November 27, 2010

Change Starts From Within – YOU Have the Power!

Starting well over a year ago, people, both friends and casual acquaintances alike, began saying things such as, "The way you speak and write…it sounds like you're a preacher or something." Funny thing about that statement. I've heard it so many times I began to ask myself the same question. "Who am I and why do I come off like this?"

It all started innocently enough. I began sharing some of my thoughts and what I've learned through this process of recovery and self-improvement in the form of "notes" on Facebook. Slowly, people began to respond beginning in the summer and fall of 2009. I want to emphasize this point, however; I am neither a preacher nor do I wish to be. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not one to quote scripture and far be it from me of all people, to give advice to others or judge their character or manner of living. I set a poor example because of my own actions for years. Still, there is some truth to these statements people have said about me. I DO have a tendency to "preach", but that's not my intent. I'm merely sharing some of my own personal experiences that I've found helpful in this life journey. And, Lord knows, I have moments like everyone else. Moments of self-doubt and a tendency in not "practicing what I preach." I'm human, just like you, and we all make mistakes. Isn't that what life is about? It's a never-ending journey of self-discovery and self-improvement.

One of the ways I've discovered that has been very helpful during this time is the notion of staying POSITIVE. What many people don't know, that I wish to share with you now, is my "little black book" entitled very simply, "Twenty-Four Hours a Day." It was given to me over 4 years ago and it's been with me ever since. This book has "seen" a lot during that time and there's a reason for that. You might say God made sure!

Basically, this 3" x 6" book, published by Hazelden, contains Thoughts, Meditations, and Prayers of the Day for every day of the year. I have roughly 20 or so pages dog-eared that stand out, many of which I've shared on my Facebook page, but one stands out the most. It's October 16th and here is the Meditation for that Day:

    "If your heart is right, your world will be right. The beginning of all reform must be in yourself. It's not what happens to you, it's how you take it. However restricted your circumstances, however little you may be able to remedy personal issues, career matters, or financial affairs, you can always turn to your inward self and, seeing something not in order there, seek to right it. And as all reform is from within outward, you will always find that the outward is improved as the inward is improved. As you improve yourself, your outward circumstances will change for the better. The power released from within yourself will change your outward life."

If you read that short paragraph a few times, you will see it carries a very powerful message. It's more than just words though. When I first read it myself, I wasn't really sure how I could APPLY this message in a PRACTICAL sense in day-to-day life. Since then, however, it has morphed into something that carries a HUGE impact on my life today and in the way I interact with others.

For example, I've encountered, and CONTINUE to encounter people every day who seem to see nothing but negative in their life. Call it law of attraction, self-fulfilling prophecy, or whatever term you wish to use, it all means the same. You think and act negatively, then you will get negative results. Of course, it CAN work the other way and that's what I WANT in my life. I WANT solutions, I WANT positive people in my life, people with energy to move forward in a positive way, both with their own lives and with others. Many times though, I've discovered God puts people in my life that run counter to this desire and the reason is to test my character and strength. More importantly, I believe He's using me in those situations as a channel to help others. Here's what I mean.

When I first read that meditation, I was struck by the thought that it was written on October 16th, the day my daughter was born. I shared that meditation in the form of one of my very first Facebook "notes" in the fall of 2009. And it's one that many people have responded to in a POSITIVE way. They find it inspiring. Though my daughter hasn't responded directly to me about it, I know for a fact this way of living has had a positive impact on her life. There are others I know, particularly within my own family, who don't seem to "cotton" to this concept quite yet. It's these people I will continue to reach out to, including people I hardly know. Why? Because people NEED it. In a world so full of negative news, lack of trust, lack of truth, lack of security, and lack of hope, people are thirsting for something, ANYTHING, that can give them cause to burst out of bed in the morning with a surge of positive energy about their lives.

People are hurting. The economy is bad, people are tired of dirty politics, dead-end jobs, financial problems, substance abuse, family issues, the list goes on and on. I call it the "Negative Vortex." Once you're in it, and believe me, I was DEEP in it, its darned tough to get out of that cycle. But, I found hope and that started within myself. People can say well, "You have to have a relationship with God" during trying times. I don't discount that and I do have one, in my own way. But, the bottom line is it still comes down to YOU. No ONE person and no ONE thing can MAKE you happy, not even God. People can complain all they want about their lives, that their job would be better if they had a different supervisor, if they only had money they would be happy, if they had this or had that, it all doesn't matter in the end. At the end of the day, it's gut-check time. What am I going to do about it? What are YOU going to do about it? It starts with me and it starts with each one of us. If something isn't "right" in our lives, we need to look "inside" first, rather than expecting our world to change for us. Once we do that, and start changing from within, our outward circumstances will change for the better. The power released from within ourselves will change our world.

