Time to Reboot

“Because your future is not chained to your past.” –Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, Rosh Hashanah 5780Back on August 25th, I published a blog post on this blog titled, Elul and the High Holy Days.” The Jewish month of Elul is now almost over, and the celebration of the Jewish New Year known as Rosh Hashanah begins this Sunday at sundown, September 29, 2019, and ends at nightfall on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. It is also the beginning of the month of Tishrei and the beginning of the High Holy Days on the Hebrew calendar.

Rosh Hashanah is all about rebooting. “Reboot” is one of those techie terms that, according to Urban Dictionary, is defined as follows:

To start anew with fresh ideas in a way that is consistent with the principals of the original, but not unnecessarily constrained by what has taken place before. (Quote source here.)

In a brief article titled, Reboot,” by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, senior editor at Chabad.org, he writes:

Time is not a train of cars hitched one to another.

A year is not dragged along by the year preceding. The present is not hitched tightly to the past. The future is not enslaved to the present.

Rather, every year arrives fresh from its Creator, a year that never was before and could never have been known before its arrival.

That is why we call Rosh Hashanah “the birth of the world” in our prayers. The past has returned to its place, never to return. With the blowing of the shofar, the entirety of Creation is renewed.

From this point on, even the past exists only by virtue of the present. (Quote source here.)

I like the idea that “the entirety of Creation is renewed” on Rosh Hashanah. Much like our New Year’s celebration on New Year’s Eve and January 1st for those of us who are not Jewish, the New Year in both cases offers a “clean slate” to begin afresh from the past. However, Rosh Hashanah is just the beginning of the celebrations that take place during the month of Tishrei.

In an article titled, Happy and Sweet New Year,” by Esther Rosen, contributor on Chabad.org, she writes:

Tishrei (Tishri), the first month of the Jewish year (the seventh when counting from Nisan), is full of momentous and meaningful days of celebration. Beginning with the High Holidays, in this month we celebrate Rosh Hashanahthe Ten Days of RepentanceYom KippurSukkot and Simchat Torah. Each one is filled with its own meaningful customs and rituals. Some are serious, awesome days set aside for reflection and soul-searching. Some are joyous days full of happy and cheerful celebration.

But all of these days, throughout the month of Tishrei, are opportunities to connect, to be inspired, and to become more fulfilled and in tune with our true inner selves. Tishrei is considered the “head” of the year, and the reservoir from which we draw our strength and inspiration throughout the year ahead. (Quote source here.)

Specific to the High Holy Days,” also known as “The High Holidays,” Rosh Hashanah begins these days and culminates with Yom Kippur, which is quickly followed by the festive holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. An article titled, The High Holidays: Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipper,” (the author’s name is not mentioned) states the following:

What Are the High Holy Days?

If the year is a train, the High Holidays (AKA High Holy Days) are its engine. A delicate blend of joy and solemnity, feasting and fasting, prayer and inspiration make up the spiritually charged head of the Jewish year.

The High Holiday season begins during the month of Elul, when the shofar is sounded every weekday morning, a clarion call to return to G‑d in advance of the sacred days that lay ahead.

The two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah is the head of the Jewish year, the time when G‑d reinvests Himself in creation as we crown Him king of the universe through prayer, shofar blasts, and celebration.

A week later, the High Holidays reach their crescendo with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Like angels, we neither eat nor drink for 25 hours. Dressed in white, we pray in the synagogue—united as one people, children of One Father.

But it does not end there. The other-worldliness of the High Holidays is then channeled into the festive holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, which bring the annual fall holiday season to a most joyous conclusion. (Quote source here.)

As a Christian, I must admit that I never gave much thought to the Jewish holidays until I stumbled upon Tisha B’Av(also known as The Ninth of Av) in June 2012 which “commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it’s clearly a day set aside by G‑d for suffering” (quote source and a list of those catastrophes is available here.) Since that time, I have written a number of blog posts on my regular blog not only on that particular Jewish holiday but others, too.

Christianity has it’s roots in Jewish history, and Jesus celebrated the Jewish holidays during his lifetime on earth. In fact, his death and resurrection take place during the Jewish holiday of Passover with his death taking place on Passover and his resurrection taking place on the Feast of Firstfruits(see article titled, The Timing of Jesus’ Deathat this link).

The significance of the Jewish holidays to Christianity cannot be understated. They are very much intertwined with Christian history, and the Old Testament (Jewish history) is filled with prophesies concerning the coming of the Messiah which were fulfilled by Jesus Christ (see article titled Biblical Prophesies Fulfilled by Jesus at this link). Also, check out an article titled, What Proof Do You Have that Jesus is the Messiah?” by Jews for Jesus at this link.

In an article published in November 2011 in HuffPost.com titled, Dreams, Renewal and Rosh Hashanah,” by Levi-Ben Schmuel, contributor, writer, singer-songwriter, and inspirational speaker, he writes:

As we know, life is seldom a smooth road. Our dreams do not always manifest in the form we had hoped or in the time we imagined they would. As you reflect on why your dreams have not been realized, and perhaps look to place blame for them not working out on yourself or others, how will your frustrations and disappointments impact you moving forward?

The Jewish tradition counsels that before arriving at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year also known as the Day of Judgment, it is wise to reflect back on the previous year. The opportunity is to honestly examine where you have fallen short, then go through a process of asking for forgiveness that allows you to become renewed before God, ready to face life’s challenges in the new year. But in the process of renewal, will you simply wipe the slate clean, forget about your dreams, perhaps go for something less grand and safer, or continue to believe in your vision for your life?

Sister Joan Chittister, a Roman Catholic nun, was ready to enter a graduate program in creative writing as a step to fulfill her dream of becoming a novelist. Before the program started, her order directed her to serve God and the church in a more traditional way. Regarding the loss of her dream, Sister Joan wrote in her book “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope,” “There is no one who has not known what it is to lose in the game of life…. There is no one who does not have to choose sometime, some way between giving up and growing stronger…. The essence of struggle is the decision to become new rather than simply to become older…”

Sister Joan did not let her disappointment and loss get in the way of moving forward with renewed strength. In her case, she chose to let go of a dream. Her story also points out some important things to consider as you reexamine your dreams and hopes for the New Year. Where does your dream come from? Is it inspired by God, or simply a desire of your ego? And does your dream conflict with God’s plans for you?

Joseph, the great dreamer from the Bible, did not have an easy time with his dreams. Early in his story, sharing his dreams led him to slavery in Egypt and eventually jail with no end in sight. Through his dark times, he went through a healing process that led him to devote his life and his dreams to God. His childhood dreams became reality many years later, certainly in a form he never imagined. Through partnering with the Divine, through weathering challenging times and gaining strength from them, Joseph renewed himself and became a great blessing to a foreign nation and his own family.

Dreams and hopes are wonderful things. We need to be on guard not to let the disappointments in life sour us on them. Yes, it takes work to clear away the results of our mistakes and failures. Therein lies a great beauty in life: When we clear away the debris, genuinely ask for forgiveness and recommit to work in partnership with God, God answers us with open arms. We can be renewed and energized to follow our dreams for another year trusting in God’s plans and our ability to work with the Divine in creating them.

Happy New Year! (Quote source here.)

In an article published just 21 hours ago in The Times of Israel titled, Rosh Hashanah: The Gift of Life, Hope and Renewal,” by Bonnie Chernin, pianist, writer, certified professional coach, and founder of Jews for Life (now known as Jewish Life League), she writes:

Rosh Hashanah is nearly upon us, and we are preparing for the High Holidays with hope, reflection, renewal….

Rosh Hashanah means the Head of the Year, and there is a mission that is sometimes hidden that each of us as a unique human being needs to fulfill. Think about revealing your mission so you can achieve renewal and positive change. Change requires action. How can you change your situation today when you are so worried about what will happen in the future?

For change to happen in 5780 [the Jewish year starting on this coming Sunday evening], welcome each day with a new understanding of doing teshuvah, and that means returning to G-d every day for renewal. The year 5780 is called the year of redemption. Consider your most redeeming qualities. Cultivate your good qualities and do something meaningful every day. When in doubt about something, show restraint in your speech. Letting go of limiting beliefs is a liberating experience.

G-d did not intend for us to seek His forgiveness when we are preoccupied with personal judgments, insurmountable shame, fear or guilt. This is the time to remember what went wrong, how we can correct past mistakes and improve our lives.

During the Ten Days of Repentance, it is important to be introspective and commit to doing good deeds. By giving charity, attending services and connecting with others in the Jewish community, we can effect positive change in the world. We ask for forgiveness from people we have hurt. Sometimes it is not possible, so do what you can.

Rosh Hashanah commemorates G-d’s creation of the world, and of Adam and Eve.   Tishrei is a month of creation. According to tradition, the blast of the shofar is a call to repentance for the Jewish people. G-d is accessible to us and He is listening. During the Ten Days of Repentance, He is especially aware of the prayers of each and every one of us.

The best way to know that G-d is there for us is to be there for G-d. Teshuvah [repentance] should not be a temporary thing. Show up all year for G-d, not just on Rosh Hashanah.

Why not see today–this unique day that you are alive–as a day to experience growth, self-examination and improvement. What is your mission and purpose? My mission is to end abortion and provide resources that can help heal post-abortive women. My hope is to see a day when every unborn child is protected as a human being with potential. My purpose is to continue to involve myself in pro-life activities until a “Personhood Amendment” is passed to protect unborn children.

If I only lived for that future and got anxious over pro-abortion politicians, abortion policies, elections and obstacles in my way, I would not be able to do the pro-life actions that I take each day. I always keep my hopes high and my expectations in check. You can do the same.

