Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Headlight: A Lesson in False Pride

I've never been particularly handy when it comes to car repairs.  In fact, you could probably say that I am more destructive than handy.  A few of Saturdays ago, though, I was feeling pretty confident.  My biggest problem, I was thinking, was confidence in my ability.  If I could be confident to tear into an auto repair project, then I could handle it.  When I realized that my first project was going to be changing a headlight, I was thrilled with my chance of success.

"How hard can it be?" I thought.

I picked up the replacement bulb from the Auto Parts Store and headed home with a single warning from the Sales Associate:

"Don't touch the bulb," he said.

I wasn't sure I understood what he meant, but figured I would get it by the end.

When I got home, I pulled out the Owner's Manual of my Nissan Altima and turned to the section about changing the bulb in a burned out headlight.  I was frustrated when all it said was: Please see your nearest Nissan Dealership.

"No Instructions?", I thought.  "They just want my money.  I'm going to just have to figure it out, myself."

When the Owner's Manual lists instructions for all kinds of car maintenance and repairs, you would think that I would figure out that if it said, Don't try this yourself, I would heed to that advice.  Most days I would have, but I was going to do this one way or another.

After about an hour, and moving from bolt to bolt, I had the entire front, left corner of my car apart and in pieces.  I had every part on the left and right side of the headlight either laying on the ground or pulled back away from the car.  The plastic piece of the car body, that sits right outside the headlight was flapping in the wind with a 1/2 inch crack from me bending it to get to more bolts.

With all of this apart and nothing to the right and left of the actual headlight box, I still couldn't pull the box out to replace the bulb.  I finally gave up after about an hour and 1/2 in frustration and defeat and slowly put all of the pieces back together as I had taken them apart. 

You would think that Saturday's defeat would have taught me my lesson but when my brother, another handy-man with his own little case of false pride, suggested that we try again on Sunday, I went for it.  Lee had his brother-in-law with him also, so this time we had three minds to get this thing done.

After watching a tutorial on YouTube and realizing that you don't actual pull the headlight box out to change the bulb, I was feeling like our prospects were pretty good.  Three hours later, with pieces laying out on the ground again and one lost spring directly involved in holding the bulb in place, we gave up in defeat again.

So, after about 4 and 1/2 hours, a crack in the left panel, and a lost piece, I think next time when the Owner's Manual gives me no directions and asks me to let a mechanic look at it, I think I will let a mechanic look at it.  I will stick to projects that have directions printed..

What about you?

Does False Pride ever cause you to tear into projects that you have no business doing?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why Does GOD Feel Distant Sometimes?

A few months ago, while talking to a close friend, this question popped up.

He said, "Nearly every morning, soon after waking up, I sit down and read my Bible and spend some time with God in prayer.  Sometimes, he seems so close, like he is sitting next to me, and other times it feels like I might as well be talking to the wall.  Why does God do that?  Why does he step away sometimes?  It just doesn't make sense."

These questions really hit me that day.  They are questions that I have asked myself many times but I hadn't really talked to anyone about.  Growing up, I was always taught that the God of the universe wants to know me personally.  That if I seek him, I will find him.  In my experience, however, and I think in the experience of all humans, God doesn't always present himself close and within reach.

 Sometimes God's spirit will come out of nowhere and lift the hairs on my body and cause goosebumps to ripple across my skin and give me a sense of peace that is beyond understanding.  But sometimes, even when I am truly seeking him, it is as if there is nobody there. In these times, I often falter and begin questioning if he exists at all.

I am not a theologian and I don't think becoming one is my calling, but after pondering this question for a few months and talking to another friend about it, I think I have stumbled upon at least an inkling of an idea why God steps away sometimes.

God doesn't want the feelings of peace that he provides or our Quiet Time with Him to become an IDOL

As human beings, we are made to worship.  One way or another by choice or by pressure, we will worship something or someone.  If every time we pray, God instantly filled us with his peace and presence, we would Idolize those feelings that he gave us or would Idolize our Quiet Time with Him.  We would no longer seek after him. but would seek after that feeling.  God would basically become a drug to get a fix from.  No longer would God be in control, but we would.  He would basically be a genie in a bottle that we could make appear and give us what we wanted.  Although, we might think this is what we want, it was never supposed to work this way.

God does provide a peace beyond our understanding, but he does it on his time and when he knows it's what we need.  He is in control.  He is God and we are not.  Also, although he provides this peace, he is so much more than just a feeling.  He is way too big for us to put in a box.  Those feelings of peace are just PART of who he is.

I think it's related to why human eyes cannot see God.  If we could see God, we would worship his physical image and not who he actually is.  We would gather gold and make a sculpture of his image so we could bow down to it.   Again, we would try to put him in a box and we wouldn't respect that he is so much bigger and so much more than his physical image.  Many eyes did see Jesus, but he went away and sent his spirit instead, maybe for this very reason.

Instead, he wants us to seek after him and by Faith know that he will comfort us when we need it and will fill us with his peace when the time is right.  HE is in control and we are not.

I believe in Heaven and believe that the time will come when we will never have to feel this distance again.  But, for the time being, we can rest assured that if we seek after him, he will fill us with his presence, when we need it, not when we think we would like it.

What About You?

Have you ever wondered why God feels so close sometimes, but so far away other times?  Why do you think he keeps this distance?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Devan Joe: I'm SO Proud of MY Boy

"The van is here", Missy yelled as she peeked out our main door.

