Two of my greatest passions are eating and talking. I am at the top of my game when the two are combined. If you want to see me happy, I mean really happy, give me good food and great company. Last night was one of those times. My wife, Julie, and I hosted dinner for two of our friends, Jennifer and her daughter, Alexis. It was an epic event. I’m not certain they would describe it as ‘epic,’ but it rated high in my book. Julie created this great dish of homemade Chili-Mac and I got to dish out some of my best conversation. I didn’t necessarily wow the group, and I had to fight my children, Caleb and Rachel, for attention, but I was on cloud 9. The conversation was great; we talked about Apple
, the new Kindle Fire
, and Unity Christian School
where Julie works and the kids go to school. We discussed how Unity
sells gift cards and by purchasing them, you help support the school. We also conversed about ways we could market the gift cards to the local community. (Yes, writing about it in my blog was one of the ideas.)
That is when things changed. I suddenly found myself marketing my blog as we were discussing using my blog to market the gift cards that Unity sells. Do you follow me? I was with friends but using the opportunity to market my blog. I felt like my own personal Amway. ‘Thank you for coming to dinner tonight; by the way, did you know you can buy the world’s best soap and dishwashing detergent from the same company? Also, did you know you can become a millionaire overnight by just attending one session with me?’ Instead, I was saying, ‘While you are here, have you been reading my blog?’ When did my focus for my blog become more about how many people read it and less about doing something I love? Honestly, I am delighted that anyone really cares enough to read the words I write. When it becomes more about the number of people reading it than the content, however, I am selling myself short.
We often market ourselves, hoping that people will see us for someone we want to be instead of who we really are. Why do we do this? Are we so ashamed of our true identities that we try to hide them from our closest friends? I don’t really know the answer. I know that I don’t want everyone to know every thought that goes through my mind or everything I do. I like to look like I am perfect and have all the answers. The truth is I am neither of those things. I make mistakes. I say, think and do things I shouldn’t. I often don’t do the things I should. I’m good at bragging about what I do right though. I am good about marketing myself. Recently, I have been focusing on being honest with some of my closest friends. I want them to know what challenges I face, and I truly care about what they are up against. When we start to share who we really are, we find out who our real friends are. They won’t rip you apart; they will listen. They may, at times, offer loving and difficult counsel, but they won’t tear you to shreds. Often, they will reciprocate by opening up to you as well. Living life together is what life is about anyway, right? Thankfully, I do have friends who care about me for who I am. I hope you do as well. Also, I know that I serve a God who loves me for who I am and encourages me to become a better example to others. God is my biggest cheerleader and for that I am very grateful.
I do want to make one thing clear. I do hope you read my blogs and that you enjoy them enough to tell your friends about them. I hope what I write inspires you in some way and helps make your day just a little brighter. This blog is about more than me living out my dreams; it’s about me helping you succeed in yours as well. Thanks for reading. - Tim
Do you ever feel like you are marketing yourself?
‘Subway, Eat Fresh.’ I spent 4.5 hours in the ‘Eat Fresh’ zone last Friday. Friday is my day off from my day job. I have been scheduling it as my writing day, but when home I usually work on some project instead. I can’t be at home without feeling this foreboding desire to complete a project. For that reason I decided to head to Subway in Marion, IL. “Why Subway and not Barnes & Noble or Starbucks?” you ask. I really like Subway and I can eat breakfast and get a soda for $3.00, so that was where I decided to go. Also, where else can you go and smell like toasted Parmesan bread, garlic and onions for the rest of the day? I arrived there at 10:30 and ordered an egg & cheese flatbread sandwich and a coke. I ate breakfast and started writing. As I wrote, people came and left. Some stared, others pretending like there wasn’t a guy with two computers sitting inside Subway. By the time I reached a stopping point, I looked at my watch and realized it was 3:00.”Wow, I spent the day in a restaurant and didn’t eat lunch,” I thought to myself. I closed up my computers and disembarked.
