One Day You’re an Expert

I’ve been experiencing a great deal of change recently, and another big one is right around the corner. In two weeks I’ll be leaving my current employer to become an independent consultant in the healthcare industry. It’s pretty exciting. I guess it could also be scary, but I’m trusting God and I’m ready for this particular change.

Having dinner with a younger colleague last week, and discussing my plans, the more general topic of career progression came up. After I explained my career journey, he had a couple of questions. “So, how does one get to be ‘an expert,’ to arrive in a position where others seek you as a consultant? Any advice to pass along?”

I don’t know that I had too much smart to say. Most of my thoughts on the topic are pretty basic, and my answer was something like this: Do your best at your current job. Keep learning. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Research what others are doing. Go to conferences and meetings. Read. Talk with colleagues. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own knowledge and ability and you’ll realize that you’re an expert. At least that’s what happened to me.

Something similar seems to have happened with my emotional wellbeing. I’ve thought about this kind of career move before, but it seemed too scary, too distant. Now it seems at hand. I’m finding myself to be calm and at peace with this major change. Also as you’d expect, I’m trusting God. It feels good, surprisingly good. It’s surprising enough for me to ask myself, “Wait a minute! Why am I not more worried about this? How and when did I become a calm, peaceful person? When did I get this faith?”

I think the answers are a lot like those involving my career. Do the best you can at following Jesus. Pray. Listen. Talk with others of like mind. Pay attention to your emotions. Have whatever faith you can muster. Read the Bible. Work through your emotions as best you can. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own inner state and you’ll realize that you’re a calm and peaceful person of faith. At least that’s what happened to me.

Praise God.

Peace,

Pete

Change Happens

“Lookin back at my background tryin’ to
figure out how I ever got here.
Some things are still a mystery to me
While others are much to clear.”

Migration – Jimmy Buffet

 

Like I said a few weeks ago, things can happen fast, and change is a constant. But it sure is hard to get used to, isn’t it? I’ve spent the last week or so reflecting on all of the recent (and not so recent) changes in my life, and thinking about how I, myself, have changed. While recognizing that I am certainly the same individual human being as I was in high school, I also feel like a “different person” in many respects. It’s a strange feeling – I’m still me, but a different me.

A casual conversation on this topic with my friend Curt (who is into music), led me to pull out my Jimmy Buffett CD collection, and I’ve been listing to them in the car all week. His music really takes me back. I can remember the various stages of life I was in when each album came out, and the music brings back memories of good times as well as stressful times. I’ve been enjoying his lyrics and melodies for over 40 years.

Can we agree that Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes is clearly the best Jimmy Buffett album?  It has really withstood the test of time for me.  I still love it, every song.  Everything may be different since 1977, but that recording endures, unchanged by time. Maybe it’s that sameness that’s the reason his songs bring up such memories for me, and why music often seems to take people back to the past.

Constancy, stability, sameness. We don’t get that too much in life. Maybe in certain foods – Oreos are pretty much the same as decades ago – but otherwise change is the rule. People, places, organizations, things, jobs, relationships, and technology – everything seems in constant flux. And it’s all speeding up.  What’s a person to do?

“It’s those changes in latitudes,
changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes – Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy is right. We have to roll with the punches.  It’s good to have the ability to laugh, to be lighthearted, despite and through life’s inevitable changes, but what can allow you to do that? What’s helping me through is placing my trust and confidence in Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t change. He doesn’t forget his people or his promises, and his arm is never too short. Facing uncomfortable changes? Seek the Unchanging. I’m nobody special; God will help you too.

Take care,

Pete

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What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-9 NIV

Things Can Happen Fast – For Better or for Worse

For some reason, perhaps that I don’t share enough, Facebook has been serving up a variety of pictures from one year ago for me to share. (I haven’t shared any.) Each time I see one I think, Was that really a year ago? It seems like just the other day. Wow, a lot’s happened since then. It’s caused me to focus a little more on the passage of time and all of the recent changes I’ve been through. Most are positive.

I discussed this with two of my buddies the other day, and we all had a similar view. Each of us has faced significant and stressful issues in his personal life over the last few years – both within the family and on the job. It’s been a struggle, but each of us has made it through these hard times with a pretty positive outcome. We’ve trusted God and helped each other. (Thank you, guys.)

It’s highly encouraging to look back and see how much progress has happened in many areas of my life. I need to remember this when I face whatever crisis appears next – Things can get better. God has a plan. I’m resolving to live “in the now” more, not fearing horrible future outcomes from current crises, but rather trusting God and doing today’s tasks today. Seems to have worked in the past.