Don’t think about what you will do tomorrow or for the entire year. You only have today, and no one is infallible. Did you know that by January 9th most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions? Likewise, on October 18th (nine days after Yom Kippur) will you give up on your resolutions to G-d? Will you forget about the promises you made for self-improvement in 5780? Or will you embrace each day with joy, enthusiasm, a sense of purpose and appreciation for the life that G-d created just for you?

If you can answer that one last question with a resounding “YES!”, then you are all set.

Shanah Tovah! (Quote course here.)

By including the above article, it is not meant to try and “guilt” anyone, but rather to cause us to reflect on our own personal relationship with God and what He means to us. In a brief article on the meaning of Shanah Tovah (that ends the article above) written by Rabbi Menachem Posner, staff editor at Chabad.org, he states:

Ever wondered what to say on Rosh Hashanah when you meet a Jewish person? Here’s what you need to know.

The Jewish new year is not just a time to renew our resolve to lose another fifteen pounds. Rather, it’s the time when our fate stands in the balance as G‑d reviews our past year and decides whether or not to renew our lease on His planet. As such, Jewish greetings for this time of year (the Jewish New Year is in the fall) reflect our prayers for a good, sweet year up ahead.

The catch-all greeting you can use for the entire season is “Shanah tovah” (שנה טובה), which means “Good year.” The word “u’metuka” (ומתוקה), and sweet, is sometimes appended to the end….

No matter what we say, the main thing is to wish each other a good, sweet year with all our heart–because that is what G‑d values the most. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post by saying “Shanah Tovah,” 🙂 and quoting Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice…

And to love kindness . . .

And to walk humbly . . .

With your God . . . .

YouTube Video: “Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem” by Aish.com:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

It’s All Good

“Always loved… Never forgotten… Forever missed…”AnonymousIt has been said that the death of a parent changes us forever. It does. I wrote a blog post on this blog titled, A Eulogy for Dad,” on the day Dad died on June 22, 2019; and later I wrote a second blog post on July 21, 2019 on my other blog titled, Forever Changed,” after I returned from a week-long trip to my hometown to attend Dad’s funeral on July 13, 2019. And, I published a blog post on what would have been Dad’s 96th birthday, July 23, 2019 on this blog titled, Remembering Dad.”

It has now been six weeks since that last blog post I published on July 23rd, and even in this short amount of time, it is true, at least in my case, that time has a way of softening the negative stuff. For one thing, Dad and I didn’t have much of a relationship after my stepmother died in 2011. Before Dad’s death on June 22, 2019, the last time I was physically around Dad was at my youngest nephew’s wedding in October 2015 (for one thing, we lived in different states). It was Dad’s choice, not mine, to keep me at a physical distance these past several years. I wanted a relationship with him and I would have liked to visit him during those years.

I’ve had time to reflect over these past seven plus weeks since Dad’s funeral, and I realized that as time passes that I have many good memories of Dad especially from my younger years, and I’ve decided to let those memories overshadow any of the strains in our relationship especially over the past decade, and since my stepmother died in 2011. The only choices we get to make in this life are our own choices. We can’t make choices for other people. They make their own.

Just four days ago I wrote an email to a friend stating that a funny (not in “ha ha” funny but funny as in “unusual”) thing has happened to me since Dad died over two months ago. It’s as if all of the “bad” stuff in our relationship has just sort of faded away, and only the good stuff remains. And it has brought about a major peace in me regarding our relationship (between Dad and me). I also feel like a different person now in some ways. The somewhat perpetual anxiety I felt over my relationship with Dad while he was alive (because I couldn’t “fix” whatever it was on my own) has totally evaporated now. It’s very “freeing”  which is the only way I know how to express it. I only have good feelings towards Dad now. Of course, I will never know what caused the friction in the first place as he never would tell me.

So this is the last blog post I will be writing regarding my relationship with Dad. Call it closure. I love Dad, and that’s all that matters. For his funeral he requested three songs be played. I’ve included two of them previously on the blog posts mentioned above. This last one is the most fitting, and it was one of his favorites. Nat King Cole sang it back in 1951 (before I was born), and Michael Bublé sang the latest version of it in the YouTube video below. It’s titled, “Unforgettable.”

Unforgettable . . .

That’s what you are . . .

Dad . . . .

YouTube Video: “Unforgettable” by Michael Bublé:

Photo #1: Pic of Dad as a Navy Pilot/Instructor during World War II
Photo #2: Pic of Dad (2014) and second pic of Dad and my stepmother and their dog (circa 2000)

Remembering Dad

“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.”Mitch Albom, internationally renowned best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster, and musicianToday (July 23, 2019) is Dad’s 96th birthday. Dad passed away on June 22, 2019 (see post titled, A Eulogy for Dad,” published on that same day on this blog, and Forever Changed,” published two days ago on my regular blog) just one month shy of his 96th birthday, so this is the first milestone of many that will be celebrated without his physical presence.

It still doesn’t seem quite real yet that Dad is really gone (as in “never coming back” gone). While Dad and I lived one thousand miles apart and our relationship was somewhat strained especially during the past decade, I always knew he was only a phone call away, but now not even the internet or cyberspace can reach him (not that Dad ever owned techie stuff except for a cellphone, and he never had an email address or used text messaging). Technology may be the 8th Wonder of the World,” but not even all of our techie wonders can reach Dad now.

Dad (circa 2014) & Dad and my stepmother at Manhattan Beach, CA, in 2001

Despite our differences, my feelings and love for Dad never waned. While Dad went to his grave with me never really understanding what it was that he let come between us especially in these past ten years, it never stopped me from loving him. He’s the only dad I’ve ever had, and he has left an indelible mark on my life for the better even though at times he tried to make it for the worse (I say that humorously). He may have divorced Mom many years ago when I was only 12, but he can’t divorce me. I’m his own flesh and blood, and I’m his only daughter made from his flesh and blood.

Dad and I did not get into a lot of arguments (none, actually, when I was very young), but he was the son of a hellfire and brimstone preacher and he could dish it out with the best of them once he got started. There was no getting a word in edgewise when Dad got started on one of his tirades. Fortunately, they were few and far between, and the physical distance between us after I moved to Florida when I was 40 as the recipient of a doctoral fellowship at a private university helped to keep the heat mostly turned down to lukewarm.

I never understood his anger (maybe discontent is a better word) at me, and he was often quite critical even when I was very successful at something that I had accomplished, but beneath his anger I knew that he loved me. Our relationship went fairly well during the almost 32 years he was married to my stepmother until she died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2011. She softened him towards me and I was forever grateful to her for that. Dad could blow up at me when I was just sitting in a chair watching TV when I visited them, and I never knew what I did to set him off. She was a sort of buffer between us. After her death, the distance between Dad and me grew again, but not because I wanted it to be like that. I always wanted a close relationship with Dad, but he was the one who built the wall between us, and he kept it in place right up until he died a month ago.

I am not a fighter and I hate arguing with anyone. I will walk away from an argument before I try to fight back especially when I know it is a fight I’ll never win or that a compromise is not possible. And with Dad, I never won that fight as he would just shout over anything I tried to say, so a couple of decades ago I stopped trying to make him see that I wasn’t the person he perceived me to be. I felt like I was fighting against a phantom image he had created of me, and that’s about as effective has punching at water.

I can’t tell you how many years I prayed that we could be reconciled and have a real relationship as father and daughter. I watched him have relationships with other women like my sisters-in-law, and later my stepsister, and my niece, and even Dad’s girlfriends between his marriages. I didn’t even come close in comparison to them in his eyes. It was brutal, and I never understood why he felt the way he did about me. I could only assume it had something to do with my mother who he divorced when I was 12. He never let me be who I was. I was always this phantom image he had created in his mind that he did not like, and he never got to know the real me. And because of that, I never got to experience the side of him that he showed to everybody else in life, either.

It takes two to tango, and I know I wasn’t perfect either. I have my flaws as does every human being on the planet. There’s a line near the end of the movie, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” (2010) where the main character, a Wall Street guy named Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas), who had a very strained relationship with his adult daughter in the movie, says to her, “Human beings… you gotta give ’em a break. We’re all mixed bags.” He and his daughter reconcile at the end of the movie. In real life, Dad and I did not reconcile before he died, and it was his choice, not mine. I was told that he didn’t even want to see me on his deathbed, but he said he knew that I might need the “closure.” I didn’t need the closure; I just wanted to know that he really loved me, and I wanted him to know that I really loved him. After all, we are all mixed bags.

I knew Dad loved me at some level, although we had only physically seen each other twice in the past dozen years before Dad died (both times were at two nephews’ weddings–one in January 2008 and the second in October 2015), and I was the one who made the effort to “show up.” When my stepmother was still alive and after I moved to Florida when I was 40, I called home and talked to Dad and my stepmother every Sunday for all of those years until my stepmother died, and then Dad no longer showed much interest in talking with me by phone once he started a relationship with a widow he met several months after my stepmother died in 2011. This widow was really good for Dad and she no doubt had a big hand in keeping him alive for as long as he lived as he was devastated after my stepmother died. I have no hard feelings toward her whatsoever, and she has her own significant health issues going on right now, too. I was glad she brought life back into Dad for those few years they were together before Dad died, and I was happy to see that she was able to make it to Dad’s visitation and funeral with her family.

My grief for Dad is not only because he died but when he died so did the last opportunity to try to make things right when I didn’t even know what was wrong. My grief is also for the relationship we could have had if he had only gotten rid of the phantom image he created of me that kept him from having a real relationship with me all those years, and especially in the past decade.

