So, I’m a Christian. Don’t worry, this won’t turn into a Christian themed blog. Although if it did, I would be fine with that too.

But today’s wisdom came from a friend of mine who also happens to be a Christian. And you guessed it, the two of us kinda got into the deep stuff.

This friend of mine cleans carpets (click here if you want to check out his site) and was cleaning my carpets last week. There is a stain I’ve been hiding under a lamp for a long time now. A big, ugly, red stain. It’s either a Kool-Aid spill from one of my kiddos, or evidence from a grisly murder investigation. That’s how ugly it is.

To be completely honest, I had forgotten all about it. Every time I vacuum I kind of just vacuum around the lamp. I guess I don’t want to deal with it and my subconscious just tells me to go around it. Don’t deal with it.

I was helping my buddy move the furniture and when he saw the stain, he exclaimed and then asked me how long it had been there. We both laughed at my embarrassment and obvious neglect of the blotch. I told him that we didn’t have to worry too much about it. “I’ll just just cover it back up again,” I said. Well that little phrase sent the two of us into a metaphoric discussion about our lives.

We compared sin/mistakes to the stain and how we all try to cover up and forget about it. We talked about how that never solves the problem and just ends up being an ugly mark in our lives. This friend of mine is quite a Bible scholar and he went on to compare how he treats a stain like this to how Jesus Christ cleanses our sins. He told me that the Savior Jesus Christ said that he would “blot out” our sins just like he would “blot out” the stain in a carpet. I had to look it up and I found it! Acts 3:19-21.

I have thought so much about that. I did a little soul-searching (literally) and would invite you to do the same. What mistakes am I embarrassed about? What would happen if I turned to Jesus? Wouldn’t he just laugh a little with me then help blot out my stains? I think He will.

No. You know what? I know He will. He loves us. Isn’t that why He came? To save us from our sins?

So, it’s time. Time to let the Savior heal and help. Let him blot out a stain today!

I told ya. It got a little Christiany. And my friends, that’s not a bad thing!

savior-soft_edges

About 10 years ago money was tight and I knew I needed to find a part time job. The problem was that my family was young and I didn’t want to work nights and miss out on making memories with them. Well, after a fruitless search I heard from a friend of a friend about an early morning paper route. It seemed like a good fit so I jumped on it.

If I’m being honest, it was fun. Waaaaayyyy too early, but fun. I got so good at flinging those papers I felt like it was a game. I could have my window rolled down and not even slow the car. There was something beautiful, almost poetic, about being able to toss the paper just right and watch it slide right up to the person’s door.

Well, my pride bit me in the but one morning. At that time I was driving an old minivan and the brakes were shot! I had to refill the brake fluid about once a day. On this fateful morning I was running late for my day job and thought I would be okay if I waited to fill the fluid. Bad choice. I came to the one house where I had to stop and turn around but as I pumped the brakes, nada. I started pumping frantically but to no avail. Time seemed to slow to a crawl. I watched in horror as I slammed into the front of the house. Granted I wasn’t going very fast, but it was still enough to crunch the poor guy’s rain gutter and siding. It was 6 am and I wasn’t sure what to do. I contemplated just leaving. He’d probably never know. His house happened to be close to the college and if I was lucky, I thought, he would just blame it on the frat house down the street.

I’m happy to say I have a little  more integrity than that and I knocked on his door. No one answered. I knocked again and still no reply. I scribbled a quick note and told  him I would return in the afternoon to take care of my mess. After work I went to the hardware store and bought a rain gutter that looked like it matched the brown one I had demolished.

Now, here is where the powerful life lesson happens. When I returned that afternoon and the knocked on the door, an older gentleman answered. He smiled widely at me and asked what he could do for me. I told him, “Well, I’m your paper delivery guy…” and before I could finish he stopped me and said, “Can I just tell you what a fine job you do? You always get the paper right next to the door. I appreciate that.”

Great! Now what?

I wanted to turn around and say thanks and drive away. Instead, I thanked him and said something like, “I made a big mistake this morning. I kind of ran into your house.” He blinked then said, “Well, accidents happen. Are you okay?”

Who was this guy?! Did he mishear me? Maybe he needed to turn up his Miracle Ear.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” I said, “but I destroyed your gutter and a lot of siding on the front of your house.”

He replied, “Well let’s go take a look.”

I helped him down his porch steps and we stood side by side surveying the damage. Me with my head hung in embarrassment, him with a thoughtful look on his face. After a few minutes he turned to me, smiled, and said, “Like I said, accidents happen.” Then he said something that has stayed with me and always will: “It’s only a thing.”

