"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25
Midnight Blue (1963): Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell featuring Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Major Holley on double bass, Bill English on drums and Ray Barretto on conga. Midnight Blue is one of Burrell’s best-known works for Blue Note Records. In 2005, NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library", describing it as "one of the great jazzy blues records".

He said, She said...

"You are not designed for everyone to like you - Wise Man Phil

FRAGILE: Sting, Yo Yo Ma, Dominic Miller & Chris Botti

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Discovering Hurt

Pain: physical suffering or distress, as due to injury, illness, etc. A distressing sensation in a particular part of the body: a back pain. Mental or emotional suffering torment: I am sorry my news causes you such pain.

The term "hurt" means many different things to just as many different people. What may cause you pain often doesn't even register with someone else. Some people are overly sensitive and others have thicker skin than rawhide; that would be my father. Some hurt is universal, such as a death of a loved one, a broken or failed relationship or some kind of accident that cause physical pain

As Webster defines hurt we often can experience this not so uncommon phenomenon physically, mentally and emotionally.

The pain I want to discuss is the pain "we", you and I, cause others. To be more specific, the kind of pain or hurt that is caused by us only to learn about it at a much later date. Often we have no idea what kind of feelings, hurt or pain someone is carry around with them on the inside. And if you would all do me the honor of allowing me to be more specific once again, the truth of the matter is many times those people that we have unknowingly hurt are often some of our closes friends and well meaning acquaintances. 

This past Sunday I had the "great fortune" to speak with someone that I hurt in the past. This person wasn't physically harmed nor have they been scarred for life because of the situation. They are not currently in therapy nor despise me as a person. In the end it was the inappropriate behavior on my part and the completely inconsiderate actions on my behalf in the past.

In a word, I was tremendously "insensitive".

The names and places, the event and the time are irrelevant. Trust me, I hear the faint sound of many voices saying, "Whatever dude...give me the dirt." There will be no dirt or gossip, only an opportunity for everyone involved, including the reader, a chance to gain some insight and knowledge into how one is to properly listen, and respond, to the words of someone we offended or hurt. And if we are lucky, and blessed, we will grow in wisdom when we capture the ability to "consistently" behave in the right way when we find out that we have caused another pain in the future. 

If you heard me once, you have heard me say it a thousand times; "knowledge is the knowing, but wisdom is the doing." 

As I mentioned earlier, it was a gift and a blessing that this person shared with me their thoughts, concerns and hurts. It was a gift that they had the maturity to share with me in a non-threatening way and it was a blessing that they were able to display their hurt with such conviction that it will leave an everlasting impression in my mind and on my heart. 

As I drove away from this chance encounter I reviewed in my head what I just learned. 

In the end there were three guiding principles that wouldn't leave my mind. Let me share. 

REMAIN SILENT: The first thing that fortunately came to my mind when the other person was sharing with me their disapproval was to shut up. Plain and simple, keep your mouth shut. There is a reason the good Lord gave us one mouth and two ears. I have had the great misfortune to meet people that act as if they have two mouths and one ear. They are insufferable. I know... I use to be one of those people. The quickest way to minimize, blow off, offend, "say you don't get it" and otherwise come off like a clueless and arrogant knucklehead is to start defending yourself immediately. It is immature, childish and adolescent to behave in this manner. Whether the person is completely off base or spot on let them talk. Let them voice their disapproval and let them finish their sentences. Don't interrupt... just shut up. Just as an aside, the only time I would do otherwise is if the other person is creating so much tension and their body language is so demonstrative that could cause the situation to escalate, in this situation I would calmly walk away. In both instances it's vital we don't argue our right to be right. It is a very natural and human response and reaction to defend ourselves when someone is taking us to task. I can only humbly suggest not to. The other person will be more inclined to listen to your response if you first let them talk. In the end it's best to remain silent, everyone will benefit.