Devan's eyes instantly glimmered and a smile swelled across his face.  He grabbed his bookbag and took off out the door at a full sprint squealing with excitement all of the way to the school van.  Missy chased after him, buckled him up in the backseat and slid him a kiss goodbye. 

Just a few years ago, when Devan was first diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, uncertainty and fear filled our minds.  Flashes of dreams that we had for our little boy and had had since the beginning of Missy's pregnancy came crashing down like broken mirrors on the concrete sidewalk.

My son was going to love football.  My son, with his agile movements and quick bursts of speed was going to excel at football.  His adorable little face and handsome little body was going to have the girls knocking down our doors. 

It broke our hearts, as we went to social gatherings and saw all of the other kids playing together and Devan off in the corner by himself.  We screamed inside as our sorrow for him turned into sorrow for ourselves.  Why was he dealt this deck of cards?  Why was our family?

Slowly, over four challenging years, the dreams of who we THOUGHT our son was going to be have withered away and died like a flower after the first Fall freeze, as new dreams of who our son ACTUALLY is have blossomed like the most beautiful rose in the Spring.

In First Grade now, he absolutely loves school.  He writes, he spells, and he's begun to read.  He sits down and eats with the other kids and spends a large portion of his day in the regular First Grade Classroom.  We have been amazingly blessed with a great Teacher and helpers that really care about Devan and challenge him to succeed.

At home, he plays, he wrestles, he gets into trouble and gets arnery.  He teases his sister and picks on Mom and Dad.  Not always wanting to be alone, like in the past, he LOVES being in the same room as the rest of us and looks intently into our eyes as we speak to him.  He has started to say a few words here and there, but communication still is a big challenge for him.  His receptive language, however, seems to be as clear as day.  This Summer, after a few failed attempts and finally a one-day workshop, Devan has moved out of pull-ups into big boy underwear.  I honestly didn't think it was possible for Devan to get potty-trained without being able to tell us when he has to go, but he has done remarkable.

And as for the Football, I couldn't care less.  As his Dad, one of my goals is to find some activity that he really enjoys.  Once we find that, no matter what it is, that's what we will work on.  If he grows an interest for Football, so be it, but I'm not going to push that.  Whether it's swimming, taekwondo, or gymnastics, if Devan enjoys it, I will be there right beside him. 

I know that we have many challenges ahead, but I feel like we have reached a good spot for a sigh and to embrace the progress we have made so far on our journey.

What About You?

Do your expectations of how you think things should be get in the way of the beauty of how things are?  Let the old wither away and embrace the beauty of what God has planned with the new.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sinner's Creed: A memoir by Creed frontman, Scott Stapp

The lead singer of multi-platinum, award-winning band, Creed, shares his personal story of an abusive Fundamentalist Christian upbringing, the self-destructive lifestyle of a Rock Star, and the healing power of God's Grace in his explosive, brutally honest, new memoir: Sinner's Creed.

In 1997, a little-known band of college students on the campus of Florida State University took the world by storm with such hits as My Own Prison, Higher, My Sacrifice, One Last Breath and their super hit With Arms Wide Open.  By 2003, after recording 3 studio albums, touring around the world, and selling millions of records, the band abruptly fell apart in embarrassment as massive egos collided and the lead singer, Scott Stapp, found himself buried deeply in alcohol and drug addiction.

In the years following, Scott Stapp quietly began a solo music career as the other band members formed a new band without Stapp.  Walking through much-publicized suicide attempts, severe depression and drug and alcohol addiction in the years to follow, Stapp finally surrendered his will to God and began to find healing. In 2008, after both Scott and his former bandmates stated that they would never work together again, Creed reunited with a new album and a National Tour across the United States. 

In this memoir, released on October 2nd, 2012, Scott Stapp walks us through his life as a child deeply scarred by learning about a God of punishment and impossible expectations from his stepfather.  These scars followed him throughout adolescense and adulthood finally reaching the surface as his band reached the top of the world.  Stapp walks us through the band's greatest success and biggest falls and how he found a life of sobriety through the 12 Steps of Recovery and the transforming love of Jesus Christ.  In his usual honest way, Stapp shares how that life of sobriety hasn't been a bed of roses but day by day he has begun to find the serenity and purpose that he has always reached for but could never find.

This was the best book that I've read this year.  I think any Creed fan would enjoy reading this memoir, particularly because throughout the book, Stapp describes the setting and the meaning behind many of the songs that he has written with Creed and on his solo projects.  Many Christians reading this book will also relate to the Fundamental viewpoints that Stapp was taught as a child and how those affected him as he grew up. 

If you are looking for a book full of graphic descriptions of the partying, drugs and sex that are part of the rock star lifestyle, you will not find that here.  Stapp does a great job of sharing what happened, even in a brutally honest way, but not glorifying the past sins in his life.  I particularly enjoyed this book for that very reason.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good story of healing and redemption through Jesus Christ.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book for use in a Book Review.  I was under no obligation, however, to give the book a positive review.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Fourth Fisherman by Joe Kissack

Trying to cover-up and bury deep-seeded pain from his childhood, Joe Kissack tried to fill the void in his heart by gaining fortune and power in the high-pressure world of syndicated television.  Deep down, he knew that the crazy travel schedule and the overwhelming hours at work were breaking him down.  He subconciously tried to stay one step in front of the inevitable collapse of his life.