I was stunned. He patted me on the back and continued. “Don’t beat yourself up about this. Let it go. I appreciate you being honest with me.”

“I have to replace this. I need to make this better,” I stammered.

“No. You don’t,” he said with a smile.

“Look, it would really make me feel better if did something. I’ve already bought the rain gutter and would really like to replace it,” I said.

“Well, that was unnecessary, but I can see that this is important to you so go ahead,” was his reply.

He went inside and I got to work. About an hour later (I’m not handy at all so it took me forever!) I invited him back out to see if my work was acceptable. Let me just say this: the brown rain gutter I picked out would have matched his house about 10 years ago. Whereas mine was brand new, his had been weathered to a faded brown. It was obvious that someone had replaced it and in my opinion looked horrible. But this good man took the time to look at it from every angle, shake it to test it’s stability, then looked at me and smiled again. He reached for the wallet in his back pocket and said, “You do fine work. How much do I owe you?”

Wha…? He was serious! He started taking out money and trying to give it to me.

“I ran into your house. This is quite literally the least I can do. You don’t owe me anything and I refuse to take any money,” I said. He returned the cash to his wallet and returned it to his back pocket.

“I’m going to call someone this afternoon to come out and look at your siding. I think I can have it replaced by…” I started. He cut me off and for the first time in my very brief encounter with him looked angry. “Now you listen here young man. Stop. You are not going to replace my siding. I refuse to let you. I told you, it’s just a thing!” His expression softened and he concluded by telling me, “You can let this go. I promise everything is fine. Besides, I think it gives my house some character.”

I drove away in absolute bewilderment. How? How could he be so calm? So kind? So ready to forgive and forget? I’m not sure I have the answer to any of those questions for him, but I can say that for me, this lesson has been powerful enough to cause me to be a little kinder, a little more forgiving when someone wrongs me.

I know this story seems unbelievable. I’m not sure I would fully buy it, but I actually kept the rain gutter to remind me. It’s propped up in my office as a constant reminder to be kind to people and forgive quickly.

Afterall, most of life is “just a thing”.

rain-gutter

I’ve been accused of being a very lucky person most of my life. My wife, co-workers, and mother-in-law in particular accuse me of this all the time. I can see why they do it. I’ve won hundreds of dollars in free food, clothing, games, and movie passes. I even won some tickets to see Justin Timberlake in Vegas (Epic!). You see, each morning I have about a 30  minute commute and about once a week I win something on some radio contest. So that makes my lucky, right?

Wrong!

I don’t think I’m any luckier than anyone else I know. Really. I’m not just saying it. I just think I’m willing to do something that most people are either too afraid or simply unwilling to do. You ready for the BIG SECRET?

I Ask.

That’s it. A little anti-climatic, I know, but that’s the secret. Yeah, I win a lot on the radio, but you know why? Because I call every single morning. Think about it: statistically speaking, I’m also the unluckiest person you know. I don’t win stuff every day too. And I don’t win a lot more than I actually win. But I repeat. The only reason I win so much is because I ask. I try. I’m not afraid to be told no.

Can I just tell you how liberating it is to be unafraid of the word, “No”? Not only do I win stuff on the radio, but when we go out to eat I sit where I want because when the waitress says, “Are these seats okay?” I ask, “Can we sit in a booth?” Usually she says yes, but if she says no, that’s okay too.

A couple years ago my wife wanted to go to New York and see Wicked on Broadway. But I’m a teacher and our trip would have been in the middle of the week. She almost cancelled the trip. You know what I did? I asked my principal if I could get a sub. You know what he said? “Sure! Enjoy your anniversary.” Can you imagine?! I would have missed out on seeing Dog the Bounty Hunter who was sitting 3 rows behind us…oh, and Wicked.

This whole “Asking” think is something a mentor of mine calls, “Imperfect Action”. We are always afraid of failing, or getting told, “No”, or…I don’t know. But when we learn to take imperfect action and just Ask, Act, and Accept it is amazing what doors are unlocked.

So…starting asking my friends! Take imperfect action. You’ll be surprised at the number of times you get told, “Yes”. And hey, you can then join me as one of the “luckiest” people on the planet!

I think this video sums up the idea of “Imperfect Action” nicely.

