EMBRACING FAILURE

I didn’t do it!  It’s not my fault!  He made me do it! It’s her fault!

Remember that childhood anguish—unable to admit to a failure or mistake—wanting very much to lay the blame on someone else.  Regrettably, not only children struggle with this problem. There are those who can never embrace their own failure.

Failure is a natural, necessary part of being human.  You know the awful feeling. There’s no getting around it.  We all fail to one degree or another at one time or another.  Many of us fail every day. We may not think of those little “kerfuffles”—the messes we make or problems we cause—as failures, but in essence that is what they are.  

Some failures are bigger than others, more public, more humiliating, attaching more stigma, but regardless of whether or not our failure is microscopic or earth-shattering, we must respond in some way.  We can, as many do, make excuses for ourselves, and blame other people, or we can own our failure. “I made a mistake. It is my fault.” Those failures whether large or small need not ruin us. We can learn from our failures, and move past them to better things.

We cannot control whether difficult things happen in life, but we can control how we react.

President Truman had a sign on his desk that said, “THE BUCK STOPS HERE!”  The phrase referred to the notion that the president has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.  That’s a great example for all of us.

Look into the background of well known successful figures, and you will find gigantic failures.  Walt Disney, one of the most creative geniuses of all time was once fired from a newspaper because he was told he wasn’t creative, but he kept trying until he became a household name.

Think of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb and so many other things.  He was hearing impaired. He was a fidgeter. He had only three months of schooling.  Then his teacher said he was too stupid to learn.

What about Bill Gates?  He was a Harvard University dropout, and his first business failed.  Now he is the wealthiest man in the world. He admitted his failure, learned from it and moved on building “Microsoft,” and becoming a billionaire at the age of 31.

Everyone knows Hershey’s chocolate, but when Milton Hershey started his candy production career, he failed at three separate ventures.  However, believing in his vision of milk chocolate for the masses, he founded the Hershey Company and became famous in the candy industry.

SO, I CAN SAY, “I HAVE FAILED, BUT I AM NOT A FAILURE!”

It is great to celebrate success, but it is more important to learn the lessons taught by failure.  I think you can have most of the things you want in life if you treat failure as a part of the learning process.  Failure is a stepping stone toward success.

On Sunday morning, my pastor preached about one of life’s all-time greatest failure, St. Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles.  Peter was one of Jesus’ Inner Circle. Jesus took Peter, James, and John to places and exposed them to experiences the other disciples did not have.

On the night that Jesus was arrested prior to His crucifixion, he told Peter that he, Peter, would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed.  Yet Peter declared adamantly, “Though I die with you, yet I will not deny you.” (Matthew 26:35)

Yet, because of unprecedented fear, Peter failed big time.  To the serving maids and others, he denied with cursing that he did not even know Jesus.  When that early morning rooster crowd, Peter realized his terrible failure, and went out and wept bitterly.  

Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t plan to fail, but when He did, he didn’t give up, and Jesus didn’t give up on Peter.  On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, following His resurrection, Jesus restored Peter forgiving him, and healing his wounded heart.  He called Peter and the other Apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Wow!  What a success Peter became!

He was one of the boldest of the apostles preaching the gospel for thirty-three years.  He suffered persecution, imprisonment, and beatings becoming a willing, obedient servant of the Lord even to his death by Crucifixion.

PETER FAILED BUT HE WAS NOT A FAILURE!

You may feel like a total failure.  You’ve made a mess of things, but God hasn’t given up on you.  If you are willing to embrace your failure and learn from it, if you are willing to say “I’m sorry, He will forgive and restore you.  He still has a plan for your life. God will make you what He wants you to be.

YOU CAN STILL BE A SUCCESS IN CHRIST!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LAUGHTER—THE BEST MEDICINE

 

Charles Dickens is quoted as saying, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

Laughter is a big deal!  It is a celebration of the good things and, very often, it is how we deal with the bad.  There’s no doubt about it. Life is better when you are laughing. When you embrace love and laughter, you can let go of fear and anxiety, and laughter becomes the healing balm that can change every aspect of life.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I would die.”

We all live with anxiety and fear, of one sort or another, and the stress is sometimes so overwhelming that we want to throw up our hands and quit.

BUT, it is a proven fact that laughter can chase away the darkness.  It boosts the immune system, reduces pain releasing feel good endorphins more powerful than morphine.  Laughter reduces depression, tension and stress. It improves breathing, lowers blood pressure, protects the heart, and helps weight loss.

