Are you laughing at the devil?

March 31, 2016

 “The devil saw me with my head down and got excited…Then I said, Amen.”  (Facebook) – As seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write –

devilC.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, a story in which a senior devil (Screwtape) instructs a junior devil (Wormwood) on how to how to lead a person away from his faith.  Tempt him to concentrate on self, materialism, doubt of God.  Martin Luther once said that the best way to deal with the devil is to laugh at him.  “Screwtape” was required reading in seminary.    😉  Jack

I’ve not read The Screwtape Letters, but the message that Jack writes that is about makes a lot of sense. It is tempting to become focused upon the material things in life and to lose sight of what’s really important – one’s faith and those we love in our lives.

When I saw the quote on Jack’s blog the first thing that came to mind is how often we walk around with our heads down or these days with our heads buried in our smartphones. Those insidious devices help the devil by isolating us from those around us. It is not phone with msgunusual these to see two people out to dinner, sitting at a table together; but, both intently staring at their smartphones rather than talking to each other. We live in a materialistic society, so the smartphones accomplish the second task for the devil by getting us to focus on ourselves, rather than those around us. If you become fixated on your smartphone, the devil’s already two thirds of the way towards leading you away from your faith. Fortunately there are apps for that. Go to your app store and search for faith. You’ll find lots of apps that you might download to help keep you in touch with your faith.

The real message in the quote and the best way to fight the devil’s influence is in the last few words”…Then I said Amen.” Like the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor hand reaching for heavenaway”; one might also say, “a prayer a day keeps the devil away.” While one may pray for the well being of others, it is also a good idea to pray for your own well being each day. It can be a simple as asking God to be with you during the day and to help you do the right things and make the right decisions as the day goes along. That may not seem to you to be laughing at the devil, but nothing is more off putting to the devil than daily reaffirmation of your faith through prayer.

So, before you set out into our materialistic world today, have a good laugh on tdark alleyhe devil by asking the Lord to walk with you throughout the day. If you must consult your smartphone, open up your faith app for a quick faith pick-me-up. That shuffling sound that you may hear is the devil skulking off into the darkness where he belongs.

Have a great day and a good laugh.


Spoiler Alert…

March 29, 2016

“We don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but everything is going to be OK.”  (Toby Mac), as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Sometimes in the midst of what seems like overwhelming pressures or problems in life, we lose track temporarily of God’s promise to us – “Call on me in the day of trouble, and I will recue you.” – Psalm 50:15.

The reason that we get overwhelmed is that our egos and minds allow us to believe that we restless sleepshould be able to find solutions for every problem that we face. We are reluctant (some might even say stubborn) in our inability to admit that we need help, that we can’t solve every problem or that some problems are just too big and too intractable for us. We get frustrated and angry that we can’t “work it out” or “work through it”. Sometimes that frustration turns to depression because we allow ourselves to feel like we are failures because of inability to deal with the problems at hand. But, take heart; everything’s going to be OK.

None of that sense of failure or frustration is necessary if we will only stop and turn to the one place that we can take any problem for help. Asking God for help is not giving up. It is only acknowledging and allowing Him to provide us with the assistance that He already has offered to us. It is saying, “You know what; I’m gohelping handsing to let my teammate in life take care of this one with me.” Once you let God take the yoke with you, the responsibility for bearing it alone will be lifted from your shoulders. Everything’s going to be OK.

I think the key to success with this is to have the discipline to stop yourself in the midst of the crisis and see it for what it is – something that you are not going to be able to take on by yourself. Once you get that in mind there are alternative paths that you will be able to see. Perhaps you have a good support system of relatives and friends around you who can help and that’s OK, too. Call on them and they will respond, just as you would respond to them in their time of need. When they do, you’ll know that everything’s going to be OK.

Sometimes even the best support network isn’t enough. Maybe the problem is too big or too mepersonal. Maybe the “solution” is not really a solution at all; but, rather the need to just accept the situation or the consequences and move on. Many times the crisis is mainly of our own making or in our minds; a product of the scenarios that we conjure up in our struggle to deal with situations that have no real solution. Rather than continue down the rat-hole of trying to solve the impossible puzzle; stop and ask for God’s help. Try the simple prayer, “not my will but thy will be done.” Then let go of it. Give the problem to God and trust in Him. Whatever happens next remember that everything’s’ going to be OK.

