Friday, December 23, 2011

Being ourselves all the time

As I walked outside recently, I saw--and heard--a young man singing. It wasn't like he was singing under his breath, mind you. No, he was singing loud enough for people several feet away to hear. Now I must admit that at first I was a bit embarrassed for him. After all, you just don't do that kind of thing, right? The more I thought about it, it seemed downright sad.

Not sad, as in he's a sad case for doing what he did. Sad, as in I'm a sad person for thinking like that. We're a sad society if we put down a person for doing what he or she loves (as long as it's not harmful in general, of course) outside of what's considered a "normal" setting.

I hope that for his sake he's had family and friends who encourage his giftedness in song (yes, he sang quite well). It sure seems that if he has been looked at oddly or even spoken to derogatorily, that hasn't slowed him down in expressing his love for music. Tragically, I would imagine that many--most--of us either stifle ourselves, or allow others to stifle us when our "song" yearns to be expressed in "abnormal" settings.

Imagine a world where a singer sings when they feel the spirit move them. Where I write the moment words start to come. Where my wife, a daycare teacher who dearly loves children and is so gifted with them, could just walk up to a group of toddlers wherever she sees them and bring smiles to their little faces. Where my stepson does a freestyle rap just because he wants to. Whatever the person's pleasure & talent, what if they could do what they loved when they loved to do it?

I realize, of course, we all have responsibilities that must be attended to. We can't always be singing, or writing, or teaching, or building. But maybe we can do a little more of those things than we do now.

We celebrate the birth of Christ in memory of God becoming flesh, and living and dying and rising again for our eternal hope. Maybe His life can be an example in that as He said what He said and did what He did, whenever and wherever, during His time on earth, His primary concern was that it all was for His Father's pleasure. We know He was mocked and insulted, and eventually abused and crucified, for being...well, Himself. And for those of us who put our trust in Him, our lives and our eternities are filled with so much more hope as a result.

Too often, however, we're more concerned with our temporal comfort and our acceptance by others, than by our often unrealized yet very real need to fulfill the deep longing within us by being and doing what God created us to do when and where possible (not just when and where we won't be ridiculed). I pray that as we remember the "rebel" Christ, and that young man who just did what was on his heart, we'll put a smile in God's heart when who we are is more evident throughout the day. May you all have a blessed Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Helpless?: “My helpless friend, your helplessness is the most powerful plea which rises up to the tender father-heart of God. You think that everything is closed to you because you cannot pray. My friend, your helplessness is the very essence of prayer.” O. Hallesby

“So too the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance” (Romans 8:26 AMP).

Repost: The Most Important Institution in the World

I hope us believers can truly understand our true impact on the world around us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reducing worship to words

"But Nero looked carefully at Petronius, whose praises were desired by him always before every other, and who said,--
"'If it is a question of music, Orpheus must at the moment be as yellow from envy as Lucan, who is here present; and as to the verses, I am sorry that they are not worse, for I might find proper words to praise them'"  (Quo Vadis, pg 66).

Though this is describing the worship of the goddess Venus (to the dismay of Nero, who longed for such worship himself), I love how similar words ("as to the verses, I am sorry that they are not worse, for I might find proper words to praise them") could be used for how worship in the heavens for our Lord Jesus might be described. Human words can barely even begin to tell of God's glory. How amazing it will be when we Christians get to heaven and, in our glorified bodies, can so much more adequately express our adoration and love for God. As a writer who is always looking for the best words, and the best ways to arrange those words, it will be such a relief and a joy to finally "arrive."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Drowned by unbelief

"Hey, what are you doing"
"What do you mean? I'm going to walk over to there."
"To the other side of the lake?"
"What lake?"
"'What lake?' you ask? You don't see it? Well, you'll find out soon enough!"
"Whatever. I've heard people talk about lakes, know, the whole water thing. I just don't believe in all that."
"Yeah, I can kinda tell, judging by the dirt and grime all over you."
"I'm as clean as I want to be. Who needs this supposed 'water'?"
"OK, now I can understand how people who are poor, or physically or mentally unable to take care of themselves, might not be able to keep clean. But unless they have no concept of cleanliness, they'd most likely think if they were like you, they'd want to get cleaned up more if they could. You seem to have it together...uh, mostly."
"Well, other than not being able to get a job."
"Why were you turned down?"
"They keep saying I need to get cleaned up. And can you believe they tell me that as I wear my thousand dollar suit?"
"And don't bathe."
"Are we going back to that again? Look, it's time for my walk."
"Do you realize how deep it is, and how far you have to go?"
"(Glug glug)."
3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 3-4, 6; ESV)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New blog description

I updated it to be more clear about what this blog is about, and gave more info about the type of content I will be submitting. I welcome any comments, links, etc, that you feel will show forth the theme of what I'm trying to say (and I'm sure many of you can say it better than I can--hence the reposts I will put on here).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving great thanks for great things of God

I did a search for "thank" at Bible Gateway. Here are some off the results I came up with. I was specifically searching for verses & passages that show great displays of thanks by people of God, or great things God has done for His people that were worthy of gratitude:
  • "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" (1 Chronicles 16:34:34; God's enduring "steadfast love", see also: 16:41; 2 Chron. 5:13, 7:3, 7:6, 20:21; Ezra 3:11, Ps. 106:1, 118:1, 118:29, throughout Ps. 136, 138:2, Jeremiah 33:11).
  • "I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds" (Psalm 9:1; "all your wondrous deeds" or the like also at: Ps. 26:7, Ps. 75:1, 2 Cor. 9:15, with out "whole heart" also at: 86:12, 111:1, 138:1).
  • "11You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
       you have loosed my sackcloth
       and clothed me with gladness,
    12that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
       O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!" (Ps. 30:11-12; thanking God always, forever, continually, etc., including for all things., also at: 44:8, 52:9, 79:13, 106:1, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, 5:20, Colossians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 5:18, 2 Thess 1:3, 2:13, Revelation 7:12  .
  • "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!" (Ps. 100:4
  • Thanks for God's "steadfast love" and "wondrous works" throughout Ps. 107 (verses 1, 8, 15, 21, 31)
  • "I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD" (giving thanks sacrificially also in: Ps. 116:17. In Daniel 6:6-10, King Darius signs a decree stating that if anybody petitions any god or man besides him for the next 30 days, that person will be cast into the lion's den. Verse 10: "When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." Amos 4:5, 1 Cor. 11:24).
  • "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere" (2 Cor. 2:14).
  • "For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God" (2 Cor. 9:12; see also Col. 2:7b).
  • "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). 
  • "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17).
I know that the above verses only show the tip of what the Bible says about giving thanks (how, and for what), but these verses alone make it abundantly clear about what to be thankful for:
  • God's steadfast, enduring love 
  • all of God's wondrous/wonderful deeds
  • our triumph in Him
  • God's upcoming responses to our prayers (regardless of what they are, since He knows what's best for His glory & our edification)
and how we should express our thanks:
  • with our whole heart
  • sacrificially
  • dancing, singing, etc.
  • always, forever, continually
  • in all things
  • entering His presence with thanksgiving
  • overflowing thanks (in other words, not forced, but streaming forth because of overwhelming gratitude)
  • our prayers always having an underpinning of thanksgiving
  • doing everything with an attitude of thanksgiving
I realize how far short I've come in being a thankful person, and realizing how much I have to be thankful for. May this help me & maybe a few others have the best Thanksgiving ever (this Thursday, and having a heart of thanksgiving every day).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Following the right voice

My wife & I were recently watching A Gifted Man, a TV show about a man whose wife died & now she supernaturally appears & speaks to him from time to time. In this particular episode, his character, a brain surgeon, is asked to operate on a man who is hearing awful voices in his head. It turns out that this man had the remains of a twin in his brain, which the brain surgeon removed. Ultimately, however, the voices were not removed by this surgery, but by a shaman.

Now putting all the questions of validity aside (after all, while I do believe in a spiritual realm, I don't ascribe to the tenets of the New Age philosophy), this show made me think of the voices or other influences in our heads that try to persuade us to believe certain things about ourselves, to do or not do certain things, and ultimately walk down one path in life or another.

