Monday, May 26, 2014

How To Keep Your Memories From Making Your Miserable

Happy Memorial Day!

For most of us Memorial Day means two wonderful words: MONDAY OFF! For others it’s a day to gather folks around and fire up the grill. For still others it’s your chance to torture your family by watching every war movie in the history of film. (I enjoy all three actually). At it’s core, Memorial Day is the day set aside to stop and remember those who have given their lives in service to this country. Many people take this time to remember all of their loved ones who have died. Remembering is an essential component of healing, but there are ways to remember well, and ways of remembering that will do damage to us and impede the healing process. Here are some things to think about when you delve into your memories:

Don’t use your remembering to beat yourself up.

We have all said things or left things unsaid that we regret. We have all made bad decisions in the past. We have all let someone down. It’s possible to go back to those moments from our past and feel shame, humiliation, and guilt as strongly as if the event were happening today. The simple truth is: punishing yourself today won’t change yesterday. It’s important to remember in context, which means that of course you messed up, but so did the people you love. We all do. Odds are that you have forgiven those your love for their mistakes and bad decisions, maybe it’s time to forgive you as well. You must always remember with grace.

Don’t get stuck in your remembering.

Sometimes the pain of the past can be so deep that it’s hard to escape it. We think, re-think, and then think again about what happened last year and even last week. It's possible to live in such a way that our mistakes or the pain of our past is never far away from us. That way of living steals the joy and peace that are available to us today. The purpose of remembering is to allow us to live better today. Living in the past steals our today, and weakens our tomorrows. So, go back and remember, but then give energy to the people and choices around you today.  

I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day, and if today is filled with memories for you, I hope that you will allow them to help you live and love more fully today!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How Your Anger Can Change The World

We’ve all been there.

You are driving along minding your own business when a car, that has decided to wait until you are 20 yards away, pulls out into the road in front of you. The next thing you know, you are driving 15 mph behind a car for 7 miles with no place to pass him. If you are a praying person, you probably prayed something like this:

Dearest Lord, thank you for allowing me not to wreck into the driver in front of me. I feel sure that he didn’t see me when he pulled out, and I am grateful for the way this is teaching me the important virtue of patience. Please reward that driver with lottery winnings, the love of beautiful women, and the admiration and respect of like-minded men. Thanks again for this slow drive to start my morning.  Amen.

Yeah right! You’re prayer was probably more like this:

Ok, God, seriously! Did you see that? Of all mornings, why did you have to let this happen today?! What did I ever do to you?! (on second thought, please don’t answer that).  Please plague this man and his home with locusts, hail, and swarms of angry frogs. Make all of his shoes uncomfortable and all of his shirts untuckable. Create an awful smell in his car, that annoys him, but that he is never able to find and clean. Also, please erase my boss’ memory, since it is your fault that I am late anyway. Amen.

We have all had our anger get the best of us, causing us to do and say things that we later wish we hadn’t. We kick ourselves and make promises about controlling our anger better in the future.

But what if our anger isn’t the problem?

Anger is simply an emotion, and God created and gave us our emotions. They are an important part of a healthy life. Emotions add color and depth to life, and many times they are important indicators of what is going on around us and inside of us. Anger isn’t something to be avoided. You can’t just “not be angry”. It won’t work. Eventually your anger is going to come out. It may be explosive and loud, or sneaky and passive-aggressive, but your anger will eventually make it's way to the surface.

So, the challenge in dealing with our anger isn’t to find a way to avoid it, but to find places to wisely invest it. Your problem isn’t that you are angry, but that you are angry at the wrong things. If you choose to go to battle over the fact that someone got your order wrong in the drive-thru, then it's likely that you have become disconnected from the deeper instances of pain and injustice around you. Think about this, within a 5 mile radius of where you live: a wife is being physically abused by her husband, a child has no one to do homework with him or to play catch with in the backyard, a senior adult is lonely and depressed because no one comes to talk with her anymore. Allow you anger to be engaged by these things, by things that are bigger than your own life and personal comfort. Allow your anger to be stirred, and then take action out of that anger. Make a difference. Find a need and step in. Fight against the small and large injustices around you and in our world. When your anger is spent in the cause of justice and mercy, you will not need to vent as much during life’s aggravating moments. Please understand it’s ok to be angry during those aggravating moments in life, but you get to choose where to invest your anger and where to act! There's nothing wrong with getting angry, but as often as you can, funnel your anger into making a difference in the life of someone else!

