What Luck!

“Wow, I can’t believe my luck!” “What a coincidence!” “Well that all worked out nicely!”

Some people say these verses and others as if simply random events miraculously worked harmoniously to their benefit and everything came together out of the chaos of the universe to guide circumstances to exactly where they ended up. How fortuitous! It’s no wonder our society is moving ever more away from God, pushing Him into a corner to be called upon only as needed when we drink too much or seemingly have nowhere else to turn. Instead of our daily bread, He’s become our last resort. We’ve elevated our own status and consider ourselves orchestrators of our own lives, all-powerful creators of our own successes. And the rest is just chalked up to dumb luck. How wonderful for us.

While it is unfortunately true that evil people do succeed in this world and that good, hard-working people fall flat, it is a massive disservice and mistake to attribute all that does go correctly in our lives to luck and all that goes badly to God’s abandonment. We don’t want to give him any of the glory, but instead heap all the judgement upon Him per our rules of the universe. Sounds idiotically dangerous to me, but what the hey…you go on about your bad selves. Me…I choose to dwell on Psalm 73. I suggest you read it; it gives me strength, hope and reinvigorates my perseverance in this strange and hostile world.

God absolutely works in our lives. Period. Whether you believe or not. Whether you give Him credit or not. He loves us all and wants nothing more than for us to come to Him and live forever. Just because we believe doesn’t mean we will live trouble-free lives, but that will not stop me from humbling myself to his ultimate power when it manifests in my life. My piece of advice today–give credit to whom credit is due. He deserves it! Give thanks in all circumstances, it’s not all about you.

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Getting Older

I’m on vacation so I thought I’d give you an excerpt from my first book to pique your interest:

I know I’m getting older because I complain about the music these kids are listening to today and that everything hurts all the time. Can someone tell me how is it that I go to bed feeling fine and wake up feeling like I was the dance floor at the prom? Remember when we were kids and you just naturally looked like you could run a marathon but now squat thrusts ruin you for three days? But complaining about health issues kind of reminds me of having an old car. Maybe you had or wanted a ‘57 Chevy (for me it would be a ‘68 Mustang fastback). I bet you would expect to replace some parts, do some work (okay a lot of work) on it on the weekends. A bunch of them barely run or aren’t even around anymore. How about a ‘71 whatever, an ‘81? You get my point? I think we’re doing pretty good as a whole if we are still around, let alone hopefully working pretty well. Our bodies are just huge, complex sets of wonderful mechanics. So you have to replace a water pump here and there, maybe a CV joint, or you need your wiring checked (who doesn’t). If you are here and running, count your blessings! After all, what can you expect in a fallen world?

Since when did aging become a disease? Something to be ashamed of? I love my gray hair (okay, only the ones that don’t stick straight out–oh, and not the ones in my nose, oh, and my ears; whatever)! Some women (no, not you baby!) try to single-handedly stimulate the economy by purchasing anything that contains the words “youth,” “miracle,” or “anti-aging,” “sagging,” “graying.” I spent my career trying to coax people to get the dreaded “shot” and here these ladies are lining up to get a needle stuck in their faces (among other places), repeatedly! On purpose! There are columns of plastic surgeons in the phone book just waiting to see if they can help stretch and mold you like Gumby! What’s wrong with aging and the way we look? I’m not condoning the donut diet and twelve ounce curls, but remember when working out wasn’t something you had to plan your day around? “What are you doing today, Bob?” “I’m going to work out.” “Oh yea? Then what?” “That’s it. Then maybe crash on the couch, or go back to bed.” I personally have much better things to spend my money on than torture disguised as “looking younger and better.” (Did any celebrity names pop into your mind just then?? You know–the botched attempts?) Remember “blue haired” ladies? Not anymore! Now the ladies in the nursing homes have all the colors of the rainbow (which doesn’t include white or gray)! Oh well, if my wife and others want to fight tooth and nail to prolong the inevitable, good for them. Me, I will go peacefully into that silver oblivion.

You can read more if you follow the links at the top of my blog to learn How to be Content in a World Full of Malcontents.

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Smell the Roses!

Have you considered the beauty around you today?

It’s springtime and the trees are blooming, the birds are singing and the rabbits are doing what rabbits do best. The sun is rising to present magnificent days filled with the sights, scents and sounds of glorious life.

It is hard to describe how beautiful this world is. You know what I mean if you tend to focus on what really matters in this life, not on all the other obstacles that try to hog our attention. You could absolutely stare at your computer or television all day, contemplating the stock market, President Trump or the refugee crisis–or you can take a step back, take a deep breath of clean air and open your eyes to what surrounds us all. It’s not that the issues of this world don’t need our attention, it’s that they don’t need ALL of our attention.

