The One Central Truth

We’re only a few days away from Christmas Day. You can feel it in the air. People are more hurried, yet often more pleasant. People are excited for the advent of traditional scenes, giving of gifts, smelling and consuming of comfort foods, and all that comes along with the several days that surround the day we celebrate Christ’s birth.

Just 15 minutes ago on my short drive to work I passed what I would categorize as a little worse than a fender bender. One car was turned sideways across the two lanes and the other car involved was sitting in a side street. I slowed down as I approached; clearly this accident was only a few minutes old. One man was standing in the road, presumably the owner of the car in the middle of the road. He was on his cell phone when I rolled slowly to a stop, put my window down and asked, “You okay? You need anything?” With a remarkable smile on his face he replied, “No, I’m all good! Thank you!” I wonder if we were in the depths of February or the midst of May, would his response have been so chipper?

There’s a truth that permeates this season, whether it is acknowledged or not. Like a bike tire with a hundred thin spokes all connected to one hub that holds them all together, so are our activities, busyness, and traditions of the Christmas season when it relates to this one central truth. Without the hub, the rest of it would be utterly meaningless.

Here is the truth hub. I hope (but never assume) that through this blog you have caught glimpses of it if not been outright smacked in the face with it by way of things I’ve written in the past…

Because of God’s immeasurable love for humanity, and in light of our sinfulness that has created a separation between us and Him–a distance we could never do anything about on our own–He sent the Way for us to be reunited with Him: That Way is Jesus. Jesus was God among us; God with us. Jesus grew, lived, loved, healed, taught, served, died, and rose again to complete the very mission God the Father sent Him to accomplish. And because of Jesus’ birth and completed mission, you and I can have all that God desires to give us right here and right now. In this season of traditions, blurry hurriedness, pop songs that pay lip service to what its all about, and our insatiable appetite for our own comfort, we gaze into a stone trough that held a human baby that contained all of Divinity in fragile bone, soft skin, and the helplessness of a held child. Help came to us and through His birth and our faith placed in Who He is, we are made alive in Him. Apart from Him, though we may amass to ourselves the stuff of success as the world sees it, we are completely lost and empty.

In this Christmas season, I pray that beyond all the things to check off on your task list and on all the wish lists, that we may return to the center and embrace the person of Jesus. He is the Center, the Hope, the Healing, the Messiah promised to us in Genesis 3, and the One who holds all we need for all we face.

Start with a better towel.

I don’t know where we got the towel. All I know is that as I headed from my bed to the shower one morning, I was going to need a towel. So on my way, I stopped by the towel shelf. The one I grabbed was a vibrant blue color, like a blue jay blue. Beautiful blue. Start-your-day blue. Towel in hand, I headed to the shower.

After my shower, I reached for the blue towel on the towel rod outside the shower. I started using the towel to dry off. Blecht. This towel isn’t great. I mean it’s an okay towel but I feel like it’s moving water around more than absorbing it. I thought to myself, “Life’s too short to use okay towels.” So I after that one use, I swapped it out for a less-blue (okay, it wasn’t blue at all) but more effective, nicer feeling towel. And I haven’t looked back.

Things that look good aren’t always actually good. You probably already knew that.

But more than that, there are certain things that shouldn’t be chinsed on. I think towels should be on the list of things not to cut corners on. A few other things I’ve learned fall squarely into the “you get what you pay for” category: saran wrap, cheese, trash bags, and most electronics. What would you add to that list?

This whole towel situation got me thinking the other day. Are there more small tweaks I can and should make throughout my day in order to see a significant shift in overall quality and enjoyability of life?

*Let me note here: I am NOT a diva, a snob, or a jerk. I’m not advocating that you live a life “ensconced in velvet” like George Costanza. No, not that at all. But I do think simple adjustments make life better.

