All 39 Clues (For a Better Life)

In no way do I consider myself a life coach. However, in light of turning 39 this year (and of course my wife had to remind that  I am in my 40th year) I have created a list of what I think are wise decisions we can implement in our lives - all for the sake of ongoing improvement and a sustained quality of happiness and joy.These are in no particular order.

*I apologize for the spacing. Blame Blogger.

1. When you have a random thought about someone, perhaps an old friend that you haven't spoken to or seen in awhile, it may be a spiritual tug. Don't ignore it. Give them a call. Not a text or an email (unless you honestly don't have their number). There may be a reason for the random thought and it just may be what the other person needs. It may even be what you need.

2. Hang out with people older than yourself. It makes you feel young. Hang out with people younger than yourself. It makes you feel wise and experienced. With experience comes knowledge. Younger people need someone accountable and reliable. Whether it's a young couple that need advice or teenagers that need a positive role model, it doesn't matter. Make good choices. Help others make good choices. Simple.

3. Tell your kids you love them every day. Kiss them good night before they go to sleep and kiss then again before you go to sleep. While they are sleeping, put your hand over them and ask God to bless them over and over again.

4. When you mess up in front of your kids - whether it's an error in judgement directly or indirectly involving them, admit it. Model how perfectly imperfect you are.

5. Count your blessings! Chances are you have more than most. Count them and be thankful. Do this everyday. Be thankful for the things that haven't even happened yet. If you're going through a storm in your life, give praise and thank God for the day you're no longer in it.

6. Write a letter. In it, mention how there's something positive and good in every situation. Seal it in a bottle. Toss it out to sea. All of this can be metaphorical other than the letter.

7. Give. Be generous. Make sure it's from the heart. Tithing is important, but so is giving to the homeless person on the corner. It has nothing to with how they will spend it, but rather with the attitude in which you give.

8. Accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. Nothing says that automatically makes life easy. Quite the contrary, but it's better than living a facade where you think "your" life actually has true meaning. Life is better with Christ. If your hung up on past transgressions, get over it! You're loved. You're forgiven through the power of grace. His grace.

9. Visit a retirement/nursing home. Visit often. If you have kids, take them along. I was fortunate to have done this myself recently with my family through a church outing. If you don't come out of there a different person in some shape or form there's something wrong with you.

10. Read The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe or another classic that you read when you were younger and allow yourself to be whisked away into your childhood's imagination. Having a bowl of popcorn beside will only add to the experience. Popcorn makes everything better. Well, almost.

11. Forgive. Always forgive. It's not about the other person...NEVER about the other person. Forgiveness is about Y.O.U.! Forgive does not mean you will automatically forget. That part will take time, but it's not as important as forgiving. 
Click on this link (or copy and paste it):

This will blow you away. There's only one word to describe it: POWERFUL.

12. Write your life story. Begin a blog, a journal, a diary...something. Get you experiences, thoughts and ideas down on paper. You're life story may seem boring, but it could still make a difference in someone else's life. Besides, if you think you're life story is something about it!

13."Dream the life, Live the Dream." This is my own personal quote. Notice it it doesn't stop at the dreaming part. There's a "doing" involved. I live near 95. A lot of people sit in traffic for a long time day in and day out. I wonder how they spend their time while sitting in the car. I have to believe it wears a person down after awhile. I must say that I have never taken a grand leap of faith so like most of the "clues" I have written so far, I am writing them for myself as well. If your dream or your passion is not being achieved, then consider for a moment (or for awhile) why that is. Is it your work? Lack of trust? God has great plans for us. I don't think that involves missing out on opportunities that will help us reach our goals. Sure they are sacrifices we have to make, but are you willing to sacrifice a forty-year career to miss out on what you were truly created for? You must like your co-workers, or that long commute. Share your dream with me and you can be certain I will pray for you.

14. Confront yourself. Go to the mirror and stare at yourself. Not for reasons of vanity. I actually suggest you stand in front of yourself looking "your worse." Let the muffin-top show. Free your fungus-filled feet from their socks. Turn the lights on so you can see the back hair, chin hair ear hair...everywhere where you shouldn't have hair. Look yourself in the eye and say, "I'm beautiful. God created me for a reason. There is a purpose for my existence. I'm extraordinary. I am important."

