Like many Chromies, I was quite upset regarding the news that our beloved Chrome had been sold to interests in Japan. I thought I'd join the band of fans paying tribute to this one-of-a-kind horse.
I am one of probably hundreds, if not thousands, whose interest in horse racing (and horses in general) was rekindled because of that beautiful chestnut colt who began his humble life quietly but grew into the mighty California Chrome.
I was late to the Chrome party as he was already a star on the track, so the beginning of my "Chrome Experience" was his run in the Kentucky Derby. I had not watched the Derby on TV since my childhood. I believe it was my wife that happened to be flipping channels and stumbled upon the NBC coverage of race day. The coverage of Chrome and his entire story sucked me in. I could relate to him and his background. Plus, I couldn't get over how stunning he looked. I have followed Chrome and racing ever since.
I liken Chrome to the Hot Wheels track set I received one Christmas from the local Toys for Tots program. It came when our family really needed a morale boost. I played with that track for a long time, helping me forget my reality.
Chrome came at the right time for me that first Saturday in May 2014, just like that track set. He was an escape from my life as I knew it, a light in my darkness, a joy amidst the pain.
Of all the great horses that have come and gone, to my knowledge, none have been compared to the great Secretariat and how he unified a nation like California Chrome. Both horses appeared to know their true importance and purpose and played their roles valiantly as super-crowds gathered to get a glimpse (and a photo) of such greatness; touching the heart and overwhelming the soul, bringing children and adults to tears with each appearance. His connections obviously recognized his gift and public draw and they benefited greatly. To them, he was a business opportunity, but through that opportunity, we were given great access to witness the king in majestic fashion. For that, I am thankful.
Will there be another horse that stirs up the nation like California Chrome? Yes, I have this feeling that at least one of his offspring will carry the full "Chrome Effect" to continue his legacy and his life’s purpose. I truly believe God created Chrome for more than racing and breeding and I believe that we have not seen the last of his greatness.
In the past, when I'd try to put into words what Chrome means to me, I was basically at a loss. In preparation for the inaugural Pegasus Cup, featuring our boy's final run before beginning stud duty, I attempted to put my thoughts about Chrome to music in my original song "California Chrome (Heart of a Champion)." In the song, I tried to capture the essence of how Chrome had captured the hearts of many. Watch the video of the song below.
Disappointingly, I was not able to see Chrome in person on the track or at Taylor Made. I had set a goal to partake in the Chrome Experience this next spring but I guess that won’t happen now. Because of this lovable horse, I have cyber-met so many wonderful fans and photographers. I am eternally grateful for all the conversations and photos of our People’s Horse to keep me inspired. I pray that we will continue to have access to Chrome’s journey through photos and videos.
Chrome may soon be gone from our soil, but the way he has inspired us, he will never be forgotten. No matter where he is, Chrome will always be home with me.
Please leave a comment about your journey with Chrome!
It’s been 28 years since I was voted homecoming king at Augustana College (now Augustana University). I was definitely surprised by the result of that vote. As I think about it years later, I wonder if I have seen any benefit from that title. It didn’t benefit me professionally. It definitely didn’t help me improve my study habits or GPA. And, I certainly didn’t have any added responsibility during that last year of school because of the title. But I have realized that I did learn something from my year as Augustana royalty.
You don’t have to be the best to make a difference. I was definitely not the most popular guy at school. I wasn’t a football player or any other type of collegiate athlete; I was just a regular student. I had served in some leadership roles but wasn’t a great leader by any means. I suppose I was a bit of a flirt, which may have helped my vote because of the 4:1 girl to guy ratio. But, I hope that the result was because I just tried my best to be kind. I wanted everyone to know that they were important to me.
Remember this. You don’t have to be charismatic, popular, or wealthy to make a difference in someone else’s life. Be sure that your loved ones, coworkers, or people you meet throughout the day, know that they are important to you; that they are loved. Say it to them through your words and actions. This is one of many important characteristics of a great leader.
Shrink your circles to do more good. It boils down to this. In my attempt to make as many friends as possible throughout high school and college, I turned my back on some pretty amazing people. My friendships only scratched the surface. I spend much of that time being fake so I wouldn’t have to be vulnerable to people.
Unfortunately, that was a lesson that took way too long to learn. Now that my circles are smaller, I have the opportunity to be real. It allows me to truly connect with people so I can benefit from a support group as well as be a real support to my friends.
Remember this. It only takes one drop of water to create a ripple that reaches far and wide.
Here today, gone tomorrow. Five years following graduation, I was invited to ride in the homecoming parade as an alumni royalty. I thought it would be fun to relive my “glory days” and see old friends and acquaintances. As I rode the parade route, I waved to a crowd of faces that seemed to kindly smile or wave back but were actually quite indifferent to my royalty status. It was then that I realized that we will all be insignificant at some point. I had this idea in my head that my good works and accomplishments in my past, present, and future would be my ticket to eternal recognition as a world changer.
