August 28, 2010


First off, I want to apologize if this one comes off somewhat negative or pessimistic. However, the reason I'm writing about this topic will hopefully drive home my point about how our world is these days.

I've seen so much over this lifetime, particularly over the past couple of years and especially in the past few months that leads me to this subject. Everywhere I look I see it; people apathetic about events, circumstances, and even people around them, including their very own families. So much of what our society and each of us have become individually in today's world is because of events we find so out of our control that we choose to do certain things to shield and insulate ourselves from them. We hide out. We hide in our homes, our cars, our offices, our work environment, wherever we go we try to find ways to avoid what we see as tragedy and wrong-doing. It's not that we don't care, it's just that we seem to always say certain things, things like "What can I do? Nothing I do is going to make a difference anyway!" I can think of several instances where I've heard these sentiments. Politics is a prime example. The leaders of our country, or the lack thereof, depending on one's point of view. There are many other examples I'm sure; the decline of our rural culture, consolidation of key industries such as insurance, banking, airlines, auto makers, and on and on. Everywhere you look you see it. No one seems to care. All I see others doing is going about their day as if no one else existed. Not me. I refuse to give in to that mentality.

It's a herd mentality when you stop to think about it. Think of the movie "A Few Good Men." Remember when Tom Cruise asked one of the marines when he was on the witness stand what he did at chow time? "Following the herd" I think is what he said. In reality, that's what so many of us do. We FOLLOW. Who decides who is to LEAD? You? Me? Or is it always "someone else?" Ponder this for a moment. We're a society of followers, always waiting for someone else to "take the lead."

At this point, you may be asking yourself this question. I know I would if I were you. What's YOUR solution "Gusto?" I'm not certain there's an easy answer to that but I'll try it from this viewpoint. One of the many lessons I've learned over the past few years is that CHANGE, change for myself and the world in which I live, comes not from what others can do for me. Change starts within. It starts within each one of us. WE, each of us, has that power. We can choose. God gave us free will, that being the choice of right or wrong. I choose right. And If I choose to do the "right" thing, following what my God-given instincts tell me that is, and you do it as well, then change will begin on a mass scale. Then we become a nation of leaders. Not a nation of followers. It is at that very moment that the possibilities for what might seem unimaginable or unattainable as individuals and as a society become reality!


Judging Others & Keeping Emotions In Check

This topic comes to mind because of recent personal events. Rather than dive in with the details of it, I'll try to give it a perspective that gives you something to think about and how it might apply to your own lives.

When you look at others, particularly someone you're close to such as a family member or a co-worker, who is having personal issues you have strong opinions about, what do you do? Do you rush in with advice? More importantly, if you do give advice, do you do so with the other person's feelings first or are you giving it based on your OWN feelings? Many times, we tend toward the latter. After all, we're human. When we see someone who is having difficulty with a particular problem, be it of a personal nature such as family matters, job-related, financial, or whatever the case may be, we sometimes let our own emotions dictate our words and actions. We therefore give our "advice" and opinions based on those emotions. Consequently, what happens is this. What was intended to be caring and loving advice often comes off as critical, harsh, even judgmental. What happens then is the other person gets defensive and even angry at the other. The end result? Frustration, anger, and most of all, NO positive outcome!

Over the past few years, I've learned many things as a result of tragic personal events in my life. One of the key ones is not to think I know everything or have all the answers. This includes passing judgment upon others. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to NOT be critical or give my opinions to others. I'm merely suggesting that it is important to remember some key elements when I do. One, don't take the other person's feelings for granted. Chances are, the advice or judgment I'm giving them they probably already know, or maybe have thought of. That's where my emotions come into play. If I remember the first part then it's easier for me to keep my own emotions in check. If I do both of these, I will be much more productive and effective that the opinion and advice will be taken in a positive fashion, rather than met with defensiveness or anger.

This sort of positive interaction with others in your life, at any stage or in any circumstance, is critical to your emotional well-being as well as with those you encounter. Remember, I think it's been written somewhere a long time ago: "Judge not, lest you be judged." No one is perfect. Here's another thing you should always remember: "There's a little bit of bad in the best of us and a little bit of good in the worst of us." Point is, if I'm not perfect, what right do I have to judge others? And if everyone else is the same, which they are, then NO one has the right to judge another. If two people have that same mindset when they engage in conversations where one is giving the other "advice" or opinion, then the end result will be one that is much more productive and effective for the other party. Not to mention how good you will both feel when you're done! It's like, "Wow, that was really cool!"