Dad really was a great guy and he really did have a great life. He never knew a stranger; he was an honest and very successful businessman; he was enormously proud of his WWII service as a Navy aviator and his military career, and he loved being a Mason (he was a “33rd Degree” Mason which is part of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry) and a Shriner during the years he was active. He did love his family, and he had a great sense of humor, and he was loved by many including me. That is the dad I will always remember, and I refuse to let the negative stuff get in the way. We all make our choices in this life, and he chose to keep me at a distance. I would have made a different choice if I could have but, as I stated above, it takes two to tango, and his life wasn’t a dance he was interested in sharing with me.

Dad’s death might be a little easier on me then my two brothers because of the difficult relationship Dad chose to have with me (actually, that could make it harder on me if I let it, but I won’t), and also due to the physical distance between Dad and me from the time I was 40 and moved to Florida for that doctoral fellowship. Dad was very close to my two brothers and their families, and he communicated with them either daily or weekly right up until his death.

As stated above, I only actually saw Dad twice in the past dozen years–the last time being in October 2015. I asked Dad if I could come home to visit many times but I was repeatedly told “no” after my stepmother died. I will never understand why Dad did not want me around nor will I ever know the reason behind it. I sometimes felt like an orphan long before Dad died especially in the past decade.

I do love Dad with every fabric of my being. I love him as much as I love Mom who died over 36 years ago. I was very grateful I was able to make it back to Dad’s funeral even though it required me to drive 2000 miles in my almost 15-year-old Honda. It was a very positive and uplifting time for me from start to finish as I got to see family again along with folks who came to the visitation and Dad’s funeral that I had not seen, in some cases, in over 40 years. It was truly a celebration of Dad’s life and it was a wonderful celebration amidst much crying. Dad will be missed by many including me.

To those who might be reading this post who knew and loved Dad, I do not want what I have written above to in any way affect the way you knew him and loved him. Life is full of difficult relationships for most if not all of us at some point, and just because Dad and I had a difficult relationship does not mean it has to affect anyone else’s view of Dad. I wish I was able to get to know Dad like you did, and sometimes I did get to see that side of him (I saw it a lot more when I was much younger). I want you to remember him just as you do–as a great guy who didn’t know a stranger and who celebrated life right up to the end.

And life . . .

For the rest of us . . .

Still goes on . . . .

YouTube Video: “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night (this is the last of three songs that Dad requested to be played at his funeral):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit–personal photo
Photo #3 credit–personal photo

He Who Laughs Lasts Longest

“Humor is a rubber sword–it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”Mary Hirsch, HumoristFour days ago when I wrote my blog post, A Eulogy for Dad,” on the day Dad died one thousand miles away in another state, I ended by saying that Dad, if he was still here, would end his own eulogy with a funny joke–probably more likely a funny story.

Later, I got to thinking about the term “funny joke” as I thought maybe it is a bit redundant to use the term “funny” with “joke” as most jokes are supposed to be funny, aren’t they? Of course, that lead to a Google search for an answer as I hate being redundant, and I tend to use too many words as it is. One of the links that came up in my search lead to an article published in 2006 titled, When the Truth Hurts, Tell a Joke: Why America Needs Its Comedians,” by  and . The article opens with the quote at the top of this blog post by Mary Hirsch, a humorist. Farther down in the article is found the following:

Most of American comedy has its roots in the stand-up routine.  Nearly all of the great comics of television, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, David Letterman, and Jamie Foxx, to name a few, started their careers as stand-up comics. Characteristic of a stand-up act is its fast string of amusing stories, short jokes, one-liners, and the occasion of spontaneous interaction with the audience. Normally, the stage contains nothing more than the microphone, a stool, and perhaps a glass of water.  

What makes stand-up comedians worthy of research is that their search for laughter leads them to seek out, explore, and articulate the unspoken taboos of society. Much like Adam Smith’s observation in the eighteenth century that “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest,” it is through the comedian’s selfish pursuit of the laugh that society receives its social critique.

“Comedians don’t start out to change the world, but in the end, that’s what they do,” says Stephen Rosenfield, founder and director of the American Comedy Institute in New York City, where he teaches aspiring comedians the art of writing and performing comedy.  “Comedians are aware of the power of jokes to change societies, but they’re not necessarily idealistic about it.  A comedian’s first concern is to find funny material. That is his job.”

“A good joke provides tension, and then, release of that tension,” says Greg Giraldo, (1965-2010), a Harvard Law School graduate turned comic who hosted Comedy Central’s Friday Night with Greg Giraldo show.  “You build the tension by saying things that are controversial. The release is the laugh. The bigger the surprise or insight in your joke, the bigger the laugh.”

This anatomy of tension and release ensures that the comic is going to discuss material that is at the fringe of what polite society will talk about. There’s plenty of controversy to confront, said Giraldo, enjoying a meal of sushi after a Tuesday night appearance at the Comedy Cellar in New York’s Greenwich Village. “A lot of racially charged [crap*] happens here in New York City. Yet mainstream culture likes to pretend that race issues don’t exist. Ninety-five percent of white people and ninety-five percent of black people live on different planets. They don’t speak the same language. They don’t interact. They’re not comfortable around one another. That’s [screwed*] up. It’s the sad reality of our culture. Unfiltered honest talking on race is rare, but comics are comfortable with race. Comics are honest.” [Note: * indicates expletives in original article were changed] (Quote source here.)

Comedians can “bring down the house” with gales of laughter but also make us squirm in our seats. I think of George Carlin (1937-2008), an American stand-up comedian, actor, author, and social critic, who was a master at making us squirm in our seats. Reality can be hard to face most of time. Comedy makes it palpable.

In an article published on September 20, 2016 in The Chicago Tribute titled, Policing humor is not funny–keep the offensive humor coming,” by Karith Foster, a bicoastal comedian, speaker and author who is featured in the documentaryCan We Take a Joke?” which “explores the plight of comics in an age of political correctness” (quote is at bottom of the article) she writes:

There are no rules in comedy, save for one: It has to be funny. That has always been the attraction and the challenge.

Until a few years ago, I assumed everyone stuck to this simple standard. Then the “war on comedy” erupted. We’ve seen the battlefield pop up everywhere in the past few years: students protesting visiting comics over perceived sexist or racist sets, the social media storms after a seemingly off-color joke, the explosion of think pieces over the insidious intent behind a thoughtless retort.

Although outrage vigilantes waging these battles claim to be stomping out bigotry, instead they have become hypersensitive to the point where they have gone, hard, after just about anything. The mob rarely suggests starting conversations — instead leaping to cries to cancel sitcoms, boycott comedy shows, or blacklist comedians as unequivocal misogynists or racists.

Take what happened when talk show host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted an edited image of her piggybacking on Olympian sprinter Usain Bolt. The joke was a caption that read “This is how I’m running errands from now on. #Rio2016.” Because he’s the fastest man in the world! Get it?! Well, thousands did not get it, saying the image of a white woman on the back of the black Jamaican runner echoed the old tradition of slaves carrying their masters. They called for DeGeneres’ head on a platter.

As a black woman, I’m attuned to instances of everyday racism that can seep into the lives of African-Americans. This wasn’t one of them. This was a funny image of an adult getting a piggyback ride and making fun of LA traffic. (It really is hell!) The cacophony got to be so much that DeGeneres actually had to reassure the public that she was not a racist.

I would never be so bold as to tell someone how to process humor. It’s as subjective as taste in fashion or food. Based on a complex web of experiences and worldviews, some people are left in stitches, while others are left with a shrug. But in the case of DeGeneres and in so many other examples, the outrage that follows these jokes seems to be more a reflexive hunt for things to take offense at rather than thoughtful critique.

The real problem, however, isn’t the wasted energy of the political correctness patrollers or the hurt careers of comics. The danger of this outrage phenomenon is that, in the process of policing every sensitive subject, we lose comedy itself — one of the only tools we have to grapple with our testiest issues. Humor is an entryway unlike any other for talking out things we’re too afraid, too uncomfortable or too pained to broach head on. If we can’t joke about issues such as ethnicity, sexuality, class, politics, pain and death, we may never get through them or find ways to heal.

I see this power of comedy first-hand when people approach me after my sets. Whether it was a joke about race, size, age or sexuality, people who say something almost always tell me they are grateful that someone is addressing, rather than shying away from, one of these taboo issues. For example, I have a joke, inspired from real life, where I riff on the less-than-strait-laced members of my black family:

“My cousin just got married, had a baby, and names the daughter … Daijanera.

“Someone asked me what that means? What does it mean?! She made it up!

“No, I’ll tell you what it means. It’s apparently African-American for ‘I never want my daughter to have a job in corporate America.'”

When my audience laughs at that—and they do, even if it’s uncomfortable laughter—I follow it up with:

“I’m so glad y’all laughed at that because that joke did not go over so well in Atlanta. I know this because after the show, Ryshaneequa came up to me and she had some choice words.”

Then I’ll proceed to go into a litany of other names given to Caucasian girls that are equally absurd—showing that this name game crosses all color lines and ethnic barriers. It never fails that at least two people come up to me after a show and either share their name or a family member’s name and we all have a laugh. The joke works because beneath the surface, it’s more of a knock on the racism in corporate America—and on the stereotypes we’re all willing to pile on certain names—than it is on my cousin’s first-born. I’ve heard from audience members about how the joke opened up conversations that made them rethink their prejudices or consoled them that they’re not the only ones unfairly judged for their unusual name. Reactions such as this remind me why I fell in love with comedy.

