a Patriotic special encounter

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I really enjoy the holidays, pretty much all of them.  I especially like the holidays where family gets together and we can all enjoy, un-hurried “hanging out” times.

Today, was one of those special times with my receiving an unexpected encounter.  My wife, daughters, and two grand kids  had just gotten to the pool for another day in the blistering sun, looking forward to being refreshed by the cool splashing water, and very precious times of playing “Marco Polo’, or “Motorboat, Motorboat” or “Airplane” .

While we were unloading all of our necessary pool supplies in a shady oasis in the pool area, we saw an older man, John, who  was finding comfort in the cool shade.  My wife made some friendly comment thanking him for his service to our country and how  “grand pa was  ready to go in and start playing with his grand kids in the pool”.

The older man commented that he was not able to go into the pool, because of some disease. He then mentioned another health problem due to “agent orange” from his time of service in the Viet Nam war.   

As I have been challenged lately by the Lord to be more respectful of all human life, I continued to show concern to this man and asked John questions about not only his health, but about his war experiences, as well as his perspective on how those experiences intersected with him having faith.

It was so enjoyable. Such a relaxed conversation I had with his man as he spoke of his time in the war. With my curiosity peaked, and my questions flowing from them, John told me about some of his war experiences that both shocked me, and well, just disturbed me.  I will spare you the details he shared with me.

The one story he left me with that has seemed to stay with me most was this.  It wasn’t the death he saw all too frequently, ( some stories he shared with me), or the health issues that resulted from his time in the service (depression, diabetes, PTSD, uncontrolled anger), but the his experience  when he returned to the United States,.

He was on a plane loaded with servicemen at the airport and the plane was a few hundred yards away from the gate.  However,  the pilot didn’t seem to have any intention of moving the plane up to the gate, which puzzled the soldiers.  Some of the anxious servicemen were starting to get agitated looking forward to the cheers they expected to receive at the terminal, yet everything was being delayed.

After about an hour, one of the airline staff on the plane told the servicemen that they were waiting for a bus to come out to the plane to load them up and take them to a nearby army base.  There was no crowd of cheering people waiting to shower them with their gratitude, gifts, and smiles.  Instead, the airlines official told them they were having to board these military personnel on a bus because, in actuality, what awaited them in the terminal were protesters who were just looking for the opportunity to curse these soldiers, spit at them, and show in every conceivable way they could, their objections to the U.S. being in this war and these soldiers having a part in it.

The lack of gratitude and disrespect they experienced on their return “home” I can’t even begin to relate to, yet I found that even imagining what they experienced made me almost verbally gasp.

Friends, this 4th of July take a moment to show gratitude to our servicemen for their willingness to have laid down their life and for protecting the freedoms of our country.  I get it that some folks may not agree with war in general, or our involvement in a specific war, but let me encourage you to put your right to your own opinions aside for a few moments, or even hours and empathize with one of our military whose life was forever changed, fighting on your behalf and mine.

 

 

Get ready to go to bed! —“Sleep Smarter” book review

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My apologies, in advance, for the long set up on this, but I think its really important that you “get it” as to my focus in writing today’s post—its about “being ready”.

Think about the confidence you have when you have prepared for every possible scenario you can think of  for the upcoming meeting.  How much more likely will there be a positive outcome at that meeting?

Think about the confidence you will have to face your opponent this weekend after an in-depth week of studying film and  multiple practices designed to take advantage of your team’s strengths, and your opponent’s weaknesses.  How much more likely will there be a positive outcome for your team at this weekend’s game?

Last one, this evening, you are going to have a talk with a friend over a very troubling matter that has brought tension to your relationship for many months.  Tonight will be a time for you to hopefully work through it with this person.  How much more likely will there be a positive outcome for you if you prepare your heart and mind to what you need to say, and how you should say those things?

The common issues in all these three of these scenarios is that preparing ourselves ahead of time will increase our chances of success.  Who doesn’t want success?  We all do, but how many of us are willing to do the things we need to ahead of time (I’m talking putting in hard work, establishing good habits, and making adjustments) and then follow through with those practices to experience, over time–some kind of victory?

All these thoughts come to mind after reading the book, “Sleep Smarter” by Shawn Stevenson.  There are some books that I’ll work my way through.  The read is fairly enjoyable, enough to hold my interest, but I need to labor through.  This was not one of those books.  It ranks up there with books like “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull, Patrick Lencioni books, or “Winning” by Jack Welch.  I couldn’t wait to read this book.  I was absorbed in it.