Here are a few things I think would improve most people’s lives, if put into practice regularly:

  1. Make your bed. You’ll start your day feeling on top of things.
  2. Cut your hair. As a bald man, this one’s easy. But I do think when we feel attractive and put together, we carry ourselves differently.
  3. Get dressed. My work has no expectation of “dressing up” but every so often I like to take it up a notch. Because I like to feel dressed up.
  4. Back your car into your driveway at night. You’ll start the day feeling like Batman zipping out of the Batcave, off to save the world.
  5. Make a smoothie. The vitamins and nutrients in there and the fact that you made that yourself will both give you a pep in your step as you head out the door.
  6. Listen to experts. Pick 2-3 podcasts that can serve as a kickstart to your day. I like Jon Acuff’s “All It Takes Is A Goal” podcast. I also like Carey Nieuwhof’s “Leadership Podcast”. Generally, Jon’s episodes fit nicely into my commute and Carey’s are a bit longer.
  7. Make lunch before bed. Or take anything you can from the morning routine and put it in the before-bed routine. This includes planning your outfit. You’ll start the day with less to decide/think about.
  8. Smile more. Force it. The very act of smiling releases endorphins into your system that will make you happier. Imagine that: smiling makes you happier. Isn’t science great?
  9. Compliment someone. “But no one compliments me!”, you say? Be the type of person you’d like to run into.
  10. Pray. There is unspeakable freedom and joy you’ll find by simply starting your day acknowledging that while you don’t know what the day holds, you know the One who does and you know He’s with you and He’s for you.

None of these things will cost you any more than you’re paying now. But each of them has potential to give your day a bump before it even really starts. What would/do you do in order to invest a little but reap a lot?

What’s that button do?

We’re a peculiar people that make little sense. We put our thoughts in weird places that don’t stand up to reason. When you really stop and think it through, there’s a nonsensical quality to us, isn’t there? I see contradictions of thought and logic in a variety of places. I hope you’re still with me, even though you may be teetering on being offended and moving on.

I recently had the honor of sharing my thoughts on a friend and co-pastor, Ally Weaver who finished her battle with cancer one week ago this morning. The imagery of this sweet friend crossing that finish line and falling into the waiting arms of Jesus is perhaps more poetic than it is anything else but its so helpful to me (and so many) at times like this when we feel the sense of loss. I’m incredibly comforted with the truth that just as I sit here at my keyboard forming the next thoughts that will spill out of my fingers and appear on this screen, my dear friend is staring at Jesus who is right in front of her. Like I said at her recent celebration service, I’m there by association. Someone I know is right now in the full presence of God, taking in His glory through all of her senses. If I knew that my friend right now was meeting a celebrity, or the President, or the Queen of England I’d be so excited for them and I’d probably even talk about it at the time the scheduled meeting was taking place. So, let’s just multiply that by…oh, I don’t know….a million, trillion, gajillion. That’s how I feel when I think of Ally right now.

As true and amazing as that is, there’s still a struggle to understand the “why” behind the facts. This remarkable young woman—a dearly loved wife to an extraordinary man and a mother to two sweet young children—is now not with us physically. Why in the world would God seemingly ignore our cries for help on her behalf? Why would God choose it best to take His precious daughter home to be with Him instead of leaving her here to be with us? What good can come of this? I just don’t understand it. And its sometimes in the non-understanding that we struggle most. Its in the myriad of unanswered questions that faith can find its biggest fight. Indeed, the very existence of God is argued by atheists worldwide through the argument of pain and suffering. According to research, there are between 450-500 million atheists and agnostics in the world. I’ve talked to a few. Their #1 evidence against the existence of God? The presence of pain and suffering.

So it’s no wonder why those who believe in God and even follow His Son Jesus get tripped up when deep pain comes along. We just don’t get it. We don’t get how an all-powerful God who claims to be all-loving would allow such a travesty like a sweet young woman facing, fighting, and falling to the monster of cancer. It’s maddening. Let me share a rough analogy that might help. It struck me yesterday and I’ve been rolling it around in my mind. It’s simple in nature so it may not suffice the deep pains we feel through loss. But maybe it will help a little.

I love to fly. Anytime I get to fly anywhere I get giddy. I try and play it cool when I’m standing in line at TSA, or walking the concourse on the way to my gate, or getting my ticket scanned by the ticket agent. But inwardly, I’m thrilled to be flying. I’m like a little kid inside. One thing I always do whenever possible as I step through the curved doorway onto the plane is to sneak a peek into the cockpit and catch a glimpse of the walls, floor, and ceiling that are virtually covered in knobs, levers, slides, gauges, and screens. For that brief moment I take it all in and am astounded at all that goes into flying this machine I’m in. Think about it. It’s a multi-ton (a 747 take-off weight is 735,000 lbs) hunk of metal that is about to use the sheer power of lift and wind to propel itself and its passengers to some far away land, under propulsion of jet engines which are essentially a controlled, consistent explosion.

