Today I Will Make A Difference

Today I will make a difference. I will begin by controlling my thoughts. A person is the product of his thoughts. I want to be happy and hopeful. Therefore, I will have thoughts that are happy and hopeful. I refuse to be victimized by my circumstances. I will not let petty inconveniences such as stop lights, long lines, and traffic jams be my masters. I will avoid negativism and gossip. Optimism will be my companion, and victory will be my hallmark. Today I will make a difference.

I will be grateful for the twenty-four hours that are before me. Time is a precious commodity. I refuse to allow what little time I have to be contaminated by self-pity, anxiety, or boredom.

I will face this day with the joy of a child and the courage of a giant. I will drink each minute as though it is my last. When tomorrow comes, today will be gone forever. While it is here, I will use it for loving and giving. Today I will make a difference.

I will not let past failures haunt me. Even though life is scarred with mistakes, I refuse to rummage through my trash heap of failures. I will admit them. I will correct them. I will press on. Victoriously. No failure is fatal. It’s okay to stumble…I will get up. It’s okay to fail…I will rise again. Today I will make a difference.

I will spend time with those I love. My spouse, my children, my family. A man can own the world but be poor for the lack of love. A man can own nothing and yet be wealthy in relationships. Today I will spend at least five minutes with the significant people in my world. Five quality minutes of talking or hugging or thanking or listening. Five undiluted minutes with my mate, children and friends.

Today I will make a difference.

Max Lucado

Overcoming

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To overcome any obstacle requires courage. We may not even be aware that this inner strength exists. Whether on the battlefield of war, fighting cancer, dealing with abuse or a host of other serious issues, at some point in our lives we will have an opportunity to overcome or be overcome. This is not an indictment of those who are overcome by something. None of us are Superman. It is simply a fact of life. Sometimes we are victors, and sometimes we are not. No judgement here. I am personally acquainted with both aspects of overcoming, yet I am not without hope.

 

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These wonderful sculptures are located within a fountain called the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain at a prominent point of the Country Club Plaza, a Kansas City landmark. They are spectacular. The artist who designed these is Henri-Leon Gerard, a Frenchman who was commissioned by a wealthy family in New York in 1910. Some years later the estate fell into disarray and the four bronze horses were sold. The Nichols’ family located these magnificent sculptures and had them shipped to Kansas City in 1957. There are four smaller fish-like sculptures which were added to the fountain which was officially dedicated in 1960, in honor of J.C., the visionary developer.

 

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To have such foresight as J.C. Nichols, who developed The Plaza in a Seville Spain motif in the 1920s, and the talent of Gerard simply astounds me. Kansas City is nicknamed The City of Fountains, and there are (48) city owned and maintained fountains within her city limits. This fountain (the most visited of all), and particularly these horses in full battle positions are a treasure. Because they reveal such intense conflict, the men and equines become one against their foes. These memorial sculptures tell a story far deeper than when casually viewed for the first time.

 

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No matter how determined one may be, to vanquish an oppressor takes more than courage and will…it takes help. Where does your help come from? For many, it comes from family and friends. For some, it comes from community. And for others, it comes from a force not easily identified, yet real to those who claim it. Depending on the circumstances, I have called upon all three of these helpers. Yet, there is always one unseen companion who stands by my side no matter what the obstacle. He has a name-Jesus-and through his spirit I am reminded that I am never alone in facing that which seeks to conquer me. I hope you have such a helper. And, I hope you visit this fountain and Kansas City some day!

 

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C R O S S R O A D S

Have you ever found yourself at the intersection of Known and Unknown, often referred to as Crossroads. It can be like peering out at a wide vista of unfamiliar landscape. You know where you came from and where you are now, but not where you may be headed…at least not yet. This journey will be a process, and you will probably feel alone. Change appears on the horizon. So does uncertainty.60D to 8-18-15 032

