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Solving Problems: Step One



A mentor once told me whenever I have a problem, the first thing to do is step to the mirror and ask, “Could it be me? Am I the source of the problem? am I doing something wrong here? Is my behavior offensive? my attitude skewed? Perhaps I’m not perceiving things correctly?”

First look to yourself, for that is the end over which you have the most control – …and that’s debatable, I know, because I can barely control myself– but if I can barely control myself, how in the heck am I going to control others?

So next time you have a problem, go to the mirror. Worst case scenario is you’ll leave looking better than when you showed up.

Two Step Formula for Change



A friend of mine, who is an alcoholic, offended another friend during a drinking bout. Later he apologized. When the alcoholic said “I am sorry,” his friend replied, “You are a sorry specimen because you apologize, but you have no intention of actually changing.”

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Death behind the IHOP

House of PancakesBetween the pancake house and the Fitness center is where he died. I walked into the scene. A desperate, frantic wife was improvising mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her failing husband, where he lay half in the car, his feet splayed out the passenger door. He was gasping; his tongue was bulging out his mouth, and a small trickle of blood came from somewhere on his face.

She was whimpering. A firetruck pulled up from the far end of the parking lot, going painfully slow over speed bumps. The rig finally parked, air brakes sighed, firemen slowly lumbered off the truck. A silver-haired fireman came to me to consult, as if I were the voice of reason or in charge. I said I was a by-stander and pointed him to the car.

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A Deadhead’s Story

“Sugar Magnolia, blossoms blooming, heads all empty and I don’t care” — Grateful Dead


I shared an outdoors lunch table at a restaurant in Phoenix with a ghastly looking guy name Jacob–glazed eyes, long matted hair, a distant disposition.

His story:

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Chocolate & Dry Cookies

Tuesday night at the Boy Scouts after the Court of Honor ceremony, snacks were being served. From across the room, the tray of dry cookies choked on sight–but wait: a tiered pyramid of Hershey’s milk chocolate bars—my favorite!! I love milk chocolate! I threaded my way through the crowd, acting polite and feigning interest in others whilst single-mindedly pursuing my sweets—but when I approached the table, though there were still plenty of dry cookies, only ONE Hershey chocolate bar remained…and two little uniformed scouts in front of me. What to do? Restrain myself to take turn in proper sequence? Or plow thru the little nippers and snag the sweet?

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Deathbed Regrets (how to avoid them)



Note: this post originally published on


Bronnie Ware worked in end-of-life care for the elderly. Her patients were those who had come home to die. She was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.


She had many special moments with them; and when she asked them about any regrets they had or anything they would have done differently, she heard the same two things over and over again.


The number one most common regret of people on their deathbed…

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It’s complicated (not)

You want to talk spiritual truths? It’s not that complicated. Jesus said everything flows from two major principles: Love God as our Father, and Love our Neighbors as ourselves. 


I think complication stems from the power-hungry, those who want to exert control over others and gain control for themselves. —not gain control ‘of’ themselves, but ‘for’ themselves. 


Here’s their formula. 

1. Complicate truths. 

2. Dictate those truths as mandatory for well-being. 

3. Promote themselves as sole purveyors of those truths. 

4. Sign people up as their disciples. 


‘Hey wait a second’, you say, ‘are you simple-minded? it’s not that simple, life is complicated.’ 


Yes, life can be complicated, and yes there are complexities. But many foundational  truths are not complicated. As my daughter one said, quoting I don’t who: The world is shallow and complex; God is simple and deep. 


How complicated is Love? How complex is it to care for others? —not that I hold myself up as an example…so let’s look at Mother Theresa. She kept it very, very simple. Very direct. She Loved people by caring for them in their passage of death. Her simplicity therefore was profound. She carried profound ballast, her words stung true, her essence unassailable. 


So wrestle with the simple. Gain control over yourself. Love God as your Father, and Love your neighbor as yourself.  

That person at the crosswalk

That person who stands at the crosswalk repeatedly pressing the chirping button to cross the street; and the crosswalk button that responds with benign neglect.

Pride and a Coach

Why do we who have accomplished so little struggle with getting advice from a coach or mentor, when those who accomplish so much counsel regularly with a coach, a mentor, a board of advisors? why do we chisel ourselves out of wisdom? Why do we not invest in ourselves?

Guitar: a Friend for Life

A young teen i know is reluctantly taking guitar lessons; he mopes along and neglects to apply himself. Maybe guitar isn’t his thing, I don’t know—but I wish to encourage him, because for me, the guitar has been a loyal, lifelong friend—and even during two long, lonely decades of neglect when i didn’t touch the instrument, my guitar waited faithfully in the corner. 


Hard to believe I went so long without playing. An obsessive focus on Work took it’s toll.


Now that I’m back, here’s what I’ve found (remembered): There have been moments of sorrow, moments of loneliness, moments of regret, when yes, I have turned to God and He has helped in his inimitable way, as only He can muster recovery; and yet in those passages, found remarkable consolation with my good friend, the guitar. An avenue of expression, a channel of consolation, a valve of release, a spout for tears, a conduit of sorrows, a purge of emotion, —a lovely distraction, amiable alliance, tool of expression, isle of enjoyment, friend. 


The guitar is my friend—and once again, yes once again—do not forget this, mister Dirk: it was GOD who reminded me to pick up the guitar after decades of neglect. God told me, ‘Not for fame nor profession—this is between you & me: just practice guitar’. And to the degree that I have obeyed God–my counsellor, mentor, my Father—to the degree that i have followed his advice, in direct proportion has my joy blossomed. Less than a month into practicing after decades of neglect, I sat upstairs in our tiled bathroom (love to play in that reverb room), —i sat playing with tears rolling my cheeks, choked up over the forgotten joy of ‘just practicing’, of playing my guitar.


I would be more fruitful if I followed Him more often. Even at my age, i am an apprentice—still seeking, still learning, still experiencing, still growing, still surprised and delighted by his thoughtful caring grace and guidance. 


And so too for you: God loves you. And he likely has some type of guitar for you.

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