As often as I have flown, I have never once stopped at the cockpit door and demanded a thorough explanation of every one of those knobs, levers, slides, gauges, and screens. Not once. I walk past that door, marvel at the equipment I see, and make my way to my seat. I’d bet my bottom dollar that if you’ve ever flown on a commercial airline you’ve done the exact same thing.

Why don’t we stop at that door, hold up the line, and make our expectations clear to the pilot and co-pilot that we aren’t moving another inch until our questions are satisfied? After all, this three-quarters of a million pound metal bird is very soon all that will be standing between us and plummeting to our death. Why in the world are we not more adamant about receiving a full explanation of how it all works? We can’t possibly be expected to simply trust the pilot, can we?!? It can’t possibly be that while we know next to nothing about aviation there are those who do and who have dedicated hundreds of thousands of hours to understanding every knob, every lever, every slide, every gauge, and every screen–for the sole, express purpose of making sure that the passengers of their plane have a safe flight to their destination? Nah, we can’t be expected to believe that, can we?

I hope by now you’ve made the connection. There are things that are mysteries to us passengers. We might catch a glimpse of the cockpit, but we won’t ever fully understand how all that really works. I think Deuteronomy 29:29 says it well:

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

There are always going to be things that happen that we just don’t understand. And there are even going to be things that happen in our lives that we CAN’T understand. They’re simply non-understandable by us passengers. But just like I glance that cockpit, take the right turn and find my seat while putting full trust in the pilot to know how to fly this plane safely while I simply enjoy my beverage and tiny pretzels, I can fully trust God to know far more than I do. I can rest in simply knowing that He sees more than I see, knows more than I know, and loves more than I love.

So here I am. Still hurting. Still not having all the answers. Still wondering how all this could possibly work for good. Still sad. But fully trusting the pilot.

Why I Love You

I love you. What comes to mind when you hear those words from someone? What about when you read them on a blog and they’re coming from a (maybe complete) stranger? Do you believe them? Are you more guarded than to simply take those words at face value? Is there even such a thing as face value when we’re speaking those words? I was recently talking about these words with my girlfriend (who I’ve been married to for 26 years) and she suggested I write about them. So I am.

Let me start by saying what I DON’T mean. I don’t mean that I feel a certain way about you (at least that’s not what I mean primarily, and especially if we’ve never met). I don’t mean that I see and know everything you do and have come to the conclusion that you’re worth love. I don’t mean those things. What I mean is that I love you.

Those 3 words pack a punch, don’t they? There are people in my life who can’t even receive them because of the impact they’ve made through negative events in their past. And I’m so sorry for that. I’ve actually had someone tell me to please not say those words to them because of the pain they trigger. Begrudgingly, I consent.

I share these words with people freely. My wife wasn’t brought up that way. My wife’s parents very wisely taught her from a young age to guard those words carefully and NOT to simply dole them out to anyone and everyone. I love that. I love that they taught her to guard those words because in teaching her that, they taught her they were not words to be taken lightly. Her parents knew and instilled in her a reverence for the power these three words wield. I completely respect that. I told my girlfriend (when she was just my girlfriend) the words “I love you.” LOOOONG before she uttered the words back to me. But when she did? Oh….my…..WOOOOOORD. Have you ever seen a video of the atomic bomb going off? (How did that camera survive, anyway?) That mushroom cloud? That was my heart at that moment. And I’m pretty sure that was the point. That’s why she waited. That’s why she guarded them so well. Because of the sheer magnitude of impact they carry.

Why then? Why would I toss them around so flippantly, seemingly without regard for where they land? Why would I tell my wife “I love you” and still tell a 15 year old guy in my student ministry “I love you”? Aren’t I just cheapening the value of the words by using them so haphazardly? Can’t I and shouldn’t I discriminate more than that?

Maybe. Maybe I should. But I don’t think so. Here’s why.

To those who hear those words from me, they more than very likely know that I’m not talking about butterflies, rainbows, and warm fuzzies. They know me enough to know I’m on a different level than that. I realize fully what those words mean. I know what they’ve done in my life and I know what they have the power to do in others’ lives. I’ve seen it firsthand.

I tell you I love you because I’m expressing my commitment to stick with you, no matter what. Love is work, and I’m willing to work.