When I hear people complain or speak negatively about their lives in whatever fashion, these questions pop into my head, questions I sometimes ask, "Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have a job? Are you healthy for the most part? Do you have a car? Money in the bank? Food?" These are the basic necessities of life and that's the whole point. If you are ALIVE and live in a country that allows you the FREEDOM to choose the way you want to live, what ELSE could you ask for? Those other things are icing on the cake! So, be grateful for them! Don't complain that it's not enough or not just EXACTLY what you what. Be thankful for what you DO have and most of all, speak, act, and live POSITIVELY if you want something better for yourself and your family. YOU have that power. And YOU have the choice to use it. Question is, are you going to use it positively or negatively? I know what I want. Do YOU?


November 24, 2010

Giving “Thanks”

There's something different this year about "Thanksgiving." Today, as I reflect back on past Thanksgiving days, I realize I can't recall a year when I spent this day with family. And when I say "family", I mean ANY of my own family. Last year, I spent it alone in Elkhart, Kansas. Literally. I had planned on seeing my children in Tribune but, for reasons not worth mentioning, that didn't happen. The year before I was in Liberal, Kansas and spent the day with strangers in a place I never dreamed I would be in. The year before that, as well as the one prior, well….I honestly don't recall the last time it was a "Happy Thanksgiving." This year, that's changed.

So today, I'm thankful in many ways and for many people. I'm thankful for my mother, who gave me the gift of life. I'm thankful for my father, who gave me the opportunity to grow into the man I am today. I'm thankful for my sisters; Stephanie, Lissa, Casey, WenDee and Mona. I'm especially thankful for Casey and WenDee, who were there for me at one of the darkest moments in my life nearly three years ago. I'm thankful for my children, Christy and Jess, and though we are apart now and separated by thousands of miles, I'm thankful for all the "moments" they've given me. There are many fond memories of my children and I choose to take only those with me as I move forward today. I'm thankful to now be reunited with my little sister Mona and her family as we spend this day together. I'm thankful for my friends and former colleagues I was honored to be associated with in my banking career, especially those that stood by me, who believed in me when I was at my worst, and who I can still call a "friend" today. Finally and most importantly, I'm thankful for the most incredible woman in my life, the woman with whom I share my love and spirit with, the woman who loves ME for WHO I am and not for WHAT I have or don't have. She will be reading this and I have only three words to say to her; I love YOU!

But, there's something else different about this year and perhaps the biggest reasons of all to be thankful. I'm ALIVE and I'm FREE. Less than three years ago, I almost lost the first and, for a time, I DID lose the second. And to whom or to what am I thankful for those gifts? GOD. Pure and simple, He brought me back from the brink of near death and today, I choose to return that gift to YOU. Today, I resolve to live my life according to those values we all hold dear; truth, honor, dignity, humility, sacrifice, and love. I'm sure you might think of others but really, it's quite simple. "Treat others the way you want to be treated." Yes, the Golden Rule. And there are many other simple concepts, basic core values that are or should have been instilled in ALL of us by our parents when we were born and raised by.

You hear it all the time, "Life is complicated, life is tough." Sure it is, God didn't intend for this journey to be easy, He's more interested in our character and what we become. That's why we are called "human beings" and not "human doings." BE the change you want from your world. Don't ask what someone else can DO for you. Don't expect the world to be what you want it to be. It starts with YOU. Life is NOT that complicated, it's really quite simple when you think about it. Be THANKFUL for the gifts you have, the simple gifts. If you are ALIVE and you are FREE, you're reading this. Everything else in your life; your house, your car, your job, whatever material things you have mean NOTHING. They're just "stuff." I'm reminded of something one of my former bank colleagues once said about that topic and the materialistic world we live in. He said, "I've never seen a U-Haul show up at a funeral." Yep, the phrase "You can't take it with you." We came into the world with NOTHING and we leave the same way. Make SURE in between you make a POSITIVE impact on your world and everyone in it.

So, at those "moments" when you're having a bad day for whatever reason, be THANKFUL for two things: LIFE and FREEDOM. Make your world a better place for those two gifts God gave you! Take it from me, I appreciate as much as anyone what those words mean and trust me when I say this, they mean a lot!