Thousands of miles away, in a small Mexican village, 5 Mexican fisherman set out on a fishing trip, not for fun, but to put food on the table.  In what began as a routine fishing trip, it took a turn for the worst as the fisherman encountered a deadly storm and found themselves drifting along in the unending ocean with only a beat-up, old, dusty Bible and the clothes on their backs.

This book is the true story of how a high-powered television executive from the United States and three Mexican fisherman found the ends of themselves and the beginning of God's magnficent grace.  Interwoven from Chapter to Chapter, the two stories run side by side until the television executive, with a quiet request from God, flies to Mexico to find the surviving fisherman and tell their story.  What results is four changed lives and another example of the universal human need for God's grace and redemption.

I have to admit up-front that true life stories of overcoming life's obstacles are what I most enjoy reading.  This book did not disappoint.  From the moment I first picked it up, I found it difficult to put down and found myself playing the stories through my head in the days between starting and finishing the book.  It really is a book where we, as the readers, are invited into the story and become part of it, as it unfolds.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who doubts if God is still at work in the lives of people today. 

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah, to write a review.  I was under no obligation to write a positive review, however.

*You can find a link to a portion of this book at: http://www.scribd.com/WaterBrook/search?query=The+Fourth+Fisherman

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Don't Feed the Negative

There are two wolves inside each of us fighting for position.  Which one will you choose to feed?

You might remember, if you have seen my last blog post, that my brother Lee and I are working on writing a tribute to my grandfather for his upcoming 80th birthday.  The project has actually been pretty easy on our part because Grandpa is a very reflective man and has jotted down a lot of notes and thoughts as he has come across them.  Recently, while going through his notes, I came across a little parable that really caught me dead in my tracks.  It was one of those 'Ah Hah' moments and gave me a little knowledge as to why my path took a couple wrong turns years ago.  This is the parable:

An elderly Cherokee indian was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil: he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego. The other is good: he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The fight is going on inside you and every other person too.” They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

My natural tendancy is toward the negative.  I wish that weren't the case, but it is.  Without keeping a close eye on myself, through prayer and reflection, I will form deep, ingrained habits of thinking negatively.

About 10-12 years ago, maybe earlier, I walked away from prayer and reflection and let my thoughts go wherever they decided to go.  What happened is that, unaccountable, my mind developed deep, solid, ingrained habits of negative, self-defeating, false thoughts. 

As I've tried to turn this around, it's been a huge challenge.  I try to conciously stop the negative thoughts and turn them into positive, rational, truthful thoughts.  After about 5 years of this, my thoughts are slowly changing into the positive realm.  But, those negative patterns of thinking do come back regularly and attack when I am weakest (tired, bored, or stressed out).

Physiologically, I think our thought patterns work like water flowing down a river.  Water always takes the path of least resistance.  If we build deep, ingrained negative thought patterns, our thoughts will quickly and easily take that route time and time again.  My goal is to build up a bank against that negative pathway of thoughts, and begin digging a deep, ingrained pathway of positive, rational thoughts.  Obviously, in my opinion, this is a futile goal without regularly feeding myself  on and building up my faith and trust in God.

So, which wolf are you feeding.  Do you concentrate on the positive, truth, God-fearing thoughts, or do you sometimes become lazy and let your mind take off on the negative route?  Which route is your natural tendancy?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An Uncommon Man

I had originally started this blog to begin promoting a memoir that I plan to write about a turbulent few years in my life.  My writing journey has taken a different direction for now,  however and I am thrilled with the project at my fingertips. 

My grandfather is turning 80 years old this October.  My brother, Lee and I decided to approach him about sharing some of his life stories and wisdom with us so we can gather it all together into a biography and share it with future generations to come.  We conducted our first interview on Sunday morning and I think we are onto something great.

Grandpa has made a habit throughout his life of memorizing certain poems, excerpts from books or any other writing that really resonates with him.  He recited the following poem word for word perfect while we talked to him and I thought I would share it here.  It has really resonated with me as well.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Uncommon Man (by Dean Alfange, born December 2nd,  1899)

I Do Not Choose To Be A Common Man

It is my right to be uncommon—if I can.

I seek opportunity—not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.

I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.

I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.

I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat.

It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, “This I have done.”

These are strong words and to be honest, I do not believe them to be true in my own life.  Maybe, however, if you keep working on it, keep saying it over and over again, you begin to believe it and the evidence of it begins to come out in your own life.  We really do become what we habitually think about.

How about you?

Do you believe the saying that we become what we think about?  Has that come true in your own life?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Breaking Bad Habits (Part 4): The Secret Weapon

So, what's that ONE THING that makes all the difference?  What's the silver bullet?  What's that secret weapon that finally helps us overcome those bad habits that plague us for years?  First, I'll give you a few hints.  It's not a magic pill.  It's not a book.  It's not a particular program.  Some books and programs can really give you an edge, but they usually only work if you employ this secret weapon first.

