The Three Gifts of Christmas

It’s Christmas time again! It is that most wonderful time of the year! Though not everyone can make that statement, I hope it is true for you.

One of the great traditions of Christmas is the exchange of gifts. I still smile when I think of the excitement my siblings and I experienced trying to sleep on Christmas Eve when we were children. My parents had a rule that we could retrieve our stockings filled with an orange (always, an orange) along with candy, a new pair of socks, and a small gift, such as a pocketknife any time after midnight. But, we couldn’t wake them up until after 6am to open our gifts under the tree. My parents always made Christmas special!

Gift-giving probably dates to the Biblical account of the wise men that visited the Christ-child after His birth. These “Magi” brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh as the first Christmas gifts. Through the years, the practice of giving gifts has blossomed into the commercial bonanza that we experience today.

Today, I would like to offer my suggestion for three gifts this Christmas that will not only bless others but could be life-changing to you. These gifts might cost you nothing financially, but, in a sense, they could cost you everything. Confusing, yes, so you’ll have to keep reading to understand what I mean.

Here are my suggestions for three gifts this Christmas that could make this the very best Christmas of your life:

Gift #1 – Allow yourself to truly enjoy Christmas this year

The first gift I would like to describe is to allow yourself to put aside the expectations, routines, and efforts that make Christmas a stressful time for so many. Allow yourself to simplify your Christmas this year and be blessed by the sights, sounds, and feelings.

Too many individuals are trying to juggle so many balls at Christmas that they end up dropping them all. At work, you are feverishly trying to complete important projects before the end of the year. Your kids have extra commitments with school programs, parties, gifts for teachers, and events. You are trying to avoid the last-minute rush to buy Christmas gifts… if you can even think of great gifts to buy! You have company coming, so you want the house to be just perfect and the food to be the best. Your aging parents need your attention. You haven’t even called your best friend in weeks! Sometimes, we simply try to do so much that we miss the joy of Christmas.

This year, try something different. Say no to those extra things that you know you won’t have time to do. Try giving gift cards instead of finding that perfect unique gift. Get carry-out pizza instead of preparing homemade lasagna with French bread. Simplify! Then, use the extra time to take a drive and see the Christmas lights. Spend an evening walking through your downtown shops rather than the mall. Grab an afghan, snuggle with your sweetie, and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie or two. Make candy or cookies… and eat some dough in the process. Go to a Christmas program at a school or church even if you have no family members participating.

In other words, what is it about Christmas that you remember most as a child? What of those things have you not done in years? Now, make a commitment to go do that again.

I remember going Christmas caroling as a child. It was an activity we did as Boy Scouts, and we visited the community adult care facilities and sang for the residents. Last Christmas, we spread the word that we needed to do that at one of our local facilities. It turned out to be great fun! We took requests from the residents and many of them sang along with us. We had a chance to share what Christmas means to us and cookies were shared by the residents. We left that night with a fresh perspective of the true joy of Christmas!

What is it that you miss about Christmas that you can do this year? Consider it a gift to yourself to simplify your life and find a way to rekindle that warm feeling of love and happiness that makes Christmas special.

Gift #2 – Be a blessing to someone else this Christmas

The next gift we need to discuss is the gift that you can be to someone else. How are you planning to bless someone else this Christmas? I’m not necessarily talking about giving gifts… material gifts… but, pouring your life into that of someone else.

One of the things that I believe has changed over the last few decades is a shift in focus from others to self. I believe many individuals today are focused on self-fulfillment, self-gratification, self-care, individuality, “staying within yourself” … rather than on doing for others. What happened to “do unto others” or “ask not what your country can do for you…”?

This Christmas would be the perfect time for each of us to find a way – or a way every day – to make a difference for someone else. John Bunyan once said,

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Serving others is the simplest definition of selflessness. Putting your own needs and desires aside to meet the needs of someone else is what makes us human. And it is impossible to focus on your own hurts, stress, and difficulties when you are striving to make a difference for someone else.

Just a couple days ago, I visited a man in a full-time care facility that is suffering from severe dementia. At least five times in the few minutes with him, he suddenly broke down in tears. Some hidden sad memory kept resurfacing and he experienced the grief from that event over-and-over again all day long. When you experience and share the burdens of another, the load you carry seems much lighter, if you can even remember you’re carrying it at all.

You might ask, “What can I do to serve someone else? How can I make my gift of service real to another?” The best advice I can give is to simply look around. It is difficult to walk one block without seeing some way you can make a difference to someone else. Some ways to serve are small and simple, like picking up something dropped or opening a door or being kind to a service person. Other meaningful ways to serve might involve more intentionality, such as running errands for someone that is home-bound.

Perhaps the greatest way you can serve another this Christmas is with your time. Think back 5 years ago… who was important in your life then that you haven’t seen or spoken to in longer than a year? How about 10 years ago? Would it be difficult to take a few minutes to make a phone call or write a personal note? Or, better yet, make some cookies and personally deliver them.

When you take time to serve someone else, you are giving a part of yourself which is more valuable than anything you could buy. Make this Christmas special by blessing someone else.

Gift #3 – Accept God’s greatest gift to us this Christmas

The entire purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the greatest gift ever given… the only Son of God born in the most humble circumstance possible. You might ask, “Why was the birth of Jesus Christ so important? Why is it a big deal today? Does it matter for me personally?” Let me try to answer these questions.

Humans are born innocent but tainted with a tendency to do wrong. We are not naturally inclined to love others and always do what is right. Our default is to serve ourselves first. This is called sin. We all have the problem of sin in our lives because we are the offspring of Adam, the original sinner, and because we individually seek our own will, not God’s will.