November 18, 2010

Instant Gratification & The Simple Things

Of the many things I've written to date in the first 7 months of existence of this blog and website, one that seems to keep coming to mind is this phenomenon ingrained in our culture known as "instant gratification." One of the reasons why it resonates deeply in my soul is a result of the recent elections held in our country. It was only two short years ago that our current Commander-in-Chief was hailed as our savior but, because he and his party didn't deliver NOW, it's time for a change. And already, after only two short weeks since the election, I'm already hearing and reading its back to business as usual amongst our leaders of every party. It's really quite sad when you think about it and a poor reflection on us as individuals and our world. Beyond that however, it is a phenomenon that's deeply rooted in our society, which affects nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives. With the explosion of the information age, the ease with which we can stay "connected" with mediums like facebook, cell phones, etc., it has attained an identity of its own. One that can never be changed and one that causes a lot of concern for me. Our lives have become so deeply intertwined that it leads to confusion, fear, and frustration. Recently, I had a conversation about this subject with my 86 year old Aunt, a woman who served as a public school teacher for several decades. She described it perfectly and succinctly; "We have to learn to be comfortable with confusion." I liked that!

Everyone knows what the term means and how it affects their lives. I'm sure we all have stories we can share, especially about how our children have grown up with this way of life and the impact it has on ourselves and our society. For example, recently a couple of my facebook friends noted that they felt a sense of loss when their computers and/or internet went "down." I myself recall a similar time when I was in banking. One day, about 4 years ago, our computers were completely "off-line." We had no internet connection at all for the entire day. I remember our customers were calling for balances on their accounts and, since we had become completely automated by that time, we literally had no way to tell them. It was humbling and frankly, a little embarrassing. After all, if it had been only 10 years prior, we still had all of their information we could look up on microfiche or in that most novel content of all, PAPER.

Instant gratification though manifests itself in ways less subtle. For example, when I moved back to California from Kansas this past March, I remarked to my sister one day about the traffic conditions. I told her, "Why is everyone is such a big hurry?" I remember describing the freeway and side street traffic this way, "I gotta shoot the gap so I can hurry up and wait with everyone else." San Diego County especially is well known nation-wide as being an area of notorious tailgaters. So, what did I do? Simple, when the traffic was bumper-to-bumper I slowed, rolled the window down, hung my arm out, turned up the radio, and RELAXED. I did that for a long time and the funny thing I discovered was I got to my destination about the same time as all those other "gap-shooters" and tailgaters. HOWEVER, I've recently discovered something about myself and it's not one I like at all. I've started doing the VERY SAME thing everyone else is; darting in and out of lanes, crowding the guy in front of me, and so forth. The result? I've forgotten what I first observed when I came here. I'm not getting to my destination any sooner than I was before but my stress level and aggravation has increased. Not a healthy way to live.

Instant gratification robs us; or rather we ALLOW it to rob us, of the simple and important things in life. For those of you who have ever experienced a complete loss of power in your home or business, you'll know what it feels like to experience that "disconnect." And I'm not talking about a few minutes; try a whole DAY or, better yet, SEVERAL days! It's moments like those when we come to appreciate what life is truly about; slowing down, smelling the flowers, listening to the sounds of nature, talking with your neighbor, enjoying a sunrise or sunset, feeling the warmth of a loved one nestled in your arms. THOSE are the moments to remember. In the simplest terms, instant gratification robs us of our senses; the ability to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.

As I write this, the thought also occurs to me about my "senses" and the appreciation I have for them. Part of it was where I was born and raised. As a boy growing up on a farm in a small town in Kansas, I came to know and understand the importance of staying in tune with nature. The unique smell of the air in front of an approaching storm, the taste and feel of grain when it is ripe for harvesting, and of course there was something else. The loss of life. Even though it's been over 38 years, I remember vividly the sight and sound of when that truck rolled slowly out of sight behind that hill. Only days later, she was gone. Gone as the result of a horrific and tragic auto accident. Lost to me and my family in a physical "sense" forever, but she remains embedded in my soul. I miss her at times but I take great comfort and strength in knowing she, my Mom, is with me now in spirit. The other part, of course, is what my own actions robbed me of as an adult nearly 2 ½ years ago. Waking up every day for 158 straight days KNOWING that your ENTIRE world consists of 270 square feet of concrete and steel you're occupying with strangers changes a person. LIFE is precious friends. Don't let the "instant gratification" today's world offers you rob you of that simple concept.

So a resolution is in order. I challenge each one of you who has read this, to take the time each day and every day to turn off your television, your computer, your cell phone, your stereo, your iPod, your whatever that gives you "instant gratification", and RELAX quietly. Go outside, look up into the sky, listen to the sounds of nature, smell the grass or the flowers or simply the air around you, feel the warmth of the one you love next to you, and breathe in deeply the beauty and the taste of LIFE. The one God intended for us to have.


November 16, 2010

The Blind Side ending song

Chances are only what we make of them....