Writing is something I enjoy; it is a passion to which I am willing to devote time. When I write, I am investing in myself. As I stated on Thursday, we often are no good at helping other people because we don’t even know how to help ourselves. Many people have no idea how to invest in themselves. When you fly on an airliner, they inform you that if the oxygen masks come down, first put on your oxygen mask before assisting anyone else. The reason for this is you will not be able to help anyone else if you run out of oxygen. We must take care of ourselves before we can adequately take care of others. Here is a list of some ways I think we can better develop ourselves.
Schedule Me Time and Family Time: We often neglect ourselves. We become so entangled in appointments and schedules that we forget to take time to breathe. In doing so, we abandon ourselves and our families. It is imperative that we schedule time to rejuvenate. You may need a spa day, to go shopping, to work on your car or to just take a nap. The point is, you need some time to yourself. In addition, you need to schedule time with family. Your family is important to your personal health. Make memories together. Don’t let your schedule take the place of your family.
Take Time to Veg: Sometimes, we don’t feel like writing, shopping or working on the car. Sometimes we don’t feel like doing anything. I have personally experienced burnout. It’s not fun. When you burn out, you can get physically sick. Your emotions are broken and you veer in and out of depression. When you get to this point, relaxing is not enough, you have a long road to recovery. Often, just taking time to ‘veg’ and do nothing productive can help you keep from exhausting yourself. This doesn’t mean you should waste all your free time by watching television or playing video games, but I think it is good to have unproductive time on occasion. The best place for me to vegetate is on the beach, it’s too bad I don’t live near one.
Take Time to Grow: You can’t truly invest in yourself without investing in yourself. We all need to take time to grow. For me, I grow by reading. Reading stretches my mind and causes me to think. It is the building blocks from which I grow. Find something that will stretch you. It may be taking a craft class, volunteering time at a local charity, or attending a conference.
Replenish Yourself: I enjoy writing. I know that sounds like torture to some of you, but it is therapeutic for me. It is a way I am able to express myself. I also enjoy acting and public speaking. I look for opportunities to do these things because they make me feel good. They are rejuvenating for me. Make sure you take time to do things you enjoy like playing golf, hunting, fishing, camping, singing, etc. This may or may not be a part of your profession, but if it something you enjoy doing, invest time into it.
Rediscover Yourself: Writing is something I used to enjoy doing, but forgot about for several years. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I rediscovered my passion. There may be a hidden or forgotten passion lying in you, waiting to be discovered. Take time to listen to yourself. What do you enjoy doing? What is something you can do with little effort? These may provide clues to your hidden passion. Take time to reconnect with those latent talents and you may find new pleasure in life.
Reconnect with Others: Mountain men are weird. I’m not talking people who enjoy hiking, but the guy who lives on top of the mountain all by himself. When you lack human interaction, you get really weird. We need relationships, we need community. Sometimes we forget how important community is for our own personal growth. We forget how important friendships are until we realize we have no friends. I am not just a guy who writes in solace in Subway. I am someone who values his family and friends. Friendship is very important; it is one of the most important things we can do to benefit ourselves. I value my friends and I know they value me. We help each other through the good times and the bad.
Shut off your phone: Phones seem to rule our lives today. Everything is tied to our phone. People are on them all the time. You even see people constantly texting while on vacation. It is my theory that in the near future, we will have phone therapy. We need time to connect with people, not machines. Turn it off for a day every now and then and just see how much you can notice around you.
Take care of yourself so you can take care of others, even if that means sitting in Subway for 4.5 hours. - Tim
I know this thought may have crossed your mind, “Stratosphere Networking? Maybe you should call it Social Responsibility
Networking.” That may not be the exact phrase, but if you have been an avid reader of my blogs, you probably noticed a recurring theme. I have spoken much lately on social responsibility. I’ve talked about donating money to Marion Medical Mission
to aid people who currently don’t have access to clean drinking water and I have talked about buying TOMS
to help children who don’t have shoes. Furthermore, I have discussed how I think Christians
should focus more on helping people and less on debating them. In my blog about September 11th
, I addressed that we need to once again be unified and broached a similar subject in my blog about dinner with the president
. I admit it; social responsibility is a common theme in my blogs. That’s not a bad thing. I honestly believe that if we treat others as we treat ourselves, this world will be a better place. Recently, however, I realized I haven’t addressed an important subject. I guess you could say I had an epiphany. How can we treat others like ourselves when we don’t even know how to treat ourselves?