Comedy is an intricate art that often relies on getting a laugh at the things about which we’re most afraid to talk. If we lose our sense of humor about the difficult issues, I’m afraid we may lose our nerve to bring them up at all. (Quote source here.)

A quote from a January 6, 2016 article titled, Jokes and Social Commentary: Comedians Who Stirred Controversy, by Manas Mishra, author on The Quint, states:

Jokes and comedy are very powerful tools of socio-political commentary, and under a layer of humor may be a profound statement on our society. A country’s ability to take a joke is often a reflection on that society’s openness and the actual freedom of speech. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on August 21, 2014 in Christianity.com titled, Why We Need Comedy,” by Daniel Darling, Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC), author, contributing editor to Christianity Today’s CT Pastors, and a contributor to The Worldview Study Biblehe writes:

“Are you sure about that?”

This was the remark a very conservative professor made to me, over lunch, during my freshman year of college. He was responding to a flippant and hyper-spiritualized comment I made, something I was want to do in those heady days when I knew everything there was to know about the Bible and about the world. These were the days before I got married, before I had children, before I pastored. In other words, I thought I knew everything, but I really knew nothing.

The comment I made was about the death of a comedian. I said something callous like, “Can you imagine a life spent making people laugh? What a waste!”

Yeah, I really said that.

Thankfully my conservative professor at my conservative Bible college offered this subtle, but pointed rebuke.

I thought about this conversation afresh as I considered the recent death of comedy great, Robin Williams. What struck me about the response to his death was how comedy unites the social classes.  As tributes poured in about Williams, they came from Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, religious and non-religious. Much of this can be attributed; I think, to the kind of raw, real-world comedy that Williams employed. But mostly, I think, it reveals to us just the importance of laughing in a flourishing civil society.

The Scriptures tell us that laughter is a kind of medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22). The very fact that God made us as creatures who have the capacity for laughter, who instilled in us the very desire for joy should tell us that laughter matters and matters more than we might think it does. This is why, I think, the writer of Ecclesiastes, perhaps Solomon, reminded us that there is indeed a time to laugh.

Of course there are darker types of laughter or laughing at things God hates or laughing so as to mock and disrespect someone. Comedy at the expense of someone’s dignity isn’t really comedy at all. It’s a kind of rhetorical assault.

But I’m talking about genuine, hilarious, soul-refreshing laughter. This is good for us, good for our well-being. It helps us get through difficult days and it, often, humbles us enough to be vulnerable to let someone see us as human. I think back on the days after 9/11, when comedians gingerly stepped back into the fray. I remember seeing David Letterman cry, but I was really glad when our country had the strength to laugh again.

I’ve often thought that my best friendships were built by two things: enduring hardships with someone and enjoying laughter. Laughter breaks down barriers. It penetrates walls of pride and prejudice and distrust.

I like to think, in my sanctified imagination, that Jesus was someone who was unafraid to laugh. The gospels don’t record it, so I can’t be dogmatic about this, but my guess is that if you spend three years with 12 guys from different walks of life, you are going to have moments of sheer laughter and joy. Imagine the stories we might hear in Heaven about the things Peter said that didn’t get published in the gospel narratives. We know little about what their conversations were like in those three years, but if they were like normal, human conversations among close friends, we have to imagine there was much laughter. (Quote source here.)

In the opening statement in an article published on March 16, 2014 in HuffPost.com titled, Why Laughing is Good for Your Health,” by , cardiologist, author, and founder of Revitalize-U, she states:

An old Yiddish proverb says, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” Everyone knows that laughter makes you feel good and puts you in high spirits, but did you also know that laughter actually causes physiological responses that protect the body from disease and help your vital organs repair themselves? A good laugh can be compared to a mild workout, as it exercises the muscles, gets the blood flowing, decreases blood pressure and stress hormones, improves sleep patterns and boosts the immune system. Furthermore, a study by the John Hopkins University Medical School showed that humor and laughter can also improve memory and mental performance. Yet despite the fact that laughter has so many benefits, far too many of us forget to even crack a smile every once in a while, let alone laugh. (Quote source here.)

The title of this blog post comes from the Quote Investigator which states that this expression comes from a 1917 poem by W. E. Nesom, and it is the fifth stanza of the poem which states:

If laughter be an aid to health,
Then logic of the strongest
Impels us to the cheerful thought
That he who laughs lasts longest.

Dad lived almost 96 years, and he enjoyed comedy and laughter and “kidding around” all of his life. He is a testament to that poem that “he who laughs lasts longest.”

I’ll end this post with a quote from Mark TwainAgainst the assault of laughter…

Nothing . . .

Can . . .

Stand . . . .

YouTube Video: “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

A Eulogy for Dad

“Life, if well lived, is long enough.”Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD), Roman philosopher, statesman, and dramatist.Three days ago I wrote a blog post on my regular blog titled, And Life Goes On.” I didn’t give a reason for writing it, but then I usually don’t give any reason for writing most of the blog posts I have published over the years. However, And Life Goes On,” is different. I had a reason.

My dad died today.

Dad lived a good and full life. He was loved by many, and he died just one month shy of his 96th birthday, which is a lot longer then most people live. He outlived my mom by 36 years, and he outlived my stepmother who he was married to for almost 32 years when she died in 2011, and my stepbrother who died much too young back in 2008 at the age of 45. He is survived by me and my two brothers (one older and one younger) and their families, and our stepsister who has lost everyone in her family except for us, her step family.

In January of this year, Dad had to have a pacemaker put in to keep his heart going, and he needed heart valve surgery four months later that was supposed to “fix” everything. But it didn’t. He still had breathing issues, and he completely lost his appetite and essentially stop eating. He didn’t want to go back to the emergency room nor did he want to be tube fed. Hospice was called in. He lived with my younger brother for the past few months since he had the pacemaker put in until his death this morning.

I live in a different state from where my dad was living. It wasn’t until just two weeks ago that I finally realized that Dad was dying. I kept thinking if he would just get his appetite back again or at least force himself to eat, that he would get better. That is known as  “Stage 1: Denial” in the Grief Cycle (see my blog post, And Life Goes On,” for the five stages of grief).  I knew he was going on 96 and that his body was wearing out, but some folks live to be 100 or older, and that was my wish for him. “Just eat, Dad” is what I wanted to say, but I wasn’t there, and it would have only made things worse.

You see, I wanted Dad to walk me down the aisle if I ever found the right guy to marry, and I didn’t care how old he was or I was when it happened. But more then that, I wanted us to be like we were back when I was 21, when on my 21st birthday Dad took me out to dinner and then asked me if I wanted to go bar hopping to some of his favorite hangouts. It sounded like fun, and while it might not be what most fathers would do with their daughters on their 21st birthday, we had a blast and at our last stop at a ballroom type place we had a father and daughter dance. I guess I wanted my “younger” father back before the years wore on and the image of my mother took the place of me in his eyes. They divorced when I was 12, and there was no love lost between them right up until my mom died in 1983 at the age of 54.

Dad in Oregon 11-26-17

Dad was a great guy and a very honest businessman who got totally screwed over by a business partner when he was 52, and he literally ended up on the street with nothing more then a suitcase full of tools that he used to repair typewriters in the business he and his partner started a few years earlier. His partner had yanked it out from under him. But Dad didn’t let that faze him, and with hard work and a stellar reputation around the city for being an honest businessman, he built up his own business from scratch that eventually put his old partner’s business out-of-business. And he was so successful that he was able to retire from his business at the age of 64.

Dad married my stepmother in 1979 and they were perfect for each other, and they fit together, as Forrest Gump said about Jenny in the movie, Forrest Gump,” like “peas and carrots.” They traveled and took cruises and went out every summer to see my older brother and his family in Oregon, and they had the time of their lives. When my own mother died in 1983 (my parents divorced in the mid-1960’s and Mom never remarried, and she acquired some horrific health issues starting at the age of 36 that took her life by the time she was 54), my stepmother became like a second mother to me, even though I was 27 at the time they married.

Dad could tell stories from his WWII years as a Navy flight instructor training cadets to fly in Corpus Christi, Texas, that would keep you spellbound. And he had framed pictures of the planes he flew in WWII hanging on the walls in their home. He was rarely at a loss for words, and he had a great sense of humor. He didn’t know a stranger. And everybody loved him.

Unfortunately, by the time he reached his current age (95) most of his friends and the people he knew from his past had all died. But I think what hit him the hardest was when my stepmother died. That really took a toll on him. So did losing my stepbrother back in 2008. But Dad was a survivor, and he never complained, and he moved on with his life.

He was raised as the oldest son of my paternal grandparents, who were actually his aunt and uncle as his birth mother died a few days after giving birth to Dad. His birth mother and my paternal grandmother were sisters. His dad was a Free Methodist minister who could give “hellfire and brimstone” sermons with the best of them back during that time. I remember Dad talking about all the times his father made him walk down the aisle at church when he would give an “alter call” hoping to inspire others in the audience to follow. Or when he did something wrong and he ended up being taken to the woodshed and whipped by his father (a common form of punishment for kids back in that time), or worse yet, being forced to pray for hours on end as penance. Needless to say, once he got out from under all that hellfire and brimstone preaching when he joined the Navy during WWII, he became more of a party guy. I can’t say that I blame him since I was raised in the church, too. It’s a fine line we have to walk between extremes on either side. He tilted on the party side of that fence. I tend to sometimes, too, but not as extreme as Dad did it as I acquired too much guilt when I was a kid, and I was sure if I had sex outside of marriage that I’d be struck by lightening, and that one alcoholic drink would lead to hell. The church could be a very tough place to grow up in.