The Casting Crowns song Voice of Truth came to mind. In this song, the narrator tells of his aspirations to do great things. But "voices" (as it were) keep telling him he isn't able; they keep reminding him of the times he's failed. So, why bother trying? But then the "voice of truth"--the Lord God--reminds him that those voices aren't speaking truth, and if God wills us success in a certain endeavor, and we listen to & honor Him along the way, we will succeed.

How often mankind has listened to the "voices" that seemed right at the time, but they led down a tragic path. Whether the voice is one that promises riches, or comfort, or power, if it conflicts with the Voice of Truth, if it conflicts with God's word in Scripture, then it's ultimately a voice that must be ignored and even prayed against. I have committed to considering the consequences, short- or long-term, of following the "voices" that try to influence me. And I am learning Bible verses and stories that tell the truth about what a person of God can be & do when he or she is sold out to the voice of Christ. May I--may we--become such people.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Repost: Are You a Nincompoop

Read for a good understanding of being Much More in Christ (warning: living for Christ might be dangerous to your popularity in the world system)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Who cleans the messes we make?

I'm not "green" to the degree that many environmentalists are. But I cringe when people blatantly throw garbage on the ground. I (and I'm sure most of us) am thankful that other people--people who didn't create the litter--take the time and effort to clean it up. Where I work, I see pieces of garbage strewn about here & there, but before long it's gone. I wonder if the litterers are aware of that? Or do they just think that their trash magically disappears? What would they think if their litter was never cleaned up, & soon started piling up around them?

Jesus Christ is the ultimate version of one who cleans messes He didn't make. He that never sinned took our sin upon himself, so we wouldn't have to suffer all its wretched consequences (2 Corinthians 5:21). So, in a world where sin abounds, where--like litter--its stench could overwhelm us, I'm so thankful for His cleansing blood.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blog in flux

I've been toying with my blog, seeing how some different add-ons look (scroll down to see). Let me know what you think. I'll surely be doing some more tweaking in the coming days.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yesterday, my wife heard a song while we were watching a movie, & she tried for the longest time to remember where she had heard it before. It was bedtime, & to be blunt we weren't going to be able to go to sleep until she knew what song it was. Thankfully, the all-omniscient Search Engine helped us find the answer. (To be fair to her, I recently learned the name of a song that had been popping in & out of my head for years, but couldn't remember enough about it to look it up until just a few weeks ago).

It made me consider that while it's a relief to have somewhere to turn for answers to those nagging trivialities that stay in our minds, it's even a greater comfort to know that the Bible holds answers to so many challenges that hound us from day to day. I'm trying to memorize key Bible verses & passages that can help me face those challenges as they arise so I don't have to rack my brain for the solution when it's staring me in the face. Just like the computer helped give my wife & I the rest we needed, having God's word in mind can provide peace of mind from such potential fears as terrorist attacks, hurricanes, or yes, even the dreaded social media updates that could one day be the destruction of us all (that's a joke---sort of).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Circling back to God

While I was at an Oktoberfest festival with my wife and her sister and brother-in-law, I observed a young girl of about two wandering around. She'd do some exploring, but never too far from her parents, who she'd soon return to. She'd once again wander away--just a few feet or so--and then circle back.

It made me think of how we so often are with God. We want our independence. We want to explore, even to step away from Him (as if that were possible). But we also want Him to be there for us when we circle back, when we get scared of what's out there or when we need His presence to remind us He's watching over us. Psalm 139:7-8 remind us we can't go anywhere that God is not. And just like that little girl--and like my wife's 20 year old son (both of whom are still the children of their parents)--as much as we enjoy our independence, knowing we have a safe place to return to is ultimately comforting.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Practicing Christianity

[From questions asked of C. S. Lewis on April 18, 1944]

"Question: Will you please say how you would define a practising Christian? Are there any other varieties?"

"A perfect practice of Christianity would, of course, consist in a perfect imitation of the life of Christ I mean, in so far as it was applicable in one’s own particular circumstances.  ...  It means that every single act and feeling, every experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, must be referred to God. It means looking at everything as something that comes from Him, and always looking to Him and asking His will first, and saying: ‘How would He wish me to deal with this?’"

Perfect Christianity cannot be practiced in the sense that we read the Bible & parrot the words & actions therein. Yes, it does involve seeking God's will; but more than that, we need His power in us to fulfill what is expected of us. We'll never practice it perfectly, because our self-centeredness will cause us at times to not surrender to His presence in us. It's only the true practice of Christianity when He is working through us. I know sometimes I'll do the right things & say the right words, but is it Christ in me or just my fleshly actions. Jesus criticized those whose external actions were in conflict with their hearts. Joy and peace should be in our hearts when we act in tandem with His presence in us.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A (new) new life

I scribbled the following probably several months ago (I'm not really sure). I've been a Christian for years, but I wrote this in a time of realizing there's so much more to the Christian life than what I had been living. This is the Christian life that can be, for me and for all believers:

"So begins my new, identified-with Christ, life, to be found in Him, crucified in Him, risen in Him, exemplifying and "channeling" (as it were) Him. He is my all. I call upon Him, who is indeed within me, whose very presence abides in me; I abide in Him when I allow myself to be aware of and savor His presence. I don't pray for God to grant me victory, as much as I pray that I'll realize it's already my birthright for being His child. I am a member of His body, inseparable, alive, having firsthand access to His joy, power, love, etc. It's abnormal for me to ever be unlike Him, just as it's abnormal for my left hand to be rich and my right hand to be poor (as Hudson Taylor wrote).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Watch for those verbs

Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
 May we remember the intensity of those verbs when we have such choices to make. It seems at times Christians can have a ho-hum attitude at times when it comes to pursuing God and godly things, or fleeing those things He doesn't approve of. May His presence saturate our lives so that when we look at the world through His eyes, we'll see the good and the evil with the same joy and disgust as He does. And may we be SO thankful that when God looks at His children, He sees joy because of Christ in us, and not the abhorrent people we are outside of Jesus' blood.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Me first!

Recently the bus I was on arrived at its destination, so I got up and walked toward the door to get off. Though that took no more than a few seconds, the moment the bus driver opened the door the people waiting to get on immediately started entering. Now my understanding is that if people are in an enclosed space like a bus or elevator, they should be allowed to exit before others enter. But maybe things have changed (at least here)? Where I live, I too often see cars on the highway not letting traffic merge from on-ramps, people not holding doors when somebody's two feet behind them, not saying thank you for a kind deed granted to them, and so on.

I've heard the 1970s was called the "Me Decade," but for certain people or cultures, it's "me first" in any era. For several years, the US Army's slogan was "An Army of One." I never liked that slogan, because it seemed to imply that the individual is more important than the team (whether that was the intention, I can't say; I'm only giving my impression). I can't imagine any wise military leader believing that.

I've certainly been guilty of thinking "me first." But as much short-term satisfaction that might give, when I've deferred to others rather than getting my own way, when I've done something for somebody without expecting something in return--I am far more satisfied. My wife is the ultimate "giver" as far as I'm concerned. While she, like I, enjoys being pampered at times, she will not hesitate to bless me in some way by giving of herself sacrificially. Her generosity has helped me see what a blessing it can be to think of others first.

I'm trying to follow through with that mindset more & more by not having a quid pro quo requirement when it comes to reading or commenting on others' blogs, tweets, etc. If I like what I'm reading, that's all that matters. I'm trying not to be upset when somebody doesn't read or post something on my blog. But I am human. Maybe hanging around people like my wife (& Christ) will help me get my priorities straight.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My *can't* helps my *can*

My wife's sister and brother-in-law celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary yesterday, and my wife and I offered to hold a surprise party at our home. Lots of guests were coming, so we wanted everything to look nice. The house was a flurry of activity as my wife, her nephew's wife, her nephew's wife's mom, her friend, and her son (and others; not sure who else) were talking amongst themselves and putting decorations here and there. Me? I stood, like a deer in the headlights, clueless as to what help to give. Decorating for such events is, for me, a can't. Well, maybe it's a shouldn't, because I would not create a very pleasant atmosphere if I was put in charge.

I helped--when I was told where to put something, or to clean this or that. But that was the extent of my participation. And then my wife suggested I take pictures. I'm no pro at that by any means, but I think the pictures (and a couple videos) came out fairly nice. Compared to the can't of decorating, picture-taking for me was a sort-of can.

