Don’t get spit out; get committed…

January 23, 2020

“There are only two options regarding commitment.  You’re either IN or you’re OUT.  There is nor such thing as life in between.”  (Pat Riley)

That was the quote in a recent installment of the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Riley was referring to being committed in basketball terms, but he was also referring to life in general. Many seem to think that being a spectator in life means the same as being committed. It does not. I am reminded of the old saying , “The chicken was involved in the breakfast meal, but the pig was committed.”

Later is his post, Jack used this short quote from Revelations 3:16 – “Because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out.” Apparently, God wants us to get committed or get left behind.

But, how does one get committed in their faith? Actually, we got fairly specific instructions on that in the Bible. Many passages instruct the followers of Christ to share the Good News.  Some of the faithful take that commitment to the extreme, preaching from a soap box on a street corner; but, for most, there is another way to be committed.  

Two verses from the Bible  that I particularly like are these –

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16) 

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15)

It seems to me that these passages are saying that living one’s life in quiet confidence of salvation and doing what is right for others (good works) is a great way to let the light of Christ shine through you. Showing gentleness and respect while defending your faith is just being consistent with that confidence.

We need not spend or days overtly bringing up our faith and cajoling others about their faith; rather we need to live our lives such that our decisions and actions reflect our faith. Often that will involve making decisions to help others or to do the “right thing” when faced with tough decisions. We should be able to look back at the end of the day and be proud of the decisions that we made and not ashamed of them. Some use the little reminder bracelets with the initials WWJD on them, because they help one stop and think about the decision at hand within the context of one’s faith.  Not every decision involves one’s faith, but many decisions have a right or wrong component to them that can benefit from that pause. The right or wrong component usually involves the decision’s impact upon others.

I have written here before that a good little prayer to start your day my include this line – “Help me make good decisions today.”  That helps you get committed for the day. Don’t get spit out. Get committed. Let His light shine through you.


But, you didn’t…

January 15, 2020

“You can’t regret making what you thought was the best decision at the time.”  (Carol Channing) – quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog tody.

We call it second guessing and sometimes we do it to ourselves. You coulda (but, you didn’t). you  woulda (but, you didn’t), you shoulda (but, you didn’t). Spending time regretting things that are already over is a worse waste of time that spending time worrying about things that may happen in the future. One can rationalize time spent worrying about the future as being time spent in planning, and some of it may be just that. There is no way to rationalize the time that you spend in regret for decisions actions of the past. Spending some time to learn from a mistake or poor decision is alright, so long as you accept that it is over and there is no way to change whatever happened.

One side benefit that can come out of trying to learn from your mistakes is the opportunity to examine your decision making process. Are you basing your decisions on sound evidence and facts, or do you allow pre-conceived notions or prejudices to creep into the process? What are the beliefs that you base your decisions upon – what provides you with your moral compass?  Do you have the courage of your convictions; or, do you just find a way to go with the flow of the crowd, even if that direction is bad?

Every decision that you make has an alternative that you need to weigh, sometimes many alternatives. At a minimum, there is usually the “do nothing “alternative. Doing nothing, when you should have acted is probably the most regretted decision that people make. So, perhaps your first decision is that you will do something. We see stories all the time on the Nightly News about people who rush in to help someone out of a burning car or house. They made the quick decision to act, rather than just standing there pondering the alternatives. Of course, there are usually those who decide to take out their smartphones and capture the events on video rather than jump in and help. One has to wonder if they regret that later. If you remember the final episode of the Seinfeld TV series, you know, as they did, that it is wrong to be a voyeur in life.  

So, learn from your past decisions, but live for the future. Coulda, woulda, shoulda about the past is as big, if not bigger, waste of time than Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt is about the future. Perhaps you should start each day by putting the past behind you and focusing upon making good decisions today. One way to do that is to check your moral compass before you set out and asking God to help you make those good decisions. Saying a little prayer that asks for God’s help in your decision-making brings Him out of your subconscious and into the conscious process that you go through to make those decisions. The impact of that can be dramatic and certainly cuts down on the regrets that you might otherwise have later on.

Have a great day. Ask for God’s help. Make good decisions. Have no regrets.


Light up the world…share the love.

January 9, 2020

I need to share Jack’s entire post from today’s entry in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words –

“Love multiplies and adds as we divide it with others.”  (Arthur C. Nielsen –adapted)  A leader was trying to illustrate the truth of this quotation to a group of young people.  Each person was given an unlit candle.  The leader then lit a candle and passed the flame to a candle that was unlit and that one passed it to the next…and so on.  Then she commented: “Look at all of these candles…from a single flame which is not diminished.  “Love multiplies” as we share it!

