A Little Humor Goes a Long Way

Fred told me about a negative interaction between him and his wife, Jacquie. The 6-month-old baby threw a temper tantrum so Fred tapped the baby on the thigh with two fingers and firmly let him know that the screaming was not allowed. The baby, still crying, at least stopped screaming. So far – so good.

Jacqie thought her husband was cruel and started scolding him in front of the baby. Fred told her to hush, turned her toward the door, and ordered her out of the room. Bad move!

Jacquie, now in a rage, turned and began pushing Fred. She had shoes on, but he was wearing socks without shoes and the floor was shiny hardwood. Losing traction and beginning to fall, he managed to somehow hop toward the bed. But Jacquie was still pushing and Fred realized that as they fell she might hit her head on the steel bed frame. Fall, they did! But he held onto her and managed to land both of them on the mattress. Good move!

Fred was breathing heavily, grateful that they were both safe. Jacquie was also breathingPICT0008 heavily – still in a rage! That’s when Fred whimsically said, “Now I know why we should never come between a mother bear and her cubs.”

Jacquie chuckled … Fred laughed … and they both burst out laughing which lasted for several minutes. The humor had broken the tension, and helped them to think through the situation in a more relaxed atmosphere. Excellent recovery!

He apologized, she forgave, the baby survived, and Fred & Jacquie are still happily married. Henry Ward Beecher said (paraphrased), “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – it’s jolted by every pebble in the road.”

Doctors and psychiatrists tell us that we should have five good belly-laughs a day. Why?

To start off, Proverbs 17:22 (NCV) tells us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Laughter is a strong and powerful force that has positive effects on the body. It improves breathing, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, relaxes muscles, releases stress, and reduces pain. This God-ordained medicine needs no prescription, is free, and has been available forever. Voltaire said, “The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Laughter reduces pain by increasing the body’s natural painkiller: endorphins. In hospitals, doctors use humor therapy after surgeries to enhance the healing process and improve health.

PICT0409Having a sense of humor releases our native creativity and helps us to properly interpret events that happen to us. The way we perceive events determines whether we feel challenged, happy, threatened, puzzled, joyful, etc. Tense situations are where you need to laugh the most. Humor helps us to overlook the aggravating trivia that tend to grow out of proportion and block our vision.

Laughter is contagious and connects us with others; if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more. Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. My father used to say, “If someone’s got to be upset, it doesn’t have to be me.”

And yes: my wife, children, and I laugh a lot.

Our cardiovascular and respiratory systems benefit more from twenty seconds of laughter than from three minutes of exercise on a rowing machine. Through laughter, muscles release tension and neurochemicals are released into the bloodstream, creating the same feelings the long-distance joggers experience as “runner’s high.” Also, ten minutes of laughter helps people sleep more soundly.

Bob Hope said that laughter is an “instant vacation.” Jay Leno said, “You can’t stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh.” And I remember another comedian saying, “If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it.”

Studies reveal that individuals who have a strong sense of humor are less likely to experience burnout and depression; and they will most likely have a more fulfilled life in general – including a long-lasting marriage where they can enjoy their 50th wedding anniversary.

So lighten up. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Rather than focusing on what you want out of life, think about helping lighten someone else’s burden. And laugh with them.

Singing Benefits Breathing

Have you been coughing or sneezing lately? Allergies take a toll on us, but a worse Polluted Airproblem involves difficulty in breathing. Several causes are asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, and a big title called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, or COPD. You have probably seen the advertisements for numerous medications.

I’ve found four common causes of COPD. 1) Cigarette smoke is by far the most common reason people get COPD. But cigar and pipe smoke are also guilty. Secondhand smoke is considered a fifth cause, but it is still tobacco smoke. Therefore, I lump it in with the first cause. 2) Breathing chemical fumes, dust, contaminated city air, or toxic substances can cause COPD. 3) We read that about 3% of people with COPD are genetically inclined in their DNA: the code that tells your body how to work properly. This is called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, or ATT deficiency. The affected lungs lack a certain protein needed to protect them from damage which can lead to severe COPD. 4) Least common, asthma can also lead to COPD. If you don’t get medical treatment for asthma soon enough, it can eventually cause lifetime lung damage.