I don't spend the bulk of my time taking pictures. I enjoy it when I'm doing it, but it's not my thing. I believe there are a handful of things I really like doing, and do quite well. I'm not going to keep wishing I could do other things. God has given me different giftings and talents, and I should never assume mine are any more or less important than the next person's, nor should I envy what others can do. In fact, I should always seek to do what's necessary to excel in my cans, while praising and marveling about the abilities of those who can do my can'ts.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why me for this mission?

It's coming up on 8 months since started this blog. However, my mission, upon which this blog is based, has been on my heart for several years. How am I doing with it? Well, like a nagging itch, it hasn't let me go, but I've really only scratched it enough to stop it from bothering me, rather than going at it full force. Does that sound wrong? It is reality. Jonah wasn't a willing participant to God's plan to have him preach against the wicked city of Nineveh, but God wouldn't let him not do it. I'm getting the feeling that despite my belief that there are others far more suited for this mission (and maybe He does have others working in tandem with me), God has given me the responsibility to carry this forth. I have to believe He is with me on this, because on my own I'm in no way ready or able. Please pray that I'll be a willing servant of His, & that I'll find all the ability I need for this calling in Him.

Monday, August 8, 2011

God's name remembered with praise or disdain?

Ps. 45:17 "I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
   therefore nations will praise you forever and ever."

Do I present God in my life in such a way that those around me will remember Him with praise, the testimony of my witness reverberating so mightily that subsequent generations will praise Him as well?

God is known intellectually by many through the words of the Bible. He is perceived, perhaps even more strongly, through the lives of Christians. Yes, the word of God is "living and active" (Heb. 4:12), but how many people don't read the Bible, & depend on the daily walk of professed Christ-followers for their assessment of God and Christianity? The "piercing" of God's word into the hearts and souls of people is no doubt enhanced or hindered by how people view our lives--my life...lives which will help create a lasting testimony to those watching us, for good or bad. That God grants us the ability to have some impact on how much He is honored or disdained is both wonderful and frightening. I pray that when my life is over, I'll have brought great honor to His name in the hearts of people for years to come.

Monday, August 1, 2011

One-way kindnesses

There's a man I come across several days per week, a man who if you knew the situation in which we meet you might agree why I think he should be especially friendly. I won't reveal that situation, to protect his privacy. I know others in similar situations who always say hello to me, and in some cases we even have rather lengthy conversations.

Not with this man. Not one word from him. I say "hello": Nothing. I say "good day, sir." Not even a look. What would you do. What would Jesus do? I, for sure, wasn't like Jesus at first. After being (what I saw as) dissed the first few times, I stopped saying anything. Then, gradually, I started saying "hi" and "bye" again, but extra loud--to show I'm the better man. (I sometimes have, in a similar mode, said "you're welcome" when somebody doesn't thank me for a kind deed.) And as I walked away, I'd mumble/curse under my breath about "what a jerk, who does he think he is?"...

As I thought about my blog, and the idea of godly excellence (ADMIRABLE), and something I read recently about standing out from the crowd, I told myself the next time he doesn't respond in kind, it won't stop me from greeting him in the future. And with God's help, I'll always do it with love & sincerity.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Magnificent in the Mundane

Adequate. Who wants to follow, write about, vote for...somebody whose day is filled with merely adequate responsibilities? Who wants to be known for doing merely adequate work? Yet the mundane surrounds most of us. We take out the garbage and clean our houses, and maybe our daily jobs are nothing to stir envy in others. The President of the United States gets a lot of press. Who cares about a janitor in some obscure office park? Movie star, or mall security guard?

Let's get it straight. Where the glory lies is not ultimately in the job or responsibility, but in the person with that job or responsibility. We've all known U.S. Presidents who were largely forgettable (no matter how many times we try to recite their names from Washington to Obama, some keep slipping our minds), while that janitor we see as we walk to our office is always smiling, saying hello, & following up with us about something we apparently said but don't even remember saying. Regardless of how many people know us, versus how many know the President, if we do our jobs with excellence and joy, if we show love and concern to all we meet, if we sweep our floors or take out our garbage with gratitude for what we have--we can be magnificent in those moments.

Most of us are more like that poor widow who put a meager amount of money into the church till than like the rich people who offer their vast sums. If we give of ourselves with the same heart that she did, God will honor that far more than He'll honor the rich man or the powerful woman whose focus is mainly on themselves. For all time, God has lifted this widow up to a place of high honor. He didn't give the same honor to those who gave far more. Likewise, He'll bestow greater honor on me or you for doing our "lowly" jobs with excellence & a loving heart than He will to a CEO who gives little out of all he has been given.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This blog is about...

... what (I believe) should be and shouldn't be, and what is and isn't--especially the extremes of good and evil around us. It's about choices: choices to excel, to meander along, or go with gusto down the path of destruction. It's about God, Satan, angels, demons, and humanity--all those forces involved in making life & eternity great or terrible (depending on where we decide to put our hats). Each day we choose to go down one of these roads. This is where my dilemma lies in coming up with a final title for this site.

I look back on my life and I consider where I have come to in who I am and what I do, in the impact I've made, and how much I've burned energy in love and joy and God-serving. Is there a divergence in this blog's mission and my current pursuits? Regardless, that mission--as much as I desire the easy path--won't leave me. I won't be at peace until I excel at following it wholeheartedly, & encourage others to do likewise

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Updated my blog's name (final? maybe)

(From my updated blog description):
"Ok, I decided to 'jazz up' my blog's name a bit. I think I like this update. What do you think? I wanted to still keep the idea of God being the one who pulls us up toward greater heights, & the stretching comes from Him pulling us from the challenges we face each day in the world (both those the world puts upon us, & those we bring upon ourselves). More to come. It is (as I am) definitely a work in progress."

(As is so typical with me, I can't say I'm fully satisfied with the new name. After all, instead of "stretched" I keep thinking there might be better verbs. And "stratosphere"? Should I use "summit," or perhaps "spectacular"? Well, I guess I could vacillate on & on. Anyway, if this new title hits you & in a particularly good or bad way, please let me know. I do know that my "Much More or Much Less?" seemed a bit flat.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Michael Harrison's e-devotion: a different way to spend July 4th

Michael Harrison's e-devotion: a different way to spend July 4th: "James 5:16 NLT Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a ri..."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Now THAT'S cool

My wife and I were driving, and we heard squealing tires behind us. No sooner had we looked than we saw a convertible sports car speeding past us. Not long after that, we saw a motorcycle driver tailgating the car in front of him, itching to pass. The moment he had a few extra inches to spare, he weaved between two cars and sped down the road.

Perhaps they thought they were cool? Like having a fast car or motorcycle (or being better at sports than others, being in a position of higher authority, having more friends, etc.) makes one "better" than others who don't meet those criteria?

By the way, when we witnessed those "cool" drivers, my wife and I had just enjoyed a romantic anniversary dinner at a nice restaurant, where we sat and talked & enjoyed the atmosphere, the food, and (most of all) each other.

Now THAT's cool!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rejected? It's not your fault.

Kim & I were discussing how during our lives (and, I'm sure, in each of your lives at one point or another), it seems that people have rejected us. By "rejected," I mean that we were devalued by them as persons. Of course, it's always hard to know a person's motive, but when somebody you had regular dealings with just stops calling you or responding to your calls, when somebody makes fun of you for some physical or other imperfection (writer Frank Peretti has written and spoken on his personal experiences of being rejected as a child), when somebody--even in your church--doesn't include you or express any concern when you missed services----those can be signs of rejection.
My wife made a good point (she makes many, which is why she's so often mentioned in my blog). She said that nobody who is truly a person of worth would reject anybody. How true. We are each made in God's image, and every one of us has the potential for greatness in us. If somebody rejects you, reject that rejection (that's also from my wife). I know when I'm getting down on myself, it helps to read affirming Bible passages, success gurus like Zig Ziglar and Ron Jenson--and yes, to be with people who understand the true value of a person. I am worthy. So are you. Let's believe it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

People who love doing their job well

I've been away from blogging, tweeting, etc, for a few weeks because I was helping take care of my wife, Kim, after she had surgery (for carpal tunnel AND trigger thumb) on her slowly but surely weakening hand. This was a difficult time for her, from the anticipation of the days leading up to her surgery, to the actual procedure on her hand, and then through the recovery process. We both really came to realize how much the human hand is so much a part of daily life, and how challenging it is to do so many things when it's incapacitated.