WEAR THEIR SHOES: One of the best, and most productive, things we can do is to view the hurt and pain of another from their perspective. This takes maturity, humility and empathy. If you are lacking in any of those qualities it will be very difficult to remain silent and see things through their eyes. No matter the degree of the hurt, no matter the cause or reason for the pain the opportunity for moving closer to one another is eminent and very possible. The chances are often much greater than anyone can, or wants, to believe, but please hear me when I say there is a legitimate opportunity to draw closer to that person.  Again, listen when I say there are something's that are almost impossible to get over. I get that and I won't even waste our time giving examples of those situations. What I'm talking about is the million hurts and pains people are victims of because of the careless nature and behavior of another. When we find resolution in these areas, situations that often can take on a life of their own, is when we grow as a person and create deeper and more meaningful relationships. It is easy to forget, but solidarity is often born out of suffering. When we empathize with another, when we suffer just a portion of what they have suffered is when we truly have the opportunity to move closer to that person. I like what Sting penned in the song King of Pain; "There's a little black spot on the sun today, It's the same old thing as yesterday." At the end of the day, that is just how some people feel when they are hurting and they are upset. We are better off if we realize, understand and empathize with this truth. 

APOLOGIZE: Romans 12:18 states; "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. The quickest way to improve a matter and the first major step to gaining reconciliation is to sincerely apologize for the wrong(s) you committed. This takes humility. An apology doesn't always lead to reconciliation or a resolution, but both of those outcomes are impossible without a heartfelt and sincere apology. Apologizing is the first step. Two of my favorite quotes on apology are: 

 An apology is a good way to have the last word.  ~Author Unknown

A stiff apology is a second insult.... The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt. 
~G.K. Chesterton

Both statements are very good, and very true, when it comes to the concept of apologizing. It takes a big person to apologize; it takes an even bigger person to accept one. 

Humility is the key, and is required, in both situations.

In order for a tree to grow it needs many things, but one of the most important things it needs is wind. The wind is important because it causes the roots to grow deeper and stronger, without wind we would have no trees. 

This past weekend was one of those wind/tree moments for me. The words were a little hard to hear and the comfort level was a little less than what I would like to experience on a daily basis. To use a meteorological term, it was more than a little windy.

But because of this experience I grew. I realized the importance of not causing another person pain, and I also learned the importance of acknowledging, accepting and apologizing when I cause hurt in another's life.

The offense wasn't catastrophic, but the lesson was paramount.

sbb  29.12.10


Monday, December 27, 2010

Overcoming Fear

Faith: confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability. Belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

One of the toughest things to do is to face our fears. Our fears can be anything and everything. They can be debilitating and relentless; they can destroy us. I have found that fear predominately and profoundly affect eight areas:

1. Fear stifles our thinking.
2. Creates indecisiveness.
3. Hinders our achievement.
4. Affects self confidence.
5. Affect our emotional health and well being.
6. Affects our relationships.
7. Creates panic.
8. Causes doubt.

I find that when I evaluate my fear and focus upon God's sovereignty and His providential hand he provides a peace that passes all and any understanding. There are two verses that remind me of his true power and protection in every situation.

"The Lord has made the heaven his throne, from there he rules everything."
-Psalm 103:19

"...His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He has the power to do as he pleases among the angels of heaven and with those who live on earth. No one can stop him or challenge him, saying, 'What do you mean by doing these things'?"
-Daniel 4:34-35

In the end, either you believe those verses or you don't.

I have found that walking in faith and not in fear has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Fear has a funny way of crippling us mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

Fear has the ability to remind us of past hurts and disappointments that were caused by the very thing we fear. One guiding principle we must carry with us throughout our lives is that disappointment is inevitable; discouragement is a choice.

Plan and prepare for the worst; hope and prepare for the best, and maintain balance and perspective when you endure each one.

Below is what I've found walking in faith to look like:

1. Focus on God not your circumstance. The circumstance is there for a reason. It is there to teach you something. God is there to let you know what that teachable lesson is.