Laughter is and always will be the best form of therapy.  Someone has said, “Regular laughter is like getting a gym membership for your heart.  Fifteen minutes of laughter a day is as important as thirty minutes of exercise three times a week.”

So, if laughter is so beneficial, why don’t we laugh more?  

I have been learning a lesson about laughter in trying times, from my little sister who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  When she first moved to a care facility, I made a commitment to spend two afternoons a week with her. For the past two and one-half years I have faithfully showed up every Tuesday and Friday.  It is not always something I looked forward to, for I never know what to expect from my sister, but I keep going.

When I was there on Tuesday, as usual, June talked incessantly about her imaginary friends who are always just outside her window or high up in the corner of her room.  Though I do not understand this disease, I am convinced that my sister is still there. She knows exactly what she wants to tell me, and she is aware when it doesn’t come out as she intended.  She always starts with the right words—two or three or four, and then the words that follow, words from her own English language, are so garbled that they make no sense at all. Sometimes her words become nothing but gibberish.  

She knows when she has failed, and she either gives up or she laughs.  When she gives up, I comfort her with, “It’s all right. Don’t worry. I understand.”  When she laughs, I laugh with her. Tuesday we laughed a lot.

I have made it my mission to understand, and I must say that I am becoming more and more fluent in “Gibberish.”  I don’t say this to get a laugh. I’m just trying to put some kind of label on my sister’s manner of communication.  When she is speaking, I hold her hand, and look in her eyes. I watch her facial expressions and her gestures, and I am aware of the tone of voice.  She knows whether or not I am listening, and scolds me when my mind wanders for a moment.

I am amazed that June can laugh at herself.  I see her eyes begin to sparkle, the corners of her mouth turn up, and she laughs softly saying, “That wasn’t right.”

It makes my heart ache to know that she is constantly struggling to make herself understood.  It is her last and only hope of maintaining a connection with the confusing world in which she now lives. 

I am determined to give her many occasions for laughter.  For the Word of God says, in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good like a medicine…”  A better translation might be, “A cheerful heart causes good healing.” 

My sister’s eighty-one year old body is comparatively healthy.  It is her mind that is sick, and a mind cannot heal without laughter.  Mirth is God’s medicine.

Just a suggestion!  If your day is so dark that you cannot find any reason to laugh, look at the Apostle Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8, “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” 

Try it!  Surely somewhere in these thoughts you will find a reason for laughter.  

The most wasted of all days is a day without laughter.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

AGE IS AN ILLUSION

If you have followed my ravings for the last couple of years, you will know that, in spite of approaching my 84th birthday, I refuse to think of myself as being old.  I declare, with vigor, that my mind is young. My heart, with a pacemaker, is still working, and my attitude is positive.

However, the very kind caregivers, in the rehab center where I was held captive for three weeks, did their best to convince me that I am old.  The first night I was there, a young gal came romping into my room announcing that she had come to change my diaper.

“My diaper,” I yelped!

“You don’t need your diaper changed,” she asked?

“No! I don’t have a diaper, and I’m not planning to have one,” I told her.

“Oh,” she said as she quietly left the room.

This scenario was replayed over and over again much to my chagrin.

Please understand.  I want to be honest with myself, and with you, about this whole thing.  I need to be realistic, so I reluctantly admit that more and more I am recognizing little signs of aging.  Oh, not physical signs. That’s been going on for a long time. Anyone can look at me and know I am old. I am thinking of mental processes.

Much to my frustration, my memory sometimes fails me, and I am a little more cantankerous and determined, if that’s possible, than I used to be.

Before my scheduled surgery at the end of July, I had some work done on my house.  Because of unexpected delays, the work was not finished by the time I had to leave. Consequently, I allowed the workmen to install a lockbox, so they could finish the project while I was gone.

I couldn’t take my purse, money or other valuables to the hospital, so at the last minute, I decided to keep them safe by locking them in my file cabinet.  Good idea! Right?

Upon my return, I was anxious to retrieve my stuff, so I went to the drawer where the file key should be, but it wasn’t.  Truth is, I had no memory of having put it there or anywhere else. I looked the house over from stem to stern. No key! What to do!  I tried my best to jimmy the drawer open. I used every other key in the house. I called friends. I went to the office supply store where I bought the file.  They couldn’t help me.  

Somewhere during that time I thought about my rings.  They weren’t in the drawer where I keep them. Surely a worker didn’t take them.  Did I put them in my purse before I locked it up? I didn’t remember. That morning was a blur.

Finally, I called a locksmith.  Oh, I knew to do that all along, but I was so determined to save some money and take care of things by myself.