Take time out to smell the roses, proverbial and not. Go outside and soak in some vitamin D. Take a walk, take a swim, take a bike ride and enjoy each and every day you can draw breath–the day you can’t will come far too soon. I find fewer things so calming than walking by a babbling brook with the birds singing and foraging, with a breeze rustling the leaves. All the rest of the world can disappear, explode or do whatever it pleases at that point–because I’m at peace. Isn’t that something you crave? Peace, calm, quiet–contentedness. You can burn your candles at both ends and keep so busy that your life passes you by, or you can slow down, prioritize and blow out the flame instead of fanning it. Enjoy the time you’ve been given, it’s one thing we can never get back or buy more.

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Blessings

I recently read an  article that stated we should stop saying we are blessed when things are going our way. That by using such verbiage, we are insulting or disrespecting all of those in the world that are poor or in dire straits. While I agree with the author’s overall sentiment, I must take issue with certain points.

Since when did the concept of blessing become equated with the gain of money or the lack of trouble? The Bible tells us that we should thank God in all situations (1 Thess 5:18, Eph 5:20), to take joy in our suffering because it produces a sincere faith (Rom 5:3-5, 1 Pet 1:7), and that we can expect trials and tribulations (John 16:33). We don’t like to take joy in our suffering, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, and likewise, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge our “blessings” when they’re given.

I think the author’s overall sentiment, which I absolutely agree with, was to point out the flaws tied to prosperity theology. But I disagree that we shouldn’t consider our good fortunes and gifts as the blessings they are and not thank Him from which they came. The author was mistaken in his assertion that God doesn’t perform acts of positive reinforcement, and it is a mistake to limit Him by our ideas of what He would deem appropriate for our instruction. (Mark 10:29–“no one who has left home…for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age,” Matt 25’s parable of the talents, Mark 4:25–“Whoever has will be given more,” 2 Cor 9:6–“whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” Mal 3:10–“Test me in this…and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it,” Eph 6:8–“the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does,” Heb 12:10–“God disciplines us,” and many more). These examples are by no means aimed at, or limited to wealth and prosperity, but toward a positive prodding to strengthen our faith in Him and His promises. They’re aimed toward us knowing that we have a loving savior that is able to shower us with gifts in many different forms, at many different times and in ways we often take for granted and attribute to the wrong sources. They’re aimed at us recognizing and counting our blessings.

All good things come from God (James 1:17). He knows what we need, he knows how to bless each of us, and he knows what will cause us to stumble (Matt 6:25-34). To some, money and possessions are doorways to sin, failure, and separation from God…a means to be our own source of inspiration (Matt 6:19-24). But God does not tempt us (James 1:13), so those “gifts” didn’t come from Him, they came from the great tempter knowing what we hold dearer to our hearts–God or money. In those cases, wealth is not a blessing, but a curse and stumbling block. Our true gifts are those which we use for good, to help others, to come closer to our savior and be fruitful in our lives. Those gifts, in whatever form–discipline, monetary, or not–are blessings and we must give thanks for them…regardless of perceived insult or injury to others. We must take the time and have the proper heart to consider our blessings as such. The author states that “we are grateful” is an adequate enough statement, but that negates the gift or instruction…what are we thankful for? Our blessings.

There are great blessings bestowed upon those who are “poor” in this world: they are not tied down or held back by material wealth and can instead, if they choose, focus on their spiritual wealth (Mark 10:23-25, 1 Tim 6:9-10,17, Luke’s parable of the rich fool). They are not any less blessed than those who have been given worldly wealth; they are blessed with clarity, faith and hope…what they need…what we all need. Money is not evil, it is the root of all evil because of the importance we place upon it. James 2:5–“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom.” Their blessings are magnificently tailored to the poor and their needs…that’s the incredible nature of our savior.

We should absolutely stop attributing our blessings to ourselves, our incomes, our provisions. We should absolutely stop saying we are blessed if our hearts are considering our monetary wealth. But we should never stop thanking Him through which we live, survive and hope for a better tomorrow. We should never stop thanking Him for our daily sustenance and correction, and consider them blessings, no matter what form they come in!

He gives to each as he sees fit, it’s up to us and our hearts to sort out the thanksgivings. Do we attribute our circumstances to fate, luck, chance…or do we give thanks to Him? Our hearts are what determines a blessing, not our money or lack of it.