I hope today finds you angry in all the good ways....

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Finds- May 16

Looking for a parenting plan that works every time? Good luck with that! This is a post every parent should read, print out, and re-read every month or so. Many thanks to Addie Zierman for a healthy dose of hope and realism.

If you love coffee and hate liver disease, this article will make you happy…

The Black Keys released their new album last week and you should be listening to it. Here’s their performance of “Fever” from the new album on the David Letterman Show:

Chris Thile got back into the studio with the Watkins siblings and the result is a new Nickel Creek album! It’s also well worth a listen:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why People Aren't Listening To You (and what you can do about it)

People aren’t listening to you.

…and it’s making you crazy!

Nothing is as frustrating as feeling that our words aren’t connecting with the people that we are sharing them with. Everyone wants to be heard, whether it’s a big thought or just a random conversation. Many times, however, the people you are trying to communicate with don’t seem to be listening. It feels like you are talking to a brick wall. You find yourself repeating things over and over and squirming around to try to establish eye contact with the person you are talking to. Eventually you get frustrated and either get loud or give up (neither option leads to great success). It’s possible that the person you are trying to talk to simply has no intention of hearing you.  But, it’s also possible that you are undermining your own efforts to communicate, making it difficult for people to hear or follow what you are saying. Here are two things you may be doing to cause people to tune you out:

You Aren’t Valuing Their Time.

There are times for long meandering chats, and there are times to get straight to the point. We live in a generation that gets assaulted by thousands of messages from thousands of sources every day. Print news sources know the value of people’s time (as well as how short their attention span is) and as a result they make sure to put the most important stuff right at the beginning of their articles. They lead with the main point and then share the most important facts. This way if someone stops reading half-way through the story, they will still have gotten the most important info. So, if you try to convey to  your boss that she isn’t being fair to you by starting with the words, “You know I had this great cat when I was eight years old…”, you may lose your boss’ attention long before you deliver your message. Start with your main message and then deliver the relevant facts. If your boss seems to have more time and interest, then you may talk about the cute way that your cat used to sneeze. People tend to value your words more when you value their time.

You Aren’t Valuing Your Message

It’s possible that you grew up around some not-so-great people, whether at home, in your neighborhood, or at your school. The treatment that you received from these people may have trained you to see yourself as insignificant, so when it comes time to speak up, you believe (somewhere deep down inside of you), that what you have to share is insignificant too. So, you mumble, look at your feet, or explain your message away before you even share it (“I know I’m not the smartest person here, but…”). The things you communicate are important because you are important, even when the people around you don’t acknowledge that. So, look people in the eye and share you message honestly and clearly. If the people around you still consistently choose to not value you or your words, you may need to find some new people to be around! Remember, if you don’t value your message no one else will either.

Monday, May 12, 2014

3 Ways To Crush Your Fear of the Unknown

Few things can derail our lives as quickly as fear of the unknown. Alfred Hitchcock made his living off of this type of fear. In Hitchcock’s movies, the villain or imminent danger is always off the screen where we can’t actually see it for as long as possible. That gives our imaginations time think of all sorts of horrible and terrifying things, which heightens the suspense we feel. This makes for a terrific movie experience, but in real life it’s not so enjoyable. The unknown dangers and unseen pitfalls that lurk ahead of us can create incredible stress and will often cause us to delay or miss out on great opportunities.  So, if fear of the unknown has caused you trouble in the past, here are a couple of thoughts that can get you back on track:

Make Friends With Failure

A great portion of your fear of the unknown comes from the fact that you think that not knowing something ahead of time will cause you to fail. You won’t have time to prepare or think it through and you’ll fall flat on your face. We have all been challenged we these types of thoughts. So, will you fail? Of course!  Everyone fails. Failure doesn’t have to define you, however.  In fact, your response to failures in your life will oftentimes lead to life’s biggest accomplishments. This means that failing at a task isn’t something to be feared but embraced. So, fail! Fail often and fail well. Just remember to get back up when you get knocked down, because another opportunity will be coming your way soon, and it may be the very one that leads to the success you desire.