The other reason to live in the now, is that the future is uncertain. Everything may not be better next year. There might not even be a next year. None of us can even count on tomorrow. I was reminded of that a week ago as a colleague at work died suddenly of a cardiac arrest. Aged 47 and having no heart disease, he was literally completely well right up until his heart stopped for no apparent reason. It’s been shocking, sad and sobering for the many who knew him. Fortunately he placed his hope in Jesus, as does his family, and Jesus has overcome death.

The juxtaposition of these recent events, and Easter too, has made me realize how much mental energy I devote to an uncertain future (way too much) and how little I rest in God’s grace (way too little). Time to revisit my priorities. This seems like a good list: Trust God. Live life. Don’t worry. Be happy. Regard each day as a gift. Cherish my family. God, help me do that.

Pete

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I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
– Jesus (John 16:33 NLT)

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On the happy side, here’s a nice two-year development.  The Amaryllis I started from seed have done great!

May 2015

Same plant, April 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concerned About Fake News? Me too. Truth Matters

There’s a lot of concern about “fake news” lately, and rightly so. Accurate news is important to us. We want to know what’s happening and why. How do events affect us? In matters as simple as local highway projects and as complex as the national economy, we seek knowledge and understanding to guide our actions. What’s my best route to the office next week? How should I invest my 401k? Truth matters.

Defining fake news broadly as reporting that is either completely fabricated, intentionally distorted, or unconsciously slanted by internal bias; I see a lot of it. And it’s not going away. The lust for power and money drives our economy and politics. (Not always at the personal level, but at the organizational level for sure.) That’s not going to change either. And every one of us has some sort of unconscious bias. So what we call the “the news” has been, still is, and will continue to be “fake news.” Deal with it.

Deal with it by understanding the situation and carefully searching for truth yourself. Examine multiple sources. Try to acknowledge your own “filters” or biases. Open your mind as best you can; it’s not that easy. Truth can be painful. Be prepared to change your mind, but once you’ve decided what’s true, then act accordingly.

Unfortunately, the more personal the truth, the more painful it is. Most people are looking for a lot more certainty about the economy and their investment portfolio than about their philosophy of life and merits of their lifestyle. They seek truth about the former, while being content with their internal fake news feed on the latter. Hey, I’ve been there.

As with actual media headlines, we can have a lot of internal fake news going on inside…
– It’s just too hard there’s no way I can quit __________.
– It’s not my fault. The problem is __________.
– I can’t do that because __________
– I have a right to live how I please. I’m only hurting myself.
– I’m this way because _________, and you need to accept me the way I am.
– It’s true for me, but not for you. There is no absolute truth.

The fake news sounds good, but the road to wellbeing and wholeness starts with searching for the truth. The truth about life. The truth about yourself. The journey is usually slow, so why not begin now?  Of course, beginning the search requires ending the internal fake news feed.

Truth exists. You can find it. Let me know if I can help.

Pete

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Wisdom Calls for a Hearing

Listen as Wisdom calls out!
Hear as understanding raises her voice!

On the hilltop along the road,
she takes her stand at the crossroads.

By the gates at the entrance to the town,
on the road leading in, she cries aloud,

“I call to you, to all of you!
I raise my voice to all people.

You simple people, use good judgment.
You foolish people, show some understanding.

Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you.
Everything I say is right,

for I speak the truth
and detest every kind of deception.

My advice is wholesome.
There is nothing devious or crooked in it.

My words are plain to anyone with understanding,
clear to those with knowledge.

Choose my instruction rather than silver,
and knowledge rather than pure gold.

For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies.
Nothing you desire can compare with it.

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment.
I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.

All who fear the LORD will hate evil.
Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance,
corruption and perverse speech.

Common sense and success belong to me.
Insight and strength are mine.

Because of me, kings reign,
and rulers make just decrees.

Rulers lead with my help,
and nobles make righteous judgments.

“I love all who love me.
Those who search will surely find me.

I have riches and honor,
as well as enduring wealth and justice.

My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold,
my wages better than sterling silver!

I walk in righteousness,
in paths of justice.

Those who love me inherit wealth.
I will fill their treasuries.

“The LORD formed me from the beginning,
before he created anything else.

I was appointed in ages past,
at the very first, before the earth began.

I was born before the oceans were created,
before the springs bubbled forth their waters.

Before the mountains were formed,
before the hills, I was born—

before he had made the earth and fields
and the first handfuls of soil.

I was there when he established the heavens,
when he drew the horizon on the oceans.

