Friday, April 30, 2010

The Balloon Salesman

There once was a balloon salesman working the local county fair. All day long he would walk around the fair grounds and kids with their parents in tow would run to him, pick out their favorite colored balloon and off they would run, happy and contented. Mr. Balloon Salesman held a vast array of balloons in his hands, and they made the loveliest splashes of color.

Today, a small young black boy, his right hand in his pocket, stood watching our balloon man with great fascination. He was silently counting the nickel and two pennies he had in his pocket – just three pennies short of being able to buy his own balloon. Our small friend loved watching as the balloon man worked the crowd around him.

When things slowed down, the balloon salesman would release one balloon up into the air.  Today, he released first a red one, then a blue one and after that a yellow one. The balloons would rise high, being caught up on the wings of the wind to be carried off to some faraway land.

After releasing each balloon the crowds would swarm around him, and business would be brisk for a while. What fun it is to go the county fair.

Once, when things slowed down, the young black boy approached the salesman and asked rather timidly, “Mister, if you released a black balloon would it raise high up in the sky like all the other balloons?”

With great wisdom Mr. Balloon Salesman looked the young boy in the eyes and said, “Son, it doesn’t matter what the color is on the outside that makes the balloon rise. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

So, what is inside of you? What thoughts tumble and rumble around inside of your head? Do you see yourself as capable? Are you thinking smart thoughts or dumb thoughts? Do you call yourself degrading names? Do you put yourself down? Or do you hold lofty ideals for yourself?

Remember, it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside.  It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

I remember the day I discovered the simple phrase “I Approve of Myself.” That was a red-letter day for me. And such a simple phrase it is. There’s more to the story, but you see, I realized that I had not been fully accepting and appreciating myself in good, healthy and wholesome ways. I had been replaying too many old, negative tapes of “don’t, stop, you can’t, leave that alone, you’re not big enough, you don’t know what you’re doing” and a few other oldies but goodies that I had been feeding my mind on for far too many years.

There was a Shoe comic strip (written by Jeff MacNelly) a few years ago that showed Shoe, the crusty newspaper editor, standing on the mound with his catcher, in a baseball game.

His catcher says to him, “You’ve got to have faith in your curve ball.”

In the next frame Shoe remarks, “It’s easy for him to say that. When it comes to believing in myself, I’m an agnostic.”

What’s going on inside your mind? When you are all alone, where do your thoughts take you? What tapes do you play inside your head?

Are you capable? Do you like and appreciate your uniqueness? Do you feel a sense of worthiness to be successful? Have you heard mostly putdown in your life and that’s all you hear now?

Do you want to rise up high and soar like the big boys? Do you want to excel in life, in business, in living? Take a look at what’s on the inside of you. What do you feed your mind? What are you dominate thoughts? What beliefs do you hold to be true about yourself?

Here are some vitamins for the mind. Take 3 or 400 of some of these every day until the symptoms go away, then cut back to 50-100 per day.

I am a unique creation of God.
I can.
I am capable.
I like myself.
I approve of myself.
I have a brain in my head that works very well.
I have gifts and contributions that no one else has to offer.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Remember, it’s not the color on the outside that matters. It’s what’s inside that counts.

(*I learned this story a long time ago and now the source escapes me. If you know to whom credit should go for this story please contact me.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Failure Is Not Final

May I sing you a song?
“Do you remember those famous men
Who had to fall to rise again
They pick themselves up,
Dust themselves off
And start all over again.”*

I’ve missed a few fly balls in my lifetime while playing little league baseball, but I was still considered an above average player.

I’ve sung a few flat notes in my lifetime, but I can still sing and people listen and say nice things.

I’ve lost a few ping pong games in my life, but I still play a great game of ping pong.

I’ve missed closing a few sales in my lifetime, but I can still make a good living at selling.

When Paul Meyer was alive, I heard him say one day that he had started over 130 companies and 65% of them failed, yet he kept trying and died a multi-millionaire. Paul is credited as being one of the first people to launch the whole personal development industry. He never let his failures define his life.

Paul picked himself up, dusted himself off, and started all over again.

Here is the point I want to make. Don’t let your mistakes define who you are.

Erma Bombeck, noted newspaper columnists, once commented, “I’ve been to book signings where only two people showed up. One wanted directions to the men’s room and the other person wanted to buy the desk at which I was sitting. What you have to tell yourself is, ‘I’m not a failure. I failed at doing something.’”

I still play drums a few times a year, and occasionally my sticks get tangled up on the rims, or occasionally I may drop a stick or two, but I still drum. I’m not a failure as a drummer.

I love this story about Arnold Palmer (from Dare to Dream by John Maxwell):
“It occurred at the 1961 Los Angeles Open at the peak of Palmer’s career. On the par-five ninth hole, his last of the day, Palmer hit a good drive and wanted to try to put the ball on the green with his second shot. That would put him in good position to attempt a birdie, putting him one stroke closer to the leaders.