During the second half of my first year of college, I quit working out and began living on junk food to relieve the stress and boredom that can come with college life.  I gained a significant amount of weight and began to feel miserable.  After about a year and a half, and 60 pounds later, I finally realized that I had a problem that I needed to deal with.  I bought a bunch of books, did a ton of research and learned everything I could about weight loss, exercise and healthy eating.  EVERY SINGLE WEEK FOR A FULL YEAR, I made a detailed plan of healthy eating and exercise and set a weight loss goal.  Every week, I decided that I was going to start the following Monday.  Monday would roll around, I would start my program, mess up on Tuesday or Wednesday, and throw away the plan and draw up a new one. 

"Surely, the problem was in my plan," I figured.

One weekend, out of desperation, I said a simple prayer,  "God, you have to help me.  I can't do this on my own.  I've tried everything and I'm out of options."

The following Monday, I began my program like usual but something happened this time.  Somehow, for some reason, I rolled through the mistakes of Tuesday and Wednesday and just kept going.  In fact, I rolled through the mistakes of every day for the next 15 weeks, and lost about 60 pounds.  Why was this time different?

As I look back and see the few times that I've had success in overcoming any negative habit or situation in my life, it's always begun with SURRENDER.  In every situation, I've fought the habit over and over again by myself with little success. Finally, when I was completely exhausted and feeling hopeless, I surrendered the situation to God. Once I sincerely surrendered, I had the power to overcome.

I've come to realize that the problem we face in trying to overcome bad habits is a LACK OF POWER.  If you have followed Part 1: Why do we Fail? and Part 2: Where's the POWER in My Willpower of the Breaking Bad Habits series of posts, you've seen that it's not easy.  Once those habits are in place, we've got a battle on our hands.  Unfortunately, in my experience, we lack the POWER to overcome them.  Therefore, my new definition for Willpower is: The Willingness to Accept God's Power.  I believe that the secret weapon in overcoming bad habits is SURRENDER.

What About You?

Have you ever fought a bad habit on your own with little success?  Do you have any other Tips for overcoming bad habits?  If so, please share them in the Comments of this post. 

**If you have enjoyed this post, or this blog in general, please feel free to SHARE IT using the small icons at the bottom of this post including FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and GOOGLE +.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Breaking Bad Habits (Part III) : 5 Tips for Breaking Bad Habits

Is Breaking Bad Habits even Possible?

  If you have followed along on Part I  and Part II of the Breaking Bad Habits post series, you probably aren't real encouraged so far.

Let's do a quick review:

- Once a bad habit is written in your brain, it is stored there forever.  You will never completely eliminate that bad habit from your thinking.

- The biggest triggers for relapsing back into bad habits are too much stress and boredom.  Unfortunately, we all feel over-stressed and bored sometimes.

- Your willpower is not going to help you too much in breaking bad habits.  The more you try not to act out on a bad habit, the more likely you will.  Trying not to do it keeps the habit at the forefront of your brain, which makes acting out on it more likely when stress and boredom come.

5 Tips that might help you break bad habits

1.  Make the Decision

     It sounds too simple, but if you aren't absolutely sure that you want to make this change in your life, then you won't do it.  You must have a compelling reason.  It may be your health, it may be for your kids.  Only you can decide what is going to give you the fuel to keep going when the road gets tough.  The secret is to use that willpower we discussed earlier to focus on what your life will look like once you make this change.  Therefore, instead of focusing on trying not to fall into your bad habit, focus on how your life will be improved once you overcome the habit.

2.  Throw perfection out the window

   This is the one that has tripped me up over and over again every time I want to eliminate a bad habit.  For some reason, after I decide to make a change in my life, I envision the process of change to be perfect.  I picture myself making the transition from a bad habit to a good one and don't plan for the inevitable slip-up.  Then, when I do mess up, I beat myself up for it, which makes me feel miserable, which leads me a large relapse in my negative behavior.

   Even if you have a compelling reason to make the change in your life, if you expect to be perfect and never mess up, you are setting yourself up for failure.  PLAN ON MESSING UP from time to time while getting rid of bad habits.  Messing up is part of the learning process.  When you mess up, don't beat yourself up for it.  Now you know that it is going to happen and is part of the process.  Dust yourself off, learn from your mistake, and get back on your journey.

3.  One day at a time

   When eliminating bad habits, it is very important to focus on the big picture.  You must have a vision for what you are shooting for and keep the compelling reason for your change in the forefront of your mind.

   Breaking the bad habit isn't going to occur, however, by continuously focusing on the future goal.  Any positive change occurs as the result of making the right decisions over and over again, day after day.  The change happens one day at a time.

  In my experience, it works well to peak at the future goal and know what you are shooting for, but quickly come back to the present moment and decide what you are going to do this day to move you a little closer to that positive change.

  THE PRESENT MOMENT is where the rubber meets the road and where progress is made.

4.  Manage your Stress

   I know this is a tough one.  We live in a stress-filled society.  It's all we know.  If we are not stressed out, most of us find something to stress about because that is our normal state.  There are things that we can do, however to manage the stress in our lives.  I hope to discuss this topic further in a later post.

5.  Replace bad habits with good ones.

   When we stop acting out on a bad habit, it leaves a void in our lives.  There is no way around it.  If you spend 2 hours a day doing your bad habit, you now have 2 hours that you will need to fill up with something else.

   In my experience, a bad habit cannot be broken without replacing it with a good one.  If you want to maintain freedom from a bad habit for a long period of time, you will need to begin another habit to do instead.

Without replacing the bad habit with a good one, BOREDOM will creep into that time slot, and it will lead you right back to your bad habit.