Remember the movie, Castaway, with Tom Hanks? If you don’t recall it in detail or have not seen it, please allow me to briefly describe it (bear with me if I mis-state a detail as it has been quite a while since I have seen the movie).Tom worked for FedEX and was returning from a trip from an eastern European country where he was setting up a local FedEX facility. On his return back to the states the jet crashed in the ocean during a severe thunderstorm. The only survivor was Tom, along with some packages which washed up on the beach of a small remote island miles away from the crash site. After four years (+ or -) on this island he finally escaped the treacherous reef in a self-built raft. He took with him his beloved Wilson, a soccer ball which he painted a face on it with his blood from an injury, and a package that somehow gave him ties to his mission and previous life. After many days he was rescued by a freighter and eventually returned to the FedEX facility from wince he started the journey. He sought out his fiancé, only to have found her married with children. The end of the movie follows Tom to an artist’s home in the middle of Montana or Wyoming…close to nothing. He was compelled to deliver the one package he took with him, four years after taking it from the European facility. The gracious artist accepted the package with a sense of puzzlement (of course she would be perplexed). The last scene shows a somewhat haunting image of a man without a home, sitting in his car at the intersection of two gravel roads. His Crossroads.

The castaway was a changed man. After four years alone, struggling to survive, trying to remain sane, anyone would be changed. He even contemplated suicide. It took a great deal of courage to finally attempt his escape over the coral reef, as he tried before and the surf flung him into the coral and ripped open one of his legs. Escape seemed hopeless after his initial attempt years ago. However, staying on the island another day seemed just as hopeless so he made the decision to try again. He succeeded, only to discover that he no longer fit in where he was before. I always wondered where he eventually ended up, and if he ever came to grips with his new life. Did he go left, right or straight at this life intersection? Did it matter which way he went?

There are many types of Crossroads; relationships, employment and career choices, health issues, births and deaths, accidents, dysfunctional family issues, threats and lawsuits, marriages and divorces, relocating to another area, ending a friendship, deciding to enlist in the military, choosing a college, etc..

I am at a Crossroads which is one encountered by many, and is not at all unfamiliar to me. However, it is different from times past. I need a career change, and I just turned sixty. Ouch, I actually said it out loud…sixty! Some say it is just a number while others say it is the downhill side of living. Many speak of retirement (I cannot relate). Since I believe each of us has a specific quantity of days to live, I don’t fret over my age. I do question my future, though. As the castaway changed as the result of his ordeal, I, too, have changed due to time and experiences. So, I have a choice to make, just as Tom Hanks did at the end of the movie. Which road do I choose?

I have been in the commercial construction industry for almost twenty-five years. Do I continue working in the same industry which has been good to me in many ways, but has also sucked the life out of me? Or, do I begin anew with a different career, perhaps totally unrelated? This is my quest, and why I stand at this particular Crossroads at this particular time in my life. As with the returned castaway, I don’t know where I fit in nor where my search will take me. However, I am cautiously optimistic, and even a bit excited about finding out. I hope the adage, The joy is in the journey, will be true for me should I choose to leave the familiarity of the construction industry. My gut tells me I won’t return.

Whether I have another thirty, twenty or ten years left to live, I still have much I want to do and see and participate in. The bottom line is this: I simply want to finish well.

Quote & Pic of the Day, No. 2 of 24

Well, I remembered to post no. 2…actually, I wrote myself a note to do so just in case I forgot to keep my promise. The very act of writing myself a note solidified my remembering. Whatever works, right? Today is a typical Spring day in our area with mild temperatures and rain on and off. All manner of flowers are shooting up from the dirt and trees are starting to bud out. The grass is turning greener and growing taller. These dynamics reminded me of a photograph of our dog, Carson, that I took last year- a little later in the season. The flowers are nasturtiums, and Carson is a Westie.9-6-8-2014 008

” Courage is not limited to the battle field. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like enduring pain when the room is empty or standing alone when you’re misunderstood “.   Chuck Swindoll   (for Greg & Dee)

Humility

5-10-14 034I met a man today who has eleven children. I have two for which I am immensely proud of and grateful for. But, eleven? I can’t wrap my head around that many mouths to feed and bodies to cloth, etc., etc.. I know there are still large families in our culture, although families of this size are not as common as in past generations. I can imagine all of these children gathered around dad and mom like a flock of ducklings is gathered around their mom…hence this photograph I shot at a local park. I felt it inappropriate to photograph some of these children which I have seen. That would have been an affront to their privacy, and I doubt father would have approved.