I had an incident today with my young son that I felt I should write down. He is quite vivacious and speaks his mind often, so it’s fun to hear what he has to say… most of the time. Well, today I took him with me to go grocery shopping. My wife and two daughters were caught up with homework, so I decided to get the shopping done for the week. The grocery shopping went great and we made it out alive with barely a dime in my pocket, if I’m being honest, but we gotta eat. I let my son help me load the bags into the back and he helped me put the cart into one of the cart holding thing (my brain has blanked on what they are called). As we pushed the cart to put it away, another man was putting his cart away as well. Now without trying to sound super judgmental, this guy looked a little rough around the edges. He had sleeve tattoos and piercings in places on his face that only seemed painful. And yet he was very polite when he waited for my son to move out of his way so he could get rid of his cart. My son watched him with fascination, I don’t think he’s seen a person with that many tattoos before. The man knew that my son was staring, but didn’t seem upset or offended at all. He smiled and began walking away, when my son reached up quickly to feel his arm. Now I think my son thought that maybe his arm might have a cool texture to it because of all the ink and designs, but his eyes almost popped out of his head when the guys arm felt just like normal skin. Of course, I quickly grabbed him and told him we need to respect peoples space, but the man only smiled and said it was okay. My son had to say goodbye to the cool guy with ‘the scribbles on his arm’ as he called them, before we could leave.

When I had finally got him strapped into the car, my son caught my hand and began feeling my arm. “Why don’t you have any scribbles daddy?” he asked with sincerity. ” I smiled and said that his mother and I believed that tattoos or ‘scribbles’ were not very good for our bodies. At that moment, I think he finally connected why he had gotten in trouble for drawing on himself. He then proceeded to feel his own arms. “I liked that man, daddy. His arms were cool.” I frowned as I watched him trace designs onto his little toddler arms with his finger. But before I could say anything to convince my three year old not to sneak out and get tattoos, he said, “I don’t want the scribbles though, daddy. I like your arms better.” He then reached out again to feel my arms. I smiled at him and told him, he was a good boy, but mainly I felt relieved. I was glad that I was a good example for my son. It’s not that the man wasn’t, it’s that my son chose to be like his dad rather than someone he thought was cool.

So I overheard one of my daughters talking to her friends the other day.

I wasn’t eavesdropping…okay, I was. But that’s what good parents do, right?

Anyway, one of the girls said something like, “I think we should love ourselves the way we are. It shouldn’t matter what other people think.”

I thought, “Okay, I can get on board with that”. Apparently the other girls agreed because they started giving examples. One of them then said, “Yeah, like it shouldn’t matter what I weigh.” Again, I agree.

She continued, “I should be able to eat whatever I want!”

Yeah, I agr…wait, what?!

My daughter chimed in, “Yeah! I love food. I love eating. I shouldn’t feel bad about what I eat!”

Warning bells were sounding in my head. This conversation was getting convoluted real fast! I didn’t want them to know that I had been eavesdropping, but I had to stop this twisted, tween logic. I sliced some fruit and veggies with carmel dip and ranch and told them to come into the kitchen for a snack. It worked. They cheered and joined me and my wife for some healthy snacks where we could change

Fast forward a couple hours. All my daughter’s friends had gone home and we had a chance to sit down. I mentioned I had heard their conversation and wanted to ask her a couple questions. Fortunately we have a good relationship so we can and often do have great conversations.

I asked her what she thought “loving herself” really meant. She said, “It means accepting myself exactly the way I am. I should be okay with the way I am.” I told her I agreed but wanted her to consider some things. And I offer them for your consideration:

  1. Are there some things about ourselves that we shouldn’t be okay with? Don’t get me wrong…I think a health dose of self-esteem is necessary, but ignoring bad habits is just idiotic. Take weight as an example. I think we should absolutely love our bodies. They are beautiful no matter their shape, color, or height. But does that mean I should be able to eat whatever I want? My eating habits aren’t just about my weight, they’re about my health. Should I be okay with my decisions leading to diabetes,  heart disease, or dangerously high cholesterol? So, I ask again, are there some things about myself that I shouldn’t be okay with?
  2. How much of what I’m told to love about myself is just social conditioning? This may not make much sense, but consider the “Truth about Tobacco” campaign. It’s pretty easy to see how the tobacco industry had for years conditioned us to see that there was nothing wrong with tobacco use. Just because the world said it was okay didn’t make it the truth.
  3. Are you really okay with the way you are? This one can get sticky, but let me illustrate with the example I used with my daughter. I asked her, “Are you okay with the fact that you can’t drive? Are you okay with the fact that you have no money? Are you okay that you don’t have a cell phone? Are you okay with your current curfew?” Her answer was obviously no. I tried to make the comparison then that because she wants to be better, to be more than she is right now, that maybe there are some things that it’s okay to not be okay with about herself. AGAIN, not in a degrading way, but in a “I’m-here-to-do-something-more-with-my-life” kind of way.

Well, take it for what it’s worth. But I guess for me the lesson is this:

Loving Yourself doesn’t mean you’ve “arrived”. You can love yourself and love to improve too.