It seems to me that the two key words in that whole post are the words “love” and “share”. Jesus came to earth as God’s way of expressing his love for his people and recast their perception of Him from a God to be feared into a God to be loved and embraced through His Son. Jesus preached a message of love for one another and in deed left that as his final commandment in John 13:34 – “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.”

God, as interpreted by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day was a God to be feared. Those same leaders created and imposed rigid instructions for keeping God happy by following the rituals that they designed. Jesus threw out those rules and substituted love for the fear that was the foundation of the beliefs at the time.

Jesus may be thought of as that first candle in the story that Jack related in his post. The light of that first candle was the love that Jesus shared even unto His death on the cross. That light has been passed from person to person and from generation to generation ever since. That original love is undiminished, just as the light from the original candle was undiminished as it was shared.

Our mission, it would seem, is not to sit there with an unlit candle or a candle whose light we keep to ourselves; but, rather, to share the light and the flame of our candle with others. Sharing the good news of Christ is not about preaching at people, it is about sharing the love that we inherited when we accepted Christ and lit our candle.

You need not get up on a soapbox to share that love. If you just reach out to others who may be in need, you are sharing the love. If you greet others with a cheerful voice and a sincere interest in them, you are sharing the love. If you live your life as an example of the love that Christ has for you, you will naturally share and spread the light of your candle.

As you start out each day, take a moment to turn up the wick of your candle through prayer, then go out, and light up the world by sharing your love. The world will be a brighter place because of your light. Share the Love.


But, what ought we to do?

January 8, 2020

Jack Freed used this quote today in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“There are two freedoms…the false where one is free to do what he likes; the true where one is free to do what he ought.”  (Charles Kingsley)

I suspect that, upon reading that quote, most immediately thought of the first example of freedom that the quote references. Indeed, it is that self-centered, self-righteous and uncaring definition of freedom to do whatever we like that is at the root of much of today’s political and social turmoil. The “freedom” that some proclaim they are seeking is really a form of anarchy, with little to no concern for the welfare of others. They say, “I’ve got my health care covered and I don’t care about you having none” or maybe, “I’ve got a home and food on the table. Go find your own place to live and food to eat, but don’t bother me.” That is not really freedom; it is a formula for the failure of a society.

So, how is doing what one ought to do – caring for others, helping others, sacrificing for others – the real freedom?  It begins by first accepting Jesus into your life, as written in John 8:32 – “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

But, free to do what?We can see what we ought to be doing in the Bible in Galatians 5:14 –  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And, again in Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Maybe figuring out what we ought to be doing isn’t that hard after all. The hard part is letting go of the self-interest and self-centeredness that is so prevalent in our society today.

Freedom is not all about you doing whatever you want. It’s about you seeing what needs to be done to help others around you and taking what actions you can to provide that help. Maybe you are barely providing for your own family with what you make at work. You probably still have some spare time that you could use to help others. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, drive for Meals on Wheels, work in the local food bank sorting food or maybe stuffing food in backpacks for the local Blessings-in-a-Backpack program. There are tons of ways to help others available in any community.

Do what you ought to be doing and what you know is right. Start by embracing Jesus in your life and the rest will come naturally. Set yourself free.


Stepping off in the right direction…

January 7, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed shared these quotes – “Tip-toe if you must, but take the step.”  (Unknown)  Laurie sent this quote along with the advice…“Sometime the smallest step in the right direction turns out to be the biggest step of your life.” 

Back in May of 2014 (doesn’t that seem like a long time ago, now), I wrote about taking the journey to success – see  https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/05/03/start-your-journey-to-success/. I was focused then upon the planning and  preparatory steps, as much as the journey itself. The movie What about Bob, was about Bob learning to take “baby steps” in his journey through an angst filled life.

But what about me or you? Maybe the key word in Laurie’s quote from above is the word “right”. How do we know what is the right direction in which to step off on our journey through life?

When it comes to directions, most of us have abandoned the use of maps and embraced the modern convenience of GPS systems, either in our phones or in our cars (or both).  We just poke in an address and the GPS system shows and tells us how to get there, with turn-by-turn instructions . If only navigating through life were as simple.

Perhaps it is. We all have a life directions GPS available to us, if we only know how to use it – it is called faith. If we call upon God to guide us through life we will never be lost and we will always get to the destination that he has in mind for us. We may not always understand the route that he is taking us on; however, if we trust in Him we will get to where we are supposed to be. The interesting thing is that we start out the journey with an unknown end- point, but we have faith that we will end up at the right place. If we really trust God we can then relax and enjoy the journey.

Perhaps we should start each day by checking in with God to set our direction for the day. It’s OK to let him know where you think you’d like to end up – what your goals are for the day – but you need to end your daily GPS reset by resetting your belief and faith that where ever you end up is where God wanted you to be. The easiest and quickest way to reset you r GPS for life is by saying the little prayer – “Not my will, but thy will be done.”  Then step off in the direction in which God has pointed you and enjoy the journey. Perhaps that will be the biggest step in your life.

