Musings and Insights for Life, Relationships, and God

J. T. Loved Bessie

Dad said he would slow down and quit traveling so much once Mom could no longer take care of herself.  She had Parkinson’s and the disease progressively ate away at her mobility and agility…but not her sense of humor or her spirit.  They were in their early 80’s but he was still in demand as a preacher and he loved nothing more than to hop on a plane and jet off to some location to inspire all who heard him.  If you ever heard him, you never forgot him.  But he loved Mom more.  He did stop his traveling and tirelessly devoted himself to caring for his bride of over sixty years.

Before bedtime he would remove his hearing aids rendering him basically deaf.  There was no way he could hear Mom’s soft voice in the middle of the night asking assistance to get up to go to the bathroom, or help rolling over.  So dad came up with a profound act of love.

He went out and bought a small rope and cut it to about six feet.  He tied one end  of the rope to the railing of Mom’s hospital style bed they had moved into their bedroom.  Nightly, he would tie the other end to his wrist before going to sleep.  When Mom needed him she would tug on the rope, waking him so he could get up and help her.

Dad lived love in action as her daily care took a toll on his own health.  She became his focus.  I told him those last few years were his finest.  I told him I was more proud of how he loved and cared for Mom than any of the significant accomplishments of his life.  His actions spoke volumes as he, more than any man I know, practiced what he preached.

Competence/Velocity = Fun

I fell (literally) into a formula of fun while skiing a couple of years ago.  Here it is:

competence/velocity = fun

I noticed that the more confident skier I became the faster I would have to go in order to reach the same level of fun experienced in prior runs.  Hence, increased competence demands increased velocity.

It gets tricky, however, because when speed exceeds my perceived level of competence fun flees and I’m immediately introduced to heightened emotions of sheer terror as I careen down the mountain.

Feeling bored or antsy and not having much fun in your life’s work?  It’s likely the speed of life is a little slower than your level of competence can handle.  Conversely, we tend to feel out of control and overwhelmed during those times when the speed at which life events are coming at us exceed our perceived level of competence.

There’s one other factor:  Width.  A seemingly manageable slope can become instantly challenging when the width narrows, leaving fewer options for making turns to slow velocity.  In life, the fewer options you think you have the more likely those feelings of panic begin to creep in.  Reduced options are the equivalent of increased velocity (not to sound like Dave Ramsey here but debt is one of the biggest life reducing options out there).

I began by saying I fell into this definition.  I did.  We all fall at some point…even the best.  Just gather yourself, wipe the snow off your face and point the skis downhill again.  Yipee!

Perception Shift

It’s the small changes that often make the biggest difference.   Occasionally we need an overhaul but most of the time just a tweak brings significant impact.

Here’s a simple but powerful tweak I learned from my son, Reagan, this week:  Assume every person you receive an email from is for you and has your best interest at heart.   Why not presume any criticism is from someone who wants you and your project to succeed?  Save yourself the energy of wondering about motive and intent and choose to believe the best.  Practicing this simple tweak avoids creative paralysis, wasted time and unnecessary conflicts that can potentially accompany a misread email or a misunderstood comment.

Small tweak.   Big difference.  Join me in trying it.

Why I’m Growing A Mustache

I’m growing a perfectly awful mustache.   It’s mostly this creepy gray color making me look 10 years older and somewhat unstable.  I get very few compliments about it except from men sporting ‘staches of their own.  They give it a thorough visual inspection and all the while I know they are secretly comparing it to their own.  From the slick upper lippers all I get are bland comments such as, “Oh, so you’re trying to grow a mustache.”  And it’s precisely for that moment I am putting myself through this.

I’m growing a perfectly awful mustache as part of the Movember movement to raise awareness for prostate cancer.  Men all around the world grow a November Movember Mostache  to raise money for research but all I’m doing is just trying to raise awareness.  So here’s my line:  Did you know almost as many men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer as women will with breast cancer in a given year?  In addition, almost as many men will die from prostate cancer as women will become victims of breast cancer.