People with damaged or diseased lungs tend to take rapid and shallow breaths, but doctors tell us that this aggravates the problem. Instead: longer, slower, deeper breathing is more soothing, helps clear the lungs, and promotes relaxation; all of which retards lung tissue deterioration.

There are many treatments for breathing disorders and I don’t disparage any of them. However, there is a little-known treatment that costs nothing. It is called: SINGING. Okay, I like to sing. But read on.

I read the following in a health report: “In a third-floor room of a London hospital…a dozen people gathered to perform vocal exercises and sing songs. While the participants were drawn to the session by a fondness for music, they also had an ulterior motive for singing: to cope better with lung disease. The weekly group is led by a professional musician and is offered to people with respiratory problems including asthma, emphysema, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. Doctors at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital started the program after reasoning that the kind of breathing used by singers might also help lung patients.”

Those of us who sing a lot, especially in choirs, know that singing requires better posture and teaches us to manage our breathing. Dr. Hopkinson said, “In a study comparing patients who went to the singing class versus those who attended a film discussion group, only the patients who sang reported feeling physically better afterwards, even if it couldn’t be measured objectively. Other experts agreed the singing therapy was an unusual but worthy approach.”

Dr. Norman Edelman, former chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, said, “Controlled breathing, like the kind you might learn in singing, is very important because people with COPD should try to take deep breaths and slowly synchronize each breath when they’re doing something like walking up stairs.”

Would singing help everyone with lung deficiencies? I don’t know, and many people don’t like to sing. Also, although they know that slow, deep breathing does help, many folks don’t remember to do their breathing exercises. But if they got into the habit of singing, the exercises would become routine. However, those with severe lung problems will find it difficult to sing.

I am not encouraging you to stop taking medication; I am merely encouraging you to add something that doesn’t cost anything. Additionally, singing is beneficial spiritually and emotionally. Psalm 9:1-2 says, “I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart. I will tell all the miracles You have done. I will be happy because of You; God Most High, I will sing praises to Your name.” and Proverbs 17:22 says, “A happy heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength.”

Many people in their 70s and 80s have agreed that singing helped them breathe easier. Diagnosed with severe emphysema in 2002, a man named John Cameron Turner said he tried various medicines with not much relief. He said, “I have damaged lungs, but singing helps me use as much of them as possible.”

So I encourage you to sing joyful songs with a wholesome message. You can even hum happy tunes. You have nothing to lose and much to gain.

I Took a Short Break

What do you do when you’re tired? You are correct: you take a break; and that’s why you didn’t see my blogs for a week or so.

Carol and I returned from a 10-month trip around the good-ole USA, and enjoyed about 99% of the trip. We had been thinking about a trip like this for over 30 years, and it was time to fulfill the dream.

What about the 1%? Oh, just minor glitches in the plan, but no major disruptions. One of the glitches was when we reached Memphis, Tennessee on the way back home. We showed up at the RV park and they were filled up. When I told them about my reservation, they had deleted it. I couldn’t blame them; because with all the rain, the over-flowing Mississippi, Arkansas, and other rivers, and people fleeing the flooded RV parks, the non-flooded parks needed to make room for them.

Only a minor inconvenience. We found the empty side of a Wal-Mart parking lot right next to an IHOP restaurant and spent most the night.

I said it was a 10-month trip, and that’s correct. But before we started it, we had taken a 5-week trip up to the northeast part of the country. So in the past 14 months, 11 of those months was on the road in a 20-foot pull-behind trailer.

Before we left, one of my friends asked, “You’re going to spend 10 months in a small trailer?”

I responded, “We think of it as spending only 1 day at a time. It’s easier that way.”

We drove 26,267 miles, and traveled through 27 states which included the four corners of the country. When we returned home, another friend asked what it was like being cooped up in a small trailer with my wife for almost a year.

“I wasn’t cooped up with her,” I responded. “It was a joy to be with her every mile of the way. We’ve been married for almost 53 years now and we still enjoy traveling together.”

That’s why I took a break from blogging. But you’ll just have to put up with me again, because I’m home.

Have a great weekend.

Take Time to Relax

Get your coffee or tea, sit back, prop up your feet, and relax while I reminisce for five minutes.