Integrity, Vulnerability, & Perfection

The essence of integrity isn't just speaking of moral and ethical principles. It's putting those principles on the table for the entire world to see by virtue of your actions. A microcosm of yourself that others look at. Being brutally honest with yourself, God, and those you love and hold dearest to your heart is one thing. Doing the very same thing with everyone you know and come into contact with is entirely another matter. In the first instance, the truth you see in yourself, what you admit to God, and what you share with people you love the most, affords a level of comfort, safety, and security you simply don't have in the latter instance.

People want the truth. It's our nature as human beings. We want it from those we love. More importantly, we want it in our entire world. No one likes dishonest politicians, shady people, and people with hidden agendas. We see that every day. No one's perfect though, right?

That's why I've encountered many people in this life journey who choose to share their deepest and darkest secrets about themselves and their past only with the ones they love the most. The ones they trust. Why? Because it's safe, it's like being in a cocoon, because we screw up. And when we do, which we all do because we're human, we have the comfort of knowing we will always be forgiven. Put simply, it's called unconditional love. We are protected, we feel safe, and loved. On the other hand, what happens when we put ourselves "out there" for the whole world to see? And not just what makes us comfortable, picking and choosing, and putting ourselves in the best light possible. By putting ourselves out there, it makes us vulnerable to criticism, judgment, and ridicule. The thought occurs to me at this very moment as I wrote that last sentence. Isn't that what Jesus did?

By now, you may have surmised where I'm going with this latest chapter. Anyone who has read my blog knows I'm putting myself "out there." And not just to a select few. I made the conscious decision a long time ago to take such a risky step. I've laid it out for the whole WORLD to see. I've intentionally placed myself in a vulnerable position. Question is, why? Because by doing so, by letting everyone know all my successes, all my failures, and all of what I want for myself in this life, I've set a standard that if I don't meet, I have much more than myself to be accountable to. If I'm truly a person of integrity, following through with my intentions with actions therefore becomes much more important and puts a huge weight upon my shoulders. Because I did it. I come through, I win and win big. I don't, I lose a heck of a lot more than if I didn't. Think about that statement. If you tell someone privately that you're going to do something and you don't, what happens? You have only the person you told to answer to. Sure, you have yourself as well but where's the risk in that? For that matter, where's the reward? You mess up, only you and the person you told know. You mess up and the whole WORLD knows; wow, now there's a problem. Your safety net is gone.

The point of this is the level of your integrity shouldn't be measured by just the ones you love. A better measure is all of your fellow man. Life is all about taking chances and taking risks. Taking chances with only a select few is cheating yourself from the glory of what you can truly achieve as a human being. If your fellow man knows you are a person who not only puts everything on the table, but also follows through with your promises, your level of integrity goes through the roof. Because you've made yourself vulnerable.

Okay, enough preaching, it's time to put it to the test. Recently, I wrote a piece called "A Change Will Do You Good." For those of you who haven't read it, I stated my intention to quit smoking. I did so in a very public way. Now I ask you this question. If I don't follow through and prove myself with acting on that intent, how does my integrity measure up as opposed to if I had stated this intention only to myself or just a few people? In other words, my comfort zone and cocoon where I'm all safe and secure? Do you see the difference?

Now here's another question. Think of something in your past or something in your life at the moment, something you're not particularly proud of or perhaps embarrassed by. If you keep this to yourself, where is your integrity? The easy way out is to say, "Well, that's personal Gus. I don't think it's anybody else's business but my own and maybe some of those really close to me." Could be, but if you're striving for perfection in life and want others to be the same way, why shouldn't you put yourself "out there?"

I've discovered through very personal and sometimes tragic experience that the rewards of making my-self vulnerable far exceed the risks. Being a person of integrity isn't just about how those we hold closest to our hearts view us. It's everyone. It's like keeping the shades drawn or opening them so the light can shine in. Final question then: Are you going to play it safe? Or are you going to take chances? Something to think about as you go about your way in this world.


November 11, 2010

Why Are People Afraid to Speak About God?

Normally, I don't have an agenda when I write. I go with instincts, writing whatever comes to mind, letting my thoughts flow freely. However, on occasion a topic surfaces that deserves more than that. This one falls into that category. Recently, one of my friends and a follower on my Gusto page on facebook, where I share some of my thoughts and experiences, had this to say when I asked for a topic that people wanted to hear more about: "Why are so many people afraid to speak about GOD? Why are so many people selfish, greedy and full of gluttony?"

I believe there are many reasons, but some obvious ones come to mind immediately. Before I jump into this, allow me to expand a little about this blog. When I created the website on April 9th, 2010, I had no conscious idea of what I was doing or where Ramblings was taking me. However, after 7 months, I believe the answer is becoming clearer with each passing day. For anyone who has read some of my blog or, for that matter, ALL of it, I believe it's apparent that the Holy Spirit has a hand in what my fingers come up with when I set my thoughts down in writing. In fact, nearly everything I've experienced, both in day-to-day life over the past few years and what ends up here on paper contains that Spirit.