This sin problem separates us from God. He is Holy and our sin creates a brokenness that had to be repaired. That was why Jesus was sent to earth. God’s Son became flesh on that first Christmas. He lived a perfect life but was murdered on a cross. He was buried but rose from the dead on the third day. His death and resurrection paid the penalty that we could never pay for ourselves. As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God now accepts us as His children for all who believe and accept Jesus as Savior (He paid our debt) and Lord (He is Supreme, and we owe everything to Him). If you simply believe in your heart that Jesus is God’s Son, ask Him to forgive you for your sin, accept Him, and commit your life to serving Him, He promises that you will live forever with Him in heaven.

Essentially, God gave Jesus as a free gift. All we must do to inherit eternal life in heaven is to accept that free gift. That is all… there is nothing we can do to earn it… no one else can accept that gift in our place… Believing and receiving that gift that is the beginning of an amazing journey while we live and an unending eternity after our days here are complete.

Too many individuals think that becoming a believer in God is more complex than it really is. They believe that they need to get their lives straightened out first. Or, that God could never forgive someone that has done what they have done. Let me quote a Bible verse (Romans 5:8) that means a lot to me, “God demonstrates His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In the midst of our very worst, God gave His very best! All we need to do is yield ourselves to Him and receive Him.

I accepted God’s gift of Jesus when I was twenty-one years old. When I did, God helped me to become a completely different person. Now, I have a hope and a purpose for my life that didn’t exist before. My purpose is to serve God by loving Him and loving others. My hope is a confidence that God is faithful and is preparing for me to spend eternity in heaven with Him. That is the big deal about Christmas!

So, that is my hope for you… that you will embrace these 3 gifts of Christmas in ways you’ve never done before. My hope is that this Christmas is more special than any you ever enjoyed and that you will be the source of joy for everyone around you. Please accept my challenge to accept and give these wonderful gifts of Christmas.

If you are looking for other thoughts on Christmas past, present, and future, feel free to see my other previous posts on this topic. Some of these include: “Christmas Memories” (Christmas Memories); “What makes Christmas so magical” (What makes Christmas so magical?); “The Christmas Kitten” (The Christmas Kitten); “What is your hope?” (What is your hope?); “I have seen the light” (I have seen the light!); and “The Five Superheroes of Christmas” (The Five Superheroes of Christmas). I hope this is your best Christmas yet!

What does it take to live an extraordinary life?

Today, I would like to feature an excerpt from my most recent book, “Yes, you can change your circumstances.” (Amazon says there is still time to get delivery by Christmas… at least where I live… so, if you find this excerpt challenging, perhaps the full book might be an excellent gift for yourself. You can find it at when searching under Eldon Henson.)

As we approach the end of the year, some introspection is a good thing. How have I lived this year and what should change, especially regarding my mind, heart, and hands, for the upcoming new year? You’ll find below the Introduction to this book which provides an overview of the 340 pages that follow.



What does it take to live an extraordinary life?

How do we know when a life is extraordinary? What is the difference between an ordinary life and one that is amazing, fulfilling, impactful, and meaningful? My definition of an extraordinary life is one marked or characterized by the attributes and actions contained in three key words:

  • MIND
    • character
    • attitudes that drive the heart and hands
    • how we act when no one is around (integrity)
    • hope
    • mental toughness
    • joy
    • the outpouring of the heart that provides a reflection of the individual
    • internal peace
    • positive view of life
    • choices/decisions
    • impact
    • actions that make a difference to others
    • steps
    • growth
    • intentionality
    • legacy

To introduce this work, I would like to briefly speak of each of these three components of character that you will read about in coming chapters. Then, I hope to tie them together in a way that provides a description of extraordinary at the end.


In one of my previous books (Achieving your best day yet!), I spoke about the importance of character. In essence, character is what has been cultivated in your mind that results in behaviors, actions, and impact. In that piece is outlined a list of 33 attributes that mark a life of character:

  1. Gratitude – Does the individual express a genuine sense of thankfulness for what they have, what others do for them, and the blessings in life they have been gifted?
  2. Self-discipline – Does the individual possess the ability to get things done without nagging, urging, or threats? Does the person habitually fulfill their commitments?
  3. Willingness and ability to work – Does the individual do their share, especially without being told? Has the person learned the value and benefits from work?
  4. Hope – Does the individual have a sense of hope for the future and something on which to base that hope? Does the individual live in the present and look forward to the future more than longing for or regretting the past?
  5. An attitude of service – Does the individual put others before self? Does the person seek ways and opportunities to make life better for someone else?
  6. Faith/Optimism – Does the individual live with a sense that “this could be their best day yet”? Does the person express an attitude that lifts others? Is the person confident in whatever the future might hold?
  7. Contentment – Does the individual have a sense of satisfaction in their life? Has the person learned the art of being content, yet without sacrificing a desire to improve?
  8. Desire to improve – Does the individual seek to learn from mistakes? Is the person seeking ways to enhance skills, abilities, and mind?
  9. Responsibility – Does the individual assume responsibility or accountability for his/her own actions? Will the person typically “do what they say they will do”?
  10. Compassion – Does the person truly care about others? Do the person’s actions show a heart-felt compassion for the feelings and circumstances of others?
  11. Humility – Is the person allowing their actions to speak louder than their words? Do they downplay their own contributions while enhancing that of others?
  12. Perseverance – Will the person stay-with-it long enough to finish the task? Does the person finish what they start? Are they in it for the long haul?
  13. Joy – Does the person have a genuinely happy disposition? Has the individual learned to express joy even when circumstances are negative?
  14. Peace-loving – Does the person seek to bring about peace and consensus? Does the person diffuse negative circumstances?
  15. Generosity – Does the person willingly give sacrificially to others? Does the person seek opportunities to share what they must make a difference for others?
  16. Kindness – Is the person kind to everyone in every situation? Does the person show the same level of kindness to those that can do nothing for them in return as they would for a VIP?
  17. Purity – Does the person strive to be faithful, pure, and “clean” in what he/she says, does, supports, and encounters?
  18. Courage – Is the person willing to stand up for what is right, even in the face of opposition? Will the person defend the defenseless?
  19. Trust – Can the person be trusted in all things? Does he/she trust others?
  20. Sense of self-worth – Does the person have a healthy understanding of their own worth to others and God? Does the person hold their head high or cower under pressure?
  21. Respect for others – Does the person appreciate and respect the opinions, abilities, backgrounds, skills, and personality of others?
  22. Mercy – Does the person express forgiveness and mercy frequently and freely?
  23. Justice – Does the person seek that which is right, true, and fair? Does the person stand up for those that cannot do so for themselves?
  24. Self-control – Does the person control their words, actions, and attitudes appropriately even when they are being mistreated?
  25. Honesty and integrity – Can the person be counted on to be truthful and honest in all situations? Would others name this individual if asked to name individuals with integrity?
  26. Willingness to submit to authority – Is the person willing to submit to others in authority over them? Do they respect their boss, their parents, and government officials? Is rebellion a normal response to not getting their own way?
  27. Love – Does the person willingly express love for others? Is this individual willing to freely express their thoughts about and to others?
  28. Confidence – Does the individual exude a sense of confidence in who they are and what they do? Will they look you in the eye when speaking? Is their handshake firm?
  29. Desire for excellence – Does the individual seek to do their best in all things, small or large? Does the person strive to do things well rather than cut corners?
  30. Desire to learn from others – Does the individual freely accept the teaching and counsel of others?
  31. Desire to develop and enhance relationships – Does the individual understand and appreciate the importance of connecting personally with others? Does the person seek genuine relationships rather than less personal social connections?
  32. Genuineness – Is the person the same in private as in public? Does the person express one persona with friends and another at work? Can you say about the person, “What you see is what you get?”
  33. Love for God – Does the individual know God and outwardly express a love for Him? Is the person seeking to know God more and better? Does the individual live in a way in which he/she seeks to please God?