Remember this. In this day of short-term memory, eventually, all movers and shakers will fade out of the public eye. Only in extreme circumstances will our accomplishments or failures change the lives of others forever. So, the lesson here is to never stop trying to grow, improve, or change the world, but don’t dwell on fame or recognition. Live for the moment of personal defeat so you can learn, or live for the success to experience that joy. And then move on. Life keeps moving, don’t get stuck in the past. Be grateful for those memories and accolades, but always move forward. Keep reinventing yourself; always striving to be a better version of yourself.
Listen to my song, "Only You" that takes a look at my struggle with significance and purpose.
As we approach the presidential election season, I am bracing myself for the mudslinging to begin from both sides of the aisle, highlighted through news outlets and hypersensitive social media commenters.
Like many, I’m going to tune out the news coverage and social posting the best I can. I have been known to share my opinions in the past and joined the ensuing heated discussion that followed. I realized two things from participating in those discussions. One, there is nothing that I can say that will change someone’s mind. Two, the more I engaged, the higher my anxiety rose, lighting a fire inside that had the potential to burn through filters and diplomacy. Thankfully, I contained my emotions and remained calm and open to the opinions of others in the debate.
Recently, my family was involved in a slightly tragic event, causing me to face that demon again. The hurt and anger in me wanted revenge. I looked for ways to throw the injustice back the other way; hurting people in my path. Fortunately, I didn’t act on this demon.
Prayer created calm. Calm brought me back to my senses. My faith took away the hurt and replaced it with as much compassion as my humanness could muster. I prayed for forgiveness of myself and for the source of the pain.
Through that prayer and reflection, I was able to make a 180 turn with a song I was writing and created a faith-filled work of grace and love. This song was a challenge for me to “keep my cool”, but it was a challenge for those creating the pain to find peace in turning hate into forgiveness, grace, and love.
I hope this post finds its way into hearts that need refuge from the darkness. And for all of us, remember to speak with love, with the heart of Jesus, in disagreements as well as agreements!
Love Song to You - Proverbs 18:21, Psalm 19:14
Copyright 2017 Justin Ehrman
My heart beats a rhythm
Of hopelessness and pain
Sin seems the only way
To push it all away
I raise a prayer for answers
Spirit have your way
Fill my heart with freedom
To lift my hands in praise
Let the words from my mouth sing a love song to you
May I honor you, Jesus. My life be your truth
When evil overwhelms me, your light reveals the way
To the path of grace and mercy
Love's the only way
My words can be hurtful
When I’m avoiding you
For never trusting you
No matter what I say or what I do
Your blood takes my sin away
Grace calls me to love like Jesus
With hands extended always
Love’s the only way ______
Let the words from my mouth sing a love song
Let the words from my mouth sing a love song
Jesus, you’re my love song
Jesus, you’re my love song
Let the words from my mouth
Sing a love song to you
Today is the first day of spring! Woohoo! If you live in a part of the world that experiences extreme winter weather, today is your symbolic "light at the end of the tunnel."
Many of us, including me, place great importance on January 1 as the epitome of new beginnings, but I think that spring could actually have a much bigger significance on our constant journey towards self-improvement.
For those of us that lose warm temperatures during the winter months, putting a halt to the beauty and color of nature, spring is the beginning of the "return to life" in a sense. So many people suffer from depression during the winter months. We are essentially prisoners to the elements; being forced to suffer from frigid temperatures or be "locked" indoors. When spring and warmer temperatures arrive, we can come alive with the warmth of the sun and outdoor activities that rejuvenate our body and soul!
Much like winter, we are born prisoner to sin. But much like spring, we are made new again by the son of God, Jesus Christ, who sets us free through his death and resurrection. How fitting that Easter comes in the springtime.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
The power of Jesus' sacrifice is incredible. God's Grace defeats sin! We are all sinners, but we all have the opportunity for new beginnings through admitting our sins to God and accepting the forgiveness of God, others and ourselves. How freeing it is to own up to our mistakes and then move on, striving to live a better life by focusing on Christ's example.
So, as you go through today with an extra hop in your step because spring is finally here, remember that the winter in your life is behind you. It's a great day to create a brand new beginning.
God loves you. His Grace shines a light on you like the warm sun on your face. His arms wrap around you like the fresh breeze of spring. Now that is something to smile about.
Can you believe it? We are already looking at 2018 through our rear-view mirror. Wow! The year was quite the roller-coaster ride for me personally; highlighted by the birth of two grandchildren and the completion of my first children’s book.
I’m kind of a slow learner, so in 2018, after 48 full years of life, I finally decided to really practice what I preach. If you pay attention to my social posts at all, you may have noticed that I had resurrected the lessons I’d learned from our old family dog Toby, after his passing, to form the fifteen children’s books I plan to write. These lessons were intended to guide those who need them for a better life, but I had tucked them away because I didn’t really think my words were worth hearing.