In response to my friend's question, there are two words that pop into my head as possible answers: Fear and Pride. I've written about those human characteristics frequently and I've done my very best to live life fearlessly and with less concern for my-self over the past few years, because of my tragic experience with an insidious disease. Steps three and eleven symbolize that relationship and experience best, at least for me: "Made a conscious decision to turn my life over to the care of God." "……Sought through prayer and meditation my conscious contact with God, praying only for the knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out." There are other reasons that come to mind that prevent us from talking about God besides fear and pride. Things that distract us and turn us away from God. Our instant gratification culture we live in these days is a prime example. We have so many other things to occupy our time and minds; computers, cell phones, iPods, television, not to mention those things that occupy our daily existence; our jobs and our families. But all of those things are masks for the real reasons I've already mentioned.

What I just wrote in the previous paragraph contains ONE key word; "relationship." Our relationship with God, if we have one, is VERY personal. However, I believe many people use that as an excuse to NOT talk about God. Rather than expressing themselves openly as human beings, they instead say, "It's PERSONAL." While I don't deny that and respect that answer, I think that reasoning is simply a way of hiding behind what the real ones are for WHY people don't talk about God more. It's because of FEAR and PRIDE.

I'm an empirical person, meaning I believe in things I can measure by what I can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. When someone says they're afraid of something, it's usually because of the unknown. "I'm afraid of the dark. I'm afraid she won't like me. I'm afraid to ask for that raise at work because I may not get it." Fear is a constant presence in our lives, restricting us from saying or doing things because we don't know what the outcome might be. Taken a step further then, fear prevents us from speaking openly about God, if only because we can't SEE Him. In order to overcome those fears, we have to rely on ONE thing and that's faith. Faith that what's there or not there in the dark can't hurt us. Faith that if we say we love that girl, she'll say she loves us. Faith that if we ask for that raise, that our actions will merit it. So it goes with God. We have to rely on our faith that what we can't measure with our conscious senses will instead be felt within our soul.

But what keeps us from having that faith? Some of it of course is fear, but the real reason why is pride. We are taught from an early age that we CAN do something; we can be good students, we can be good role models, we can be good citizens, we can be good employees, etc. Of course, if we're parents of faith, we also teach our children to honor God. At some point though, the idea of I can do things myself and faith get distorted. Many of us end up thinking we can do everything on our own and it's only when we find ourselves in trouble, a tragic health issue for instance, that we turn to God and ask for healing. The point is we have to rely on basic fundamental core values, of which one is something we can't measure, at least with our sense of sight, touch, hearing, taste, or smell. We all know when we sense something or someone that exhibits truth, respect, honor, and dignity. Faith on the other hand, is something we must simply believe in our heart and soul, not what our mind tells us we can measure with our human senses. For many of us, it's only AFTER something happens positive in our lives that we are able to quantify it in human terms with our senses.

Let me pose a question at this point and I'll also try to give you my own example. Think of something that's happened in your life, something that was so incredibly inspirational or uplifting to you emotionally or physically, that you could not explain at first. Most of us have experienced "moments" like this in our lives and it's at that "moment" when we realize there could be no other explanation than an outside force that caused it. It wasn't us. It had to be something. A force greater than our own power of will that caused it. I choose to call that power GOD. The first time something like this happened to me, I was standing with a group of others at a church in Norton, Kansas in September 2006. I remember clearly what happened. The pastor had asked if anyone wanted Jesus to come into their life and by that, I mean physically. Something I could FEEL. He went from one to another, placed a hand on them, and asked if they felt the Spirit. I remember no one reacted as if they did, at least from what I could SEE. Then he came to me and without even touching me, he simply began speaking in "tongue." I'd heard of this before but hadn't given it much credence. Then something incredible happened. My eyes were closed and I felt this incredible surge of energy. Suddenly my arms started coming up at my sides, my spine started tingling, I felt wobbly, yet I continued to stand. My arms slowly reached above my head until I thought they would pull out of my shoulder sockets because they were pulling so hard on my body. I was shaking and tingling all over. I sensed two people behind me that were ready to catch me in case I fell. I didn't. I simply stood there with my eyes closed, and just relished at this electric sensation surging throughout my body. Then it was over. I looked around and nearly everyone was looking back at me in shock. Except for the pastor of course! It was at THAT MOMENT that I realized what had happened. Later, I remember thinking as I left Norton to return to Elkhart, Kansas how badly I wanted that experience again. Why? Because I FELT it. It was REAL. It was something I could measure. For the first time, over 4 years ago on that day, that I discovered what FAITH really meant.

