Stuck On Repeat

Sometimes I think my children are intentionally trying to drive me crazy. I mean it! Some of the things they do lack reason… there is little logic in their thinking! They remember movie plots, song lyrics and the books they read but they can’t remember to do their chores. And regardless of the school test results, I think they may be hard of hearing.

Unless it’s something they want to hear. It amazes me the minute details they recall from trivial conversations and yet, they can’t remember what you asked them to do an hour ago. Let someone reveal an embarrassing story from mom or dad’s past and it’s sure to be remembered forever the first time they hear it. Tell them to put their shoes away while standing right next to them 3 times in 30 minutes and chances are they won’t remember if they hear you at all.

Sometimes I think it would be easier if there were cameras everywhere recording every moment of our interaction. If something is forgotten, simply go back to that moment and retrieve the information. Sure, it would be awkward at first but not nearly as awkward as repeating everything you ask them to do 52 times and still they forget.

I remember when I was a child. It seems like yesterday (don’t even say it). I know how easy it is to get distracted and I had my share of forgetful moments. I would sit down to watch a few minutes of TV and before I knew it, my parents were pulling into the neighborhood and I hadn’t done anything I was supposed to do before they got home. There I was, setting world records and personal best times in events like synchronized sweeping and dusting or the dirty clothes stuff. I could clean house in 30 minutes flat, quicker if I was under pressure of losing some privilege I enjoyed.

No matter how good I got at the speed clean, I always ended up forgetting something and it apparently was the one thing that really mattered because none of the other things I had done were mentioned. Only what I had forgotten or didn’t hear that I was to do. If they had only told me that switching the clothes around was more important than straightening the living room, sweeping, dusting and dishes, I’d have done that and left the other stuff for another time.

I guess my kids come by it naturally. My wife would probably tell you that I still tend to forget things on occasion, but, in my defense, she does tend to ask when I’m half asleep. Bottom line, you just have to accept that you’re gonna be doing some repeating in this life and that’s okay. Yes, it’s irritating and can make your right eye start twitching ever so slightly, but think back to all the things that had to be repeated before you got the message. It’s part of the human condition and it always will be.

I know that, in my life, I’m thankful for those who have had the patience to repeat themselves to me. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their investment. I’m also thankful for a loving Savior who, though He’s already told me all I need to know, will take me aside and lovingly repeat himself until I get it. He’s had to repeat Himself a lot.

You know, He’s probably laughing when I look at my kids and say things like, “I told you that already! Don’t you ever listen?” or “We’ve been over this a hundred times! Pay attention!” Remember that the next time you’re ready to pull out your hair because your kids are getting on your last nerve. Somewhere in your past, someone repeated themselves over and over again before you got it. Listen to yourself from time to time and ask yourself, “Does this need repeating?” Sometimes it’s what we repeat that’s the problem. I’m thankful all those people who have repeatedly told me they love me and those who have prayed for me time and time again. It’s taken some time, but I’m getting it! Thanks!

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Extinguished

Ever feel burnt out? Like the torch at the end of an episode of Survivor, your flame has been snuffed. Only, you don’t get to leave the island. The game isn’t over and you don’t feel like going on, but you have no choice.

If only life were like a game. You play until your flame goes out then you go and relax until the game starts up again. Real life doesn’t work like that though. Often times you simply need to push through, but how can you when your flame is barely an ember? In those moments when we feel like everything is coming down around us and we can’t possibly go on, we often are a step away from a breakthrough.

We fight against so many things in life and, honestly, many of the battles aren’t ours to begin with. We take the weight of the world (not literally, but it can seem so heavy) and wonder why we never seem to achieve what we set out to accomplish. We spin our wheels because we can’t get the necessary traction. We spread ourselves so thin. We try to solve the problems of everyone we feel responsible for, all the while, forgetting to take responsibility for ourselves. In that moment, we loose our passion and drive. Our flame begins to diminish.

How great would it be to have the passion you once had before life began to wear away at you? No, it’s easier to not try than to experience the hurt of never realizing our passions. The stress of achievement might just be to great. Maybe you can’t take another disappointment. Besides, you have to many people counting on you to solve all their problems, they need you to be strong for them. Your passion will have to wait.