I made the decision in February of 2018 that I would let you make that decision instead. One of the lessons is to “be yourself.” I was afraid to be myself. Luckily, bravery to be yourself often comes with age, but I also think I came to the realization that I may be able to improve my own life by following these lessons. Then, as a result, I may be able to help at least one other person in my lifetime.
So, after I completed my first book, and the manuscript for the second one, I spent the last few months of 2018 fine tuning the lessons and considering how I might apply them to my own life. I came up with this list of #19for2019 inspired by the fifteen lessons from Toby.
In order to make change and improvements in our life, we need to show up and we must actually generate action; make an effort. As scripture says, “faith, without action, is dead.” (James 2:14-26) I see life that way too. “Life, without action, is dead.” I see a meaningful life as one that is always moving. Some people find meaning in solitude and self-serving, but I think most of us need interaction with others and opportunities to give and to love. The breakdown of actions for a meaningful life falls into three categories for me: reach up, reach in, reach out.
I truly believe that it all begins with our beginning, our Creator. If we don’t have an active relationship with God (or whatever higher being you connect with), then we are not starting out on the right foot. Reach up first.
Begin that true connection with God, then reach in. We should always take time to get our mind and heart right. Then, once we possess a joy and peace inside, we are ready to reach out to the world.
Here are all of Toby’s life lessons. Download your own copy here. Subscribe to Toby's email list and select "Adult Inspiration" on the form. I dive deeper into each of these lessons, and include the text from the original blog I wrote about these lessons back in 2012.
Here is my list of improvement goals for 2019, inspired by Toby's lessons above. If you haven’t devised your plan to move and grow this year, maybe this will help.
1. Be thankful for one new blessing every day (II. Smile)
2. Pray for loved ones daily (XII. Live a life of meaning)
3. Read a devotion or scripture each night (XIV. Explore)
4. Create a daily goal and go after it with complete focus (I. Never Give Up)
5. Smile at myself in the mirror daily (II. Smile)
6. Eat healthy foods and exercise daily - (1 gallon of water daily) (IV. Take Many Walks)
7. Surround myself with good and smart people (V. Have good friends)
8. Learn something new every day (VI. Learn every day)
9. Talk to others in person or phone/video instead of text (VII. Look others in the eye)
10. Compliment myself and others daily (VIII. Love yourself and others)
11. Forgive myself and others when needed (IX. Forgive yourself and others)
12. Accept change (X. Change is good)
13. Live a full life and create experiences (XI. Eat some chocolate)
14. Be myself (XIII. Be yourself)
15. Write music every day (XV. Enjoy the arts daily)
16. Hug my loved ones daily (III. Be a cuddler)
17. Do good things for friends and family daily (V. Be a good friend)
18. Be intentionally positive and smile at others every day (II. Smile, VIII. Love yourself and others)
19. Volunteer at least once a month (XII. Live a life of meaning)
Download a journal guide for my #19for2019 list here.
Flashback to Halloween back in the late 70's or early 80's. That werewolf costume was my favorite of all. My sister (right) and a neighbor friend (left) went out that night to rid the neighborhood of all that "terrible" candy.
When I think of darkness, I think of attitude. Just imagine the world if we only lived with a positive attitude and experienced only encouraging messages everywhere. I understand that there is evil in the world, and that bad things happen. We can be honest about it, but strive to keep our focus on love and kindness. Instead of responding to situations and events with anger and hatred, put on a mask of love and have only the desire to be kind and constructive; not destructive.
Obviously, politics is at the forefront of our minds right now. I don't know about anyone else, but I am just tired of the negative ads, the depressing messages on the national news and social media, and the organized ambushing of narrative by extreme political activists on both sides. No matter your beliefs, "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12)
Focus our agenda on the future, not so much on the past; we're not going back there, are we? Yes, we've been hurt in the past, we've been oppressed in the past, we've sinned in the past. Now let's forgive in the present, change in the present, and have faith in the present, so we can move on and become a better version of ourselves tomorrow.
If you don't follow Dave and Rachel Hollis of Hollis Co., please do. They have a message of transformation and love that truly is going to change the world. They stress the importance of loving yourself, so you can love others and be loved by others.
I used to blame my past for my present. Now I have forgiven my past, moved on through faith in my loving God, and now focus on becoming a better version of myself every day. The best part is accepting that, even though life didn't turn out the way I'd hoped (does anyone's?), I am intentional in living with a thankful heart, no matter what my day brings. I still stumble sometimes, bringing back my negative self, but I get back up as soon as possible and kick that dude to the curb.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12
All this world needs is love. Let's focus on loving the broken instead of breaking the broken. I understand that things are a bit more complicated than this simplistic viewpoint. BUT, we need to start somewhere. We can be a good example, even if we are broken ourselves. Let's put on that mask, hide our own darkness, and spread the light of love! In the process of kindness, our own hearts could see positive change and begin to heal.