Several years ago, Carol and I spent a month in Southern California assisting with some family issues. As a native of San Diego, I don’t visit California without visiting the coast. Watching the waves roll in with the accompanying sound of the surf is therapeutic for me. I can sit for hours watching the ocean; it changes from one minute to the next. What some people call “the pounding surf” is actually music to my ears.IMG_0151

I also like to walk on the beach, especially at low tide, and collect shells. Sand-dollars are my favorite, but any pretty unbroken shell goes into my plastic bag. Many people collect sand dollars and use them in their hobbies and craft-work. They are commonly used in creating home décor: wedding favors and place cards are high on the list. Some paint beach scenes, sunsets or put personalized messages on them. But I collect the shells, clean them, and give them to family members and to children who don’t know how to find the unbroken ones.

It’s amazing to see how many people like to go surfing. No, I don’t mean surfing the internet or television. These men and women ride their surfboards (from 6 to 12 feet long) for hours, day-after-day trying to “catch the big wave.” The boards are usually tied to their ankles so they don’t get away when the surfers get dumped. Their wet-suits keep them relatively warm, but they also reduce sunburn.

Remember The Beach Boys? They enhanced the popularity of surfing by writing and singing their 1963 hit: “Surfin’ USA.” The words to the second verse are:

“You’d catch ‘em surfin at Del Mar (Inside, outside, U.S.A.), Ventura County line, Santa Cruz and Tressels, Australia’s Narabine, All over Manhattan, And down Doheny way: Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Many of those dedicated surfin’ souls hit the water at sunup, and surfed until they needed to eat or tuckered themselves out. And as I watched them, I couldn’t help but hear the refrain running through my mind: “Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Carol and I enjoyed walking on the second-longest wooden pier on the west coast (a DSCN12901,954-foot-long pier in Oceanside), eating at Ruby’s Restaurant at the end, and watching the California Brown Pelicans go fishing. They would circle an area where the school of fish were, fly to about twenty feet above the water, then drop like a dive-bomber – folding their wings before they hit the water. Under water, they immediately open their beaks and scoop up fish. Surfacing, they swallow their hapless prey, then start the process over. Many times thirty or forty pelicans were fishing simultaneously.

Where the pelicans were diving, there was often a flock of California Cormorants sitting on the water. They would dip below the surface, swim to the school of fish, grab their share of the meal, then resurface. To everyone’s delight, the dolphins would often show up. Everyone liked seeing the dolphins surfacing; leisurely taking a breath of air between gulps of fish. And, of course, the ever-present sea-gulls were squawking as they fought for the left-over food. For that group, it was definitely first-come-first-served! On our last walk on the pier, we saw a school of anchovies swimming around the pier. The school was about fifty-feet in diameter and perhaps twenty-feet deep.

No fishing license is required while fishing on the pier, and we saw people from many DSCN1358different countries tending their fishing poles. Sand-perch, sting-rays, skates, mackerel, and anchovies were the common catch on that trip.

Thinking of fishing makes me hungry, so I’ll remind you: the food in Ruby’s Restaurant at the end of the Oceanside, California Pier is very good!

I remember another trip we made to the Coast in January of 1993 for my Grandmother Linzey’s funeral. The weather in Southern California was mild, as it usually is, and Michael (our son who was ten at the time) said, “Dad, a California winter is like a New Mexico summer!” Indeed, it was. The temperature was around 73o F on the Southern California coast at the time.

That’s enough reminiscing for now. This evening, why don’t you sit back, relax, and take time to review some of your memories?

The Cat, Rabbit, and Hawk

DSCN8427“Carol, look in the back yard!” I called to my wife. A large cat was lying motionless on the lawn intently observing something. But why was it there? What was it looking at?

Many animals visit our yard: squirrels, rabbits, lizards, opossums, racoons, over thirty varieties of birds, and four varieties of snakes. At times we are visited by deer, turtles, the neighbor’s pets, and this stray cat. 

We’ve always been partial to cats and rabbits because they are soft and cuddly. Well, I DSCN8448was partial to rabbits until I planted our garden. The furry little creatures seem to have a taste for my beet greens, Carol’s pea plants, and our broccoli. As I was chasing one rabbit out of the garden, I hollered, “Have you ever heard of rabbit stew?” The leporid probably didn’t hear me as it darted through – yes, THROUGH – the chain link fencing. I didn’t know they could fit through the diagonal openings. From the next yard it stopped, turned around, and looked at me as if to say, “You can’t catch me!” only to run for its furry life as the neighbor’s barking dog took up the chase. Good dog!