While there were extremes in the church when I was growing up, just like Dad had when he was growing up, at least Dad was not a hellfire and brimstone preacher like Grandpa was which was my saving grace. But my parents’ marriage hit the rocks when I was way too young, and the division that started between us back then ended up lasting a lifetime. Dad always saw my mother in me, and it made our relationship difficult. I loved both of my parents but they were as opposite as night and day. I got caught in the middle as the only girl in my family and Dad thought I always sided with Mom. Little did either of them know that I didn’t want to have to pick sides at all. I was only 12 when they divorced.

Life is what it is and we have little control over the things or people we think we should be able to have control over. We can’t control others. We are lucky if we can control ourselves most of the time. When I was awarded a one-year doctoral fellowship at a private university in Florida when I turned 40 and I left Iowa in 1992, I ended up finding work in Florida after my fellowship year was over and I remained there for over two decades. It was during this time that the divide between Dad and I widened, but I never wanted it that way. Still, as I said above, we cannot control others. Dad was not happy when I left for that doctoral fellowship in Florida, but my stepmother was thrilled for me. She was the buffer between us although I am sure it was an awkward position for her at times.

I always wanted to mend the rift with Dad and I prayed that it would happen. In fact, I felt sure that before he died (or if I died first) that we would come to some type of reconciliation because I desperately wanted it. He just wasn’t able to ever separate me from my mother. I was told that he didn’t want to see me when he was dying.

And life goes on.

I love Dad with every fabric of my being. I loved Mom, too. And I loved my stepmother, who was the best “second mother” I ever could have asked for. I can’t fix what was or what is, but I can accept life as it has been handed to me and move forward. Dad had a great life, and I am grateful for that and for him, too. I learned a lot from him over the years; he just didn’t know it or he didn’t choose to believe it (even though I told him often enough). That was his choice.

I’m not exactly sure how to end a eulogy as I’ve never written one before. Dad would want it to be upbeat. He’d probably tell a funny joke. I guess I’ll just say that despite our difficulties over the years, I am grateful that he was my dad, and I learned a lot about life from him. I love you, Dad. I really, really do…

And life . . .

Goes . . .

On . . . .

YouTube Video: “Talladega” by Eric Church (“Talladega” video makes a visual out of a song that is about a lot more than racing. The clip spans one man’s entire lifetime while he lays in a hospital bed, reminiscing before his death–longer explanation available at this link):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit: family photo

A Month Long Celebration

“There are two great days in a person’s life–the day they are born and the day they discover why.”William Barclay (1907-1978), Scottish theologian, author, radio and television presenterMay is my birthday month, although my actual birthday isn’t until the end of the month. I like to spend the month doing little things to celebrate my birthday leading up to that actual big day. Many of the things I do, like going to a movie or eating at a favorite restaurant or buying myself a bouquet of flowers, are things I can do at any other time of the year, but they take on new meaning during my birthday month. They are all part of the celebration.

Perhaps you’re thinking that celebrating one’s birthday for an entire month is a bit, well, excessive. However, I’m not talking about doing anything necessarily out of the ordinary from what one does in any other month of the year. I suppose you could say it is about an attitude of gratefulness for having been given life in the first place.

I was surprised at the number of articles I found when I Googled “celebrating a birthday month,” but most of them came with a “to do” list of activities, and that’s not really why I celebrate my birthday all month long. I celebrate all month long as it leads up to the most important day of my existence, which is the same most important day of your own existence. We only have one day in which we were born, and that’s a rather big deal, don’t you think?

The opening statement in an article titled, The Importance of Celebrating Birthdays,” by ABM College states:

It has been said that a  birthday is just another day, why even celebrate it? On the contrary, a birthday signifies your beginning and the joy of life. Every human on earth has been given a chance to fulfill their own unique mission. A birthday is an important and momentous occasion not to be understated. It is a time to celebrate, reflect and give thanks.” (Quote source here.)

In an article published on January 6, 2019 titled, Why Birthdays Should Be Celebrated,” posted on Holidappy.com and written by Margaret Minnicks, an online writer for many years,  she writes:

birthday is a day that comes once a year, and it should be celebrated for several reasons. A birthday is a time when a person acknowledges the anniversary of his or her birth. In most cultures, birthdays are celebrated in some of the same ways. Often, birthdays are celebrated with a gift, party, or some other special act. There are reasons birthdays should be celebrated.

Your Birth Was Your Beginning

Your birth was the beginning of your life. God created you to serve a purpose in this world. Every time when you have a birthday, it is an indication that you still have work to do for the Kingdom of God. Your birthday is a sign that you have another chance to fulfill your unique mission.

So a birthday is a momentous occasion, to be commemorated just as a nation commemorates its birth or as an organization celebrates its founding. A birthday is much more than an occasion to receive gifts. Your birthday is a chance to remember the day that a major event occurred, to celebrate and give thanks and to reflect upon how well you are still alive to celebrate the day you were born.

Celebrating Your Birthday Is an Expression of Thanks

A birthday is a time to celebrate birth itself. It is an expression of thanks to God for being born and still being alive. It is also an occasion to rethink your life. It is a great time to reflect on the past, evaluate your present and make plans for your future. It is a time when your past intersects with your present and future.

A Birthday Is a Chance for a Refresher

A birthday is not only a time to think about your birth, but your birthday is also a time to think about your rebirth. To recall your birth is to recall a new beginning. No matter how things went yesterday, or last year, you always have the capacity to try again. Your birthday is a refresher, a chance for regeneration; not just materially, but spiritually.

New Mercies on Your Birthday

To reach another year is an achievement to have lived another year.You have another year’s worth of blessings to thank God for. Think of how much of God’s air you have consumed during the year. Think of how many nights God allowed you to lie down and sleep and how many mornings He has awakened you with brand new mercies. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Acknowledge Your Existence

When you celebrate your birthday, you acknowledge your existence on this earth. No matter in what kind of family you were destined to be born, you are here to live your life to its fullest. Celebrating your birthday is a way to thank God that He allowed you to be born and to see another’s birthday.

Bond With People on Your Birthday

Birthday celebrations are great ways for your family and friends to bond with you, if they choose. Usually people make a special effort to be nice to you on your birthday. Birthday presents are good, but a wish that comes from the heart is worth all the presents in this world from those who love you. It truly is the thought that counts.

Celebration Ideas for Your Birthday

Birthday celebrations do not mean that you have to have a big party every year. Sometimes people do have parties to celebrate what they call “the big one” such as turning 30, 40, 50, 60, or 70. A simple dinner with your family or a few close friends usually is all it takes to make a person happy and feel appreciated. Greeting cards are always welcome as well as a telephone call.

So, celebrate your birthday each yearIt is always good to be acknowledged that you exist in the earth. Receive it in good faith when others are willing to help you celebrate your birthday with you. (Quote source here.)

I came across the following Birthday Prayer (author unknown) which is a good way to end this post on celebrating birthdays:

Thank you, God, for giving me another year of life.
Thank you for all the people who remembered me today
by sending cards, and letters, gifts and good wishes.

Thank you for all the experiences of this past year;
for times of success which will always be happy memories,
for times of failure which reminded me
of my own weakness and of my need for you,
for times of joy when the sun was shining,
for times of sadness which drove me to you.

Forgive me for the hours I wasted,
for the chances I failed to take,
for the opportunities I missed this past year.
Help me in the days ahead to make this the best year yet,
and through it to bring good credit to myself,
happiness and pride to my loved ones,
and joy to you. Amen. (Quote source here.)

And Happy Birthday to any of you reading this post who might be celebrating a birthday soon. If it was not for our birthday, we would not even exist. That makes it a very important day, indeed!

And to everyone reading this post, I’ll end it with a blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you…

The Lord turn his face toward you . . .

And give you . . .

Peace . . .

YouTube Video: “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

In Praise of Introverts

“Introverts live in two worlds: We visit the world of people, but solitude and the inner world will always be our home.” Jenn Granneman, author of the bestselling book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, and creator of IntrovertDear.com.I get my energy internally from solitude and not from external stimulation such as being in a crowd, which is a key trait of introverts. I have no problem being alone as I can fill that time with many interests. However, I don’t mind being around people, either, and I find it relatively easy to start conversations even with strangers (such as clerks in stores or people in public settings). Some famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, J.K. Rowling, Warren Buffet, Mahatma Ghandi, Michael Jordan, Meryl Streep, and Elon Musk (source here).

The Myers-Briggs Foundation defines extrovert and introvert as follows:

C. G. Jung applied the words “extrovert” and “introvert” in a different manner than they are most often used in today’s world. As they are popularly used, the term extroverted is understood to mean sociable or outgoing, while the term introverted is understood to mean shy or withdrawn. Jung, however, originally intended the words to have an entirely different meaning. He used the words to describe the preferred focus of one’s energy on either the outer or the inner world. Extroverts orient their energy to the outer world, while Introverts orient their energy to the inner world. One of Jung’s and Isabel Myers’ great contributions to the field of psychology is their observations that Introversion and Extroversion are both healthy variations in personality style. (Quote source here.)

Introverts tend to get a bad rap. Lifehack lists 16 misconceptions regarding introverts: (1) they are shy; (2) they are unemotional; (3) they don’t like working in groups; (4) they don’t like talking; (5) they are scared to look you in the eye; (6) they are poor public speakers; (7) they just want to be left alone; (8) they over-analyze everything; (9) they don’t like to go out in public; (10) they are high strung; (11) they are underachievers; (12) that they can break out of their shell and become extroverts; (13) they are rude; (14) they are no fun; (15) they don’t make good leaders; and (16) extroverts are happier than introverts (source here).

