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?

Be at peace…

October 29, 2021

I have written about being at peace a few times in this blog, but two quotes that I saw recently inspired me to visit that topic again.

“If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.”

– Thomas Watson

“As we pour out our bitterness, God pours in his peace.”

– F.B. Meyer

We live within a worldly environment that too often surrounds us with trouble or tries to provoke us into anger, bitterness, or despair. It’s all to easy to get swept up and swept away by events over which we have no control.

I have mentioned Milford United Methodist pastor Doug McMunn in few posts in the past, because he often uses the phrase “Be at peace” when greeting or talking with people. If you meet Doug you will appreciate very quickly that he is at peace with himself and the world around him. Perhaps that is something that we expect of pastors; but not all are at peace. How do we achieve that same peace for ourselves?

If you read those two quotes above, there is one precursor implied in both that is critical and that is that you allow God into your life. Once there, as Watson says, God can create peace. As we accept God we pour out our bitterness, we forgive others, and ourselves, and allow God to pour in his peace.

The storms that Watson refers to are all the distractions and seeming emergencies that life can throw at us. If we allow those distractions to accomplish their goal, we drift away from God and focus upon the impossible task of trying to be in control, trying to resolve life’s conundrums. We are not at peace because ewe have not accepted the peace that God offers us.

We often let ourselves become to intensely focused upon things that are not really all that consequential in the grand scheme of life. Few of us ever are faced with decisions or tasks which involve life or death situations. However, I think of the pressure that healthcare workers in COVID wards are under, or which they put on themselves, because in that case people do die. Too many of them have been unable to find peace in the fact that they did their best to provide care and tried their best to make their patients as comfortable as possible in the face of death. It was not their fault, yet they fault themselves. They must pour out their bitterness and disappointment and let God pour in his peace.

As you finish each day, try to put behind you the things that you so fiercely focused upon during the day. Take time to touch base with God again and let Him calm the storms of your life and give you His peace. In the morning, touch that base again so that you can start the day at peace. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much calmer the storms around you will seem during the day when you carry God’s peace with you.

Be at peace.

Take the first step…

October 28, 2021

It is interesting that the graphic with the quote from J.P. Morgan seems to be showing a way out of a dark place. Many people find themselves in a dark place. It really doesn’t matter how they got there; what matters is how they can get out of that place and go on with life. The other interesting thing is that Morgan’s quote is that it places the responsibility for getting out of that place squarely on the shoulders of the person themselves – they have to decide that they don’t want to be there anymore. That may seem like a no-brainer decision; however, some people actually like being miserable, or so it seems.

So, if you have grown tired of being miserable or depressed and decided to get out of whatever dark place you have been in, how do you do that? For one, make sure that you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes that have kept you there for this long. There is a saying that equates that repetition with an expectation of a different outcome to insanity and you aren’t insane – just frustrated and perhaps out of options that you can think of to resolve your dilemma.

Here’s the first secret to finding your way out – it’s not your fault. In fact, it’s not your responsibility to solve whatever conundrum is confronting you. Your responsibility is to find the best way to live through that conundrum. Not being able to resolve or control all of the problems that life throws at you does not constitute failure. The failure that leads to those dark places is not being able to deal with that truth and move on.

Now, here’s the other secret to finding your way out – you are not alone. The feeling of being alone in that dark place and having no one to turn to is frightening. But you have never been alone, and you are not alone now. God has been with you all the time, standing right behind you and waiting for you to ask for his help. There is a line in the confessions of faith that we use every week in my church that says, “There is nowhere that you can go that God cannot find you.” No matter how far down you have fallen and how dark the pit seems to you, God will find you there if you but ask.

Asking God for his help does not have to involve long elaborate prayers. I’ve mentioned the line from many sports situations that goes, “A little help here.” That works when earnestly said to God. I also have posted here several times the little prayer that works for me, “Not my will but thy will be done.” That’s works, too. The real secret is asking and then embracing God’s help in your life. Use either one in an earnest appeal to God for help and see if the weight isn’t lifted from your shoulders.

You may ask, “Is it really that simple? I ask God for help and then my problems go away?” The answer is that it is really that simple and then you start dealing with your problems. They don’t go away you just move through them and past them and go on with life.

So, like the graphic above says, decide that you don’t want to be in that dark place anymore and take the first step – ask for God’s help. You will see the light and the way out.

A little help here.

Give it away and you’ll get more back

October 26, 2021

A couple of quotes that I’ve collected just seemed to go together today –

“Happiest are the people who give most happiness to others.” — Denis Diderot, French philosopher.

“Happiness never decreases by being shared.” –   Gautama Buddha

Your own happiness is something that you can share without it decreasing at all. In fact, it will increase as it is reflected off those with whom you have shared it. Have you ever noticed that, when you make someone else happy, you feel happier too? First it makes you feel good to share your own happiness and then you get to see their happy reaction and that makes you feel even better.