I have heard that sleep is important, just like I understand that exercise and eating fruits and vegetables are also important.  However, this book blew me away with its thoroughness on bringing up data to support sleep’s importance.  I wasn’t aware that having a better diet affected the quality of my sleep, or putting away electronic devices can help me have a better night’s rest, that good sex can help me have a better sleep, that waking up early can help me sleep better, etc.

I also appreciated Shawn’s presentation of his content.  I never felt like I was a child being scolded and admonished about getting more sleep.  Rather, I felt like I was being coached by someone who cares for me and wants me to be successful.  Making adjustments in my life to get better sleep, I’m now convinced, will help me enjoy a better life.

Without a doubt, this is a book, I would highly recommend reading.

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As a help to being your best in the area of Personal Health, please check out my Life Management App and consider using it with a friend:

You can visit either the App Store (for IPhones) Foundations Life Management app for IPhone devices

https://appsto.re/us/ejC7fb.I

or go to the Google Play Store- https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.FoundationsLifeCoach.Foundations&hl=en

 

Will doing this one thing help you as you face your trials?

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Instead of saying trials, I was thinking about using the word “struggles”, or even “battles”.  Whatever, you get the point. We all face various times of great difficulty.  Not only can it be emotionally, physically, and spiritually challenging going through these times, but there is also an added pressure that comes from the realization in the back of our minds that if we don’t respond wisely in this difficult time, we can even make things worse. Ugh!

It is one thing to have a teenager who seems to consistently be making bad choices, but to frequently lose your temper when you are with them doesn’t help

It is one thing to have job stresses, but turning to alcohol (and not being able to control your drinking) is bound to compound your problems

It is one thing to have some marital conflict, but regularly looking at porn as an outlet for your sexual urges will only add gas to your current fires of difficulty

On and on, I could go describing battles that we all face. My guess is that if you are reading this post, there is probably a struggle that is already on your mind- some kind of trouble you are in, right now.  Although the specifics of each of our challenges varies immensely,  there is one common thing we can all do to help us as we work through our trials—–sing and worship God!

Let me give you some Biblical examples:

  • When the leaders of Israel asked God which tribe should go first in the fighting to take over the Promised Land.  God said that it should be the tribe of Judah.  Judah means praise”  (they were also commanded to lead in Numbers 10:14 and Judges 20:18)
  • in 2 Chronicles 20, the Israelites were about to be attacked by a big army and King Jehoshaphat was well aware that there was no human way they could defeat their vast opponent.  So, besides fasting and praying, vs 22 says “and when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush  against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.
  • In Acts 16, Paul and Silas preached the Gospel in Philippi and while there, some responded to the life-giving message and some others were  bothered by the convicting message (a typical set of responses when the Gospel message is proclaimed).  In fact, Paul and Silas got thrown into jail because of their evangelistic efforts. So while in probably a rat-infested, cold, uncomfortable situation how did they respond?  Verse 25 (esv) says, “about midnight Paul and Silas  were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening  to them, and suddenly   there was a great earthquake , so that the foundations  of the prison were shaken.”
  • There can be no greater battle that was ever fought than the one Jesus Christ was involved in during the last week of His earthly life. To live a perfect life on earth so that His life could be accepted as a substitute for the sins of humanity AND to knowingly understand that by carrying to a cruel death, humanity’s rebellious actions and attitudes would mean carrying the weight of God’s judgement AND SEPARATION from the Father, was so intense that the Bible says in Luke 22:44 (esv), “and being in agony  he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood  falling to the ground.”   And what had Jesus done  before coming to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with His disciples?  Matthew 26, verse 30 says, they sung a hymn.

How about you, my friend?  What trials are you going through right now?  How are you preparing to deal with them?  Have you tried singing and worshiping God?

Doing so, gets your eyes off of your big problems and focuses them on a BIGGER GOD!

Doing so, helps you understand that you are not in this problem alone, you have help, BIG HELP from the Creator of the Universe!

Doing so, helps energize you from having a negative, “it will never end”, “this is overwhelming”, “there is no way out” kind of attitudes to one of expectant hope because this God you are singing to has proven over and over again that He is faithful, that He is capable, that He is loving.

Maybe its time to start singing.

“What are we going to do today?”

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“What are we going to do today?”

I’ve been asked that question by my kids on weekends, and on vacations (and you probably have as well).  It’s a great question for a number of reasons.
For one, they are looking to me to give them direction to what we’re going to do?
Another reason is that it shows they want to be with me.  They are wondering what we are going to do together.
Another reason is that there something adventurous in the question.  Its like there is something unexpected, something exciting awaits for us to discover.

“What are we going to do today?”