None of those items listed above are true, although I must admit that #8 tends to be something I do tend to do (e.g., over-analyze everything). As I was looking for information on the Internet on introverts, there is a treasure trove of information out there. One particular article of personal interest I found on IntrovertDear.com, published on April 18, 2019, is titled, INFJ: 9 Reasons You’re Still Single,” by Jenn Granneman, creator of IntrovertDear.com, who is the author I quoted at the top of this post. However, since the focus of this article is rather narrow, if you are interested in reading it you can read it at this link.

In another article on IntrovertDear.com, published on July 7, 2017, and titled, 7 Distinct Advantages Introverts Have Over Extroverts,” by Jetta, a freelance writer, artist, and blogger, she lists the following seven advantages:

At times, it can seem like a severe disadvantage to be an introvert. Extroverts appear to have all the fun, and their gregarious, attention-seeking personalities often allow them to reap promotions, popularity, and recognition. Introverts, on the other hand, may get passed over and have their valuable work go unnoticed. Their preference for quiet observation can sometimes be a detriment to their success in this dog-eat-dog world.

Despite this, there are many areas in which introverts have a leg up on extroverts. Many of today’s most successful people are introverts, such as J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg, and Mark Zuckerberg.

But introverts not only have the ability to rival extroverts professionally, they also possess a number of distinct advantages over them. Here are seven areas in which introverts shine more than their extroverted counterparts. These points may not apply to every introvert and extrovert (we’re individuals, after all), but I believe they are generally true.

The Advantages of Being an Introvert

1. Introverts are low maintenance.

While introverts may be judged for their lack of participation, they’ll hardly ever be accused of being obnoxious, needy, and disruptive. Because introverts value their space, they tend to naturally respect that of others. They’re largely independent and not clingy, and they’re generally more inclined to be polite and considerate of the impact of their behavior on others. They tend to think before they speak, whereas extroverts may blurt the first things that come to mind.

2. Introverts tend to be creative and original.

While extroverts may adopt the values of the group and what is mainstream and popular, introverts tend to have their own preferences that are less influenced by trends. They may gravitate towards things that are obscure, unusual, or downright strange. Because they spend more of their time on their own, away from the places extroverts commonly occupy, they’re apt to develop perspectives, ideas, and insights that are unorthodox and novel. The introverted theoretical-physicist Albert Einstein once stated, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

3. Introverts are shrewd.

Because of the way they’re wired, introverts are predisposed to exercising caution and deliberating thoughtfully before making a decision. This propensity for deliberation puts them at a greater advantage when it comes to things like critical thinking, problem solving, and assessing the character of another person. Because they spend more time reflecting and observing, they’re liable to accrue a deeper understanding of various aspects of life, including human behavior. This may contribute to greater judgment in business or penetrating insight as a psychologist. Introverts like to take their time to reflect on and process a decision properly so that they can choose the best course of action that they won’t later regret.

4. Introverts are generally better listeners.

The “quiet ones” tend to really listen and consider the ideas and feelings of others. In conversation, they may take mental notes and focus intently on what people are trying to express—as opposed to simply waiting for their chance to speak. Because they process things deeply, introverts are naturally more receptive and interested in taking in information than divulging it. This is why people often confide in introverts—and they are good at keeping secrets. Many introverts understand how difficult it is to open up and trust people, so they may work hard to be more trustworthy themselves.

5. Introverts are able to really focus.

Since introverts give less attention to socializing than extroverts, they devote more attention to other things. They have the ability to cloister themselves away from the rest of the world and bunker down to accomplish a task or objective. Provided there are no disruptions, they can deeply immerse themselves in solitary activities like research or writing for extended periods of time. Often, the temptations that compete for the extrovert’s attention hold no power over the introverted mind. Their ability to concentrate often allows them to become experts and highly proficient in many fields of interest.

6. Introverts cultivate deep connections with people.

Introverts prefer quality of relationships over quantity. Extroverts are more inclined to rack up a bounty of personal connections, but many of them will be casual in nature. Introverts are more discriminating in who they allow into their world, so the relationships they do form will be cherished and nurtured. The introverted personality has little interest in shallow interactions and instead prefers to establish relationships that they find meaningful and deep. They’ll invest more effort into cultivating a small number of stronger connections than a large number of surface-level associations. As a result, they’re better able at surrounding themselves with people who are trustworthy and loyal to them.

7. Introverts are more independent.

Many extroverts insist on teamwork and being a team player. Because introverts are more private, they’re inclined to cultivate a lifestyle that maximizes autonomy and self-sufficiency. Whenever possible, they prefer to work independently, and they require less supervision than most extroverts. Managers can trust them to carry out a task without being derailed or distracted by socializing. Many introverts loathe being dependent on others, and they feel empowered in being able to deal with challenges relying solely on their own merit. (Quote source here.)

In an article published in 2017 on Psych2Go.net titled, 10 Strengths of Being an Introvert,” here is that list of those ten strengths:

Susan Cain, the author of the international best seller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking lists the ten strengths of introverts.

Ten strengths of being an introvert are:

1. Quiet Temperament

Cain says that introverts have a quiet temperament which is their hidden superpower. I agree with Cain. Just because introverts are not great socializers, it doesn’t make them less powerful publicly. People with quiet temperaments have been great achievers and leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln (Cain, Mone and Moroz, 2016).

2. Creativity

As introverts spend a great deal of time in solitude, ideas spring in their minds during such a time. Right from the CEO of Apple Tim Cook, to the creators of “Cat in the Hat” (Dr. Seuss) and “Harry Potter” (J.K. Rowling) – all forms of creativity have sprung from the minds of the introverts! (Cain, Mone, and Moroz, 2016). 

3. Thinkers

Introverts are great thinkers, and most of their monologue occur in their minds. They take the time to think, think and think just the way others take the time to watch TV or listen to some music. Their quiet time, when they think a lot, it is also space for them to dream, plan, deal with their disappointments or frustrations; handle their fears or battle with their problems (Kahnweiler, 2013). Their constant thinking helps them to become better problem solvers and to rationalize and make decisions. They think through every single aspect that crosses their mind. 

4. Preparation

Introverts are good in preparation whether it comes to doing work, handling a task, or even communication, they “really” prepare. Preparation enables introverts to be ready for any kind of situation (Kahnweiler, 2013). At work, preparation helps them to do their jobs efficiently. When it comes to communication, preparation enables them to say the right things at the right time. Instead of talking a lot of things, they tend to say what is required by using the right words. 

5. Listening

Listening is one of the best qualities and strengths of the introverts. Since they tend to talk less, they listen more. They give a lot of importance to others’ non-verbal communications or body language (facial expressions, gestures, postures) and to the tone of communication. Their listening capacity helps them to be sensitive to others. They believe in engaged listening giving the space and opportunity for others to talk. 

6. Prioritizing

Introverts are good in prioritizing work, their daily schedules and the people in their lives. Since they take time to prioritize, they tend not to mismanage any of their tasks. As realists, introverts do not believe in handling too many things at the same time. They are realistic about what they can handle and what they can’t (including people). Hence they tend to prioritize their work, schedules, communication with people and social interactions ensuring that it produces satisfactory results. 

7. Focus

When it comes to focusing, introverts do the best. Kahnweiler (2013) rightly puts it “introverts seek depth over breadth.” This quality in them helps them to focus keenly by diving deep, whether it is work or relationships or knowing people. Because of their ability to focus deep, their ability to think critically, organize and make plans and implementation of the plan is done by getting into details. 

8. Role Model

Introverts are quiet role models. Leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi who were introverts lead their nations by being quiet influencers. They have stood as role models for others to follow without putting themselves at the center. What has attracted people to these quiet influencers is their modesty, quietness, gentleness, and warmth towards people. Introverts stand out as quiet influencers because they don’t use any approach to win people or adopt strategies to make others do their bidding (Kahnweiler, 2013).  

9. Stretch

Though introverts are always labeled as closed type personality with little room for socialization or getting out of their comfort zone, they do stretch at times and can come into the spotlight (Cain, Mone, and Moroz, 2016). They are like the rubber bands who pop out when required only to go back to their real self. Their ability to stretch and not be rigid is one of their strengths.  

10. Writing

Writing is the most natural and best strength of an introvert. Writing causes them to be free in their mind and being. It’s like a booster to them to write all they think freely and bring out their thoughts uninterrupted and honestly. Writing helps them to think through, refine their plans, generate breakthrough ideas and solutions which otherwise could have been difficult (Kahnweiler, 2013). As Kanhnweiler (2013) emphasizes that writing “pushes the brain to think longer, harder, deeper and more unconventionally than it normally would” which fits the introverts’ personality. (Quote source here.)

References:

Cain, S., Mone, G. and Moroz, E. (2016). Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. New York: Penguin Books.

Kahnweiler, J.B. (2013). Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference. California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

The way I see it, there are a lot of advantages to being an introvert! So don’t let the world keep you down if you are an introvert, too. And remember that . . .

Still waters . . .

Run . . .

Deep . . . .

YouTube Video: “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin:

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All Things Are Possible

“I dwell in possibility”Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), one of America’s greatest and most original poets of all time.Just what is meant by the term “all things” in Mark 9:23 and Matthew 19:26? All of us at some point have circumstances or situations that come up that we’d like to see changed, yet, too often, they don’t change or they change in a way we were not hoping for, yet most of us who consider ourselves to be Christians believe that God can do all things including what seems to be impossible.