“With his three-wood, Palmer hit what he believed was a good shot. But as the ball sailed, it faded to the right, hit a pole, and bounded out of bounds onto the driving range. Palmer dropped a ball, took a penalty stroke, and tried again.

This time his ball hooked to the left and flew off the course into a road. Again he dropped a ball and took a penalty stroke. He repeated this process, hitting the ball out of bounds several times. Finally, he put the ball on the green. By then, he had accumulated ten strokes.

It took him two more strokes to sink the putt. He finished with a twelve and because of that, he went from a few strokes behind the leaders to being out of the tournament.

Today, if you go to the ninth hole at the Rancho Park Golf Course in Los Angeles, you will find a bronze plaque that states: “On Friday, January 6, 1961, the first day of the 35th Los Angeles Open, Arnold Palmer, voted Golfer of the Year and Pro Athlete of the Year took a 12 on this hole.”

John Maxwell says in Attitude 101, “When achievers fail, they see it as a momentary event, not a lifelong epidemic.”

Just because we have failed at something doesn’t mean we are a failure.

What about you? Do you have some things you’d rather forget? Remember, just because you have failed doesn’t mean you are a failure! I want to shout that in your ear, softly, so that it sinks down deeply into your inner being, your spizzerinctum. (I think that’s somewhere below the belt.

Need more convincing? Consider this. This man really experienced a losing streak.
He failed in business in ’31.
He was defeated for state legislator in ’32.
He tried another business in ’33. It failed.
His fiancĂ© died in ’35.
He had a nervous breakdown in’36.
In ’43 he ran for Congress and was defeated.
He tried again in ’48 and was defeated again.
He tried running for the Senate in ’55. He lost.
The next year he ran for Vice President and lost.
In’59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated.
In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States.

Each time, after each setback, I think I can hear Abe singing …
“I picked myself up, dusted myself off
And started all over again.”

Always remember: Failure Is Not Final.

You have uniqueness written all over you.
You have resilience.
You are as capable today as yesterday, or last week or last year.

Remember these tips:
-Assess your mistakes
-Seek advice, coaching and counsel from a mentor or more experienced person
-Learn more, read more, dream more
-Practice perfect practice
-Use mental movies of yourself performing perfectly every time
-Go back up to bat, swing and knock the ball out of the park next time!

Pick yourself up.
Dust yourself off.
And start all over again.

Go get ‘em!

And remember …

Failure is not final!

*Lyrics to Pick yourself Up are written by Dorothy Fields, 1936

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Do I Know For Sure?

A few weeks ago I invited you, my readers to submit some thoughts on the subject of “What Do I Know for Sure.” Here are some of the thoughts that came in. Hope you find meaning in my friend’s submissions.

(From a friend since childhood)
My dad used to preface remarks often with the phrase,
"I know one thing." I find myself thinking the same words when I am feeling the need to make real a concept of faith.

Knowing is as much a human need as breathing. We want to know that tomorrow holds promise: of being loved by our family and friends, of financial security, of the safety and welfare of our children and of what comes after this life is ended.

It has been my experience that most concerns involving the present and future can be relieved not by knowing, but by believing. God has given us the gift of relaxing our hearts and minds by trusting Him. Trust comes from knowing, and knowing is achieved by experiencing God's love through his Son, Jesus.

Trust does not happen overnight. It is built moment by moment as we attempt to believe that God will take care of us. Days of trusting are finally rewarded when we look back and see that God did take care of our concerns. This gives us confidence that He will continue to do so. The longer we trust, the more "knowing dividends" are accrued.

Neil Diamond expressed this need of knowing in a line,
"Wish I could tell you everything is all right, wish everything was all right."

Through faith in God, one can know that every-thing is all right and everything will continue to be all right. Neil Diamond was correct- humans can only wish, but God can make things all right. You know?
Michael Graham

(From a long-time friend)
One thing that has stayed with me since I graduated from high school was something that my Aunt Ruth wrote in the Bible she gave me for my graduation. She wrote, "When troubles knock you to your knees, you are in a good position to pray!" That has stayed with me and I have found need to remember and use it often.
Rick Hartwig

(From a former Neighbor)
Our priest closes every service during Lent with the following blessing, which I find to be incredibly powerful: "Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So be quick to love and make haste to be kind." Words to live by all year!
Jan Duello

(From a wise long-time friend and mentor)
The older I get fewer are the rock-solid things I hold to be unshakable...those realities I am most sure of. Having lost a dear friend this week my mind turned to a favorite hymn: He Giveth More Grace.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

The boundless grace of an infinite Heavenly Father gives me unwavering confidence for the present, future, and eternity. God does not fail any time anywhere. Of this I am sure.
Wilbur Brannon

May you find nuggets of truth, wisdom and encouragement in these words from my friends.

Blessings and Peace!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Just Because It Fits Doesn't Mean It Fits

As a child I had an abundant curiosity about things and how they worked. I wasn’t exactly mechanically gifted; for instance, I couldn’t take a radio apart and put it back together and make it work, but I was curious nevertheless.

When I was four, on a Saturday afternoon, my Mom and Dad were getting all of us ready to go to some event. We were dressed in our Sunday best.