I was there when he set the clouds above,
when he established springs deep in the earth.

I was there when he set the limits of the seas,
so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.

And when he marked off the earth’s foundations,

I was the architect at his side.
I was his constant delight,
rejoicing always in his presence.

And how happy I was with the world he created;
how I rejoiced with the human family!

“And so, my children, listen to me,
for all who follow my ways are joyful.

Listen to my instruction and be wise.
Don’t ignore it.

Joyful are those who listen to me,
watching for me daily at my gates,
waiting for me outside my home!

For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.

But those who miss me injure themselves.
All who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8 NLT

Getting a Radically Healthy Lifestyle – Bit by Bit

Salad, it’s what’s for dinner

A couple of weeks ago over lunch, a friend and I got to talking about our respective health. As a reader here, you know that I pay attention to my health and lifestyle. This guy does too. We’re both relatively lean and fit middle-aged men, and we both eat a “healthy diet.” So I was a little surprised to find out that his cholesterol has been “too high” for years and perhaps he was similarly surprised when I revealed that some of my fasting blood sugars have been “too high” off and on. How could that be when we’re doing everything right?

Well… Good question. All is not controllable of course. Metabolic disorders can and do occur, even in folks who are doing “everything right,” for genetic or other reasons. “Just bad luck I guess” summed up the next few minutes’ conversation as we consoled ourselves. But then we came around – “Honestly, are we doing everything right? Are there actions that could improve our health (and bring those lab results back into the ideal range)? What else can we do?”

We came up with the typical list of incremental solutions – lose a couple of pounds, exercise a bit more, reduce snack foods/desserts/simple carbs/etc. – before getting radical. Sure those are all good, but how about eating vegan? No meat, no dairy – that’s radical! Would it help? Almost certainly. Will we do it? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to make such a radical change.

Yet we both have been improving our habits over the years. We both already live lifestyles that represent radical departures from those of average Americans. I do eat a lot less meat and more vegetables than I used to. How did that happen? For me at least, a little at a time. Bit by bit. Learning, growing, adjusting. It’s been a slow process.

Our conversation brought to mind the book Eat to Live by Dr Joel Furman, which I have read several times. If you only want to read one book on healthy eating – this should be the one. It’s radical, too radical for most of us.  Frankly it’s been too radical for me, but eating the way he recommends does cure people. I’ve seen it. Reading it again last week reminded me that I have farther to go. There is more that I can do. There is more I will do. I probably won’t do it all at once, but I’m going to keep at it.

How about you? Not ready to make the big changes that you know are indicated? Fine. Take a small step. Then keep stepping.

Let me know how I can help,

Pete

Enjoying the Moments

Things come and things go. Easy to say, hard to accept. How often we try to hang on to a pleasant situation or feeling as it naturally comes to an end. Or perhaps we try to go back in time. Have you tried and failed to recreate or recapture the happiness associated with a past event? I have. It doesn’t work.

So I’m trying to learn to enjoy today for what it brings, even knowing that it too shall pass. This came to mind on my commute earlier in the week when I was struck by the view of pink and yellow trumpet trees in bloom on the last turn out of my neighborhood. Normally it’s a pretty pedestrian view, nothing special. Right now however, it’s spectacular! The bright flowers will bring joy to my drive time only for a few weeks, but what a few weeks!

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Another great flower is the orange blossom, many of which are blooming in my backyard. They’re small, but they punch above their weight in fragrance. Our yard smells great, almost intoxicating! Come on over and enjoy it with us if you’re in town. But come quickly because soon these too will be gone for another year.

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The flowers come and the flowers go. It’s nice to think that they’ll be back next year, and hopefully better, as the trees will have grown bigger. But there are no guarantees. Trees can be injured or killed by disease, drought or lightning. Or I could move away, or be ill, or worse. Next year may never come.

Of course many things aren’t cyclical and a yearly return cannot be anticipated. Your child will only be six, or twenty-six, once. Enjoy every age. The same goes for yourself and your spouse. Nothing stays the same. Change happens. Now is a special time, but so is the future.

Sharon and I notice our town changing every day. Real estate prices are up and developers are back in business. More roads, homes, eateries, and shops are on the way. There is no stopping it. I’m sure the area will still be nice next year, but it will be a different nice than now. I plan to enjoy them both.

It’s the same with the trees – they’re still very enjoyable when they’re not in flower. They bring shade, attract birds and squirrels, and are attractive with only leaves. Oranges will be a bonus next fall, but really there is something to appreciate, and enjoy about the trees in every moment.

Just like life.