When Your Life Goes from Calm to Chaos

The day started with peace.  Morning coffee sipped.  Paper read.  Boys joyfully helping each other with their chores.  (I can dream, can’t I?)

Peace became chaos with a crash.  We ran upstairs to see what had happened.  In Taylor’s room the birdcage had been toppled over by Maddie, our Miniature Schnauzer.

One of the birds, Tiger, was flying around in the family room.  Our other dog was running around confused by the commotion.  Karen was yelling, “Rick, save the birds!”  The boys were asking, “Where’s Polly?”

Polly was our other parakeet.  Tiger was barnstorming the family room and Polly had pulled a disappearing act.  Tiger was accounted for.  Our older dog was accounted for.  My great analytical skills deduced that if we found Maddie we might find Polly.

Sure enough Kris spotted Maddie at the edge of Taylor’s closet.  A feather was sticking out of her mouth.  I pried open her steel tight jaws and found Polly—inside and intact.  We put her back in the cage with Tiger.  Imagine their conversation.

“Some Tiger you are.  Where were you when I needed help?” peeps Polly.

“Hey, I was a little disoriented myself after that fall,” Tiger fires back.

“Well, it was awful.  That dog’s teeth were starting to sink in a little too much.  And the breath!”

“And what exactly do you think I could have done?  Pecked her into submission?” asked Tiger.

“I don’t know.  But if the ugly one hadn’t helped me, I’d have been a gonner.”

One moment was peaceful for the parakeets.  The next bedlam.  Until someone came to their rescue.

Maybe you’ve had similar days.  One moment you are safe in your surroundings, chirping away.  The next—debt, divorce, or a doctor’s call upends your peace.  You find yourself needing some help along the way, just as Polly did.  When life goes from calm to chaos don’t crash. Instead, recharge.

Here are three things that help me in stressful days.

  • Find a quiet place and be still for at least ten minutes.  Whatever else is calling for your attention can wait.  You’ll be better in ten minutes than you think.
  • Take a few deep breaths to help your body relax.  You’ll handle whatever else is coming if you’re less tense.
  • Pray a short prayer. There is One who knows how you feel.  One who understands stressful days.  One who has known life storms.  One who “. . . in every respect has been tested as we are . . .” (Hebrews 4:15).

Next time you feel the sharp teeth of life clamping down on you don’t panic.  Stay calm and know your rescue may be a step away.

A Failure of Nerve (New York: Seabury Books, 1999)

Failure of Nerve is not light reading.  But if you desire to not be a light person it may just be the book for you.

Friedman wrote most of this book before his death and a team put out the finished product. He considered it the summation of all his ideas.  Anyone in any type of leadership role–parent, teacher, executives, presidents, city officials–should take this as required reading.

Leaders will always find themselves in situations where “anxiety” is rampant.  That’s when a failure of nerve happens.  Leaders allow that anxiety to keep them from what they are in position to do: lead.

Here’s one of the many great quotes from Friedman.  In describing who this book is not for he says:

It is not for those who fail to see how in any family or institution a perpetual concern for consensus leverages power to the extremists.

What one can learn from reading this book is that a leader will move his or her focus from how to motivate others to a focus on the leader’s own presence and being.  As Friedman says:

What counts is the leader’s presence and being, not technique and know-how.

If you think that leadership in America is hurting then get a copy of this book.

Friedman will have you start with yourself.

Bring Utopia to Your World

Many people dream of Utopia.   For two golfing friends, Utopia meant golfing for eternity.  Dave and Earl agreed that whoever died first would try to come back and tell the other if there was golf in heaven.

Dave died first one summer day. A few nights later, Earl awoke to the sound of Dave’s voice from beyond.

“Dave, is that you?” Earl asked.  “Of course it’s me,” Dave replied.

“This is unbelievable!” Earl exclaimed.  “So tell me, is there golf in heaven?”

“Well, I have some good news and some bad news for you.  Which do you want to hear first?”

“Tell me the good news first.”

“Well, the good news is there is golf in heaven.  Everyday we play on a course that looks just like Augusta National.  And no one ever bogeys a hole.”

“Oh, that is wonderful!” said Earl.  “So what could possibly be the bad news?”

“You have a tee time at 8:30 tomorrow morning.”

Many people dream of Utopia.  But I’ve actually been there.  Utopia, Texas that is.  I was staying at a retreat site between Vanderpool and Utopia.  I drove over to Utopia to check it out.

I found one main street.  One traffic light.  One store where I could buy a toothbrush since I forgot mine.  No movie theater. A population of about 241.  Just a little out of the way place in Texas that someone in the past named Utopia.

Not your picture of Utopia?  Then how about a place full of celebrations and happiness, public health for young and old, housing for all, no shortage of food, meaningful work, family support systems, and an  absence of violence?  That’s the dream found in Isaiah 65:17-25.  A place of well being.  A place of health.

And health is how Utopia got its name.  Originally named Montana, George Barker traveled to that area of Texas in 1876 as a young man.  He came with poor health, looking for a place that would bring healing to his body.

Every morning in winter and summer he would take a swim in the Sabinal River before breakfast.    Whether it was the air or the exercise something about the routine agreed with him.  His illness left and his health returned.

Exercise today to bring health to your community.

  • Serve.
  • Share.
  • Feed.
  • Clothe.

Who knows?  You may create a bit of Utopia for yourself and others.

Question: What are some other ways we can bring “Utopia” to our communities?