In deference to Carol, I decided not to shoot the furry critters; but I also announced that I would no longer run out and chase them out of the organic grocery store. And in time the rabbits felt safe and became more lethargic as they regained emotional control of the yard. This brings us back to the motionless cat in the back yard.

Carol and I observed the cat’s posture and the direction it was facing. It was flat on the ground, ears laid back, eyes just above the grass-line – reminding us of a lion on the prowl. Then Carol asked, “Is that a dog in the garden?” I saw a brown animal, but from my vantage point of looking through the tomato bush, I couldn’t tell. Then, the brown thing moved.

 “It’s a … is it an … owl?” I asked incredulously? Then it raised its head, and with a three-foot wingspan it gracefully flew away. BW Hawk

 “It’s a big hawk!” Carol exclaimed. It was a beautiful, mature Broad-winged Hawk. These birds can see a rabbit from two miles away, but with our trees surrounding the yard, it must have been a mile straight up. And with a deathly-quiet diving velocity of almost 200 MPH, the unwary rabbit didn’t have a chance. Why did the Broad-wing leave without finishing its dinner?

Then the large cat stood up and … large cat? It was a normal-sized critter. What happened? The feline apparently had several things going through its cunning little mind: “I’ve never seen a bird that big! Is it edible? Make myself look as large as possible for protection. Proceed with caution!”

The critter flattened and made itself look as wide as possible and was inching its way toward the hawk; but the hawk finally saw the “large” cat approaching, got nervous, and flew for safety. The cat walked up to where the bird had been, saw the rabbit’s carcass, decided it wasn’t that hungry, then it also left the scene of the crime. That left just the lifeless intruder and me. At that point I wasn’t upset with the rabbit, and actually felt sorry for it.

As I buried it, I began thinking about the situations we humans get into. The hapless rabbit merely wanted a tasty salad, and ventured out into the open where it was unprotected. What is it that misguided humans want? People often venture into areas of life that God has declared off limits because they are dangerous physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our conscience and the Holy Spirit try to keep us out of the “garden” but as we focus on the “beet greens, pea plants, and the broccoli” of life, we tune out the warnings and gradually become insensitive to the dangers accompanying our actions. Then judgment dscn0464appears “out of the blue,” like that Broad-winged Hawk after the rabbit. Then we ask, “How did I get caught?”

We have no excuse because Romans 2:15 tells us, “In their hearts they [people] know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands. And they show this by their consciences. Sometimes their thoughts tell them they did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts tell them they did right.

The rabbit let its guard down, lived carelessly, and died. Let’s not make that mistake: but obey Scripture, honor Jesus Christ and others, and live.

Detours in Life

Have you ever encountered a road-block or a detour? Is it frustrating? Aggravating? Do you wish you could give someone a piece of your mind?

Throughout our many travels, Carol and I find ourselves on detours periodically. For example,thFS0NDQ2Y several years ago we were minding our own business heading west on Interstate 70 when, suddenly, the dreaded sign appeared: Detour Ahead.

Carol had been napping, and although I was tired, I decided to stay awake – primarily because I was driving. But when the monotonous road noise changed, she woke up.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“Well, I was making a bee-line to Denver, but at present, your guess is as good as mine.” Watching the actions of other drivers, it appeared that they might not have been as nonchalant as I was about the turn-of-events. I chuckled.

Carol asked, “What’s funny?”

“Precious, those poor drivers have not learned that emotional upheavals cannot change the way the highway departments do things – either good or bad. And they haven’t yet learned the value of detours in life.”

“Yeah, I suppose you are right. But where ARE we going now?”

“We’re heading north on Kansas State Road 232. Anything interesting on the map?”

After a few minutes of confirming our location, she said, “There is something called ‘The Garden of Eden’ on highway 18 between Lucas and Luray. Wanna go?”

“Sure; why not?”