So men, if you are over 50 or if you come from a family with a history of prostate cancer, don’t be a boneheaded idiot…go get a checkup.  I’m scheduled for mine next week.  If I hear of even one man who joins me in taking action, my month of ridicule and humiliation will be worth it.  So how about it?

Marathons Are Not About Running

After observing the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. a couple of weekends ago, I think I’m starting to get marathons.   I’ve never understood what all the hubbub was about and why seemingly sane people would subject themselves to such punishment.   But as I observed thousands of grim faced runners trot the streets of our nation’s capitol I came to realize marathons have little to do with running.  This is an immense relief as I think running is an agonizing and exhausting effort in futility.


For me, marathons are about setting a goal that stretches the limits of ability, preparing and sweating in isolation and then drawing courage from the cheers of the community of bystanders to do the seemingly impossible.  It’s about proving something…mostly to one’s self.  


I suspect the average time it takes to run the 26 plus miles would go up if it were run sans supporters yelling encouragement.   I also suspect that many would lose heart along the way and just drop out abandoning their dream if they ran alone and no one told them they could do it or handed them a cup of water.


There’s a bigger point here.  Life is a marathon and everyone is running their race.  Every race is different.  For some just making it through the day without breaking down is an immensely daunting task.  Others may be energized by getting that next patent or promotion or slick new iwhatever.   Regardless, courage leaks.  Everyone deals with doubt and discouragement at some point along their marathon of life. 


Last post I told about a dozen or so college age girls who pounded their drums and danced and yelled encouragement to the runners.  They maintained their intensity and energy even though the steady stream of runners had dwindled to one lone woman who had long ago given up on jogging.  Her gait was more a shuffle than even a walk as she approached mile 20.  Remarkably, it seemed as if she drew courage and energy from the drumming girls and she even picked up her pace to almost a walk.


The scene on 14th Street SW in Washington D.C. left me with two questions.  First, who am I cheering on?  Who are the people I need to siphon courage to through a thoughtful word, card, email, phone call, text, etc?    The second question seems a little self serving but it is critical.  Who cheers me on?  I tend to isolate and run alone when facing adversity.  Stupid. 


I’m starting to be more intentional about this community thing.  I realize I need others cheering for me if I’m going to finish this thing with a sprint not a shuffle.   David, Bryan and Shawn don’t look like much but every Wednesday afternoon we meet, share our stories and give each other courage to run on.  It’s becoming an increasingly valuable time of my week.  I need it. 


I’m starting to get why people run marathons…and it’s not so much about running.

I Get Marathons Now

I get marathons now.  Let me begin by saying I’m not a runner and see no point in destroying my knees just to get my heart rate up.  Surely there are better ways.  But I must say I do have a new appreciation for why marathons are so popular after experiencing my first one this weekend.  I was in Washington D.C. with my youngest son, Gavin, for the Pugh family traditional sixteenth birthday trip with dad.  He’s actually seventeen now and I won’t bore you with reasons why we were just now getting around to taking the trip.  Life happens (He’s also the third kid…there’s just less pressure).


Back to the story.  Two important things were happening in D. C. this weekend.  First, hurricane Sandy was looming very, very large and we escaped just as the rains began.  The other was the Marine Corps Marathon.  The city was pretty much shut down to traffic and they had additional Metro trains running to accommodate the thousands of people who were either running or who were coming to cheer the runners on.  We avoided the morning crush and around 11:00 surfaced at the Smithsonian Metro entrance and made our way toward the Holocaust Museum.  We hadn’t walked very far before we heard the whoops and hollers of thousands of total strangers cheering on thousands of total strangers.  That’s when I suddenly got why people push themselves to the limit of their physical ability to run a marathon.  Where else can you go and have people cheer for you nonstop for hours?  Seriously, it almost makes me want to run one (almost).  It’s a deeply moving scene.


As we approached the marathon route, Gavin and I stopped to take it all in.  It was about then I became aware of the constant concussion of a nearby drum line.  I craned my neck to see who was making all of the racket expecting to see a high school band in uniform.  What I saw was a group of a dozen or so college age girls drumming, dancing and cheering with amazing energy.   There was no reason for them to be there other than to encourage those who needed courage at mile 20.


