Autobiographies of Ordinary People

I’m still thinking about “being GREAT” and the intense focus on the “great” men and women of history or of today. Like me, you may read their biographies and autobiographies looking for insight – What can I learn from his life? How did they get to be great? What are their habits? How can I be like them? That’s okay I guess, but it’s not that simple. Great people seem to develop from some combination of circumstances, character and abilities that doesn’t seem easily replicable by most of us.

I’ve figured out that I’m not going to be great by society’s measures. And it’s also the case that many great men have terrible flaws – obsessiveness, arrogance, cruelty, greed, and the like – which may even have helped propel them to fame and fortune. I don’t want to be like that. Greatness at any price is not worth the cost. No, my challenge is to be great at living an ordinary life. How can I be a great husband and dad, a great employee, a great friend? Whose biographies do I read? Whose lives do I study?

Even reading the Bible, I’m tempted to identify myself with Paul, Peter, David, Joseph or some other prominent person. But these guys are amazingly great men of God. All of us simply can’t be like them. Perhaps it would be more realistic for me to identify with someone in the “multitude,” or “crowd,” or among “…the three thousand that were added…” Unfortunately it seems that most anyone in the Bible that gets much ink isn’t very ordinary.

It got me thinking that maybe I should start reading biographies of ordinary people with extraordinary character. Do they exist? I don’t know, but I do know that I’m learning a lot about life from trusted friends. We meet weekly to encourage and guide each other through life’s up and downs as we follow Jesus. We share our stories along with our hopes, dreams and fears. Last week it struck me that I’m hearing their autobiographies – as told by the authors – and they’re hearing mine. And we’re helping one another plan the next installment. Sort of an “autobiography writer’s group” as it were. Cool!

Autobiographies of ordinary people – they do exist. And they’re powerful. Hear a few from people you trust and find some friends to help you write yours. You’ll be glad you did.

Pete

 

Escaping the Pressure Cooker

Generations ago, and in some places still, people’s main source of pressure was survival. Find food. Secure shelter. Avoid predators. Make it to tomorrow. Not so much of that in America today. But even here, modern life has its pressures. Pressure to be “successful,” to be liked, admired, to be beautiful, to fit in, to be accepted, to live a lifestyle. Life is full of such pressure. For many people, perhaps even most, life can be a virtual pressure cooker.

The media, and especially social media, are part of the problem. For professional reasons, I’ve been on LinkedIn more than usual lately and it’s bringing me down. Half the posts in my feed promise to reveal the secrets to being a “GREAT™ _________” (leader, CEO, operator, etc.) and the other half seem to be people revealing to everyone else just how GREAT of a ________ they are. Apparently they’re not too many ordinary people allowed out there anymore. We’ve all got to be Richard Branson or some other version of “GREAT!”

Of course not everyone can be great in the eyes of the world. Very few of us really. I don’t know about you, but I’ve figured out that I’m not going to be one of them. I’m not going to be awarded the Nobel Prize or the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Not going to be on “the 50 most influential people of ______” list. My books are not going to be bestsellers. No one will ever write my biography. Heck, I’ll probably never even have a Wikipedia entry (an essential step on the way to GREAT).

Fortunately the pressure is off. Not because I’ve given up the pursuit of excellence, I’m all for excellence. Life is serious. Results do matter.

The good news is that God does not call me to be GREAT but rather to be faithful. Having been fully accepted by God through faith and by the work of Jesus, I am relieved of the world’s performance pressures, while at the same time God’s Holy Spirit works through me to achieve his results. And he is not about mediocrity. All I’ve got to do is cooperate! (Yes, cooperating with God has to be worked at too but it’s way more pleasant than trying to be GREAT.)

I think that’s a very short version of the gospel of God, which is God’s good news to all of humanity. If you’re feeling the pressure, there is a way out. Jesus is the way. I can’t say why but he chose me; maybe he will choose you too. I hope he does!

Blessings,

Pete

Appreciate the Work… and the Person!

“Thanks for _______. I appreciate it!” We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. Perhaps we even say it a lot; after all, it’s good to let people know that their work matters. But it’s easy to forget that behind the work is a person. And people matter.

Our American culture is one of competition and achievement. Winners are celebrated and results are prized. In business, the public company focus on quarterly results drives a “what have you done for me lately” attitude towards employees from the CEO on down. In the “market” people become just the means to an end, and if the end isn’t perfect, look out. This is the market-driven culture in which we all work (to a greater or lesser extent depending on our individual situations). Do you feel continuous pressure to produce, and to keep producing? I’d be surprised if you don’t.

Well, we’d better get used to it. The culture’s not going anywhere, and results will continue to matter. So sure, appreciate the work.  But let’s also recognize the individuals behind the effort. Let’s be sensitive to their thoughts and feelings. Let’s understand that they have complex and problematic lives just as we do. It’s not easy being a person. Let’s appreciate them.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate you!

