Not Forgotten

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

The USA is truly an incredible place to live, and yet it is not perfect. One of the things that needs to change is the penal system. We are a country based on freedom, and yet ironically, we are one of the most incarcerated people in the world.

Corrections (which includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole) cost around $74 billion in 2007 according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2016, the Prison Policy Initiative estimated that in the United States, about 2,298,300 people were incarcerated out of a population of 323.1 million.

Jack Nicholson had a memorable line in the movie A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth.” We have a problem and it is not going to change without fixing the root issue. We seem to be very efficient in punishing people but not so good at helping rehabilitate them and addressing the cause.

A Bureau of Justice Statistic study found inmates released from state prisons have a five-year re-arrest rate of 76.6%. A USSC study calculated comparable federal prisoners released have a 44.7% re-arrest rate after five years. How is that even possible? Those are grim figures that should wake you up whether you are in prison or you are free. Our prisons have revolving doors.

I don’t have any quick fixes, but simple observations. People in jail or prison need to know that somebody cares about them. Well, if you are reading this, I am that somebody. I care, my wife cares, and God cares. There are many people outside the walls who care for you (even if you don’t know them).

What can we do as a society to change this problem?

  • Fix the family. Broken homes often are a statistic associated with incarceration. Having a stable family unit is a step in the right direction.
  • Racism has to be addressed. We all bleed red, yet for some reason there are those who look at people different from them as somehow less than them.
  • People who are free should never take their freedom for granted. It can be taken away in a heartbeat with one stupid mistake (as I am sure many who are behind bars can attest to).
  • Stay in touch with the people you know who have been incarcerated and let them know you love them and are there for them. Do what you can to help them, encourage them, and just be there for them.
  • Help those who are released to find meaningful employment. If they can’t find a job, what do you think is likely to happen?
  • We all need heart surgery. Everyone has the same issue. Make sure you have a right relationship with God first and foremost, then work on loving others, regardless of how they look or what they have done.
  • Forgive everyone. Yes, we have to reap the consequences of our actions, but everyone deserves to be forgiven and given another chance. Forgive everyone, including yourself. Give people the opportunity to succeed. Failure is only fatal if we give up on life itself.
  • There is a proverb that says: Evil company corrupts. That holds true whether you are free or not. The people that you hang out with on a regular basis are inevitably a reflection of who you are. Choose your friends wisely.

I hope you don’t just read this and forget about it. We each have to do our part to change society for the better. I am asking everyone who reads this to do what they can…the best that they can to make this country an even better place to live for us and future generations.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Breakthrough

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

“Gimme a break, will ya?” Have you ever felt that way? You just want to get a break and the cards you’ve been dealt are not going to win any games. Breakthroughs are tricky because we never know when they are going to come our way. All we know is that we will only break through if we are willing to push through.

Life is an incredible adventure, but it can be exhausting if you are just constantly focused on a breakthrough. Learn a valuable lesson and you will experience a lot less stress and gain the peace that has eluded you.

The lesson is this: enjoy the journey. Some people are so focused on the destination or goal that they miss all the blessings along the way. When we lose the joy of the journey, we can lose our way and miss our breakthrough altogether.

I had to take a LYFT ride the other day. The driver was a young single mom. She had 3 kids and was struggling to make ends meet. We had a long ride together, so I got to know a lot about her.

As I told her who I was, I shared my faith with her and encouraged her to draw close to God as she looked for her breakthrough. I asked her if I could pray for her and if there was anything specific she needed. Tears welled up in her eyes and she told me she had some health problems and needed healing.

I prayed for her and then left her with this: we had a “divine appointment.” She thought she was picking up someone who needed a ride, and I thought I was just getting from point A to point B. God had different plans. He sent me to her to encourage and pray for her.

