Useful Obstacles

I don’t like things that slow me down – cars, lines, crowds, etc.  So when things get in my way, I instinctually lock into the persist & overcome mindset.  For example, when a car in front of me drives slowly, I look for ways to get around the car. Sometimes, this backfires because my speeding up can position me to get a traffic ticket, which is worse than having to drive slower. 

With this thinking, we would be wise to not entirely dismiss things that are obstacles. We see this principle in the Bible in relation to Joseph getting thrown into a pit & prison. Clearly, these challenges weren’t pleasant & I’d wager that Joseph was looking for a shortcut or way to circumvent these obstacles. In hindsight, however, the obstacles & hindrances were very useful to his end destination. And there’s a good chance that the same could be true for us. The obstacles in our lives become instruments in God’s hands 🙂

Helpful Tips for Learning

My three teenage kids have learning curves with lots of stuff, as do I.  And part of what means to be human is learning. I think that it’s good to always be learning because this helps us to continually grow. So here are some helpful ideas for daily learning:

  • No shame – don’t belittle yourself or others for what is not known or the lack of proficiency.
  • Celebrate progress – don’t let “perfect” sabotage progress.
  • Learning differences – everyone learns in unique ways.
  • Committed to learn – may there never be a day when we don’t learn
  • Be gentle – we learn better with grace rather than harsh 🙂

Happy Friday to you!

What Is Success?

It’s interesting to scroll through various social media platforms & look at the abundant advice about how to be successful. When I read through some of this advice, I always walk away asking, “What is success?”  

Is success:

  • living a comfortable life, without conflict or drama? 
  • having heaps of money, recognition, achievements or a glam image? 
  • living a balanced life, all things regulated & controlled for maximum mediocrity?

What is success?  In Jeremiah 9:23-24 it says,  “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;  24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

So maybe the most simple definition of biblical success is knowing & loving God, as well as loving our neighbor & ourselves.  Have an awesome Memorial Day weekend living successfully!

Good for the Soul

This morning I tried a new breakfast: quinoa, almonds, blueberries & maple syrup. It was ok for my first attempt & I know it’s better for me than bacon & a cheese omelette  so you m endeavoring to make healthy decisions. 

The same can be said for decisions we make about our souls. Here are a few decisions that are good for the soul:

  • Forgiveness:  keeps the grudge venom neutralized
  • Encouragement:  keeps us with positive thoughts about people
  • Gratitude: keeps us looking for good
  • Trust: keeps us actively declining worry & leaning on God

Keep making healthy choice for your body & soul!

Everywhere A Lesson

Learning can be loads of fun, massively painful or somewhere in the middle. And thankfully, we don’t have to sit in a classroom to learn 🙂

Here are some recent examples of lessons I’m learning in life:

  • Insecurity Insurance: the softball team we played last night needed to feel superior and confident. I decided to be joyful that I could help them feel superior rather than sulk at getting trounced
  • Divine Provisions:  God supplies our needs and even teaches us to be content when there’s deficiency – Phil 4:11-12
  • Training for Success: learning the Romeo & Juliet monologue with my kid is a lesson in diligence & not just memory work
  • Trusting God:  this is a daily and even hourly decision based on Prov 22:19

What could be some everyday lessons Holy Spirit could be showing you?

Stormy Seasons

Life seems to have seasons that are stormy, despite our best efforts for stability, serenity & certainty.  Stormy seasons can include:  getting laid off from a job, a marital crisis, a literal tornado, health accident or diagnosis and LOADS more.  If we’ve invited Jesus into our lives as storm prevention insurance, there’s a good chance that we’ll be disappointed.  I say this because Jesus never promises us that walking with Him will prevent all storms.  Indeed, walking with Jesus can make for some stormy times in life, both in our interior and exterior.

The exterior stormy seasons happen for lots of reasons, but thankfully Jesus gives us peace on the inside that can be greater than the external storm.  Sometimes we have seasons in our lives where our guts feel stormy:  when we’re unsettled, hurt, disappointed with God, wrestling with temptation, feeling discouraged, depleted or depressed, etc.

I’m thankful that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that there is no storm, internal or external, that Jesus cannot calm.  Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter the season of life in which we find ourselves!

Heroes & Villains

There’s running banter betweeen DC & Marvel fans about which brand of hero entertainment is better.  Each side seems to have it’s own strengths & shortfalls, each hero having a fatal flaw:  Superman has his kryptonite & Ironman has his arrogance (or whatever you deem to be his weakness).  And that’s the rub with the human race – we can have our moments of glory & splendor with dark quagmires nipping the heels of grandeur.

Enter Jesus who is the ultimate flawless superhero.  Jesus is all-powerful, all-knowing and present everywhere.  If Jesus has any weak spot, it would be His affection and devotion to you and me.  Jesus continues to go to inexplainable extremes to keep us reconciled to Himself, infused with genuine love.  Let’s be committed to worshipping the real hero of the human race:  Jesus Christ!