Have a great and worry free day…everything’s going to be OK.

Start a new ending for your life today…

March 28, 2016

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

Easter is a harbinger of Spring – that time of the year when most of nature’s plants start making a new ending. It is also a time of year when life us hit the reset button on lives and springbegin to make new endings for ourselves. It begins with Easter, which is a celebration of the new beginning that was ransomed for us by the death and resurrection of Christ. If one can accept and embrace that thought, then the trials and tribulations of this life fade into the background noise.

So, put the past in the past and face the future and the new ending that you can create from what you do from today on. Life is like a maze, full of false starts and dead end paths; but, it is also full of possibilities and new beginnings. Like a finding your way through a maze with help signmaze, life starts for everybody at the same point and ends at the same point. It is the journey through the maze that is different for each person. Perhaps, if you look at all of life’s trials or set-backs up until now as learning experiences, you’ll find it easier to see the path through the maze. The other thing that can help in traversing the maze of life is a good moral compass rooted in faith. If you stop and really consult that compass at each decision point in your life you may find it easier that you think to make the right the truthdecisions.
There is an oft heard saying that “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”; perhaps it can also be the first step in your journey to a new ending. Start by understanding that no one else can dictate your ending and nothing in your past can pre-determine your future. If you admit to yourself that you don’t like where you are headed, then change directions. Step off to a new ending. You might eve start enjoying the journey.

Have a great week ahead on your journey to a new ending.

Well shut my mouth…

March 22, 2016

“An open mind and a closed mouth work better than the opposites.”  (Purple Clover) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

The DonaldToo many Donald Trump is the epitome of the opposite that is referenced above, with a mouth that is seldom closed and a mind that certainly appears not to be open. He’s obviously an intelligent person; although seemingly ignorant or intolerant to the feelings and needs of those who don’t fit into his somewhat narrow and bigoted view of the world. While he uses the term “deal” quite a bit, I don’t think I’ve heard him use the word “compromise” at all.

Today’s saying seems t also work well with another saying about opening you r mouth – “engage brain before opening mouth”, which is EBBOM in Internet slang. Both offer good advice which is all too often ignored. Unfortunately even engaging your brain if it isopinionated working off a perverted or bigoted knowledge base, won’t prevent you from blurting out things that are hurtful or which you may wish later that you had not said.

Having an open mind does not necessarily mean that you agree with or accept whatever comes your way; however, it does require that you at least give those things the courtesy of a good, non-biased look before making your decision on how to react. Many times the best decision may still be to keep your mouth closed, rather than express the conclusion or position that you have reached, once you have considered things. Perhaps just saying nothing is the best course, when whatever you might say would express a non-favorable judgement. That’s sort of the live and let live approach to things.

visualizingThere is one final saying that best sums up the strategy of keeping your mouth shut – “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.” – Unknown. I doubt that most will think you to be a fool if you don’t open your mouth and say something stupid. I’ve known quite a few people who weren’t big talkers and the thing that was most often said about them is that they were very private and kept their thoughts and opinions to themselves. That’s not all bad and certainly better than being known as a loud-mouthed blowhard.

So, think before you speak and if have nothing to say then don’t say it. We’ll all enjoy that moment of silence.


The buck stops here…

March 21, 2016

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  (Psalm 56:3) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Of course the Psalm was referring to God and most of us probably have turned to Him on more than one occasion. One can imagine God sitting at a big desk in Heaven with a sign “The Buck Stops Here” sign on it. After all there is nowhere else to go; no higher authority than God.

mother with childPeople with children or even pets know what it feels like to be the one in whom trust is placed. Most children run to their parents when they are afraid and many pet will do the same if frightened. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to sit calming our shivering dogs when there is thunder and lightning outside. Little did they know how I was calming my own fears.

Fear shouldn’t be the only thing that drives us to seek God’s help. Life is full of confusing or perplexing moments for which we could use the reassurance that everything will be alright if we just put our trust in God. Life also hits us with many times of sadness, due to the loss of a loved one or a great disappointment. Those are also times that we should find shelter and strength in God’s hands. We may also have times of doubt in ourselves and our ability to accomplish something or to weather a bad situation. Those are the times that knowing God is on your side and there to help you will give you the confidence to carry on.

