Doing Difficult

What is difficult for you to do?  Do you struggle with self control on various things like eating, sleeping, Netflix or something like that?  Is it difficult for you to engage with people or do time alone?  All of us have things that are difficult to do. And sometimes we just flat out don’t do what’s difficult even though we know we should. 

Here’s some help, possibly, to do difficult:

  • Start w what’s most difficult & finish with what’s easiest. This can help you keep going
  • Coach the mental game – recognize that your thoughts play a role in doing what’s difficult
  • Pray for Heavenly Help – Holy Spirit helps us do difficult things
  • Celebrate progress & not just completion 🙂

Here’s to doing difficult stuff!

Bring Out the Best!

I was in a parking lot today and watched the drivers from two cars get in a honking battle.  They concluded their exchanges with middle fingers, yelling and mean looks.  I would suspect that perhaps these drivers have different sides to their personalities, such that they don’t go through their lives everyday with expletives, middle fingers and combative behaviors.

Just because someone is hostile or cranky with us doesn’t mean that we have to repay the same acrimony.  Indeed, such moments are opportunities to do a quick heart check on ourselves and choose better.  Furthermore, we can go the extra mile & look for constructive ways to bring out the best in people.  Here are some suggestions for your consideration:

  • encouragement, gratitude and polite words make a comfortable runway for others to be gracious
  • a soft answer turns away wrath – Prov 15;1
  • forgiveness is a decision to reflect God’s DNA in us, since we are liberally forgiven even more than we realize
  • what a person “deserves” is best left in God’s hands, since we are commanded by Jesus not to judge in Matt 7:1

Let’s endeavor to bring out the best throughout our daily exchanges!

What is Wisdom?

There’s lots of stuff in the Bible about wisdom, even a whole book, Proverbs, that’s devoted to the topic.  It’s also mentioned in the NT a fair amount, like in James 1, where it says that we should ask for wisdom.  So given the frequency of this topic, perhaps it would be helpful to think about what it is, along with what it is not.

In the “wisdom is not” column, here are some things to remember.  Wisdom is not:

  • merely information;  facts, formulas, information and details
  • advanced degrees, memorization or books read

In the other column that defines wisdom, based on the Bible, here’s what we can say.  Wisdom is:

  • grounded in “fearing God”;  this means that having a healthy and robust respect for God in our lives is the pathway to facilitating wisdom
  • discerning the times and seasons in our lives
  • appreciating what is appropriate and helpful in various situations and events
  • recognizing when to speak and when to listen

Lets always be ready to get more wisdom & let wisdom be active in our daily living!

Shock Value

There are many things that can be shocking, such as a precipitous drop in the stock market, unexpected news from a relative and sometimes, God does stuff that’s shocking.  It seems to me that most of us don’t like stuff that’s shocking, such that we stay away from this kind of thing or we insulate ourselves, to minimize the exposure.

And yet, sometimes, things that are shocking can help us to get out of a rut.  For example, I think Jesus was very shocking to the religious establishment in His day.  Indeed, He challenged not only their assumptions and traditions, but also their practices and daily interactions:

  • He ate with sinners.
  • He associated with tax collectors.
  • He kept company with the irresuptable.

All of these actions of Jesus were very shocking to various upstanding citizens.  And yet what is more importance than the shock value, is the reality that Jesus did all of these “crazy things”, from the premise and core motivation of genuine love.  Sometimes, genuine love is the essence of shock value 🙂

Have a happy weekend!

Hair Dye

I’m writing this post, sitting outside of my hair salon with foils in my hair, looking semi-chic 🙂

And of course, I get some odd looks, people thinking I’m the reincarnated character from “My Favorite Martian”.  But alas, it’s just the normal hair dye appointment, where the grey gets covered over & I maintain the look that says I’m at least 10 years than my birthdate would confirm.