Make What You Do Know Your Focus

There will always be lots of things that we can’t see ahead of time or predict in life. Most of the important decisions we make will involve some level of uncertainty. With that in mind, you can choose to allow all of the things you can’t foresee to stir around in your brain, cluttering your thoughts and freezing you into inaction, or you can focus on what you do know. In most major decisions you will know some details and most importantly you know what your goals and priorities are. When you make a decision based on your values and direction in life, you can feel good about your choice, even if it doesn’t work out.

Make A Move

When all is said and done there will always be the option to think about things some more (for the 314th time), or an option to act, and sometimes you need to turn your brain off and act. There is a point in every decision when further thought is only slowing down the process and crushing your confidence, in those moments it’s important to take action. I learned this lesson as a teenager, when friends and I would sneak off to jump off of a local bridge into the river. I’m not saying that jumping off the bridge was a great decision (I’m pretty sure now that it wasn’t!), but I know that the longer I stood on the bridge , looking at the water below, the more my fear began to take over. The only thing that could crush my fear was to jump. After the first jump, my brain was no longer locked down in fear, and I could have fun. The same is true of many major decisions. There comes a point when our continued thinking and processing is only adding to the fear we feel, at that point, you need to go with whatever decision you think best and move forward.  

These tasks aren’t easy, but they are fear-crushers, and nothing feels better than unloading 100 lbs. of fear off of your back! Good luck as you battle the unknown in your life this week!!! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Finds- May 9

Woo-Hoo!!!! It's Friday! Time to find something worth your time on the internet....

Just in time for Mother's Day! Kevin Durant's MVP acceptance speech was both humble and inspiring. The last two minutes were dedicated to his mom, who received a standing ovation after the talk.

Kevin Durant Accepts MVP Award

Travis Reed, over at The Work of the People creates amazing inspirational clips from some of today’s leading spiritual thinkers. Check out fellow UNC-Chapel Hill alum Erwin McManus as he talks about the importance of dreaming and taking risks:

All Sons and Daughters have released a new album. If you haven't listened to All Sons and Daughters, it's time you did! It’s hard to find music that is both thoughtful and beautiful, and this duo combines both. Check them out here:

One of the foremost voices in leadership today, Michael Hyatt, talks about leadership and labradoodles, and it's well worth your time:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Truly Great Pizza

It's been a while since I've had a food post on the blog, but this pizza has inspired me....

Pizza can be a tricky food. Most people eat pizza on a pretty regular basis, but finding really good pizza can be a challenge. When you do find truly good pizza, however, you realize that it was well worth the search. One such pizza place is Fresh Wood Fired Pizza and Pasta in Black Mountain, NC. It’s just a short drive off the interstate, but is tucked back far enough into Black Mountain to make you feel that you are getting away for a few minutes. When you pull up, you will sometimes find someone out back of the restaurant with axe in hand, chopping wood. That’s to feed the wood fired pizza oven inside, and whatever effort they expend with the chopping is well worth it. It’s hard to go wrong with a pizza selection, even with those that are slightly off the beaten path like the Alaskan which is bathed with a dill and caper cream sauce and smoked salmon (pictured above). My favorite is the Chica Bella which has a pesto base and is topped with spicy arugula and walnuts. Whatever you choose, make sure to drop in to Fresh Wood Fired Pizza and Pasta when you get the chance. You'll be glad you did!

Have insight on truly great pizza? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Drop you recommendations here or on Facebook! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sharpening The Saw

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
                                                           -Abraham Lincoln

Leadership and management expert, Stephen Covey has taken Lincoln’s quote one step further. He believes that one of the essential habits of successful people is their ability to “sharpen the saw”. By this he means taking care of the tools or resources that we most often use during our daily activities. It makes whatever task we are attempting easier and more efficient. In life, your most valuable resource is you. You are the tool you use to accomplish the various challenges that you are faced with in your day. Most people rarely stop to think about how to take care of themselves, which leads to less efficiency and greater frustration in life. Here are a couple of thoughts about how take care of your most valuable resource:

Get To Sleep
Sleep is often the first casualty in our quest to become more productive and successful. It’s so easy to stay up an extra hour to finish that assignment or to wake up 30 minutes early to get a head start on the house. We can get away with neglecting sleep for a while, but eventually and inevitably it catches up to us. Our thinking becomes hazy and our emotions become unpredictable. Before long our body begins to physically shut down as well. If you want to take care of you, protect your sleep!