I tell you I love you because I want to help create a world that is both loving AND unwavering in its standards. Love has standards, and I love that.

I tell you I love you because I agree with Burt Bacharach, they really are “What the world needs now” and saying those words fills the air with what we need most, next to oxygen.

I tell you I love you because I don’t want anyone to ever mistake me for someone who’s unloving.

I tell you I love you because I invite you to inspect my life, my motives, my actions, and scrutinize them. Hold me accountable to the very definition of love that I proport. If you find me falling short, I trust you’ll love me enough to speak the truth in love to me.

I tell you I love you because I don’t know who is or who isn’t telling you that you are loved. I’d rather err on the side of communicating it and risking being misunderstood than not communicating it and risking being perceived as unloving.

I tell you I love you because I don’t know what’s actually going on behind the curtain of your life and those words–simple as they are–just might be the life-saving floatation device you need right now.

I tell you that I love you because life is far too precious to keep powerful, deeply-understood, healing words to myself. It costs me nothing to say them but for you they might hold everything that’s vital to survival.

I tell you that I love you because when the dust settles and I’m the one in the casket being lowered into the ground, I want everyone present, and everyone who’s ever known me to agree on one thing: Jerry loved us.

But mostly, I tell you that I love you because I know how loved I am. And I know that I’ve been loved first. I know that because I know that I am loved I am also compelled to let others know how loved they are. In other words, “We love because He first loved us.” If that sounds familiar to you, its from 1 John 4:19. The apostle John is spelling it out succinctly and supremely. He’s identifying the very reason that love exists for us at all. Its because you and I have been loved with an everlasting love. Therefore, we in turn are invited to love as freely as we are loved.

That’s why I love you. During the several minutes I’ve been typing, I’ve gotten 3 texts from 3 different people and all 3 of them received from me the words “I love you.” And I do. I love them. I love you.

Not because you earned it. Not because I feel like it. Not because of some ill-placed karma-like philosophy of life. Simply because I know that I’m loved. So God helping me, I want you to know it too.

Waking Up On The Moon

I’m up each day before it’s light. My wife wakes up before I do, and I quickly follow suit. We’ve got jobs to get to and a 70 pound sheepadoodle that’s gotta do his business. While standing in our back yard in the predawn darkness, I’ll sometimes look up through the trees to the still-barely-night-time sky and find the moon, if its visible at all.

The phase of the moon I saw this morning is one of my favorite phases. Have you ever seen something in the sky that you find beautiful, or awe inspiring, or just plain interesting and try and take a picture of it with your phone? It’s almost ALWAYS a huge let down. If you’ve been able to capture an amazing photo of the moon, I’d love it if you’d share it in the comments, because I just can’t. Maybe because its 2021 and I’m rocking an iPhone 8, but I’d guess that’s usually the story for most phone-tographers.

Here are a couple pictures I took this morning…

The current moon phase is the “Waning Crescent” and the reason I find it so mesmerizing is because the entire circumference of the moon can be seen, but only part of it is brightly reflecting the Sun.

I can hear you saying, “Thanks for the super crappy photos of the moon, Jerry.”

The thought that crossed my mind as I looked up at that big beautiful orb this morning was really all about perspective. Stick with me.

In your life right now there are places of brightness that you’d say are going okay, or going well, or going great. Maybe its an aspect of your job, or maybe its a relationship you’re enjoying, or maybe you’re hitting a stride in new found hobby, or maybe that side hustle is even more fun than you thought it would be, or maybe there’s love in the air and your mind is on that someone you recently started chatting with, or maybe you just got a promotion, or maybe you just reached that goal you’ve been working toward. In some way and in some area, there’s a celebration-worthy angle, be it ever so slight.

But most of us don’t decide to start our day on that bright side of the moon. I’d dare say that many if not most open their eyes each day with a sense of weight over that decision to be made, that bill to be paid, or that difficult conversation that needs to happen. We start off with thoughts of what we’re behind on, ways in which we’re falling short, or the weight of the day ahead.

What would it take for you to meet each day with a sense of brightness and lightness that comes from the realization that while there certainly is a dark side of the moon, you and I can choose to begin on the bright side of it?