I talked about how much our culture has changed over the past few years in my blog about smart phones
, but really did not address how it has changed how we treat ourselves. We are rushed all the time and we spend very little time alone. The definition for alone
has changed dramatically. At one time, it meant you were all by yourself and had no contact with another person. Now, that rarely exists. If we happen to be alone, we still have some form of communication device on hand. We may be by ourselves and still texting 15 different friends or updating 1,000 people on Facebook or Twitter. We are almost never alone anymore. The thing is we need alone time to be able to rejuvenate. We exhaust all of our physical, mental and emotional resources but never take time to replenish them. I know this sounds oxymoronic, but this actually contributes to a selfish society. Because we no longer have a scheduled ‘me time,’ we try to refill ourselves by taking any time we can. Furthermore, we begin to feel sorry for ourselves because we are always exhausted and behind. We begin to reason that we are entitled to time for ourselves and resent everything and everyone who stands in its way. We are ultimately responsible for neglecting ourselves, but we start blaming everyone else for our predicament. Then someone like me comes along and tells you to treat others as you treat yourself, but you don’t really treat yourself very well. It’s a slippery slope. We need time for ourselves; really we do, but it shouldn't be at the expense of helping others.
I have so much information that I need to write two blogs on this subject. Here’s the thing, my blogs are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since this is a Thursday blog, you will be left hanging all weekend. I know that doesn’t sound socially responsible, but I need to cover this in detail. As an apology, I am going to write you some bullet points for Tuesday’s blog. This way I won’t be leaving you depressed all weekend. On Tuesday, I will address how we can do a better job of treating ourselves well. Here are a few topics we will discuss:
· Schedule Me Time
and Family Time
· Take time to veg
· Take time to grow
· Replenish yourself
· Rediscover yourself
· Reconnect with others
· Shut off your phone (had to add that in)
For more details, please read my upcoming Tuesday blog: Epiphany: Part 2
Not too long ago, I entered a writing contest. The winner would have an automatic contract with a publisher to have any of their work published. I looked at the last year’s winner. Honestly, it was a poorly written story. I wasn’t sure what was up, but I thought, ‘wow, this will be an easy contest to win,’ so I sat and wrote an adequate story. When I say adequate, I mean pretty pathetic; I put more thought into all of my blogs than I did that one entry. The story was that well versed but I still thought it was much better than the previous year’s winner. To make a long story short, I did not win. Some people submitted brilliant prose and one of them won. I was quite impressed with the winner’s story. I’m not sure why the previous year’s winner was so bad, but the game had definitely changed. I prepared to compete in Pee Wee baseball but was actually in the Major League.
Imagine watching a hurdle competition. Everyone is racing and jumping high into the air, barely clearing the hurdles. Everyone except one contender, that is. He is clearing the hurdles with ease. He is high above each of his hurdles, but still is not jumping as high as everyone else. He set his bar low. It’s just a couple inches off the ground. When the competition is over, he is shocked to find out he was disqualified from the race. It seems there are requirements for how high the bar is to be set and his was too low. Sometimes in life we set the bar too low. We try to do just enough and like the hurdler are surprised when we fail. We shouldn’t be because we set ourselves up for failure, but somehow we convince ourselves that mediocre is good enough. That is not how we should lead life. We need to always compete and do our best.