So, before you face each day and whatever trials you may encounter; give yourself the hand reaching for heavenadvantage of having God with you throughout the day. Say a little prayer and ask Him to stay by your side and guide and help you through the day. That way, when you do hit something that requires His help, he’ll already be there with you and you won’t have to be afraid.

Have a great and fearless day!


No thanks; I’ll take the stairs…

March 14, 2016

“The fact that there’s a highway to hell and a stairway to heaven says a lot about expected traffic numbers.”  (Shower Thoughts) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

My mom also often used the phrase, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I RoundTuitsuppose that road is marker with round tuits, which you always meant to get. The side roads to that destination probably are named Coulda, Woulda and Shoulda. It’s no wonder that traveling on that path is often referred to “going down the road to ruin.”

The climb to heaven must seem daunting to many, too; since Jack went on to remind usfacing stairs that Jesus said it would be easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than to get into heaven. Of course He was talking about earning your way into heaven. He went on to explain that we get in to Heaven through the grace of God by accepting Him as our Savior.

So, if we can’t earn our way to Heaven, why live a good life in communion with God and perhaps service to others? The answer to that has to do with being ready for your own final judgement. No one knows when their time will come and no one is going to be given the time to say “I’m sorry” and ask for forgiveness at the end. It seems to make much more sense to be ready at any time.

Being ready means having a steady and meaningful relationship with God and the willingness to accept His will for your life. Most find that God’s will involves helping others and doing what’s right as you live out your days. From that service and acceptance of God’s will comes the peace and contentment with life that others may not understand. helperPerhaps that is how we climb the stairs to Heaven, one stair of service and prayer at a time – not earning our way; but rather, accepting our way into our final reward.

I’m sure that we’ve all met or heard about people who devote their lives to helping others. Mother Teresa in India always comes to mind; but there’s countless people right in our own communities that serve the needs of others. I think of the people of Supportive Alternative Living (S.A.L.) in my community who serve the needs of adult special needs people living independently in our neighborhoods and the volunteers at Community Sharing who provide food and services to those in need in our area. You may not see them providing those services; but maybe that’s just because they are a little ahead of you on the stairway.

So, this week, as life throws in your face the opportunities for you to get on the highway toclimbing stairs hell, just say, “No thanks; I’ll take the stairs.” It doesn’t matter how far along you are; at least you’re going in the same direction, if you’re on that stairway. So, take your first step up today.


Go for the gold…

March 10, 2016

“Anyone can find the dirt in someone.  Be the one who finds the gold.  (Proverbs 11:27) – as seen in recent weeks on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

We are in the silly season of political primaries and most of the candidates are all too happy to dish the dirt on each other. Only Bernie Sanders and John Kasich have tried to stay out of the dirt as much as possible; however, the reality of our national politics requires a tit for a tat and that usually means occasionally dishing dirt on the other candidates. I don’t think we hear very often one candidate saying nice things about the others – finding and sharing the gold in that person.

In our own, day-to-day lives, it is all too easy to join in the gossip at work about others or togossip toss off a hurtful remark about some dirt that you may have discovered about the other person. In truth the only reputation that you soil by doing so is your own. A much better way to spend your time is mining for the good (the gold) in that person; rather than joining in tearing them down.

Sometimes it is hard to see or find the gold in someone, especially if they have a particularly filthy past; perhaps even a criminal record. But there is good in us all and you have to make the effort to find it, even in those from whom you might initially recoil. You will make two people happy if you do – yourself for having made the effort and discovered the good (the gold) in that person and them because you had enough interest and faith in them to look for it.

diggingYou can find the gold (the good) in people, if you dig a little below the surface that they may present to the world by engaging them in conversation and exploring their “story”. Almost everyone starts with “their shields up”, so it is up to you to gain enough of their trust for them to drop those defenses and allow you to find and see the gold in them. You can do that by dropping your own shields and letting them see the gold in you.

So, be a gold digger with the people that you meet today. The rewards from getting to really gold barknow them will be better than gold and you may even make a new friend.

Go for the gold!

