Guardian Angel

A guardian angel:

  • Keeps you safe.
  • Works on your behalf.
  • Guides you.
  • Helps you through the hard times.

Your relationship to a guardian angel:

  • Show love and respect.
  • Trust in the protection.

Most likely, all of us at one point has been told we have a guardian angel. This protector keeps us from going down the wrong path. They watch over us in our sleep and ensures no evil befalls us.

Angel sent by God to guide me,

Be my light and walk beside me;

Be my guardian and protect me;

On the paths of life direct me.

catholicgallery.org

For a moment, consider your character. It:

  • Keeps you safe.
  • Works on your behalf.
  • Guides you.
  • Helps you through the hard times.

Your character is your protection against would-be enemies. If you love and respect it, if you nurture it, it will be an impenetrable bastion. But if you stain it, you will open the floodgates and be assailed from all directions. Such is the power of your character. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “A man’s character is his guardian divinity.”

Like a guardian angel, it will guide you, be your light and guide you; let it be your guardian and protect you; and on the paths of life direct you.


Feature photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

Humility, Fear, Riches, Honor, and Life

Humility

It is said that with pride comes the fall. I have been down that road and chances are, many of you have as well. Humility takes work. And if you are busy working on becoming a better person, when will you have the time for arrogance and conceit. Stay humble. Stay low to the ground. If you do have a fall, you will have a shorter distance to go, and it won’t hurt so bad.

The Fear of the Lord

The priest asked us to close our eyes, and then he asked a question. He said, “How many of you truly love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” I raised my hand. I could hear others raise their hands as well. We put our hands down and were told to open our eyes. Then another set of questions came:

  • How many thanked God this morning for another day?
  • How much time have you spent in prayer?
  • God gave us one book, how much time do you spend reading it?
  • Do you give your first fruits or just whatever you have left over?

We were told to close our eyes again and the same question was asked. “How many of you truly love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?” My hand didn’t go up. I don’t think I was alone.

Break down the commandments and we essentially have two: Love God and love your neighbor. Follow those two, and you are good on the original ten. When I think of loving God, I also think of fearing God. Do I really fear God? If I did, would I live like I do now, or would I live differently?

Riches, Honor, and Life

Pride equals a fall.

Sin equals death.

Humility and fear equal riches, honor, and life.

A proud man wants to flaunt his possessions and abilities. He wants the world to notice him. Most likely, he will live above his means. He will cause others to loathe him. Those he offends would love nothing more than to see his demise. They may even try to bring it about themselves.

Once again, humility takes work. It is the work that brings riches, honor, and life. This is Thomas Stanley’s Millionaire Next Door. This is the one that has much but doesn’t draw attention to himself. This is the one that stays low to the ground and does the work.

The results of humility and the fear of the Lord is riches, honor, and life.

Proverbs 22:4

Choosing Between Safe and Great

I work in a factory. I could easily put in another fifteen years until retirement. Along the way, my family would be provided for, and I could enjoy my 3-4 weeks a year of vacation. It is not a bad life and only costs me forty hours a week (not including lunch breaks and commute times). They don’t hand out gold watches or pensions anymore, but I should have enough to live on in the last ten years or so of my life (if I am lucky enough to make it that long). I would be known as an honest, hard-working man that put food on the table and clothes on our backs. That would be my legacy.

Many have chosen this way life. It is not a bad way. If anything, it is a safe way. But if last year taught me anything, the safe way is not always as reliable as it is made out to be. Last year, the factory shut down for about six weeks. This was a better situation than many whose jobs went away completely. If my factory would have went down for a longer period or shut its doors forever, what would I have done? What if, like what we have seen over the last few weeks of weather in the United States, we had unforeseen natural disasters that we could not recover from? The safe way would be gone.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about Einstein. Was Einstein playing it safe by working in a patent office? If he went back to the family business, something that his family wanted him to do, would that have been playing it safe? Imagine if he stayed safe and never gave humanity the gift of his mind. As Harry Gray once said, “No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe.”

My family, with good reason, wants me to play it safe. This is understandable. I am their security, their shelter, and their sustenance. If I leave the confines of safety, I put their welfare in jeopardy. The cautious person would state that it is too great a risk to venture into the unknown. But the unknown is my moon. How can I get to the moon if I am afraid to leave the earth? How can I find my New World if I live on a flat earth afraid to leave the Old?

A friend that I work with told me about a meme floating around. It said, “The hardest part of making $700k a year is leaving your $70k a year job.” There is a lot of truth in this. The unknown holds both success and failure. The known is only more of the same with maybe a 2-3% raise a year.