You must understand the circumstances which aroused my curiosity enough for me to engage the dad. We both work out rather early at a health club during the week, and I see him arrive and leave with about five of his older children whom he brings with him. After witnessing this dynamic enough times, I asked him his name and if he didn’t mind sharing about the children. His name is Travis, and he is thirty-six years old. He and his wife adopted ten of their eleven children. The adopted children are of color while he is not so the contrast is rather evident. Some of the adopted children come from the same biological parents, but Travis was quick to point out that he and his wife are their parents now. I asked him how they came to adopt so many and he simply said that the need was great. That was the end of our conversation, except I let him know that I respected him. I walked away knowing that Travis was a humble man. He could have expounded about the decision to adopt, the difficulties involved, the amount of energy and time and resources it takes to care for these kids, but he didn’t. He simply said there was a great need and he and his wife did their part. I was humbled.

This post really isn’t so much about a thirty-six year old man with ten adopted children, although that is the reality. No, this post is about humility which seems too often to be a dying art in our culture of me-ism. The beauty of humility is that you don’t know the extraordinary things people are doing unless someone draws your attention to him or her. The contrast to this is reflected in our social media where folks can’t get enough of themselves plastered on screens and websites. Athletes, actors and politicians seem to have another special place when it comes to self-promotion. Occasionally, we witness a well-known individual who reflects the trait of true humility. I recall Kevin Durant’s acceptance speech last year for receiving the MVP award in the NBA. Stunningly humble.

There are Travis’ and Kevins’ all over the world. There are young and old, male and female, healthy and the infirmed who exemplify the trait of humility. The great thing about all of these unsung heroes is that we don’t know many of them unless we are close to them and know their deeds and hearts. I am pleased to state that my wife and children are humble which brings me joy. And, I count it a privilege to have met Travis who has reminded me that true heroes do exist. They are all around me…and you!

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???????????????????????????????Before I knew you, I loved you. The image I had of you then is not much different than the image I now behold. The early love I had for you has blossomed into today’s love. Both are right. Both are dynamic. Both are real, as are you.

A great many days have transpired between that first glance and this morning’s kiss. Some days have been fun while some difficult. Many have been happy and a few tragic. Mostly, they have been satisfying. Today is such a day. And, I am the better for every one of them.

Thirteen is my favorite number simply because we chose to be wedded on that day…a Friday as I recall. No superstition and nothing mystical. Magical, perhaps. Since this is 2013 and we were married on the thirteenth, I have decided to honor you with thirteen reasons as to why I love you so much. Valentine’s Day should be on the thirteenth!

Before I begin my list, I am compelled to state the obvious. My feelings run deep and strong for you, like a powerful mountain river as it empties into the ocean. You captivate me. You always have. It’s hopeless, your influence over me. I am drawn to you as steel is to a magnet. I couldn’t resist even if I tried.

Sweetheart, here are thirteen reasons as to why I love you and what I see in you. They are by no means comprehensive.The words I write are inadequate, but I must try. Please forgive my omissions.

1. Inward beauty so rich that it would take a notebook full of words to describe.

2. Outward beauty so full that I still can’t take my eyes off of you.

3. A tender heart, full of compassion, which grows each year.

4. Creative abilities too numerous to mention, but obvious to all who know you.

5. Character that is undergirded by integrity, honesty and fairness.

6. Intelligence that logically reveals itself daily.

7. Insight that defies my understanding, but which I rely upon.

8. Sense of humor that continues to put a smile on my face each day.

9. Courage to stay the course, even when the road can’t be seen.

10. Wisdom that knows what and when to speak, and when to be silent.

11. Strength of will, especially when each day can be tougher than the day before.

12. Humility in everything you are and do.

13. Love that stretches to Heaven, and back again to those entrusted to your care.

Simply amazing is what you are. To be associated with you would be enough, but to have the privilege of being your husband is oh so wonderful. School girl to my girl…is like a dream come true for me. Thank you, Cheryl, for making my life so refulgent. With all my love, Michael.