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.

 

 

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?

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!

 

 

What to do when God is silent…

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For some of you, this post today might come really close to the heart.

I believe there are some, maybe many who are deeply concerned about something. Maybe its a financial matter, maybe a damaged relationship (or no relationship at all), maybe it’s a health issue, maybe its an aging parent issue.  You get the point. These are all matters of the heart and some times trying to understand how to deal with the issue gets painful and exhausting.
Besides the weighty concern that this issue is, what can seem to add to the frustration is that God is so silent.  You may feel all alone and wondering how much longer this exasperating experience will go on.
Let me encourage you if you are in this situation–nothing is hidden from the eyes of God. He sees all. He hears all. He knows all.
“So,” you wonder, “where is this living and  loving God when I need Him most?”
I once heard a story about a bunch of guys swimming in a pond. One of them was an expert swimmer.  As the day went on, one of the guys started to drown.  His friends noticed what was happening and looked to the expert swimmer, who was on the shore, to save their friend who was going underwater.  However, although he heard everyone screaming for his help, he didn’t move.
This only frustrated  all the guys all the more, who with panic in their voices, yelled even louder for their friend to rescue their other friend, but the expert swimmer  remained silent and did not move.
At that moment, the guy who was bobbing up and down, did not come up again. The water became calm…..for just a moment.
Because instantly, there was a splash, then waves, then two bodies surfaced.
Upon seeing the one man go under for the last moment, the expert swimmer got his green light to break his silence, go in, and with sheer precision, save his friend.
When they two men reached the shore, the expert swimmer was literally attacked for his cold-hearted, lack of response.
Seeing the anger of his friends, the expert swimmer quieted the crowd and confidently said that the way he acted was calculated.  He mentioned that if he had sought to rescue his friend when he first went under water, they probably both would have drowned.  The adrenalin of the one would have taken them both down..  So the expert swimmer said, he had to wait until his friend stopped trying and basically gave up.  Then, he could save him without there being any resistance.
Friend, that story illustrates what might be happening to some of you.
The expert swimmer on the shore in your life is God. He is watching all that you are struggling with, but truth be told, you might not yet be ready for His help because you are trying so hard to do it yourself. Your actions and attitudes may reveal that you don’t want or are unwilling to receive God’s help.  Maybe you are still holding on to so much bitterness or unforgiveness that you are not willing to part with it. Maybe you just can’t bear being out of control and admitting you need help. Maybe you are scared.
Whatever it might be, understand that God is watching.  His silence does not mean He does not care, or is unable to help.  Maybe His silence is really what’s best for you, giving you time to understand the true condition of your heart and your need for His help.
So, God just waits on the shore in silence.
Is He capable of helping–definitely!
Does He care about you- definitely (Jesus died for you on a cross because of His love for you so much)!
Will He stay silent forever-doubtful–just maybe its time to stop trying!

A successful team…

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“A successful team is many voices with a single heart.”    John Maxwell

Whether it’s at work, at church, or even in our family, we are a part of some kind of team.

With that in mind, and believing that we all want to be a part of something greater than just ourselves:

 

How accurately does the quote mentioned above describer our team experience?

Are the teams you are involved with “successful”?  In what ways could your team be more successful?

Are all the voices of your team members being heard?  In what ways can you encourage more engagement from those often involved?

Have you ever been told…

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Has anyone ever said to you, “relax, you are over-thinking this?”

When someone says that to you, or even, if you heard that being said, the issue is that someone is making something more complicated than it ought to be.  With over-thinking comes more stress and less enjoyment, and less of a quality performance.    Earlier today, I felt like I was being told by God you are making this faith thing with me more complicated than you ought.  It was that “Power of a Whisper” idea that Bill Hybels of Willow Creek has written about.

The impressions that came to me were almost like bullet points:

*Keep in mind, your faith in Me is about relationship, not religious-activity checklists, or do’s and don’t’s, etc.

*Keep in mind that I am the God of all grace.  In 1 Peter 5:10a, the Bible says that He is “the God of all grace”.  Other verses mentioning that He is a God of grace would be Ps. 116:5, 2 Cor. 9:14, Nehemiah 9:31 and so many more verses could be listed–okay, I  see that–He is a God of grace.

*Keep in mind that I am a God of mercy, for instance, as in Luke 1:78, Romans 9:18, Daniel 9:9, Ps. 59:17, and again, so many more verses could be listed.

So, what’s a simple explanation of the difference between His being a God of grace, and a God of mercy.

I’ve heard many explanations about these two words over the years, but the NON – over-thinking, simple explanation was this:

When you come to God in a needy, humble, dependent kind of way, He is the God of all grace.  He is there to help.  He loves to come to the aid of those who are “poor in spirit”. He loves to make Himself and the wisdom of His ways clear to those who can recognize they don’t have it all figured out.  Sometimes He will help in ways we don’t or can’t understand at the moment, but He will be there to help.  Why? Because He loves you and I.

However, when you come to God after you’ve tried doing things your way, He will give you mercy. Why? Because again, He loves you and I.  He understands that we are prone to being selfish, and independent, and prideful and that every once in a while (or more), we slip up.  He anticipated that and sent His Son to cover your sins and mine and to extend forgiveness to us.  We just need to ask. Thank God for Good Friday and Easter Sunday!

Well, that listening session with Him made me see things in a simplified kind of way.  It’s all about relationship with Him. That’s the bottom line.  I need to:

  • put no confidence in the flesh
  • be way of thinking of myself more highly than I ought
  • realize that apart from Him, I can do nothing
  • and whether I realize all this right up front and call out to Him for His grace (His help and power), or I realize it all after I’ve first tried doing it my way (which never ends well) and then come to Him after I’ve blown it (first for forgiveness, and then for His grace), either way, in relationship, I need to keep things simple, and be as one dependent on Him all the time, inseparable if you will–kind of like a branch abiding in the vine. (ref. John 15).