What about You?

Does perfection creep in when you are trying to eliminate bad habits and lead you to failure?  Can you add any other tips that you have found for breaking bad habits?

Parts of this post was based on a seminar sponsored by the Institute of Brain Potential called How the Brain Forms New Habits: Why Willpower is Not Enough: More information can be found at:

***Please Note:  If you enjoy my posts and would like to share them on Facebook or Twitter, all you have to do is click on the tiny social media icon at the bottom of each post.  They are so small that I thought many people might not know that they are there.***

Monday, July 2, 2012

Breaking Bad Habits (Part 2): Where's the POWER in My Willpower?

How strong is your willpower?

Let's start this post with a little test of your willpower.  For the next 30 seconds, no matter what you do, don't think about an ELEPHANT.  Okay start...

Why are you thinking about an elephant when I told you not to?  It is only 30 seconds.  Couldn't you go just 30 seconds?  Since you did opposite of what I told you to do, does that mean that you have a weak willpower?  Not really.  It was not a fair test of true willpower.

When I told you not to think about an elephant, the first thing you did was picture an elephant in your conscious working brain.  No matter how hard you try not to think about the elephant, you keep thinking about it.  Actually,  the harder you try, the worse it gets.

So, what was willpower designed for?

Willpower works well at helping us persevere if we are trying to accomplish a task.  As long as the thing we want to accomplish is in our conscious working memory, willpower helps us focus on the rewards and sees us through the hard work.  So, willpower works great to help us proactively achieve our goals.

What about eliminating bad habits?

The problem is, if we are trying to eliminate a bad habit, the last thing we need is that particular habit at the forefront of our brain. 

When we are trying to use our willpower to get rid of bad habits,  that bad habit is on our mind constantly.  If it isn't at the forefront of our mind, willpower doesn't work.  Placing the habit in your working memory incorporates it into your up-coming decisions. That is fine if all you are doing all day is avoiding the bad habit, but that's not reality. Throughout the day, we are constantly coming upon new decisions to make.  Consciously trying not to do something will usually increase the behavior rather than decrease it.

The second problem is that the brain functions involving willpower are just too slow.

Our working memory is extremely busy and easily overwhelmed.  This slow, multi-step brain function is usually no match for the quick, efficient function of  acting out on a habit stored in our basal ganglia.  The end result is that we act out on the bad habit before we remember not to.


If you have tried and tried to eliminate a bad habit using your willpower and have failed repeatedly, don't be too hard on yourself.  Willpower was never designed for that function.  If we approach the bad habit from a different angle, we have a much better chance of success.  The key is to work with your physiology not against it?

What about You?

Have you been really frustrated with yourself because you can't overcome bad habits using willpower?  Have you wondered if you had any willpower at all?

**If you read my blog last week, you were probably expecting some tips this week for eliminating bad habits.  Sorry about that.  I received such a large response from my first post on habits, I thought I would expand on the subject a bit further.  I promise that  I will provide you with some tips in Part 3 and possiby 4 of Breaking Bad Habits.**

This post was based on a seminar sponsored by the Institute of Brain Potential called How the Brain Forms New Habits: Why Willpower is Not Enough: More information can be found at https://www.ibpceu.com/pdf/custom/HABNHMEMARIF11-4.pdf

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Breaking Bad Habits (Part 1): Why do we Fail

This past January, as I often do, I set a New Year's resolution to eat healthier and begin exercising.  By mid-February, I panicked realizing that I still hadn't changed anything.  I got my butt into gear and finally began my program.  I worked hard, focused, lost some weight and felt great.  I remember thinking to myself, "Why didn't I do this a long time ago. I haven't felt this good in years."

After about 5 or 6 weeks, my plan derailed and I completely went back to my old, unhealthy lifestyle.  Man, that is so frustrating.  And the worst of it is, this same thing has happened EVERY DARN YEAR for the last 4 years.  Even though I felt better and looked better,  I went backwards and settled into my old lifestyle.

So, WHY do we fail at eliminating our bad habits?

Earlier this month, my brother Lee and I went to a one day conference put on by the Institute of Brain Potential called How the Brain Forms New Habits:  Why Willpower is Not Enough.  It was a very informative and interesting seminar.  The following are the main points that I learned from the seminar.

Once a Habit is Formed, It is Permanently Stored in Your Brain

There is a tiny little structure right in the middle of your brain called the Basal Ganglia that stores any habits that you have learned FOREVER. If you developed a habit of smoking cigarettes, for example, the habit of smoking is stuck in your brain for the rest of your life.

Before you go beating up on the Basal Ganglia, please note that it does serve a very important purpose.  If you learn how to do something useful, in your career or any other area of your life, your brain remembers how to do it for the rest of your life.  Even if you have not tried it for years, you can always pick that function up again fairly easily.  Two great examples of this are snow-skiing and bike riding.  Once you know how to do them, your body always knows how to do them. 

Interestingly enough, this tiny brain structure is located at the very core of your brain. Obviously God didn't want it to be easily disrupted.

Because of the Basal Ganglia, overcoming bad habits is almost always a life-long endeavor.

If we don't act out on a bad habit for a long time, what makes us go back to it?

According to the presentation by the Institute for Brain Potential, there are two main causes for Bad Habit Relapse.


When we are over-stressed, we often resort back to our bad habits because they give us some  
temporary relief from the Stress.