One could substitute the word “love” for happiness in the above statements and they would still work and be true. In fact, happiness may just be the externalization of love – love of yourself and others. Love does not make one disgruntled, sad, or angry. Love brings a smile to one’s face, not a frown. So, when you share your happiness, you are sharing your love.

The observation by Gautama Buddha is also true of love. You do not decrease your happiness by sharing it with others.  In fact, sharing your love with others is additive because you also get to enjoy some of their love in return. In the case of marriages, the effect is even more pronounced, and the impact of that shared love is even greater than the sum of the two. That love grows exponentially when the marriage produces children.

The first thing is to get yourself in a happy frame of mind. A good way to do that is to start each day with a little prayer thanking God for giving you another day, accepting His forgiveness and love, and asking Him to be with you throughout the day. That ought to make you happy.

Then, see if you can share some of your happiness with others today. See if what the quotes above have stated isn’t true. Could you feel the happiness that you gave to others coming back to you? Did sharing your happiness with someone else make you feel any less happy; or did it in fact add to your happiness?

There’s a little children’s ditty that goes, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”. You probably know the other verses too. Well, today let a new verse rattle around in your head, “If you’re happy and you know it, share with others.”

Try it, you’ll like it. Be happy. Share your happiness. Don’t worry about running out, you receive happiness back. Have a great and happy day!

Monday, Monday…

October 25, 2021

Monday’s get a bad rap as being the worst day of the week. I remember the Momma’s and Pappa’s song, Monday, Monday, in which they said the Monday’s leave them crying all of the time. Do Monday’s make you sad? Or, maybe you just dread having to go back to work on Monday. Maybe you just see Monday’s as “just another day” and dismiss them as unimportant. Here’s a thought –

“There’s no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.”  (Alexander Woollcott)

Perhaps, if you approach Monday’s (and really every day) with both thankfulness that you were given another day and anticipation of what will make this an important day in your life, you will recognize the hand of God in your daily life. Every day is full of opportunities to make decisions or take actions big or small that impact your life and the lives of others.

The simple act of holding a door open at a store for someone that you don’t even know may be the key to changing their day and putting them in a better frame of mind. That same act puts you in a better frame of mind too, since it forced you to get outside of yourself and your own thoughts and to recognize and act upon the needs of others. In most cases a verbal exchange of some sort will also happen, which further gets you out of your shell. The simple exchange, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” bring importance to your day.

Occasionally, you might be presented with one of life’s big opportunities to do something highly important, like saving someone’s life. We see that on news shows from time to time, when some “normal” person, just like us, happens to be at the right place at the right time to pull someone from a burning car or house or maybe to apply the Heimlich maneuver at a restaurant. They probably weren’t having a significantly important day prior to that incident, but it will remain in their memories as an important day the rest of their lives.

The most unimportant day of your life is yesterday, so don’t spend a lot of time revisiting it. The next least important day is tomorrow, since spending time worrying about what might happen then seldom has any impact other than to waste time today. Rather, spend your time focusing upon the most important day of your life, which is today, even if it is a Monday. God has important things for you to do today, so don’t miss the opportunities.

Hey, can I get that door for you?

Life is like…

October 21, 2021

Don’t you just love all of those “Life is like…” sayings? Remember that Forest Gump’s mom told hinm that life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are gong to get. I liked this little graphic with its “Life is like…” piece of advice because it fit so well with my own philosophy of life.

The bicycle analogy has one other aspect that that was not highlighted in the little saying above. When you learn to ride a bike, in addition to keeping moving, you are taught that if you start to lean one way or the other, turn into that direction and the bike will right itself again. If you either stop moving or you were to turn away from the direction that the bike is leaning you will fall over.

Life throws all sorts of things at us that may make us lean one way or the other – problems, unexpected turns of events, personal losses, or setbacks.  We can’t let those things stop us and we must turn into them and face them or we will fall down. We cannot deny or turn away from life’s challenges if we wish to remain upright. We cannot stop living and must keep moving forward. But, how?

Look at the picture again. Now take the analogy to the next level in your mind. In the picture the little boy’s father is there to help keep him moving forward and to help him turn into the leans and stay upright. If you imagine that you are the little boy, who do you think can be the father figure in your life helping you stay upright and moving forward?

If you guessed that it is God, you are probably already pretty good at life’s bicycle ride. However, if you spend more of your time falling down and having to pick yourself up or perhaps you are stopped and feel stuck; maybe it’s time to let God help you learn how to ride the bicycle that is your life. God has always been there, right behind you, ready to help if you let Him.

You don’t get training wheels with life’s bicycle, but you won’t need them if you let God give you a little push to keep you going and some advice about turning into the leans that life throws at you. There are prayers that I could recommend for you to use to ask for God’s help, but just saying to God sincerely “A little help here” is as much as you need to say.

Accept God’s help in your life and then set back and enjoy the ride.