There is and will always be a side of the moon facing away from the Sun. In fact, we here on earth every only see no more than 59% of the moon’s surface. The temperature of the unlit “dark side” of the moon is -387F degrees. While the temperature on the lit side of the moon reaches a toasty 260F degrees! While neither is inhabitable by humans, the point is that there’s a huge difference between them. And just like that, an incredible distance lies between a day begun on the light side and a day begun on the dark side. Same moon, different sides. Same day, different mindsets.

In order to make this practical, let me suggest a few steps to take before heading out the door to tackle your day:

  1. Before your feet hit the floor breathe deeply and whisper a prayer of gratitude. I’m a believer in God and His Son Jesus Christ is my best friend but even if you’re not, the discipline of gratitude is guaranteed to make a dramatic difference in your life. Start with a mindset of thankfulness for this new day and the opportunities and challenges it holds.
  2. Immediately after your feet hit the floor, stretch your arms straight up for several seconds, slowly moving them side to side above your head. I’m no yoga guru, but when I’ve done this, it always seems to bring an alertness and a much quicker sense of “I’m awake!”
  3. After your readiness routine (teeth, shower, getting dressed, etc.) make a short list of what you are determined to accomplish today. Writing your goals–even small ones–is a habit that the vast minority of people maintain but those who do represent those who are getting to where they want to go. (I married a list maker, so I’ve loved learning the art of a good list.)
  4. Within your first hour awake, do one thing that brings you joy. It might be standing on your porch with a cup of hot coffee, breathing in the morning air. It might be sitting down with one of your children, discussing the weird dreams you had last night. It might be taking the dog for a walk. It might be reading a spiritual devotional before hitting the more hectic parts of your day. It might be crankin’ that 80s hair band’s power ballad on your commute to work. You choose.

What are YOUR best tips on how to begin on the “light side of the moon” each day? I’d love to hear them. And if you’ve ever done anything of these things I’ve mentioned or are willing to start one, I’d also love to hear the difference it makes.

How To Relax

History has been peppered with monumental, life-shaping moments we’ve seen played out on the world stage. The moon landing. The assassination of JFK. The Berlin Wall coming down. And we all remember exactly where we were when Charlie Sheen said “Winning!”

We as a human race are highly competitive people. The first recorded competition was Cain and Abel, a scant four chapters into recorded history. That one had a pretty severe outcome. It’s been said that the first car race happened 5 minutes after the second Model T rolled off the assembly line. We are, by nature, competitors. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “driven” person, I can likely guarantee that you’re a comparing person. Competition and comparing go hand in hand but are not mutually exclusive. You can be comparative without being competitive but you can’t really be competitive without being comparative.

And that has got me thinking.

I was just listening to a podcast called “All It Takes Is A Goal”, (ATG for all us insider hipsters) hosted by Jon Acuff. He was interviewing a fellow overachiever named Brendan Leonard, some schlump who ONLY ran 52 marathons in 2019. Its a great episode and I recommend it, however there was a moment in that conversation that wasn’t surprising as much as it was jarring.

From minute 25:17 to 6 seconds later at 25:23, these two behemoths of accomplishment commiserate on their shared inability to relax. Here’s how it went:

Jon: “What does it mean for you to lean into relaxing?”

Brendan: “I wish I had an answer for ya.”

Jon: “I know.”

I wouldn’t say that at the moment a lightbulb clicked on in my mind, but I would stay that a lightbulb filament kind of started flickering. Wait. Are there filaments anymore? Are we so LED lust-laden that the filament factory closed down and called it quits?

My first flicker was, “Geez, if THESE guys don’t know how to relax how can they help anyone else learn how?” Cue the ironic 1940’s radio drama pipe organ background music that indicates I’ve just fallen back into comparing and competing.

My almost immediate second flicker (flickering a teensy bit stronger) was, “Wait a second. I know how to relax.”

My third flicker which brought me to this keyboard to tap, delete, and tap some more was, “I could probably pound out a couple hundred words about how to relax, then I could post it on my blog, then people would read it, then maybe Jon and/or Brendan would catch wind of it, then they could relax, too.” Then I thought, “Nah, it shouldn’t matter if Jon Acuff or Brendan Leonard ever even see my blog post about them and their collective inability to relax. That’s not the point of my blog. When I started this blog, I clearly stated the purpose of my blog and it didn’t include the objective of helping workaholics who can’t relax.”

So, for the rest of you I want to share how to relax. You can disagree with these steps but I don’t think you will. And no that’s not a Jedi mind trick telling you that you won’t disagree with what I’m about to say. And no, these are the droids you’re looking for.