2. Face your fears. (Phil 4:6...look it up.) 
"Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind closed doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the lord almighty." 
-Isaiah 8:12-13 

3. Recognize and identify where the doubt and fear is coming from. Once you do that know in your heart that God is greater than anything that is the reason for your doubt and fear.

4. Ask yourself if God has ever failed you once you gave your life to him? The answer is no. Not getting what we want or failure in a certain area is not confirmation that God didn't answer our prayer or that he didn't rescue us. He just decided in infinite wisdom to not give us what we wanted. He knows what is best; we don't.

5. Does God promise to meet the believers need? The answer is yes. Please read Matthew 6:25-34. Read it every day for thirty days straight and monitor how your perspective will change during those thirty days.

6. His Holy Spirit will enable me to endure anything.

7. He promised to neither leave me nor forsake me. Hebrews 13:5 states; "I will never fail you. I will never forsake you."

8. Feed upon His word.

9. Faithfully obey his commandments

10. Forge ahead. In Joshua 1:6 God spoke to Joshua, "Be strong and courageous" he commanded. We would all do well to heed that advice every day. Remember, "Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid."

Begin today to be strong and courageous and patiently wait and watch as "the" mighty force comes to your aid. Stake your claim today and overcome your fears. 

sbb  27.12.10

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Who Are You?

Lost: having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.: lost children.

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope."
-Jeremiah 29.11

Who are you? Does anyone know? Does anyone even care? I think the majority of people spend their lives not knowing who they truly are or what they stand for. The reason I feel so strong about this is because I was living proof, for more than twenty years, of this very fact. The worst thing about it was that I was lost and I didn't even know it. 

Not knowing who you are affects so many different aspects of your life. JC Watts, the famous University of Oklahoma quarterback and once US Congressman said, "That if you're 99% sure who you are, you are a 100% lost." I met Mr. Watts in the St. Louis airport shortly after I heard him say that very thing on a "Focus on the Family" segment and I thanked him for his powerful and truthful statement. I added that I agreed with him and that I suspect many of us are lost." He went on to thank me and agreed that his words are an unfortunate truth.

Being lost and not knowing who we are presents a challenge in every area of our lives. It will affect our self-esteem, our attitude, the companionship we choose and ultimately our future. When we are unable to recognize who we are it will eventually lower our self-esteem. A low opinion of our self will lead to us making poor decisions. We will begin to think less of our capabilities and our abilities.

It is at this very time we will feel as if our life has no purpose; we become paralyzed. This paralysis will also confine our attitudes to the wheelchair of negative thinking. As failure begins to creep into our lives our attitude becomes full of bitterness, jealousy and anger. This disposition leads us to believe life owes us something and when she doesn't live up to her end of the deal we begin to think in some way we have been robbed, been cheated.

M. Scott Peck tells us in the very first sentence in his book, "The Road less Traveled", that life is difficult. Why is this a shock? Life is difficult and the sooner we realize it the better off we will all be. We are called to live above our problems and circumstances. To be content no matter the situation. I'm not saying that we should become complacent; we should always strive to better ourselves and eliminate the negative status quo in our lives, as well as, help others do the same and help them in their time of need. But the principle that must be remembered is that life owes us nothing. It never said that it would be fair, or that it would look out for you and me. 

Only God promises to do that.

The only thing life promises us is change, challenges and difficulties. Life also offers happiness and joy, but we as humans seem to have a short term memory when comes to the many blessings in our lives. It is the change and challenges, the trials and tribulations, that cause us so much consternation, but it's ultimately up to us how we are going to handle all these "gifts" that are disguised as pain and often delivered to us with so much discomfort. 

The key principle to be learned is that we can't plan our challenges, but we can plan our attitudes.

Friendships, true friendships, are hard to come by when you are struggling to find your true identity too. Our judgment becomes impaired and we choose people who really don't care about us or our life; you become a follower instead of a leader. Steve Largent, the once great wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks and current member of the football "Hall of Fame" said on his first term on Capitol Hill, "That if you don't know who you are when you get here (Washington D.C.), that someone will own you by the day's end."

