and who, God made you to be, what His plan is for your life, and then acting on it, you can consider yourself a huge success.  And that, you can bank on because, like my old university president used to tell us, ‘God makes no small plans’. When we tap into His plans and purposes with a humble, realistic view of ourselves then ‘The Top’ doesn’t seem as great as the life He already has planned out for us…

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

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

Facing the Unknown


Why is the unknown so frightening for us?  Fear of it is something that keeps so many people bound by self-imposed restrictions preventing them from stepping out in new directions.  Of course, if any of us could predict the future we’d be God.  Still, the thought of what could happen is enough to keep us from choices that may make a significant difference in our lives and in those around us.

Truth be told, the unknown isn’t as bad it seems.  Once we get past the stigma of fear and uncertainty, there lies a road full of potential just waiting for us to explore and discover.  Finding what’s behind the self-imposed blinders we hide behind may very well be an exciting journey. 

The Mrs. and I enjoy watching sci-fi shows; make no qualms about that.  Probably one of the most popular themes today is the thought of time travel.  So many programs are focused on what would happen if we could cross between dimensions and see ourselves as a child or during those pivotal moments that changed the direction of our lives.  What would we do?  How would we react today verses how we did then?  Would we try to change those choices or leave them where they are because we now see how, though some of them were painful, they made us who we are today?

Speaking personally, I wouldn’t change them.  I would leave them just as they are; good, bad, and ugly.  Over the years, through God’s grace, I’ve come to accept the past for what it is.  I’ve learned to cherish the good and let go of the bad.  It has been a long journey that I’m just now at 50+ years old, finding peace in.  It may take the rest of my life to fully see things clearly, but as I move forward, accepting that there’s still the unknown is enough for me to stay hopeful that life will bring about even more good, along with the challenges.

Tonight, if you’re wrestling with fear of the unknown because of pains in your past, or even in your present, know that you have an all knowing, all loving God who knows what your unknown is.  He knows our past, present, and most importantly, He knows our future.  His plans for us have been in motion from the foundation of the Earth and those plans are for our good.  One of my favorite quotes from the president of the college where I attended says it all, ‘God is a good God and the Devil is a bad devil’.

Trusting in His goodness will help us to face the unknown with confidence knowing He will be there through whatever lies ahead.  His plans, though it may not seem like it at the time, are for our good and in that alone, we can walk into the unknown without fear…

Love always my friends,

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