Day 1: Is Hell Just a Sauna?
Day 2: Everyone Has More Than One Sandwich to Contribute
Day 3: Mixed up Morality: It is What it is
Day 4: If God’s Too Small, Your World’s Too Big
Day 5: Humbleness
Day 6: The Redwood
Day 7: Anatomy of a Little White Lie
Day 8: Believer or God is Not a Can Opener
Day 9: Annie and Her Fat Farm
Day 10: Who’s Watching You?
Day 11: Gift of Suffering
Day 12: You Can’t Find Happiness in the Bottom of a Designer Handbag
Day 13: A New Beginning
Day 14: Dial a Solution
Day 15: In Sync With My Chocolate
Day 16: Can Evil Truly Dance?
Day 17: Reflexive Ethnography
Day 18: That’s Too Much
Day 19: Cougar
Day 20: True Grit
Day 21: Healing
Day 22: Avocado
Day 23: Pessimism
Day 24: Power of Forgiveness
Day 25: Dead But Not Done
Day 26: Law of Abstracts
Day 27: Triple-Heart Bypass: The Whopper
Day 28: Hypocrisy: The Rubber Meets the Road
Day 29: Lessons of Postponement
Day 30: Two Can’t Drive a Car
Day 31: The Fly: God in the Flesh
Day 32: You Envy, and Then…
Day 33: Energy of Love
Day 34: Cold Shoulder
Day 35: Cheating Your Rainbow
Day 36: Through the Eyes of a Fish
Day 37: Your Internal Refrigerator Stinks
Day 38: The Bottom Line
Day 39: Legacy
Day 40: Face of Grace
Good News Bible. New York: American Bible Society, 1978.
Holy Bible. Tennessee: Omega Publishing House, 1969.
Holy Bible. New King James Version. Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990.
The New American Bible. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1970.
Day 1: IS HELL JUST A SAUNA?
Man becomes truly human only at the time of decision. Paul Tillich
Hypothetical scenarios are very interesting in that one may brag about how he or she would “hypothetically” react in a particular way under a given set of circumstances. For instance, how many times have you been faced with, “What if …” by your friends, family, and co-workers? Spouting off a reply pleasing to the ears and ego generally follows. But deep down inside where it really counts, is your glazed-over and usually thoughtless answer nothing more of depth than equating hell to a sauna?
It is human nature to want to appear righteous in the eyes of others. So why do we fail to follow through when real life envelopes the make-believe? Why do we feel it necessary to let our mouth override our buttocks churning out absurd falsities? When truth dies, our character and intellectual rigor suffer. We deny reality. We live a self-inflicted curse.
That said, consider the following: You and your best friend are scuba diving in the breathtaking Caribbean waters. You developed great love and loyalty for each other over the years. Reminiscing about all the wonderful memories, you luxuriate in the ambiance, as this is the first chance you both, a “dynamic duo,” have been able to afford to splurge on a “friends’ vacation.”
In your underwater travels, you come upon a shipwreck. Its intriguing allure entices you both to seek what is beyond. Journeying through the cabin, your companion’s foot becomes trapped between two steel beams. You have tried absolutely everything, but you can’t free the foot. Overwhelming turmoil has caused a loss of calculation of time and, suddenly, you become privy to the fact you only have enough air to make it halfway up to the surface.
Death is imminent for your dear friend. Now you will endure the same fate. As you look over at your beloved comrade, you reach out with open arms as a gesture of comfort. Your whole life flashes in front of you—realization setting in that “this is it.” Squeezing one another’s hands in a last tearful goodbye, your friend’s oxygen tank and mouthpiece fall to the nearby sea floor. The equipment detached in the earlier struggle.
Now you are confronted with a moral dilemma …
During coffee hour at the local eatery, if verbally faced with the plight, you would probably embellish how you quickly retrieved the apparatus, giving it back to your bestie, as the two of you peacefully awaited your last breath.
But in reality, would you take the tank for yourself? With a two-tank combination, you have double oxygen, which means you have enough air to make it to the top of the water. You will be able to survive. You will live.
After all, your friend is going to die anyway. Why should you needlessly follow suit?
I am sure you presume that this might never be happening to you and that you might never be forced to make such a decision. But what would you do...?
I know what you are telling yourself right now. You are telling yourself that you are a better person than most people and wiser and have more character than anyone you know. Everyone else may keep the friend’s tank, but not you. That is what you are telling yourself, but what would you actually do…?
Life is full of hard-hitting choices. You need to be honest in your assessments, and in what you think and speak as you contemplate your options. If what you tell yourself matches what you do and say, then you are on your way to having character. When your thoughts and actions are in line with your words, you possess personal integrity.