And whatever we may look like on the outside isn’t as important as the decisions we make on the inside.  Our internal thoughts, emotions, values, decisions and perspective are loads more important than the external image.  It’s in my thinking processes where I:

  • make decisions to be generous,
  • decide to act from various insecurities,
  • consider how another may be affected by my words / actions
  • choose to be afraid or choose to be constructive

So no matter how we look on the outside, let’s be certain we make internal decisions to be generous & loving people.  What’s on the inside is what will often regulate what happens on the outside 🙂

Suicide and Depression

In the last few weeks, I’ve learned of various people who have committed suicide and it’s heart wrenching.  A few of these individuals have been pastors, which hits even closer to home considering that I’m a pastor’s kid, I’m married to a pastor and I am a pastor.  These events have also made me reflect on various people over the years who have committed suicide.

As much as I want to be articulate in this post, I feel so deeply about this subject that I can’t seem to get my words or thoughts into some semblance of order or cohesive progression.  So maybe I’ll just free flow with this post and pray that it’s helpful to you, somehow.

More than anything, I hope that you will be gentle, tender and kind with others and yourself, regardless of any external veneer.  When we are in a car and see a handicapped license plate, sticker or a “baby on board” sign, we will often give that person a little extra consideration, grace and space because we know there’s a vulnerable / fragile person inside that vehicle.

May we also have the same mindset with the people in our lives, appreciating that each person with whom we interact, has their own internal struggles regardless of what the exterior looks like or how they behave.  Let’s be purposeful to:

  • be comforting rather than critical
  • choose mercy over judgment
  • be hopeful more than hostile
  • express patience more than petulance

Those Yucky People

“Why is He eating & drinking with sinners and tax collectors?”  This is what the scribes of the Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples in Mark 2:16, when Jesus got all cozy with these less than upright scum.  The tax collectors and sinners were considered “yucky people” by the religious leaders and zealots of Jesus’ day.  So no wonder they questioned Jesus’ decision to not only associate, but also get cozy with such reprobates.

And I’m so thankful for His reply in Mark 2:17, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick;  I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Thankfully, Jesus has never required us to get everything clean and pristine in our lives before He would hang out with us.  Not only does He accept us as we are, but He makes us better because of His genuine love for us.  In the same way, let’s be certain that no one in our lives gets the “yucky” treatment, being ostracized, belittled or shamed.  Indeed, Jesus loves us and wants to love through us!

Sheep or Goat?

Who is:  hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in jail or an immigrant?  I was reading in Matthew 25 this morning about Jesus’ parable distinguishing between sheep & goat behavior.  In this parable, the sheep are the people who see others around them who have various needs like clothing, food, shelter, belonging, care, attention and connection.  In contrast, the goats in Jesus’ parable had no time, attention or capacity for needy people.

And this parable never fails to arrest my attention, forcing me to inventory my intentions and actions for sheep and goat behvaiors.  I want to say with a genuine heart that I love Jesus, giving Him my worship & affection.  But the reality is that however I treat the needy people in my life (those who are hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, living in bondage, or disenfranchised), is how I treat Jesus since He said in Matthew 25;45, “Whatever you do for the least of these [the needy folk] is what you do for Me.”

This verse always challenges me to love well, when I’d rather justify my selfish perspective 🙂

Speed of LIFE!!!

A fourteen hour day can feel kind of overwhelming & sometimes we have long days, overflowing with demands & activities.  Modern living pressures us to stuff our days to the gills so that the more we get done, the better we feel and the more significant we are.  Consequently, the idea of a Sabbath flies in the face of the modern lifestyle.

Nevertheless, God instituted a day of rest in each week as one of the 10 Commandments, so it’s on the same level of importance as not murdering, loving God, etc.  And I’m writing this blog, maybe to myself more than anyone else because I’m on a gerbil wheel with overflowing days and more work than time.  When we keep time and fellowship with God as our top priority, then the speed of life won’t result in a trainwreck 🙂

When You Fail

I’ve never met a person who enjoys failing & most of us avoid stuff that has a high risk for failing.  But there are LOADS of people in the Bible who failed, took risks and some had tremendous successes – usually after they had overcome some significant failure hurdles.  Some examples would include:

  • Jacob’s son, Joseph:  failed with his brothers, but became 2nd in command to Pharoah in Egypt & rescued his family from famine
  • Jacob:  tricked his brother & father, but went on to become “Israel” and the founder of the Twelve Tribes
  • Saul / Paul:  gave hearty approval at Stephen’s martyrdom & became the largest contributing author to the New Testament in addition to founding the majority of early churches on two continents

When you fail, keep in mind some helpful perspectives:

  • failing is a verb, but failure is a noun:  one can change but the other is more permanent
  • the greatest lessons often come from failing more than succeeding
  • failing can the essential fertilizer for redemption
  • no failure is beyond God’s power & love to transform into beauty, resurrection, abundance and divine success!