This verse sums up what I'm trying to say... Matthew 5:16 "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Listen to the Newsboys' song "Shine" which was my jam back in the day.
Let's arm ourselves with compassion so we can fix our brokenness and begin to unite as humans, loving each other and caring for our world instead of destroying it.
I have a severe case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
I've always had it. In high school and college, I hated to miss out on seeing friends and meeting new ones. It's too bad I didn't feel the same way about my education!
It has quite the grip on me yet; though the older I get, the easier it is to escape for a while before it grabs hold once again. This fear of missing out on being popular, financially and professionally successful, respected, and influential in society has consumed me.
It’s amazing to discover that the older we get, the clearer our vision of ourselves becomes.
I have suffered from depression and low self-esteem because of FOMO. I had drifted away from my faith in recent years because I'd felt that all hope was lost. I was convinced that I was a complete failure and that I really didn’t have a purpose. This fear of failure consumed me. But eventually, I was reminded that my worth comes from God, not from successes and failures.
Listen to my song "Only You" on bandcamp. I wrote this when I was trying to hold on to my faith as I'd known it, as my life began to spiral.
This past winter, God seemed to speak to me. I was amazed that God could use such a lost soul. I saw no value in myself; what could I possibly offer? I had finally given up control and it's amazing what happened. I have found joy through a revived faith in God, leaving my past defining moments out of the picture. The difference this time is that I know that I am who I am: a loved child of God.
You may be feeling this same way. FOMO is not always a friend, but it's not always the enemy either.
Read Deuteronomy 31:6 for some inspiration about your fear.
Please join me for more thoughts about facing our fears by joining the mailing list at www.tobysamazingadventures.com. Select "Adult inspiration" on the sign-up form and receive a free download of 15 key lessons that could change your life.
I'm thinking about this bench today. It's ready for someone to sit in it. It's ready to welcome a weary traveler to take a rest.
I took this photo on the weekend that our daughter was getting married. It just seems like yesterday. Now today, she's preparing to have her first child. She and her husband are ready to welcome that precious bundle of joy into their lives. Oh, how their lives are going to change! 😍
I think about this verse as I anxiously await our grandchild's arrival.
James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Life constantly changes, but God is constant. His love never waivers. His promises never broken. He is always welcoming us to come and rest when we are weary.
We are ready to welcome you, little child of God, to brighten our days!
Get my song No Better Time on Google Play!
Where were you?
It's good that we #neverforget what happened on 9/11. I still remember I was on my way to work at Gateway when I heard Ben Patty talking about the first reports of a plane hitting the first tower. I could hear the confusion and concern in their voices.
Once I arrived at work, I expected it to be a normal day. There was nothing normal about it. I worked in a call center for Gateway Technical Support. Usually, the days were filled with 60-100 calls about various computer issues. 9/11/2001 was not like any typical day.
By mid morning, management had wheeled out TV's for us to watch the news, because there were so few calls coming in. I think I took a total of 3 phone calls that day. The world had stopped for the rest of the country while we watched what seemed to be the world ending for those on the East Coast. Business was never the same for Gateway after that day. At least it seemed like it to me.
While it's good that we remember that day, it's more important to think about how it changed our country, All of the sacrifices from those who were trying to rescue the thousands trapped in the rubble at all the sites. All the medical and mental health workers that did their best to restore the broken back to some level of normal.
Remember that it brought our country closer in many ways. Don't forget that bond as generations change. Continue to love one another, forgive one another, listen to one another.
We are all in this together, so let's find the common ground, the 'ground zero' so to speak. Focus on the "one nation..." that binds us together as Americans. #WeAreOneNation
Well, I've decided to try my writing skills by authoring a children's book! Toby's Amazing Adventures: The Great Escape is the first in, what I hope, is a series of books about our old family dog, Toby.
Toby passed away several years ago, so I wrote a short blog of fifteen lessons I'd learned from the old pup. I had originally planned on turning the blog into an adult inspiration book. That never materialized so I just put the content out of my mind.
This past winter I decided I wanted to revive the blog as a children's book series. The first book came together very well. I am very excited to share it with you. The book is currently with an illustrator and will released this fall.
In addition to the book, I created a website and a club to join. Toby's Explorers Club is an email list of fun family activities and podcast stories to go along with the book series. Sign up for the emails now I am currently sending occasional emails and will begin weekly emails this fall, once the book is released.
Listen to a pre-release of the first podcast story right now! Listen up to three times for free and then purchase the season album. New stories added weekly starting this fall.
Justin Ehrman is a husband, father, author and singer/songwriter.