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.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Every legend was once an amateur

"Every artist was first an amateur." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
You are frustrated because you write, or paint, or sing--with few results. You know people in your craft who make thousands, even millions, of dollars. Why, you ask, are they so successful? What you should ask, rather, is, "Why do I think they have always been so?" Do you think they have been famous & wealthy since the day they picked up their tools of trade? Are you so vain to think that you should be where they are, not having put in the sweat equity they've invested?
I won't deny that natural gifting is what separates the good from the great; not to mention the legends of the arts that only a very small percentage of us will ever join in history. But please don't give up your pursuit of greatness. Always do it to honor (certainly never to dishonor) God. Yes, I have written that we shouldn't overdo our search for excellence in what we do (especially we perfectionists). But to not work at improving ourselves in those areas where God has gifted us will ensure our amateur ranking. Worse yet, we'll fall short of our potential, and we won't experience the joy and fulfillment of being the blessing to others that we were meant to be.