Close your eyes and picture a flowchart of life. This flowchart has one line with one arrow pointing in the same direction. There are no bends and twists … no dotted lines … no ovals, rectangles, or circles. With personal integrity, you can be counted on to be dependable.
The bonus is that when you don’t waiver in your convictions, you increase your self-worth, not to mention your confidence. Your mouth does not override your backside because you can say what you mean and back it up with complementary action.
Not only do you appear truthful, you are truthful. You are no longer judged or convicted on the basis of lies. You live your honesty and that feels good. Yes, honesty feels very good, even if it is tough to express. It is your liberation—your personal absolution.
This date, opt to detach yourself from all wrongdoing. Don’t fall into the temptation to lie to people to make yourself feel better. Don’t tell your friends only what they want to hear. Be the burning candle of truth (not flickering … burning!) or be the mirror that reflects it.
The choice is all yours.
Day 2: EVERYONE HAS MORE THAN ONE SANDWICH TO CONTRIBUTE
Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short. The late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir
Last fall, my friend Art (who happens to be an art collector), went with me to another collector’s home for sarsaparillas and hors d’oeuvres.
Although the other collector (named Ron) enjoys his full assemblage of statues and paintings, his true passion is mixing bizarre drinks. Ron can dish up any kind of beverage imaginable from the plain gin and tonic to the exotic drinks that must be served with little umbrellas. The drinks are always delivered accompanied by his favorite saying, “At my house, you know you’re getting more than just a sandwich.”
However, the profession of a good host (well, not the kind that has good moral character) does not pay many bills, so Ron makes a living out of his other hobby—buying and selling art.
Upon arrival, Art could not help but be mesmerized by the ornate and unusual pieces which graced Ron’s home. I, too. There were literally 13 rooms filled with lavish items one could only dream of, including a Picasso print.
In one of the dining areas (yes … there were several), a 14-inch mime statuesque found its place as a centerpiece on the marble-topped dinner table. Ten place settings surrounded it as if worshipping an idol. The elaborate detail of the mime captured Art’s noodle. So wowed by the piece of art, Art stood completely waxed in absolute silence as if he had turned into a statue, too.
Directly left of the dining room in which we were situated, a half-bath showcased even more expensive works by renowned sculptors. I must admit that I had never seen a bathroom that also served as an art gallery. When Ron disappeared into the kitchen to make a concoction that would dazzle our eyes and taste buds, I excused myself to the half-bath to freshen up. Secretly, I also wanted to ogle the artwork without appearing to hang out in the bathroom.
After using the facility, I flushed the toilet. Sunday punched, it spurted out a foul noise and immediately overflowed, water seeping everywhere.
Ron came flying from the kitchen, worried something dreadful had happened to me. Once he saw I was fine, he retrieved a mop. Scanning the adjacent room, he grabbed the prized mime off the table and used it to prop up the lid of the toilet tank assembly, which I had removed and placed on the floor. He then proceeded to mop up the water. The mime proudly functioned as the most critical component of the clean-up process.
“Gosh! That’s a $15,000 sculpture,” Art quietly quipped off to me.
I just looked at him and tried not to show any emotion or come off with any shocked babbling. I had already made a mess of things and didn’t want to bring any more attention to myself.
What happened that day is a classic example of how one can go from CEO to toilet cleaner in a single flush. Superman can leap a building in a single bound. I proved you can jump the chasm between CEO and toilet cleaner in one lonely flush. Both jobs are equally important as the circumstances demonstrated, and no one is underscored by doing the less desirable when duty calls. Actually, the toilet cleaner job was MORE important at that moment. Who needs a CEO when the toilet is overflowing?
Nothing is above the dignity of perfection in work. An enterprise has many facets which are necessary in making a game plan “a go”—to enable it to come together and be a success. All employees are vital parts of any organization and may be called upon to perform multiple tasks. Some job titles seem so important, like CEO, until the toilet overflows and the CEO doesn’t have the right equipment handy to corral the salmagundi.
For example, in the restaurant industry, the owner may have to wear the hat of a waiter at times to keep the food and drinks flowing. The waiter may be required to bus tables so customers don’t have to wait. The bartender might have to wash the dishes.
In a sports league, the players, who make millions, may be requested to sweep a locker room floor. The accountant could perform the function of an errand runner and pick up a box of receipts at a client’s business. The manager might well be summoned to scour the toilets to maintain health standards. It happens. And if that’s not in your playbook, you will have a rude awakening one day because life never unfolds according to exact plans.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson succinctly wrote, “Life is a series of surprises and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.” He never said those surprises would be exciting or entertaining.
Unfortunately, we live in a society in which many of us believe we should never have to clean toilets or sweep floors. We live in an accomplishment-oriented culture and a sparkling toilet or floor is not seen as an accomplishment. These activities are viewed as beneath us or belonging to a certain class of people.