Can you imagine if Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell or Bill Gates decided they were going to do enough to just get by? You probably wouldn’t be reading this blog on an iPhone if they had. What if Beethoven decided to set the bar low? People who succeed do so because they learn the fact that discipline breeds success and a lack of discipline breeds failure. When you set the bar low, about the only thing you can succeed at is failure. If your goal is to always fail, by all means, set the bar low and you will never let yourself down. Is that an oxymoron? I digress… Anyway, I could fill page after page with names of people who benefitted society because they decided to give their best. They were dedicated to the task at hand and disciplined themselves to achieve their goals. Because of their discipline and high standards, they attained success. They changed the world. What are you doing right now? Do you have the bar set low or are you making investments that will outlive you? You just might be able to change the world around you if you set the bar high enough. Don’t make my mistake because I could have won that contest if I had given my best work, but instead I decided mediocre was good enough. Today, make a decision to do your best and live a life of success. Have a great day. - Tim
The picture above is not touched up. It’s a real screen shot from my email. If you look at the bottom message, you will see it is addressed from President Barack Obama and says, “Timothy, can we meet for dinner?” Whether or not you agree with the president, an invitation to dinner can be pretty exciting. I try to stay away from politics in my blog, but I do want to make a couple things clear: I did not vote for President Obama and, honestly, I do not agree with many of his policies. Furthermore, I am not pleased with the job he has done over the past three years… With that said, I would love to sit with him and have dinner.
Why did I even get this email? I have maintained correspondence with Barack Obama since he was a senator from Illinois. We emailed back and forth concerning our opinions on different policies. Although I voted for John McCain, I sent President Obama a letter in 2008 congratulating him on winning the election. I also informed him I would be praying for him. In so doing, someone in his office assumed I was a supporter and community organizer for his campaign (despite my making it clear I was not). Ever since that day, I have been on the president’s mailing list, the White House mailing list and even get a message from Michelle from time to time. I have written responses to some of those letters and have often voiced opposition. Surprisingly, I continue to get the letters.
Here’s the thing; the email is slightly misleading. This particular letter is not asking me to dinner like it sounds. It is asking me to support the president’s re-election by donating a minimum of $5.00 to his campaign. Of those who donate, four will be chosen to have dinner with the president. It’s essentially a sweepstakes. You can even enter without making a donation if you choose. Check out this link: http://www.barackobama.com/page/dinner-with-barack-sept-rules
If the president really asked me to dinner, I would accept. I may disagree with him on several things, but that does not mean that I do not respect the office. Furthermore, just because I disagree with President Obama on several key issues, I do not hate him or wish ill of him. As a matter of fact, I really hope he has great wisdom when making decisions and pray that he and his family are protected from danger and able to spend time with each other. You see, we often forget the human side of people. We disagree on one issue or another and we imagine them to be some type of beast. We forget they are just people who happen to see things differently. I honestly believe my viewpoint is correct and that the president has made some wrong decisions, but that doesn’t mean that I think he is a bad person. It means that he and I disagree. I am passionate about my ethics and will stand to defend them, but there is a peaceful and loving way to do so. I can agree to disagree and do it with civility. I hope we all can get to a point that we are willing to reach out to other people despite our differences. I long to see the day we take time to listen to one another. That does not mean sacrificing our values; it just means we will choose to love our neighbors as ourselves. By the way, I would be honored to have dinner with the President of the United States of America if the opportunity ever arises – hint, hint. - Tim
I have a problem with certain sects of Christianity. The truth is, I find certain actions by many Christians as harmful. Here are some reasons why I feel this way:
1. Christianity has become a label
2. Much of modern Christianity has very little to do with the message of Jesus Christ
3. Many Christians can be jerks.
If you look at the early Christian church, they referred more to Jesus Christ and less to themselves. It was the Romans that called them Christianos from which we get ‘Christians’ or followers of Christ. Early disciples referred to themselves as hodos or ‘The Way’ which could have been a reference to Christ’s words in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is nothing wrong with being called a follower of Christ, however, today the label focuses more on an organization than it does on God. People who fall under the label of Christianity are often viewed in a very negative light by the rest of the world. That’s because much of the organization has become focused on building itself instead of fulfilling the ministry of Jesus Christ. What happened to taking care of the widows and orphans, helping the sick to heal, and loving others? It seems much of organized Christianity tears people down rather than building them up and focuses more on fulfilling self serving desires than God’s desires.
