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Sunday, February 21, 2010

What did you say?

My grandfather used to say “If you don’t respect your words, then no one else has a reason to.”

It was a hot summer day in July and we were having a family get together in my grandfather’s back yard. I was probably 5 or 6 years old at the time and like all little brothers, I was doing my best to annoy my older sister. I remember chasing her around the yard with some vile grotesque object impaled on a stick as she screamed in terror, which made for typical adolescent comedy.

Eventually she reached my mother and gave yet another Oscar winning performance out of a horror flick, enraging my mother, probably more from embarrassment than any real fear of her danger. My mother looked at me with her patent-pending “death look” and shouted “boy, the next time you do that, I am going to knock your head off!” Just then the most amazing thing happened…my grandfather spoke…and it was the first time I grasped the awe and respect that others had for his words.

He simply said, “Wait a minute, let me teach you something right now,” and although he didn’t shout it, everyone heard him and immediately all activity came to an abrupt halt. In the stillness of that moment and all eyes fixed on him, he said “now the next time he does that, you are obligated to literally knock his head off.” My mom quickly retorted that she was just angry and wanted me to stop. He acknowledged her intent, but made it clear that if she doesn’t respect her own words, then there is no reason for me to. He said there are two things everyone should learn; one was to never say things you are not prepared to follow through on and the other is that action is the responsibility created by your words.

Maybe you know a parent whose idle threats are completely ignored by their kids, or a complaining co-worker who always talks about getting another job, but does nothing? Much like the lover who cheats or a drunken friend that swears…again…this is the last time, their hollow words are not respected because they have not given anyone reason to value them. The amount power in your words is validated by the respect for the actions that back them, not the amount of volume in your voice. In my grandfather’s day, people understood that the level of respect due a person was directly correlated to the value of their word, that hasn't changed. A handshake should be a contract and your word - your bond. My grandfather was so well respected because his actions consistently set the example for his words…and that is an example we can all follow. Be Blessed.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Never "Fall" In Love

My Grandfather used to say “I hope you never fall in love, but I pray that you learn to walk in it.”

On the heels of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share this true pearl of wisdom as we consider this time of love and relationships, because the truth at the core of this statement goes far beyond the mere simplicity of the words. Anytime I have ever repeated this to anyone, they usually have the same initial reaction…nothing…for a moment they pause to drink in the paradox in the statement and consider the gravity of the rationale.

My grandfather’s quote was his genuine way of encouraging me to learn two things; one was how to guard and protect my heart and the other was how to deliberately share it with reckless abandon. Confusing? Let me break this down this way for you…have you ever fallen? You know, tripped over that invisible thing on the floor or slipped on an icy walkway? Maybe the fall was caused by something more sinister, like a push or being knocked off balance by something; let me ask you, right then in that moment - how did you feel? Most people would say, that is a feeling that they never want to experience again, it’s a terrifying rush of adrenaline because there is no control and the potential outcome is pain of some sort.

New relationships can be much the same, sure there is a level of exhilaration and rush of emotion that masquerades itself as love, but is often little more than emotion and if you "fall" into it without carefully considering the costs it may not be just your pride or a bone that is damaged. You see, just like any other fall things may be broken like maybe your heart, your spirit or self-esteem, and it takes more than a little ice to heal and relieve that kind of pain. On the other hand, when you walk with deliberate steps, especially with someone who cares as much for your safety as you do theirs, you can navigate the most difficult of circumstances and share our most prized possessions like love with joy, freedom and confidence.

What I’ve learned is that the first step to really understanding this quote is to learn the definition of true love. Many think that love is a strong affection or deep longing and desire for someone, but there are words to describe those feelings like infatuation, passion, or often lust. However to define love you must first understand what love is; it is a decision, not merely any decision, it is an unselfish decision to put the person you love before yourself. Now that statement alone is another blog within itself, but when you consider the level of commitment that true love requires, it is easy to see the dangers of “falling” into it without care and why so many are hurt by the fall. Walking in love transcends more than just a physical relationship, it builds a foundation of stability that weathers life’s storms and emotion's inconsistency, so my prayer is the same for you, make it a point to walk and not fall, with those you choose to love. Be Blessed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Conquering Fear

My Grandfather used to say “The secret to conquering your fear, is a better knowledge what your fear.”

For my cousin, it was spiders that would cause an almost paralytic trance that rendered her virtually statuesque. I remember once watching every muscle in her body tense up as she unleashed a barrage of ear-piercing screams with her eyes focused on a granddaddy long-leg spider sitting in the corner of her bedroom. Even after the spider had been removed, she did not sleep in her room for days, still paralyzed with fear.

My grandfather’s answer…knowledge. First it was an understanding of II Timothy 1:7, then we went to the library and got “The Big Book of Spiders” and everyday that summer we learned something new about the different spiders in the book. As our knowledge increased about which spiders were and were not dangerous, where the worst ones were located and how to recognize them, you could see a level of comfort settle in. By the end of the summer we would go on “backyard safaris” in search of pretty much anything weird and finally spiders no longer spoiled the fun. She still didn’t like spiders, but she would tolerate them. Knowledge was truly the antidote to her condition of fear.

I like the way Mark Twain said it when talking about courage, he said “Courage is the resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not the absence of fear.” This is what my grandfather was trying to teach my cousin and me, the mastery of fear. Yes, fear is a part of life, but it is your response to fear that determines whether you become a slave or a master to it. Whether it is the fear of spiders, change, another race or culture or death one of the greatest remedies remains the same…knowledge.

Often unchecked fear leads to failure, not always because we didn’t succeed at something, but in that we never tried to accomplish something in the first place. It is amazing how many people live their lives afraid of things that may never happen. Listen…you only have one ticket to life’s roller coaster ride so jump on and when you face a twist, a loop or free fall drop that tries to grip you with a paralyzing fear, tighten your seat belt with knowledge, throw your hands in the air and enjoy the ride! Be Blessed.