We discovered Wilson Lake, and the scenery was beautiful. We stopped at The Garden of Eden to check it out. (We don’t recommend it; it’s not what the name infers.) After a bite to eat, we continued to Walde, Kansas. There we could have followed the detour signs and headed south toward Russell, resuming our monotonous freeway noise again. But since we were having such a good time seeing part of the country we had never encountered, we continued going through the towns on highway 18 until we arrived at Bogue, Kansas.

There we got onto highway 24 and drove another 100 miles to Colby where we were reacquainted with I-70. Carol and I thoroughly enjoyed our detour and learned more about our country. The detour set us back almost 3 hours; but that was not lost time–it was time invested together. And more importantly, my Precious and I made new memories together.

IMG_1434On another trip, we were returning from Missouri where we spent several days with two of my sisters and a brother. We had a good time. On the way back I said, “Let’s go home on some roads we’ve never been on. Carol chimed in: “Then let’s go to the War Eagle Craft Fair.” I agreed.

We turned onto Missouri highway 86. At a small town called Blue Eye, we headed south and found Arkansas 221. Again, Carol and I were enjoying the beautiful scenery. But at one point without warning, the asphalt highway morphed into a gravel road.

“Are you lost?” Carol asked.

“No, but we ran out of 221.” We laughed.

When we stopped at a cabin for advice, the man told us how to get back to civilization, eventually getting to Rogers, AR.

“Where will that route take us?” I asked.

“That’ll take ya through Eureka Springs, less you wanna either truck on the way yer goin fer nuther two hours throwin gravel, or back-track cupla hours.”

I thanked him and got back in the GMC Envoy. After discussing our options, we laughingly headed up to Eureka Springs–on a road we didn’t even know existed–and had dinner at one of our favorite places. We barely got to the War Eagle Craft Fair in time to check it out.

Detours don’t upset or aggravate us. They’re part of life. Our traveling motto is: “If we hit a detour, make a vacation out of it.” We’ve learned, however, to schedule into our plans extra time to allow for such excursions. And if we encounter no detours, we arrive early. Yay!

Some time ago I learned the following: “Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to letPICT0033 another person or event control your emotions.” I cannot control you or the highway department, but I can control my plans and reactions. I do this by asking God for direction in life which enables me to face life’s uncertainties with confidence.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Who knows? Maybe God purposely arranges some detours to gauge our maturity level.

Happy traveling, friends. 

Seven Helpful Habits

From 1994 to 2005 I was an operations officer in the Nuclear Physics division at the Los Alamos7 Habits National Laboratory. One of my responsibilities was to assure that our staff’s training was up-to-date. One day I read about a seminar titled, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.” That intrigued me, and I attended the seminar to see if I should recommend it to our staff. I’m glad I did, and it was my privilege to meet and talk with the speaker, Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Dr. Covey condensed his seminar into a book titled by the same name: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” (He passed away in July of 2012. America misses him, but his teaching will go on. And yes: I recommended this course to our staff.)

Covey taught that developing good habits presents more long-term benefits than trying to build a good image – corporate or personal. He said:

“The difference between the two approaches is similar to the difference between cramming for an exam and taking care of a farm. ‘Cramming’ is an image-based approach that nets temporary results, whereas taking care of a farm requires continuous, daily attention that will provide long-term dividends.”

And ‘taking care of the farm’ is the phrase he used for developing good habits for living.

The first three habits deal with the Personal Level. Individuals develop Independence by adherence to these habits.

Habit One focuses on taking control of life: Be Proactive. Don’t create or accept excuses for failure or lack of progress. Blaming or accusing doesn’t help anyone. And stop being overly concerned about things over which you have no control, but respond properly to situations. Covey called this: “response-ability”.

Habit Two is the development of a Personal Mission Statement: Begin with the End in Mind. Leisure time? Travel? More efficient teamwork? More effective sermons? Quicker meals? Whatever it is, define it. Whether you are a husband, wife, business owner, student, pastor, etc., develop goals to define your direction. This can be difficult; but once accomplished it will help you develop more effective leadership qualities needed in your personal or business life. It makes life easier and more enjoyable.

Habit Three is the essence of personal time management: Put First Things First. Separate tasks or projects under “urgent” – “important” – “necessary” – “desired.” This takes insight, planning, preparation, and promotes efficiency. It also greatly reduces time spent in crisis-management. That, in itself, is rewarding.

