Managing the Unexpected

SURPRISE!!!! Some of us like surprises & some of us, not so much. It’s also true that our response to surprises can depend on what the surprise is.
With Jesus’ birth, there were lots of associated surprises:

  • angels appearing to shepherds at night in the field,
  • Gabriel’s announcements to Zacharias & Mary about the upcoming supernatural births,
  • wisemen showing up to give kingly gifts to a seemingly common baby,
  • Joseph getting the surprise announcement that his fiancé was pregnant.

Let’s consider that surprises can be incredibly good, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He loves us & is working in all things, even surprises, to work together for our Good, Romans 8:28-29.

Feeling Pain

If we don’t feel pain, we run the risk of being unfeeling, insensitive, cold & apathetic. But for the people who live with chronic pain, feeling pain isn’t good. It’s also difficult to see people who are in pain. So what do we do with pain? Anesthetizing pain with entertainment, booze, exercise & other stuff turns out to be a very destructive way to cope w pain. So rather than anesthetize pain or run from it, let’s consider that we can ask Jesus to take away the pain & help us know Him better through the pain & suffering. Consider what Paul says in Phil 3:10-11, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

skme of the greatest potential for intimacy can happen through the shared experiences of pain & suffering. Even though we don’t like the idea, it’s true nonetheless. Think Gethsemane. Pray when there’s pain & watch what God does.

Love Well

I have lots of people in my life who are very different from me. I have friends who are professional, starched, button-down, pressed & who have life wrapped around their little finger mostly. I have other friends who are a little more like me, less polished & borderline bohemian.
But loving well is the bridge that connects me with people regardless of our differences. And here’s the truth that needs to reside in the marrow of our bones: people don’t have to be like us to be loved by us. Indeed, Jesus loved a wide spectrum of people, including cheats, hustlers, liars, whimps & wannabes. Loving people is an internal decision & this doesn’t need to be dependent on who they are, what they do or how they behave. Let’s be committed to loving well!

Christmas Shopping

Do you have people for whom it’s very difficult to buy gifts? What do you get the person who has everything? Or even more importantly, what do we give Jesus in this Christmas season?
Here are a few ideas:
Presents – the Wise Men brought Jesus gold, frankincense & myrrh, gifts befitting a King, from the resources they had. Let’s be generous with our resources!
Fame – the shepherds, upon finding Jesus lying in a manger, went out & spread the news about His birth & heavens announcement to them via the angles. Let’s be committed to promoting Jesus more than anything or anyone else!
Presence – never diminish the truth that Jesus enjoys your company, so don’t overlook the pauses & moments throughout this season to give your attention & your self to Jesus 🙂

How to Lose Jesus

We all lose things: car keys, sock mates, computer files, credit cards, water bottles, etc. So how does a parent lose a child? That’s exactly what happened to Joseph & Mary when Jesus was 12 y/o, st the annual festival they attended in Jerusalem. His parents thought that Jesus was with the caravan returning to their village, so they didn’t look for Him nor worry about Him until a day had passed. When they began looking for Him, He wasn’t with everyone, so Joseph & Mary made their way back to Jerusalem to find Jesus.
Similar to Jesus’ parents, we can sometimes lose Jesus in the festivities & hubbub of the Christmas celebrations. So let’s be committed to keep a continual lookout for Jesus throughout each day of this Christmas season, watching for opportunities to be kind, loving generous & Christlike. Indeed, some of the best ways to experience Jesus is to spread His love in our daily living!