There have been other times faith has brought me through some difficult times. Unfortunately, after my experience in Norton, Kansas over 4 years ago, it took more loss before I awakened. It was only until I nearly lost my life and landed behind bars for 158 days, did the realization really start to kick in. Today, I can think back on many other occasions when something positive, something great has "happened" in my life, which I can't attribute to anything I did, it was only because I had an inner "sense" of faith. That's what I mean by what I said earlier about when we experience something "in the moment" that has no explanation with our physical senses. When I reflect back on my life, it was faith that enabled me to survive the tragic loss of my mother when I was a young boy, it was faith that first brought me to California to finish high school and college in the mid-70's, it was faith that got my first job with the bank in Kansas in the 80's, it was faith that gave me children in the 90's, it was faith that enabled me to kick the alcohol habit in 2008, it was faith that brought me back to California in 2010 to start a new life and new career, and it was faith that brought the incredible woman I love dearly today into my life.

So again, ask yourself this question. "Is there something that's happened in my life that I can give no explanation why it happened and not because of something I did or didn't do?" That's the critical part. It has to be something that you experienced, not what you hear from someone else, including me. There are so many stories out there, especially on the internet, stories where you see and hear of miracles in other people's lives. Those things are certainly inspirational, and I'm sure most of them are true, but unless you have ownership in something tangible that's happened in YOUR life, then it won't have full value for you. You won't be able to identify with it in your soul. If you're honest with yourself, if you drop your wall of pride, you will see that it can be only one thing. Faith. Faith that a higher power greater than your own caused it. Call it whatever you want, a tree, a doorknob, whatever. But whatever you choose, remember, and this is a guarantee, it has NOTHING to do with YOU. That's your choice. I choose GOD.

I'll end this latest "rambling" post with this. I think Einstein said it best:

Let me explain the problem science has with religion.' The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?' 'Yes sir,' the student says. 'So you believe in God?' 'Absolutely. ' 'Is God good?' 'Sure! God's good.' 'Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?' 'Yes' 'Are you good or evil?' 'The Bible says I'm evil.' The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! The Bible!' He considers for a moment. 'Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?' 'Yes sir, I would.' 'So you're good!' 'I wouldn't say that.' 'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. 'He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?' The student remains silent. 'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?' 'Er..yes,' the student says. 'Is Satan good?' The student doesn't hesitate on this one.. 'No.' 'Then where does Satan come from?' The student falters. 'From God' 'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?' 'Yes, sir.' 'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?' 'Yes' 'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?' The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.' 'So who created them?' The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. 'Who created them?' There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. 'Tell me,' he continues onto another student. 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?' The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, professor, I do.' The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus? 'No sir. I've never seen Him.' 'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?' 'No, sir, I have not.' 'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?' 'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.''Yet you still believe in him?' 'Yes' 'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?' 'Nothing,' the student replies. 'I only have my faith.' 'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.' The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of his own.

'Professor, is there such thing as heat?' ' Yes. 'And is there such a thing as cold?' 'Yes, son, there's cold too.' 'No sir, there isn't.'

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. 'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that..There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees.' 'Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.' Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?' 'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it isn't darkness?' 'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word.' 'In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?'

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?' 'Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.' The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you explain how?' 'You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains.. 'You argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought.' 'It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.' 'Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?' 'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.' 'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?' The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?' The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.'To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.' The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter. 'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain , felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.'

'So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?' Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. 'I guess you'll have to take them on faith.' 'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?' Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.' To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart.

It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.'

The professor sat down.

PS: the student was Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein wrote a book titled God vs Science in 1921....



November 5, 2010

“The Big Guy”

I'm doing this one in honor of my son, Jess David Rowe, who's known by several names in our family; Jess the Mess, Jessie, Bam Bam, and the one only he and I know of, "The Big Guy". Why? Because from the moment he was born, everything about him was BIG, not that he was overly large at birth, he just simply packed a lot of punch in that little body when I held him for the first time. I didn't call him that at first, it was only until he was older that this name sort of popped out of my mouth one day.

Jess was born November 6th, 1994, my second and last child. For awhile that day, we weren't sure if he would ever come out! Seems he liked the comfort of where he had been for nine months and eventually had to be "induced" to come and greet us in person. Once he arrived though, our lives were changed forever. Jess does things in a big way.