Along the way, we've met people who assessed her hand's condition for proper treatment, operated on her hand, looked at her hand in follow-up visits, and guided her through physical therapy on her hand--people that show they really care, not only for her as a patient, but also for the job they do. They were thoroughly engaged with her situation as well as with her as a person. It's like it's what they were born to do, because it flows so freely and fully from them.

Sadly, in too many other situations, we've too often been customers in situations where the people we came to for assistance were not at all engaged with us or their work. They do the minimal and seem to want to be doing something else. They don't talk much at all about what they're doing while they're doing it (unlike those who just can't stop talking about what they're doing--because it's such a part of them). We can't be sure why such a person isn't engaged in what they do, unless we ask them directly. And I doubt they'd tell us if we did. But it is a pleasure to watch somebody "in their element," and better yet to partake of that through direct dealings with them.

One of my passions is writing. It's constantly on my mind, and when I'm "in the zone," words just flow. Kim is the consummate teacher of small children. She loves them dearly, and they are drawn to her because of that. Kim and I would go through withdrawal if we couldn't engage in our vocational/avocational passions for long (in fact, since my wife hasn't been able to work in a couple weeks, she really misses being with her "babies," and they can't wait to see her again).

I pray that each person reading this will assess their jobs and their lives, and then find a way to be and do what God created you for. If there's a mismatch between where you are and where you should be, I pray He gives you the wisdom and favor to help you get there so you can be as much of a joy to those you serve as they are to you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: What I'll Never Really Know

As a writer, I do my best to express things in such a way that will bring the reader in to my words. So today, I wanted you to share what Memorial Day means from the perspective of the battlefield and beyond. I wanted to get your pride for our military hyped up by the courage of men and women fighting for their fellow warriors and for our nation's survival. I wanted you to feel anxiety by feeling the hot breath of an enemy at close quarters, or the terror of watching bombs and missiles killing soldiers on either side (and who knows where the next one might fall). I wanted you to share the closeness of deeply-knit friendships sewn together by the common experience of battle, where each person on the battlefield relies on the person next to them for their very life; or the tremendous grief resulting from the loss of such friends. I wanted you to thrill in the joy of going home and finally being reunited with loved ones, weep in the heartbreak of knowing there are families who will never share that elation, and shudder at persistent nightmares that linger for years on end. I wanted you to clench your fists in anger at being called a murderer for attacking an enemy that uses human shields, while they purposely target innocents on our side. I wanted you to understand how it feels to wrestle between guilt and exoneration in such instances, or from when a split second battle decision was required that resulted in a terrible consequence.

I wanted you to know what it's like to realize life can never be as it was before, even though there are so many expressions of appreciation for services rendered.

I wanted you to know these things so you can fall on your knees in gratitude for what this nation's military personnel have done to help secure your freedoms and give you the hope of a better tomorrow.

Truth is, I can never know (and therefore, never accurately convey) those feelings, because I never experienced battle while I was in the Navy. The closest I ever came was when our ship went to General Quarters while we were at sea during the Cold War. The friendships I developed? We'd work a long day, then go out to have some drinks and possibly pick up some women, and then return to the relative safety and comfort of our ship. While boot camp trained us to lose ourselves for the good of our shipmates and the ultimate good of our nation, we were never put into a situation that required us to put our lives on the line for each other. So I was able to make room for selfishness, a luxury no person on the battlefield could ever afford. I griped when reveille went off too early after a long night of partying. I griped when a large shipment of supplies came in that we'd have to "hump" to their respective storerooms. And I griped when our Senior Chief or PO1 got on our cases because we said "wall" instead of "bulkhead." Nightmares? I was "troubled" by dreams years after leaving the military that involved me waking up and I'm seeing myself back in my bunk at boot camp. But then I'd look around and realize where I really was.

So in light of my actual military experience, maybe I should take back some of what I "want" you to know and feel, especially the more troubling experiences. Because while I don't ever want the battle experiences of our past and present warriors to be made light of, and I want us each to be ever so much more grateful for their courage and selflessness, the fact that they themselves so often refuse to share the more painful memories of their moments in battle makes me realize (second-hand, of course) there are some horrors and griefs too terrible to ever bring up again. I do hope you can read about or even talk to a veteran of battle that can give you their perspective on things. And please, if you do meet one of them, give them the greatest thanks you possibly can.

As for me, I thank each one of you that has fought so that our nation can have the hope of being the greatest in the world. I pray that God and people he uses will be able to help relieve some of the emotional and physical trauma you continue to experience. And for those families who have experienced the sadness of a person lost or injured or missing or traumatized by battle, may God grant you the hope and peace you so richly deserve. We are deeply in your debt.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thank yous & good jobs (yes, it's really from me!)

Being on customer service calls throughout the day, I know how dragging it can be to answer negative call after negative call. I keep telling myself I wish more people would call in to say that everything went well in their situation, and thank us for doing such a good job. But then I remember that I don't reach out enough myself in that way. So as a precursor for doing so in reality:

Bloggers and tweeters, so many of you have such good things to say. Alas, I've for too long been focused on trying to get you to read my blog, rather than really looking at the gems within yours. I'm trying to do better at reading & commenting on & even reposting some of what you write. I'm sure most of you have much more to say, and in a better way, than I do.

Creditors, I know I'm quick to contact you whenever there's a problem. But most often, everything goes smoothly. Of course when it comes to sending money to pay bills, I'm already leaning toward the negative. But much more often than not, you do a good job. So thank  you for keeping my power going, fixing lines that go down in storms, keeping the TV going, etc, etc.

God, I know I complain about what we are lacking. But we have a roof over our heads. We have jobs. Kim & I have each other, and our loved ones near & far. Each day I can wake up, walk on my 2 fairly healthy legs, move along with my strained (but functioning) back. And view your beautiful creation. Thank you. And great job.

That's just a glimpse of what I hope to make the norm in my future. Saying thank you and good job more often, rather than the all-too typical saying nothing until there's a problem.

Friday, May 20, 2011

End of the world or not, be ready

Good reminder from Dennis at Joy in the Journey to be ready for the end of the world, whether it comes tomorrow or 50 years from now. Click the title of this posting to read what he has to say.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What mothers treasure in their children

(OK, I was unable to get this done for Mother's Day, but I hope it will still be a blessing to all you mothers out there.)

On two occasions, Mary the mother of Jesus "treasured" things in her heart: The first time was when the shepherds came to visit the newborn Christ (Luke 2:15-19), the second when the boy Jesus left their caravan because "I must be in my Father's house" (Luke 2:43-51).

Being the mother of the world's Savior must have been incredible for a girl widely believed to have been in her teens. Yet even when she asked the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34), her questions wasn't filled with the doubt of Zechariah, John the Baptist's father (Luke 1:18-20).

I think Mary had some idea of her Son's awesomeness when she was inspired to recite her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), but as He grew, and He began to fulfill the many prophesies made about Him, the reality of Him fully reaching His destiny became more real to her.

As God-fearing mothers see their children growing, maybe those moms will hear from God about how special their child will become in a particular way, and witness those certain skills and personality traits gradually come forth--signs of what will be. These mothers should treasure those moments, both of the first signs of the fledgling writer or teacher or chef (or whatever), and of the development and perhaps eventual mastery.

My wife thinks the world of her son (who is now in college for culinary arts). She is a huge fan of his, and believes in great things for him. For many years she has treasured him in her heart for who he is, and for who he can become. I pray the same for all moms. And I pray that if God shows them a future for their children that's amazing, those mom's will have a believing faith similar to Mary--and then watch their children blossom mightily.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden amid the greater evil

An evil man has died, but evil is as alive as ever. No doubt there are billions celebrating Osama bin Laden's death, and I join them. I pray that at the very least this has greatly reduced the capability of those who would wish the death of innocents. I honor the bravery and skill of all who fight against those enemies of what is good and right, and all who helped bring about bin Laden's demise. They deserve the highest of honors and our humble gratitude. 

I'd like to be able to say that because of this, maybe the end of this horrible scourge is in sight. But nobody really believes that. The devil has his grasp on too many others. His very purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He prowls the earth seeking to devour his prey--you and me (1 Peter 5:8). Osama bin Laden was just one of his many pawns.