“The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” Prov 10:22

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Who Are You?

I used to be called cynical, tactless, and heartless among other things, but that’s WHAT I was, not WHO I was. All to often this world feels more at ease if it’s able to label things and people. I don’t like to be labeled.

When someone first meets me, they may not like my beard, my clothes, my accent or the car I drove up in. They may come to rash, hasty conclusions about who I am and if I’m worthy of their time. Even the most forgiving and faithful of us can be guilty of forming these preconceptions some of the time.

It shouldn’t be that way.

I chastise myself when I jump to conclusions based on initial conversations or appearances, and yet find myself making the same mistake at a later date. Why do we get stuck in this trap? Why don’t we give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise? It has been stated that there is nothing more important than a first impression, and while this can be true and we must put our best foot forward, first impressions can leave a lot out of the picture.

By listening without an open heart and looking with veiled eyes, we may blind ourselves to the history and backstory of the person we face. We all have demons, pasts…skeletons in our closet propped up on our baggage that shape how we speak and interact with others, but how many of those things are we being judged upon before we get the chance to prove ourselves?

We interact with people from so many backgrounds and such varied pasts that we can become jaded by stereotypes and preconceptions based on our own backgrounds and experiences. We can form instantaneous opinions based on those jaded views without taking into consideration what life events have influenced the person we are interacting with. That isn’t right, fair, or acceptable…but it is reality; one we can and should attempt to change.

Most of us find it difficult to focus on ourselves in a mirror–to excruciatingly examine our own flaws (physical or emotional), so why do we rush to do so for others? It would be nice if we could see their history as clearly as we know our own so that we could afford them some latitude and grace, but since that isn’t going to be a reality, why don’t we cut them some slack anyway? Why don’t we try to withhold judgement until we see what fruit they bear, what motives are in their hearts, what kind of people they are…not what kind of people we think they are.

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Under Pressure!

Peer pressure, job pressure, performance pressure, family pressure…the list goes on and on. We have tons of issues pressing down on us at any given time, so much so that sometimes it’s a miracle we can stand at all. Some deserve our immediate attention, some aren’t that serious…such as trying to do your business when afflicted by shy kidneys in a restroom serviced by an eager attendant! Talk about several pressures at once…pun intended. (It wasn’t as funny as you may think, but that’s a story for another day!)

The pressure we most often feel is that which we place upon ourselves. We may have high expectations of ourselves and then may also project fears and worries of others onto the heap as well. We have real and imagined benchmarks to live up to and pressure ourselves even more if we fall short of those marks.

Pressure itself isn’t a bad thing. We absolutely need to push ourselves; motivate ourselves to be better, stronger, more resilient and more able to handle this life. But it’s also important to put those pressures into perspective, learn how to handle them correctly; we need to be able to accept failure. We need to be able to face it without its weight crushing our hopes and dreams…as well as our motivations.

All successful people, ideas and inventions had failures that guided and prodded them on their road to fruition. The difference being, the successes had the fortitude and continual motivation to push forward, to try harder….to overcome. We can easily let the pressures of life hold us down, stifle our efforts, block our motivation, impede our progress, but those that are daring and willing to push forward will see rewards that those who quit will not. (Philippians 3:13-14)

We must find balance in our lives to be able to afford ourselves some grace…from God, those around us, and ourselves. It’s alright to want to get everything right, but we must leave room for grace in our lives to pick us up and dust us off so that we don’t lose our hope, our spirit, or our motivation.

Thankfully the Lord knows all of this much better than we do. He knows what we can bear and what will crush us. If we open our hearts to his will and grace, he’ll offer us relief from the pressures of this life…or at least a way out of our current circumstances. Burdens are always easier to bear if shared by more shoulders. Cast all your worries on the Lord, open yourself to His grace. You can probably handle all the pressures of life alone, but why would you want to if you don’t have to?

“He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…he will also provide a way out” 1 Corinthians 10:13
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you” Psalm 55:22
“Do not worry about your life…is not life more important” Matthew 6:25-34
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened” Matthew 11:28
“Do not be anxious about anything…present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6-7

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Tell Me the Truth!

In this electronic age, it is isn’t prudent to believe everything you see and hear. Interviews are edited, pictures altered and contexts shifted. With the speed of the internet, whichever story hits first becomes gospel and becomes nearly impossible to refute. The benefit of the doubt and truth take backseats to bandwagons and malicious gossip.