See what I mean?


August 22, 2010

“P L A U G E S”

I remember when I first thought of this acronym. It was about a year ago when I was encountering a lot of anger and resentments from family members about past issues. I could never remember the 7 deadly sins and this acronym helps me to remember them: "PLAUGES" = Pride, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Greed, Envy, and Sloth. I had to fudge on the U, substituting gluttony instead!

When I think of those words though, there's 2 more that I think should be included as "deadly sins", fears and resentments. When you look at your own life, ask yourself these questions. When is it when you feel like you're losing control over your life? What do you FEEL when you don't have control? And what is it do you think you really have any control over? Is it other people? Other situations beyond your own? Obviously, if you're honest with yourself, you really have very little control over anything, other than what you put into your mouth, the clothes you wear, what time you go to bed, what time you get up, etc. Those kinds of things. But, when it comes to the moment you leave your home in the morning, get in your vehicle, and drive off to wherever it is you're going; work, school, whatever, you have none. Zip, zero, nada. None. And when it comes to other people, do you have any? Including your children, spouse, boss, or co-worker?

So, getting back to the acronym and the words I'd like to discuss; Pride, Anger, Fears, and Resentments. These four words, or feelings, are in my opinion, mankind's biggest enemies. Every time I think of when I feel the loss of control, pride kicks in. Instincts say I can do this! I can control that other person or situation. Of course, that usually doesn't work. Next thing I know, I'm angry. Angry at the other person or situation and, in turn, angry with myself for allowing my pride and ego to take over. Once I get beyond the anger, fear comes next. Afraid of what might happen if events occur that I don't want. Situations with my family or my career. And when I realize that my pride has gotten in the way, along with anger and fear, I become resentful towards others. The whole thing is a vicious cycle and can carry you to what I call a "black hole." A black hole full of negative feelings, a sense of hopelessness, frustration, despair, and an utter loss of control.

Having painted such a bleak picture, what now? What's the solution? Acceptance. From page 417, from the book meant for 12 steppers but what I like to call a book that is really about LIFE: "And acceptance is the answer to ALL my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake. Until I can accept, and unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in this world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes." Remember this though, acceptance may be the answer, but accepting someone, something or some situation doesn't mean you have to like it. It just is.

Pride, anger, fear, and resentment. Deadly words to us as human beings. Deadly emotions. God did not intend for us to live in this manner. A humble, loving, positive, and forgiving person is what He wants us to be. We do this then we crawl out of that black hole. Back out of a world of frustration, despair, and hopelessness into one of promise, love, and faith.

In summary, it's the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,

that where there is hatred, I may bring love;

that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;

that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;

that where there is error, I may bring truth;

that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;

that where there is despair, I may bring hope;

that where there are shadows, I may bring light;

that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;

to understand, than to be understood;

to love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

August 21, 2010

The Power of Prayer and Doing The “Right” Thing

The power of prayer and doing the "right" thing. Two nights ago, I posted a song called "Daughters" by John Mayer on my Facebook page. Daughters is one of my favorites of his because the lyrics and the message he brings carry deep meaning for my own feelings about my daughter. But there was another reason. Shortly after I arrived in San Diego in late March of this year, I learned that John would be playing live at the Cricket Amphitheater in San Diego in August, so I quickly bought 4 tickets to go see him. At the time I bought them, I had NO idea what was about to happen several months later. In late June, my daughter told me she was planning on moving to Virginia to attend her last year of high school there and to live with her half-sister. She was unhappy in Tribune in the environment she was living in with her mother and unhappy with me since I hadn't gotten myself completely settled in California. After all, she wanted to come here and live with me nearly the instant I arrived! After considering this decision of hers and my concern for not only her well-being, but also of my son who seemed to be having personal problems back home in Kansas, I decided to return to Tribune in early August to visit with them personally. By this time though, money was becoming tight since I wasn't working full-time after completing the paralegal program at UCSD, which was the primary purpose why I came here. Consequently, in order to offset the cost of plane fare, I decided to sell the tickets I had bought so I could see my children. Finally, two nights ago on August 19, 2010, just 6 days prior to the concert, I got an offer to sell them. Even though I had to let them go below cost, I went ahead and did so because, as I mentioned in my Facebook post about the song Daughters, it was the "right" thing to do.