15. Be part of church. Embrace the power of community. Don't just be a Sunday worshipper. Don't become a member and then do nothing about it. Don't leave because you "disagree" with something. Make sure what you "disagree" with isn't just a challenge. Find a church that preaches grace not law. If you are a regular attendee, but don't leave the service feeling inspired (trust me, you'll know), leave the church. Find another one. Or at least ask yourself whether or not you come into service with a wide-open mind and heart.

16. Remember this little math problem: Intentions - Action = SQUAT!

I know this is something I need to work on myself. But, recognizing the problem is an integral piece in becoming our true selves. I pray for opportunities to be a blessing to others and wouldn't you know it, they come! Grab hold and start being a blessing and an inspiration to others. And as always...please share!

17. Perform a Random Act of Kindness (RAK). Be the one to start the Drive-Thru chain of paying for the person behind you. I'm rarely ever in the drive-thru, so I'll be on the lookout for other ways I can perform acts of kindness. Whether planned or random, if it's from the heart then it's all for the greater good.

Side Thought: I often tell myself that when I am blessed with more money it is then I will be giving and generous. But you don't need a lot of anything to be either of those things.

18. Have a family game and/or movie night. I mean a true family movie the ones you may have had when you were younger. No devices. No distractions. If you have little ones like I do, snuggle up and watch a classic like Wizard of Oz. I remember family movie night growing up. It was when VCRs were relatively new and we would sit in our unfinished basement and watch a lot of Disney Classics such The Love Bug and The Gnome Mobile...with popcorn of course! Lots of popcorn! My brothers and I still love remembering those good old days. Remember Disney's Sunday Night at the Movies?! Oh, I wish they had those on DVD. Are you telling me nobody would buy The B.R.A.T. Patrol?! I'm talking classic film-making here!

19. Pray with your kids. My mom says I used to talk her ear off at bedtime. My mind was was always deep and analytic. Creative. I don't remember any of those conversations other than the fact we had them, but I do remember saying The Lord's Prayer many, many nights. Such a powerful prayer. If you're not sure how or why it is, read Larry Kreider's Building a House of Prayer. It's a prayer that recognizes the intimate relationship we were meant to have with our Father in heaven. I know people that recite that prayer each and every morning and it wakes them up more than their coffee does.

20. Encourage others. If you're not uplifting to those around you...what are you? This doesn't always have to be a positive comment or even a physical show of praise such as a hug or a pat on the back. With your children, it can also be planting a seed. Just last night I told my girls how proud of them I was for helping put together bags of food for the homeless. Not only did I verbally praise and hug them I planted a seed. It's something I hope they will never forget. They were an important part of something.

21: Find a band whose music transcends your soul...that inspires you to follow your dreams...that evokes untapped emotion. I don't know what I would do without the music of U2. Bono's powerful, image-filled lyrics in Achtung Baby inspired me to start writing poetry which lead to a deeper desire to become a writer.  I could literally write a book about this band and just how good they really are and how much I have truly been inspired by them, but will save that for another time. You have to respect the fact that these guys are rock stars that won't hesitate to profess their love of Christ. Bono sits on his bed with his family and prays. The band prays together right before going out onto stage. And if you don't hear the Biblical references in almost every single song, well...time to start. There's more Biblical references in their music than most Christian music. Just saying.

Find music- maybe a band, maybe just a style or genre - that makes you feel empowered and use it as a catalyst to dream out loud.

22. Sticking with the music theme...Play songs in the car that the whole family can enjoy and sing a long to. Put aside your macho attitude and start rockin' out to "I Got the Joy Joy Joy Down in my Heart." Put the windows down and let the dude next to you at the stop-light know whose boss. Okay, so don't put aside all of your macho-ness - just be macho for God. And when you have "your" music on, turn it down when a voice in the back wants to say something. Let them know how important their voice is.

23. Build a campfire and:

  • have deep, meaningful, heart/mind opening conversations.
  • eat S'mores
  • bring an acoustic guitar and sing songs
  • meditate/pray
  • make shapes out of the burning hot embers. (Like you do with clouds.)
  • Share a blanket with a loved one.
  • Listen to the Phillies game (I guess if you're not a Phillies fan you may get the same enjoyment out of listening to your team.)
  • Tell ghost stories
  • Stay up late

24. Help the homeless. Thirty-some years ago I was inspired as a young boy by a speaker named Trevor Ferrell. Trevor was only about 12, but had already started a place called Trevor's Place. A campaign that helps those that are homeless. Literally, ever since then, I have been saddened by the world of homelessness, but unfortunately had done nothing about it. It wasn't until a few nights ago that I helped out in some way - by making manna bag. Now I just have to deliver them or my time will have meant nothing. It felt great being part of that and was it was even more special that my wife and young daughters were part of it as well.