That said, I in no way intend to diminish the importance of this great success. But may it not lessen our resolve to hope for the victory of good over evil, a victory which can only come about when lives are surrendered to the One who hold the key to victory over the devil--Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Disabled man attacked on bus

Click on title to see the video. Short commercial appears first. This is a despicable man who attacked this poor guy who has autism.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Michael Harrison's e-devotion: have a great GOOD FRIDAY

Michael Harrison's e-devotion: have a great GOOD FRIDAY: "Why is it called Good Friday anyway? The day is NOT just another day. It depicts the death of the most incredible person that ever lived, ..."

Helplessly mighty

Earlier this week, my back went out on me. I was unable to do much of anything for a good part of the week, and my wife took up much of the burden. Being a man who believes that men should do their fair share of work in & out of the home, I felt bad watching her work so hard while I was laid up in bed. But maybe it's appropriate that I was quite helpless during this special time of year. After all, Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead so a helpless sinner like me could have my sin purged by His blood, and then I could be raised spiritually to live vibrantly in Him. As the apostle Paul said, "I am content with weaknesses.... For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV).

It's because of my time of physical weakness that I got to see my wife's love and dedication to me and to our home shine through ever brighter. And it's because of Jesus that my spiritual weakness has been more than compensated for. May I always surrender to Him moment by moment so that in my helplessness I can be truly mighty.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do my best, give God the rest

My wife recently told me that she's freeing herself from stress by not worrying about what she can't do, or what she doesn't know. I've burdened myself many times, putting myself down for not knowing something about my job, or not having a particular skill level in a certain field. But what good is it? The question should be, am I growing to the best of my abilities? If I'm trying my best to learn about my job, then if there are certain things I haven't mastered, I just need to keep learning until I do. While I shouldn't slack in my personal or professional growth, it's only going to come so fast. I can't compare myself to others, but rather only to what I should be at any given time. To fill in the gaps, I need to seek help from others, & ultimately leave it up to God. Thanks, honey, for reminding me of this.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I won't be amused, until I've mused

I was listening to a talk show on the radio recently, and during the discussion one of the speakers mentioned that the word "amuse" can be broken into two parts: "a" and "muse." "Muse" means to think. "A" in front of a word often means "not" (such as atypical, which means not the norm). So "amuse" literally means to not think. And isn't that true of so much entertainment we consume these days? We long to escape from the world, and often "mindless" entertainment is our answer.

That might be fine at times; in fact, so often doing so helps us refresh. But we should always be careful to consider whatever enters our minds whenever we read books and magazines, watch TV and movies, and so on. The words in those media came about through much thinking on the part of the writers--and sometimes, maybe even without their knowing, their messages subtly lead their consumers astray from what's right in God's eyes. God cares what we think about (Jeremiah 11:20), and that doesn't just mean whether we sin. In fact, rather than being passive in our thinking, we are told to dwell on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). In Philippians 3:4-11, Paul's example reminds us that even the best of minds can get it all wrong if they don't have God providing true wisdom. When we seek the highest of all things, God, we are to fully engage our minds (1 Chronicles 22:19), and our love for Him should be with our whole mind (among other things)--Matthew 22:37. Feelings alone aren't sufficient for a vital relationship with the God of the Bible.

When we think, especially when our minds are set on the things of God (Mark 8:33), we are more likely to not only not be led astray, but we'll more fully realize how we can benefit those around us, & ultimately how we can glorify God in doing so. We'll see that God wants us to be producers--to add to society, and not just to consume what is out there.

After all, consider Jesus's time on earth. He gave far more than He received. And so many of us are much better off for it. In our average day, do we think and pray about ways to give of ourselves for a better, more God-honoring society? My wife is very creative and thoughtful in her job as a daycare teacher for a large classroom of toddlers. Every day she thinks of ways to help those young minds learn and have fun. She has learned over the years, through experience, training, and most of all prayer, to work with an age group that can be difficult to manage for most of us--even if there are only a couple of those young tykes present. I marvel when she shares how she was able to make those children laugh, or join in a song, or sit with wonder as she reads them a story. Even when she hasn't planned out her work day, she can use what she has learned over the years to help make those children happy & fulfilled so they can grow up to excel in life.

May we all learn to bless others by using our God-given minds, and then after we've done so, relax and give our minds a well-deserved (but not careless) time of rest (and even some amusement).

Monday, March 28, 2011

A prayer to know God fully & rightly

Dear Lord,
You have revealed Yourself to us in so many ways because You long for us to know You and to have a meaningful relationship with You. Sadly, though, we so often seek to create an image of You in our minds that contradicts who You really are, an image that we hope will bring us pleasure and comfort (but usually it only does so temporarily). Rather, may we desire most of all to be, do, & have that which is pleasing in Your eyes and that glorifies You to the world--even if those things are not what we would desire most at the time. We pray that while we can know You in such ways as through nature, in prayer, and in other people, we would always turn to Your revealed word, the Bible, to make sure that what we read, hear, and feel lines up with the truth. And may our knowledge of you not just be intellectual, but as that knowledge grows day by day, let it help us to deepen our relationship with you. In Jesus's name. Amen.

Blog description updated

Updated it a few days ago. Hopefully it will help you better understand my purpose for writing this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"We" before "me" (but always with "He")

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...."

In writing this blog I'm, in a sense, sealing my decision to fully follow God's will as expressed in the Bible. And when it comes to those verses which demand our all, this verse is the essence of putting oneself fully out there. I must admit there are times when I grumble if my wife takes me away from "me" time. But in marriage, "me" must always come second to "we" (and Christ--the "He" in the title of this posting--must always be a part of that "we"). Not to say that married couples should stay joined at the hip every moment of every day. But "me" time should be used to help each partner grow in whom the Lord created them to be so that he or she will ultimately contribute to a better "we." Couples should pray for wisdom and be able to communicate with each other about when time alone and time together is necessary for the health of both the marriage and each person's well-being. In short, whether it's time spent together or apart, that time should always take the best interest of the Lord, the spouse, and the marriage into consideration.

I may never be called to give up my physical life for Kim. Or maybe I will. More important, though is that each moment of each day I must die to the part of me that wants to choose "me" over "we."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

1% goals: update

A while back, I wrote about 1 percent improvements (click on the title of this post to link back to that one). As is so often the case with me, I didn't actively plot a course toward those goals. But that 1% ideal hasn't left me (especially since I shudder at the idea of wholesale changes in short periods of time). So though my road to being all God created me to be is progressing slowly, it is progressing. Some improvements I've been making:
  • Read several minutes from the Bible each day.
  • Stay in contact with my stepson more often.
  • More reading blogs & tweets from others
  • Organizing my Facebook account so I can get more out of it
  • More time working on my creative writing
  • Eat better and exercise. My wife & I are eating healthier foods, and at least a few days per week we exercise. Nothing overly strenuous, but it's a start. I've been gradually cutting how much sugar I put in my daily cup of tea. We both have been using skim milk (used to be 1% milk, so there's a 1% improvement right there--ha ha). We've cut our evening ice cream down significantly. I've cut down my cappuccino from about twice per week to once per month.
Some areas I need to work on are improving my quality time with the Lord, getting deeper into the Bible, focusing more on God's mission for me & building my schedule around that more intently, and writing more to my wife. Of course that's just a start. Give me time. It might take a while, but one of these days those little improvements will make me a whole new person. So what if I'm 95 by then!  :>D

Friday, March 11, 2011

No little jobs, just little attitudes

As I rode the bus to work today, I saw college students reading textbooks or looking over class papers. Some of these students are taking a math discipline, others science, others history...and so on. I don't know these people, so only God can say for what purposes they intend to use their knowledge. Maybe one day some of them will work in seemingly innocuous jobs that they think won't make much of a difference either way, while others will boast of being in powerful positions.

I need to always remember to let God determine just how important or influential my job is. Just as He cares about our hair count, or whether a sparrow falls, so too He cares what we do regardless of how much value others place on it. The widow who gave the two small coins was barely noticed by the religious leaders. Jesus's response shows the true value of her "whispered" act, compared to the "shout" by the big givers. Likewise, whether one of these students becomes a professor at a powerful university or tutors one person, whether they write a series of bestselling books or one article in a newspaper...whether they see their work as important and influential or as worthless, it's all at God's disposal. Better to do all we do with a spirit of excellence and an attitude that says, "May the work I do and how I do it bring glory to God and blessings to others." That is ultimately the great equalizer.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What are the greater crises?

