How to Have a Tough Day

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Tough days are something we all have from time to time. The key is: How do you handle them? Here are a couple of quick tips in how to have expected tough days that won’t keep you down.

  1. Wake up early for it. No point in trying to sleep through it. Meet it head on. There is something about being fully awake for a difficult day that prepares you for obstacles unlike just trying treat it like normal.
  2. Create alliances. When you know you have tough things to say, hard things to do, or difficult news to hear, it helps if there are others that are there to make it as painless as possible. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to hurt. Only that it will hurt considerably less.
  3. Admit that it’s tough. My toughest meetings have almost always been prefaced with “this isn’t going to be an easy meeting for you.” It sets the stage for the difficult journey that is required.
  4. Understand your “dark issues”. Are you a child of divorce with abandonment issues? Are you so afraid of conflict that you sweep everything under the carpet? Do you yell when you’re stressed? Know these things (and more) about yourself in trying times. Say them out loud in the midst of them. “I normally yell at times like these, but I want to have a calm tone with you…” or “I normally run from situations like this, but…”
  5. Ask for feedback.  Sometimes our perception isn’t what is exactly happening. Get others to give their input as to how the difficult situation is being handled.
  6. Seek love. The Bible is right that love “covers a multitude of sins.”  When we seek to show love in the midst of the worst situations it can only be beneficial.  Even more that being understood or agreeing, feeling love and showing love can get you through some pretty tough stuff.

So, next time you’re preparing for a bad day, think of a couple of these and I know it will help.

2016: A Look Back

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It is a tradition every New Year that Karla and I look back at the previous year with review and introspection. Here are the “highs” and “lows” of 2016.

  •  Spring Break trip to Laguna Beach, FL
  • College visit weekend for Grace (University of Iowa, Bradley University, University of Chicago, Loyola University, Lake Forest College)
  • Seth wins U14 Iowa State Cup in soccer
  • Seth plays in regionals in Indianapolis, IN
  • Grace goes to state for the 3rd time in IHSSA storytelling
  • Karla gets new job in West Des Moines School District
  • Brandon and Karla do Whole30 for 6 months losing much needed weight
  • Grace declares University of Iowa as her college destination
  • Westwind Church celebrates its 8th birthday
  • Jason and Tara Bollback move to Iowa to join the Westwind team
  • Brent and Kari Minter leave Westwind to lead church in Ankeny, IA
  • First ever St. Oktobrick’s Fest party: It’s a holiday I invented combining Irish and German cultures
  • Major house remodeling project
  • Seth gets his driving permit
  • Grace travels to Albania for mission trip
  • Karla helps pack up and sell her childhood home
  • Seth gets braces
  • Grace turns 18…nine days after she would be allowed to vote
  • Close out our foster care license
  • Nate and Jamee Heemstra join the Westwind team

A Yearly Consideration

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A year ago I didn’t know the difference between a “whip” and a “nae nae”. I couldn’t fathom that the Hawkeyes would ever end their season undefeated. And, I didn’t know that a world could be held in fear by the violent acts of just a few people with guns. What a difference a year makes.

So, what will this year bring? What unimaginable events will take place in your life that will give you pause for consideration at the end of 2017? For some, it is marriage, graduations, new career paths, births, new starts. For others, 2017 brings the news of serious illness, a family death, or other tragedies that may be too terrible to think about.

The Bible talks about the duality of life in the book of Ecclesiastes:

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:
a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (HCSB)

This passage shows that life is full of high times and low times. They are to be expected. What matters is how we meet those times—how we face them head on.

Having our minds set on eternal things like God, faith, and love helps us with perspective as we deal with any event in the coming year. We recognize that temporal things fall away and all that remains is what is truly substantive. When we think of the eternal we desire to be around others who do the same, those who have eternity’s values in view. At Westwind Church we encourage people to connect with others in order to experience eternal values lived out in everyday life. This helps us experience the “occasions” that the writer of Ecclesiastes forewarns.

What will this year bring? I cannot tell you. But, what I do know, is that without the right perspective, and the right people beside you, it will be much more difficult. Maybe this is the year that you concentrate on your faith, which will help you no matter what comes your way.

Spicy Snack Mix

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Ever just want something for Thanksgiving just for you? When I get to wanting something like that I make spicy snack mix. My sister-in-law has the recipe, but this is a sweet and spicy caramel topped treat that I love for the holidays. If you want to make it a tad more masculine I would suggest putting some beef jerky bits into it (seriously).