Gavin and I dodged runners, crossed the street to tour the sobering Holocaust Museum for a couple of hours.  We emerged to a very different scene.  The street was deserted.  No cheering crowds.  No exhausted but determined runners.  Only the girls drum line remained.  Surprisingly, their energy had not diminished one iota in two hours.  They danced, they cheered, they shouted…for no one.   I looked to my left towards the Washington Monument and I could barely see the silhouette of a women built more for comfort than for speed.  She had long ago given up on running.  Her gait could best be described as trudging.  She lumbered alone on empty silent streets…except for a dozen girls giving it their best.  As this lone women, in last place, marched closer the cheers and dancing reached an incredibly even more fevered pitch.  She never looked at the girls in the drum line.  She never acknowledged their presence.  She didn’t need to.  It wasn’t expected.  She kept her focus on the road ahead and the one next step.


When she plodded on for block and a half the girls formed a circle, gave one final hurrah and stopped drumming.  They silently gathered their belongings and scattered into the city.


I get marathons now.  Next post I will share what I concluded and what inspired me from this scene.  I hope you’ll check back in.

Some Random Day…

Sarah had lost hope when it came to having children.  Her desire for a child hadn’t diminished; she had just made peace with reality and moved on.  Her biological clock struck midnight years before and in their pre-Viagra world she even giggled when God said Abraham would be the father of many nations.  To me, the story of Isaac’s birth wouldn’t make quite as intriguing a story if Abraham and Sarah had a dozen other kids running around.  The story grabs me because in the face of hopelessness, hope appears on some random day that started just like any other day.

I’m not trying to pump sunshine in the middle of despair or promise that if you’ll just keep believing things will turn out.  Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.  To me, the fact Sarah’s circumstances were so dire makes the miracle so compelling.  I mean, who wants to pay to see a movie where some lame guy battles a sore throat?   It’s the gut wrenching, roller coaster battle with cancer that attracts our attention and admiration.

I have to admit there are hopes and dreams in my life I’ve pretty much abandoned hope on.  But who knows?  On some random day that starts like any other day…

Humility Means Considering

I love being right.  I hate being wrong.  I suspect you (and everyone else with which we share the planet) feels much the same way.  This being the case, we find ourselves on a collision course when your love for being right smacks up against my disdain for being wrong.

When confronted with something I have done to wrong or hurt another I tend to hastily move into defense mode and eloquently and vigorously justify my actions.  After all, I love being right and I couldn’t possibly do anything wrong. 

I think I need a little more humility.  Paul Tripp defines humility as the willingness to consider I could be wrong.  Sounds pretty simple but I often refuse to entertain the idea that I have some culpability in any given relational skirmish.  What if the next time you are confronted with an example of your brokenness you paused and asked, “Might I have been impatient, rude, inconsiderate, thoughtless, or uncaring?”  Just considering is the beginning of humility.

How to Slow Life Down

Life speeds by at a breakneck pace when it is only comprised of routine.   Have you ever paused in the month of March and thought, “Christmas seems like last week…where has time gone?”   We judge time based on special events or markers in life.  For example, “We ate at that restaurant after vacation but before Rick broke his arm.”  If there are no special events to interrupt routine we look back and time is nothing but a blur of familiar activities.

The key to slowing life down is to be intentional about inserting unusual events into your life.  This doesn’t mean expensive or time consuming…just kick routine and do something different.  If you are running short on ideas ask a creative friend for suggestions and open your mind to the possibilities. Not only will it make life slow down but it will probably make you a more interesting person as well.

Best Negotiating Tip

Here’s a great negotiating tip that can be used anywhere and every time…listen.  That’s it.  We tend to be overly concerned with getting colleagues, customers and spouses to see it our way and “buy” our view or widget.   We often arm ourselves with facts and figures to make a convincing case and/or prove our point.   Remember, we cannot influence someone’s mind or viewpoint if we don’t first know where their mind is or what their viewpoint might be.  More effort invested in understanding means less effort convincing.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like being convinced very much anyway.  I do like it when someone understands where I am, what my challenges are and then provides thoughtful insight or alternatives.

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