(Click title of post to see story at World Magazine).
Is it true that our financial crisis is so serious that issues like abortion and marriage should take a back seat? Or is it true that as the writer states: "A nation is fundamentally a moral community. If we do not take proper care of our children, both in and out of the womb, there may not be a country to finance that we recognize as America"?

I know in past years I allowed myself to believe that voting for a "somewhat" pro-life or pro-family candidate was better than voting for somebody who favors less restrictions on abortion, etc. Now, I have a tough time supporting the "lesser of two evils" mentality, even if that means the candidate I dislike more wins the election. More and more I'm led to believe that when God sees we are going to stand for morality, even if the short-term result seems negative, He'll bless us in the end. If we allow short term victory by supporting people whose moral values conflict with God's will as expressed in the Bible, then I believe God will question (as it were) the strength of our belief in Him and what He stands for. In other words, it might be better to vote for nobody, or for a candidate with strong morals that has little or no chance to win. Of course, I still do struggle with this, knowing that by doing so some people would claim I'm helping to seal victory for the "wrong" candidate. What do you feel about that?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The whispered shout of I Love You

This morning, my wife whispered, "I love you." I didn't hear her at first, but eventually I did. Even if I hadn't heard her...even if she never uttered those words...I'd know she loves me by how she treats me. Now don't get me wrong. Saying those three words in addition to showing love is vital in a relationship, as I'm sure any marriage counselor would attest. It's also a reminder to me that if I intend to shout my love (or any good intentions for that matter) to my wife, to God, or to whomever, may my actions always sound at least as loud as my words.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity

I heard this on the radio this morning. Just one account of the many martyrdoms suffered by Christians through the ages, even up to the current day, for standing up for the name of Christ. Click on the heading to view the accounts of the godly courage of these Christians. How dare I turn away from Christ even for a moment for some petty trial that pales in comparison.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No carbon copies of the Lord

In recent days as I rode the bus to work, I've seen my stepson John's identical twin. Well, not really. But he could be. Same build, same facial structure, same hair color, similar clothes. I almost couldn't stop looking, and I half expected him to laugh, smack me on the back, & say, "Hey, Jeff, bet you didn't know I was here."

This young man I saw on the bus probably would have laughed at me, or had pity on me, or even beaten me up (yes, my stepson is pretty big!) if I tried to talk with him and scuffle with him as though he were my stepson. With good reason. I have developed that relationship with my stepson that I haven't (and quite likely never will) with this young man.

But imagine if I got to know this young man, and imagine I didn't have a good relationship with my stepson. And, imagine I was delusional and started to think, "I think I like George (his made-up name) better than John, so from now on he's going to be my stepson." That wouldn't make George any more my stepson than he was before. (And George would probably try to have me committed!)

Psalm 86:10 (click on the title of this posting for the verse online) says, "You alone are God." We might think that we can find, or create, another god that's better than the true God. Perhaps worst of all is those people who have been enlightened as to who the true God is, but they decide to reject certain aspects of the truth of His person and character and only follow what we like. From a distance, if you don't look too closely, this god looks like the real thing. Actually, it's further from being the true God than "George" is to John.

Please don't become too familiar with any god but the true God. Because if you do, in the end, you'll feel pretty beaten up.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Repost: "Doctrinal Boot Camp"

Like Charles Colson writes, as Christians we are in the Lord's service now, and just like the Marines we don't get to tell our "drill instructor" (God) how to handle his "soldiers."

Jolted back to remembrance

***CAUTION: This has some references to the movie Unknown, starring Liam Neeson. If you haven't seen that yet and plan to do so, don't read this as it reveals some key plot elements. For the rest of you, I rehash key points in the story line to refresh your memory and to set up the ultimate purpose of what I'm writing.***

In this movie, Liam Neeson stars as Martin Harris, a man on vacation with his wife in Berlin. At the hotel, he realizes one of their bags is missing, so he takes a cab back to find it. The cab crashes through a guard rail and into a body of water. Martin ends up in a coma for a few days. As soon as he's able he frantically tries to find his wife, as he's quite obviously concerned about her. But soon his identity is questioned. He keeps telling his doubters he's Martin Harris, on vacation in Berlin with his wife. When he finally finds his wife, even she says she doesn't know him. Then, it gets worse as people threaten his life. He manages to narrowly escape with the help of the woman who was driving the cab that crashed, and who had rescued him from the accident. He is then kidnapped by somebody whom he remembers as a colleague, but who is actually the man who helped train him to be a professional assassin, along with a female accomplice (his "wife"). The real reason they are in Berlin is because they are on a mission to kill somebody.

It seems the injury from the cab accident led him to be confused about who he really was, and because he was seen as a detriment to the mission, he needed to be killed. Just in time, he remembers his skills as an assassin and manages to kill another trained assassin who was trying to kill him (and who took his place as the pretend husband when Martin forgot his true identity).

In many ways, some (perhaps a lot) of Christians are like Martin Harris. Most of us, at some point or another after we accept Christ into our lives, will falter. We start off full of joy and hope and love and reverence for God, but something pushes us over the edge (whether a big jolt or a series of smaller ones), and we start believing we are what certain people tell us we are, rather than what God has made us for. (Of course, the analogy breaks down in that Liam Neeson's character excelled at being an assassin, while we have the potential for abounding excellence in Christ). We need to be reminded regularly of our true identity.

After watching the movie, my wife and I discussed whether we as viewers, and whether Liam Neeson's character, could have known before the big "reveal" who he really was. We remembered that there were several small hints along the way that, if one really paid attention, would show that the movie's ending made sense. Likewise, though some of us believers in Christ might have strayed from God and forgotten who we really are in Him, there are several "hints" that, if we pay attention, we'll remember our true identity. Those hints can be found in such things as the Bible, in viewing the awe and beauty of the world and universe around us, in knowing about people whose lives have been saturated with Christ, and in our own quiet times with the Lord. May we whom Christ calls His own remember who we really are before our chance to impact the world for His glory and mankind's benefit is forever gone.

Big troubles start small

A small leak will sink a great ship. A small spark will kindle a great fire. A little allowed sin will ruin an immortal soul. - JC Ryle

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Abhor/hold fast

Romans 12:9 tells us we need to abhor evil. That's a pretty strong word. So often, my level of abhorrence depends on how much something offends me personally. Pretty much the same later on in the verse, in the opposite sense, for how much I hold fast to what I consider to be good.

Wait, now. Who determines what's good and what's evil? It's easy to say from the standpoint of the Bible that God determines what is good and what is evil, but I know there are times when I want to like things God doesn't like, and vice-versa. Also, can't I sort of like, or sort of hate, certain things, and really like/really abhor others? This verse doesn't seem to break it down like that. "Abhor... hold fast...." Seems pretty clear cut; no shades of meaning there.

Abhor, hold fast. Those terms are pretty intense. More than just agreeing mentally with what God says about good and evil. Some real passion is required. Psalm 97:10 tells those who love the Lord to hate evil. I think that's the key. And the more we love the Lord and walk with Him, the more we'll abhor or hold fast to the things he considers to be evil or good. And, the opposite is likely also true: The more we hate or distance ourselves from God, the more we'll love what He hates & hate what He loves.

I long to be on the "same page" as God when it comes to what pleases or upsets Him, since doing will bring honor to Him and true peace to me (and, ultimately, to those around me). I'm working on spending more time seeking His heart in prayer and learning His word so I'll know better how to walk in step with Him. I pray each of you can draw closer to Him day by day as well so that peace will also be yours.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Proclaim God's Glory

Steve Green's worshipful & powerful performance of "Proclaim the Glory of the Lord." I came across this song quite a few years back, and it remains one of those special ones to me. May it bless and encourage each of us to proclaim His glory.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I am a ...., just because it's what I love to do

Recently, my wife and I were watching the "Local Kids' TV" episode of the PBS series, Pioneers of Television. As we viewed the Romper Room segment, her eyes started to tear up. She explained that over her several years of teaching in day care, many of the phrases and methods she had seen on children's television have become a part of her teaching style. She loves working with children, and it shows in her passion when she talks about it.