You must work at communicating…

March 8, 2016

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”  (Cool Hand Luke) – seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I remember seeing the Paul Newman movie when it was released and how jarring thePaul Newman ending was, when the jail warden grabbed the gun and shot and killed Newman’s character. Perhaps in today’s world of seemingly weekly police shootings it would not have been so unexpected.

Sometimes we worry if anyone hears what we are saying. Much of the time that may not be the issue. The real issue is do they understand what we are saying…are we communicating. In the common vernacular the phrase “you know” is used as both a statement and a question and is meant somehow to be a shortcut to understanding. But what if the other party doesn’t know? What if they have no life experience basis for knowing? What if they come from a different culture, where the things that we know are not common knowledge or experiences? How much are you communicating when you use the phrase, “you know?”

Jack made the point also that communications is a critical part of any relationship, divorceespecially those within a marriage and a family. A failure to communicate is probably the root cause of the breakup most marriages that end in divorce. I’ve written here in the past about the need to have a deeper level of relationship than just the sexual attraction in any marriage and that level is only reached through communications, through sharing and understanding each other’s beliefs, dreams, hopes, and interests openly. It is really a cop-out when one partner says to the other, “Well you should know what I want, I shouldn’t have to tell you.” In fact neither of you will ever just figure things out if you don’t communicate and share with each other – what do you want, what would make you happy, what can I do for you and you for me. It is the lowering of the shields and the baring of the souls to one another through communications that builds the bounds that keep marriages together.

The same rules apply to life in general. If you don’t communicate what you want in life, don’t expect others to be able to figure tit out and give those things to you. At work there may be formal reviews or just informal times with the boss in which you can express your ambitions and ask for his/her help to achieve them. That communications should be a two way learning experience, with you finding out what you need to improve or do and the bossexplaining finding out your ambitions and your willingness to work to achieve them. It also helps you clarify your goals when you have to verbalize them in communications with others.

In any form of communications there is also the task of making sure that you have properly received, interpreted and understand the message or information. Your ability to internalize what has been communicated to you is greatly influenced by your point of view and your background. There is an old saw “seeing is believing”. I wrote recently about people “seeing” things differently in my post “I can see clearly now”. Do you think that blacks and whites see two different realities when they see the dash cam videos that are almost a nightly occurrence on the news.

It is up to each of us to take the time and put in the work needed to communicate to others and to understand what they are trying to communicate to us. For some of us that may mean just shutting up, so that that other party can get a word in edgewise. You are not communicating is you are doing all of the talking. For others the challenge may be to find the right words to express their feelings and desires, without appearing to be selfish or clingingself-centered. It is OK to tell that overly attentive partner that you need some “alone time.” We all need some time to ourselves, times of silence and contemplation. Often it is the need of the partner for constant assurances and attention that drive us apart. Their “clinging” is a sign of insecurity that needs to be discussed in an open honest communication with them.

I’ve posted a couple of times here on the topic of the benefits of openly discussing your issues with someone that you can trust, one such post was titled “Can we talk”, which discussed the role of a friend in providing a listening post for you to communicate your issues and your role to return the favor for them. All of these posts about communications end up with the same advice- you have to work at it to make it happen and to benefit from it. Working at it means that you have to be cognizant of your own needs and receptive to understanding the needs of others. Don’t go to your grave with the epitaph “I wish you had told me…” engraved on your tombstone.

Communicate; ask and tell; work at it. Don’t let your life become a failure to communicate.

You can make it the way you take it…

March 7, 2016

“No life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.”  (Ellen Glasgow) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Perhaps you have encountered someone with a sever disability who was still happy or maybe someone so down on their luck that you can’t believe that could still be smiling.

Snoopy joyYou’ve stumbled upon people who live their lives by today’s quote. They never give up hope and they are thankful for what they have, even though it may not seem to be much to us. Most of the time you will have also encountered someone who has a deep faith and belief in God. It is upon that rock that they can build their optimistic or upbeat frame of mind and take life as it is.

Not everyone takes life, especially a hard life, in a way that allows them to be happy. Much of the time that is because they hold on to the belief that they can somehow make things right all by themselves, that they don’t need anyone’s help (not even God’s). I’ve posted here in the past about the importance of being able to let go of things by placing them in God’s hands. That is not an admission of failure or defeat; it is, rather, a sensible way to take things that are out of your control or bigger than your ability to control.