The presenter first referred to this as Reward Deficiency, but then admitted that what it really is is boredom.  When we are bored, the amount of dopamine floating around in our brain is low.  Our bad habits give us a little jolt of dopamine, which brings us out of boredom.


So there you have it.  I hope you gain a little more insight into why bad habits are so hard to overcome.  As I finish writing this article, it is 11:30 PM and my stomach is stuffed to the max from the Chinese Buffet we ate at tonight.  Obviously, knowledge about bad habits alone does not eliminate them....

In Part 2, we will discuss some practical tips for overcoming bad habits.

What about you?

Do you have trouble overcoming bad habits?  Are they always there to pester you when you are stressed out or bored?

Information about the seminar I mentioned can be found at: https://www.ibpceu.com/pdf/custom/HABNHMEMARIF11-4.pdf

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Fear of Being Real

Each time he said, "My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness."  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) NLT

This last March, my wife Missy and I attended a conference for parents with children with special needs.  Our son, Devan, is on the autism spectrum.  One session during the conference really stuck out to both us and made a profound difference in our lives.

The room was full with standing room only.  About 75 parents sat in the audience.  In the front of the room was a stage with three sets of parents.  Each set were the parents of a child with special needs  but they were all at different points on the journey.  One by one, each person on the stage shared their personal journey through parenting a special needs child.  They shared the deep stuff such as grief, depression and the marital problems that they had went through in their journey.

Something amazing happened in that room that day.  As each person dropped their mask and shared their real self, a spirit of hope, compassion and empathy filled the room.  Everyone in that room could relate to what was being said and for a moment, we all felt connected.

Moments like this don't happen very often, but when they do, they have a profound effect on everyone involved.  Sharing your weaknesses with others can certainly be scary. We all have a natural tendancy to only show our best to other people. We want people to think that we have it all together. We do not want to be seen as weak, insecure or vulnerable.

The problem is that we really can't relate to each other very well, especially spiritually, if we are hiding our weaknesses.  God's spirit flows through vulnerability.  In other words, vulnerability is the fuel that moves God's spirit from one person to another. 

Being vulnerable and transparent can be a bad thing.  We certainly don't want to go around telling everybody everything about us.  What we tell others can be used against us so we want to be careful.  When the right time arrives, however, and you can connect with someone spiritually by being real,  take that chance.  You may just find a life-long friend in the process.

What about you

 Are you afraid to show your real self?  Do you cover up your weaknesses and try to only show your strong points?  Is there someone in life that you could really help by sharing your own struggles?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Slice of Time

Slowly but surely, she pushed her new wheelbarrow down the sidewalk.  In the wheelbarrow, a purple shovel with a pink handle bounced around, forcing Addy to balance the wheelbarrow as she pushed along.  The shovel was a gift from her mom so she could help dad 'work' outside. 

"Daddy, Let's go find some rocks", she said as she came close.

"Honey, Dad is busy", I mumbled, as I gave her a quick glance trying not to lose my concentration on the flat wheelbarrow tire I was trying to remove.

"Please, daddy", she pleaded.

With a frustrating sigh, I looked over at her and said: "Alright, but just for a few minutes."

An hour later, we finally strolled back up the sidewalk to the house with a load of rocks to proudly present to mommy and big brother. 

I had no idea that the few minutes that I had promised Addy had turned into an hour.  She had worked hard digging and prodding with her colorful shovel.  I helped with the ones that were too tough for her.  We talked, laughed and enjoyed our time together.  I will probably never forget that evening.

We really have no idea how many of those moments we will have with our loved ones.  Moments when we are alone, the world is quiet around us, and we can just be together. 

With all of the distractions and responsibilities in my life, I rarely focus on the moment and be fully present with the people around me,  forgetting all else, and taking in the moment.  Like I mentioned, it rarely happens,  but it does sometimes, which I see as a major blessing in my life.

What About You?

Could you set all of your worries and concerns aside, every once in a while, and focus on the time you have with a loved one?  Would your life and your close relationships be enriched if you would allow yourself to do this?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Freedom to Fail

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

As a recovering perfectionist, the thought of failing at anything in life makes my skin crawl.  Failure has always horrified me.  I want to succeed.   I want to win.  I want to be PERFECT.

While growing up, I often thought that being a perfectionist was a positive character trait.  I thought that having this trait meant that you were driven and were not going to allow failure in any area of your life.

There is one little issue, however, in expecting perfection.  We are HUMANS.  Humans are not perfect and WILL Fail.  As my drive for perfection increased, my peace of mind decreased.  Every time I would fail, I would throw up my arms and give up.  My thought was, if this plan led to failure, then obviously the whole plan is worthless. 

This cycle of making a plan, failing, completely changing plans, failing again, and then finally giving up has shown up in nearly every area of my life. A great example of this was dealing with weight loss.  I would come up with a great plan of how I was going to eat healthy and exercise.  I would run this plan through my mind over and over again tweeking every little detail until the plan was perfect.  I would then start the plan, have a small failure during the first couple of days, and then give up in disgust.  At the first failure, I would decide that the plan was doomed and give up on the entire thing.

As I look back, the flaws in my thinking were obvious.  Who am I to think I can do something perfect?  Do I think I am God?  Nobody ever does anything well, let alone perfect, the first time.  Highly successful people know that failure is part of life and actually use it to gain even more success.