I, too, love what I do (though in my case, it's my avocation). I'm a writer. Not a paid writer. The word "writer" isn't in my official title. In fact, I've only had a few (minor) pieces published. But I'm no less a writer than my wife is a teacher. She's probably much better at what she does, but more and more, the writing bug has invaded my system, so I can't describe myself without using the term "writer." Whenever I watch something on TV, or see something around me, or have a conversation, my mind is asking, "How can use that to write something that will both entertain and bless others?" Many nights in recent weeks I've lain awake thinking of something to write, or how to improve something I'm already writing.

If your title (or titles; after all, we also have our job titles, relationship titles--mom, dad, husband, wife, etc.) were only based upon what really thrills you, drives you, and gives you that warm fuzzy feeling, and not just based upon official titles, what would you call yourself? Does that line up with what God says about you (you'll know how much so depending on whether you have peace in your heart)? Perhaps once we truly believe we are such and such because it's deeply ingrained in our being, and not just because it's our official title, others will think of us in those terms as well.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

All cultures are NOT equally valid

Fourteen-year-old rape victim from Bangladesh accused of adultery under Shariah law (she was also flogged severely). Of course, you can only guess how much value her testimony held under that system. May she receive the justice she didn't get in life.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's the end that matters

(Slightly updated since I posted it recently).
Several months back, my wife, my stepson, and I went to the Holocaust Museum in Dallas. The contrast between the Nazis and their victims inspired these thoughts, which I am only now putting into print. I write this as a metaphor in part: I don't mean to imply that this is a complete picture of both sides, but I hope it helps to show the disparity between good and evil.

He looks so attractive, this Hitler youth. Blond hair, shiny and rich; rosy Eastern European features. Well- fitting clothes cover a body toned by many hours of exercise. The Nazi leadership has put a lot of work into grooming this young man as part of what they intend to become a super race. They make sure he marries the epitome of Aryan female beauty, so their offspring will continue the line. He is joining with them as their hope of Germany's future--the world's future. He will help them in their quest to attain ever more land, power, riches. After all, he's been told through various media that they deserve it, and so he does whatever's necessary to help them take it from those people they consider to be less than human. Along the way he is highly honored by his peers for helping find hiding places of Jews, and in the process punching, kicking, and even shooting them before turning them over to be taken to camps for work, for oppression, for death. Later, he'll work in one of those camps, choosing who is productive or non-productive, and the latter of the still surviving are sent to die. Those remaining are permitted to live as long as they are able to help the Nazi cause. He joins in the drunken reverie as the pro-Nazis band together toward the goal of "freeing" the world of these "animals." In the end, the dynasty-to-be falls, and he is held in perpetual shame by people of honor.

She looks so decrepit. Her hair (if it hasn't fallen out due to illness or malnutrition) is infested with lice. Sores and dirt, sunken cheeks & sallow skin mask her once attractive & happy Polish face. She wears a moth-eaten, foul-smelling outfit (if one can call it that), which hangs loosely from skin-covered bones. The Nazis have put a lot of work into destroying her people. After all, in Hitler's estimation she has been partly responsible for taking away from Germany's destiny. But despite the oppression, she can't give enough of herself to help her beloved fellow Jews. If she can put another family into her already crowded home (which might only be a single room), she does it. If she can spare a piece of bread or comfort the sick, she gives whatever she can to lighten the load. She risks her life helping transport Jews and others under Hitler's thumb to safety. She loves and values each person, regardless of their race or religion. Her courageous actions, taken so that others might be saved, bring her honor by her peers and by God. She would never betray one of her brethren. She weeps bitterly as the Nazis split her family apart, creating heartbreak that parallels even the worst of tortures. Many of them she'll never see again. In the end, the Jewish race lives on, bruised and battered but highly honored by those who admire their selflessness and their love.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Keep it going

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~ C. S. Lewis (retweet from )

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Selective excellence

"Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him [Jesus] to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem..." (Luke 9:51).

I like to do things with excellence. Well, let me rephrase that. Too often, the only things I like to do with excellence are those things that I like to do at all. In other words, if I'm not into it, I sometimes gripe or pout if it needs to be done.

Take yesterday, for example. My wife & I were cleaning. Not that either of us jumps out of bed on cleaning day and runs to grab a sponge or a broom. But today showed me how she pursues excellence in the things that are important, not just the things she wants to do. She had a task that, frankly, if it were me I would have put it off. But she was intent on completing it. Now we had been cleaning for a while, and I decided I had done enough. After all, I worked hard our previous cleaning day (well, so did she--but that's besides the point...). So though I didn't say anything, I stewed in my selfish anger quietly because I felt I couldn't stop working when she was still at it.

So God had to hit me upside the head with the importance of doing excellent work at all times, regardless if I want to do so. Jesus was going to Jerusalem to finish the work He had started. He knew very well that included being mocked, beaten, and hung on a cross. Luke 9:51 says he "steadfastly set His face" to go there. He was determined. We know in Gethsemane that due to the horrors he was to face, He would have wanted another way to do His Father's will if it were possible. But doing what He needed to do with excellence and honor was His first priority.

I thought of that verse, and I said to myself, "How dare I slack off with this. It's so small compared to the much more vital and sacrificial situation that Jesus approached with such resolve." And as I continued to work, I completed more than I had originally intended. Today, I feel good about what I did, and I pray that I may learn to pursue even greater things to come, not just because I want to, but because they will honor God and others.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Withdrawal--to a better place?

OK, I'm trying to reduce my caffeine intake, for what it's worth. I know there's an addiction, because if I go without for any more than a couple days, I get an annoying headache and my stomach gets all twisted up. Give me a caffeine-laden soda & I'm good to go. Until the next time.

I don't drink several cans a day. Usually one, maybe two here and there. But it's enough to make my body crave more if I go too long without.

OK, so it's not like an addiction to alcohol, or meth. But I keep wondering if my sometimes foggy mind could be clearer without so much caffeine entering my system. So I'm giving it a try. Part of my plan to make small improvements. We'll see how it goes. I want to be at my best, and if that means some temporary discomfort to get there, I'll give it a go. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Good News website

Tired of all the negative news? Maybe this will lift your spirits. I found it on an Internet search.

A picture of what it means to stand strong

Mexican mayor attacked by gangs shows her scars, and helps show us what it means to stand strong against evil. God bless her, and may she inspire others to not give up the good fight.

Vicious Attack On Wendy's Worker in Queens

Vicious Attack On Wendy's Worker in Queens

This is what happens when an employee at Wendy's tries to calm down a fight at the restaurant. Please pray that the woman who was attacked will get better, and that those who attacked her don't get away with it.

Jackets, posture, and God

I wore a sport coat with my outfit to church recently. I told my wife I didn't like how it looked on me. She suggested I stand up straighter. When I did, the jacket looked fine.

She's told me that before when I've asked her. Problem is, I too often forget to stand up straighter, and so I forget why my jacket doesn't fit right. Is it the trials of the day weighing me down? Do I focus too much on the negative? No surprise these days, where negative news and gossip abounds.

One reason I started this blog was to remind me, and others, about all the great things about Christ, and us in Him (much more), and to warn about all the terrible things in opposition to Christ (much less). Our natural bent is so often to focus on the "much less," and thus we get weighed down (and our jackets look funny). I tend to do that. So I need to remind myself of such verses as, "I can do all things through him [Christ] who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13, ESV). "If God is for us, who can be against us" (Romans 8:31, ESV). And, " your [God's] presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11, ESV).

There are a multitude of those "much more" verses in the Bible. I will do my best to address many of them in future posts. Maybe if I (and you) heed those in our lives, we'll have a little more bounce in our steps, a smile on our faces...and our jackets will even fit a little better.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I can't see it, but I still have hope

2 Corinthians 5:7--"For we walk by faith, not by sight."
To be honest, times have been challenging lately. The money isn't there like it should be; work can be stressful at times. In short, what we had expected since moving to Texas has not panned out. There are moments where I just want to run away from it all. But deep down, I know God is good. I know He doesn't always give us what we want, but He does give us what we need. And sometimes, I guess what we need is to do without so we can come closer to Him. I am certainly blessed to be married to such a wonderful woman, and there have been many times where, when things all seemed to be against us, we turned to the Lord and to each other as the only seeming places of refuge. I pray that when things do get better in our daily lives, I will still treasure time with God, my wife, and other dear relationships as the most wonderful of blessings.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Overflowing in God-ordained purpose

I like this tweet from TGIF (The Glass is Full): "When you discover your purpose in life, your glass will be full & overflowing! Take the time to discern your purpose & live fully into it!"

