Clear the Deck First

Each morning I receive a quick read in my Google Reader from

Today's Stress Tip


some tidbit of wisdom to apply to my busy life.  I don't


agree with the advice, as was the case

last week

.  But for the most part, I usually come away with


I can use to transform my daily life.

Then there are tips like the one posted this morning, that seem so

common sense

until I read it over a couple of times, and realize ~

This is so much more that just

surface talk


Before you begin a project, first clear your desk, kitchen counter or work area of the clutter that will surely get in the way. Then take out and organize the implements you'll need to get the job done, leaving yourself ample room to maneuver. That's it. The minute or two it takes to do this will save you a considerable time and aggravation over the course of the project. Clear the deck first.

Pretty much common sense here ~ clean off your work space, make sure you have all the ingredients before you start, and plan your time so you can finish what you begin!  Got it!

But are there areas of life where we tend to


apply this common sense?  As a mediator and conflict coach, my mind takes this tip ~ from the desk, kitchen counter or work area ~ to our relationships.

When it comes to relationships, it seems we tend to

clear the deck

with a broad stroke ~ quite literally sweeping away problem people in our lives.  The trend we see in our

mediation center

is to simply dispose of individuals who cause us conflict, avoid people who hurt us, and begin again with a new set of friends, a new spouse, a new family, even a new faith community.

What if we took this common sense tip and applied it to our personal relationships?  How would we live it out?

Before you begin a new relationship, first reconcile the ‘clutter’ in your heart and mind from past relationships that will surely get in the way of making new relationships. Then take out and organize the interpersonal skills you'll need to establish a lasting relationship, leaving yourself ample time to put these skills into practice. That's it. The time it takes to do this will save you considerable hurt and aggravation over the course of the new relationship. Clear the decks first.

I know it is never



But here is the bottom line: if we don’t deal with the brokenness in our old relationships, we carry it into our new ones.  Many people call it baggage.  I call it our default response to things that confront us ~ our usual reaction to conflict, pain and loss.  It is what we bring into each new relationship, learned from our family of origin and past experiences.

When the pain and hurt is not addressed; when the broken relationships are not reconciled, we simply bring all that


into new relationships, hoping each one will be better than the last.  Take today’s tip and think about how to clear the deck in our personal lives.  Not with a broad sweep of the arm that pushes all the hurtful people out of our lives, but with a purposeful act to restore relationships that are sure to get in the way as we creating relationships in the future.

Finishing Well

The telephone woke me about 5:00 a.m. on February 25, 2004. It was the nurse from Bethel Home telling us that on their last hourly rounds, they found my dad had passed away in his sleep. I called my sister, Kathy, in Long Beach, and then Amy, our daughter. Amy said she wanted to go with us to spend some time with Grandpa. Tony and I picked up Amy at her home, drove through Starbucks

(so glad they open at 5:30 a.m.)

and drove to Bethel Home, in neighboring Selma.

There we sat, with my dad, Grandpa Goodie*, whose earthly tent lay motionless in the bed. It was there we prayed and thanked God for bringing Dad back to us. If you follow my blog, you will know that my dad went through a rough time


read about my prodigal dad


~ from 1993 to 2003, to be exact. The estrangement from him was painful and consumed me for almost two years. With a wonderful counselor companioning me, I was able to reconcile the loss of my dad's presence in my life


read about the fat cows


, and rest in the hope of a reunion in eternity.

Then, in 2003, my dad humbled himself and came home. Literally. He came to live with us. He met his great-grandchildren for the first time, ate pot roast and gravy like Mom used to make, and listened to Amy's husband, Jeff (whom he had never met) play hymns on the piano. He lived with us for about one year before suffering a stroke which took him at the age of 94 years old.

So on this the anniversary of his death, I remember a father who finished well. He was not perfect. He lived with regret and brokenness. But, his story is truly one of

redeeming the future

. His pride, his shame, his old age . . . all could have kept him separated from his family. It seems many individuals become set in their ways. But my dad chose to

come home

~ to renew the relationships lost with his family, confess to God and to us the hurts of the past 10 years, and finish well.

The thought I have today, February 25th, is a powerful one.

It is never too late to redeem the future.

I am told by those who keep statistics that only about 60% of individuals actually finish well. I am proud to say the my dad, William W. Goodrell, beat the odds at 94 years of age. As we met at the mortuary to take Dad's body to be cremated, I stood before the box where he laid. Tony and my dear friend Eunice were with me. I asked Tony to give me his pen. And with tears streaming down my cheeks, I wrote on the lid of that box:

Thanks for loving me.

Thanks for coming home.

Thanks for finishing well.

Tell Mom and Scott hello.

We'll see you soon.

Remember . . . It is never too late to redeem the future and finish well.

*My maiden name is Goodrell. When I was little,

I could not say it clearly, so my dad's parents became Grandpa and Grandma Goodie.

The name stuck and when our children came along, my parents inherited those loving names.