Life is brutal.

I can assure you that if you don't know who you are, or what you stand for, life will eat you up... it will own you. You'll fall prey to those who don't have your best interest in mind. Your owner can be anyone or anything. It can be your friends and their ways, it can be alcohol, drugs, dishonesty, stealing, pornography, greed or it can be misery just to name a few. 

Ultimately, friendships say as much about who we are as they do about who we want to be. Remember, you are known by the company you keep.

All of these negative things that I shared can lead to a very dim future, a future we can change when we find out who we truly are. The good thing about the process of self realization and self examination is that it forces us to get real with ourselves and if we don't like what we see in the mirror we can change it.

It's up to us.

The best step we can take towards becoming who we were created to be is to invite God into our hearts. Ask Him to come and save us; to confess that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and for me. And it is because of His mercy and grace, and our confession that we are saved and have eternal life. I know this to be true because His word says so and because God changed me.

I'm a new person, a new person in Christ. It is not that I've changed physically or that I don't still entertain selfish and poor behavior. It's not that I don't get angry any more or that words are spoken that should have never been spoken. I'm a new person in Christ because I realize what my purpose and my true identity is through him. I realize that I can't do it by myself and that God didn't create or equip me to do so. He created me with the desire in mind for me to totally depend on him. He will carry the heavy load. All I have to do is believe in Him and seek His face daily.

If anything I'm more humble because of this fact.

You would think that two failed marriages, financial failure and collapse, being fired from a job and having two children out of wedlock, in the same year, would humble anyone. Trust me when I say it did. My wife still likes to comment that I was, and can still be, a very "confident" man... I think she is being very kind when she makes those statements.

I think what she really wants to say is that you were an arrogant jerk. 

I agree.

Through all my failures and adversities the Lord was kind and gracious enough to show mercy upon me and share with me that I'm not capable having true success without Him in my life.

Again, I was humbled.

And through this humbleness I realize that the success that God wants to offer us is not necessarily worldly success. There is nothing wrong with worldly success, in fact it is great, but there has to be, and there is, more to life than the corner office, piles of money, nice cars and a big house(s). The success that a relationship with Jesus Christ can provide consists of joy, peace and contentment to name just a few.

And eternal salvation.

In the end, I've been shown that God truly has a "future and a hope" for me and that He will "neither leave me nor forsake me". I must say that is a very comforting and reassuring thought. And though I'm ridiculed from time to time for what I believe, I'm very thankful for those moments. They cause me to take pause and reflect on what I believe. Is this what I believe? Is this who I want to be?  Is this who I am?

The answer to all three of the questions is yes.

It was once said that it takes a wise man to suffer ignorance and smile, and while I don't claim to be wise I do smile a lot.

Finally, Socrates once said, "that life without self-examination is a life worth not living." Is your life worth living for? Do you know who you are? More importantly, do you know who you want to be?

sbb 26.12.10

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Child is Born

Immanuel: God is with us.

The three wise men...

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

"Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiance', being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. 

As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. 'Joseph, son of David,' the angel said, "do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All of this happened to fulfill the Lord's message through his prophet:

'Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).'

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus."
-Matthew 1:18-25


sbb  25.12.10

Friday, December 24, 2010

My First Son

Together: into or in one gathering, company, mass, place, or body: to call the people together.

This evening I found an entry into a journal that I was keeping in 1997. The entry was entitled "My First Son", the date was December 11, 1997 and it would be the last Christmas my second wife and I would ever share together again. It would also be the last time that I would spend Christmas Day with my son, Bryce. Bryce was two and Logan, my oldest son, was seven at the time.

It was the most difficult time of my life. 

Reading Logan's reply to a question I posed those many years ago still touches me deeply today.