Step 1: Stop.

I don’t think you have some Messiah Complex where you think that the world will fall apart if you stop doing what you’re doing for a second. But I bet there’s a twinge of messiah complex (I went with the lower case “m” on that one) wherein you probably think YOUR world will collapse if you hop off the hamster wheel that’s connected to the string that’s powering the pulley that makes the gears turn that keeps you and your loved ones fed and clothed and sheltered. We’re like that. There’s a percentage of your brain that’s still imaging yourself as the critical piece of the puzzle. If you stop, it all falls apart. I’m telling you its not true. Are you important, unique, gifted, and a giver? Of course you are. Will that stop being true if you stop? Nope. Not a chance.

Stopping involves a consciousness that demands you to downshift on your own self perception. That’s not the easiest thing to do, is it, little m messiah? What I’m suggesting is that you simply do it. Stop. Stop what you’re doing. Unless you’re an EMT straddling an unconscious individual on a gurney and your job is to squeeze that rubber bag attached to that air mask strapped to that person’s face to keep them alive then you can likely simply stop right now and you’ll be fine. So will the rest of us. It’s okay. Go ahead.

Step 2: Stop more.

Because let’s be honest. You’re not really stopping after Step 1. You’ve maybe slowed down, but haven’t stopped. So stop more until you’ve stopped. Seriously, you’re too important to view yourself as so important that you can’t stop. See how that works?

Step 3: Walk.

I don’t give two rips where you walk. Just change the scenery. I’m not necessarily saying “go for a walk”. I’m just saying go as far as you need to to change what you see. That could be 10 steps, that could be 10 blocks, and that could be 10 cities. A change in scenery will do you good. (That’s a song, isn’t?) When my wife and I daydream about our next vacation or day trip, it invariably includes a statement like, “I don’t care, just get me out of Chesterfield County.” Relaxing is more difficult when you stay staring at the thing that’s work for you. So walk until you can’t see that thing anymore. And stay there until you start to forget what that thing even was, or is. Again, this whole step could take you 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 days.

Step 4: Risk.

Your veins are craving adrenaline. When was the last time you dumped some so it could course through your body, reminding you that you’re actually a living thing? Find whatever it is that gives you adrenaline–even a light dose–and do it. I’m not saying you have to go heli-skiing Alaska’s Chugach Range with your hair on fire. Someone recently gave me a slackline they were done with (which is the natural condition of most slacklines) so I strung it up between two trees in my backyard. When I need a boost, I step outside and try to walk the 10 foot span of slackline between those trees. Have I done it yet? Nope. Will I? Bet. *That’s how the kids say “Yes”. And after I can do that, I’m planning on stringing it over the small stream that runs through our property. It’s not the Flying Wallendas, but its still adrenaline.

Step 5: Never return.

This one’s tricky, but what if you came back without returning? What if you physically came back to “work” but mentally and emotionally chose not to return to where you were before you relaxed? What would happen? Is that even possible? Heck if I know. But every so often I imagine that its my first day on the job, the last guy was let go, but I have access to everything he knew. What would I do differently than I did before? I sure wouldn’t ask “What did the last guy do because I just want to do things like that.”. Have you ever wanted to see any kind of change in your life? Well, not to state the obvious but change doesn’t start without you. So start with an adjustment to what’s normal for you and embrace the new thing that happens as you do.

All this seems to be intrinsically important to a life that has some forward motion to it. Relaxing isn’t a backwards step, its a purposeful stop that ultimately propels you even further. When was the last time you actually relaxed and reaped the benefits of it?

Why I’m Not On The Train

I remember exactly where I was when I was awakened to the fact that I’m capable. Sounds weird, and maybe even a little crazy. I suspect that if you have had a similar experience you’d remember it too. I was in Costa Rica on a street corner. Two groups of people I was in charge of were at different locations in the town I was in and all needed to end up at the same location, but we only had access to one van to transport them. They wouldn’t all fit at one time, so like one of those brain teaser puzzles with the different sized colored disks you have to shuffle around on the 3 wooden pegs to get them sorted by color and size, I give crisp, clear instructions to the person asking me how we were going to actually pull this off. His look of shock, relief, and confidence told me everything I need to know about his new found calm in the midst of this storm. I had done it. He came to me with a dilemma and no answer and I handed him the answer that completely addressed the dilemma. I think I remember that exchange so well because if I’m being completely honest, I was even a little shocked myself in that moment. But I recall thinking “I can do more than I thought I could do.”

