Sunday, September 25, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Seize Another Day"

It was a beautiful Friday summer evening in the Mile High City. I can hear my wonderful alley neighbors bonding as family in their backyard. I’m sitting on Poor Man’s Porch with cold beer, Rockies’ radio and cat lurking as thoughts turn to others.

Specifically, two incredible human beings, who at time of writing this, had, either, tragically died from a brain aneurysm or was clinging to life after an inspiring six-year fight against brain cancer. Warriors in this condition, my opinion, called life. Dudes who former University of Colorado head football coach Bill McCartney would call, “fox hole kinda guys.”

I think of these men’s families and the grief witnessed: these men will be sorely missed for good reason considering how, powered by faith, they honored, nurtured and added value to each community touched. Guys who I considered, “brothers from another mother.”

For the one kindred spirit clinging to life at this moment, we had a team meeting at his bedside. Many prayers for God’s will be done poured from the souls of those gathered around this hilarious man. Who, in the midst of dying, would joke at Friday morning’s fellowship, “I’ve had more issues than TIME Magazine.”

I’m among the gathered and, inspired by the other prayers, offer: “Hey buddy, without a miracle - and they do happen - you will never physically be present at Platoon, but I promise you buddy, we’re gonna do our best to keep your spirit alive.”

I can guarantee you that’s what loved ones who leave too early would expect - keep their spirit alive! What does that spirit look like? Well, how about what Peter wrote of in Galatians when speaking of a spirit demonstrating love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Those nine fruits certainly describe Doug and Mark, I miss them already.

I would suspect, but I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, that most of us - not everybody - have similar folks in our lives. Family, friends and others who really show us the way to, as I like to suggest whenever given the chance, play like a champion. Great mentors - past and present - who love us, believe in us and support our healthy and productive goals. We’re touched by their spirits, and it’s good.

The question becomes, as life unexpectedly kicks us in the teeth and we’re wondering, “What the heck is going on here?”, will we remember the spirit of those who show the way? Will we, when life throws us a lemon, dust ourselves off, continue the journey and seize another day of trying to transform lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas? I hope this week, the answer is a resounding “You bet.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "A JOCK Mentality"

I really try and encourage others to see the benefit of being joyful for the blessings of life. Granted, when life sucks, that’s a challenging proposition. But blessings are usually present, we just struggle to sense them.

It’s just my opinion, but I believe gifts of blessing, when talking about this condition we call life, usually show up disguised in one of three ways: surviving, growing or thriving. Many factors determine location within that tri-level residence. Most of us sure would enjoy more time on the top floor, right?

The joy for blessings meter was registering in the growing area as I zipped south toward the Mile High City after a quick trip to Longmont, Colorado. I had visited the proud community where some of North America’s earliest residents lived 14,000 years ago. It’s a beautiful spot with breath-taking views of the nearby Rockies. I had the honor of giving a Pep Talk at the Longmont Association of Realtors’ annual awards/induction banquet.

It had been a wonderful evening observing dedicated women and men being honored for past deeds and future responsibilities and encouraging everyone in attendance to play like champions wherever they roam - home, work and elsewhere. That’s a real joy of mine and the entire Faith, Life and Sports (FLS) Foundation family: giving others hope and confidence.

In short, spirit was upbeat as I’m navigating a detour in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood. A construction project near a hospital in the area is disrupting a normally smooth final few, from travels north of the city, miles to home. It was annoying. Then, while obeying a four-way stop, something appears in the car’s headlights that moved the spirit needle dramatically.

Two young adults entered the crosswalk in front of the car, arms around one another and crying. Something transpired inside the nearby hospital on a splendid Centennial State evening of late summer creating great sadness for a grieving - looked college age - young woman and man. It sure seemed like their world had been rocked and this was an evening to recall much differently than I would, for grief, not joy.

It quickly brought me back to a brutal, but true, fact of life: rarely does it go the way we planned, right? One of the biggest responses from the Longmont crowd had been when I asked, early in the message, “What’s the only thing constant in life?” Almost in unison, and emphatically, about 200 folks offered, “Change.”

When we least expect, and desire, it too. The change might be our health, job, relationship or other circumstances - venues change. What doesn’t change is our strategy - call it a game plan - for dealing with life’s lemons: focus on blessings even when they’re real tough to find; remain optimistic about the future and courageous despite the past. Joy, optimism and courage are terrific teammates helping us kick ass in the game of life!

Joy. Optimism. Courage. Kick ass. You could call it a JOCK mentality.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"In A Heartfelt Manner"

It was one of those Centennial State Saturdays, weather-wise, making you shout, “God I love living here.”