I believe that heart is synonymous with joy to a very large extent. When your heart is full, when it is full in the right way, the joy of your life will overflow to those around you. And it will be manifested in your impact to others.

M. Ahlers once said of joy:

“Joy is a choice based on being content regardless of circumstances. Understanding what encourages joy in your life can help you cultivate it and build up your resources for when circumstances are difficult.” M. Ahlers

I appreciate that Ahlers speaks of four key aspects of joy:

  1. It is a choice – We can choose to have joy. We can impact our level of joy. In short, the absence of joy is because we have chosen so.
  2. It is unaffected by circumstances – Joy does not rise and fall based on what happens. Certainly, our happiness during any day can be high or low, but joy is our base that should remain relatively consistent.
  3. It can be cultivated and built up – However, we can impact the joy within us. It can grow or decline… again by our choice. It is impacted by how we feed our minds and what we allow into our hearts.
  4. It can sustain us – Joy can get us through our most difficult times. It can be a source of comfort… or hope.

So, as we look at matters of the heart… of joy… let’s consider how a full heart can make a difference to those around us in positive ways.


Ultimately, an extraordinary life can only occur if our mind and heart drive action that impacts others through our actions (e.g., hands). It is not enough to merely be a warehouse of right attitudes with a desire to impact others. Unless our attitudes and desires result in action, we are, as the Bible says, merely a clanging cymbal or noisy gong (see I Corinthians 13:1).

So, what actions mark an extraordinary life? What is it that you see that demonstrates impactful hands? To me, the greatest indicator of this would be love. An extraordinary life is one marked by love for others. When you love others, you serve them, you support them, you benefit them, and you make them better simply by your presence. An extraordinary life is one that impacts others in a positive way. But an extraordinary life cannot occur without introspection and intentional effort.

This work is divided into the three components of an extraordinary life… mind, heart, and hands. The components of each section are intended to show through examples, lists, quotes, and thoughts how we can mold ourselves into more content and impactful individuals. In essence, when our attitudes create in us righteous desires, more extraordinary actions should result. Hopefully, the nuggets of experience that I have accumulated over my nearly 7 decades of life incorporated here will stimulate in you a desire to grow in character, strengthen your resolve to impact others, and produce a life legacy that lives well beyond your years.

Quinn’s Childhood Type 1 Diabetes Journey

Each year approximately 18,000 new cases of type 1 diabetes occur in U.S. youth. My granddaughter Quinn’s case is one of the most recent. She was diagnosed at age 11 just this summer and spend a couple nights in the hospital before going home to an entirely different life.

Quinn is an amazing young lady. She has taken control of her disease as much as possible and is becoming an inspiration to her family, her classmates, and everyone else she touches.

She recently began a blog which she hopes will help other children navigate the challenges and practical elements of type 1 diabetes. Her blog can be found at So, if you have a family member or acquaintance that has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and needs assistance with some of the practical aspects of this new life, take a look. Hopefully, the journey that Quinn has found herself on will help and inspire others.

Once upon a time: Part Two

In my previous post (Once Upon a Time: Part One), I reminisced about a time during my lifetime that was different from today. Possibly, I am just a dreamer about how I thought things were back when I was growing up. Maybe my memory has just grown a bit foggy. Or, perhaps the old guys living in rural Southern Illinois back in the 50’s and 60’s were right about the “good old days.” Anyway, please indulge me as a I share some of the things I miss about those days. For those of you born after 1990 or so, you’ll swear that the life and times I describe could only have been true in Mayberry USA. Anyway, this is my take….

In Part One, is spoke about 7 things I miss from the old days. Let me recap:

  1. Resilience during difficult times – the grit to persevere when things don’t go your way
  2. Patience – willingness to sacrifice what you want now for something better later on
  3. Willingness to “earn it” (versus a sense of entitlement) – an understanding and determination to put in the long, hard, tiresome work necessary to gain something special versus expecting gain simply because of your education, status, sex, race, wealth, looks, position, presence, or connections
  4. Freedom of thought (and the drive to fight for it) – ability to offer differing views (sometimes opposite views) and have meaningful debate without fear of reprisal, cancellation, hatred, separation, punishment, or harassment AND having the guts to fight for what is right whether or not it is currently politically expedient
  5. Patriotism – an unwavering and deep respect for our country and those that sacrificed for the freedoms we currently enjoy; placing our country’s best interests ahead of our personal interests
  6. Affirmations of standards of behavior – recognizing that there is a right and a wrong path of behavior, striving to adhere to those right standards of behavior, and affirming that something is not right simply because a majority of individuals (or the loudest individuals) say it is so
  7. Willingness to submit – putting yourself under the authority of someone else, then supporting that authority to the best of your ability whether or not you always agree with that authority’s actions

In Part Two, we’ll discuss the next seven of 21 things I miss, starting with…

8. Appreciation for excellence (versus expediency) – A few years ago, my son and his family lived in Brussels, Belgium for a couple of years. In central Brussels, there is an area called The Grand Place (or Grote Markt). Here is a remarkable collection of public and private buildings built mostly in the late 17th century that are famous for their extreme craftsmanship and opulence. The detailed work on each building is amazing and obviously created with an extreme appreciation for excellence. And, you have to remember that the craftsman if that time did not have the tools available today… their work was created by their hands over a long period of time. Do we appreciate that level of excellence today or are we more interested in expediency? It has been said that you can have things fast, cheap, or good… pick any two. It just seems that cheap and fast always trump the good these days. Even in recent decades, it seems that individuals are now less concerned with how good they do something than whether they did it fast or at low cost. There is a sense of accomplishment in doing something really well. I hope this hasn’t been lost forever.

9. Sense of hope – How would you answer this question, “Are there more individuals in your circle that are hopeful or hopeless?” I grew up in the 1960’s… a time of great turmoil with Viet Nam, riots, assassinations, societal change, etc. Yet, as I recall, it was a hopeful time. It was a time when we were preparing to send a man to the moon. It was a time to recognize the worth of all individuals. It was a time when most believed that the future held promise. That doesn’t seem to be the case today. Most individuals are caught up in the belief that the world is doomed; that we are headed for a civil war; that financial and support systems are falling apart; that these are the best days we’ll ever see. Hope is that feeling or expectation and desire that something good will happen. It is an optimism for something or a time in the future. We need to believe that there is something to look forward to. We need to hold firm that the difficulties of today are temporary. We need to believe that our best days are not in the past. Individually, we all need to have an eternal hope. Please take the time to read more about my “hope” here at this link (What is your hope?).

10. Honesty/Truth – I am amazed today at the importance of “spin.” Politicians need to “spin” certain events or situations. Our industry leaders must properly “position” bad news. We are often given a “narrative” rather than the simple truth. Why? When I was a kid, honesty was considered a virtue. To my parents, the truth was considered an absolute necessity. Now, I am afraid, many are being taught that truth is relative rather than an absolute. Some would prefer that their children learn how to twist circumstances to meet a desired end than to simple be honest. Maybe I am being naïve, but I miss the days when you would “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

11. Willingness to sacrifice – It is not rare today to read of an individual making an extreme sacrifice for someone else. Just in the last week, I heard of an individual risking his life to save others from a burning car. However, I believe in general that our society today struggles to sacrifice for the greater good. I think it would be challenging for our society today to put aside personal ambitions, property, and comfort to fight a common foe… much less agree that there is such a thing as a common foe. President John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Living a life of sacrifice means putting the needs, wants, and desires of others ahead of our own. I long for a time when sacrifice defines our society rather than represents that rare individual.

12. Common sense – A friend and I have often discussed the need to create the “court of common sense.” In our world, we would decide issues based on common sense… nothing else. We wouldn’t be bound by legal precedent, legal language, lawyers, arguments, etc. We would simply apply fair common sense. To me, it seems the world has turned upside down in the last couple of decades. What was once right is now wrong; what was wrong is now right and, in fact, it is celebrated. Just this week, an individual attacked a political candidate with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill him yet was released later that day because of the progressive approach to “justice.” In the court of common sense, this would simply not be allowed. Where are the individuals willing and able to utilize common sense to restore order to a challenging and broken world?

13. Contentment – I remember the only janitor in my school as a kid. His name was Gilley (probably Gilbert) Hawley. Gilley was always a positive encourager. He would stand in the hallway as we all went to the lunchroom and greeted every single person. He would post positive news and encouragements on his “office” doorway where he singled out individuals for their efforts in sports or other activities. In short, though he might have had the opportunity to complain about his fate in life, he was just the opposite. I think Gilley may have actually inspired many students to pass on higher education because they wanted to have the happiest job in the world… janitor. Gilley exhibited contentment. He was satisfied to shine in his corner of the world. We should be inspired by Gilley and be content with making a difference to others no matter our lot in life.

14. Choosing to do what is right – Choices… the sum total of all the choices we make in life define our character. Someone once defined character as “doing what is right no matter who is watching or even if no one would know.” I think today, individuals are more concerned with how something might look or what others might think than they are about doing the right thing. I heard someone recently say, “Just because everyone around you wants something to be true does not make it true.” I long for the day when doing the right thing is honored, rather than discouraged; when individuals are applauded for doing the right thing in the face of adversity; and where every seeks to “do the right things in the right way at the right time.”

So, there you have it… my next group  of 7 things I miss. I’m sure your list would be different than mine, but I would hope that we would have quite a bit of overlap. Think about it… what do you miss from days in the past?

In part 3, we’ll discuss the last 7 items which will include:

  • Doing things that matter
  • Hard work
  • Basic kindness
  • Experiencing and expressing joy
  • Gratitude
  • Sense of commitment
  • Belief in God

I will also talk some about what actions we can individually and collectively take to restore some of the positive attributes, actions, and attitudes we miss from our youth.

More to come…. Have a great day.

Remembering My Dad This Father’s Day Weekend

Nothing extremely organized… just a few thoughts on my dad as Father’s Day Weekend is upon us again. My own Dad passed away 30 years ago, and I still think of him often. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, “Much of what I am, what I do, what I think, and how I hope to influence those around me comes from the influence of my father.”

Anyway, I hope you still have your father in your life. If not, I hope your memories are fond ones.

  1. One of the greatest compliments ever given to me was from those that knew my father well when they would say, “You remind me a lot of your dad.”
  2. “Sometimes, you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss (Theodor Suess Giesel)
  3. My Dad always treated others with kindness and respect. He worked as a welder in the oilfield. I remember countless times he gave a hand to others, simply to be kind. He always exhibited respect and he had a kind word in every situation. J. T. Rowling once said, “If you want to know what a man is like, take a look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” I would add about my father… he never felt he had an inferior.
  4. “If your absence doesn’t affect them, then your presence never really mattered.” – adapted from a quote by Dido Stargaze
  5. My parents always encouraged us to do our best in every circumstance… even when it would be easier to cut a corner or take the easy road. We need to hear more parents saying that to their children today.
  6. My Dad was very big on choices… much of what happens in life, good or bad, results from or is influenced by our choices. A Charles Spurgeon quote speaks to this, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” Choosing what is right defines your character.
  7. If you still have your father this Father’s Day weekend… call him! “Never ignore a person who loves you, cares for you, and misses you. Because one day you might wake up from your sleep and realize you lost the moon while counting the stars.” – John O’Callaghan
  8. “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Proverbs 27:19
  9. My Dad was not what you might call a talkative man. Certainly, he spoke with his family and interacted well with those around him, but it was unlike him to lecture and give dissertations on what to do or how to do it. But his life spoke volumes! Here are some of those things I learned from observing my dad’s life… don’t confuse desire with determination; don’t confuse words with actions; don’t confuse activity with results; don’t confuse what you want to do with what you need to do; don’t confuse material things with value; and don’t confuse worldly success with meaningful success.
  10. A father’s actions will strongly influence the character of his children (knowing that, ultimately, their choices matter). So, when a father sacrifices for his family, his children learn selflessness. When a father loves his wife, his children learn kindness, devotion, and commitment. When a father demonstrates kindness to others, his children learn compassion. When a father is present for key activities and events in the family, his children learn commitment. When a father exhibits happiness and joy, his children learn to be optimistic and content. When a father compliments his children, they learn to be confident. When a father chooses family over work, his children feel valued. When a father expresses gratitude, his children learn to serve others.

On this Father’s Day Weekend, express thanks to a father you know. And, to every father doing his best to teach and influence his children in right ways, right beliefs, and right choices… thanks! Stay diligent in doing a good work.

Once upon a time: Part One

Sometimes it seems like a fairy tale when I talk about how things used to be. You see, I grew up in the late 50’s and 60’s at a time much different than today. There are a lot of things I miss from those days. Certainly, we have advantages today that were only scientific fantasy back then. But I do look back some days and wish that we could have kept some of those best things from back then.

I’m not sure when or why things changed. Did our society take a negative turn because of the assassinations and Viet Nam War back then? Did the internet change the course of our society? Or was it something else?

Today, I would like to talk about some of these things that I miss from back then. Perhaps this list will take you back in time, as well. The big question is how do we regain some of the good from those days? Is it even possible? Let’s look at the first seven items on my list. After I’ve had the chance to discuss all the items, I’ll offer my views on what we can do, individually and collectively, to regain the best of yesteryear… if it is not too late.

Once upon a time, there was…

  1. Resilience during difficult times – Perhaps it is because so many of us have never had to deal with extreme adversity, but too few individuals today are willing (or able) to persevere through challenging times. Let me provide an example… The pandemic has been severe with many bad impacts. However, how can we explain why these times are called the “great resignation?” Millions of individuals have dropped out of the workplace because they find it too difficult to commit to a 40-hour week, they simply do not want to stop working from home, or they find idleness too great a temptation. Why are mental health issues so prevalent today? Is it because there are more issues or because adversity is too much to handle? Individuals that have endured war, depressions, adversity… and survived, exhibit a “grit” that is rarely seen by individuals today when even a sideway glance can be viewed as harassment or a critical slight.
  2. Patience – Clearly, individuals in society today are less patient than in times past. In my former corporate role, our group hired many degreed individuals with 1-2 years of experience post-college. In many cases, these individuals after only a few months complained that they had not been promoted yet. One individual once said to me, “I’ve been here for over 6 months and have done everything you asked me to do. What does it take to get promoted around here? Maybe I need to leave and find a place that appreciates me more.” This individual didn’t understand the concept of growing and learning before assuming greater responsibility. Most of the individuals in my generation (I am 65+) probably received on average 5-7 promotions in their entire careers. That would be one every 6 years or so. Yet today, if an individual isn’t promoted within their first year, they view their career as a failure or the company as a bad employer. Immediate gratification has replaced long-term commitment.
  3. Willingness to “earn it” (versus sense of entitlement) – Similarly, there is a strong belief today that you should get simply because you exist. “I have a degree, so I have ‘earned’ a great salary and title.” Or “I am entitled to a house as nice as my parents’ house.” A sense of entitlement has replaced the concept of earning it. Perhaps this began when society started believing that competition is bad and participation is all that matters. Too many individuals are not willing to make the sacrifice of time, effort, or risk required to earn the benefits of life and work. I recall when you had to save 10% of the total cost of a house before a bank would provide a mortgage. You had to “earn” the right to purchase a house by sacrificing upfront. There is much more a feeling of “I deserve” rather than “I earned” today compared to years ago.
  4. Freedom of thought (and the drive to fight for it) – I remember going to the barbershop as a kid. It seems there were always 4-5 older men waiting in the shop, but it seems I never had to wait when I went to get my haircut. The guys would just sit and talk. However, I remember that they didn’t always agree with each other. In fact, I recall that they rarely agreed. However, they came back, day after day, just to sit and argue about the state of the world. I don’t think that could happen today. The minute a disagreement arises, someone leaves. There is no room for civil disagreement and discussion. You are either “for me or against me… nothing in the middle.” Also, it seems that few individuals today will fight for their say. You either quietly disagree and move on or capitulate. Someone recently recounted for me a conversation they had when they asked and individual whether he leaned toward Democrat or Republican in his views. His answer was, “It depends on who I am with at the time.” I long for the day when individuals were not afraid to speak their mind and would freely do so… with the result that we were all better as a result!
  5. Patriotism – When did it become politically incorrect to be a patriot? How could that even happen? I remember celebrating the July 4th holiday as a kid. It was possibly my favorite holiday of the year! We had a carnival in the park, an all-star baseball game with our rival neighboring town, and the best fireworks in the area. In between, we had a patriotic program in the bandshell where veterans were celebrated, the grand old marches were played by the band, and we were proud to be Americans. Sure, there are celebrations like that today, but more often, our elected politicians denounce our nation, its founding, and what our flag stands for. I’m reminded that “united we stand, divided we fall.” Which direction are we headed today?
  6. Affirmations of standards of behavior – When did it become a “problem” to hold individuals accountable for their behavior? I’m not really talking about those things that are in the gray areas, but standards of behavior that are clearly black or white. It seems today that it is OK to ignore the law or rules or basic decency unless the violation is especially onerous… or at least when they cross the lines of current progressive ideals. For example, it is now OK to loot, steal, and rob for the sake of equity. It is OK to lie simply because it benefits you. It is OK to cheat on your spouse or business partner or friend because “everyone else does it.” During the mid-20th century, standards of behavior were clear and to cross those lines was considered a serious offense to society. In many ways, it seems as though we are back in the old west where whoever has the biggest weapon makes the rules. Why is it so hard to stay within the standards of behavior that define a civilized society?
  7. Willingness to submit – In my working life, I observed and monitored the performance of literally thousands of individuals. There exists a small percentage of individuals that seem to have great difficulty keeping a job, staying in the workplace, or functioning successfully in this environment in which you are expected to do your job. In the vast majority of these cases, I have found that the individual has great difficulty submitting to authority. When you cannot accept or submit to a boss or leader or standard of expectation, it becomes nearly impossible to succeed. Think about the individuals you know that move from one job to another to another. Why is it that they cannot be content and successful? I think you’ll find that the single biggest reason is that they “had problems with their boss or expectations of the boss.” Perhaps this can happen occasionally, but when this becomes the theme of a career, you can bet that the root cause is an inability to submit to authority… an unwillingness to submit to the decisions made by someone else. Society has developed a problem with submission, as well. I’m not talking about blindly submitting to the whims of government, though we have all experienced that during the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m talking about an individual choice to do what’s best even when it may not be the best for me. I mean that willingness to set aside my own desires, pleasures, and wishes to serve another. However, I am hopeful. During the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, there have been hundreds of cases of Ukrainian individuals submitting their own desires for a greater purpose. It is my hope that this represents today’s society more than the selfishness that seems so prevalent.

In coming posts, I’ll discuss several other things I miss from the past. These include:

  • Appreciation for excellence (versus expediency)
  • Sense of hope
  • Honesty/Truth
  • Willingness to sacrifice
  • Common sense
  • Contentment
  • Choosing to do what is right
  • Doing things that matter
  • Hard work
  • Basic kindness
  • Experiencing and expressing joy
  • Gratitude
  • Sense of commitment
  • Belief in God

More to come…. Have a great day and if you would add other items to this list, send them my way. I’ll be glad to add them and provide my perspective in coming posts.

Time is marching on

I reshared a post today called, “What would you say if you could speak to your Dad one more time?” I did that because my own Dad passed away exactly 30 years ago today. In many ways, that seems like a lifetime ago. In other ways, I remember it like it was yesterday. Time passes quickly.

Anyway, for those of you that still have your Dad with you today, take some time and give him a call. Don’t wait until it is too late to say what you need to say.

What would you say to your Dad if you had only one more chance?

what would you say

This coming Sunday is Father’s Day… the day we celebrate all the great things our Dads do for us. It is a day set aside for BBQ’s, outings with families, gifts, and fun. I remember as a kid celebrating Father’s Day doing the things we kids liked to do, not so much what our Dad really would like to do. But, he seemed to just enjoy being with us and doing what we wanted to do… that was just who he was.

However, for many, Father’s Day is a day spent caught up only in memories… thinking about those good times… and bad… with our Dad. Mine has been gone for almost exactly 25 years and I still miss him.

So, for today on The Porch, let’s reminisce about our Dads. Let’s consider what are those things we might say to our Dad if you had one more chance. I also solicited feedback on this question from a few friends to get a broader perspective.

I think the things we might say if you had one more chance fall into a few categories:

  1. “Thanks, Dad, for all that you taught me, especially ________.” I find myself wishing I could thank my Dad for all he taught me. He taught me how to treat and love a wife. He taught me responsibility, diligence, and to pursue excellence. He taught me to play baseball and to love the game. He taught me how to fish, hunt, and appreciate the outdoors. He taught me the importance of family and just “being there” for key events and activities. One of my friends said he would thank his Dad for teaching him how to fix old junk cars. That same friend is now passing that down to his own grandchildren. You may not realize it, but your own children and grandchildren are learning from you… good or bad.
  2. “Dad, I never really told you what I thought of you.” Many individuals I have encountered wish that they would have taken the time to tell their Dad what they really thought of them before they were gone. One of my friends does not have that regret. As part of her Dad’s honor flight trip to Washington DC, family members were asked to write a letter expressing their love and thanks to their Fathers. She had the chance to say exactly those things we all might wish we would have said. How fortunate she was… especially since her father passed away just one month later! Another of my friends mentioned how her Dad gave her the ability to take care of herself. He taught her how to hunt and fish and do things herself without depending upon someone else to do it for her. Being independent has been a blessing to her.
  3. “Dad, you were an amazing example to me, especially when you _________.” Several of the friends I asked to contribute to this talked about the example their father was… of kindness… of patience. One talked about how her father cared for her mother (his wife) tenderly for 14 years after her first stroke. Another mentioned how his father always encouraged him to look forward, not backward. I saw from my father the importance of hard work and of doing what you say you’ll do. I saw him dedicate his precious free time to children, helping to begin a little league baseball organization in my home town. He was a giver that lived an amazing life of service to others.
  4. “Dad, I wish you would have ________ before you died.” We often look back on the lives of our parents regretting what we did or didn’t do. One of my friends mentioned that she wished her father had done a better job preparing her mother to be a widow. He lived his life dedicated to her to the point that she was not ready to live alone after he was gone. She also said that his dedication to her occurred at the expense of relationships with other family members. Sometimes, being honest with our legacy and the brevity of life needs to be recognized, whether we like it or not. Another friend’s Dad died at a very early age. My friend wishes he had taken better care of himself. Several of my friends mentioned that they had never talked about God much with their Dads. The express that they wish they had that chance to ensure that they were ready when they crossed over that river of death.
  5. “I hope you are proud of me, Dad. I never would have accomplished _______ without your _______________ (sacrifice, encouragement, or support).” Several of those contributing to this mentioned the influence their Dad had on their own life. Finishing school, developing skills, learning self-reliance all things Fathers help encourage for us. For others, the sacrifices made by Fathers would be part of those “one more time” conversations. I often catch myself wondering and hoping that my own life reflects the dreams my parents had for me as I was growing up in my small home town.
  6. “I have tried to be just like you, Dad, especially __________.” My own father was a great example of integrity. He worked in the oilfield with men hardened by weather, adversity, and years of hard labor. Yet, to a man, they talked to me privately during my summer work there about how much they respected my father. Hearing that made me to be just like him! One of my friends commented that she always admired her Dad’s “giant personality”… love for people, friendliness, thoughtfulness… that she tried to adopt and emulate. Another friend said his own life has been much better because of the honor and integrity his father displayed over his entire life.
  7. “I wish you could have met your _________ (grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.). You would be so proud. In many ways, they are a lot like you.” My Father died when my children were all young. He would be so proud of them now! And, he would have truly enjoyed his seven great-grandchildren! Each of them has some element of him in their look, actions, or personality. How fun it would be to watch my parents meet them today! A friend mentioned that her son wished that he could have gotten to know his Grandfather better. He wishes they could take that camping trip together that they had been planning. That same friend wishes her Dad could have met her current husband. She said she thought he would really like him and be proud she had such a wonderful man in her life.
  8. “Dad, just in case there was ever any doubt, I just want you to know that I always loved you.” My friend mentioned that she was whispering her love for her own Father the very moment he died. How wonderful knowing that he never had to doubt it! I would love having the chance to just say it one more time!
  9. “I still smile every time I think about you, Dad. Do you remember the time we __________.” My Dad was fun! He had a great sense of humor and was constantly playing practical jokes on people. I have so many memories of him having fun. He made everything more fun just by being there. My wife and I still talk about his jokes and the pranks he pulled on us.
  10. “Dad, I miss doing __________ with you!” – One of my friends mentioned that he missed being able to go bowling or play golf with his Dad. Those of us that have lost our parents, often just wish we could spend more time doing the things we enjoyed with them. I remember fishing with my Dad while listening to the baseball game on the radio. One of my friends said he would say, “Thank you Dad for all the countless summer days of fishing together, I sure do miss you!”
  11. “Well done, Dad.” I would love the chance just to tell my Dad, “well done.” His life was too short, but full. He served in the military, enjoyed many hobbies, worked hard, raised three successful kids, was respected by others, and sacrificed his own interests for others. He loved his wife of 40 years and told me shortly before his death that he knew his eternal destiny was heaven. How could you ask for more?

I’m sure that every person would add their own item to this list. Sometimes, it is good just to pause to reflect on the wonderful life and wonderful parents we were blessed to experience.

For those fortunate enough to still have your Dad living, what is it from this list that you need to tell him? The rest of us would give anything for just one more chance to say what we need to say or neglected to say. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Someone once said,

“Never ignore a person who loves you, cares for you, and misses you. Because one day, you might wake up from your sleep and realize you lost the moon while counting the stars.” – Unknown

Father’s Day is also a good day to consider our own legacy. Are we doing everything we can today to leave behind those memories that will bring smiles years or decades from now? Are there changes you need to make to restore relationships that need mended? Let this time of reflection on your own life serve as a wake-up call, if needed.

Finally, to all you Dads reading this… thanks for what you do; thanks for the sacrifices you make; thanks for the example you provide; thanks for your unending support; and thanks for the love you show. It may not seem like much, but it means the world to some. Keep it up and finish strong!

Happy Father’s Day!

Key decisions that can affect the rest of your life

[Today, I am sharing an excerpt from my most recent book, “Yes, you can change your circumstances“. You can purchase this book in paperback, ebook, or hardback at Amazon:]

Everyone wants to realize a successful career, have a happy family, and enjoy the good things of life. Many are blessed to have all three of these. However, the sad fact is that many do not. Henry David Thoreau once said,

“The mass of men leads lives of quiet desperation.”

Many do not achieve complete success in life and, as they look back on their lives, admit that the reason can probably be traced to one or more key decisions.

Our lives are measured not by the company we keep, but by the decisions we make. A decision is, in effect, an exchange. We trade one thing or path for another. We give up one thing we can readily grasp within our hands for something completely different. We shift from one direction to a completely different one. We forfeit one thing that is replaced by a new thing. Decisions… exchanges… define our lives.

So, what are those key decisions we make in our lives that define us? Is it really possible to understand what those key decisions might be even before we come face-to-face with them? Can we really decide to decide? My belief is that there is always hope that we can change for the better. Even when we’ve blown it in the past, we can still reverse ourselves and make a better future life for ourselves and others.

Putting together a list of great exchanges we can make is both a risk and a challenge. Can you boil a successful life down to even 10 basic decisions in life? That is the challenge. However, if you even fail to try to create a vision for a successful life, you take the risk that you might be the reason someone could fail. Despite that, here is my list:


  1. Exchanging the ordinary for the excellent – There comes a day in life when you must decide whether you will be one that accepts the ordinary or mediocre versus the better choice of excellence. Doing things right. Doing them the right way. Giving your best in every situation. Giving your all. These things don’t easily come, nor do they come automatically. They come by choice. There is a conscious decision to be made that shifts us away from the easy road to the better road. Make that choice.
  2. Exchanging a focus on self for service to others – There seems to be an epidemic of narcissism in today’s world. Individuals are consumed by what will make them happy… what will be best for them… what can make them the most successful. However, there is a better way. A better choice is to exchange your life for one that serves others… that seeks to make a difference first for those around us. Spending each day striving first to serve others yields a more satisfying and, in my opinion, a more successful one. When you demonstrate a willingness to serve others, you automatically become a leader or one that others seek to emulate and follow. Becoming a better leader and a better person will enhance your life.
  3. Exchanging the recognition of others for the creation of value – Recognition is important in a world infused with social media. In an age of “selfies”, followers, and “likes”, individuals are consumed with how much love they get from the world. However, this creates no real value to anyone. A better choice is to seek ways to make a real difference in the world, not seek the adoration of an indifferent set of digital friends. Adding value will bring a sense of accomplishment that recognition could never provide. Deciding to be a doer makes the world around you a better place… and you a happier, more content person.
  4. Exchanging blame for accountability in what we do – Why do so few people accept responsibility for their own actions, decisions, and efforts? When did our society become one in which the greatest accomplishment seems to be the attainment of “celebrity victim?” Being a victim serves no one. Accepting accountability for your own actions does. Choosing to be accountable, rather than one seeking to blame automatically puts you in a better place… for everyone.
  5. Exchanging fear for adventure – Many individuals get into a rut and are glad to stay there. After all, there is safety in the rut. We know where it is and what can go wrong. However, we miss out on a lot of life when we stay in that rut. A failure to take an occasional, reasoned risk robs us of fun, adventure, and opportunity. Choosing to be a warrior, not a worrier, can bring joy, satisfaction, and adventure that the rut could never offer.
  6. Exchanging a love of work for a love for life – Let’s face it, work can bring much satisfaction and fulfillment. It can provide for our own identity and our desired lifestyle. However, just like anything else, out-of-balance focus on work can lead to the detriment of all other areas of our lives. An excessive love of work can cost us much, including our families. Achieving that balance of work and life is an important decision we must all make. Don’t fool yourself… it is a choice. Don’t lose your family for a title, money, or prestige. It is not worth it!
  7. Exchanging rebellion for compliance – I have observed many individuals that simply cannot keep a job or move from one thing to another without focus or aim. In many cases (not all), individuals that are unable to submit to authority (e.g., those that default to rebellion) struggle with working for others. Making the choice to submit, when needed – to follow the rules, to seek to comply with the basic rules of life – fare much better in life. Compliant individuals tend to achieve more success, as well. Certainly, there are times when we need to take a stand. But choosing compliance over overt rebellion is the better choice.
  8. Exchanging convenience for commitment – Many individuals have difficulty making and keeping a commitment. For example, marriage was originally designed to be a lifetime commitment. Most wedding ceremonies still use the phrase “till death do us part” in the vows exchanged. However, the divorce rates are still around 50%. Challenges with commitment are evident in other parts of our society, as well. Too many individuals choose convenience over commitment. However, when you choose to be a committed person, you are more likely to have stability in life and be seen as a person with integrity. Commitment is a choice… and one that puts us on a more satisfying and successful life path.
  9. Exchanging a reliance upon emotions for a reliance upon facts – As humans, it is easy to allow our emotions to dictate our actions. We react to the events in our life using our gut, intuition, or feelings. However, these emotions tend to taint reality. Failing to pause long enough to consider the true facts can deceive us. It is good to be emotional at times, but we need to ensure that we always utilize facts. For example, being able to step back and ask tough questions can keep us on track. Good questions might include, “Will this really matter? What is the real impact of this? How can I solve this both short- and long-term?” Choosing to allow emotions to drive our actions without considering the facts will almost certainly lead us to poor outcomes in life and work.
  10. Exchanging lies and deception for hope and encouragement – Our world is an ongoing challenge every day. There seems to be a battle of conformity versus morality. It seems that if enough people say something is right, it becomes right, whether or not it really is. This quote illustrates this well:

“Conformity is doing what everyone else is doing regardless of what is right. Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what everyone else is doing.” – Evette Carter

This is especially true when we consider our hope for the future. The world will try to deceive us by saying, “There is no God. There is no life after death. There is no hope after life is over.” These are lies! There is a God in heaven that loves us and wants to offer us hope for our eternal future. Exchanging these lies for the hope and encouragement that God offers through His Son Jesus Christ is our only hope (see: What is your hope?). In my life, the greatest exchange I ever made was the decision to accept this gift from God. Exchanging a life lived by my own standards for one based on the love and grace of my Father was the best decision I ever made.

There you have it! Outlined are the ten key exchanges or decisions that can make our lives productive, fulfilling, and meaningful for ourselves and those in our lives. These decisions can impact our work, our family, our friends, and our future. They can dictate whether we live with optimism and hope or fear and despair.

Take an honest look at your life against these key decisions. Have you already made the wrong choices? It is never too late to make a mid-course correction. It is never too late to change course. Even late in life, you can alter your legacy by the decisions you make today. Finally, consider whether you have made that greatest exchange… that one that determines your eternal destiny.