The next three habits deal with the Interpersonal Level. This section is more complex because practice of these habits leads to valuable Interdependence, which leads to personal and corporate maturity.

Habit Four is the philosophy that creates more productive, long-lasting relationships: Think Win/Win. We do not have to step on someone in order to succeed (except for sports games: one team must win). We need to fix in our mind that in order to truly get ahead we must depend on and help others. No one ever succeeds by himself. We must ignore our competitive instinct and help others succeed. The Win/Win concept requires courage and trust, but pays big dividends.

Habit Five is the skill that allows Win-Win to work: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” This concept made a long-lasting impression on me. Learning to actively understand someone else and his/her point of view is mandatory in order to effectively communicate our thoughts. If the other person realizes that I am concerned about him, he will be open to hear from me and perhaps willing to help me.

Habit Six is Synergize. Often (but not always) a corporate concept produces a better solution than our individual ideas. And this is actually the fruit of Habits four and five.

And Habit Seven is Sharpen the Saw. Our skills and methods are never perfect. Therefore, we need to continually hone or refine them.

PrinciplesThe information I gained at the seminar, and in reading the book, did not guarantee quick fixes to any personal, interpersonal or business problems. But I was supplied with tools to improve my communication skills, my outlook on life, and reduce unnecessary friction.

I also recommend two other books: “The Leader In Me” and “Principle-Centered Leadership.” To learn more about the “7 Habits” and other Covey books, contact Franklin Covey Co., Debra Lund, 801-244-4474; Debra.Lund@FranklinCovey.com.

Do You Worry?

IMG_1791Over 13 million Americans worry every day. The worries range from national, state, county and town issues. People worry about school, grades, war, the economy, home finances, children, grandchildren, their job, retirement, and so much more.

But worrying causes problems. One third of all visual problems are caused by worrying. Worriers get sick more easily. Worriers don’t get good-quality sleep. Worriers have a harder time digesting their food. Most worriers have difficulty trusting others.

Many years ago, the director of the YMCA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had worried himself almost to a nervous breakdown. He was working about 85 hours a week while worrying about the myriad of problems that surrounded him. He couldn’t sleep well and was having a difficult time making proper decisions. Sad and depressed, he finally went for counsel.

The doctor said, “George, you’re going to ruin your health – or kill yourself – with worry unless you back20100208_172053 off. I know it will be difficult, but you must cooperate with God. You must turn all your worries over to God – and let them go – and learn to trust your staff.” George always thought his feelings and actions were directed by the Lord, so that surprised him.

After thinking it over, George took a long walk in the woods. Sitting down against a tree, he got out his pencil and paper, and wrote:

Dear God, I hereby resign as Executive Director and General Manager of the Universe.

Love, George

 “Wonder of Wonders,” George said, “God accepted my resignation!” Now eating and sleeping better, within days his strength returned and he could think more clearly. And within a few months the YMCA operations improved dramatically.

Worrying dishonors God and actually generates problems for ourselves. Why? Believing that we must personally control everything, we take our focus off God and place the focus onto ourselves. But note this:

            40% of things we worry about never happen.

            30% are in the past, and cannot be changed.

            12% are about criticism.

            10% are about health problems (and worrying makes it worse).

            Only 8% may be legitimate.

God’s prescription for our worry and stress is in Philippians 4:1-8.

     Verse 1: Stand Fast in the Lord. (Accept God’s teaching as your foundation for life.)
     2: Live harmoniously with others. (Avoid disputes and arguments.)

     3: Help others. (Remove your focus from yourself.)IMG_1799B

     4: Rejoice in the Lord in every way. (Live cheerfully. Romans 8:28 says that everything works for our good IF we cooperate with God.)

     5: Let your moderation (mild manner, appropriate actions, gentle and understanding attitude) become manifest in your everyday life.

     6: Be careful for nothing. (Don’t be concerned over what you can do nothing about. Train yourself to stay focused on the issues at hand (Rom. 12:2). Through prayer and thanksgiving, talk with God about your concerns. Converse with Him as you would a friendly counselor. Talk or pray aloud; it is okay.)

     7: The Peace of God, which no man fully understands, shall keep your hearts and minds.