How true, I believe. When we live what God has given us to be & do, He'll go all in with us.How can we expect to overflow otherwise?

How would your church handle this?

Quite telling article about a woman who, when she was in favor of abortion, did not receive the most loving or
helpful reception in the churches she attended. I hope that your church would be more loving, even if you didn't accept her into membership (which I can certainly understand).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My recent time of abiding in Christ

While I recently wrote about the importance of abiding in Christ so that we may be of significant worth to God's kingdom, I must admit, however, that for an ADD-ish mindset like mine, stopping my mind from racing for any reason other than sleep isn't the norm. But maybe because I had just posted about abiding on my blog, I decided it's time to give it a whirl. So as I lay in bed early this morning, unable to sleep, I pictured myself in Jesus's arms, resting my head on His breast. I thought about His great joy, and the peace He offers. I thought about how He loves us so much that He wishes we would abide with Him more often. I think He was pleased at how I spent those few moments. I didn't get back to sleep, but I was refreshed in knowing I made a deeper connection with my Lord. I pray this will be a more frequent occurrence, both in my life and in yours.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Technorati verification


Abide or fail

John 15:5 states it quite clearly: Either abide in Christ & bear much spiritual fruit, or go our own way & fail miserably ("apart from me [Jesus] you can do nothing"). I know this is not popular to read, especially in light of the many atheists, agnostics, and other-than-Christ followers who are doing pretty well in life AND who are generally nice people.

It's no wonder that Christ (that is, the Christ of the Bible, not the Christ many have created according to their own preferences) is anathema to many who dictate their own terms of success, who consider those who follow Him as cripples relying on a crutch. People like me have discovered we are crippled in the sense that even if we can succeed in the temporal things of this world, such is not true success in God's eyes if we do it apart from Him. Many would respond by calling us pathetic. We would have to agree; well, we were pathetic apart from His grace, and only by a close relationship with Him (He in us & we in Him) can we abound in a way that's meaningful to His kingdom.

Now, to take a slight turn, I'd like to focus on this passage in relation to its power for the Christian's life. For so long I wondered why I couldn't follow the Lord as I should. I'd read such and such is His will, and I this or that offends Him. But I've come to understand that all the passages in the Bible that define what a Christian should think or how one should act are not meant for us to try to memorize and then force ourselves to become those things. I believe they are meant to help the Christian understand what he or she will do as a natural result of abiding in Christ. For the non-believer, it's a picture of true Christianity (and, sadly, too often it shows us Christians up for being too far removed from that picture). I believe the more I abide in Christ (and vice-versa), the more I'll become the Christian the Lord expects. And while I can (and should) look in Scripture for God's word because of its inherent power and wisdom, by making time with Him a priority I'll gradually line up more and more each day with His will as expressed in the pages of His book.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My best friend on earth

I must confess that I've been remiss in that I've focused so much on ideas & stories regarding this blog's purpose that I have failed to mention the person in my life who has been such a huge blessing to me--my wife. She has put up with my faults, encouraged my strengths, & in general has been the one person who I love to spend time with (& she's a great snuggler!). Thank you, my Kim, for being my partner and the love of my life. I pray that God grants us many more years together, because I'm loving you more & more as we grow older together.

Resolution: Improve by 1%

By now, millions (or billions?) of new years resolutions have been made...and probably most of those broken. It's been a tradition over the years to say that starting in the new year, we're going to totally revamp who we are. Works out good for a while, but eventually the emotion wears off & we're back to our old selves. And probably angry for lacking what it takes to keep our promises to ourselves.

I like Dr. Ben Lerner's strategy, which he writes about in his book, Body By God (no, I'm not necessarily promoting this book as a whole, but I do like this particular idea). He suggests the 40 day plan. That is, during a 40 day period, if you add something good to your life, or take away something bad--each day, then you'll be 40% better. OK, maybe not exactly 1% per day (after all, how can you calculate so specifically?) But certainly somewhat better than you were.

Recently, for example, I've been putting a little less sugar in my tea each morning. Maybe there won't be noticeable results right away, but if I can save 40 teaspoons of sugar, for example, that will be good for my health (& put a few extra pennies in our bank account). Maybe I'll spend a few more minutes each day (or even each week) than before: praying, reading from the Bible, doing something romantic for my wife, spending a little more time learning about blogging (now I really need that!), writing to a friend, writing a devotional, or organizing our garage. I'd better start with the praying, so I can have better guidance for the other choices. Often, after a few weeks or so of doing something consistently, whether good or bad, it becomes a part of us.

It helps (& I'm sure Dr. Lerner would agree) that it's best to improve in those areas related to the mission we've been given (for us believers in Christ, I believe it's He who ultimately gives us the gifts, talents, & vision for who we are to become for His purpose). For example, while it can be fun to spend extra time watching documentaries, we must be careful not to do too much of that if it's moving us away from who God created us to be (I use that example because I'm guilty of it).

I hope to report in the next 40 days (or somewhere in the near future) some significant improvements I've made. 1% at a time. Please let me know if this has worked for you, or if you are thinking about using this method.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Heroes in Arizona

Just wanted to add my appreciation to these four fine people who helped avert what could have been a significantly greater tragedy. May each of you be blessed mightily for your courage. May those who were injured be on the mend as soon as possible, and may the loved ones of the deceased by comforted by God's great love.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The God who has always been

Let me just say it out front: I can't fathom how God could be self-existent. Please don't get me wrong, I believe He is. Because as hard as that is for me to believe, I find it even harder to believe that matter has always existed. I'm not about to post my thoughts on how to explain self-existence, because, frankly, I don't have any theories on that. Maybe it's best that way. I want a God who I can't figure out, whose knowledge far exceeds my own. I'm looking forward to seeing Him one day in my glorified body, & over the course of eternity learning from Him & loving him...and each moment enjoying it all more & more. I pray that each of us will always put loving & revering God above trying to have all the answers about Him. When He's good & ready, He'll let us know more about Himself.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Like, um, you know (or something)

My nickname should be "you know." Well, that's what somebody told me recently. What happened was that I was talking during a conversation, and when I finished, this person told me that I say "you know" so often it's what I should be called. I was humbled, to say the least. For a writer like me who likes to do my best to communicate well, I had no clue these words were standing out more than anything else I was saying.

I have come to realize that I say "you know," (and similar words) because I can't always think quickly enough to say what I want. Even as I write this, I have paused several times while thinking, What should I type next?

I also am more aware of what I say when I'm speaking, and I have to catch myself before I use those filler words that don't add to the conversation (in fact, they can detract from it). Likewise, I know that while I enjoy writing, I am still very much a novice. I don't always use the best grammar and style. Maybe even some of what I write doesn't come across to the reader as well as it could because I could have used better words or put them in a better order. But I'm learning. I'm thankful for what that person told me, because it has helped me communicate that much better. And I hope I'll keep learning from those books I'm reading about writing technique.

To be honest, I didn't go over this post very well, so if I was to let it sit for 24 hours or so before sending it through, no doubt I'd see ways to improve it. You know?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Raping of the already heartbroken

Several months after tens of thousands die in a Haiti earthquake, rapes rampant in refugee camps. As you can see in my description about this blog, one of the things I write about are the worst depravities. This is certainly in that category.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tips for better blogging

Not from me, who is a newbie in blogging. Check it out here. I'm sure I can learn from this.

You just never know

He might not be Ted Williams the Hall of Fame baseball player, but who knows--with his voice (also here) he could go a long way toward his own Hall of Fame induction. Thing is, Mr. Williams was homeless, a drug addict, and an alcoholic. Now he's being offered a job with the Cleveland Cavaliers...and a house. Other offers have reportedly followed, and no doubt that's just the start.
"Just to get back to some normalcy and responsibility -- If I can a job, whether it's a twenty-five or even $18,000, I'd be happy," he said. "At least I know God has me where he wants me."
Nobody can guarantee you or I will be given such an opportunity; but Mr. Williams, I pray for all the success possible for you, and more than anything that this situation will give hope to others who are struggling that God can & does bless the downtrodden.