Jesus Take the Wheel :)

A few years ago, there were some cute movies, Finding Nemo & Finding Dory.  Each movie was about the long search to find a missing son & a beloved friend.  When I think about finding Jesus, I’m encouraged that Jesus is accessible throughout every day!  Check out this video:

Jesus Take the Wheel

Grace Seasoning

Edgy, sharp, cranky, churlish, frustrated. These adjectives can describe us at various times. Maybe you’re short on sleep. Maybe you’re stressed about money. Maybe you have a conflict with your spouse or friend. Maybe there’s a lot of pressure at work or school. Regardless of the reason, let’s be careful about our words & attitudes in these challenging times.
Here are some helpful ideas to keep our attitudes, actions & words seasoned with grace:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you
  • Chose self control over reactionary behavior
  • Take a 30second pause & look for stuff to be grateful for
  • Remember that we often prefer the consequences of grace rather than the outcomes of expressing frustration or crankiness 🙂

The Pope in Bangledesh

I’m waiting, maybe with some patience, in the airport here in Bangledesh because the Pope is just landing at the airport. Consequently, the airport is shut down & everything has come to a halt. Clearly, he’s a significant dignitary so everything is on pause at the airport until he clears out. This has thrown off everyone’s schedules, interrupted plans & is making a major headache for traffic.
So this makes me think about how i facilitate Jesus’ presence in my life. While i want my life to be convenient, smooth & hassle free, Jesus as my Sovereign, gets to interrupt & change my plans. What would be even more wise on my part, would be to proactively ask Jesus to direct my steps & maybe i can avoid some frustrations with plan changes. Or i can also aim to keep a flexible attitude & be patient in the various hassles & disruptions i can face in any given day 🙂

Fleeing at Midnight

I’m in Bangledesh & interviewing families who have recently fled from Burma, literally running for their lives, many of whom are pregnant, with newborns & babies in tow. The things I’m hearing & seeing here are deeply moving. I’ve met moms who have lost their babies, whose babies are malnourished & who are trying to nurse newborn twins. This is all very powerful for me to hear & see, meeting mom’s & babies who have survived atrocities & uncertainties of catastrophic proportions.
And i  can’t help but think about Mary, Jesus’ mom, who fled in the middle of the night with Joseph, with baby Jesus in her arms. Joseph had a warning dream about Herod killing all the babies in Bethlehem, so with tremendous urgency, he escaped Herod’s murderous intent. So Mary understood the plight of the moms I’m meeting.
May we also find genuine love to be our first reaction when we hear of refugees & moms who are doing everything possible to keep their babies alive & safe.

Good from Bad

I’m in Bangledesh at the moment, just beginning to explore the situation with the Rohingya, Muslim refugees who have very recently fled Burma to survive significant atrocities & even death. There are likely close to 700,000 Rohingya now in Bangledesh, living under plastic tarps & trying to make the best of a deplorable situation.
Admirable credit goes to the Bangledesh people for being gracious & generous with these displaced people. Everyone is trying to bring some good out of an horrific situation.
Here are some fundamental principles that are useful regardless of the atrocities:

  • Forgiveness isn’t optional – keep your heart poison free
  • Look for the positive
  • Keep your hearts tender to Jesus’ input.

These pictures show some beautiful people & the gorgeous countryside here.

 

Jesus Was an Infant Refugee

Presently, I’m in Bangledesh & getting ready to visit the refugee camps of the Rohingya for my work with Saving Moses. These refugees were recently displaced from their homes across the border in Burma & there are almost a million refugees, of whom more than 10% are under the age of 5. So I’m keen to visit these camps & see what we can do to help.
I️ find it interesting, at this time, to think about Jesus’ birth & His subsequent flight to avoid the bloodbath Herod demanded when he couldn’t find Jesus.
This is my first time to experience real time the crises & traumas associated with being a refugee, so I️ welcome you to come along with me through my blog & pictures.
Let’s consider Christmas from a different point of view 🙂

Ready for Christmas?

Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror, Christmas is ready to take center stage. And with Christmas , come all the associated activities: decorating, parties, concerts, shopping, cookies, wrapping, etc. In the midst of the hub bub, let’s keep our hearts & focus attentive to Jesus. He’s a really quick video that could help you keep your focus on Jesus throughout this holiday season:

Appetite Driven Consumption

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, there’s a good chance that you & I will be eating some tasty food, along with second’s & possibly third’s. It’s also likely that you’ll skip some food that’s not in your favorite list. For me, I’ll take a pass on the cranberry relish but maybe double up on my mom’s chorizo stuffing 🙂
With the quantity of food that’s available tomorrow, let’s consider that our flesh appetites, left unchecked, can be highly destructive.  As we are being thankful in this season, let’s also remember to cultivate or appetite for spiritual food, like daily Bible & prayer time!

