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!

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 🙂

Inadequate Meets Uber-Adequate!

There are times in my life where I am inadequate to meet the needs and demands of what’s happening around me.  In these times, I know that I’m not smart enough, not strong enough, don’t have the energy to match the demands, nor do I have the endurance to match the race stretched in front of me.  In these times, it’s tempting to get overwhelmed by the questions, the shortfalls, demands, inadequacies and scarcity I feel in my soul.  Such deficiency is often a universal human condition and maybe that’s by Divine Design.  Maybe God has always intended for us to never be enough, such that we must choose to reach outside of ourselves to find provisions beyond our finite resources.

Let’s be certain that we reach for God to participate in our lives every day and not just as a last resort!  Indeed, God is more than enough for our overflowing deficiencies!

Are You Distracted?

Do you ever struggle with distractions or competing priorities?  There are loads of things in our world that demand our attention, from the pop-ups that happen on our Facebook feed to the random text message advertising some random product.  So how do we deal with these distractions?  And what about competing priorities?  Here are some helpful thoughts that you could pass along to your friends / family as well 🙂

 

More Than Enough

“We only have two fish & five loaves of bread. It’s not enough for such a big crowd!!” These were the disciples’ words to Jesus about feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 people. And the observation is valid when we think about the provision in contrast to the need.

I see this mindset in many perspectives in my life. My needs for energy, time, resources, friendships, favor, wisdom, etc often seem to dwarf whatever provision may be available at the time. And as I read today about Jesus multiplying the fish and bread, I was challenged by this whole stark contrast between provision and need. I can belittle and grieve what is lacking or I can give Jesus whatever provision I have, let Him bless it and live in the resulting abundance.

In Jesus’ hands, little provisions can become multiplied abundance!

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!

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 🙂

What Do You Think?

I’m learning that what I think is often more important than various experiences or events. If my thoughts are dark, if I’m feeling insecure, inadequate, uncertain or frumpy, then I tend to behave & interact from a darker place. On the contrast, when I’m hopeful, optimistic, bright, steady & confident, then my interactions are more positive & constructive, with a higher quality of internal resilience.
So maybe this is why Paul tells us in Phil 4:7-8, to let Jesus’ peace guard our hearts & mind, as well as instructing us about keeping our thoughts centered on gratitude, stuff that’s right, honorable, etc.
it’s important to think about our thoughts & appreciate that how we interact & engage is an interior decision more than an external response 🙂

#selah

Taking Risks

For some people, risk is like running through an amusement park in wild expectation of the thrills on the horizon.  For other people, risk is like running the gauntlet of would be gladiators, awaiting impending torture and possible death.  No matter how you see risk, walking in faith is risky because it’s the decision to do what’s unknown, uncomfortable and uncertain.  But the other side of faith can be worth the risk:

  • knowing Jesus better,
  • supernatural achievements,
  • stronger confidence in God,
  • experiences with God that don’t happen without faith

I can appreciate that risk is scary, but I invite you to join me on the faith journey that can be risky rather than the fear journey that can be constrictive.  And of course, let’s ask for wisdom along the journey so that our faith / risk isn’t foolish 🙂

 

Bitter or Better?

I want to choose better rather than bitter, but sometimes it’s not an easy choice. There are two occasions in the Bible that I specifically see the “bitter” problem:

  1. when Peter betrayed Jesus & he went away, weeping bitterly;
  2. when the water at Mara was bitter, the Israelites complained & Moses threw a log into the water making it sweet & drinkable.

So when I think about these “bitter events”, maybe they could’ve been better if the complaining & betrayal were eliminated.
I can see how that would be true for me when given the choice between bitter or better. When I complain less, I do better. And when I love Jesus even when it’s difficult, I’m better in my soul.
Something to think about for this wonderful Monday 🙂

Growing or Stagnant?

I have the opportunity to grow and I’m not sure that I want this, maybe.  There’s an annual convention on the calendar that’s around the corner and I’m considering going this year, even though it makes me sweaty just thinking about it.

In my mind, I’ve got ironclad rationale to justify not going, but maybe if I go I’ll grow, maybe if I stay, I’ll stagnant.  I’m reminded about Saul and Jonathon in 1 Samuel 14.  Saul stayed under a tree with 600 men, while Jonathon took his buddy and started a skirmish that turned into a major military victory.

Sometimes that growth that God asks from us can be unsettling and outright scary.  But let’s chose to grow rather than stagnant 🙂

Celebrating LOVE!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Maybe you like the chocolate that is often associated with this day, or the candy hearts with little messages on them, or perhaps the romance possibility is appealing for you today.  On the flip side, for many people, Valentine’s Day can be a discouraging reminder of an unfulfilled or broken relationship.

Regardless of your feelings about this day, let’s choose together to celebrate genuine love!!  And maybe today can be more about genuine love than about the romance, cards, candy, chocolate or flowers.  Maybe we can choose to make today about expressing genuine love not only to people that we know & love, but also to the people we don’t know or maybe don’t love so much.  I’m learning an interesting lesson with genuine love:  the more I genuinely love, the more I feel genuinely loved 🙂

Feel free to send this to your friends and family today, as you celebrate genuine love!!