(Keep = Protects or guards you in the presence of the enemy. HOW? We must REFUSE to worry, but place our lives in God’s hands.  God can’t protect us if we refuse to cooperate with Him.)

8.    Whatever is true (not hidden or imagined, but obvious),

Whatever is honest (worthy of honor and respect),

Whatever is just (right; innocent, without speculation. Don’t waste time guessing about people’s motives),

Whatever is pure (sacred, consecrated, not mixed with evil. Seriously pray about the books you read, the movies you watch, and your daily activities),

Whatever is lovely (friendly toward God, accepted by God. If God doesn’t approve of something, it isn’t lovely: leave it alone),

Whatever is of good report (reputable, wholesome),

If there be any virtue (excellence, moral goodness, high regard. This again warns us to stay away from movies, videos, books, magazines and activities that promote ungodliness),

If there be any praise (something commendable),

Think on these things (reckon, meditate, dwell).

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

This is how we live without worry. This is how we live without stress. We must not attempt to take God’s place as the Executive Director and General Manager of the Universe – or even of our own lives. We don’t have the credentials for the job. And we must live within the boundaries that Jesus would accept.

Stop worrying; seek help if necessary.

Critical Thinking

When I was a teenager, people told me, “Stop being so critical!” Have you ever been told that? “Stop being so picky!” is another version. Yet another exhortation, “Listen to that he means, not what he says.” Wow! Since I cannot read minds, THAT’S a tricky one. 

However, we must intelligently analyze life to understand life.

For over a century our educational system diligently taught critical thinking as part of its mission. And wePICT1473 are told that nearly all American educational institutions still teach critical thinking; but do they really? My answer is a resounding NO! Several years ago, we found that “post-modernism” discarded critical thinking. Let’s look into it.

Critical Thinking: “Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence. The mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” The word “critical” comes from “kriticos”, a Greek word meaning “discerning judgment.” So, a critical thinker is searching for truth. My father taught me how to think critically, yet without being condemning.

Ruth Mayhew of Demand Media said, “Critical thinking is ‘self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably.’”

Clear thinking is essential for making appropriate decisions about what to believe and do, whether for personal decisions such as religious beliefs and who to marry; and vocational decisions, or civic decisions such as voting or serving on a jury. Without a well-informed, critically-thinking citizenry, freedom and democracy will falter and justice will be non-existent. Have you assessed our judicial and political systems recently? Many Judges and lawyers often discard truth in favor of procedures, word-games, personal agendas, or intimidation. I saw on the news yesterday [as of this writing] that a man on death row for murder – who had testified that, indeed, he murdered the girl – was released by a judge because of a technicality in the judicial process.

We should employ critical thinking during conflict resolution which requires understanding issues from several viewpoints. Understanding people’s needs requires critical thinking. Socrates talked about the important role critical thinking plays in our ability to consider an issue and decide what to do or believe. Critical thinking should be employed while shopping or caring for children.

DSCN1300Critical thinkers must take the context of every situation into account and think on a multi-level platform in order to come to proper conclusions. Homeschoolers have an advantage for learning critical thinking skills because they can incorporate these lessons into it their curriculum – as every educational system should do. When a person is able to make correct, intelligent choices on complex matters, he is considered intelligent and competent.

Critical thinking is required in deciding whether a claim is true, partially true, or false. It is a tool we use to arrive at reasoned conclusions based on a reasoned process. Fortunately, as with all skills, we can learn to think critically.

Now let’s apply the principle.

We read that: 1) It’s possible for a “rogue planet” to hit the earth and wipe out humanity. 2) If we vote for this person he’ll stop the problem in Congress. 3) It’s inferred that this automobile will get you the prettiest girl. Let’s address the politician first.

Regrettably, it takes only one person (US President or a judge) to negate good morals and legalizeDSCN5212 immorality. But it takes a distinct majority of the Senate and House to change direction or change a law for the better – and even then, one judge is allowed to negate the will of the people. This is wrong. Why doesn’t the US Congress apply the checks and balances which are built into the US Constitution? They are not thinking critically.

Thinking critically would entail: How will this bill or law affect the people in my district, my state, and the nation? Do the people understand the repercussion of the bill? If they don’t, I need to tell them. To say, “Let’s pass this thing so we can see what is says” does not display critical thinking. Rather, it was one of the most absurd and ignorant political statements in the history of our nation.