Thinking about money, wouldn’t more of it be nice? The company I work for makes a tremendous amount of money. They pay me so that they can make more. Will the world be a better place because of this work I do? I don’t think so. But the things I am working on, the things I want to do, could make the world a better place. Even if I made less money, making the world a better place would be worth it. So, the money as nice as making more of it would be, is not nearly as important as doing something that adds value to the lives of others. That is a legacy far beyond my own current sphere of influence.

What would I tell my son? Take the safe way and live an ordinary life free of risk? That is not what we usually tell our children. Instead, we tell them they can be anything they want to be. They can do anything they set their minds on. Is this only a fantasy we tell our children? Do we grow up and grow out of this belief that the sky is the limit? I hope not.

Feature photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash. What an awesome message in this photo: If not now when, if not you who.

Present and Accounted For

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with some old friends from the Army. It was a great time remembering old stories and hearing how they are doing in life.

During one of our talks, I had a mini revelation. This was one of the few times I was fully present in the moment. When someone was talking, I was completely immersed in the story. I was interested in what the other person was saying without the desire to interrupt the flow. There were no thoughts of what I was going to say next. In fact, there was no thoughts of the past or the future. I was completely in the present.

Being present is one of the great challenges of my life. There is so much going on in my head, all the time. But letting go of this unnecessary “stuff,” I found myself in a state of bliss. I was free of worry and anxiety. As I thought about this experience, I realized that this state of being is where I need to be more often. How much better would I be? How much more will my family, friends, and coworkers appreciate an attentive person to talk to?

How did I do it?

First, I put my phone in airplane mode and set it down in another room. Without this perpetual distraction, I was more engaged with the others.

Next, I became genuinely interested in the others. This was easy. These were old friends I wanted to spend time with. But what if this was someone else? Would I have been able to do it? I’m not sure, but I do know one thing. My friends, just like anybody else, were talking about things that were important to them. Knowing that it was deemed important for them to share, I felt it was important for me to listen. People want to share with others what they believe is important or at least relevant to the conversation. By listening to them, we can listen to a different perspective. Fully present, we can see the world through the lens of their eyes. This is a chance many miss when they only concentrate on what they are going to say next. I have missed that chance too many times in my life. I hope the experience from last weekend is a turning point in my attentiveness to others.


Feature photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

The Blessing of No

A young Albert clocked in and sat at his desk. A stack of paperwork was waiting for him. For the other clerks in the office, it was a full day’s worth of work. For Albert, he could be finished in about two hours. It was an easy job, almost too easy. He didn’t mind it there. At the least, it paid the bills.

Last week, he was pegged for a promotion. The promotion came with a considerable raise in money. He could use the money. He could spend it on his girlfriend. He could send some of it back home to keep the family business running. He remembered one of his mottos: Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value. Climbing up the corporate ladder was success in the eyes of others. But for him, that was not the person he wanted to be.

Yes, the money would have been nice, but moving up also came with a serious drawback. His two hours of daily work that he crammed into an eight-hour shift would be traded for 10-12 hours of actual work. His stress levels would increase, and he would have neither the time nor the energy for his thought experiments. Those thought experiments were the most important part of Albert’s day. It was where he could dream about time and space and the speed of light. It was where Albert Einstein could develop his theories.


The last I checked, I am no Einstein, but let me share with you a little story…

A few months ago, I was approached about a promotion opportunity. I thought about it and went ahead with the process. I had my reservations about it, but it would pay more money and offer better benefits.

But there would be some drawbacks about the position as well. I would have to work more hours, and they would be at night. I would have more stress. I would have less time and energy for my own thought experiments. On top of it all, I would have to stop coaching my son’s parkour class, a class that I love to teach. The cost of making more money and having more benefits was a hefty one. I considered it and believed I could make it work. I proceeded with the process. Once again, I am no Einstein.

Through the process I went until I came to the last assessment. It was a half-day ordeal that took the other half of the day to decompress from. When the smoke cleared and I received the results, the answer was to try again next year.

The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.

Zig Ziglar

I did my best and didn’t make the cut. It was a no, a big, fat, blessing in disguise. I know my path, and I tried to deviate from it. I almost made it, but the universe put a stop to it. I almost traded what I wanted most for something not nearly as important. Unlike Einstein, I did not have the discipline to see it through. Hopefully, this lesson will not be lost on me.


Feature photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Better than When We Found It

It might have been a mess when we got here. It certainly was far from perfect. What will it look like when we leave?

How will the impact of your presence affect:

  • The lives of those around us
  • Our community
  • Where we work
  • The world

We can’t expect to walk into a good place, but we can make it better than when we found it. We can’t expect others to do it, but we are not accountable for their actions. We are only accountable for our own.

We are here on earth to good to others. What the others are here for, I do not know.

Matthew Arnold

Feature photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

“It’s Monday”

One Take from the Week #6: It’s Monday

I know. Today is Saturday. But for a moment, let us talk about Monday.