Finding this acceptance of imperfection has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.  It is actually one of the biggest reasons why I had the guts to start this blog.  I know that I have a long ways to go to become a good writer.  I have so much to learn and know that I will FAIL a number of times as I work on it.  I also know, however, that if I keep working at it and learn from my mistakes, I will get better. 

This is how I found The Freedom to Fail :

1) Accept that I am a HUMAN BEING and that all human beings FAIL sometimes.

2)  Realize that Failing is actually one of the most effective ways that God teaches us.

3)  Understand that Jesus was the only person who ever lived a perfect life.

4)  Accept that if I am trying to be PERFECT, then I am trying to play GOD.

5)  Believe that if I have a relationship with HIM, then I am perfect in GOD'S EYES, despite my 

6)  Believe that if I am already perfect in God's eyes, I have the FREEDOM TO FAIL in this life.

Failing is just part of the human experience.  If we never fail, then we never learn.  If we never learn then we never succeed.

What About You?  Do you expect perfection out of yourself?  Would accepting your Freedom to Fail help you relax and try new, challenging or scary things in your life?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Questioning God

What would you like to ask God?  If you were allowed 5 questions that God would answer, what would they be?  I could come up with 5 questions very quickly.  There is so much in life that I simply do not understand.  Unfortunately, a lot of the questions we have are left without an explanation. 

The Wrong Questions

I have spent so much time asking God questions that just lead to more questions.  I rarely get the answers that I want, when I want them.  I rarely waste my time any longer asking the wrong questions.  It is a futile waste of time. 


Why did he allow a devastating earthquake to destroy Haiti, one of  the poorest nations on Earth? Or, why does he allow a child to die of cancer at the age of 10?


How can I raise my kids in these crazy times?  Or, the big questions like how is the government going to solve the Social Security and Medicare problems?

I have also learned that it is a waste of my time to ask him When he will act.

Every time that ask God questions that begin with these words, they lead to more questions, less faith, and less peace of mind.

When we ask these type of questions, it is all about CONTROL.  We are trying to play God ourselves.

The Right Questions

So if it is pointless to ask God these questions, is questioning God useless?  Does God want us to question him?

I have learned that the Right Questions to ask God begin with What, Where, Who or When if it involves When we should act. Questions such as What would you like me to do?  or Where would you like me to go?  The questions are the ones that God wants us to ask.

All of these questions involve giving up control to him and walking in FAITH.

One Day at a Time

I believe the time will come when we can ask God the Why and How questions.  Someday, we  will get the answers to all of these questions, but they will come when they come.  We cannot force them.

Our focus now needs to be on asking the What, Where, Who and When he wants us to do something.  All great things happen in steps.   One step at a time, one day at a time, the puzzle pieces will all be lined up and the masterpiece will be finished.   

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

With Open Hands

Have you ever tried to grab water?  No, not a bottle of water or a glass of water, but have you ever tried to grab water?  If you grab water, the tighter you squeeze it, the less you end up with.   If you want to hold water, you have to hold it WITH OPEN HANDS.

I often find myself trying to grab God's blessings.  When God blesses me with peace, joy or any other blessing, I grab it with all my might, pull it close to my chest and try to make sure that it does not leave me.  He hands it over to me and I try to devour it and control it.  As I pull it closer and closer and clench it tighter and tighter, the blessing disappears out the creases of my hands.  Basically, I smother God's blessings. 

As I was contemplating this principle, I thought of one exception.  I want to love, adore and hold my kids as close as I can.  They are a blessing from God, but they need someone to hold them tight.  Really, though, if I keep holding them so tight as they grow older and do not begin to let go, they are going to rebel.  At some point, I will need to open up my hands and let them go.

So, I find myself with this deep desire to grasp something.  I have a craving inside to grab ahold of something will all my might, but if I grab onto anything too tightly, it acts like water and disappears. 
This puts me in quite a predicament.

What I have found is that it is no accident that I have this deep desire inside to grab onto something.  If I grab onto God with all my might and squeeze him close to my chest, he only increases in my life.  The tighter I squeeze and the closer I pull, the more he reveals himself to me. 

Therefore, my suggestion is:  Grab GOD (not religion, not Church) but GOD himself with all of your might and hold all of his blessings WITH OPEN HANDS.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Not Quite Enough

The Essence of all advertising is You are Not Quite Enough if you do not have what we are Selling.

As the New Year has rolled over, Missy and I are beginning to focus on that subject that is so difficult at times but is so intertwined in every aspect of our lives: MONEY MANAGEMENT

This year I am trying to not just look at the symptoms:  Impulse Purchases, Those little everyday purchases that compound over time, or just the lack of managing the money that I earn.  This year I am trying to get to the bottom of it.  I am trying to answer the questions:  Why does my spending not reflect my values?  and Why do I buy things that I don't need, don't want or just for all of the wrong reasons?

Part of what I have discovered is that it is not just money.  It is a spiritual issue.

As I walk into a store like The Buckle, the air is filled with a great scent.  That scent of some new cologne draws you deeper into the store.  On the shelves are layers of jeans, leather shoes, and shirts of all different styles and colors.  Some young salesperson walks over in his or her fancy clothes from head to toe, jewelry and a bright smile.  Basically, the whole message that they are trying to give me is:  If you want to be cool or feel good, you need to buy these jeans for 109.99.  If you want to really be cool, you can buy those jeans for 109.99 and add a shirt to go with them for 65.99.