Divine Interruptions

  • “We interrupt this program for this important message . . . . “
  • Amber Alert
  • Notification Settings

All of these examples remind us of things that arrest our attention to focus & tell us to focus on something different, even if just for a few minutes.  In general, I don’t need any help to interrupt my focus because I can be easily distracted.  Consequently, I do as much as I can to eliminate distractions and interruptions.  While this strategy can be helpful in being productive, it is also possible that God might be trying to get my attention and I’m dismissing the “divine interruption” because I perceive it as a distraction.

In the Bible, there are some great examples of God interrupting a person’s daily living to grab their attention & invite them to make a course correction.  Such examples include:  Moses & the burning bush, Samuel as a little boy with Eli, Gideon hiding in the winepress with the angelic visit, the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus  & Saul on the road to Damascus.

We would be wise to pause at what could be a distraction or interruption and reflect for a few moments to listen and watch for God to speak with us.  Sometimes God interrupts our daily living to help us make some important decisions & course corrections 🙂

Selah

Using Deodrant

“Did you put on deodorant today???”  Sometimes a family member will ask me this poignant question & it arrests my attention.  I stop to think, “Why are they asking me this?” And then instinctively I take a whiff to check & quickly inventory my morning routine.  Body odor in America can be highly offensive, regardless of the reasons that might “justify” the aroma 🙂

And our body odor is a reflection of our daily hygiene habits, what we put into our bodies, what activities we do and the environments where we spend time.  I think all of these are relevant to thinking about spreading the fragrance of Jesus wherever we go, as Paul talks about in 2Cor 2:15.  So here are some things to think about, that can help us make Jesus smell good to those around us:

  • daily hygiene: this can be a helpful parallel to our daily quiet time with Jesus (Bible & prayer time help to ground our thoughts, emotions and perspective)
  • inputs:  in Col 3:16 Paul tells us to let God’s Word dwell richly in our hearts; garbage in = garbage out;  glory in = glory out 🙂
  • activities:  when I practice genuine love and not just talk about it, then it becomes more natural and helps me remember that love is my endgame because of John 13:35
  • environment:  being around genuine love (letting God love us), helps us to spread the fragrance & value of genuine love throughout any given day

Being around Jesus’ love helps us spread His fragrance 🙂

Being Uncomfortable

“That’s awkward!”  I’ve said this in various contexts: social, athletic, ministry, cultural & lots more. If you’re like me, we tend to avoid what’s awkward & uncomfortable, but sometimes this is detrimental. 

When I look at Jesus’ disciples, they seemed to follow Jesus into lots of uncomfortable, inconvenient & awkward scenarios, such as sinking boats, conversations with demon possessed people, massive throw downs with religious leaders & not just a few baffling teaching moments / parables. 

Here’s some truth that could be helpful:  uncomfortable is often when we grow the most. And maybe we need to grow & mature more than we need comfort & convenience 🙂

Selah 

Jet Lag Jig

A jig is a dance and implies energetic stepping & this feels like the opposite of jet lag.  If you’ve ever heard a song played at half speed with the words sounding long & drawn out, incomprehensible, and the music total nonsense, this is how jet lag feels.  It’s no bueno.

Thankfully, time in God’s hands is a good thing.  It helps me to remember that God has organized time and events in my life such that even when I have jet lag & eventhing seems slow, God is in control.  So whether we want things to speed up or slow down, God’s timing in our lives is perfect, regardless of how we feel or the circumstances of our lives 🙂

Reset and Upset

“Wakey Wakey,” said my body at 4am this morning. When I looked at the clock, my brain said, “Sleepy! Sleepy!”  And that’s the challenge with jet lag: you wake up at crazy hours & you want to sleep when it’s time to be awake. I’m just back from Cambodia, so it takes a little time to reset ones clock & let the body catch up to the proper time zone. Getting upset won’t help the reset. 

