Working on a Dream




Monday, September 28, 2015

The Black Dot

A friend sent the following story to me ...
One day a professor entered the classroom and asked his students to prepare for a surprise test. They waited anxiously at their desks for the test to begin. The professor handed out the question paper, with the text facing down as usual. Once he handed them all out, he asked his students to turn the page and begin. To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions….just a black dot in the center of the page. The professor seeing the expression on everyone’s face, told them the following:
I want you to write what you see there.”
The students confused, got started on the inexplicable task.
At the end of the class, the professor took all the answer papers and started reading each one of them aloud in front of all the students. All of them with no exceptions, described the black dot, trying to explain its position in the middle of the sheet, etc. etc. etc. After all had been read, the classroom silent, the professor began to explain:
Image result for the black dot

“I am not going to grade on you this, I just wanted to give you something to think about. No one wrote about the white part of the paper. Everyone focused on the black dot – and the same happens in our lives. We have a white paper to observe and enjoy, but we always focus on the dark spots. Our life is a gift given to us by God, with love and care, and we always have reasons to celebrate – nature renewing itself everyday, our friends around us, the job that provides our livelihood, the miracles we see everyday…….
However we insist on focusing only on the dark spots – the health issues that bother us, the lack of money, the complicated relationship with a family member, the disappointment with a friend etc.
The dark spots are very small compared to everything we have in our lives, but they are the ones that pollute our minds.
Take your eyes away from the black spots in your life. Enjoy each one of your blessings, each moment that life gives you.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Are you full of excuses?

No excuses, Sir!

In the fall of 1971, Bob McDonald joined the 
US military Academy at West Point, New York.  Bob learned quickly there are only four acceptable responses when addressed by a superior officer: yes sirno sirI don't understand sir, and no excuse sir.  

As Bob explains, imagine I shined my shoes, my trousers pressed, and I go out to formation.  While in line, one of my classmates rushes past and steps in a puddle, splashing mud all over my shoes and trousers.  Then an upperclassman walks by and notices. "McDonald, why are you in formation with mud all over your shoes and trousers?

As a West Point Cadet, I can go through all for possible answers in my head, "yes sir" would restate the obvious, "no sir" would not fit, and "I don't understand sir" would make me look senseless. The only answer I had left was the fourth one, and it's the most powerful one of all, "No excuse Sir."
Even though something happened to me that was outside my control, I wasn't supposed to make any excuses. I was supposed to say, "No excuse, Sir." "It won't happen again." That's how the West Point Cadet takes responsibility and forms character.

Speaking of government agencies, there was a great King in the Old Testament named David. David had his ups and downs as a leader, from slaying the giant Goliath to committing adultery with Bathsheba. However, something peculiar in his narrative connects to the story above. We pick up the story at the end of 2 Samuel after David takes a census (which he was directly told not to do). 

Here is the account recorded, "So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”

And there it is folks.

David was tired of looking out the window of his palace to find someone else to blame; instead he peered into the mirror and took personal responsibility. "No excuses, sir" was the great King's reply. This, I believe represented a real shift in David's life. No longer was he the man that was trying to squirm out of his wrongs, somewhere along the line he had developed broad shoulders of character and quit the blame game. Troubled actor Tom Sizemore had a similar realization too when he said, "I used to blame my problems on other people. But my moment of clarity, if you want to call it that, came when I was looking in the mirror one day and just burst into tears. It wasn't just that I looked bad, it was that I knew my problem was me."

Blame shifting will only get you so far, so quit shifting the monkey and take responsibility for your life.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The wooden bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson.

The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and ailing sight made eating difficult.

Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor.
When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. 'We must do something about father,' said the son. 'I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.' So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.

There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, 'What are you making?' Just as sweetly, the boy responded, 'Oh, I am making a little bowl ----- for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.'

"Honor your Father & your Mother"
Exodus 20:12

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Do you realize life while you live it?"

Thornton Wilder, in his play Our Town, tells the story of life as it is lived out in the mundane and amid the relationships of daily living. The details are specific but the lesson is like a mirror held out to all of us. We see the daily routine in all its monotony-the milk arrives, breakfast is eaten, working people go to their jobs, housewives tidy their homes, handymen work in the yards-each day reflecting the previous one. In the story the turning point came when Emily Gibbs died giving birth to her baby and the routine was suddenly broken.

But from the realm of the dead, Emily is given a chance to return to earth for a day of her choice as it was actually lived out, so she could enjoy it once again, this time through nostalgic eyes. She watches the harried activity and preparation that was going on in celebration of her twelfth birthday. As expected, on an occasion such as that the household is preoccupied with presents and food and chatter. The party buzzes with activity.

But from the sidelines Emily notices the complete loss of any personal attention that would make her day and life meaningful. The attention of everyone is on the occasion, not on the person and the relationships. She is appalled at such neglect. From the unseen, she pleads, "Just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another." But her plaintive cry is unheeded. They could not hear her because they are trapped by the superficial. The party must go on and the moments dissipate into activity. As she bids her final farewell, she cries, "Oh, Earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you!"

Then she turns to the stage manager, who has taken an active part in the play, and asks, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it-every, every moment?"

The answer comes, "No. The saints and poets, maybe-they do some."

"Do any realize life while they live it?"

Really, I want you to take a moment and ponder this question.  
Why is it that at the end of people's lives they all wish they had smiled more, worked less, and spent more quality time with those they loved the most? We wanted more engaging conversations, a lot less arguing and fighting over the trivial, and so many more hugs. 

We tend to buzz right through life, from one calendar appointment to the next -all the while missing the remarkable moments that fill our lives. If this article strikes a cord with you I will ask that you take it; post it in a place where you can see it every day.  

Because we all need reminders to, "realize life while we live it."  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I just need a minute to tell you something important.

You need to do something with your life.
If you are in a rut, get out.
Dig yourself out. 
Go ahead, get sweaty.
And don't look for a shoulder to cry on. At least not right now.
You just need to go to the garage, get a shovel and start breaking up some ground.

Now that you are actively engaged and are done with the excuses you can ask for help.
Be selective. 
Because the reason you are standing where you are right now could be because of the people you have been surrounding yourself with.
Remember, "Bad company corrupts good morals."

You are out of the rut.
Now you need a plan.
I'll give you a head start.
Remember those friends? The ones you had before that helped you get into that hole in the first place?
Ditch them completely.  Have a last hurrah with them; let them know about your new direction in life and wish them the best.  Now delete them from your cell phone, block their number and go about your day.
Next, start going to places where like-mind people gather.  The kind of people that have a positive outlook on life, live with a smile, find enjoyment in their work and family.  Look for people that have purpose.
Good, now start filling your mind with inspiring stuff.  The kind of information that takes your mind and shakes it up.  You need a new perspective on life and nothing -and I mean nothing- will give you a new one more than the people you spend your time with and the things you fill your brain with. 

For those that think that this should have been first, it actually is. This is just a reminder that you should be praying through this whole process.  The beginning. The middle. The end. 

I know you are scared. You are human. This is a daunting task and there are a lot of unknowns. Plato said, "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."  
My advice is do not be scared of the light.
Run to it. 
You never get lost when you run to The Light.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, 
"I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

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