When we look down on others, with our nose in the air, we soon find that we are the ones drowning in the storm. Why? Because with our “holier than thou” self-centered rebellion, we have removed ourselves from the humbleness God asks us to assume. We are, therefore, forced to craft out our own endeavors alone because we have an attitude to maintain and protect. Without God, we choke the lifeblood out of wholeness and bliss and create dissatisfaction and defiance.
When we belittle others or diminish their character based on the status of a particular profession, job, title, or income level, it’s not unusual to soon find ourselves serving in the very roles we demeaned.
Ironically, by living that which we condescendingly condemn, we understand with clarity our undisciplined ignorance. The rich have to mop up water from an overflowing toilet and the powerful must face unemployment or disgrace. This is not punishment; it’s a lesson that enables us to reach self-completeness—to be whole.
You have most certainly found yourself completing a humbling act at one time or another—an act you considered beneath you, but were forced to manage.
When you thumb your nose at something, you may then find yourself aboard the same dinghy as those you consider unbefitting. The dinghy you ride may take many forms. You act superior to the gas station attendant and then take an unforeseen financial plunge that forces you to accept a second job at the pumps yourself. You judge your friend who received a DWI and then find out a warrant has been issued for your arrest for unpaid parking tickets. You chuckle at your neighbor’s modest home, only to be told that your credit application for a new home has been denied. You snicker at a special-needs child and then learn your unborn child has Down’s syndrome. You scoff at your co-worker’s small economical car and then the brakes go out on your more expensive model. You criticize a stranger’s hair and makeup, only to look in the mirror and discover your wrinkles are more prominent. You comment on another’s weight and then notice it is you who gained ten pounds. You gossip about a fellow club member’s unfaithful husband, only to discover your spouse is cheating on you.
What it boils down to is that whether it’s wheat, rye, or pumpernickel you are talking about, it’s all bread, and any which way you slice it, after you put the meat and cheese on, it’s still just a sandwich.
Every sandwich has the potential of being piled high with steak, tuna, or bologna; or, you may just end up with margarine on it, and nothing more. In any event, no matter what kind of sandwich you get, you don’t turn it down if you’re hungry. It sustains you.
If you choose to snub your nose at your sandwich, you go without. You remain hungry. Most importantly, the guy next to you is having lunch at the same café and is feeling satiated. No matter how he slices his sandwich, or whether it’s served on fancy dinnerware, wax paper, or in a plastic tub, it’s still just bread—no different than yours.
Day 3: MIXED UP MORALITY: IT IS WHAT IT IS
Beautiful, like the chance meeting of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table. Comte de Lautréamont
Years ago, the movie, Indecent Proposal, hit the big screen, featuring a “mind v. conscience” storyline. A wealthy man offered a married couple $1,000,000 to spend one night with the husband’s wife. The offer was ultimately accepted and an emotional rollercoaster of tears, hostility, regret, and confusion consumed the rest of the movie.
The film (actually, the topic of what people do for money) came up for discussion while I was giving a speech to a group of real estate agents. I questioned one of the ladies in attendance—“Marge, would you accept $5,000 to overlook a defective roof to gain a sale?”
She replied, “No, of course not. I don’t want to be sued or lose my real estate license. Like Cinderella’s step sisters, each impending jam which that bad decision could cause, would be more ugly and hideous than the one before it.”
Marge’s answer never mentioned that fraud is simply “wrong” or “immoral.” She only addressed how she didn’t want to incur legal problems if caught. Her remarks beg the question: Do people only obey laws and rules to avoid possible reeking and expensive legal consequences if caught in wrongful actions or behavior? Or do people obey laws and rules to be admirable, upstanding members of the community? Have you thought about in which category you would fit?
How you answer depends on your values. Values are the heart and foundation of life. Values are what is of absolute importance to you. What you hold near and dear in your personal treasure chest defines your character and forces you to accept salt-of-the-earth responsibility. When you compromise your integrity, morality takes a hit. It cracks. Once it cracks, the fissure continues to widen and your character forms a large crevasse. A crevasse gives the opening needed to make exceptions, to excuse and to justify behaviors that are simply immoral.
Dump your bad decisions into the abyss, and you don’t have to think about them anymore. Before you know it, the resolve by which you take pride in living your life, falls into the abyss to be lost in the darkness until you choose to resurrect it. In the interim, you’ll be digging yourself out of many catastrophes as you try to hang on to the edge so you don’t disappear completely.
Hits to respectability rarely are occurrences jumped into with both feet on a mission with an intention to fail. That means people usually don’t march into questionable situations hoping for the worst possible outcome.
No, what happens is that our cunning over-optimism creates the belief that we won’t be found out. We think we are smarter and more cleaver than the rest of the world.