Fair and Square

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As I’ve watched news coverage post-election of President Elect Donald Trump it has been interesting to see their take on their own coverage of the Clinton and Trump campaigns. They still seem stunned that this is happening and many believe it’s because of the two reasons.

First, the celebrity status of Trump is said to “transcend media”. He has over 39 million followers on different social mediums. In one tweet he can spread more news than CNN and NBC combined.  There are articles on how much was written about Trump in comparison to any of the other Republican candidates or Hillary Clinton. Trump used even negative media attention to his benefit. Now it seems as if the media is sorry they used Trump’s status to boost ratings because in actuality they were promoting him.

Secondly, the collective media seems to center their hate on CNN and the New York Times who both boldly proclaimed that Donald Trump had a tupe’s chance in a hurricane of being in the White House come January. The NYT proclaimed with charts and projections that would make a bookie drool. Their front page looked more like a sports book board in Las Vegas than a newspaper website. At one time Trump had less than a 5% chance of winning according to their graph. He was also the least likely of all the Republican candidates (according to their multi-colored graph) to have a chance to beat Clinton. CBS, MSNBC, ABC, and CNN all stood behind the NYT and their projections which is why they all looked so flabbergasted on election night.

I have argued for quite some time that the media was quickly becoming the 4th branch of U.S. government. Their power was becoming too emboldened. Perhaps this recent demonstration of the news actually losing its investigative edge and becoming more editorialized will reboot the news media. However I don’t think it will happen because people tune in to hear bad news and television reporting has become sensationalized celebrities spouting bipartisan talking points which is just as culpable for tearing this country apart as our two party system. Tune in and see.

She’s An Adult

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Grace Maczei Barker is 18 years of age today. She, as she likes to tell me recently, is an adult. I could not be more happy for her. It has been an absolute privilege and honor to watch her grow into a young, strong woman of faith. Here are a couple of pictures taken by Lori Mortenson.

 

I call this one “Pouty Grace”. So serious, even then!

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This is called “Fragile”. Grace is drinking from a Humpty Dumpty tea set.

Trumped

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So, Donald Trump won the presidential election this week. It is something that has rocked the politial and media world. The ripple effect is still taking place in this country and beyond. People are in shock, in pain, and in utter hopeless despair—IF they didn’t vote for him. They rest are proud that they kept Hilary Clinton out of the oval office. It is a complete rip down the middle of America. We are being told that young voters were for Clinton and old voters were for Trump, white voters were for Trump, and black and hispanic voters were for Clinton. The middle class voted for Trump, while the upper and lower classes voted for Clinton. I am sure there are more polarizing categories that separated the voters as well. There are always ways to divide people.

So, it’s clear that each side does not understand the other. Yet, even in this monumental upset people aren’t using it to try to get to know the other side’s plight. I have a theory as to why—it doesn’t sell.

While the country is in complete upheaval, people look to the mainstream media to console their particular views. The cable news networks, primetime affiliates, and even talk shows that dabble in politics all scratch at the American scab of division. Why? Because it brings conflict. And people love conflict. And advertisers love to sell their products. Most people don’t think of this, I know, but the reason NBC Nightly News exists is to sell advertising. Their job is to get people to watch their show AND the ad spots between them. The conpanies behind the ads are the ones who are actually paying the bills. The more people watch, the more NBC can charge. That’s how they make money. That’s how the companies spending the advertizing dollars make money. If you think I am being flippant about this take Sean Hannity’s show on the Fox News network. During the last week of the election he hadmore viewers tuned in than ever in the history of the show. Hannity is an avid Trump support (or Clinton hater). His Nielson ratings now allow for their show to charge more for advertising since more people will be watching. If Sean were to go on TV saying that we need to vote with our hearts, or that there are good attributes of both candidates, he would lose viewership, lose ratings, lose money.

So, what am I saying? If you are going to the media to try to recieve comfort. You will only harm yourself more. If you voted for Hilary (which I don’t mind if you did) you will find that CNN is already producing anti-Trump news cycles questioning his motives, character, and future decision making. In essence they are creating the conflict that brings viewership ratings up.

If you voted for Trump (which I don’t mind if you did) you will find that Fox News is setting Trump up to be the great hope for middle class Americans while creating mythical battles with an exiting president, anti-Trump protesters and celebrities. In essence they are creating the conflict that brings viewership ratings up.

The public has been trumped, but not by Donald. They have been significantly manipulated by Anderson Cooper, Sean Hannity, George Stephanopolis, Rachel Maddow, Lou Dobbs and the like. We are being lured in by a juicy piece of conflict and when we bite down we are hooked! We thrash around, but it’s too late. In the end the country suffers.