Now to the topic at hand. One of the things I've been doing lately with respect to my life and, especially when it comes to my children, is praying directly to God more. Praying for specific things such as their safety and their well-being, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And praying for signs from Him on what to do, especially ones that are "right." Not only did I ask God for these signs for myself, but also for my children. Then, on August 18th, I sent my daughter this text message: "Morning. Is today the big day? Heading east? If so, I sincerely pray you will be safe and most of all, you WILL succeed. I love you." At 5:48 a.m. the next day on August 19th, the SAME day when I would later learn I got the Mayer tickets sold, I got this reply from her: "Made it to Virginia this morning! Love you."

The power of God and the power of prayer WORKS. I'm convinced of it now. But this story gets better and even MORE inspiring. After I posted the Daughters song and responding to a facebook friend of mine (Who, by the way, just so "happened" to stop by while I was in Tribune shortly before I left to return to San Diego. She wanted to talk about my kids AND offered to say a prayer for their safety at that very moment) that it was the "right" thing to sell the tickets; I posted a couple more songs and later went to sleep around midnight. At 3 a.m. I bolted upright from a dream. An incredible dream that is still sending chills throughout my body. In the dream, I was back in Kansas some time long ago and my Dad was in it. I'm not sure of all the details but I recall that he was suing somebody for a very small amount of money they owed him. I knew these people he was suing and knew they were poor so I asked him if he wanted to just "let it go." He said "yes, it's the "right" thing to do."

At that very moment in the dream, I was suddenly back in the present, back with my thoughts about doing the "right" thing by selling the Mayer tickets so I could use the money on my children's behalf. So I asked Dad, "are you sure?" And I kept pressing him on the issue and asked again and again. Finally, he looked at me as if to say, "why do you ask?" So I said, "No Dad, just making sure that's what you wanted to do is all." That's when I woke up. I went downstairs where I'm living with my sister, stepped outside, sat down on a bench and suddenly, "IT" happened. When I say "IT", I mean the presence of the Holy Spirit touching and entering my soul and mind. I can think of only two times this has happened in such a REAL fashion in the past 3 years and this was His message: "Doing the "right" thing is the legacy you've imprinted in your children's mind. You've told them this time and time again. You've spoken of it numerous times on your Facebook page. Now you've seen it in your dream. Your father passed this legacy to you and now you're doing it for your children."

But there's STILL more to this story. The Spirit I felt went on to say this: "What you have done for your children is only part of your journey. Doing the "right" thing extends to all of your fellow man. You need to spread this message that all the pain, the anger, the resentments, the fears, all of the troubles of this world can be washed away if people will simply do one thing. Follow their heart and do the "right" thing.

The final message He sent me was this: "Help your son. Get him out if you have to. He's crying out for help now that his sister has gone. Bring him here with you if that's what it takes and don't worry, I will guide you and provide a way for this to happen."

I don't know about you but I don't think something like what has "happened" here was by chance, blind luck, or of my own free will, and should not be taken lightly. Our existence on this planet is for a short period of time and we have little control over our destiny. Actually, when you think about it, do we really have any control at all? I've seen the power of prayer and the power of God first-hand several times now and I've seen Him work in the lives of others. The next time you pray, think of not only what you say, but how you say it. If you've given your heart and soul, trust me, you will be surprised at what happens next. And when that moment comes, don't look back, don't question the "sign", don't question whether your own mind has just "dreamed" it up. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake!


August 14, 2010

Kansas/California (or anywhere else for that matter)

It's been awhile since I've blogged and I've had several ideas in mind for the latest one, including a reference to an earlier post, "Sense of Community." After thinking about it, I've come up with something a little different but with a tinge of that particular topic. I call it "Kansas/California", which refers to the journey I've taken going all the way back to 1975.

After my mother passed away in 1972, our family was basically ripped to the core. In those days, especially with my family, the mother of the family was a key part of the team. After she passed, I got into troubles here and there, nothing serious, which is typical for most teenagers but in my case, it got progressively worse as the next few years went by. By 1975, at the encouragement of several family members, I moved to northern San Diego county and attended my last two years of high school at Torrey Pines H.S. in Del Mar, CA. The rest, as they say, is history. I took to it like a duck to water. Literally. My Dad's sister, who taught at Torrey Pines in those days, still talks about how I seemed to have been energized by the transition and the lifestyle. Eventually, it led me on to college, finally graduating from San Diego State in December 1982 with a degree in Business Administration. After 8 years though, I grew tired of the traffic, the culture, and longed to return home. Eventually, I did. After 2 ½ years in my first job after college with ITT Financial Services in Montana and Colorado, I returned to Tribune, KS. once more to farm with my Dad and to set out what I really wanted to get into. Banking. So, on that momentous day, October 6th, 1985, I began my career with The First National Bank of Tribune, starting out as their insurance agent. Over the next 23 years, I gradually moved up the ranks, eventually becoming senior loan officer and vice president, with a large amount of responsibility and stature within the organization.