Get Creative
For most of us, our daily jobs don’t provide a creative outlet. If that’s the case, it’s critical that you make time to engage the creative parts of your brain. Paint, play music, landscape your yard, write, or do whatever you enjoy doing that stimulates your creativity. Engaging our creative impulses adds color to our life and reduces our stress. If you are thinking that you don’t have time for creative pursuits, then you need this outlet even more than most!

Get Alone
Even if you are an outgoing person who loves to surround themselves with people, you need some time alone. Time away from all of the distractions of life allows us to see the world in new ways. On an average day our brain is assaulted with all sorts of stimuli. There are people that need our attention and deadlines that need to be met. Music is playing everywhere we go. Horns blow on the roads and babies cry at home. Taking a few minutes to escape gives our minds a chance to sort themselves out. We are often able to prioritize the events of our day better after a break, which decreases our stress and adds much needed clarity to our day. So whether it’s a walk down the street or locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes, find some space to be alone today!

I hope you take time today to “sharpen the saw”, you are much too valuable a resource to be ignored!

Stephen Covey talks at length about Sharpening The Saw in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Finds - May 2

In case the blue skies don't make it back this weekend, and you are looking for something worthwhile on the internet,  here are a few of things that interest me (and maybe you), collected in one handy place for your viewing/reading pleasure. Enjoy!

A timely reminder of the beauty of simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider:

Check in with Seth Godin (author of Linchpin and Tribes, among many others) as he explores what it means to get rich in our changing culture:

Also, if you need to have your spirits lifted a bit, here is a video of a hamster eating burritos. I think it's hypnotic because I can’t stop watching it…

And finally, just in case you’ve been staying up late in the hopes of getting a bit more done, here’s an article that states that you might be paying a bigger price for that extra bit than you realized….

Have a great weekend!!!!!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

3 Keys To Starting Your Day Well

Posted by Michael

1)Don’t waste today by being obsessed about tomorrow

This is the easiest way to squander your day. It’s so tempting to look ahead so that we can prepare, anticipate, or dread whatever is coming next. It’s not that looking ahead is a bad thing, we should take time to survey what is coming up on our schedule. We do that, however, in order to come back to today and make use of the minutes in front of us to think, prepare, and act. Today's moments are the only ones we have access to. We can’t get back yesterday, and we can’t scratch ahead to tomorrow, so today is the only wise place to invest the majority of our time and attention. So, slow down and be right where you are. Be present to the moment you have in front of you right now, without looking back with regret or grasping ahead for what’s next.  How many wonderful meals have you eaten but not noticed because your mind was 1000 miles away? How many times have your friends, spouse, or children had to repeat themselves because your thoughts were somewhere else? There is a world of enjoyment to be found in the here and now; the simplest meals, conversations, drives, and walks can be life-giving if we will only slow down enough to enjoy them.

2)Make eye contact.

Your day may seem like an endless list of tasks to accomplish, but those tasks are often attached to a person or group of people. Taking time to look at the people around us, helps us remember that we exist for relationship and not simply for task completion. A bit of relational connection may be just what you need in the midst of your hectic day, or it may be what someone else needs. Either way, making good eye contact with others is well worth the practice. (As an unapologetic introvert I can attest that it may indeed require a bit of practice…)


It’s amazing how much physical disciplines like making eye contact and smiling can affect how you experience your day. Smiling doesn’t mean that you are pretending that everything is ok. It’s more of a determination that you make to see whatever you encounter that day in a positive way. We typically do not have a great deal of control over the circumstances of our days, but we can control how we react to those circumstances. Remembering to smile not only helps you, but it creates a better environment around you. It seems silly to have to say it, but people really do enjoy being smiled at (even the ones who pretend they don’t!).  

The way we start our day often determines how much we enjoy our day. So, take a few extra minutes during your mornings this week, and give yourself the opportunity to start well. You’ll be glad you did!

I took the photo underneath a Japanese Maple at the home where I grew up. Like all things my mother touched, it grew beautifully.