I came across an article on CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) titled, What does it mean when the Bible says ‘with God all things are possible?‘” by Jared Wellman, a writer  at CARM since 2010, and Pastor at Mission Dorado Baptist Church. He states:

This question refers to a statement made by Jesus in Matthew 19:26 and its counterpart Mark 10:27. The totality of His statement was, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  The question is best answered by looking at the context of the statement, which, beginning in Matthew 19:16, consists of a conversation between Jesus and a young rich ruler. The keys to purely understanding the statement hinge first on what Jesus meant by “this,” and second, what He meant by “all.” Whatever “this” was is impossible with man, but with God, “all” is possible.

The scene opens up with a rich young man coming to Jesus asking Him “what good things he should do to inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:16). Jesus’ response is important because He begins to attack the young man’s understanding of “goodness.”  Jesus declares that only the Father in heaven is good. This of course was not a disclaimer of His own deity, but a lesson to His special audience that no one is good except for God. Continuing His discourse with the young man, Jesus then said, “but if you wish to enter eternal life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).

Because he still did not understand, the young man’s response to Jesus was to receive a “laundry list” of commandments that he needed to follow in order to receive eternal life.  Jesus replied by listing five commandments that all deal with human relationships (Matthew 19:18-19). This is important because He was making a distinction between having faith in the law (or in his own abilities) and having faith in God; that is, the difference between the law and grace. The young man thought that the law could save him, but Jesus knew that that was impossible. As John MacArthur has written, “Jesus was trying to impress on the young man both the high standard required by God and the absolute futility of seeking salvation by his own merit. This should have elicited a response about the impossibility of keeping the law perfectly but instead the young man confidently declared that he qualified for heaven under those terms.” “All these things I have kept,” said the young ruler (Matthew 19:20).

Even after the young man failed twice to acknowledge his self-righteousness, Jesus continued to try to expose the sin in his heart. The young man asked, “What am I still lacking?” (Matthew 19:20) Jesus replied, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). At this, the young man “went away grieving for he was one who owned much property” (Matthew 19:22). 

At least two sins were revealed here: First, the young man was not as blameless as he thought he was because he was guilty of loving himself and his possessions more than his neighbor (which was a broken commandment according to v.19), and second, he lacked true faith which requires an unparalleled devotion to Jesus. This is when Jesus called over His disciples to teach them a lesson.  He said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). The disciple’s response was, “Then who can be saved?” or, “Then how is it possible for anyone to be qualified to enter the kingdom of God?” (Matthew 19:25)

This is where the famous and oft quoted verse comes in, which is the inspiration for our question. Jesus replied, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). This answers our first contextual issue, for we can now see that the “this” concerns salvation. It is impossible for man to save himself by his own merits, or for the law to grant eternal life. The grace offered only by Jesus Christ is necessary. The question now is, “What did Jesus mean by ‘all things?’” 

This part of the question concerns God’s omnipotence, or, His power. It is important to understand that omnipotence does not mean that God is capable of doing anything including the irrational or imperfect. There are things that God is incapable of doing, such as lying or denying Himself (Hebrews 6:182 Timothy 2:13Titus 1:2). Because God cannot do certain things, however, does not mean that He is less God because the things that He cannot do would actually take away from His perfect nature. Instead, omnipotence refers to God’s power, which is unlimited (Job 11:7-1137:23Revelation 4:8).  That is, God can take the things that are impossible to man, and make them possible because His power is unlimited, while ours is limited.  The context of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:26 is a perfect example of His unlimited power because while it is possible for man to be saved, it is impossible for man to accomplish the goal on his own. God’s unlimited power is needed to make the possibly impossible, possible.

Scripture is full of verses that portray God making the possibly impossible possible.  When Abraham and Sarah were awaiting the promise of a son, even after they were well past child bearing years, God told them, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) In the book of Numbers when the Israelites were complaining to Moses about food, the Lord told Moses that he was going to feed over 600,000 people for an entire month. Moses was skeptical, but God said, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23). In the book of Job, after forty-two chapters of trials, Job was able to answer God and say,I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Jeremiah said, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jeremiah 32:17). Finally, in Luke 1:37, in foretelling the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel told Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

It is easy to get hung up on the word “all,” but it is best to remember that the context of this statement is in reference to salvation. God made a way when the way was impossible for us. This is what it means that “with God all things are possible.” (Quote source here.)

In a second article titled, Is it really true that ALL things are possible with God?” GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

While God can do anything He wishes to do, God will not do things that would be against His holy will or contradictory to His purposes. He can commit no sinful act, for example, for He is completely holy, and sinning is not in His character.

Some will still ask, shouldn’t anything be possible for an omnipotent deity? An example may help:Can God make a stone so heavy He can’t lift it?This question contains a paradox: if the Lord is so powerful He can make a stone of infinite weight, how would it not be possible, given His mighty power, for Him to lift it? Yet, since the stone is of infinite weight, how would it be possible for Him to lift it? The answer is that God will not deny Himself, which is the case here. It seems He would not even consider such an idea, for He would be pitting Himself against Himself, a foolish act having no value in His kingdom purposes.

It is worth noting that we see throughout the Bible that God is omnipotent—all-powerful—not equaled or surpassed by anyone or anything. In discussing God’s making a dry path in the mighty Jordan River to allow the safe passage of His people, Joshua 4:24 says, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” Similarly, Jeremiah 32:26-27 relates,Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’” Continuing, in Hebrews 1:3, we see, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” These verses and others show that all things within God’s will are possible for Him.

The angel in Luke 1:36-37 said to Mary, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Some ask that, if “nothing is impossible with God,” does that mean I can run faster than a car or leap a tall building in a single bound? It is perfectly within God’s power to make those things possible, but there is nothing in Scripture that indicates it is God’s desire to make them possible. Something being possible for God does not obligate Him to actually do it. We must be thoroughly familiar with Scripture so that we can know what is God’s desire and what He has promised, and thereby know what God will make possible in our lives.

When we consider all of our heavenly Father’s mighty supernatural works throughout the Bible, we see that He indeed is capable of moving human events along the continuum of time, in spite of things seemingly impossible, all for His glorious purposes. (Quote source here.)

In an article written during the Christmas season titled, All things are possible with God,” by Angela R. Jones, Senior Pastor of The Greenhill Church and Christian Outreach Ministries, she writes:

…Today, I want to encourage you to hold on to your faith and believe that things impossible for man are possible with God. He can do the impossible because He is the all-powerful, invincible, all-knowing, infinite, faithful and everlasting God. He is Spirit, and He has supernatural power to move the impossible and see the invisible.

Let me comfort you with these words found in Romans 5:1-5 (Living Bible):

“So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it, until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Lessons from trials build your character. Hold on with faith in God that all things will work out for your good. The believer’s hope is different from the hope in the world. Spiritual hope can be described as positive expectancy with confidence and assurance that God will uphold His promises, even when you cannot see the outcome. It is an inward possession of trust in the power and goodness of God working in your life.

The believer’s hope is deeper than positive thinking or speaking. As believers, we know that what we hope for will surely come to pass because of the one we have placed our hope in. Hope for many lies in what they can see or do. They may or may not be able to get what they long for because of human limits. Therefore, people lose hope because they are trusting in the limitations of themselves and in other human beings. But God has no limits. He can breathe life into your dead situation.

There are three characteristics of hope that I pray you will carry with you as you move into the new year:

1. Hope believes in the unseen.
2. Hope presses through trials.
3. Hope relies on the power of God.

Beloved, hold on and keep the faith because there is hope for the hopeless. God has no limits. (Quote source here.)

And since we are on the topic of “all things,” let us not forget Romans 8:28 which states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And remember that with God . . .

All Things . . .

Are . . .

Possible . . . .

YouTube Video: “Turn It Around” by Israel Houghton and New Breed:

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Journey to Joy–Celebrating Purim

“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century (quote source here).
As I was looking over a pile of books on a bargain bookshelf the other day, I came across a book titled, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.” What struck me the most about the title was it’s proximity to my stay in the city where I have been living now for almost exactly two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights as of this week. In fact, it runs right through the start and ending of the annual Jewish holiday and celebration known as Purim.”

I’ve written about Purim several times on my other blog, and the last blog post was published a year ago titled, Celebrating Purim 5778-2018.” Purim is a joyous celebration commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot by Haman, a vizier in the Persian Empire under King Ahasuerus, had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Old Testament Book of Esther.

An article published in JerusalemOnline,com on March 17, 2017, titled, What is the significance of the Purim story for our times?” by “Admin,” states the following:

In every generation, there is a Haman that rises who seeks to exterminate the Jewish people. For this reason, the Purim story is timeless throughout the generations.

The Talmud declares, “When we enter the Adar month, we increase in joy.” Indeed, there is good reason to be joyful during the Hebrew month of Adar for it is during this month that the Purim story takes place. On this holiday, which Jews around the world are celebrating today, the great grief that the Jews of Persia experienced was transformed into a day of happiness and celebrations. Haman cast lots in order to determine which would be the best time in order to exterminate the Jewish people. He determined because Moses died in Adar, the Jews would not have luck during this month. Therefore, he planned for a genocide to occur during this month. However, he also forgot that Moses was born during Adar. In the end, his plot ultimately failed.  For this reason, we celebrate….

But one might ponder, what is the significance of the Purim story to our times? We are living thousands of years after the Purim story occurred. Israel is now a state. Jews around the world now have a place to call home. In most countries, Jews are no longer living as a member of a persecuted minority group without a place to call home. In the West, Jews have been granted equal rights. And even the few remaining Jews in the Islamic world who don’t enjoy equal rights always have the option of making Aliyah. The Jews are in a better place today. So why is the Purim story still relevant for us?