In fact, it was the day before our nation observed 9/11 a decade later. A day, like Pearl Harbor and others, that will live in infamy, defined as “notoriety caused by great evil.” Amen to that. That’s what occupying my thoughts while pulling into Target to fetch energy drinks for freshman daughter’s volleyball team and its day-long tournament. Then, for whatever reason, thoughts shifted to a wonderful friend who just lost his mother.

Singer Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love” bellowed from the car’s stereo system as I parked, turned the music down and placed a call: “Hey buddy,” I offered into voicemail, “I hear your mom passed away. My thoughts and prayers are with you.” The dear friend on the receiving end of this message is one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met. We’ve known each other a long-time. I would trust him with my life. He had great role models in his parents. One of them is now gone.

“I guarantee you buddy, wherever your mom is today she is looking down on you and saying, keep up the good work as a father, husband and friend.” After a few more comments about how much I admired his mother and, him, the father of two growing boys, the call ended with “I love you buddy.”

Later in the day after the daughter’s volleyball marathon was complete, I’m back in the car fetching delicious barbecue in route to darling girlfriend’s home for a mellow evening. Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” is now the music of choice and a college buddy, in challenging times, the call of choice. As expected, considering he’s gone into a self-imposed submarine, there is no answer. I leave a message: “You can avoid me all you want but it will never erase my love for you.”

And then it dawns on me. The power of an encouraging word. I want to to challenge you this week: take the sixty seconds necessary to call - no email or texting allowed - and, in a heartfelt manner, someone and tell them how much you love them. Let them hear your voice and its sincerity.

In fact, as Americans a decade after a day notorious for great evil, might it be a good time for us to proclaim, in a heartfelt manner, our love of country? What could we start TODAY that would demonstrate love and contribute to our nation’s recovery from what ails us - home, work and elsewhere? More support of our kids, spouses, significant others, aging parents, schools, businesses, communities and others? All of the above require, to varying degrees, our work, wealth and wisdom. I know, easier said than done but WE CAN DO IT!
Back in 1918, while serving in America’s armed forces, Irving Berlin wrote the famous song and lyrics, “God bless America, land that I love.....”. Ten years have passed. We remember the loss, heroism and significance.

Let’s never forget this country’s potential. It starts with, in a heartfelt manner, love and respect for one another and a willingness to embrace unity of spirit while accepting diversity of belief. When you think about it rarely does anything, of value, begin without a heartfelt manner. Let’s display it in abundance this week!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"The Encouragement It Provides"

On a recent evening I zipped into a sandwich shop to pick up a sub platter former wife had ordered and was my responsibility to retrieve for our beautiful, smart and athletic daughter’s school event. I’m blessed we get along. Anyway, as I hurried to the counter, an enthusiastic employee smiles broadly and states: “Hey Mark, how are you. You spoke at the Larimer County Jail when I was there. Thanks.”

Okay, I might be a simple dude from Missouri, but that was a different introduction to somebody, right? The store wasn’t real busy so we had a chance to chat. It was inspiring. This handsome young man mentioned he was a shift manager, happy and working hard to learn from his mistakes. You go boy. I love speaking in correctional facilities. There are so many talented, smart and creative people incarcerated. It comes down to making healthy choices, right?

Now, let’s be clear, there are many bad people who need to be removed from society but there are many who are pretty good folks making, for whatever reason, bad choices earning time in the gray-bar motel. I’ve been there a few times myself for silly mistakes.

A young man with a bright smile and, at least at this time, even brighter future and I quickly ran through the four strategies discussed in the Pep Talk presentation he and other - male and female - inmates heard that day: be a student, not victim of life’s experiences; understand we’re not along and it’s important to connect with others of like mind; encourage one another to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win in creating productive choices to the challenges present in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve.

A few days after this chance encounter, I was reading a hot August day’s edition of the Denver Post when a story about a state Department of Corrections’ program catches me eye: It has inmates learning career skills in the growing renewable energy industry. Somebody’s thinking, thank you! Anyway, one of the inmates is quoted as saying, “Everything is turning green; why not get educated? It’s my chance to become a productive member of society.”

Amen brother. Can you imagine what our world would look like if EVERYONE was focused on becoming a productive member of society? Wow, can I have another, please? The society might be your home, work, neighborhood or community. It really doesn’t matter because, while the venues change, the strategies are the same.

You get kicked around for a variety of reasons including poor choices. We then have another very important choice to make: student or victim? Choose wisely, K? The road will not be easy. But, a sincere effort to become superior to our former selves is worth the effort. If for no other reason, the encouragement it provides others incarcerated by society or self.
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