She was the one who got the LIFT. God sends us divine appointments every day. We just have to ask for them, and then be ready to go with the flow. You will learn to see the opportunities to help people all along the way to your breakthrough. That is the secret to joy and peace on the journey.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Insecure

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

Would you describe yourself as secure or insecure? Here are some characteristics to consider. If you are secure:

  • You are not needy. You are content.
  • You are not self-centered. You think of others first.
  • You do not worry. You have faith.
  • You are not driven by what other people think of you. You know who you are.
  • You shun ingratitude. You are truly grateful for all that you’ve been given.
  • You don’t confuse using things and using people.
  • You don’t talk about people, you talk to them.
  • You understand that being secure, you can make decisions without second-guessing yourself. You are careful and analytical, but decisive.
  • You know that what you see on the outside is not always a match of what is inside someone. Beauty is not necessarily in the eye of the beholder either. True beauty is when you look at the heart. That is what God looks at. If that has beauty there is merit. Inner beauty always trumps outer beauty.

How are you measuring up so far? Do you want to move from insecure to secure in who you are?

  • Once you know “whose” you are, you can rely upon “who” you are. God formed you. You are a miracle; one of a kind. You are His. No other person on earth has your exact DNA. That makes you special. You have a purpose on this earth. Once you accept that, it can take you to new levels in your faith, your family, your friends, and your future. You can be secure in God. He loves you completely. If you don’t get anything else, get that, and trust HIM.
  • You have to know who you are. That is both simple and complex. You can choose to not believe it. You can know who you are and ignore it. Or…you can know who you are and walk out your destiny. That choice is totally up to you.

Don’t waste your time or your life trying to be a people pleaser. Trust me, you can never please everyone. There will always be the haters, but if you know who you are, it does not matter. That gives YOU the power, so use it wisely.

Shalom! 

Dan Skognes

Father’s Love

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

If you want to know what the perfect Father looks like, look at God… the Father of all mankind. He loves us completely in spite of our human frailties. That fact alone should give you pause to think. His love directs us, completes us, and gives us our daily bread. His love lights the way through the darkness and comforts us in the losses we encounter. He also corrects us when we are going astray just as any loving Father would. His love is generous, complete, and never ends.

Being a great Father is a daunting task for most men. It is a huge responsibility, but I do believe it is a worthy goal for any Father. You know what I believe helps make that a reality? Love God with all our heart first and foremost. The second thing is to love our fellow man as we love ourselves.

If you really want to take being a good Father to a different level, do those two things, but add one more thing to make it very personal: love your wife completely. Serve her. Honor her. Make her the priority that she deserves to be in your life. Listen to her. Protect her. Provide for her. You want to be treated like a king? Treat her like a queen. The children will love and respect you as a result.

Too many men miss this point and think they can be great Dads by spending a lot of time with their kid(s), but neglect or even abuse their spouse. That type of behavior is a ticking time-bomb. Sooner or later it is going to explode and the very thing the Dad was trying to nurture (relationship with his children) will very likely be taken from him.

Love God, love your fellow man, and treat your wife like a queen. Those three simple things will elevate you in the eyes of all and give you peace that passes understanding.

Happy Father’s Day!

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Time Flies

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

What happened? I woke up and realized I am older than dirt! It seems like just yesterday that I was in college and had no worries other than studying for the big exam. When I was a kid, one day was like an eternity. Now…the years are ticking away like seconds on a clock, and the second hand is spinning like a ceiling fan on high.

It is a little unnerving, to say the least. One day you are young, have a head full of hair, and no wrinkles. You wake up the next day and you are this old geezer who is already planning his next nap!

What is my point here other than to get you to share in my misery? Make the most of your time, no matter how old you are. Whether you are young or old…learn to appreciate the little things in life. Take time to smell the roses. Notice the beauty in God’s creation. Don’t just see mobs of people passing you by. Look in their faces. Look in their eyes. Engage them.

Make your bucket list early in life and do it. Don’t wait until tomorrow because we don’t know how much time we are given. We know we have today. If you ever lost someone prematurely that was dear to you, you know the sense of bewilderment. A parent is not supposed to bury a child, but it happens every day to someone around the world.