Side Note: The Bible references the poor more than 2,000 times. Enough said.

25. Don't bring your work home. Don't let your profession define you. I am an educator, something I take very seriously and something that I'm grateful to be part of. But that's not who I am. Above all, I am a Christian dedicated to living a life that praises, celebrates and worships God. I am a husband and father - also something I take seriously. I spend a lot of time praying for my family and for the wisdom and patience it takes to model what a good father/parent is. I am blessed to be married to someone that put as much thought, dedication, time and prayer into the family as I do. When I step into my home - even before that - when step outside of my workplace I shutoff work mode. I shutoff teacher mode. If you think that makes me less dedicated, well...I'll bite my tongue on that one.

26. Don't ever say the following:

  • "I can't." One of the best things my dad ever taught me.
  • "I give up." There's victory in losing, but not in quitting. 
  • "Life isn't fair." Well, duh! Deal with it. Nobody, including Jesus himself, said life was fair. 
  • "I hate..." Even if you strongly dislike something, avoid this word.

27. Finish what you start. This is one of the most important things my mom taught me...and she probably doesn't even realize it. Goes to show how important it is to model good choices to our kids. Impressionable only begins to describe it. Although this does backfire on occasion when I read a poorly written book. As much as I want to put it! Grr! On another's that dream of yours coming along? Still dreaming out loud? Finish what you started :)

28. Don't envy. By being envious of what others have leads to bitterness...and the ripple effect only begins there. If someone has something "better" than you, rejoice! Be happy that they have some extra cash to buy a larger TV or whatever it is that has you salivating. If you want more, get on your knees and ask for opportunities to bless others. Give your time and money and you will be blessed...if it's from your heart. Above all, be thankful for what you have. If you have the option to choose what you have to eat, then you are rich have more than most.

29. I saw this on someone else's post and it reminded me of one of the best movie quotes of all time. "Get busy living, or get busy dying." (Shawshank Redemption) That just about says it all. Darn! That could have been a good #39!

30. Do something everyday that will get you closer to your dream. I call myself a writer that means I need to live up to that. This means I need to write everyday. Whether it's junk or first book you see when you walk into Barnes & Nobles that's sitting right there on table's still gets you closer. And accept - that whatever it is you do - you won't please everybody.

31. There's nothing wrong with material things...UNLESS you place more importance on them than God and family. Yes, things are things. But we were meant to enjoy life. There's nothing wrong with splurging a little here and little there. Just keep your heart in the right place.

32. Look for the good in everything. Why? Because there is good in everything. This doesn't mean everything that happens is good, it just means there's something good that can be extracted from the situation. A lot time this is beyond our human comprehension.Trust and have faith that the good is there. We are never abandoned. Never deserted. God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.

33. Let rejection inspire you! Yes, I wrote that correctly. As a writer, I open myself up to a whole bunch of rejection - mainly publishers. This hasn't happened yet because I haven't officially sent anything off to a publisher yet. I know it will happen. I know I'll hear that word...that two-letter word, that takes our soaring confidence and reduces it to an innocent bystander being enveloped by a wall of water from a passing car. No just means we are that much closer to a YES.

Side Note:

Walt Disney was fired for lacking imagination.
Elvis was told he was better off driving trucks.
Thomas Edison had 10,000 failed attempts at making a light bulb. Where we would be if he gave up?

34. Laugh! Here are some of the benefits of the best medicine:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces Stress
  • Eases chronic pain
  • Pretty good ab-workout
  • Burns calories
  • Stimulates heart and lungs
  • boosts your immune system
  • and last, but not makes you feel GOOD!

35. Unfriend. This may sound like it goes against everything else I've written, but this is important. Detach yourself from the poisonous vines in your life. I had a friend recently share a story with me about someone that smoked a lot of pot. The fact that she was roommates with pot-smokers didn't help her. Nor did it do anything to inspire her to change...but she did!. Short story shorter...she accepted Christ, moved out and hasn't smoked pot since. She detached herself from what was destroying her life. On a smaller scale, we need to unfriend those Facebook friends that constantly post negative garbage. Why on earth would you want to even read that?! Surround yourself with positive thinkers and dreamers that eat perseverance for breakfast.