Step off in the right direction today.


Is God your Obi Wan?

January 6, 2020

Jack used this quote from Star Wars in today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”  (Princess Leia)

For many the entire Start Wars saga was always a thinly disguised tale of faith and religion. The battle of good vs. evil and the mysterious “Force” seeming to take their cues from various religious beliefs. It does not take a giant leap to imagine substituting the word God for Obe Wan Kenobi in the quote above or using “God” instead of “Force” in the phrase “May the Force be with you.”

Jack asked the question in his post, “Who is your Obe Wan?” Within the context of characters in the Star Wars movies, he chose Yoda as his Obe Wan. Many men might identify with Obe Wan, or perhaps Luke Skywalker or maybe Hans Solo. Jack did write that Princess Leia was the most popular character of all.  

In creating the Star Wars universe and saga, George Lucas took advantage of our need to find a way to equate God to things that we can see and experience. He turned our faith into the Force and gave faces to characters who might otherwise have been angels or spirits. He created the epic struggle of good vs. evil by creating a host of fallen angels that he called “the Dark Side.” Whether the Emperor or Darth Vader represented the Devil is open to question, since both were portrayed as evil personified.

The whole Star Wars phenomena is just one example of man’s need to try to put God and faith into some smaller, more familiar context that he can understand.  The whole of religion is really man’s attempt to explain God and faith by creating structure, rules, and pageantry that the common person can relate to and practice. Most religions have developed elaborate explanations of what life after death will be like. There are many names for where we supposedly go – Heaven, Valhalla,  Swarga Loka, Nirvana, Jannah, and Tiān are just a few of the places where people believe that souls go after death.

Man’s imagination is so limited that he must couch things like heaven in familiar terms and descriptions that he can understand. It is that mental barrier between what we can understand and what we can just accept and believe that holds man back from a better relationship with God. If, instead of Obe Wan Kenobe, we said and truly believed, “Help me God, you are my only hope”; we might experience the relationship with God that He has in mind for us. Trying to understand God and putting Him in our own small context is a manifestation of our own egos.  It is that leap of faith that we take when we finally admit that “I don’t understand, but I believe” that clears the way for a direct relationship with God. One cannot understand “the peace that passes all understanding” by continuing to struggle to understand it. Just accept it.

So, make God your Obe Wan and the Force will be with you. Have a great week ahead. May God be with you.


Epiphany, what’s Epiphany?

January 4, 2020

Monday, January 6, is Epiphany, a day to remember the three wise men who journeyed bearing gifts  to see the baby Jesus. If you Google Epiphany you will get lots of information about how it is celebrated in other countries, some with parades of people dressed up as the Wise Men. Not so much in the United States. In fact, I’m surprised that some merchants aren’t advertising Epiphany sales, since they seem to take every opportunity to have a sale.  

If you Google Epiphany, one of the suggested definitions is for the term “epiphany moment”, which is more how we use the word today, From the Google definition –  

Epiphany is an “Aha!” moment. As a literary device, epiphany (pronounced ih-pif–uh-nee) is the moment when a character is suddenly struck with a life-changing realization which changes the rest of the story. Often, an epiphany begins with a small, everyday occurrence or experience.

 For Christians, that small, everyday occurrence was the birth of Jesus. That event certainly changed things in our lives.  Churches will celebrate Epiphany this weekend, but few of us in the pews probably give it a lot of thought. After all, there are no Epiphany decorations that we can put up and Monday isn’t even a national holiday. It is however, the end of the 12 days of Christmas and does provide us with yet another opportunity to pause and thank God for sending us His Son – that was our “epiphany moment”

I have found a way to at least acknowledge Epiphany at my house. Every year, as part of our  Christmas decorations, I light up a large star of Bethlehem decoration that is placed on the second floor of the house. It can be seen from quite a distance. So, even though I took down the rest of the Christmas decorations yesterday, the star remains lit up at night, through Epiphany. It is a symbol of the star that guided the Wise Men to the manger in Bethlehem. I  hope that it give pause for reflection to those who see it as they come over the hill towards my house.

How do you celebrate Epiphany? Did you even know or remember that Monday is Epiphany? Does one say Happy Epiphany as a greeting? On Easter Morning we greet other Christians by saying, “He is risen”; maybe for Epiphany we should greet others with the phrase, ”He is born”. Was the birth of Jesus so long ago an epiphany moment in your life? Maybe Monday will be different from all other Monday’s this year, if you pause to reflect on that epiphany moment so long ago that lives on today.

Let Epiphany change your life.