Do you remember the days when we could think for ourselves? When we were presented with non-biased (or at least much less biased) and unaltered information, then left to discuss it among our friends and family in order to form our own opinions? Days in which character and proven track records won out over ratings and viral videos?

I used to wake each morning to read the paper during breakfast and ended each day watching the evening news. Those days are gone. And probably for the best. With so much misinformation, media spin and ulterior motives and agendas, I’m not sure how many actual facts make it to my ears and eyes. I’m now reminded daily how easy it is to ruin a reputation, a career, a family and more with a maligned word, mistaken quote, ill-timed photo or outright lie. By the time the truth comes to bear, the damage is done and people are left to pick up whatever pieces they can salvage, all while their heads are still spinning from disbelief.

We need to change what we’re willing to believe, what we take for truth…we need to take advice from Missouri’s Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who declared, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

Let’s let truth reign and gossip die. Let’s find our morality and common sense instead of the bandwagon. Let’s test everything through the filter of Christ and take to heart only those things worth believing. Let’s have some hope and show some faith in humanity.

“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

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Baggage Fees

 Our perception of love is often clouded or obscured entirely by our emotional baggage. In my latest book, I will take you through a journey to clarify what love is actually intended to look like. Along that vein, here is a brief excerpt…
Our baggage is exactly that, ours.  Often it’s so well hidden that our spouses or significant others may not even know it exists—we  may have thought it dead and dormant ourselves.  But unfortunately it does exist, and as much as we’d like it not to, our baggage shapes and molds our thoughts, frames of mind, and perceptions. It’s often an unseen cancer that warps our interactions because of the difficult lessons we’ve learned while attempting to package it up and stow it away.  However, we need to be aware enough of our baggage’s influence to be able to stop it’s impact on our current relationships–or at least admit it’s influence to those enmeshed in its current net…these aren’t the people who’ve hurt us. These aren’t the ones that need to be handled with kid gloves, kept at a distance while protecting ourselves from possible repercussions.  Hard as it may be, we need to be reasonable in dealing with our thoughts and feelings with the person that’s in front of us right now, not the ones in our past.
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Love…Like You Mean It

Love is such an easy word to say, but such a difficult and complex thing to understand. The word is often misused, misunderstood and misconstrued. Often watered down, it is a magnificent word and concept that needs our full attention, determination and resolution. We need to love intentionally.

Love is not a hollow declaration from the lips, it’s a resolution of the mind, a determination of the heart…it’s a choice. Choose to Love…Like You Mean It!

Love is the ultimate purpose in our lives and holds the highest potential for the greatest rewards. It is a magnificent, difficult choice that will be the hardest thing you’ll ever want to get right! Join me in giving significance and depth back to such a beautiful, misunderstood, overused word that deserves so much more appreciation.

My newest book Love…Like You Mean It is available now in print, kindle, or ebook formats.  I sincerely hope you’ll give it a read and put it into practice!

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Message to Law Enforcement

In an age when we are saturated by media and its fervent spin on current events, it’s increasingly difficult to tell if issues in our society have worsened or just come under someone’s particular spotlight. Lately that spotlight has been shining brightly on the misdeeds of our police forces. While I am certain that our men in blue are not all saints, it disheartens me to consider that more than a few may be destroying our overall view of their standing in society.

I am a staunch supporter of our police forces if for no other reason than the thought of life without order and enforcement places us into chaos and a need for Darwinistic survival. I understand that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and am not condoning free rein. I also understand, however, that these folks deal with more stress in their daily line of duty than most of us can imagine. It is extremely easy and inappropriate for outsiders to dissect our officers actions after the fact, from the safety of our couches. They must make split second decisions to stay alive and keep us safe and therefore don’t always have the luxury of instantaneous deep consideration.

It disheartens me and defeats my resolve to imagine that a possible majority of our forces are corrupt, immoral and/or lovers of violence. It saddens me more that this world would jump on the media bandwagon to highlight the faults of a few in order to extend the sentiment to the majority.

I will continue to have faith, hope and concern for our men and women in blue because I have faith in the seemingly dwindling morality of our ever increasingly self-centered society.

I do, however, have a message for those that wear the uniform, one that I hope they will consider: people are obviously watching, scrutinizing; waiting for you to make an error, to screw up, to fall from your positions of authority….make every effort to live your life in a way that proves you are worthy of our trust, respect and honor. Stop attempting to handle things inside the brotherhood; trying to hide them from exposure…uphold the laws and morality for which you are supposed to stand–equally for those inside the force and outside.

I beg you to strengthen our resolve in you and the badge you wear.

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