In kind of an interesting twist to that question, I actually found myself  being asked by the Holy Spirit that very question the other day when I woke up.
I’m aware that the Holy Spirit miraculously lives within me as a follower of Jesus Christ.
I’m aware that He wants to counsel me, comfort me, advise me, convict me, re-assure me, inspire me, and so much more.  He is there all the time doing life with me  (how awesome, right!)

I was kind of startled by that question I received from Him because it challenged me.  Was I going to be living my life that day looking to Him to be a kind of genie fulfilling every selfish desire I have (I know those requests will not get answered as I want (James 4:1-3)?

So, what did I want to do today?  Well, I think the question was a good one to lead me to the understanding that I did not want to do anything that the Holy Spirit was not directing me.  I wanted to seek to be a follower of Him, rather than me taking the lead and seeking to fulfill my desires (Romans 8:5-8, Galatians 5:16-25).

I felt very confident and contented knowing that those who come to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder for those who seek Him–Hebrews 11:6.

So, “what are we going to do today?” was I turned back on God.

I want Him to give me direction.
I want to do life with Him.
I want to live my life as an adventure (believing that He is able to do far more abundantly than all I could ask for or imagine for His glory)

What are you going to do today?

I can’t believe I had been missing it

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About two years ago, our church, Harvest Bible Chapel started a new initiative, Act Like Men.

The idea was to get men to come out 3-4 times during the year, Sunday night at 9 p.m.  While at these hour and a half meetings, there would be two brief messages and then two discussion times with men in table groups.During these “connecting times”, men were encouraged to be transparent with one another, to let down their guard and be vulnerable.  As we did, it was an opportunity to find support, accountability, healing, and encouragement.

 

IF, the men attended three of the four nights, they were then able to go a men’s Summer event called Palooza.  It was designed to be an “over the top” weekend gathering in Michigan. The weekend would be packed with four messages and times of worship, and many, many activity guys would find challenging: events like softball, mud wrestling, free throw shooting, football tosses, and so much more.

I attended last year’s event. No doubt, it was a good time with many positive take-aways from it.

Then came round two during the  past nine months, I believe there were four or five late Sunday night events where attendance at four events was required to qualify to attend this past weekend’s second annual Palooza.

 

Again, there was the same format of quality worship times and intense, competitive events.

And again, for me, there were many highlights that stood out to me from over the weekend. 

But what set this apart, was that it wasn’t until the last 15 minutes of this weekend that Pastor James MacDonald said something that sent fireworks off in my brain (we actually had fireworks on Saturday night too!).  He laid out a vision for what Act Like Men was all about. 

 

He mentioned that the bar was set so high (in fact, next year, we are going to have seven late Sunday evening gatherings to attend) because he wanted the church to be calling out guys to break away from our addiction to our independence and acting like we are in control of our self.  Too often, we have that “I want to do my own thing”. 

We ARE responsible for our actions, but guys especially have a habit of acting from their own selfish and independent mindsets, and prone to isolation, so that we need to go radical and be challenged to a higher calling.  Guys, we need to be involved in community.

 

I saw it!

 

I finally realized what I had been missing.  It was the importance, rather the need of guys (WITH ME BEING RIGHT THERE AT THE TOP OF THE LIST) to do life together and encouraging, supporting, praying for, and holding other guys accountable.  It was a matter of being a part of a community where we can not only receive the support and care from other guys, but also give it as well. 

I had been experiencing that throughout the weekend, but was oblivious to what I was actually experiencing.  I was missing the intentionality of it all.

 

But again, now I understood it.

 

I am so excited to be a part of a sea of voices, a band of Christian brothers intent on glorifying God by the way we live during this short time we are on this planet.

I just wanted to be transparent and let you all know what God was doing in my life and encourage each person out there, especially guys to get involved with a group like this, if you are not already.

 

Blessings.

Something I learned from IMPROV—–join in!

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Not too long ago, I was at a company-wide outing where we learned what IMPROV was all about.  It was really an enjoyable time, passing imaginary objects to one another, learning the value of keeping things positive, the importance of really focusing on another person, and so much more.  One of the group exercises was in creating a story, where one person says a phrase and then the next person adds to the story with another phrase, and so on.  It was fascinating to see how the story progressed and the unexpected surprises along the way as different people added their creativity.

Well, for roughly the next month, I would like to do a social media -group project as an experiment.  I think it will be fun and am curious where it ends up.  I am going to start a story and I would like to ask you all, the readers of this post to add to the story.  Please keep your contribution to under 250 words.  After you contribute your piece (by clicking on this live link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CaQQO5P7SK9a10i9PnT-rqD4Db14OeZNWAEVp_gA4NI/edit?usp=sharing ) please give someone else an opportunity to add in something, but then you are more than welcome to once again add in another piece of writing.  I think it will be fun and very interesting, so here goes:

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                                                                                                     Chapter 1
Slowly, ever so slowly the man’s eyelids began to open up. With increasing clarity, awareness of it being a new day came to his mind.