I used to be a jerk. To be honest, I still am sometimes. Here is the thing: As a Christian, I decided it was my job to become an eye splinter remover. (If you don’t understand my statement, you can look it up in Matthew 7 or Luke 6 in the Bible). If you ever referred to the 2X12 sticking out of my eye, however, I would tell you that it did not exist. Many Christians are jerks. We love to point out other’s faults or sins, but we hate it when ours are pointed out. We spend way too much time worrying and complaining about how poorly other Christians follow the Bible when we often don’t even know what it says. That is not what I see Jesus Christ doing. I don’t see him hanging with the Biblical scholars and telling everyone how bad they are. Instead, he spent time talking and eating with hookers, tax collectors and other people of questionable character. It was the religious people that he did not get along with; it was the people who looked down on everyone else that Jesus spoke forcefully to. I am sick of being a jerk. It’s my job to love people as Christ loves them; to forgive them and help them when they are in need instead of telling them how bad they are. I do concede that helping people does mean that I should lovingly approach other Christians and challenge them to grow and it also means that I am willing to accept the same counsel from others when I am in the wrong. As Christians, we are supposed to love God and others. I should not spew hatred at people who act and believe differently, that is the opposite of love. Jesus reached out in love and so should we. Christians should be a beacon of light the rest of the world because God’s love dwells in us. If I am going to be a follower of Christ, I want to do it for real. – Tim (a proponent of The Way)
September 11, 2001. Wow, it’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since that tragedy. I have been reflecting on that day and the days that followed. I remember the horror I felt as I realized New York was under attack as the World Trade Center turned into rumble, taking human lives. I also remember how we came together as a nation and picked up the pieces. We held on tighter to each other. There was resurgence in American patriotism. It became hard to buy an American flag because the stores were sold out. It seemed an American flag magnet was on just about every car on the road. You could not drive 10 feet without seeing a flag somewhere. Politicians even came together and worked through their differences. There was a drastic change in this country. For the first time in my life, we all seemed to care about our nation and our fellow Americans. Furthermore, we cast aside our differences and prayed together as a nation. We didn’t worry about whether or not it was politically correct to pray, we just did it.
10 years have passed and everything has changed again. Try spotting an American flag on anything other than a government building. I am not pointing fingers, I no longer have a flag in my yard (I moved… yeah that’s my excuse) and I no longer have an American flag magnet on my car. The flags are gone. Even sadder, we seemed to lose the compassion we had for one another. I don’t see nearly as many acts of kindness as I did in the latter part of 2001. The government is definitely not reaching across the aisle. If anything, we are more divided now than we were before September 11, 2001. I don’t remember ever seeing the government as polarized as it is right now. We have a president who refuses to work with Congress and demands they work with him and a congress that refuses to work with the President and demands he works with them. Also, it is no longer politically correct to come together and pray for our nation. We have become lost in rhetoric all over again. Instead of uniting, we are clanging our cymbals loudly. We have divided into subgroups and each group has become entrenched. We are all yelling so loudly that no one can hear what everyone else is saying.
We need to change. We need to become united. This is the United States of America, isn’t it? Here’s a thought; this September 11th, get a flag and put it in your yard or on your car. Help out a neighbor or friend. Hug your family. Look past your differences and spend time with others – get to know who they are and take time to listen to them. Finally, pray for our country and that our leadership will come together to do what is best for the people of this great nation. God bless America.
I’m really not into reality TV. I guess I have enough ‘reality’ in my own life that I don’t need to watch someone else’s. Apparently, there is a television show called Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I’m not sure what channel it comes on but I would guess E! Here is what I know, it’s about a family of rich women and focuses on a snapshot of their lives. I think one of them either has or is getting married. I have never watched the show and really don’t know any more about it than what I just stated. I will make a guess, however. I am guessing, it focuses on how messed up the family is. I imagine they are spoiled and rich and their lives are messed up. Why do I think this? Because that is reality TV. From Survivor to Teen Mom, reality shows focus on people’s flaws. Yes American Idol and Dancing with the Stars so too. It’s the mistakes that get all the attention.