Cherish the moments you have today with those you love. Let them know how much you love them. The fact that you told them that you loved them 30 years ago when you proposed does not count. Remind them daily in word and deed that you love them deeply.

When all is said and done, would you be happy with what was said and done? Did you give your best? Did you love others completely? Did you forgive everyone for everything that was done to you? Were you kind, compassionate, and encouraging to those that God brought into your path?

I hope you live today with great abandon. Like the popular sign says: Live, Laugh, Love. Do that today…everyday…all day.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

The Mountain Mover

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

Do you think of yourself as a mountain mover? Most people would probably say, “No.”  However, I believe that anyone can be a mountain mover. We just have to have a little faith.

The Bible says that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed (between .03 and .07 inches) you can tell a mountain to move and it will obey. How can that be? If that were true, wouldn’t we see our landscape changing on a daily basis? For some people it does!

Here is what I believe about that particular scripture. I believe it is talking about the figurative mountains that we face on a daily basis. God knew we would have some great obstacles to get over, around, or through. He knew we were incapable of doing it on our own. That is where faith comes in.

God sees things in multi-dimensions. Since God is not confined by time, he knows the past, the present, and the future. Since He created everything, He is omnipotent. God is the key to our peace, prosperity, and purpose.

I have to admit that my faith at times has been pretty pitiful. It is on those occasions that I have made some terrible mistakes in my life when I put my faith not in God, but in my own ability and understanding. I do believe we need to use our brain and logic, but our knowledge is so limited when compared to God. Why would we not engage with Him and seek His guidance for the obstacles at hand?

“You should have self-confidence, but put your faith in God.” Dan Skognes

If you want to see mountains move in your life, have a little faith in God. He has the ability, the resources, and the desire to help us through the trials we face. You may have tried everything else and failed. That is OK. God is still there…waiting for us to trust and obey. You can even ask God to help your unbelief. How cool is that? We know there will be mountains ahead of us. Let’s move them!

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Be the Blessing

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

Do you want to be blessed? Dumb question, right? Everyone wants to be blessed, but few understand how that really happens. True blessings come from giving, not receiving. That is counter-intuitive to our thinking.

We are selfish by nature and thus we want others to give to us. For those who want to live a blessed life, I have good news for you. It is not too late to be blessed beyond your wildest dreams. You just have to be willing to be the blessing.

When we bless other people (not expecting anything in return), it gives the person receiving the blessing relief, comfort, and possibly even an answer to their prayers. In return, we grow emotionally and spiritually. There is something about giving unselfishly that just feels good. When you give and have no hidden motive it is like setting a caged bird free to fly. It is liberating for the bird and exhilarating for you. It is fun!

You might be thinking, “I don’t have the means to be a blessing to others.” Well, take off the blinders and think outside the box. There are many ways to be a blessing. Can you give your time to someone in need? Can you give a word of encouragement? Can you give them a ride? Can you comfort them when they are grieving? Can you send a card to someone in prison? Can you help a widow with some chores? Can you pray with them? It does not have to be expensive to bless someone. It just takes a little effort and caring enough to be the blessing.

I pray that you are blessed, not just for your benefit, but so that you may be a channel of blessing to others. You now have the secret within your grasp. What are you going to do with it?

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Centered

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

“How you respond to a setback exposes your faith, your fears, and your future.” Dan Skognes

I saw a two-wheel concept car (or motorcycle in a shell) from Lit Motors that was really cool. You could try to knock it over from any side and it automatically self-corrected to right itself. They use similar technology in robotic dogs. They compensate for the obstacles encountered and recalibrate to get centered again.

Is that what you do? For some reading this, you think, “Yes, I adjust well to whatever comes my may.” For others, you might think, “No. I melt down when unforeseen circumstances trip me up.”

When something unexpected happens like a loss of a job, a relationship ends, you get diagnosed with a deadly disease, someone close to you dies, or you take a financial hit…whatever it is, there are basically two responses: faith or fear. You either have faith that you will get through it and continue to move forward, or you cower in fear and retreat.