My First Son
12.11.1997 - 12:30am 

On Saturday Logan and I spent the day together by ourselves. Austin decided at the last minute he didn't want to come because he was tired. The time was actually needed for Logan and me to spend some quality time together. Logan is emotionally intense and because of this it's important that I check in with him more often than maybe Austin. We went to my mom and dad's house for the day. Aunt Meredith also came by to see Logan.

That night Debi, Bryce, Logan and I went searching for a Christmas tree. It was cold and wet, but when all was said and done (trust me... there was more done than said...Debi and I really don't talk that much) we found an eight foot tree. The tree was perfect fit for the house. Debi did a wonderful job decorating the tree in gold trim. This was a special time, a very important time, because it was Bryce's first time Christmas tree shopping. Logan was so protective over Bryce and showed strong signs of pride over being Bryce's big brother. 

It is important to me for these boys, my boys, to have a strong bond with each other... even if they don't live under the same roof.

Sunday, on our way back to Springfield, I ask Logan if he could have one wish, one gift, what would he want; he replied that he wished his mom and dad lived together. I couldn't even respond... I'm sorry Logan.
-sbb * 1:48am

"To change your language you must change your life"
-Derek Walcott

Bryce, Logan & Reese
Christmas Eve 2010

sbb  24.12.10

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Our Son

 Son: a male child or person in relation to his parents.


Our little gift arrived while there was coldness in the air
Same month as the Holy One’s birthday,
This little child was sweet and soft without a care.

That blessed day tears were in every eye, all were pleased enough to pray,
Reminded by His holy word that there are many different paths one can take
Teach your child to choose the right way, and when they’re older they will not stray.

Time had passed and failure reared its ugly head
Anger, arguing and animosity filled every room,
Often leaving each party lonely; sleeping in different bed.

Our son, my son, your son
Given not only to me nor to you, but given to us
A heavenly gift provided by the Holy One.

We both caused much misery, both endured plenty of pain
To the man that much is given, much is required,
I failed as a husband; my way was selfish and insane.

Fifteen years later you’re vengeance is as strong as ever
Be careful to all who block her path,
All your ways and words are so cunning, so clever.
Separation is your goal, but our son is starting to understand the Heavenly Man
No holidays are spared in this agenda, only time spent with you,
Your evil tactics synonymous with a war battle plan.

Our son, my son, your son
Given not only to me nor to you, but given to us
A heavenly gift provided by the Holy One.

Maximum words are spoken to support your position
Too often enjoying the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought,
No thought is given to the caused destruction of your supposition.

The tongue is a powerful agent giving strength to untrue word
Lips spread gossip not gospel, only spoke to hurt, not mend,
Your actions childish and banal, your behavior absurd.

Sad you can’t see, sad you won’t let him be
Left alone to love you, to love me
Free to do what comes natural to a child is his only plea.

Our son, my son, your son
Given not only to me nor to you, but given to us
A heavenly gift provided by the Holy One.

Ignorance is to stand behind our anger; courage is to stand by our conviction,
Blood can boil, but it can’t be separated
Following your selfish way is your greatest addiction.

Not all are blind to your unfortunate and manipulative way
"Forgive and change her way dear God for she know not what she do"
Many times our son knelt and prayed.

Hoping his mother would give up her troubled and treacherous way
Never enjoying the anxiety that it produced
Often praying to see his father another day.

Our son, my son, your son
Given not only to me nor to you, but given to us
A heavenly gift provided by the Holy One.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the poison from the cure
All the signs are there for those who really want to see,
Your many desperate ways are all I know for sure.

Someday soon this boy, our son, will become a man
Following his earthly father’s advice to take his parents good out into the land
Leaving their bad behind in a garbage can.
Not wasting my breath on a fool for they often despise the wisest of advice
I carry on in silence; never to utter a word,
Only wanting someday to see a complete and happy man in our son Bryce

Our son, my son, your son
Given not only to me nor to you, but given to us
A heavenly gift provided by the Holy One.

Mother, Son & Father

"Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them."
-Oscar Wilde

sbb  23.12.10