The message of the Purim story is timeless for throughout Jewish history, there has always been those who wish to annihilate the Jewish people. If one listens to ISIS, Iranian and Palestinian media outlets, genocidal intentions against the State of Israel are broadcast routinely. Common themes in the propaganda orchestrated by these entities are that the Jews are not obeying the king’s rules and therefore must all be killed, just as Haman argued thousands of years ago. And not too long ago, Hitler was in power and committed the worst genocide against the Jewish people in human history. There are people who survived the Holocaust that are still alive. Indeed, in every generation, there are Hamans’ who seek to annihilate the Jewish people. However, like during Purim, the Jewish people always manage to survive and persevere despite all of the obstacles standing in their way.

Due to the victory of lightness over darkness, Purim and the entire Adar month is a joyous time. According to Jewish tradition, the excessive joy that the Jewish people experienced during Purim surpasses the happiness that Jews had experienced during other incidents throughout history for during Purim, the Jewish people were at an all-time low and G-d’s miracles were hidden from the masses. They lived in complete darkness. They were exiled from their ancestral homeland, the Jewish Temple had been destroyed, and thus Jews were no longer witnessing the miracles that were performed daily in the Jewish Temple. A king reigned who held a festive banquet where tools that were utilized in the Jewish Temple were displayed in a disrespectful manner. As the Book of Esther relates, the Jewish people at the time of the Purim story were scattered and divided.

Nevertheless, in this atmosphere, the hidden miracles of the Purim story occurred [Note: including how it came to be that Esther was chosen as queen]…. And all of these hidden miracles enabled the salvation of the Jewish people. Despite the dire state that the Jews of Persia found themselves in, the Jewish people held onto their faith and managed to succeed in preventing genocide on the 14th and 15th of Adar due to Esther’s ascendancy to the throne. It was a complete reversal from darkness into light, mourning into joy and death into life.  As recorded in the Book of Esther (9:1) “And it was turned around, the Jews prevailed over their enemies.” They managed to do this by uniting as a nation and returning to the faith of their ancestors in droves. Thus, Purim teaches us an important lesson today. Whenever the Jewish people are united and follow their faith, no enemy can defeat them.  Therefore, today if we remain united and follow G-d’s laws, the modern day Hamans’ can conspire but all of their plots will ultimately fail. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Why Purim is Significant to Christians (no author name is given), a section titled, How Purim Relates to Christians,” states the following:

How Purim relates to Christians

First and foremost, Purim is a story of God’s faithfulness. The Book of Esther recounts His faithfulness to the children of Israel when they are threatened by the second most powerful man in the ancient Persian Empire—Haman. The lesson is simple. God is faithful to all His.

It also is about God turning bad situations into blessings. Because of the Jewish people’s faithful prayers and fasting, Queen Esther is given the courage to intervene with the king and disclose Haman’s plans to wipe out the Jews. In a declaration, the king gives the Jews the right to defend themselves and rob their attackers.

In spite of relying on divine leadership and strength, God isn’t mentioned once in the Book of Esther. This reminds many of us that faith in God has nothing to do with religion as much as it is a personal devotion to the Lord that should so infiltrate every part of our lives. Esther and Mordecai didn’t need to openly announce that they were depending on God. Doing so was so much a part of who they were that it would have been obvious to those who knew them.

In Israel, Purim is marked by dressing up in costumes, a universal symbol of merrymaking, and holding grand parties. While not the biggest or most important of Israel’s holidays, it is without question the festival that is most noticeable and accompanied by the most public merriment. (Quote source here.)

Purim is a celebration of God’s faithfulness and deliverance, and God’s faithfulness and deliverance extends to Christians, too. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Those of us who are Christians can celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim along with the Jews not only because of God’s faithfulness and deliverance in their lives and throughout the history of the Jewish people, but also because of God’s faithfulness and deliverance in our own lives, too.

So, with Purim only a couple of days away, let’s celebrate, because for those who truly believe . . .

God . . .

Is . . .

Faithful . . . .

YouTube Video: “Celebration” (1981) by Kool and the Gang:

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Be The Change

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. (Quote source here.)
Yesterday I posted a blog post on my other blog titled, All Things New,” that is themed around the changes that have occurred in my life over the past decade. One of the things I noted was how much I have changed during this past decade. While the external circumstances of my life changed dramatically over this time period, the internal changes for me personally have been, well, quite remarkable.

In continuing with the theme of change from All Things New,” here is what the apostle Paul had to say about “pressing on” in Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT):

 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

It is hard to move forward when we allow the past to hold us back. In an article titled, Leave the Past Behind,” by David Zerfoss, Owner of The Zerfoss  Group, Chair of Vistage International, and Executive in Residence at Queens University McColl School of Business, he writes:

Without realizing it, we often carry something around with us everywhere we go. We bring it out in our conversations, and it shows up in our attitudes. Whatever that thing is from the past may never have really existed, yet its power lives inside us and keeps us from moving forward.

Listen to people talk throughout the day, and take note of where their conversations are grounded—in the future, in the present, or in the past. Where would you guess most conversations draw from?

The answer is the past.

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:18–19

Some of us take our past—and, therefore, stress—with us everywhere we go, towing it along behind us. Why do we do it? It’s familiar to us. It’s that warm and fuzzy bag of stories we like to take out and share with our family, friends, and coworkers. This comfortable past is often our “best friend.” It’s who and what we know best. It’s like a worn-out easy chair or an old pair of shoes that fits us and feels just right. But God commands us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18), lest we miss the new thing He is doing right in front of us!

When people talk about or think about their past, it seems to take on the characteristics of a real-life being. The past cannot breathe, talk, think, or do. However, it is immensely powerful and can take over our future—if we let it. It’s like the sirens on the shore, luring you toward the rocks over and over again. Focusing on the past will certainly limit your choices for the future.

For a lot of people, I know the past holds a difficult childhood, an abusive marriage, or a financially draining job loss. Yet no matter how painful our past may have been, for some strange reason we often choose not to let go. In order to get on with our future and simplify our lives, we must choose to make a clean break and leave the past behind.

There’s an engaging Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is apologizing to Charlie Brown for missing a fly ball during a baseball game. She’s sorry she missed the fly ball and says it’s because she started remembering all the others she missed. “The past got in my eyes,” she says.

Many of us know people who are very reasonable—they have very good reasons for why they can’t move forward in life. Take for instance a person who has endured multiple bad relationships or marriages. He is certain that because of these relationships, he’s stuck in the terrible spot he’s in today. Isn’t it difficult to watch that person once again become attracted to the same type of person with whom he just ended a contentious relationship?

Carrying the past forward to the future will provide us with only one thing—incremental change—in our lives. “Unreasonable” people make a choice to create transformational breakthroughs, without “reasonable” ties to the past.

Each of us has a powerful choice. We have the ability to create our own simplified future by starting with a blank sheet of paper and a heart surrendered to God’s will for our lives.

Choose to leave the past behind, and begin living a life filled with new possibilities! (Quote source here.)

And in another article titled, Moving Forward,” by Trey Bradley, speaker and evangelist, he writes the following in two sections titled in his article titled, “Forget the Past But Never Forget the Past,” and “Don’t Settle”:

Forget The Past But Never Forget The Past

When Paul spoke of moving forward [see Philippians 3:12-14 above] he said that he was going to forget what was behind him. Paul definitely had a past and a dark one that surely haunted him often. We all have a past and the enemy often uses this to try and distract us or stop us from being effective in the kingdom. As Paul stated we must leave the past behind and recognize that it does not define us anymore. We have a new identity and a new name in Christ. The old person is dead and we have been raised to new life in Christ Jesus so we cannot allow past mistakes to keep us from moving forward. It is the past! Done! Forgiven! At the same time we must never forget the past as far as remembering where God has brought us. We must never forget where we come from! By always remembering how the grace of God brought us through in the past, we will be reminded that this same grace will get us through our current circumstance that is keeping us from moving forward. God came through before and He will come through again. He freed me from that sin in the past, and He can free me from this sin that I currently struggle with so I can and will move forward by His grace.

Don’t Settle

Many of us often settle for less than God’s best for our lives whether it’s our own spiritual walk, relationships, or career path. God has offered a feast at His table, and we often settle for scraps that fall on the floor. I find it interesting how Paul is in prison for following Christ and could have easily just gone into cruise mode. He could have just given up and quit by assuming that God must be done with him. However, he was not willing to settle based on his circumstances. He vowed to continue to move forward toward the goal and had a desire to know Jesus in such a way that he never had before. He knew that since he was not dead, that God was not done. If Paul can move forward while in prison than we can move forward despite what our circumstances may be. In fact your circumstances just might be the vehicle in which the gospel will go forth in your circle in ways that it never has before. Let’s not settle and think that our current circumstance is reason to just ride things out until the end. Keep moving forward.

Trey ends his article with the following statement:

It is so easy to allow apathy to set into our hearts, minds, and emotions but we must keep moving forward. I want to have the heart of Paul and never let myself become stagnant regardless of what my current situation may be. Let’s continue to run the race, leave the past behind, and press ahead. (Quote source and complete article at this link.)

Those are good points to remember–continue to run the race, leave the past behind, and press ahead (with enthusiasm!).

We all have things in our past that we wish we could change, and often they are very major things that have had a huge impact on our lives and even our relationships. But whatever those things are, we should not let them hold us back or stop us from moving forward. Paul was in a prison cell at the time he wrote those verses above in Philippians 3:12-14, and he didn’t let that hold him back. Moving forward in not just something that is external; it is also, and even more so, internal. It’s an attitude as much as an action. So, in closing, let’s remember to . . .

Continue to run the race . . .

Leaving the past behind . . .

And pressing ahead . . . .

YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” by Hezekiah Walker:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here