There are many things in life that we can’t control, yet we are tasked with getting through them. If you want to get through the storms, you have to be centered. You have to have the ability to stay calm when all hell breaks loose around you. I realize that it is easier said than done, but that is our reality. It applies to everyone.

Whether we respond with faith or fear will determine our future. Nobody in their right mind would choose to respond with fear, and yet it happens on a daily basis to people all over the world.

Some people would say that ignorance is bliss, but I think ignorance can be fear of the facts. It takes courage to have faith in the midst of a storm when you can’t see the horizon. In the example above, the car and robotic dog do not have a mindset of fear. They are programed to adapt and overcome. We need to program our minds to have that type of mindset. “When we get a setback, we need to think about our comeback.” Anticipate what is coming. “You may not be able to stop the wind, but you can learn to set your sails.”

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Opinions

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

Opinions are a dime a dozen. Everybody has one. The problem comes when opinions are not based in truth, but in rumor, innuendo, or outright lies. It is further complicated when we talk about what is truth? Truth is not relative, our perceptions are.

What are people basing their opinions upon? There is an old saying that, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” That holds true for facts. Facts are facts, but how we perceive them, retain them, and recall them is skewed by our moral fabric, our culture, our family, and our own experiences.

Truth is simple and yet complex for that reason. That is why I believe we have to base our opinions on something more than what we see, hear, or feel about something. Truth is something that is based in reality, but also has roots in faith.

I am a Christian and put my faith in God, His Spirit, and His Son. Because of that step of faith, my truth is not just my opinion, but grounded in the Word of God and His promises. I realize many people reading this are from faiths different than mine, and some have no faith in God at all. I am not trying to convert anyone with this blog. I just am shedding light on who I am, how I think, and why I write the things I do.

I welcome differences of opinion, but I have come to the point that I realize that life is too short to let people spew vile things about me or my blogs online. Roseann is reaping the consequences of her tweets. Just this morning Comedian Samantha Bee came under fire for her crude comments made on TV about Ivanka Trump. Why is it that some people have no filter for their mouths?

It is OK to have a difference of opinion, but let me leave you with a scripture that gives great advice: Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things.” That is more than just my opinion, it is my faith.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

The Optimist and the Pessimist

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

We all fall into one of two categories. We may be a combination of the two, but we are primarily one or the other. I have heard people who are pessimists justify being that way by saying they are realists. Hmmmm. I think they are wrong for the following reasons:

  • Pessimism is rooted in fear. Optimism is rooted in hope.
  • Pessimists think they can’t. Optimists think either they can or they might.
  • Pessimists wallow in the dark. Optimists find the light.
  • Pessimists tend to be self-absorbed. Optimists tend to focus on others.
  • Pessimists love to draw you into their drama. Optimists avoid drama unless it is at the movies.
  • Pessimists follow up your advice with, “Yes, but….” They have an excuse for every option you throw out. Optimists listen without rebuttal and consider the options.

“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.” 
― James Branch CabellThe Silver Stallion

The good news is that we can choose to be optimistic. There is a scripture that tells us to take every thought captive. Let that sink in for a moment. If you could take every thought captive, what would your world look like? Would it change your outlook on things? Would it change the way you talk to yourself?  Would it change the way you see and treat others? I am betting it would!

Next time you have a negative thought about yourself, someone else, or a situation you are in, take that thought captive. Replace it with something positive. Having an attitude of gratitude goes hand in hand with optimism. Learn to be grateful for the little things in life. Ungrateful people are always pessimistic. Which will you choose today? Will it be the glass half full, or the glass half empty?

Zig Ziglar said we need a “check up from the neck up.” I love that. Zig called pessimism stinkin’ thinkin.’ It is only when we get rid of it that we can see life as it really is: a thing of joy, beauty, hope, and love. That is a reality worth pursuing, isn’t it?

Shalom!

Dan Skognes