Sincerely,

Pete

PS – Two shout outs: one to executive coach Linda Cobb who helped me to learn to think like this earlier in my career; and another to Pat Morley of Man in the Mirror ministry whom I am appreciating, thereby being inspired to write this post.

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Social Media – More Harm Than Good?

I’ve been pretty quiet on social media lately, reading more than posting, and I’m not feeling too good about it. Decorum and civility continue to decline on Facebook. Sexy and controversial posts are now firmly established on LinkedIn, where boasting and shameless self-promotion have gone off the charts. In Social Media Land memes and provocation are the currency of the realm. Well-developed thinking is in short supply and wisdom is hard to find. Perhaps that’s my problem – wisdom is what I’m after.

Of course social media can be beneficial in many ways. I do like keeping up with friends and family on Facebook, and it, along with Twitter, is very useful for communication in “breaking news” type situations (like the recent hurricanes for example). Linked in has helped me professionally. It’s an address book that maintains itself and a good source of potential opportunities and new colleagues. I don’t want to give these things up, but I’m not interested arguing or jumping in the scrum for eyeballs, likes and shares. I’m after wisdom. How should I live? What’s important? What’s not? How can I be truly well?

I haven’t been posting much lately, at least partially because I feel like what I have to say doesn’t fit in on Facebook or LinkedIn where conversations seem to be happening. Apparently “nobody actually goes to blogs anymore.” Yet writing helps me to sort things out. And hopefully, my thoughts are also helpful to any readers seeking their own physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. So I’m going to try writing more often, posting here on Grace Based Wellness without sharing my posts elsewhere. I just don’t think they fit with the current spirit of the media. I’m also going to close the Grace Based Wellness Facebook page soon. If you’ve been following the blog that way, you may wish to change to an email subscription.

Thank you for your readership and encouragement,

Pete

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If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
– James 1:5-8 NLT

Powerless? – Yes and No

New ceiling decor

Irma is gone but her legacy remains.  Overall we did well through the storm.  Only one roof shingle is gone.  Something leaked, as there is a new water spot on the ceiling in the front hallway.  I think it’s likely just wind driven water through the roof vent, hopefully no major repairs are needed.  The landscaping did pretty well too.  No trees or  large limbs down and my little palms are still happy.  All in all that’s pretty minor damage.  Oh yeah, the power is out.

The power went out Sunday night.  Today is Thursday.  Bummer.  Fortunately we were well prepared with the Prius power project and that has been working well for four days now.  We are able to power the fridge, some lights, fans, devices, and very importantly the coffee maker.  (not all at the same time)  It’s using a little over one and a half gallons of gas a day.  We can cook a bit with the charcoal grill and a portable butane single burner stove.

The water service is operating, although we did have a “precautionary” boil water alert for 48 hours after a water main break in our neighborhood.  This is pretty common for big storms as the roots of uprooted trees break underground  pipes as they topple.  Although we have stored water, it tastes a bit like plastic and we’ve just kept drinking from the tap.

It’s still hot in Florida in September. Yesterday we got to 92 and there wasn’t much of a breeze.  Today’s forecast is a high of 89 with rain likely.  So we sweat inside or outside and wear beach attire at all times. The late afternoon is the worst, and our sleep has been disrupted.

We’re not unusual of course.  Half the state and most of our county lost electricity along with us.  The power companies tell us they are doing the best they can, and they probably are, but everyone’s a bit frustrated by the situation.  In our neighborhood we have little obvious damage, but we have seen no power trucks, and our power company simple says that service should be restored to the entire county by next Sunday night.  There is no information specific to our neighborhood.  So we wait.

Because the power outage is so widespread most people’s internet service is also out as is ours.  Cellular service, which was unreliable for about 48 hours post Irma, is now returning to almost normal.  Our carrier is giving free data to everyone affected for a week after the storm.  It’s much appreciated.  Many other businesses and individuals are reaching out to help others as they are able – sharing ice, air conditioning, wi-fi or perhaps a chainsaw and a strong back.

Our adult daughter and her cats are staying with us as she has lost power too.  We get along with her just fine, although we are all used to our own space and would like it back soon.  Unfortunately her cats and ours don’t mix.  So we have arranged cat segregation/rotation system that allows all of them to share the run of the house, just not at the same time.

So it’s a bit stressful.  Some are waiting patiently – that’s what we’re trying to do – others not so much.  People are upset and frustrated, and they get irritable. Us too, but we are trying to recognize this and to be extra patient with one another and with ourselves.

Yes, we are powerless over a lot.  Not just with hurricanes and not just now.  All the time.  But we do have power to decide what we will do, how we will respond to events.  In that spirit, we are doing the best we can to stay calm and positive, to manage our own sitiuation well, help friends and neighbors, trust God, and to patiently wait on the power company.

Pete

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photos follow:

The Prius power project

Power coming in. Routed through hole to be able to keep the door closed and the cats in!

 

The little plams made it!

The heliconia didn’t. (But they will regrow from rhizomes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Calm Despite the Storm, 10 Steps to Living with Hurricanes

The weather forecast? Pleasant today, all hell breaks loose tomorrow. Enjoy the Sunshine State!