Now that I've returned to the same area where my life took off 35 years ago and thinking of all that has happened during this time, it brings a lot of memories to mind and topics I can share. When I started this blog and website in early April of this year, I really had no conception of where I might go with it. Like everything else in my life these days, things just continue to "happen", and this blog is no different. Shortly after creating the blog, I covered a topic of keen interest to me; "Sense of Community." For those of you reading this current post, that one is dated May 4th, 2010, if you care to refer to it to refresh your memory. Basically the thrust of it is the seemingly lack of that "sense" here, totally unlike back in Kansas, where "community" is so ingrained in the lifestyle. Kansas and California are different in so many ways, most of which are obvious to the casual observer; flat, dry, windy, and sparsely populated versus luscious vegetation, moderate climate, and densely populated. But something so much different and which is subtle at first is the difference in this "sense of community." Back home, everyone knows one another, everyone is your neighbor, and everyone is in the same boat when it comes to agriculture to drive the economy. The people are so intimately "connected" that that feeling never goes away, even after you leave and come back after many years. For example, I just returned to SoCal from a trip to Kansas to visit with family and friends during the county fair in Tribune and I was stunned by the experience. It was as if I never left. People came up, talked, asked questions, and the visits were non-stop.

Here in SoCal, as I mentioned in the May 4th entry on Ramblings, you can live next door to someone who is literally less than 10 feet away and not even know their name, much less visit, or consider yourself as friends or even neighbors. Everything seems as if each one of us here is their own island. So, in spite of our close proximity to each other, we don't really KNOW each other. Everyone has their own agenda and it's rare when I meet someone who seems to really care for their fellow man in every sense. People hide from each other in a way, staying in their own little world, tucked inside their homes, apartments, their cars, and wherever they go, they seem to be alone. That's sad because it doesn't have to be that way. For instance, I've discovered that my open nature, my open heart and mind, has opened doors for me personally I never thought possible when I came here. I've met new people, REAL people who care, and the reason why is simply because I've opened up myself for them to come into my life. Funny thing is, everyone can do the same thing. I'm no different than anyone else; you have feelings, dreams, aspirations, fears, and hopes just like I do. What IS different is I'm more open now, open to new ways of living, new ideas, and trying to live a dynamic life. Question is then, why? Why aren't more people willing or able to do the same?

Before I give my answer to that question, I'll let you in on a little secret. It's no different than in Kansas! There are people there just like here; afraid to come out, unsure of themselves, unwilling or unable to open themselves up to new ways and new ideas. The answer lies in two words, PRIDE and FEAR. Two words that keep any of us from leading a dynamic life, WHEREVER we may live. For me, and given my experience over the past two-plus years, I've discovered a miracle of life. Once I dropped that wall of pride and the wall of fear, doors have been flying open right and left, both personally and professionally. It's truly amazing and somewhat of a miracle to be honest. Here's something else. I have no doubt, NONE, that many people from Kansas could come here to California, and vice versa, and feel totally at ease and comfortable in creating a new life and new friends if they had the same mindset as I do. Show no fear. Drop your egos and your pride and just be yourself, the one God created you to be. Each one of us was once a child. You remember what that was like? Look at a child now, say 5 years of age to say, oh, age 10 or so. Do they show any fear? Watch them closely. They speak their mind openly, laugh loudly, and play with one another, oblivious to what others may think of them. It's only as we get older that the walls of pride and fear are built. It's a sociological progression we experience as human beings. As if we have no choice because we think that's how we should be to survive in an "adult world." Think about it. You can change that; in fact you can reverse that, just open your heart and your mind, drop your pride and show no fear. The world then will be yours. And like it says in my 24 hour a day book, "The power released within yourself will change your outward world." YOU have the power. YOU have the choice. All you have to do is try. "Just do it."