Sometimes, we also need to reset our focus & priorities to what is best aligned with genuine love. Instead of managing to the culture around us or pursuing creature comforts, let’s upset the mundane & conventional to go after what’s exceptional & revolutionary.  And we can start today by doing the quote from Mother Teresa, “Do little things with great love”

Beyond the Surface

“Her eyes were empty” 

I’m in Cambodia & have met women here in the sex industry & their eyes are vacant. On the surface, our initial reaction could be one of shame, disinterest, judgment, revulsion or not even seeing her. When a persons eyes seem empty or vacant, it can be easy to overlook them. But we need to see past the surface & we need to look beyond our initial reactions to see a human for whom Jesus died & deeply loves. 

No one, including you & me, wants to be ignored, overlooked, shamed, judged nor rejected. With genuine love there is never a scarcity, so this helps us to see beyond the surface. In contrast, there’s always a shortage with transactional love. 

Let’s let Holy Spirit Help is to see beyond the surface!

Go BIG!!!

This is part of the skyline for Phnom Penh & it has grown immensely over the last few years!  I’m here because God put a vision in my heart to open nightcare centers in Cambodia. Nightcare is my work w Saving Moses where we look after the babies & toddlers of sex workers while they work.  At our centers, each baby : toddler receives a warm welcome, bath, clean clothes, dinner, some basic education & a safe place to sleep through the night, all in the atmosphere of genuine love. Without nightcare they would be at severe risk to experience horrific trauma. 

We’ve been working here for many years & I LOVE what we do, so much that I want MORE!!  

Dream big with God. Let Holy Spirit show you vistas & impossibilities that quicken your pulse. Then take a step in that direction!  Of course there are hardships & setbacks, but don’t let these hinder you before you even take a step!  GO BIG!!!

Reconcile Rather Than Revile

“That’s DISGUSTING!!!”  Lots of people have this reaction when they begin to hear about the daily living of a sex worker in third world countries. I’m in Cambodia this week with our annual Saving Moses team trip & our nightcare work here (feel free to come w me next year).  I love to watch God change various perspectives about people & various hardships / experiences these women go through to say nothing about their babies & toddlers.  On a more immediate context, maybe you know people who are making bad decisions, going down an awful trajectory or compromising in unthinkable ways. 

Do we choose to revile or reconcile?  

Regardless of the decisions people make, we can shame & revile them or walk alongside & reconcile them. Jesus is a great example of reconciling rather than reviling 🙂

Look For Stragglers

Truth be known, I’m a straggler, as I’m often looking at stuff or enjoying an in-depth conversation. I used to be concerned about being a leader & Stein ahead of everyone. 

And then I discovered the glories of being around stragglers – those people who might move at a different cadence, individuals who see life’s pace from a different perspective & others who are injured is n their body or soul who aren’t as nimble, agile or speedy. 

I think Jesus digs stragglers as well. I say this bc of a few people with whom Jesus connected deeply:  the Samaritan woman at the well, the demoniac who wandered the tombs & His reply to the woman caught in adultery. Let’s have compassion for stragglers & others who are different than ourselves 🙂

Important Parts

Who knew that a metatarsal was so important?!?!!!  For that matter, who even knows what a metatarsal is???

And this is exactly my point. If you’ve ever broken your toe, you’ll know that a metatarsal (toe bone) is super important & helpful for ambulatory ease ,)

Translation: if you want to walk without pain, don’t break your toe!

The same principle holds true in the Body of Christ. Every person is important & plays a vital role, regardless of how visible or invisible they may be. So let’s not compare ourselves to one another because we each play a unique & essential role. Some of us are spleens, eardrums, corneas, colons & clavicles. If you’re a neuron, you’re every bit as vital as a duodenum, albeit entirely different. 

Let’s never belittle nor minimize our place or the role others play throughout the Body of Christ!  You’re essential!!