I passed by a coworker last week. I asked him how it was going. He looked at me, grimaced, and shrugged his shoulders. “It’s Monday,” he said. Yep, I thought. It was Monday.

3,640

That is how many Mondays you will see in your life if you live seventy years. Granted, most of these you will not remember. Even the ones that came in the current year have already been forgotten. Monday. It is a day like no other. It is the beginning of the week. But for some reason, it is the one most dreaded.

It is viewed as a curse, but shouldn’t it be a blessing. You get to start a new week. For many, there are no more Mondays in their life.

A misfortune or an opportunity. This is all paradigm. You can view your Monday as something you are forced to endure or as a chance to get the week rolling in a positive way.

If you are dreading Monday, you should ask yourself why. Why is your Monday bad? Identify the reasons and see if there is a way to change them. You are going to see this day thousands of times. Is that a thousand times of dread because that would truly be depressing. Instead, make it thousands of blessings, thousands of opportunities. Life is too short to allow over 14% of it to be a “dreaded” Monday.

Something Did Happen

I was walking up the stairs to my office. About halfway up, my toe hit the edge of the step. My hands shot out to grab the rails. Just in time. If I would have missed, I would have gone tumbling down the metal stairs and onto the factory floor.

Once I gathered myself and regained my balance, I did the usual “every time I stumble” move. I took the dreaded look around to see if anybody was watching. After the all-clear, I resumed my ascent up the steps and acted as if nothing had happened.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

Winston Churchill

There are times I get stuck in my belief systems. The things I was told were true, I accepted. I didn’t do the research or ask the right questions. When I read or heard something contrary to my “supposed” truths, I would dismiss it as fake or too far-fetched. Occasionally, I would stumble on something that really challenged my beliefs, something not as easily dismissed. And when this happened, which lately has occurred more than a few times, I am faced with a choice. Do I, like stumbling on the stairs, move on as if nothing happened? Or do I pause and wonder? What was it that caused me to stumble? Is there a truth here that I need to discover? Do I need to do some research and evaluate those findings?

There is no doubt that I have many preconceived biases. When I see the error of one, I have a decision to make. What will I do? And the same goes for you when you cross the threshold that brings uncertainty to your belief systems, you must decide what you will do.


Feature photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Pud to Stud

In the gym, if you try to look like a stud when you are not, you will embarrass yourself. You will either get hurt or look foolish. Maybe, even both. The best thing you can do is stick to the basics, overload your muscles in a slow and progressive way, and develop your strength through consistent practice.

Isn’t this the way to go in any endeavor we choose to pursue?

Imagine a soldier on the battlefield. Before ever seeing the battlefield, that soldier spent hundreds of hours in training. He did the work to perfect his skills on an individual and a team level. Before gaining competency, the soldier had to start out as a new recruit.

Studs in the workplace? It is the same concept. Knowledge must be acquired. Proficiency must be demonstrated.  Trying to be something you are not would damage your reputation and put you on the slow track to advancement.

If you want to be a stud later, you have to be a pud now.

Christopher Sommer, former U.S. national team gymnastics coach and founder of Gymnasticbodies

There is nothing wrong with starting out at the bottom. You won’t be there forever. As you refine your skills and grow in experience, you can rise to the top. You could be the stud that others look up to and depend on.

Alec practicing at the gym. Three hours at the gym a week. Constant work at home.

The Summer Within

After work, I enjoyed my walk to the car. It was in the upper forties and partly cloudy. Not bad for a winter’s day. On my way home, I called my little brother in Oklahoma. It didn’t take long before we started talking about the weather. He said it was cold, real cold. The high temperatures were in the single digits with a hope of getting above that sometime in the next week. The forecast for the night called for 12-16 inches of snow. This was the conservative projection as most of the models called for much more. Ouch!

In the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter. In parts of North America, it is the coldest it has been in decades. The winter is cold. It is dark. Life slows down, and in some instances, comes to a standstill. The winter doesn’t offer us much hope. Our only hope is that it will pass.

For many, the winter came in the Spring of last year (2020). A virus came and forced us into isolation. The economy slowed down, in some cases, it came to a standstill. Just like a seasonal winter, we huddled indoors separated from the ones we loved. We looked out our windows, waiting for the day we could finally reemerge from our hibernation. Some of us are still waiting.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

In the depth of winter, some were able to thrive. They realized that life must still go on even in this time of darkness. And no matter how cold it got, no matter how isolated they were, there was still an incredible warmth within them. When others lost hope, they forged ahead.

Winter comes and winter goes. Eventually, even the worst winters will past. We can all find the invincible summer within us. We can cultivate the heat and the force that gives life to us and those around us.

Feature photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash