What’s around the corner for you?

November 25, 2021

There is certainly the possibility of something different around every corner or over every hill. The optimist sees exciting opportunities ahead while the pessimist sees nothing but danger. What do you “see” when you are approaching a corner or a hill in your life?

All visions of the future are formed in our imaginations. You can imagine great and wonderful things to come, or you can foresee painful disasters, and both can come true. If you could choose, which would you prefer? The thing is that you can choose, at least for the imagining part.

Optimists aren’t necessarily born with a smile on their face. They develop a positive outlook on life as they mature by making positive choices and consciously deciding to live with a positive attitude. A big part of arriving at a positive state of mind is having a strong faith upon which to base that optimism. People without faith have nothing upon which to stand in the face of opposition or hardship; however, those with faith turn to God for strength and reassurance.

Not everything may be going right just now, but there is another bend or hill ahead and those with faith know that God will be waiting on the other side, and everything will be alright when you get there. Even if the curve or hill ahead is death, people of faith know that there is something wonderful on the other side for them.

What’s around the corner or over the hill for you? You can approach those changes with confidence when you have faith in God.

Gratitude or entitlement, which are you teaching?

November 24, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Fred shared this Thanksgiving prayer sent to him by one of his followers –

“Put gratitude in your attitude!”  (Sent by Carol Retan)

A suggested Thanksgiving Table Prayer for you to use:

For food in a world where many walk in hunger,

For faith in a world where many walk in fear,

For friends in a world where many walk alone,

We offer our humble gratitude, O Lord.  AMEN

In our society, many seem to have moved away from being thankful for what they have to a selfish attitude of entitlement. Perhaps much of that results from our tendency to try to give our children all of the things that we might not have had. While that seems like a worthy goal on the surface, it may actually be an attempt to enjoy life through our children and it teaches them the wrong lesson. There is very little “value” associated with things that we don’t have to work for to achieve, and that is true for our children, too.

A recent survey found that the majority of parents say that their children are not thankful for all of the things that they’ve been given. Well, DUH! If they didn’t have to do anything to get those things, how are they supposed to assign a value to them and be thankful for them. We have created generations of young people who feel entitled to everything, rather than grateful for what they have.

So, what are we to do? It’s never to late to start teaching the right things and gratitude is certainly one of those things. Insisting that children write a letter/card or call those who give them things to say Thank You, is a start. Don’t allow just a text message or a post on Instagram to suffice. When children achieve a goal or have a major accomplishment, they should be encouraged to thankful to any and all who may have helped them, and they should thank God for giving them the patience and perseverance to prevail.

Gratitude is based upon humility, whereas entitlement is based upon hubris. Which are you teaching your children?

Just beyond reason and logic…

November 22, 2021
Portrait of U.S. statesman, inventor, and diplomat Benjamin Franklin as he looks on one hundred dollar bill obverse. Clipping path included.

I seldom see quotes from Ben Franklin that I disagree with, but this is one – “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

Perhaps Franklin meant to advise us not to let reason get in the way of faith. Many great scientists and thinkers, including Albert Einstein, have resolved any conflict that they might have had between faith and reason.

“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” (Einstein)

I prefer to think of it this way. Faith lies just beyond the boundaries within which reason and logic try to constrain our imagination. Hope also lives in that nether land that is, by definition, beyond our ability to comprehend using logic and reason. In fact, it is hope that brings faith into focus and allows us to see what we do not need to understand to believe.

I think that one can use reason and will logically arrive at Faith as the only answer to the great questions of life – the Why’s and How’s and What happens next questions. At some point one accepts that there are no earthly answers to those questions and realizes that all logical paths lead back to the same place – faith in something that we cannot comprehend but which must exist in order for us to exist.

At the beginning of each episode of the TV show The Twilight Zone the narrator said – “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!” Faith goes well beyond the twilight zone because takes us beyond the limits of our imaginations.

So what Franklin might have said, instead, is, “The way to see by faith is to look beyond what we can see with the eyes of logic and reason and to use hope as your lens to focus upon what is important.”

Open your eyes to faith. See your future through the lens of hope.

Be a leader…get out front

November 10, 2021

I saved a quote that I saw on-line recently because I thought that it deserved comment here.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”  (John C. Maxwell)

We see or run across people purporting  to be leaders in various aspects of life every day, from so-called political leaders to business leaders to religious leaders. Not all of them meet all three criteria that Maxwell used to define true leaders in his quote.

Some actually don’t know the way – the right thing to do – but they urge people on in the wrong direction anyway. Many conspiracy theories originate from people like that; however, some originate from people who do know the right way but point others in a different direction because that serves their purposes better.

Some know the right way but don’t go that way because of fears or because the right way appears to be too hard. Fear of failure often prevents the attempt by these people. Others are overwhelmed by life’s challenges and prefer to withdraw rather than meet those challenges.

A few actually know the way and go the way, but selfishly keep it to themselves. They are the “I got mine, get your own crowd.”

True leaders, whether it be in business, politics or religion, get out front because they know the way and have gone the way and then they reach back to show others that same way.

Be a leader. Get out front and show others the way. The way to what? If you are happy, share that happiness and show others how they can be happy, too.

Christians were shown the way by Christ and were given the task of spreading the good news and showing the way to salvation. One does not have to stand on a soap box on a street corner preaching to passers-by in order to show the way. You know the way. Live your life in that way and you will be showing the way to others.

Be a leader. Get out front.

Take control of you…

November 9, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote –

“Life was made up of things you couldn’t control…Life wasn’t what you made it.  You were what life made you.”  (Sara Zarr)

There is certainly a lot of truth in that quote. But, I would submit that it is rather defeatist in tone. Life throws unexpected twists and turns at you; things that you can’t control; however, you do control how you react to those events, and it is in those reactions that one finds out who they really are. The events of life do not make you anything, they just present opportunities for you to learn and adapt and grow as a person.

It usually takes a person many years to realize that they can’t control things in life and to let go of that “need” to try to control things. That realization is part of the “wisdom” of older people. Once one stops trying to control the events of life, they are better able to take control of themselves and can focus more on their reactions to those events.

The opposite of believing that you can control everything is the thought that God controls everything, and you are just along for the ride. A healthier middle ground is to believe that God allows everything in life to happen, but he also gives us the faith and strength to endure those events.

While you cannot control the events of life, you can take control of you and your reactions to those events. You can ask God to strengthen your faith to help to endure and persevere through those events. We already know that God will help, for he told us in Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Armed with faith in the promise of God’s help, one might look life in the eye and say “Bring it on, I’m ready.”  In that case, it makes sense to change the last line of Zarr’s quote to read – “You are what you made of life.

With God’s help, take control of you.

What’s your idea?

November 8, 2021

The graphic today points to changes in our lives driven by ideas that we get. Not all ideas that we get are good ones and many should not necessarily be acted upon. Our prisons ae full of people who acted upon bad ideas. There are also many ideas that we might get which we immediately dismiss and being too hard or impractical. Those we should probably revisit with the thought in mind of finding a way to do the “impossible”. It is, after all, thinking like that that led the Wright brothers to stick with their idea of men flying like birds that eventually led to the invention of the airplane.

Life changing ideas don’t always have to be big in nature. Often small changes in the trajectory of your life come from rather modest ideas. There is a current TV show based upon exploring the idea “What if?” The premise I surmise (truth alert – I have never watched the show) is to explore different life trajectories based upon different decisions at key points in one’s life. It’s the old mental game of, “What if I had done this instead of that” played out in episodes.

In real life, we don’t get do-overs; and we can only spend so much time thinking about the alternatives that we are presented with every day. Where can we look for help evaluating the ideas that we get and choosing the right directions for our lives? There is help to be found in the Bible –

Let the Lord direct your steps, for your ability to make decisions, however good it may be, is not always aligned to the Will of God. Let us not lose our strength, trust in the Lord, and He will know how to lead us on the way. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Maybe the best idea that you can have about your life is to trust the Lord and live in harmony with the will of God. But, how will you know what the will of God is? Don’t expect a big booming voice that sounds a lot like James Earl Jones to tell you what to do. Instead, calm yourself and listen intently to that small, soft whisper in the back of your mind that is telling you what is right. At that moment, mentally say the little prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done” and you might notice a sense of peace settle over you.

Congratulations, taking that small step to act on that idea has changed your life.

Do what you can…

November 7, 2021

It is all too easy to fucus on things that you don’t have or to create reasons why you aren’t doing anything with your life. We tend to blame circumstances for our inability to be satisfied or lament that if only we were somewhere else things would be better. Just stop it. Instead heed the advice of Squire Bill Widener – “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Squire Bill was a prominent community figure in Widener’s Valley, Virginia, who served not only as a miller but also as a millwright, Confederate soldier, teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, Justice of the Peace, and spiritual advisor. It appears that Squire Bill followed his own advice and served the community as provider, teacher and friend. Widener’s quote is often mistakenly attributed to Teddy Roosevelt.

Wrapped up in that little quote are several important thoughts:

Stop wasting time thinking about not being able to solve world hunger or worrying about global warming and feed one needy person in your neighborhood or make one personal change to your lifestyle to lessen your negative impact on the environment. Use what you have and give what you have. Remember the story that Jesus told in Mark 12: 41–44 of the poor widow in the temple who gave her last two copper coins as an offering and how that was more than the lavish gifts of the rich. She did not sit there wishing that she had more, she just did what she could do with what she had. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

The one thing that you have that is more precious than money is your time. Giving of your time to volunteer at a local community non-profit is often worth more to them than dropping a few bucks in a bucket or writing them a check. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that needs to get done to turn those donations of money into actions that help the disadvantaged in the community. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

While we see nightly stories of disasters elsewhere or pictures of starving people in foreign lands there are many homeless and hungry people right in our own neighborhoods. You need not travel to find places where you can help; just look around you where you are. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

At the end of your day or the end of your life, don’t sit there lamenting what you coulda, woulda, shoulda done. Instead – Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Have an impactful and meaningful week ahead. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Peace of mind…

November 4, 2021

Recently Pastor Freed used this quote from the Optimist Creed in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words “Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.”  (The Optimist Creed)

Jack is an Optimist, both as a person and as a member of that organization and he embodies the Optimist Creed. If you meet him, you quickly know why.

In order to work upon being so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind, one has to first achieve peace of mind. But, how?

Our minds are seldom at rest and quite often not at peace. Why is that? I think it is because we allow ourselves to believe that we can control things going on around us, instead of just focusing upon what we can control – how we react to them. There are some things that we can control, but they are usually things that we can decide to do or not to do. The rest is all our reactions to happenings

 I recently wrote a post here titled “Be at Peace” which gives away the “secret” to peace of mind – accepting God into your life. The stronger your belief, the less able things that happen around you are able to disturb that peace. So perhaps that line from the Optimist Creed should be changed to read – “Promise yourself to be so strong in your belief in God that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.”

I have noticed, especially in times of turmoil all around me, that being able to remain calm and at peace has a very disarming effect on others, especially any who might be actively trying to upset me. It’s not always easy to maintain a calm demeaner, but it is worth the effort. Perhaps this verse from the Bible will help you focus on your peace – “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Being “still” might be equated to being at peace.

As Jesus was preparing his Disciples for their lives without him, he told them many things about their future as believers in him, as recorded in John Chapter 16. At the end of that Chapter, Jesus told them to be at peace –

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

So, believe and take heart, so that you too may overcome the world and be so strong in your belief in God that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

Be at peace.

What will you write on your page?

November 2, 2021

Sometimes it makes sense to put seemingly separate and random quotes together to make a complete thought. Today is one of those times. A quote from Jack Kerouac that I got today in my daily email from Pastor Freed just seems to go with a quote that I saw from an article on Superhero quotes, this one from The Flash.

“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page, and I could do anything I wanted.” (Jack Kerouac)

“Life doesn’t give us purpose. We give life purpose.” — The Flash – From Superhero Quotes

Many people come to some level of understanding of what Kerouac was trying to say – that what becomes of one’s life is up to them; however, many continue to search, or wait, for meaning or purpose in their life instead of taking the hint from the Flash that we give the purpose to our lives ourselves.

Looking in the Bible for quotes on the purpose of life, one comes across this –

“Now, everything has been heard, so I give my final advice:

Honor God and obey his commands because this is all people must do.

God will judge everything, even what is done in secret, the good and the evil.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 — New Century Version (NCV)

I chose the NCV version because it is one of the only translations that does not use the phrase “Fear God” in the passage. I am much more in tune with honoring God than fearing him. To my way of thinking, the “Fear God” message is the Old Testament view of our relationship with God. A key message that I take from the New Testament is to love (and honor) the God who gave his son to save us, but we should not fear Him.

A second thing that one can take from the New Testament is to focus upon the Great Commandments. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:36-40

One can find a lot of purpose in life by trying every day to fulfill God’s commandment to love your neighbor. Just focusing upon that will cause one to do a lot of good things and to not do a lot of other things that wouldn’t be so good. Doing those two things every day will be giving your life purpose and make great entries to that blank page that is your life.

What will you write on your life’s page today?

What’s in you?

October 30, 2021

A daily quote that I get from somewhere (who knows how one gets on these email lists) struck a chord with me yesterday –

All the ill that is in us comes from fear, and all the good from love. (Eleanor Farjeon)

One needs to think a bit about the broad generalizations in Farjeon’s statement. There are lots of emotions or feelings that one can have about things in life, but they do all boil down to either fearing or loving whatever it is that has evoked those reactions. Even the strong negative (ill) emotion of anger is motivated deep down by fear.

It is a worthwhile exercise to explore and try to identify the root causes of regret, anger or anxiety in your life. Why? Because it forces you to confront those fears and allows you to overcome them. Cutting through the emotional layers of fear allows one to focus upon the thing that is driving the fear – the upcoming decision or event or, maybe, the person that we fear facing.

Then, instead of allowing your imagination to explore all of the possible negative outcomes (something that it is very good at), you can instead use your imagination to visualize the desired outcome. Professional golfers use that visualization technique all of the time to “see” the successful outcome of their next shot. You don’t imagine that they stand there “seeing” their next shot going in the water or into a trap. No. Instead they “see” their shoe landing softly on the green and rolling towards the cup. Why would you spend time visualizing failure rather than “seeing” yourself being successful in whatever challenges you are facing.

So, where is the love (the good) in all of this? Using the same logic as I espoused for analyzing the fears in your life, you can backtrack the love side to find its core, too. If you have been able to visualize your success in whatever is facing you, it is easy to take the step of loving what it is that you see yourself doing. From there it is a small, but important step to love yourself for having the courage to be successful. If you can love who you are and what you are about to do, you can then admit to yourself that you could not have done it alone and acknowledge and embrace the love of God that gave you that courage.

So, at the heart of the love in your life is God’s love for you and all the rest of the good (the love) radiates out from that core, like the ripples in a pool of water when you toss in a rock. For at the core of all fears is the fear of death and those who believe in God know that Jesus has saved us from death and promised eternal life. Allow me the latitude to paraphrase Romans 8:31 – “If God is with us, what is there left to fear?”

Love God, be fearless and life will be good. What’s in you?