That Old Saying

Have you ever quoted an old saying, only to ask yourself afterward, “I wonder where that originated?” For some reason, which I do not yet understand, the saying “if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything” has been burning in my heart. 

I do not subscribe to the conventional “wisdom” of the original saying. It doesn’t call you to a place of maturity or action. It doesn’t challenge you to make a difference. It says that if you don’t like someone, hang on to those feelings, just don’t verbalize them. Harboring negativity about people is unhealthy. This doesn’t mean that you start hanging out with people of questionable character. This doesn’t mean you start dating the neighborhood crack dealer.

The other day, I posted my own twists to the saying on Twitter. First, if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, ask God to let you see them as He does. Gaining a godly perspective is an instant reality check. We need to humble ourselves. We need to allow God to give us wisdom, laced with compassion. Compassion, rooted in wisdom. Rather than hold on to, but stifle your words of negativity, pray for them. Pray for blessings in their lives. Pray that God would do whatever it takes to get a hold of their lives and turn them around.

Second, if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, would friendship with you be a positive influence in their lives? In a spirit of humility and honesty, really consider this question before you answer. Again, I’m not suggesting you put yourself in harm’s way if the person is dangerous. The question is more of a challenge to be introspective of your condition. Are you in a place in your life where you are a positive influence to people who so desperately need a good example? 

We are often quick to hold others to high standards, while giving ourselves a pass for some glaring inconsistencies. Be humble. Be honest. Be wise. Put on your God goggles and start seeing things from His perspective. It will change you, and you will make a difference in the lives you touch.


No, I didn’t sneeze. Thankfully, this is a written blog, so I only have to spell words correctly. I don’t have to pronounce them. 

Schadenfreude, as you can probably guess, is German in origin. It means taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. As is well documented, I love sports. Right now, I am in the throes of the San Jose Sharks playoff run, as well as the opening weeks of the San Francisco Giants season. Sports is a common incubator for schadenfreude. A good day for me is when the Giants win and the Dodgers lose. A perfect day for me is when that happens, combined with a Sharks win and a Detroit Red Wings loss. In good fun, I take great pleasure in the misery of my sports rivals.

But how true is it in other areas of my life? Recently, I was made aware of a group on Facebook based on the philosophy of karma. Out of curiosity, I checked it out to see what kind of stuff the people were posting there. I was surprised to see how many who espouse this eastern thinking were less concerned with the positive attributes of doing good in order to attract good. Instead, a majority of comments were about people’s eagerness to see others get what they deserve for being jerks. They didn’t care about being good for goodness sake. They just wanted some kind of mystical vengeance. 

What a sad way to go through life. We get so caught up in worrying about what others do. Some people are just mean. Some people are self centered. Some people are spiteful. Some people are vindictive. This is all true. But when their actions distract or even derail you from your pursuits, you have empowered them. People cannot take anything from you unless you give it to them. You give them your time. You give them your energy. You give them the keys to your emotional condition. 

Stop it!

Life is short. Life is precious. Life can be difficult. You only make it more complicated by wasting your time allowing others to dictate how your day is going to go. Today is the day the LORD has made. Rejoice and be glad! Focus on what is ahead of you in your own journey. Let God take care of those people. Pray for them! Read the first 14 verses in Matthew 5

Take an honest look inside yourself. See if there is any schadenfreude in you. If so, deal with it. You may even need to ask for forgiveness. You never know, you just may see something very special and transforming happen. Maybe or maybe not in them. That’s between them in God. But something powerful will happen in you.    

Lessons From Drummers

OK, I was pretty much a slacker last week, so it’s back to the blogging grind this week. I missed you guys!

I was recently having a conversation with some fellow musicians. We were discussing some of the off stage personalities consistent of those who play particular instruments. I shared this observation of drummers.

One thing I’ve noticed about most drummers I know is that they are always drumming! I have traveled in some music groups, and I have found this to be very common. The rest of us are trying to sleep as we travel from one city to the next, and the drummer pulls his sticks out of his back pocket, and begins tapping out a rhythm on the back of the seat in front of him, commonly, my seat. The one place you didn’t want to sit was directly in front of the drummer. They would play anything. The dash board, the seat in front of them, a book, you name it. The first 90 seconds of this fun video demonstrates what I mean.

It’s true! Drummers can do what they do pretty much anywhere! They don’t need a band. They don’t even need drums! This got me to thinking that the same should be true for me as I practice my faith. There is no situation imaginable where it is impossible for me to practice what I believe. I don’t need a band to worship. I don’t need to be in my church to apply the gifts God has given me. Just like Buddy Rich in this video, we can apply our gifts and practice our faith no matter where we are.

