Monday, March 24, 2014


As a runner, I have encountered countless situations in which automobiles have not yielded to me. Unfortunately, the addition of a jogging stroller and even a double BOB (BOB is a type of jogging stroller - Baby On Board - and the double means that two kids can fit in it), did nothing to increase my yield inducing effect on drivers. Drivers do not yield to pedestrians.

Image from Creative Commons.
Now, I'm not trying to make myself a target or even say that I am never oblivious to a biker or walker because of their infrequency. I am also guilty of the arrogance that comes from operating a huge machine on four wheels - things that are smaller should watch out for me. But, because of being on the opposite end of the transportation food chain, I am always amazed by how few people yield to pedestrians; it has given me greater awareness of foot, bike and other smaller forms of traffic.

Yielding is counter-cultural. We are taught to believe in survival of the fittest. Capitalism promotes competition and encourages acquiring as much wealth as possible. Bigger houses. More cars. Lots of stuff. Instant gratification. Faster downloads. Immediate pleasure. Quick fixes. We are taught to win arguments and not to allow someone to get the upper hand. Assume control of power and give as little of it up as possible.

Yield? Me? Isn't that everyone else's job?

Since I am a principal of a school, it may sound hypocritical to hear me talk about yielding. How often does a leader have to yield? How many times do I have to submit to someone else's ideas, decisions, emotions, etc.? By default, those under my leadership yield to my direction.

So, yield? Really?

Let it be.

Yes, even leaders can yield. In fact, leaders should yield. This can be made manifest in their approach to others, in how decisions are made and in their overall leadership style. This does not make a leader weak. Using Christ as the model, He tells us,

It is a message that, even outside of the realm of my role as a leader, I have received often over the past year. Let it be. Yield. Give in. Let go and let God. Not my will, but His be done. Obey.

I yield every time I walk into the front door of our home and Elizabeth asks me to be Elmo or Mr. Noodle or Sid the Science Kid or New Lady (who is supposed to be an old lady, but Elizabeth decided to call "new") or Mickey or Doc or just about anyone except Daddy. I yield every time I eat the small french fries or let Catherine wield a spoon all by herself (and in so doing, procuring heaps of ice cream that any adult would have trouble fitting in their mouths). I yield every time I make a concerted effort to leave work at a decent hour so as to assist and relieve my wife from the rigors of caring for our children and keeping our house and home.

We yield any time we put the welfare, desires, needs, wishes, and / or well-being of others before our own. We yield any time we allow our children to try things on their own, despite a knowledge that messes, accidents, sloppiness and extra cleaning (even if cleaning was the allowed exercise) will result. We yield every time we bite our tongues instead of lashing back at someone who has lashed at us. We yield every time we sleep on an email before pressing send. We yield every time we recognize that God's will for our lives is so much more AMAZING than even our heart's greatest desire. We yield when we deny ourselves some sort of pleasure during the season of Lent. We yield every time we acknowledge that God is the source of everything good and true in our lives and that He has blessed us abundantly. We yield every time we submit to His will during those times of tragedy, hardship, pain and loss.

In the words of Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw:
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
This prayer, most commonly known as the Prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, proclaims the importance of yielding. Yielding to God's plan, to God's grace, to God's power, to God's love. Yielding to the help of others. Yielding to the fact that a beautiful prayer could be thought to have been written and spoken by someone else.

Let go. Let God. Yield.

Give in to a present that is truly a gift and a future that is not your own.

Let it be. Let it be. Let it be.

*in memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who died on March 24, 1980

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Ox, the Wheel and the Cart

"We are what we think. What we are is the result of our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world. Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you as unshakeable as your shadow."

-Buddha from the Dhammapada

Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that the main difference between optimists and pessimists is how they explain setbacks to themselves. Optimists see the setbacks as temporary, limited in effect and have a clear understanding of their responsibility for or control over the setback. Pessimists, on the other hand, consider the setback to be permanent, far reaching, and entirely their own fault. The setback for the pessimist is debilitating; for the optimist it is merely a bump in the road.

Furthermore, Dr. Seligman concludes that optimistic people are more successful than pessimists. This, in turn, leads to either greater optimism (and success) or pessimism (and failure).

Being optimistic is difficult. Life is extremely difficult. We get tired, worn out, taken advantage of, treated unfairly, unkindly, unjustly and just plain rudely. We make mistakes. We sin. We do things poorly or at least not well. We let others down. We argue. We fight. We lie. We cheat, beg, steal, complain - we give in to negativity because there is so stinking much of it. 

But, the difference between a sinner and a saint isn't that the saint never falls in the mud. Instead, it is that the saint, after falling, picks him/herself up and keeps trying. The setback is momentary. Soap and water cleanse. Hope abounds. 

Fear is another element that keeps us from optimism. We are so afraid of failure that it keeps us from even trying something new, something challenging, something that does not guarantee our success. Confined and comforted by the safety of mediocrity, we often become jaded, bitter, jealous and more negative. We become conditioned to living with this negativity, continuing this vicious cycle of pessimism. 

Being positive is a mindset. It's an attitude. It's an approach. A lens through which we decide to view our world. Far from a pollyannic and naive perspective, this method challenges us to correct problems but not to dwell on them. To vent but not to complain. To be thankful for what we have instead of jealous over what we don't.

Beauty is everywhere if we have the eyes to see it. Blessings. Miracles. Joy. Hope. Excitement. If we have the eyes to see them.

As an experiment stop reading and look around your room, noticing all of the things that are blue.

Take 30 seconds to commit them to memory.

After you read this and without looking back up, close your eyes and try to name as many things that are red as you can.


Could you name any? 1? 2 - 3? 5? Look up and notice how many red things there are (look to the right on this screen!). See how they were right in front of your eyes, in locations that you spend lots of time and attention. But, notice how they went unnoticed because of your lens. 

Happiness is a choice, not a by-product. 

With these concepts in mind, I am asking all of us to become optimists. Whichever path we choose, optimism or pessimism, will ultimately become our reality. Therefore, we must choose wisely. We must choose to act instead of react. We must choose to become problem-solvers instead of problem-spotters. We must choose to become up-standers instead of by-standers. We must choose to achieve excellence instead of just accepting mediocrity.

I know which path I will choose; I invite you to travel along with me...and my shadow.