Have you noticed how obsessed we are with flaws in other people? The reason I think reality TV has flourished over the last several years is because we really enjoy seeing flaws in other people. Our culture seemingly demands perfection. We try to be perfect at work, perfect with our families and perfect when out in society. We are not perfect, though. We all have areas we need to work on, but we don’t want everyone else to know it. We are afraid we will not be accepted if someone sees our flaws. Instead, we love to see other people mess up. Honestly, it’s a little twisted.
The true reality is that none of us are perfect. We all have flaws. If you are reading this and thinking it doesn’t apply to you because you have it all together, you’re wrong. Just that thought proves my point. We all mess up and every single one of us has areas we need to work on.
We are afraid to let others in. I think we are afraid they will not accept us or love us if they see how flawed we really are. This is a messed up view of love though. Many of us forget that patience is a strong attribute of love. If you don’t believe me look it up. Pull out a bible or find one online and read it. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. Some versions say ‘love never fails.’ Think about it; if a couple has no patience, they will not stay together. Sooner or later their relationship will demand patience and kindness to be given to each other. Anyone who has ever parented a child knows that patience is definitely an attribute of love. We should be offering love to one another. We should be able to see past each other’s faults and see the person within. I think if we started viewing each other differently and began helping each other work through those flaws, the world would be a better place. Maybe we need to keep up with each other instead of the Kardashians. -Tim
We Hold the World in the Palms of our Hands - or at least we think we do.
When I was a kid I loved robots. I thought they were the coolest things since refrigerators. My favorite character in Star Wars was a droid known as R2D2. If a movie included a robot, I wanted to watch it. I just imagined what a world with robots would be like. Trash cans scurrying around and beeping and us somehow understanding what the beeps meant. Now we live in a world of robots, sort of. Today’s robots don’t beep, spin their trash can heads and roll around, but they keep our world automated. We carry our robots in our pockets or in pouches, but mostly keep them in the palms of our hands. They are called iPhones and Droids.
Do you remember a time when smart phones did not exist? I vaguely remember what it was like before everyone had cell phones (when I was a kid, they were in cars… in the movies). I vividly remember a world without internet. In a very short time, the world has vastly changed. Over the last couple decades, information has become more and more accessible thanks to the internet. There have been many advantages. We now can stay in contact with each other like never before, we can learn world events immediately and we can do all types of multitasking. There are disadvantages as well. We are less social in person, it is almost impossible to take a break and enjoy life and we have too many things to do but not enough time. We are living in an iRevolution or Internet Revolution. The definition I am using for revolution is a sudden, complete or marked change in something.
The internet has become much more than an information gateway. It has become a massive communication and marketing tool. Thanks to the internet, businesses that would have never existed twenty years ago are thriving, people you would have never met become ‘friends,’ and ideas you would have never thought of are shared with everyone. Furthermore, with the development and mass production of smart phones, everything has been taken to a new level. With these devices you can keep up with all your appointments, text all your friends, constantly update your Facebook status and check on the local weather. There is an app for just about anything you can imagine. Also, these devices know where you are and can give you directions to where you are going. They can notify you of businesses in your location and tell you where to find the cheapest gas. They know where you have been, where you are now and where you are going. Smart phones have become our big brother. I personally use an iPod Touch instead of a smart phone. I’m too cheap to pay the monthly fees. My iPod knows what kind of things I like and it tells me suggestions when I am browsing online. It helps me with my every need and keeps me entertained while I drive to work. It’s my modern day robot, my personal R2D2.
Here’s my word of warning. Let’s not let machines replace human contact. Really connecting with one another has always been and always will be important for social development. At some point in the day, put the smart phone down and have a conversation with an actual human being. It can be quite therapeutic. By the way, thanks for reading this blog on your Droid or iPhone. Have a great day. Tim