Rather than simply write an ode like I did recently for his sister, Christy, who turned 18 this past month, I'd like to tell you a little about Jess. But first, let me stress when I describe him as big, I'm not suggesting he's overweight, though there is no doubt he is a large man. He's simply, well, just BIG! His name has a rich family heritage. I like to tell people of how I came up with it, which, thanks to his mother, she allowed me to choose. His great-great-great grandfather was an immigrant from Berlin, Germany, whose name was George Rowe. George had a son named Gus, his great-great grandfather, whose given name was August Rowe. August (Gus) had a son named Jess, my son's great-grandfather and Jess had a son named Dave (my Dad), and my son's grandfather. George-Gus-Jess-Dave-Gus-Jess. I used to joke around with my son, telling him about this lineage and asked that if he ever had a son and thought of following this pattern, to not name him George! His middle name, David, was one of my Mom's brothers, David Bare, Jess' great-uncle. Everyone who knew David also knew he was a big man, roughly 6' 3" and well over 200 pounds. Everyone used to call him "Cub Bare" when he was young, because he was not only a "bear" of a man, but cuddly just like my son!

I remember when I found out I was going to have a son. I'd gone to the hospital to see the latest sonogram results when his mother was pregnant with him and found her crying. I asked, "What's the matter!?" I was late because of banking business and had come in on the tail-end of the exam. She said, "Congratulations Dad, you're going to have a son." I'll never forget that moment. My only son, and the only male left on the Rowe side of my family to carry on that name. But, that's another story, one yet to be written and will only be written by God's hands.

As I mentioned earlier, Jess does things in a big way. He was always moving, and not just physically but mentally as well. When he was just 2 or so, he had solved the riddle of the infamous "child gate" that I had installed leading to the stairs to the basement in our home in Tribune. His sister was already 4 and she STILL hadn't figured it out! I knew early on I had a very intelligent child on my hands. One day, as I was taking him to school for 1st grade, he asked me for a dollar to buy pencils. I knew he already had some so I said, "Do you think money grows on trees or something?" As we drove, he pointed to one and said, "Dad, see that tree?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Money's made out of paper, paper is made from trees, so yes, money grows on trees." I was speechless. Another time, I was picking him up from daycare when he was only 4 and I recall his sitter saying this; "With Jess, his mind is SO active and he's SO smart, you have to keep him busy." Later, I had another lady who watched him after school when he was in 2nd or 3rd grade and she'd had a particularly rough day with him. All she said was when I picked him up was "Jess has his own agenda." That's Jess. He had his mind made up before he was even born that HE was going to control the situation. After all, he didn't want to "come out" in the first place!

In 3rd grade, I recall going to pick him up one day after school. Some days I'd wait outside and other days, if I had time, I'd go straight to his classroom. As all these little 3rd grade boys were filing out the door with their little backpacks, chatting and laughing about their day, one turned to Jess just as I met him at the door and asked where he got the little toy ranger he had in his hands. I'll never forget what happened next. Jess turned to him, shook his finger up and down pointedly as if he was a teacher and said firmly, "You go to
www dot power rangers dot com!" A teacher's aide was standing there, Mrs. Gibson. She looked at me, I looked at her and just sighed. I knew for sure I'd never stay a step ahead of this boy!

When he was 6 or 7, during the fall, I was in the middle of harvesting grain sorghum and asked my kids if they'd like to take a ride on the combine with one of the local farmers I'd hired. They both climbed up the ladder and rode one round. When the combine stopped, the farmer opened the cab door, and Jess' sister climbed slowly down. It was a good 5 or 6 foot climb. Next was Jess. He just stood there at the top of the ladder platform, looked at me with that sheepish grin of his, and literally HURLED himself off the platform. Of course, he knew I'd catch him. The farmer looked down at me from high atop the combine and simply said, "You got your hands full with THAT one Gus!" That's Jess. He's a handful. He's big.

I could go on and on but I'm about to run out of time for now. However, I'd like to end this birthday tribute to my son with some observations about his heart. Like everything else about Jess; his physical stature, his mind, his heart is as big as the Kansas prairie where he was born. He's kind to animals and little children alike. I remember how my sister's cat, Kiwi, took to him so readily when he was here in California for a couple of days this past March. Kiwi is known as the "cuddle kitters" and Jess loved to have her in his lap, fondly stroking her fur. For several years, even now as a teenager, he has helped out at the youth center in Tribune, KS., a place where children and teenagers alike can come to play pool, video games, or whatever else they can do on weekends rather than roaming the streets. And his heart is reflected in his spirit, his soul, his intestinal fortitude. The man has a gargantuan-sized pain threshold, something I've always admired. And he's endured a lot of pain over the years, both physically and emotionally, the latter the result of some of my own actions, or the lack thereof.

With these God-given attributes, a sharp and intelligent mind and a gigantic heart and soul, I have no doubt Jess David Rowe is destined for BIG things in his life here on earth. So I say then to him on this day, the anniversary of his 16th year of life, "Happy Birthday Big Guy!" I love you and I'm so proud of you!


November 1, 2010

Giving All You Have

"Gus, you always hear it spoken, relationships are 50/50.....I don't believe my eyes they are 100% / 100%....without that commitment you have nothing......think you can run with that????"