It was Friday morning, and the thought of having to endure just one more day at work brought the middle-aged man hope and energy.  Then, he would have the weekend to sort through all the craziness that was happening in his family with his wife, Rhonda, and twins, 17 year-olds, Andrew and Laura.
Patrick O’Brien was a good man, however recently he felt like his world was crashing in all around him. He wondered to himself, “how much longer could he carry the weight of all the pressures he was experiencing?”
After putting on his “casual-day” Friday clothes for work, he made his way down to the kitchen where his wife was cooking breakfast.
Rhonda was a beautiful, confident, and quiet woman, however, as soon as  Patrick saw her, he noticed that she had been crying.. With very deliberate steps, he moved closer to her, not quite sure how to convey his concern.
“honey, are you alright?  what’s going on?”, Patrick asked.
She looked back at Patrick, as her tears began again to flow, and said, “
Now, its your turn, Keep the story moving.   Please try to add your thoughts to this story (keeping your word count at 250 words or less). You can add to the story as many times as you want, but please let someone write their next contribution, then you can go ahead again and offer another contribution to the story.   The goal of this project is to see how consistent to details and flow,  a story can be produced with many different writers.  Have fun with this and contribute often.     We will keep this project going for only one month, before a new potential story is developed.

Are you living like you are really looking to W.I.N.?

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The other day I took a test. It was one of those personality tests  you take when you go on a job interview (although I’m not currently  looking for a job).  One of the questions was “when you do an activity, do you always seek to win?”  I said yes.  (probably not a surprise for those who know me).

However, this post is not really about being #1 when you play a game, its more about a mindset.    When I’m talking about “winning”, I’m actually talking about an acronym, W.I.N.—what’s important now?.

I didn’t come up with it, but read it back a few months ago from some coach, and it has stayed with me, ever since.  In fact, I have it on my phone as a daily reminder to help me strive to be all there in each and every moment.  The idea is when I am doing something, I need to intentionally put aside all those other things that are screaming for my attention. I need to discipline my mind to not dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future, but living in the moment (though with a foundation based on an eternal mindset).  As the Bible says, “wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding”.

I believe that sheer excellence is not possible when multi-tasking key activities. I need to try doing better at being all there, one activity at a time.

At work, if I am going to give my employer my best, then I need to limit my mind from wandering with thoughts about my personal life.  I need to concentrate at the job at hand.

I know I can do much better at being all there when I’m in a conversation with someone.  I can listen better and pay more attention to what the other person is saying (and not saying) and how they are saying things.  I can also do better at trying to communicate more clearly.

Let me give you another example, driving.  Seriously, how hard is actually driving a car?  Not so much, right?  Then why are there so many accidents?  It’s because people (myself included) do not do consistently well at asking the question, “what’s important now?” and following through with it.

When you or I are driving, we should be focused on our car, the driving conditions, drivers around us, etc.  We should try not to be distracted by being on our phone, putting on our make up, reading the paper (that was the reason for one of my previous accidents), petting the dog on our lap, etc.  Yet, over and over, you and I (I know I do) fail to ask, “What’s Important Now?” and live by it.

I drive about 40 minutes each way to and from work–80 minutes a day.  Well, yesterday, I wasn’t far from home when I heard the sound of an incoming text message. For some reason, I thought it was my wife asking if I would get pizza on the way home.  To me, pizza is a high priority 🙂

So, what did I do, I picked up my phone, which was on the passenger seat to see who the text was from.  When I looked up, only 1-2 seconds later (this is out of 80 minutes a day of driving), I realized I was in a bad situation, the car in front of me was stopped.  AHHHHH!

Fortunately, I am still experiencing the consequences of a gift from my kids (driving a Lamborghini), so I slammed on the brake and swerved to avoid hitting anyone.  I was very fortunate.  Thank you God and your angels!   

“Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding”.

This post was meant mostly to myself as a reminder and hopefully, there are one or two of you out there who will also benefit from it.

Be in the moment. This holiday weekend, in each and every activity you do, be all there.  Ask yourself and carry out your answers to “What’s Important Now?”

Enjoy each and every conversation you are in with someone.

Enjoy seeing and feeling all that is around you when you go for a walk.

Enjoy the indescribable gift it is to have a personal relationship with God.

Enjoy the blessing it is to have a house to live in, food on your table, clothes on your back.

Enjoy the blessing of living in this country and for those who served and gave their lives so that we can live in freedom.

Enjoy this Memorial Day weekend!