Thank you drummers for reminding me that no matter where I am, I can and should be putting my faith into practice.

Lessons From A Rivalry

As you may know about me, I am a major baseball fan. I just love everything about the game. I love the history, I love the time of year when it’s played. I love the ballparks, the crowds. This past weekend saw the renewal of a rivalry which goes back 120 years. The Giants and the Dodgers. The rivalry started when both teams were only 8 miles apart in New York City. The hatred between the teams was fierce. In 1956, the legendary player, Jackie Robinson, rather than accept a trade from the Dodgers to the hated Giants, retired! 

In 1958, both teams moved to the west coast from New York, and the rivalry continued. I want to focus on one of the more infamous moments from this rivalry, from August 22, 1965. If you’re not a baseball fan, please hang in there. There is a non-baseball point I’m going to make, so bear with me.

The Giants and Dodgers rivalry was fueled not just by geography, but by competition. The teams often were fighting, literally and figuratively for supremacy on the field. In late August, the competitive fire escalates as the regular season draws to a close, and teams are vying for the post season. One such season was 1965. For the first of only three times in their storied careers, future Hall of Famers Juan Marichal for the Giants, and Sandy Koufax for the Dodgers, pitched against each other. It was a Sunday afternoon, and all eyes in the baseball world were on Candlestick Park in San Francisco. 

Some bad blood between the two teams had built up between them earlier in the series, and Sunday’s game would reach the boiling point. In the picture to the right, you’ll see the culmination of this inevitable eruption. Juan Marichal, #27, took exception to a throw from the catcher, Johnny Roseboro, that grazed Marichal’s ear when he was at bat. Marichal was widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in all of baseball. Mild mannered, but a fierce competitor. In this moment, he snapped. He hit Roseboro over the head twice with glancing shots, drawing blood. This incident marred Marichal’s reputation, and lives to this day as a dark cloud over his head. 

However, this is where the story gets good. 

Marichal was very remorseful and repentant over this incident. He was quick to offer public apologies, but Dodger fans would not forgive Marichal for his actions. Their reaction to him was vitriolic for many years. But during this time, Roseboro had forgiven Marichal. He chose not to let it affect him. It was over and done with.

In 1975, Juan Marichal’s contract with the Giants had expired. He was free to sign with another team if he wanted. Of all the teams, he wanted to play for the Dodgers. It was a personal obstacle he felt he needed to overcome. He needed to wipe this incident from his reputation, and this was the way he felt he could do this. Dodger fans would have none of it. They were violent in their reaction to the signing. But it wasn’t until the then-retired Johnny Roseboro publicly announced his forgiveness of Marichal that things started to change in the hearts and minds of the fans. Not only did Roseboro forgive Marichal, but he took responsibility for the incident, admitting that he purposely threw the ball back to the pitcher close to Marichal’s face. He provoked Marichal, not expecting to be attacked with a bat. 

In the years to follow, Marichal and Roseboro became close friends. After their playing days were over, Roseboro would fly to Marichal’s native Dominican Republic to participate in a charity golf tournament hosted by Marichal. They played together at Old Timers games where the soft spoken men were more than comfortable having pictures taken of them smiling and showing off their deep friendship. 

In later years, Roseboro suffered from heart problems, and had two strokes. Marichal regularly kept in touch with Johnny and his family, offering his friendship and support. Finally, in 2002, Roseboro died from prostate cancer. The first person Roseboro’s wife called was Juan Marichal in the Domincan. She asked him if he would be kind enough to speak at the funeral, and Marichal didn’t hesitate.  

In this story, we see the redemptive power of forgiveness, humility, honesty and personal responsibility. As the most bitter of rivals, fueled by intense competition, people can be prone to doing terrible things. But forgiveness released both men from the infamy of that moment. Instead, that horrific incident served as a catalyst to a friendship and a connection that could only come through a mutual passion. Even though they were on opposite sides, they had something greater that served as a bond. 

I know there have been people in my life I’ve had silent rivalries with. I know many people who have had them with me. Sometimes they’re only one way. Sometimes it’s mutual. There comes a point when you have to let it go. At the funeral, Juan Marichal said Roseboro’s “forgiving (me) was one of the best things that happened in my life.” 

You hold the keys to releasing someone, and yourself from the bondage of unforgiveness. Learn the lesson from this baseball experience. It’s not too late. Even if the other person isn’t living anymore, you can forgive them. Other people may hold on to negativity because of the wrong that happened to you. You can release them from their unforgiveness by being forgiving, just as Roseboro did. You can bring peace.

The only way to go from rivalry to friendship is through forgiveness. 

Saturday Rerun: October 3, 2008

This post is a year and a half behind me, but the message is just as true to me today as it was then.