Overcoming Obstacles

“Here ya go!”  As I was standing on the sidewalk on cold winter day, my friend flung me a seriously AWESOME winter cap that she had made me.  I caught the cap with utter shock, checked it out & beamed from ear to ear.  She had knit me this thoroughly magnificnet blue & white cap that has been my favorite for years.  She later explained that she had to figure out a creative way to get the cap into my hands because of my difficulty to receive gifts.

Each of us have quirky hangups that can create obstacles for connecting in healthy ways with others.  Maybe you have a sense of superiority over others & feel the need to help them improve – that’s an obstacle for connecting.  Perhaps you see yourself as a victim from a past trauma or abuse, so it’s difficult for you to trust, another obstacle.  I could endlessly list all kinds of obstacles we may have for connecting with others, but let’s be thankful that God has already overcome all of our obstacles and quirks because of genuine love.  While there may be hindrances and obstacles along our horizontal journey, our vertical relationship with God is never in peril nor compromised – for the simple reason that God never stops loving us.  His lovingkindness is everlasting!

Easy or Hard?

I like the “easy button” and easy for me includes: washing dishes, ironing, international travel, languages, grocery shopping, simple cooking and reading my Bible.  In contrast, I don’t like to do stuff that’s hard, which includes:  getting in shape, seeing suffering babies, recovering from jet lag and being gracious rather than snarky.

No doubt, you have your own lists of things that are easy and hard.  But just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done or we shouldn’t try to do it.  I say this because of my morning Bible reading in Philippians 2:7, where Paul says about Jesus, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”  This verse speaks to Jesus entering the human race, from start to finish, and experiencing human existence.  From my perspective, I would think that might have been difficult for Jesus to do – but He did it nonetheless.

If God asks you to do hard stuff, ask for divine Help and try!  Whethere something is hard or easy, let’s pre-decide to remain obedient and faithful to God!

Doing More

I’m making my way back to Denver from Angola Africa, where I’ve been for a week working with our baby malnutrition initiative with Saving Moses. I think this is my 6th trip to Angola & it never fails to bring me to my knees, almost literally. 

On this trip, I’ve never seen, held or experienced so many malnourished babies possibly combined in my whole life – over the course of close to 5days. And I’m coming home with all of these experiences swirling in my heart, thoughts & emotions. Clearly, this will be a journey for processing, literally. And at the same time, I’m compelled to do more. 

It seems to me like we all want to do more. But I wonder if we want to do more of the right stuff?  Sometimes maybe we should think about what it means to “do more” prayerfully considering if our more is being directed by God. 

No Crickets

When I’m in a malnutrition clinic here in Angola, I’m delighted to hear crying babies drown out any cricket noises. A crying baby in a malnutrition clinic means they have enough strength to cry. A quiet & lethargic baby in a malnutrition clinic can be very disturbing to me. It’s even worse when a quiet baby in these clinics looks into my eyes & I don’t see anything beyond a glassy stare.  

I’ve just spent the day at one of our 6 malnutrition clinics here in Angola & it’s uniquely unraveling to watch a baby struggle to survive.  Add in a stretched thin mom, worried for her baby’s life, and this can become very unsettling. So how do I process not just one mom & baby in this scenario but not less than ten?  

It helps to pray, for sure & it helps me to spend time & give genuine love. I know that God lives to spend time with you & enjoys your company!

Getting Better

Arriving & Improving: I prefer arriving over improving because to me the difference is destination versus journey. And yet here in Angola, with Saving Moses, I’m reminding myself that improvement is an essential ingredient for destination & change. 

I say this having driven by one of our malnutrition clinics today & observing the improvements to the lodging arrangements. In the past, this clinic had 3 large huts, poorly ventilated & lit, concrete floors & abundant flies. Today, the lodging has vastly improved – I’ll describe it here on my blog tomorrow. 

And still I see friendly moms with malnourished babies, waiting daily for their baby to improve & hopefully return home healthy & strong. Malnourished babies & toddlers meet your eyes with a dull stare or achy eyes. Their motions are lethargic & labored, so as to minimize the energy expense. Sometimes their bellies are swollen with edema & almost always their ribcages look like xylophone strips. And their heads are disproportionately large on their underdeveloped frames. 

So when I see babies in these conditions, it’s difficult to look at the building improvements because people always trump facilities. Nonetheless, I can choose to celebrate progress even if I have yet to see the full realization of helping Angola live in the state of declining infant mortality. 

Keep Trying

I’m in Germany & slowly making my way to Angola for some work with Saving Moses & our malnutrition clinics there. Our layover in Germany afforded some time to get out of the airport & catch a train to a nearby city. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention to the train stops, so we went too far & included some extra sightseeing. I felt like an idiot because I’m not an amateur traveler & this isn’t my first train ride in Germany. 