Most of us probably don’t live what would be called a “hard life”; one filled with misery, strife or waves of sadness; yet many of us don’t enjoy the easier lives that we have because we take things the wrong way. We see every inadvertent slight or oversight as an bored
indication that “the world is against us.” We are outraged or insulted at not being included or invited to every party or event at school or work. We are dismayed at not being thanked or mentioned for work that we may have done for others. Maybe we are unhappy that we were not asked to help with a project at work or at church. We basically take everything as a personal acceptance or rejection of us and take great umbrage at the slightest oversight or hint of rejection.

The starting point for living a better life is to realize that it’s not all about you. The world isn’t really out to get you. In fact the world likely doesn’t know that you exist, which may also make you unhappy. Rather the world around you prefers to associate with and invite to events and projects those people whom it sees as positive and upbeat. People do not eeorewant to surround themselves with the Eeyores of life, but rather with the Winnie the Poohs or even the Tiggers and Piglets. While there are some who might come across as disgustingly upbeat; they are still preferable to those who only want to drag you into their personal mental dungeons.

So, your challenge is to take life as it comes at you, do what you can and ask for God’s help when you need it. It’s probably not a bad idea to stat each day prayingwith a little prayer that asks for God’s help as the day goes on. Perhaps something like, “Dear God, help me make the right decisions today on the things that I can control; let me hand off to you the things that I cannot control; and give me the wisdom to know the difference.”

Have a great day and an easier life this week.

I can see clearly now…

March 5, 2016

“Don’t judge me unless you have looked through my eyes.”  (Lucy Heartfilia), which I saw on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Today’s quote may be thought of as a variation of the old Native American proverb – Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

I think it has a slightly different bent to it, because it focuses upon how we “see” the world and perhaps how we judge or pre-judge people whose different point of view causes them to react differently to the world around them. The fact is that all of us “see” the distorted viewworld differently because we look at it through the distortions caused by the “lenses” of our experiences and knowledge, our fears and prejudices, or our hope and optimism. Some people look at it through the dark lenses of depression. Others see nothing but rainbows through the rose colored glasses of optimism. Some may see danger lurking behind every bush and tree, while others see opportunities around every corner or behind every door.

The really hard part, which today’s quote alludes to, is for us to understand another person’s point of view – what they see – especially if they are significantly different from you. If you walk into a room filled with people who look like you, you might not
points of viewimmediately see danger in the situation; but walk into a room filled with the same number of people, but one in which they are all very different from you and you might see danger and threats. For most white Americans seeing a policeman approach may cause them to pause to think if they’ve done anything wrong; but, they don’t “see” it necessarily as being threatening. However, ask a resident of Ferguson, Missouri about that scenario and you’ll get a different answer. Perhaps that is because the eyes that they see that policemen through are filled with so many tears from the past.

Maybe it’s not the seeing that is really the problem; but, rather, the labels that we attached to what we see. Those labels are mental associations that we make. Some labels are based upon experiences from our past, but some just conjured up with no basis in facts or personal experiences. Many times those labels are broadly applied stereotypes that are bigot personbased upon prejudices or misinformation. We don’t stop to really “see” the person standing n from of us because we are blinded by the labels that flash up in our minds. Our ability to “see” the good, the beauty and the interesting things about that person are obscured by our proclivity to “see” only the things defined by the labels that we have already associated with them. Our vision has joined in the wider conspiracy that we call bigotry.

It is sometimes hard, but the first step to really seeing others is to clear the mind of all of the preconceptions that you might normally carry with you. You really can’t see clearly with your eyes until you are ready to “see” clearly with your mind. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be ready to take the next step and be able to begin to “see” things through their eyes too. At that point, you may discover that a new set of labels appear before your eyes; labels that are associated with them “seeing” you. That may not be a pretty thing to see either.

There is a song by Johnny Nash that inspired the title to today’s post. Although Nash’s lyrics didn’t call them labels he did call them obstacles that were in his way. Once they eye on worldwere removed he could see clearly and it was a bright, bright, sunshiny day. Maybe if you can clear away the obstacles (labels) in your mind you will see more clearly, too; and you too will have a brighter day. Perhaps you’ll even be able to “see” things from the point of view of others and that will make your day and theirs better, too.

I’ll be seeing you.