Friday, December 15, 2017

Here is your annual reminder. You're welcome.

What if we had Christmas with no gifts?

Some of you may say, "well baby Jesus received gifts from the three wise men." Of course he did. He is Jesus! That's why we celebrate Christmas, right? 

You aren't Jesus and neither am I. We aren't even close no matter how much we try. So what makes us think that we need to celebrate Christmas with a bunch of gifts? 

Every year around this time, stress seems to amplify. I don't know about you, but I don't like feeling stressed when I think of Christmas -- it is much too warm and magical for that! But, social calendars fill up. There is a ton of cooking, baking, and decorating to do. Shopping is a priority -- especially for those that you need to ship gifts to. And then, of course, we have financial stress that affects a huge chunk of the population. (Did you know that more than half of us will go into debt just to buy Christmas gifts? And, some are still paying off last years Christmas gifts!?)

And, what is this all for again? Right, to give a present to someone who has been blessed with so much more than others. It just shouldn't be. It is just not what is it about. 

I know I probably sound like a broken record by now and you are probably shaking your head at me by now if you are even still reading this, but I feel like these feelings have amplified for me over the last couple of years. I also feel like I am somehow supposed to be that stuck record chirping in your ear to remind of you of what Christmas is all about -- and its not about buying presents!

Now, I am not saying this because I am a scrooge or that I am trying to be frugal. That is not my thought at all so go on and just dismiss that from your mind. I'm simply just throwing it out there that we need to stop and take a moment to remember why we are celebrating Christmas and decide what we truly want from our celebration. It's like this: Do you want memories of time spent with family celebrating together under the magical glow of lights? Or, do you want to waste time trying to find a place to put all your new gadgets? 

The choice is yours. But, remember who is front and center of that manger... and that is where your eyes should be drawn this season. Psalm 115:4-8 (NLT): 

 "Their idols are merely things of silver and gold,
    shaped by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
    and eyes but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear,
    and noses but cannot smell.
They have hands but cannot feel,
    and feet but cannot walk,
    and throats but cannot make a sound.
And those who make idols are just like them,
    as are all who trust in them."

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Gratitude attitude

Why is it that so many of us only say what we are thankful for on Thanksgiving? Truly, what is the difference between Thursday, November 23, 2017 and Wednesday, November 15, 2017?

Nothing. There is no difference at all. Well, other than one comes with a feast and the other does not. 

Gratitude is the feeling of being thankful. And it is a feeling you should be actively seeking every moment of every day. 

  • When you are stuck in traffic and will be late -- be thankful that you have a car to sit in amongst that traffic. 
  • When you fall face first in front of a potential employer -- be thankful that you have legs you can walk and trip with. And, be thankful that you are able to show how genuinely human you are. 
  • When your kids act out every time you need them to be on their best behavior -- be thankful that you have been blessed with kids who aren't afraid to share their voice. And be thankful that they have lungs to breathe with and life to share with you. 
  • When you are in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a large number of guests and your power goes out -- be thankful that you have just created the future most-talked-about Thanksgiving memory ever. 
Get the idea? Having an attitude of gratitude can help you find the faintest of rainbows in the darkest of clouds -- and to focus on the good and let the bad fall away. 

Not only is gratitude helpful for your mental well-being, it can also be physically rewarding. In fact, by maintaining a positive attitude and looking on the bright side, did you know that you can reduce the stress in your life? And we all know that stress can cause so many ailments, such as headaches, sleeplessness, digestive issues, increased blood pressures, etc. 

Now that you know just how important gratitude is, here is how you can implement a plan to make it a part of your day -- and change your life!

1. Find yourself a notebook, a note pad, a journal, an old composition book. Anything that you can write on regularly and keep it set aside for this specific purpose. 
2. Write at least one thing every day that you are thankful for. This can be one word, one sentence, or a whole darn story. 
3. Dedicate a specific time for reflection and writing. It could be when you wake up, before you go to bed, or on your lunch break. Whatever time works for you and allows you to be consistent. 

Try this -- even if only for a week or two. I promise you that focusing on just one thing that makes you thankful will slowly turn into more thanks and, eventually, a whole new habit. Out with the old way of thinking and in with the new; out with dark, in with the light. 

Don't just focus on gratitude for Thanksgiving. Make everyday a day of thanks. Starting today. 

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
- Alphonse Karr

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Love is an action

"Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying"
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you heard that quote before? I happen to love it. I discovered it a long time ago when I was going through some rough stuff -- and it was perfect for how I was feeling at the time. Since then, it has just stuck with me.