Mom helped me get dressed and then left me and continued with her other chores before we were to leave. I stayed in her room and was messing around with stuff on her dressing table. I found a box of plastic snap-together pearls that I thought were the most fascinating things in the world.

For some unexplained reason, I wanted to see how many of these pearls I could stick up my nose. Seems I was able to get three pearls up my nose before I decided it was best that I remove them before I got caught for doing something I probably wasn’t supposed to be doing in the first place.

I was able to successfully remove two of the pearls, but in my youthful exuberance to put them there, I jammed them in too hard and this last pearl was lodged way too far up my nostril and there was nothing I could do to make it come out. I knew I was I in big trouble, but there was no way I was going to confess what I had done.

And then came the moment of reckoning!

My Mom came back into her bedroom to give me one last going-over before we left for our event.

One of my Mom’s techniques to assure that we were fully ready was to clean our ears and nose with a bobby pin. Mom began to work on me; first the ears, and then she moved to the nose.

She put the bobby pin up my right side and heard a click. She pushed a bit more and mused to herself, “What in the world?” She tilted my head back and saw this shiny orb starring back at her.

She called out to my Dad, “Jay, come here!”

Dad called back, “What’s the matter Mother?”

“There’s something wrong with Mike.”

Dad came, shined a flash light up my nose and saw the shinny pearl. He asked what I had done and I had to tell.

He immediately dropped what he was doing and took me down to the corner doctor’s office (can’t remember his name). The doctor laid me out on his examination table, shined a light up my nose and began pressing and probing around on my nose.

All of a sudden he pulled on my arm and jerked me up off that table and put his hand under my mouth and out popped the pearl, no pain, no problem, no fuss.

Well, that was a happier ending than what might have happened, wouldn’t you agree?

Here’s the point. Just because it fits, doesn’t mean it fits. Those pearls fitted perfectly in my nose, but they didn’t belong in my nose.

How many times have we tried to make things fit just because “it would be nice”, or “it looks so great on me”, or even “but I like her, she’s pretty”.

Sometimes we make things fit, like jobs, because it is such a great company with which to work, or it is in a great city and we have always wanted to live there.

I’ve had relationships that didn’t fit. Have you? We were two perfectly well adjusted individuals, we liked each other, there was an attraction to each other, but for several unexplainable reasons we just didn’t “fit” together. The chemistry, the Karma, the charisma was all wrong.

Just because we were male and female didn’t mean we would automatically fit.

My friend KJ went to work recently with two different color shoes on. They both fit his feet, but they didn’t “fit” from a fashion standpoint.

I recently re-read the book Your Natural Gifts by Margaret Broadly. This book tells the story of the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, whose sole purpose is to test individuals and help discover their natural gifts and what they are most gifted to do. Mrs. Broadly relates numerous examples of people finding their bliss after chasing dead-end dreams for years.

In one instance she tells of a man who followed in his father’s surgeon footsteps and was a miserable failure because he lacked the critical skill of finger dexterity. That is a huge example of trying to “make it fit just because it fits.”

When it’s a natural fit, you’ll know it. You’ll feel a calmness, an inner assurance of “this is so right.”

I hope you find people, experiences, books and thoughts that fit perfectly into your life.

In closing, I want to leave you with this thought, but it doesn’t fit.

“I will stick no pearl up my nose before its time.” (with apologies to Orson Wells and Paul Masson Wines)

So I’ll just say this …

Just Because It Fits Doesn’t Mean It Fits!

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's Friday but Sunday's Coming!

Today is Friday. It is raining on the outside. It’s windy and unusually cold for April in the northwest. But Sunday’s coming.

Today we have stuff to do. Carolyn has her internship. I have my Friday morning in the library writing.

Tonight we attend a Good Friday service. But Sunday’s coming.

Saturday I have to work. I have quotas to meet, sales to make, people to see. But Sunday’s coming.

As I lay my head on my pillow Saturday night my last thought will be Sunday’s Coming.  It will be a day to celebrate, to anticipate, and to hold on to hope.

I’ll do my tasks for today on Friday.
I’ll make it through Saturday.

But Sunday? Oh yeah! Sunday’s coming.

I’m anticipating Sunday. I’ll sing a hymn or two, read some Bible passages, pray some prayers, and I’ll celebrate. I’ll think and meditate on love and redemption, grace and forgiveness, the limits of my mortality and the abundance and majesty of an eternal God.

He had a plan all along. It included you and me, a Redeemer, a cross, a grave and a heavy stone cast aside. His plan is all about Hope. Love. Forgiveness. Redemption. .

Can you see the empty grave?
     Hope cries out.

Can you see through the burial cloth that covered the face of our Redeemer?
     “Look to me” it seems to cry out. “I see you. I want to offer you something that is life changing.”

Can you see the gravestone cast aside?
     It’s an open door to hope, love, forgiveness, redemption. It is ours for the taking.
Will you walk through the door with me?

It’s Friday.
But Sunday’s coming!!!