What’s Your Game?

In various sports, there’s the concept of short game versus the long game.  For example, the short game in basketball could be the shots close to the basket in contrast to the longer distance, 3 point shots.  Additionally, a coach has to keep in mind the immediate events (short game) happening, while being aware of having the resources necessary for the end of the game (long game).

I think the same holds true for our walk with God – both the short and long games.  The long game could be our life in eternity with God & the short game could be our time here on earth.  The short game could be the immediate gratification of desires and the long game could be the death of our flesh so that we have spiritual results.  I think that both the short & long games are important.  The best way to navigate the balance between these is to stay

In Step with the Holy Spirit!

Discourage or Encourage?

It’s interesting that the root for the words, “discourage” and “encourage” is the word courage, which traces to the Latin root for “heart.”  So when we are discouraged, this literally means, “away from the heart”.  And encourage, by contrast, means “into the heart”.  But the common ingredient for both of the words, encourage & discourage, has to do with the heart.

So let’s think about this:  what happens in my heart is only known between God and me.  People can observe the external results of that internal status, but the state of my heart and what happens there is known most clearly by God.  Maybe this is why Solomon said, in Proverbs 4:23, that we should guard our hearts, since this is where the wellspring of life starts.  With this verse in mind, let’s be certain that we are keeping our hearts wide open to God’s presence because this is how we can live in a state of encouragement rather than being discouraged by experiences, conversations and various other challenges that can arise.  Choose to live with God’s presence in your heart, encouraged and deeply loved!

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!

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 🙂

Don’t Lose Your Mind

When I walk in my house, there’s a key ring where I always hang my car keys. I do this so that I can find them easily & not waste time looking for them, nor getting frustrated. Keeping things in their place helps me not lose things.
The same thing applies to my mind. If I keep my mind set in the right place, I don’t “lose” it. There are definitely times when my mind gets lost in various quagmires – emotional rabbit trails, planning stuff that’s not productive, relationship struggles, anxieties, dwelling on past failures, etc.
If we want to keep our mind in a good place, not lost or meandering, then let’s remember to always “set” our minds and n the Spirit, so that we have life & peace – Romans 8:6 🙂

Redemption in Disguise

“I am Joseph, your brother.” I’ve been reading the story of Joseph in the last part of Genesis & I’m always astounded by the events that led up to these words. There are so many ways this story could’ve taken a bad turn.

  • Joseph could’ve let bitterness settle into his heart & he could’ve cruelly repaid his brothers for their malevolence.
  • Joseph’s dad could’ve died before learning that his son was alive & highly successful.
  • Joseph’s brothers could’ve continued to be the jerks they were with him when they sold him into slavery.

But none of these things happened & when Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, he was fully committed to keeping his family alive & healthy, redeeming his family in a time of famine & desolation.
Let’s follow Joseph’s example in our daily living & relationships – committed to being agents of redemption, even when others may not recognize the redemption.

Do It Scared

There are lots of things that intimidate me such as: traveling to unstable places, mingling in a crowd of strangers, having difficult conversations & being around people whom I perceive as superior to me. While it’s good to acknowledge these places where I feel intimidated, it’s better to work through them rather than avoid them. In the past, the way I’d handle this intimidating stuff is to avoid these kinds of situations & distract myself with things I like better.
But growing means that I make active decisions to face the intimidating stuff & choose to grow. Sometimes, this means that even though I may be scared, I still push through the fear & intimidation – do it scared.
Feel free to join me on this adventure – not allowing your growth to be limited by your fears 🙂

Living in the Old or New?

Our church building is in the process of moving locations & it’s an interesting experience living in this “half-way between” place.  I feel like I’m in limbo a little bit because of the new place not being entirely settled & some of my stuff is still in the old place.  Furthermore, I have lots of memories associated with the old building & no memories or notable experiences yet with the new building.  We are also still having services in the old building, but the new building now houses all of our offices, so that’s where we do the day to day work during the weekdays.

This reminds me of what Paul says in 2Cor 5:17 about being in Christ & a new creature with the old things having passed away and new things have come.  There are times and experiences when I find myself living in my old, flesh nature, even though I know in my heart that I’m a new creation in Christ.  Let’s continue to move into and occupy our new nature that Jesus has purchased for us.  Here are a few possibly helpful ideas to consider:

  • don’t bring the old furnishings to the new creation:  stuff that’s broken & dysfunctional doesn’t need to continue in our new nature living.
  • celebrate and embrace:  be sure to celebrate & honor the past, but wholly & fully embrace the new creation / nature that Jesus has for you now!
  • keep moving into the new creation:  there were a few weeks when I procrastinated moving stuff out of the old building for various reasons.  From this lesson, I’m learning that it’s important to keep looking & moving toward the new creation that Jesus has made me to be.

Feel free to pass this along to your friends / family who are navigating this journey to be more & more like Jesus!

PS – here’s my latest youtube video that’s short, fun & encouraging!