Face it -- people talk. A few speak real and honest words. Many others, though, only talk to hear their own voice. It is as if in some way they truly believe that if they talk enough they will eventually convince you to see them for something other than they are. As if the words will form the person in your mind and override the visual actions and body language you are face to face with.

It works. Sometimes. But only for a short time.

Eventually, actions show through and we are able to fully discover the real person who has been yapping all along. Come on, you've all experienced this at some point in life.

So, when it comes to spreading God's love, do you think actions or words make a better impression?

I could share with you how much I absolutely love black olives. However, if we were out to dinner and one shows up in my salad, you won't witness me showing much love to the little sucker as I pass him on to Tina -- and not necessarily in a graceful manner. I honestly find them disgusting. My actions will show you that.

Jesus knew that showing love was more important than the sound of his own voice. How did he do it?

By staying connected to God

"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love." -- John 15:9 (NLT) Jesus stems from God, like a branch and a strong trunk. Love comes from God. Therefore, if you have a heart full of love, there is a lot of God in there, too. After all, "We love each other because he loved us first." -- 1 John 4:19

By loving everyone

There are some people who seem difficult to love. You may find that your love can't penetrate the hard, protective shell on the outside. Kinda like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), the tax collector who Jesus visited in his home. He was a deceitful sinner. Jesus could have acted like he was not worthy because of his sins and passed on by without a second glance. But he didn't. In fact, he took the high road by going to his home.

God wants us to love everyone -- even those who seem unlovable. "...Love each other in the same way I have loved you." -- John 15:12

By helping others

Be a beacon of light to lead those who are lost. Be the strong hand that can lift someone up. Be kind and help others -- for no other reason other than it is what your heart knows is right. "...Love your neighbor as yourself." -- Luke 10:27 

In our relationships and friendships, it is sometimes the little things that make us feel loved, right? Your spouse could say "I love you..."  a thousand times a day. But, when you find your car has been blessed with a full tank of gas and one stop removed from your errand list (thanks to a loving spouse) -- THAT is when you feel loved.

You can say you want to help the homeless or the family in the hurricane who lost everything. Unfortunately, your verbal compassion will only get you so far -- and it does nothing to help those individuals.

You have to actually take action to make a difference.

Be aware of your actions and know that others are watching you. It doesn't matter what you say, but rather what you do. Act like Jesus and show love like Jesus. Stay connected with God, love everyone, and always help those in need.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Letting go of time...

To track the time is like counting your hours. In fact, since time is a gift, keeping track of it is like counting your money, counting your presents, or counting any other so-called good fortune. Perhaps that is why my watches keep breaking. No, really. At first, I thought it was just a plethora of time-device bad luck, but now I am beginning to think it is something bigger. 

You already know how I feel about coincidences -- I don't believe in them. Things just don't happen the way they do out of mere coincidence. That just seems way too petty for someone as great and good as my God. So, therefore, everything that happens must happen because it is supposed to. 

Up until a little over 3 years ago, I always wore a watch. I had a few of them, but there were two that I was pretty darn fond of. I would alternate them -- and then mix in the pretty, colorful ones for special days or to match special outfits. 

Then, slowly, one by one, each of my watch batteries died. All of them. Our next door jeweler at the time was kind enough to replace the batteries in 6 watches. It wasn't long after that they all died again. It didn't bother me as much at that point because I was wearing my Garmin vivofit everywhere and it kept me apprised of the time.  However, one day, on the spur of the moment, we decided to take a trip to the mall and I had all six batteries replaced again. 

Unfortunately, before I could start wearing some of my favorite watches, they died. All of them. And then my Garmin started dragging with the time, slowing down until its inevitable death. My alarm clock which so perfectly shines the time on my ceiling still works but has recently stopped projecting the time. If I am honest, that was my favorite feature of the clock -- especially in the middle of the night. 

So, I did what every late night, one cracked-open eye, ceiling staring, time watcher would do -- I jumped on Amazon and ordered a new clock! It arrived last weekend and, to my dismay, it does not shine the time on the ceiling unless I bump it. And, even then, it only stays on for 3 seconds. This does me no good when all the strength I can muster in the night is to lift an eyelid. 

Then it hit me.

While in the shower this morning (the place where I have my greatest epiphanies) I had a thought: I need to throw out that new alarm clock! Or give it away! I am beginning to seriously feel like for some reason I am to stop keeping track of time. I need to quit counting the numbers. And, by purchasing that alarm clock, I actually feel like I went against the path I am being drawn toward. 