Too Much Gratitude

I don’t like cinnamon & this is only a recent development. Maybe I  don’t like cinnamon because at this time year, everything seems to have cinnamon: coffee, ice cream, apple cider, pies, smoothies, etc.
So it’s possible to overdose cinnamon, but I  don’t think it’s possible to overdo gratitude. Maybe we should think in terms of spreading thanksgiving throughout the year & not only a seasonal overdose. Feel free to leave a comment to express something or someone for which you’re grateful!

Lock the Doors

When I was growing up, our house had three doors.  To ensure that the house was locked, we would check all three doors.  The front door was easy because it was used the most.  The back door was pretty easy because it was in the kitchen so there was lots of traffic in that area.  The side door was most easily overlooked because we rarely used it & that area of the house didn’t get much traffic.

In a similar way, we need to guard our hearts & souls from the enemy who lurks & waits for opportunities to sneak into our lives through side doors or low traffic areas.  The enemy looks for places to enter our lives where we least expect it or where we have the lowest guard / attention.  This could be times when you’re very tired, areas where you think you’re strong / victorious, situations that are familiar or comfortable, etc.  The enemy of your soul looks for places where your guard is weak, your attention is distracted or your pride is big.  With these instances, the enemy will often come in on tiptoes, sneaky & quiet, to begin his insinuations, whispers & distortions.

Pay attention & keep the doors locked!!  1 Pet 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Doing Tough Stuff

There are lots of things that can be difficult: being consistent with exercise, missions trips, hostile or dicey conversations, regulating ones eating habits & lots more.  I don’t like to do tough stuff, nor did Jesus.  I say this because of His words in Gethsemane, “If possible, please take this cup from Me.”
So how do we go about doing tough stuff? Here are a few suggestions & I’d be keen to get your ideas in the comments as well!

  • Keep the end goal in mind: what is your desired outcome?
  • Be wholly present in the difficulty because often these struggles need our whole attention, energy & talents
  • Pray: divine help is always an upgrade!
  • Surrender to God’s will even when it conflicts with your desires 🙂

Not Finished

As much as I don’t want to admit this, I’m concerned that I have a disturbing pattern in my life:  leaving things half done :/

While I don’t leave everything half done, there are definitely things that I don’t finish, such as:  not completing my bookshelf project, starting innumerable books but not finishing them, doing half of the ironing, writing part of a story, etc.  Of course this could be very discouraging if I let myself quagmire in this awareness, but I have a fail-safe solution:  God doesn’t quit!

In Philippians 1:6 it says, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”  Be encouraged that you’re a masterpiece in the making & the Holy Spirit is continuing to shape & grow you, never quitting, getting discouraged or giving up on you!  God’s not finished!

 

God Makes a Way

Hard circumstances, unknown terrain, impossible journeys – these are all things in which God specializes.  As you read this, maybe you’re in a financial crisis & Christmas looks impossible;  maybe you’ve received a medical report that’s disturbing;  maybe you have some toxic relational challenges that seem to be never ending;  maybe you’re discouraged or depressed;  maybe you have some work or school difficulties that are bigger than your abilities, time or energy.

Be encouraged today, that God can make a way when there seems to be no way.  Remind yourself of how God delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt:

  • providing a leader, Moses, who was educated & committed to their freedom
  • supernatural signs & wonders (10 Plagues) to break the slavery bondage
  • Passover to establish the relationship between God & the nation of Israel
  • plundering the Egyptians when the Israelites walked out of Egypt
  • split the Red Sea & drowning the enemies who were intent on dragging the Israelites back into slavery

God did lots more when He liberated the Israelites, so be encouraged that you’re not in a situation that exceeds God’s ability to transform nor redeem!  Feel free to share this with your friends to encouage them as well!