Run, don’t walk to your nearest reputable tattoo shop and hand them a piece of paper with that line on it: “I can do more than I thought I could do.” Whatever style tattoo and placement is up to you. Except the “tramp stamp”. I forbid that to be on anyone’s lower back. Me? I’d go old school script on the forearm. But if you’re new school then go for it. Just make sure you see the tattoo artist’s work before hopping on their table. Because…well…you know… you don’t want any “regerts”.

I’m sitting in a bakery/coffee shop on a Thursday morning as I type this. It’s one I’ve been to many times and I always love the vibe. It’s kind of a gem of a place that is somehow thriving though I hardly ever see many people here. One of the things I love is the full open kitchen behind the counter; In the absence of any walls, I can see bakers kneading the dough of whatever sweet treat they’re baking next. I see racks and racks of fresh baked bread. And the smell in here…well…its heaven.

I can’t help but wonder if those bakers are living that baking life because they love to bake. Are they invested in the process that takes a bag of flour and turns it into edible music because this is the dream they’ve had all along? Do bakers think that way? Are they knuckle keep in dough back there just thanking God for the chance to live their dream? I’d like to think so, but hey. I don’t honestly know.

I had a thought this morning that caught me by surprise. I shouldn’t say that in that way because I should be in more control of my thoughts. If you read my post yesterday, you know I can make some pretty stern demands of my thoughts. But this one honestly crept up on me as I was getting ready for the day.

I’ll first ask you a question. Are you doing what you want to do? While I absolutely hope so, I fully understand that the answer might be “No.” or maybe even “Not even close.”. You might even be one of many who would use the word “hate” when they think about what they do for a living. I want to be eyes wide open here because I don’t want you to think I’m some hair-gelled, teeth-whitened, sham-wowwed, multi-level-marketing sleezeball. Nope. I’m not pulling anybody in with some well-baited hook while hoping and betting you’ll nibble. Not at all. I’m just a guy who’s living his life and thinking about stuff while he does. Thus the name of this website, btw. *That’s how the kids say “by the way”, btw.

So when I think about my life and where it is now, I have to confess to you that at the age of 48, I’m well into the “back 9”. Shout out to my ever-golfing Dad. And when you get to be 48 or at least when you get to be 48 and are someone who thinks like me, you have long since reckoned yourself on an empty train platform watching what was disappear into the distance, aboard the train that has already left the station.

Let me get super real and specific. Some of the things I’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t–the things I imagine are onboard that departed train–are things like: getting my Masters degree, writing at least one book that a stranger would pay for and read, learning to play the drums, learning guitar, starting a demolition business, serving as a university chaplain, starting and sustaining a speaking career, and going on a cruise with my wife to wherever she wants to go.

And with a somewhat forlorn look in my eye, I’ve pictured myself on that train platform, watching the chug-chug-chug of that locomotive of “wanted to’s” become more and more faint in the distance. Quietly I stand on that platform with my thoughts of what I haven’t done. And won’t. Because I can’t.

But then….

Just this morning as I was again imagining that sad scene, a hand slapped me. Not physically, but it might as well have been. The open palm of “Stop wallowing, you baby!” delivered quite a wallop across the face of my “what could’ve been” psyche. Does anyone say “wallop” anymore? I’ve tried to bring back “Oh, snap!” for years and I think its just dead and gone. Rest in peace, “Oh, snap!” You’ll be missed.

Okay, so back to the slap. It occurred to me like a lightning bolt occurs to a tree that I had the imagery all wrong. ALL wrong. I’m not standing on some train platform somewhere in the land of my unrisked opportunities. I’m not some sad sack who has nothing left to do but mark time and lament over what might have been. No, I’m not at that empty train station on that quiet platform.

I. AM. THE. TRAIN.

What a difference that truth makes for me. I have so wrongly thought that I was the one who missed the train, never even realizing that there are no victims in my story. I’m the fully-stocked, strongly-steamed locomotive that’s bound for wherever the next destination is! And that destination is determined by the tracks that I choose to lay.

There are so many outplays of this mindset shift. I’m actually overwhelmed to think about what possibly could be next for me, the train, as I begin to pull away from the station. Full steam ahead.