I was relieved to find my rings nestled safely in my purse.

So memory is sometimes a problem, and there are other things to be considered.

What do I do when I can no longer take care of me and my house?  Already I am forbidden to climb a ladder, so how do I change a light bulb or an air filter.  How do I retrieve that bowl on the top shelf?

I can’t afford not to think about these things, neither can I afford to be obsessed by them.  So, I am taking it one day at a time constantly reminded that, if my mind is centered on Jesus, my heart will be at peace.

In Psalm 37:25 David said, “I have been young now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.”  God is faithful!

Isaiah 46:4 declares, “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!  I have made and I will bear; even I will carry you and deliver you.” He is talking about Israel here, but I believe this also applies to the individual.

This just simply means that even when the hair is white, eyes grow dim, and the teeth are falling out, God will take care of His own. 

Psalm 92:14 tells us, “They shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.”  That’s God’s promise.  That’s what I want to be.  Even at an advanced age we don’t have to throw up our hands and quit.  We can still make a difference.

Age is an illusion!  That’s what they say.  To me that means even though my body betrays me, I will guard my sense of humor, live with a positive attitude, and try to make a difference in this world as long as I am here.

My best advice—“Don’t give up on something because you think you are too old or too young.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BLUE

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BLUE

“Have you ever been lonely?

Have you ever been blue?                                               

                                                               Have you ever…”

This old country song recorded by Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline asks a poignant question, which we could all answer in the affirmative.  Who hasn’t been lonely or blue from time to time?

That melody set me to thinking about the word “blue.”  It can mean so many things. We talk of blue skies and limpid blue eyes, baby blue and butterflies—all lovely things.  Yet the word blue also has a darker meaning. It can refer to one who is sad, in low spirits or, taken to the extreme, one who is even suffering from a psychotic disorder called depression.  Life has come to a halt. It seems all hope is gone. It is difficult to think, concentrate, or even function normally, and feelings of dejection overwhelm.

I have just come home from three weeks in a rehab facility recovering from a left knee replacement.  I needed to be there to take advantage of the great physical therapy, but I hated being there for various other reasons.  

At least three times, perhaps four, a nice lady stood by my bed with her clipboard and asked me the following questions.

“Have you ever been depressed?”

“Have you ever felt that life is hopeless?”

“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”

My answer to each question was an emphatic, “No!”

Those thoughts, those dark places, are so foreign to me.  Have I ever been sad? Have I ever felt blue? Of course, I have, but never to the point where I couldn’t function—never to the point where I wanted to give up.

When sweet Cecil died after only five months of marriage, I was devastated.  It was the worst time of my life, but even then I knew there was hope and help and one day the sun would shine again.  How did I know that? I knew that because I knew Jesus, and His middle name is HOPE and HELP and COMFORT and RESTORATION.

So, here in this rehab center, I was feeling kind of proud, maybe even a little superior.  I was laughing and joking with my therapists and caregivers. I was ahead of the curve in my physical progress.  Everyone was a little amazed at how well this 83-year-old woman was doing. I liked that!

Then the light came on, and I realized where I was.  This place was not only a temporary rehab center. It was also a long term skilled nursing facility, and most of the residents were there without choice, and they weren’t going home in three weeks. 

I watched some of these long-time residence wheeling around in their wheelchairs going nowhere, and I wondered about the ones who were confined to their beds.  Were they suffering depression? Had they given up? Were they longing for the end of life?

I can’t imagine the degree of desperation that would motivate me to take my own life.  Yet I know that it happens. Suicide in the elderly accounts for 18% of all suicide deaths.  Among those 65 and older there is a suicide every 90 minutes, nearly 16 every day.

Somehow my sense of pride and superiority disappeared as I realized how very blessed I am.  I had a place to go home to in a few days. I would be able to cook a meal and mop the floors again.  O, goodie! I could get in the car and drive to Taco Bell. I could go to church and lunch with my friends.  I left that rehab center feeling, not proud, but grateful for the healing that was taking place in my body, and grateful that I have a personal relationship with the author of HOPE.

You may feel “blue” today.  In fact, you may feel as though you have hit rock bottom and there is no way out of the pit.  Let me tell you, “He is our hope.”

The Psalmist David said, “…My hope is in You,” and the writer of Hebrews 6:18 (The Message) tells us that God can’t break His word, so “…we who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.”

In Romans 5:5 the Apostle Paul declares, “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…”

In your time of need, flee to Christ, who is your hope.  He will not disappoint.

If you are on cloud nine today, thank God for His goodness, and share your joy with a suffering neighbor.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!