Putting Yourself In Position

Being in the right place at the right time is one of those maddening, impossible-to-quantify truths of life. So many times, it just happens without any forethought. In other cases, people go to great lengths of study and analysis to determine when the perfect confluence of where and when that place and time will occur.

I believe that I have learned something of great value over the last couple of months. As I write these words, I don’t think that what I’m expressing is actually some new thought for me, but something that has become more of a day-to-day way of life. Being in the right place and right time is a partnership between man and God. The “right place” is pretty much all on us. I truly believe God is always willing and eager to bless us. But more often than not, at least in my life, I’m not in the right place in my heart to receive the things I truly want in my life.

This season, this move that I’ve made, though physical, was more spiritual than anything. It was an outward manifestation of my heart’s unyielding desire to grow to a place, and at a rate I had never experienced before. This has nothing to do with the city and church I was in, or am in. It was solely due to my own stagnancy in my heart.

Being willing to move to a new town, a new church, new job, new friends and so on, was both overwhelming, and exhilarating. I knew deep in my heart that I was putting myself in a position where I had no choice but to depend on God for my very survival. Every single day has required of me things that I could go months without doing before. There is something about being stripped down to nothing which causes us to instinctively return to the fundamentals of life. In my case, the fundamentals of my Christian life.

As I am taking care of the “right place”, I am seeing God begin to take care of the “right time” things. As I was sharing with my friend last night, I am striving to be the man He
wants me to be. As that happens, I have faith that He will release blessings to me. I don’t expect that to mean that life will be easy. That’s unrealistic. But He has been faithful as I have worked to draw nearer to Him, and putting myself in position to receive from Him, I’m confident He has good things in store for me, and the lives of those I touch.

Marriage and Lawn Care

This is a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. It doesn’t really serve a purpose for this post, but I thought it was a light way to enter into the topic I want to discuss.

I know this is a bit of an odd topic coming from a guy who has never been married. While I can’t claim to be qualified by personal experience, I was raised by a married couple, and most of the friendships I’ve had for the past 20 years have been with people who are, or had previously been married. What I’m about to share is just an itty bitty piece of what I have learned from them, tempered by what I believe God intends for us. Maybe someday I’ll get to put it into practice.

I’m simple minded, so I like to take the complex and put it in a context which is easy for me to understand. With that being said, I believe marriage is very much like gardening. Yards take a lot of work to get healthy and beautiful. If you let it go, some stuff dies, some stuff gets overgrown, and weeds infest the landscape. When you let a marriage go, love dies. Trust dies. Respect dies. In their place pop up resentment, impatience, negativity, jealousy, distrust, and so many other weeds. 

When a yard gets to this condition, it takes a lot of backbreaking work to restore. When I was a kid, I was given the task of clearing the dirt pathway along the entire side of the house of the weeds that had grown there over a period of several years. It was a stretch of the yard we never used. It was behind a fence, so no one ever saw it, either. But it was ugly, and actually, a fire hazard. I spent several weeks of my summer vacation battling the nastiness of that part of the yard. I had to battle the heat, contend with my allergies, and overcome my fear of the insect world which made a home in the tall and tangled web of weeds. After I had finally cleared this area of the ugly growth, I watched over it like a hawk to make sure it stayed clear of anything that would undo all the hours and sacrifice I put into it.

I know that marriage takes a lot of work. But performing daily maintenance is certainly much easier than trying to get rid of all the ugliness that overwhelmed the beauty that once was. Even if people can’t see it because you’ve got it hidden behind a fence, it’s still a hazard. You’ve got to pay attention. You’ve got to work together. Spend time together reading and discussing the bible. And one last commonality with gardening. You already know this if you’ve spent any significant time doing yard work. You have to spend a lot of time on your knees.

Inheritance or Entitlement?

When I was in the reverse mortgage business, I came across many horrifying stories of greedy adult children who saw their elderly parents as little more than temporary stewards of their entitled inheritance. In so many cases, the adult children were concerned less about their parents wishes and comfort because they felt that the more that Mom and/or Dad needed to get by would mean less for them after the parents were gone.

What made these stories particularly sad was that the parents would gladly exchange their own comfort and desires if they could have a healthy, loving relationship with their children. But instead, the children only came around when they needed something. In other cases, the parents would be ignored almost entirely.

A recent situation has come up relatively close to me. In this case, a family member is the last living adult child of parents who owned a home in San Francisco. He came to the funeral of his mother several years ago, but not his father, or either of his sisters, all of whom passed away within the last three years. He has not been part of this family in any way other than a technicality. But now, he feels he is entitled to whatever has been left behind, rather than the surviving family members who had active relationships with those who have passed on.

