Blessing the Darkness

Pilgrims with a bounteous spread. That’s what we think of and imitate at Thanksgiving when we gather people around us and feast and give thanks. It’s delightful, and gratitude comes easy on that day.

But how do we really put that into practice every day? Think about this: The pilgrims were ill and malnourished. They’d had a harsh first winter. Only about half of the Mayflower’s original passengers lived to see that first spring. But they had learned to plant corn, and after a successful harvest in 1621, they celebrated and gave thanks for what they did have.

Even when life is hard—and it often is—true happiness comes when we are grateful for the good parts.

The late Cavett Robert, a popular motivational speaker and the founder of the National Speakers Association, used to tell of a poignant experience that taught him this very thing.

He was running late after a speaking engagement in New Orleans. The meeting had run overtime, jeopardizing Cavett’s chances of catching his flight home. He completed his speech in the grand ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel, then rushed through the convention center and ran to catch the next elevator going down to the ground level.

Once on the elevator, he tapped the “G” button repeatedly, hoping it would hurry the process of closing the doors. As soon as it began its descent, he checked his watch. He could still make his flight if there were no delays with the elevator or the taxi. Just when he thought his luck was going to hold, he felt the elevator slowing for the third floor.

The doors opened, and no one was there. Hurry up! he thought to himself. Hearing someone coming, he impatiently called out, “Hurry—elevator going down!” Then he saw the red tip of a white cane tap-tap into the doorway.

“I’m sorry; I’ll be right there,” came a humble response. Cavett was crushed with humiliation. As the doors closed, not knowing how to handle the hollow silence, he asked, “Well, how are you today, sir?” His voice was now shaky and embarrassed. The reply came like a heavy blow to his soul: “Grateful, my friend. Grateful.”

Cavett Robert, the great teacher and motivator, was humbled to the dust. Suddenly missing an elevator, a taxi, or even a flight seemed trivial. He would later state, “While in my rude haste I was so caught up in my self-gratification and not an attitude of gratitude that I found myself cursing the light as this gentle man was blessing the darkness.”

He said he was never the same after that experience. In his prayers he asked for help to always realize how important a grateful attitude is in life.

Happy Thanksgiving. May this week be a time for true reflection. Count your blessings. Even if you already know what you’re grateful for, try to find just one more thing. We all have room for more happiness.

LLC

Bryan

It’s Your Fault

This week Jackie and I celebrate 24 years of marriage. That also means 24 years of trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Isn’t that what marriage really is? A continuous miniseries of “Let’s keep doing this,” or “Let’s never do that again.”

I admit, I’m the one with the short-term memory, so I usually cause the re-runs. I don’t know why I do it. For some reason when things get hard or stressful I tend to forget where we’re trying to go and point the finger in the wrong direction.

Know anyone else with that skill? I kind of hope I’m not the only one who’s got it mastered. I’m thinking of holding seminars. I mean, why spend time trying to work on myself when it’s so much easier to point out the faults in someone else?

Breaking the habit of finding fault, especially with the ones you love most, can be hard. So I’ve been working on a new approach. I call it It’s OK to Look for Faults. But it has just one rule, and that is to find only good faults. I haven’t mastered it yet, but here’s an example of the technique. (Sorry, Jackie. You weren’t in the room to ask permission.)

The next time tensions rise or you feel like turning on the fault factory, start looking for the good. So if I get upset because Jackie threw something away that I really wanted to keep around, I’m not allowed to leapfrog from missing my shirt to my car seat not being put back in the same spot to whatever else might bug me. Instead, I bust out a different list of faults until the urge to spiral out of control goes away. In my case, it might go something like this:

It’s your fault our family is always sending birthday cards and dropping off thank you notes.

It’s your fault I haven’t missed a belt loop in years.

It’s your fault I don’t walk out the door with smelly breath and contaminate the earth’s atmosphere. Gum freak.

It’s your fault I have a comfortable, peaceful home that smells nice.

It’s your fault we’ve got family pictures and photo books all over our house so we never forget what really matters.

It’s your fault our children’s school lunches are made and homework assignments get checked off. Wake up, honey!

It’s your fault I know the first name of the sweet mother trying to make ends meet that works at Chevron. And that she worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Talk about clueless.

It’s your fault our DVDs are in alphabetical order. Lazy.

It’s your fault I’ve gained nearly 40 pounds since 1989. You’re the one always making Sunday roast beef dinners, Café Rio burritos, french toast delight with kneaders syrup, dirty Diet Cokes, and burnt butter brownies. Not me.

Get the idea? Pointing out and focusing on the weakness in others is easy. It’s like hiking downhill. No resistance, and you can practically do it all day and tell yourself you’ve accomplished something.

Looking for and finding the good in others is a whole different kind of show. Up for the challenge? If not, well, it’s your fault.

LLC

Bryan

God Bless You

God Bless You

God Bless You

This past weekend my wife Jackie and I met some friends to see the recently released movie Contagion. I dropped Jackie off curbside so she could go in and buy our tickets while I found a parking spot in the five-story car garage. I didn’t mind that the spot I found was some distance away; I needed to walk off my Chinese dinner.

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