Did you know that one technique for fighting fires, especially forest fires, is to light smaller fires in the path of the oncoming blaze to consume the fuel the larger fire would need to continue. Through controlled burns, they create a firebreak to stop the fire or make it more manageable. In dire cases, they will use backfiring to consume entire areas in an attempt to redirect the flames. Dynamite can even be used to cause a massive loss of oxygen at the source of the burn in a hope to extinguish the fire.

Sounds like life to me. Often times when my passion is strong, it’s not failure that extinguishes my flame, but the wildfires I’m forced to deal with that take the energy and fuel that would have kept me burning. Many times things blow up that are beyond my control. Those explosions take resources that I had planned to use down the road. They eat up the tinder that would have kept my fire burning.

It’s not the fault of the fires. How ridiculous would it be for me to get mad at the flames, and what good would it do? You have to know what needs your immediate attention in the moment, deal with it and then move on to the next, all the while remembering that your flame is your responsibility and you need to protect it. Do all you can to keep an ember burning. Sometimes, you’ll have to let someone else handle all those other fires. They might have been set to distract you from the things that need your attention most.

Instead, we often try to fight all fires, ours and those of others in an attempt to protect those we love. We take on their stress and add it to our own. Eventually, we buckle under the strain. We try to deal with everyone’s adversity but often find ourselves personally crumbling because we haven’t done what was necessary in our own lives. We haven’t tended our own flame so we burnout. The adversity that was meant to make us stronger destroys us because our fuel was burnt up before we ever began the fight.

Parents, we can be guilty of this in the lives of our kids. We want to save them from a lesson we learned. We put so much effort into protecting them from adversity, we forget what the trial did for us. We fight their fires for them but our job is to teach them to fight on their own.

Adversity isn’t bad. Adversity helps us grow. When our faith is tested and we stand firm, perseverance is our reward. When we see that we can make it when all hope seemed lost, our faith becomes even stronger. When we tend to our faith, we keep life in our flame! What a great lesson to teach our kids and what a wonderful gift to show the world!

When all seems to be falling down around you and you’ve done all you can do, stand firm! Finish your race! Not my words, but Paul knew what life could do to those without faith. He understood the necessity of passion to drive us when the fight was raging. It was true then and it’s true today. Hold onto your faith and tend to your flame.

Go For Gold

As the Olympics begin, in all the pomp and circumstance from the Opening Ceremonies until the last medal is awarded, dreams will be realized and records broken. If you were to ask most athletes in the games, you would hear stories of heartbreak and sacrifice, dedication and discipline sure to inspire admiration and a good many tears. Each has overcome their own obstacles en route to achieving their Olympic dreams.

With an impressive field of over 3000 competitors representing 88 countries (both Winter Olympics records), this year’s Olympiad looks to be one of the most competitive in history. With a reported total of 98 gold medals up for grabs, that means the athletes have an approximate 3% chance of winning their individual event. For most of the athletes though, it is something far greater than a chance to win a medal. Many compete without any preconceived notion of a medal in their event. They represent their nation, their people, something greater than themselves.

What do you represent? When you think about it, we can represent many things we through our lives, some beneficial and some not so much. Selflessness is one of the more difficult things we try to do as human beings. It’s far easier to represent our own self-interest than that of the hurting and the lost. Yet, we see examples daily where people have risen above self with pure motivation to reach out and lend a hand to those in need.

It’s like the athlete representing the country who isn’t given a chance of placing but still they compete because of all those people back home who take so much pride in knowing, though they can’t be there themselves, their flag will be raised. What motivates that individual to stand on the world’s stage against overwhelming odds? The possibility of what might be. Today could be the day they take home the gold. So they awake each day to train and push themselves knowing that every day is a new chance to take home the prize.

Whether they take home a medal, knowing what they have represented in the effort is often much more valuable. I think if we all found more value in the effort, many more of us would reach the goals we set out to achieve.  We focus on the prize when really, the reward is often the journey. If we start each day looking for a chance to make a difference, to represent something more than just what’s good for ourselves, we might find the gold we seek each day.