If you live in Florida as we do, you’re going to face hurricanes. We’ve had a good decade or so, but now they’rrre back! Hurricane season runs from June through November, but collectively we Floridians hold our breath in September and October, the heart of hurricane season, when the worst can be expected. This September we are off to an early start with Irma, expected to hit early tomorrow morning.

It’s time to breath out. Now take some slow deep breaths. In and out. Stay calm. Yes, we do have more to fear than fear itself, but fear isn’t helpful. My family is as ready as we can be at this point and here are some of our “secrets” to serenity as the storm approaches. (disclaimer – this is soley my personal opinion)

  1. Get educated and keep things in perspective – Hurricanes are terribly destructive and dangerous, but the actual chances of serious injury or death are very small if you are in a structure built to current code and not in an area subject to storm surge or flooding. Take appropriate precautions and you are unlikely to be injured.
  2. Avoid the news media  The media is not your friend. They live for eyeballs and eyeballs come from exaggerating the threat, exciting emotions and exploiting fears. We check the National Hurricane Center for updates, which are issued every three hours, and some local news sources for information on closures and resources but stay away from much else.
  3. If necessary, evacuate to an appropriate shelter – meaning one built to current code and not in an area subject to storm surge or flooding. That might mean just 20 miles inland as opposed to, say, North Carolina.
  4. Be prepared all the time so you don’t have to struggle to obtain needed items in short supply.While everyone’s situation is different, here are a few key things that we do:
    – keep the pantry well stocked.
    – own several 5-gallon collapsible water jugs (designed for camping) thus eliminating the need for bottled water. Fill before storm. After the storm, empty, collapse and return to storage.
    – use my Prius as an emergency A/C power source with a prewired inverter. It’s limited of course, but we can power the refrigerator, lights, and the cable modem and charge our devices. For those of you with hybrid vehicles this is very easy to do. See here.
    – store 20 gallons of gasoline in the garage at all times (in appropriate containers, with fuel stabilizer, and changed out every 6-9 months)

    Get some of these

    Prius Power!

  5. Cook and clean – Get some meals prepared in advance, do all the laundry, and neaten up the house. It keeps you busy; you’re ready in case you lose power; and you feel better in a clean and neat home. Make some treats while you’re at it. While prepping the yard, we got the limes off the tree yesterday, and Sharon’s going to make key lime pie for us today.

    Soon to be a key lime pie

  6. Accept the possibility of loss/hardship – Hurricanes are destructive. You are likely to lose something in the hurricane. Perhaps it’s just your landscaping, but it might be your roof. Your power might be out for weeks. Hopefully the damage will be minor, and if so, feel blessed! Personally, I’m pre-mourning for my palms (many newly planted) and trees. If they do okay, how good I will feel!
  7. Don’t go outside during the storm – Yes, you want to know what the wind feels like, but it’s just a bad idea. I’m sure it feels exhilarating right up until you are hit by flying debris.
  8. Connect with family and friends – most everyone could use some physical and emotional support. Shelter together as a family. Stay in touch with your friends and help one another as needed before and after the storm.
  9. Be careful after the storm – Chill. You don’t need to be the first to take a driving tour of the destruction. Cleanup should be performed thoughtfully and in an orderly manner. Think safety! Stay away from downed power lines. Be careful around felled trees and those wielding chainsaws.
  10. Pray and trust God

Good luck to all my Florida friends. Stay safe and we’ll see you on the other side of Irma.

Pete

I hope these guys make it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feeling Small (but peaceful)

Events have got me feeling small lately. Perhaps you too. From hurricanes and floods to shifts in the economy and culture, we are all caught up in natural and social forces beyond our control. Way beyond our control. Beyond our influence even. America has over 300 million residents of which I am just one. The world has 7½ billion. I will not be changing the world or the country.

Our American culture and media don’t encourage thinking of oneself as small and relatively powerless. On the contrary, people are encouraged to worry about numerous issues over which they have no (or exceedingly little) influence. We’re told to “stand up,” “be heard” and “make a difference” on every new “crisis.” I think all that does is get us agitated and shouting at (or worse – fighting with) one another. And the media feeds off the fighting. Regardless, the vast majority of us are just along for the ride as large-scale history is written.

Yet here I am. I’m alive! I can enjoy my life, and I’ve got plenty of personal and local issues on which I can, and should, make a difference. Issues such as my health, wellbeing, marriage, family, friends, church, finances, home, and neighborhood. The more I focus on these and the less on geopolitics and major cultural shifts, the better I get. Thinking small is working for me.

However, even at the personal level, many events are still outside of my control. For example, I’ve recently developed an irritating case of ocular rosacea (fortunately minor, but illustrative). Illness comes. Aging continues. Accidents happen. Jobs end. The kids are going to do what they’re going to do. That’s life.

Truly, I am small. I can’t control much, but I trust in the one who can. Therefore, I can be at peace. I wish you the same.

Pete

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

– Jesus (Mathew 6:25-34 NIV)