But we kept trying & alas, had a lovely afternoon outside of the airport, with delicious food, glorious sun & some nice walking. 

Just because we make a mistake doesn’t mean that we quit trying. Mistakes can be frustrating but also informative & sometimes God has some unique opportunities to redeem our mistakes, if we keep a healthy attitude & humble heart 🙂

Avoiding Tough

I’m flying to Angola today, where we have 6 malnutrition clinics to save babies & toddlers. I haven’t been in Angola for 3years because of various technicalities. And Saving Moses has these malnutrition clinics in Angola, because of such a high infant mortality rate.  Angola is the country where I first experienced the realities of emaciated babies with xylophone ribcages, hallow eyes & labored breathing. I have yet to experience anything in my life that compares with holding a baby who is feather light with fleeting breathes from being malnourished. So this is a tough trip. 

I like to avoid tough & embrace comfort, reject inconvenient but welcome smoothy groovy. 

But genuine love steps into things that are tough, heartbreaking & impossible, even though I drag my feet. Choose genuine love with me 🙂

That’s Awkward

Last night, I got to play on the softball team w my church & it was LOTS of fun!!  However, I felt not just a little awkward because I was the pitcher & I’ve never pitched before. So it was a vertical learning curve for me & some parts were just flat out ugly. 

And sometimes following God doesn’t feel smooth or suave.  Indeed, a lot of times when I follow God, I feel uncomfortable & awkward. But I’d prefer to follow God & feel awkward rather than not follow God & feel suave. And maybe that’s the whole point:  following God isn’t about our feelings but rather about obedience, full stop. Following God will likely make your flesh feel awkward & uncomfortable, but follow God nonetheless. I’d rather follow God & have my flesh be uncomfortable rather than not follow God & have my flesh be comfortable 🙂

Lite & Fluffy

I recently had the opportunity to wear fake eye lashes & after a few hours, my eye lids were tired & droopy. Obviously, if I were to wear fake eyelashes on a regular basis, I’d need to find some eye lid muscle building exercises so they could hold up the extra eye lash weight. Or maybe I just could wear EXTRA HEAVY mascara to  get the eye lid muscles more toned. 

But alas, I don’t feel a calling nor interest in wearing fake eye lashes on a consistent basis, so I’m not concerned about my eye lid muscles ,)

Sometimes, I think we get concerned about things that are possibly not all that important in the grand scheme of things.  So as you think about your week, I’m encouraging you to ask God for divine input & priorities for what’s important, medium important & not important. Let’s prayerfully keep our priorities aligned with God’s essentials & not get lost in stuff that unimportant ,)

Wrong Place, Maybe

When I go to the grocery store, I expect to find groceries & when I go to my health club, I expect to find weight machines & workout stuff.  So people come to church & expect to find Jesus, but here’s an interesting exception for you to consider:

The Trade Off

I just finished some really fun snowboarding & although it was cold & windy with some icy patches, the speed was glorious. So there’s some trade off to get the adrenaline rush that comes from going super fast, safely of course. 

In contrast, however, our relationship with Jesus can seem to have trade off points, but in reality we always win. So let me encourage you over this weekend to do some trade offs with Jesus:

  • Peace for anxiety 
  • Truth for confusion 
  • Genuine love for apathy 
  • Joy for worry 
  • Forgiveness for unforgiveness 
  • Trust for independence 

Such trades with Jesus are most certainly upgrade trades ,)

Miraculous Coincidence ,)

Over the last several months, I’ve experienced some amazing coincidences: meeting people who have common ministry goals, reconnecting w people from my distant past, stumbling into situations where I thrive, receiving unexpected financial support & loads more. With such “coincidences” I can choose to see them as happen chance & accidental or I can see them as divine encounters and appointments. 

I choose to see such miraculous coincidences as divine direction & answers to my prayers for God to direct my steps. Indeed, I pray almost everyday that God would direct my steps & that I won’t follow the enemy’s whispers, suggestions or influences. 

So I’m celebrating today, that God is directing my steps!  I’d invite you to join me in that daily prayer for God to direct your steps as well for divine appointments & direction in your daily living!

Pick a Side

I recently enjoyed watching the NCAA college basketball championship game & the most common question was, “Who are you cheering for? Which team do you want to win?”
In essence, which side are you on? As we walked into the arena, we were inundated with Michigan fans so I wasn’t too keen to shout out, “GO ‘NOVA!!!!” But I had definitely picked a side & cheered accordingly.
The same holds true for all of us in the narrative between what the enemy says in contrast to Holy Spirit’s narrative.
The enemy accuses, condemns, shames, deceives & is always trying hurt, kill & destroy us.
On the other side, Holy Spirit advocates, convicts, comforts, leads us into truth, makes us alive, confirms our true identity & continuously pours love into our soul.
So pick your side & actively select the narrative to which you’ll listen & entertain / converse with, keeping in mind the respective outcomes that go with each side 🙂