When I heard of this development, it got me to thinking of so many people who believe that by simply being a good person, by not killing anyone, and by giving to charities, that they will go to heaven. They believe in God, but they don’t know Him. Just like the man to whom I referred in the previous paragraph, they are a child of the Father, but there is no relationship at all. 

God has an inheritance prepared for those who enter into a personal relationship with Him. Heaven and eternal life is promised to those who walk in relationship with Him. There will be many very disappointed people who will find out that simply believing in God is not good enough. I believe Donald Trump exists, but we don’t have a relationship. I can’t show up at the reading of his will expecting to inherit a hotel or millions of dollars.

There is a difference between inheritance and entitlement. An inheritance is a privilege, a gift that comes as a benefit of relationship. Entitlement comes by way of law or contract. If you work, you are entitled to a paycheck. God is not obligated to us in any way, except to be true to His word. God loves us whether we love Him or not. But God has prepared a place for eternity which is exclusive to those who chose Him in this life. 

Don’t be like the estranged family member who feels they are entitled to all the rewards when they went a lifetime avoiding a relationship with the One who lived, died, and rose again to provide it. The benefits of a relationship with Him is available to us today, as well as for eternity.

Saturday Rerun: September 6, 2008

The following post was inspired by Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party. There was one particular portion of his speech that really caught my attention, so I wrote this post.

Created Equal, Not Equally

During election season, you will almost always hear the arguments between members of both political parties accusing the other of significant flaws in their philosophy of government. I watched Senator Obama’s speech at Invesco Field at the culmination of the Democratic National Convention. During his speech, he declared the Republicans have a “you’re on your own” philosophy. His words:

For over two decades — for over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the “Ownership Society,” but what it really means is that you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you’re on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You’re on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots. You are on your own. Well, it’s time for them to own their failure.

This got me to thinking. Is that really the way I think? Am I that heartless? Is Obama right?

As I began to really analyze my beliefs, and those of the leaders for whom I tend to vote, a light turned on in my head. I remembered these words from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

You’ll notice that the founding fathers said that we are created equal, not equally. As Americans, we are afforded the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. But this also means that we have the right to fail and underachieve. It is not the responsibility of those who have achieved to carry those who have not. The fact is, there are churches and agencies all over our great country available to assist people in need. That is where this belongs, not in government. We are born with “certain unalienable rights”. From that point on, we’re the responsibility of our families or guardians until we’re adults. Then…it’s up to us.

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus shares a story of a man who was going on a journey. Before leaving, he left some money to his servants, “according to their ability“. His point in doing so was essentially a test to see what they’d do with it. You’ll notice in this story that none of the three men to whom he gave this money were given equal amounts. To one he gave five talents, another two talents, and to the other, one talent. When he returned to them after his journey, the men with the five and two talents, respectively, each doubled the amount they were given. The third man literally buried what was given to him, doing absolutely nothing with it. What he was originally given was then taken away and given to the man who now had ten.

Well that seems hardly fair, doesn’t it? I mean, that guy already has ten. How can you take away from the guy who only had one? Shouldn’t the guy with ten give up some of his to help the poor dude with only one?

Justice can be harsh.

Notice the reasoning given by the man who buried what was given to him. He blamed his master saying that he was harsh and cruel. He didn’t take personal responsibility. He was given free money, but did nothing with it because he had a knot in his boxers over his boss.

And you thought class warfare was something new.

With all this being said, I come to this conclusion. These three men had developed their own resumes. They had their own personal histories and reputations based on their own abilities and work ethic. Not based on their parents, where they were born, where they went to school or anything else. They were each servants of the same master. The first two men were given different amounts. They each doubled what was given to them. Their master’s response to them was identical. He was not more pleased with the man who now had ten than the one who now had four. He was pleased with their results and their integrity. And to them, he gave more.

When we’re “on our own”, what is in our hearts will be revealed. Had the third man doubled his money, though he would have had only two, he would have pleased his master equally. Heck, maybe he could have tripled it and changed the story completely!

But he did nothing with it.

I commend Barack Obama for coming as far as he has considering the family life and racial confusion he must have felt and endured while growing up. That’s very impressive and inspiring. However, I still subscribe to the ideal that we are on our own to pursue those unalienable rights described by our country’s founding fathers. I do not expect or want government to be my great equalizer. I do not have the same abilities as others. To whom much is given, much more is required. I have to look in the mirror when I consider my own personal journey.

There are many who are born with disabilities. For one reason or another, and to one degree or another, they are dependent upon others. Poverty, underprivileged, lack of motivation or intelligence…these are not disabilities. These are obstacles. To one with resolve, they are opportunities.

God is my equalizer. In cooperation with Him, I can do “all things”. That is, as long as I don’t bury what HE has given me.