That was a private message I received recently from one of the followers of Gusto on Facebook, in response to a question I posed of its readers for a topic to write about. I replied by saying that was a great one since it's something that hits home for me. At first glance, most people would assume that topic to mean the dynamics of a relationship between two people who are intimately involved. Of course, marriage comes instantly to mind. But my mind wanders and it quickly took me to many other areas of life.

When you stop and think about it, "relationships" run the gamut. You have relationships not only with your spouse or intimate partner, but also in many other areas; your relationship with your parents, children, other family members, co-workers, supervisors, God, even your pets!

I believe you get out of life only what you put into it. If all you're doing day-to-day is going around constantly trying to get people to meet you halfway, because all you're willing to give is part of yourself to begin with, and not everything you have in your heart and soul, none of your relationships will have full value. Here are some examples of what I mean by that statement.

Many times in our lives, we find ourselves in positions where there's give and take. Sometimes, we have to give up something in order to get something we want. For instance, when you go to get a loan from the bank, usually you're mentally prepared that you'll have to fill out a loan application. But then you find out the bank wants more information from you, sometimes very personal information. I can recall several incidents in my career as a banker when I had to ask my clients for information that they weren't prepared to give or even saw it coming when I did ask. It was at those times I found myself in the position of "meeting halfway" since some of them balked at what I was asking of them. That was when both my-self and my client were placed in an awkward position, because of this "meeting halfway" notion. Mostly because the element of trust came into play. For example, I remember several times, when I'd asked for all of a farmer's equipment assets as collateral for a loan, the value far exceeded what was needed for the loan, and far over what was required to meet the bank's loan-to-policy guidelines. The farmer might say, "Why do you need $100,000 in collateral? All I'm asking you to lend me is $20,000?" My favorite and common response to that was, "What difference does it make if I ask you for $100,000 or $1,000,000? You're going to pay the loan in good faith anyway, right?" No one could counter that. Point is, a lending relationship is much the same as life relationships in general. It's entirely about CHARACTER and TRUST. The following example illustrates this point even further.

When I was placed in the Liberal, KS. in-patient treatment program for substance abuse in November, 2008 for six months, there was a laundry list of "house rules." One that quickly became a constant source of discussion and irritation was the "sign-in" sheet. Whenever I left the house, even to go a couple of blocks away to get a candy bar or newspaper and immediately come back, I was required to write my name down on the sheet, the EXACT time I left, and the time I came back. On the THIRD day I was there, I forgot this little rule. When I came back later that day, the house manager had given me dish duty for the entire week as "punishment." Remember, I was only one out of 20 or so others who were housed there during that time and all of us had various duties every day; sometimes we had to vacuum, other days it was cleaning the bathrooms, the next week clean the kitchen, and of course, the one no one liked. Washing dishes. When I found out I'd gotten dish duty for something that was an honest mistake, I was pissed. But rather than trying to negotiate, I did what I always do, I gave it my all. I decided if I was going to have to do dishes every day for a week, then those dishes were going to be spotless.

I didn't give it another thought until the following week, when suddenly the house manager came up to me one day and told me what a great job I did. From that MOMENT forward for the next 5 ½ months, I was given a LOT of latitude in many areas. I was GIVEN the freedom to go places and do things many of my fellow residents weren't. Why? I hadn't even asked for those freedoms! I had developed a level of TRUST far exceeding that of the others because of my CHARACTER. Because I decided to give it my all to something as simple as making sure the dishes were spotless.

For those of you who have a religious bent, here's another example. Do you ever find yourself negotiating with God? Have you ever asked God to do something for you and, in exchange, you'll give something back? I remember asking Him once a long time ago, "God, IF you get me out of this jam, I'll do whatever you ask." We all know it doesn't work that way with Him. Why should we treat each other as human beings any differently? Don't be one of those that always goes around negotiating. Give it all you got. Life isn't a series of "ifs" and "buts." One of my favorite sayings from a former co-worker in my career as a banker was this: "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd ALL have a very Merry Christmas!" Think about it.

I'm sure you can think of similar stories in your own life, times when you were faced with meeting someone "half-way." Likewise, think of times in your life when you went into a "relationship" with no pre-conceptions, no thought given to "what's in it for me?" What were the results? Was there a difference? Sure, there's no doubt that there are times when you have to meet someone half-way and yes, giving it your all is risky. After all, life doesn't come with any guarantees and you're bound to get burned now and then. But, unless you are willing to give ANY relationship everything you have in your being from the get go, with NO conditions, you will never receive full value for it. You only get out of life what you put into it. Think about that the next time you go to your banker to get a loan or someone asks you to do the dishes. I guarantee you from personal experience, the benefit of your actions will many times far exceed whatever you had to put into it.