I am not saying a word against stores like The Buckle.  I really like the store and love the way the jeans fit.  The problem happens when I am making purchases because I don't feel good enough with what I have or what I am.  As the advertising industry spends millions and millions of dollars pushing this one message, it is quite clear that it has an effect on most of us.

My focus this year is on CONTENTMENT.  With Jesus, I am enough.  In him is my fulfillment.  There is nothing else in this world that I really need.  Therefore, I can walk through these advertising messages knowing that I don't really need this product to be fulfilled. I have enough when I begin with Jesus.

If I can find this contentment, I think I am well on my way to finding the victories over money management that I am seeking.

*If  you read this  Danny, sorry, but I had to steal the idea from our conversation on Monday evening.  LOL..

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Follow Jesus, Not his Followers

Follow Jesus himself, because if you follow his followers too closely, you may be led astray.

The College Years (18-early 20s) are a very challenging and important part of developing into Adulthood.  When I first packed up and headed off to Wayne State College in the Fall of 1999, I was full of excitement and fear.

I knew no one at the College and am an introvert by nature, so the idea of being in a brand new place, where I would need to make brand new friends, was pretty scary.  Nevertheless, at the time, I felt very strong in my faith.  I had had an important year of spiritual growth in my senior year of high school and was very excited to continue that growth as I started college.

I was convinced that I wanted to find a Bible Study at the Campus where I could find other believers who were as passionate about growing in Christian Faith as I was.  I found a group that met once a week in a room next to the cafeteria on campus.

What I ended up finding was a very legalistic, fundamental Christian group that taught that their strict beliefs were TRUTH and all of the other Christians were wrong.  As I attended the group week after week, my heart began to be filled with Fear, Confusion, Anger and Resentment.  I hated going to the group so much, but I was scared not to go.  They believed that we needed to quit celebrating Christmas with Christmas trees, and begin preaching on the corner of campuses.   "Me, preaching?", I thought.  That just isn't me.  But, they tell me that I need to.

After about 10 weeks, I finally had had enough, and said forget it.  I never went back to the group after that.  I also decided to quit pursuing my faith.  I had stuck my neck out searching for God, and been burned.  I decided from then on out I was going to go through the motions, but that was it.  I totally associated THAT group with God himself, and decided that if that is God, then I don't want anything to do with him on a personal level.

This turning away from God led me into a dark 8 year period of addiction, anxiety, depression, rage, and spiritual bankruptcy.

When I finally came to an end of myself and surrendered again to Jesus, I had a resentment that I needed to deal with.  I sat down with a dear friend and said "Why did God lead me astray back then?  I was passionate about growing closer to him, but I ended up with confusion, anger and resentment.  How could he do that to me?"

My friend looked over at me and said, "Just because you were led astray by a Christian Group does not mean that you were led astray by God himself.  He was there for you the entire time:  Walking you through your pain."

I sorta understood what he was saying and it helped a little bit, but I still resented God for allowing that to happen to me.  I also remained very weary about pursuing a close relationship with God again. 

About 2 years later, I heard something on the radio that gave me the healing that I needed.  Follow Jesus, Not his Followers because his followers are not perfect and they get it wrong sometimes.

From this I have been able to again pursue Jesus, but this time, I am pursuing him on a personal level.  YES, I need to be in fellowship with others, but if I don't agree with a particular group or person, that's alright.  And if I try out a particular Christian Fellowship and I don't agree with a lot of what they teach, I can just choose another one. 

The fact of the matter is:  The Bible is complicated and difficult to understand.  I believe there are a lot of things about the Christian Faith that we were never meant to understand right now.  I do know, however, that if I pursue Jesus personally, setting aside all OPINIONS ABOUT him, then I will never be led astray.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

As You See Me

If only my view of myself on the inside was as clear as it is on the outside as I glance into a bathroom mirror.

When I look at the internal mirror of my heart, it is as if steam fills the bathroom from a hot bath.  The steam gathers as fog on the mirror.  I end up with a blurry view of myself

Often times, I see myself with such contempt.  I look at my failures, my weaknesses and my shortcomings.  I also compare myself to other people and seem to never measure up.  I see the success and confident appearances of others and cannot hardly even look them in the eye.  How can I, with all of my fears, even look at a confident man in the eye. 

At other times, I see myself with such arrogance.  I see myself as the center of the universe and so much more important than my fellow man.  I succeed at something and think that I am the most powerful man on the planet. I look at other people with judgement and pride.  I feel bad for my fellow man because he does this and that.  I look at the speck in my neighbor's eye forgetting the plank in my own.

My prayer to God is:

LET ME SEE ME AS YOU SEE ME.  When you look at me, you see so much potential.  You know who I can be if I stay close to you.  You see my weaknesses, but you see that they can be overcome.  You see my fears, but know that they are no match for your strength.  You love me so dearly, but no more or less than others.  You see me beat myself up sometimes and see right through my inferiority complex.  You can also see through my pride and arrogance and know that they are just a means to hide my fears. 

Lord,  wipe away the fog from my heart and give me your eyes so I can see me for who I am made to be and who I can become.  If I can really see me through your eyes, then I can be used for your purposes instead of wandering around aimlessly in the confusion of my fog.