36: Fuel your children's imagination. I have mentioned before the specific things that have ignited my imagination while growing up. Watching Back to the Future in the theater when I was 9 began a love of film and time-travel. Reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe opened so many windows in me that I'm still running on fumes from what my mind pictured in that far-off world. But one thing specifically set my imagination off into a stormy wildfire. Believing in Santa. Now I know this is a to- each-his-own type of thing and I make no judgments, but for me I owe a lot to that specific time period. Nothing was more powerful, more awake-inducing than knowing there would be gifts under the tree from no one other than Santa himself. Knowing that reindeer were going to land on my roof within hours sparked a fascination of how powerful an imagination could be. I dread the day my daughter's no longer believe in St. Nick, but like me they will still believe. The spirit of Santa...the idea of Santa is very much real. So, if you were to ask me if I truly believe in Santa. I wouldn't hesitate to tell you that I most certainly do.

So if you're a no-go on the Santa thing, then read to them. Read to them regardless. Take them exploring. Ask them questions about how they think things work. Sometimes you get wonderfully strange answers and other times you get the straight-up truth. "Sophie!" I said. "Your bottom is broken! It has a crack in it!" To which she replied, "No it not! That how God made it!"

From the mouths of babes.

37: Accept with "irrational and radical hospitality" the "lost, lonely and last." Years ago Alanis Morissette sang a song called, What if God was One of Us. Heaven forbid she sing a song about God. I remember so much uproar and criticism. I remember thinking, "Are people that unenlightened? Do they really not know what this song is really saying?" What if God was here on earth, right here, right now? How would we treat him? Think for a moment how we treat strangers. How many times do we walk by them without word? What if there was a reason behind that close encounter? To walk by a fellow believer is to walk passed a part of Christ. To walk by anyone else is a missed opportunity to get to share Christ.

I recently made a reference to how I had been missing so many opportunities because I wasn't taking the time to stop and just say hello. I wonder how many friendships I missed out on because my comfort zone became a complacent zone. 

There are people out there that are lost. Not only lost, but worse...misguided. Tethered by society's greed or victim of a malnourished home-life, they need people like you to get them back on track. There's one thing that lost people all have in common. They are all looking for something. If you've been praying to be a blessing in someone's life, what they're looking for could be you. Welcome those opportunities with irrational and radical hospitality.

*"irrational and radical hospitality" and "lost, lonely and last" are from a sermon by John Speight.

38. Life is a your parts. One of my favorite memories about Christmas is watching Christmas movies with my dad. He'd love to watch the same ones every year. One of those was The Man in the Santa Claus Suit starring Fred Astaire. Like many movies since, one of the actors would play multiple parts in the movie. Fred was that character. And just like Fred, we are also that character. We wear many hats. Many faces and emotions that show our true identities and many facades that hide it.
We need to become the protagonists in our own lives. Be our own hero - someone that God would hang a picture of with the title, Believer of the Month, above it so when angels are in the break-room they can all take notice. In whatever role we are playing at the moment - most times it's more than one (Christian, husband, father) - we need to strive to be the best we can. Rocky and Indiana Jones are great protagonists because they aren't perfect. They get beat up and are flawed, but they persevere.

We need to take the bumps and bruises and turn them into learning experiences. We need to thrive on the fact that there is always an opportunity to get back up on your feet. Always a chance to become a better person.

39. Keep your word. I'm closing this list out with something else I learned from my mom. Through modeling, I learned it from both of my parents, but I specifically remembering my mom telling me, "Just because you don't say 'I promise' doesn't mean you don't keep your word. Your word, is your promise." There's no need to say, "I promise." It's pointless. Well, it should be pointless. Your word should be good enough. Just like business ethics. Why aren't ethics good enough?
Keeping your word also means you'll show up to something when you say you will. I know of a man who was (and still is) good to his word. When he said he'd be somewhere, he was questions asked. So the one time he didn't show up, the people expecting him knew something was wrong. There was in deed something wrong. He had been shot in the head during a break-in. But, like I said, he is still good to his word.

After Thought: Thank you so much for taking the time to read through these clues. I wrote them as suggestions for you and for myself as well. Let's begin applying these 39 clues today! And as always, although nobody takes me up on it, please share your successes and failures (and how you're persevering) in doing so. 

Dream Out Loud,

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