How about a “rogue planet”? Thinking critically we should ask: “Is this a hypothesis, theory, or fact? Is this someone’s imagination, or is there substantiation for the fear? Does he have solid evidence on which to base his claim?” Well, [thinking critically] since Scripture says that Jesus will rule this earth for 1,000 years, I don’t think we need to worry about an imaginary rogue planet.

And the car? THINK! Is the girl attracted to you or to the car? If she is attracted to a nifty or spectacular car, you won’t want her unless you are a flake. It takes more than a car to attract an intelligent girl.

Critical thinking produces information on which we can base our lives. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And Godly wisdom is mandatory in critical thinking.

New Year’s Ruminations

    Did you know that the New Year celebration is one of the world’s oldest holidays? DSCN2635BBefore 2000 BC (in Abraham’s time), the Babylonian New Year began at the first visible crescent of the New Moon after the Vernal Equinox, and could be the origination of the worship of Allah – the moon god. The moon had many names; the more popular being Nanna, Nannar, Asimbabbar, and Suen. (Suen evolved to Sin, and both are pronounced Seen.) The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days, and our modern New Year’s Eve festivities pale in comparison to theirs.

     The Romans originally celebrated the New Year in March. In 153 BC the Roman Senate declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year, but the date bounced around a bit. Julius Caesar finally established the Julian calendar in 46 BC. However, because emperors had the irresistible compulsion to put their own spin on the calendar, they played with dates and got the calendar out of synchronization with the sun – again. Pope Gregory made corrections and approved the current Gregorian calendar in 1582.

     Janus was the Roman god of doors and gates, and had two faces: coming from either direction the traveler saw its face. Julius Caesar felt that the month (January) named after Janus would be the appropriate “door” to the year. One report claims that Caesar celebrated this New Year change by “ordering the violent routing of revolutionary Jewish forces in Galilee, and blood flowed in the streets.” In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies—a ritual they believed constituted a portrayal of the chaotic world that existed “before the gods conquered chaos and recreated order in the universe.”    

The early Church condemned the new years’ festivities as paganism – and rightly so. But as Christianity became politically accepted, the Church began adopting many of the pagan customs and the “Christian” New Year’s Day celebration became no different. Hypocritical Christians have always given the world reason to believe that the church was a farce; and that’s a major reason why Christians who are truly devoted to Jesus are often accused of being hypocrites. 

January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for over 400 years, and some churches erroneously observed the New Year’s Day festivity as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision.

     The tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year started in Greece around 600 BC. PICT0012They celebrated their god of wine and drunkenness, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket. The baby represented the annual rebirth of Dionysus who was also the god of fertility. And, of course, public moral debauchery was part of the festivities.

     Traditions include using noise to welcome in a new year. This custom goes back to ancient times when people thought noise scared off evil spirits. Some eastern religions still believe this. New Year’s resolutions also date back to the early Babylonians. Their most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. That’s a good resolution – if they actually returned it.

     A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman showed that “88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public.” Frank Ra in his book “A course in Happiness” said: “Resolutions are more sustainable when openly shared with others.” That’s true because we find that peer-support (peer-pressure?) helps us stay on track.

     The lyrics of Auld Lang Syne (meaning “old long since” which essentially means “the good old days”) were partly collected and partly written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. The poem reminisces about and longs for the past. Good, positive traditions and memories are beneficial because they can balance our outlook on life and strengthen our character.

     So much for the past; what about the future?

     The New Year is often a time people attempt to turn over a new leaf. That means we finished writing on one page, then turn the page – turn the leaf – and write something new. It refers to changing an action, or starting something over.

     However, no matter our sincerity, merely deciding to change is meaningless without God’s help. Personal problems and national perplexities are looming on the horizon and we need help. What do we do?

     Two factors are necessary in making a substantive, permanent change. One is to seekBible.docx God’s guidance in making plans. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NCV) says, “Trust in the Lord with your whole life … He will direct your decisions.” The second is to rely upon God for the courage and integrity to fulfill His plans. Don’t get side-tracked. Psalm 111:10 (NLT) says “[Sincere] Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.”  And we need wisdom to succeed in doing what is right.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS.