First Words

The first words we choose to speak in a day, give insight into the state of our hearts and minds.

I was watching the sun rise through the window of our living room this weekend, and it was as if something had lit the sky ablaze. The sky changed from soft gray to a blazing orange surrounded by purple, and I felt blessed and encouraged once again as I do with each sunrise. A sunrise greets the day with hope, the promise to rise again holds true each day. As I sat in the orange glow, it occurred to me that how we choose to greet each day can have an immense impact on those around us as well how we choose to view the day ahead.

Most of my days starts with silence, as I am usually the first one awake. In this silence I get a chance to choose my state of mind. Will I greet the day with a grateful heart, or will I choose a less positive path? In these times of silence, we are formulating the trajectory for our day, and choosing the lens through which we will see the day ahead. Entitlement or humility? Compassion or hate? The line that separates these dichotomies can be very thin at times depending on our filter for the day.

I want to be as committed and steadfast as the sun. It does not matter if the skies are clear or cloudy; the sun will arrive and shed light to the best of it’s ability.

When my oldest daughter wakes, she is usually greeted with kindness and calmness. We have a mellow morning before she is off to school and I am off to work; and the days with each other start pleasant. As we part ways I feel peace, because I see and feel the reciprocation of that positive attitude that I put forth. But there have been times when I had chosen to see the day through a lens of self centeredness or grumpiness, and in those times I could see and feel the reciprocation of what I put forth; and as we had parted ways, I felt restlessness rather than peace.

As the day goes on, I will continue to have first encounters with people; I have a choice as to what my first words to each person will be. Will I choose to encourage and inquire on their well-being, or will I choose to say something unimportant and somewhat negative like? There is not a need for the first words to be deep wells of wisdom or philosophy, they can be as simple as good day or how are you doing today? There is weight to those first words, because they can set the stage for the direction of our attitude; and they can set a trajectory for someone else’s day. If we put forth negativity, we will likely receive negativity; and we negate our responsibility to this life to be a source of light and hope.

As with most areas of life in which we want to succeed, there needs to be a goal or mission that you are working towards that guides our decisions. Whether we simply choose a few words (compassion, hope, inspiration, etc.), or have a declaration that states our intentions; there needs to be something in place if we wish to be intentional about our impact. I would like to end this article with some words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. regarding this idea of a blueprint for life.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you fell that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

“And finally, and finally, in your life’s blueprint, must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice….However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live. You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And so you must be involved in the struggle of freedom and justice.”

This is an example of intentional living. Value yourself, work hard, and be committed to beauty, love, and justice. What will our blueprint be? What words will guide our days? What story are we choosing to write? Be as committed and steadfast as the sun, and rise to greet each day, as well as the people in it, with an intentionality to make the day a little brighter.

Books

Books have power.

When you enter into a book, you are beginning a journey. Perhaps this journey will take you to far away lands where tales of honor, valor, and treachery reign. You may find yourself standing in the shoes of a hero, a villain, or the oppressed; feeling what they feel, and almost seeing what they can see.

Some books take you on a journey of the mind. Topics of science, faith, history, parenting, writing, economy, biographies, diet, you name it; we can feed our minds with knowledge. It is knowledge that you have to work for, as you have to be committed and intentional about taking this journey. 

Other books may take you on a journey of the soul, the deeper layers of what this life is about. The words may jump off of the page and into your heart, creating inspiration or longing for something you cannot describe at times. Meaning, purpose, hope, and love are weaved throughout the pages, making their way into our very thread of our being; aspects of our character are molded as we read of perseverance, compassion, and empathy. These are the kinds of books that I have connected with most in my life, and most in the last couple of years.

I have not always been a reader. I actually had read very few books before I got into my thirties. My world was opened though as I finally began to put in the work to get through a book and apply myself to understand the themes. In all honesty, it was very hard as it would take me a long time to get through a book, and I had to reframe my mindset to embrace the time spent reading as an investment into not only my personal life, but the lives connected to me.

I would like to share some the books that have impacted my life in the last couple of years, with a brief overview of the theme. 

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

  • The title says it all. Dr. Frankl’s logotherapy guides the narrative of this book. The first half of the book is his experience being taken into, enduring, and coming out of the Nazi concentration camps. He shares stories of how men stripped of their humanity, managed to endure each day with the hope that they would some day be free. The second half of the book takes a deeper look at logotherapy.

Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen

  • This book is summed up in the journey of moving from Loneliness, Hostility, and Illusion to Solitude, Hospitality, and Prayer. One of the most impactful books I have read.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

  • This is a series that currently has three books; The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer. These are long epic books. The first book sets the stage and takes you through the back story of each of the main characters. This is a great story because it takes you through themes of courage, perseverance, anger, dealing with revenge, bravery, faith, family, and loyalty. These are very long books, but great reads if you enjoy the fantasy realm of writing. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway

  • A short story that is just a good read. This book makes you want to be a little tougher, as it is a story of a fisherman. It also contains the theme of endurance and commitment. Bonus, you can say you’ve read Hemingway.

The Emigrant Edge by Brian Buffini

  • Buffini is a motivational speaker/real estate trainer. He is an Irishman who has no shortage of passion, motivation, dedication, drive, and love. This books takes you through his journey as an Emigrant (one who leaves their country to permanently live in another). He challenges us to have a strong work ethic as well as recognize the abundance of opportunity we have in this life, and specifically, America. He writes very accessibly, he is funny, and does not pull punches as he challenges us to live and love fiercely.

Soul Cravings by Erwin Mcmannus

  • I have read this book a few times since it was released in 2006. Erwin jumps off the page and into the chair across from you as he engages the reader in a conversation about faith, love, creativity, and hope. This book also has one of the coolest book covers. 

How To Be Here by Rob Bell

  • Mindfulness, contentment, kindness to self, and finding your passion are all themes covered in this book. Rob is one of the best writers of personal development, faith, and Christianity that I have read. No mater how deep he takes you, he writes in laymen’s terms, so that anyone can engage. He also has many other books I would recommend, but this is the most recent that I had read.

This is not a complete list, but these have impacted me in a positive way. I would recommend all of these to any one (exception The Stormlight Archive, due to it’s fantasy style and length of books). Books are a gift, and there is much to be gained by sitting down and working your mind through the words on the pages. We are writing our story every day, so take some time to read a story; and in doing so, you add to your own. 

 

The Story We Write

If you know me, you are part of my story.

Our lives are not lived independent of the world around us; rather, they are connected and strung together to weave our human story. Each word spoken, glance given, or space shared become part of the narrative. The story is being written, will you choose to direct your narrative or leave it up to chance?

We are writing this story for ourselves, our family, our friends, acquaintances, co workers, and the passers-by. Likewise, a story is being written on us. All of the people in our life are adding to who we are. So many aspects of this life are imprinting into our being; our environment, our homeland, our climate, our culture, these are all peripheral investors into our development.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about why I am the way I am, why I believe what I believe, and why I react the way I do to certain situations. What is it that establishes the core of who I am? I’m not sure how eloquently I can dive into these in this blog, but I would like to share some of the beginnings.

Let me start by sharing the lyrics to a song I had written about four years ago:

To know a story, counting the days passed

Remember the ways and the paths tread

If you could see inside, what I hide

Darkness there, leads only to despair

But the one who brings light, brings sight to the blind

Brings life inside, opened my eyes

No longer reeling

Recounting struggles, remembering defeat

If I grow, then I find liberty

Humility, whether or not I want it

Grace came to cover me

Peace granted to steady me

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

Defined not by the failures, defined not by defeat

Every time I fall you remind me

There is more than we see

There is more that you’ve breathed

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

This verse came about during a time of loss. This was not a loss in the sense of death, but rather a time of loss of self-identity; actually, this was probably the beginning of this existential line of thinking. I remember the words forming in my head as I walked the halls of my workplace. I was in my early thirties, and I was about five years into my new job, learning to raise two daughters, and reframing my understanding of my faith.

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes the days can creep along, and at the same time, the years can fly; which is why I believe that we need to make the most of the time that we do have. We were given life so that we can live. The time had flown by, and I needed to assess that I still “had the reins” so to speak on the direction and state of my life.

The verse above talks about knowing my name. This refers to how I am known. There may be many names we have, and I would like to know which are the names that are true. The story we write is being written…right…now. Today, take a moment to reflect on who you are, where you are headed, and the narrative you are writing.