Although it sounds great in my head, it seems goofy to share it. But, if you love planning and keeping track of time as much as me, you would likely be feeling strongly about this, too -- especially when it appears that some greater force is insisting you stop. 

I remembered this verse this afternoon, from James 4: 

Look here, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit." How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog -- its here a little while, then its gone. What you ought to say is, "If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that." Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil." -- James 4:13-16 (NLT)

I carry my calendar everywhere I go (yes, a paper calendar because it lets me see the bigger picture easier). I am always making notes and making plans. I get anxious when we are running behind (which is common since my family runs on what I like to call "island time"). Simply put, I live my days by the time on the clock. 

How do you not keep track of time living in the world we live in? Transportation, work, schools, deadlines -- they all require us to keep track of it. I am not quite sure how to stop looking at the time and still succeed at life. But, I am sure it is possible with a lot of strength, just as with overcoming any addiction. And, I will start now.

It is time for me to let go. My wrist will now remain bare. 

In their hearts humans plan their course, 
but the Lord establishes their steps. 
- Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Recovery for the high-strung

It is fairly safe to say that I am in high-strung recovery. Because I know I have a problem and I am a working on not being so high strung, I refer to this as being in recovery. It is an inside battle that I am fighting. Albeit, slowly. See, I am a worry-wart, I dislike the feeling of not having control over a situation, and, although it is a joke within my family, I really am sensitive. 

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to know that I understand how hard it is to relinquish control and let someone else lead. And why would I let someone else lead? Because there is someone who knows me so much better than I...

God. And, I have been called to follow him.

"A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." - Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

When we don't give up control, we are, in a sense, God's opponent. He is trying to do his work in our lives and we are fighting against him by trying to do our own work. We don't see the whole picture -- the whole universe and its ever-forming masterpiece. We are only privy to what is inside of our little bubble that we think we control. How can we lead when we can't see where we are even going?!

Think about this: When you find yourself face to face in a battle with, say, for instance, your teenager, your spouse, your job, your neighbor, or even your pastor... what do you do? Do you fight the situation? Do you try to keep the upper hand? Do you try to control the environment with every ounce of persistence you have? Or, do you throw your hands in the air and walk away with your face down and your shoulders slumped? See, most people respond with either an uptight, all controlling mindset or a woe is me attitude. 

You cannot control anyone. I think I should write that again, just in case. You cannot control anyone. Yes, that means you cannot control your kids, your spouse, your friends, your parents, your neighbors, your co-workers, your congregation... These individuals belong to God, not you. He created them, you did not. They are his. Get over it. 

The world is big. In fact, it is HUGE. And there really isn't anything you can do to control anything in it, no matter how good your intentions -- You can't change the weather, you can't make sure that not a single soul goes hungry, and you cannot protect innocent children from being exposed to a fallen world. You just can't.

So, what CAN you do? You can stop trying to control everything and, instead, focus that energy on sharing hope and love. Be an example for others. When times get rough and you want to kick and scream and fight for control, make sure you have God in the driver's seat. (What a way to show by example to those around you, right?) Remember: 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28 (NIV) 

You can be a child of God and still find yourself fighting for control -- you are human and you have faults. Just know that when you realize that God has become an opponent, rather than your team captain, it is time to take a step back and re-center yourself. 

God is all-knowing. He knows where we are going, what our purpose is, and what the next, strategically-planned, move is. Let HIM make your move. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Quench your thirst

In my mind, I keep coming back to this location, location, location thing.

I always used to get irritated when people would come to Florida to visit and harp on me about not having a killer tan -- as if I had all the time in the world to sit at the beach! But those who visit -- that is what they do -- visit the beach! They come into town, get a tan, and head on home to show it off.

When you live here, it is a different story. You have your daily routine that includes work, appointments, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. A trip to the beach has to be weaseled in. And, even then, it seems like something needs to get put on the back burner.

When you manage to squeeze it in and arrive at the beach, you can start to relax once you are able to let everything go that could've/should've/would've been done had you not decided to head east. The smell of the salty air, the crashing of the waves, the sand between your toes, and the smiles on everyone's faces... why don't we do this more often? A few hours later and we are convinced that someway, somehow we are going to make relaxing days at the beach a priority. After all, we need these moments of solitude to grow closer to God or to re-center our focus. A beach is a perfect place for this.

Unfortunately, those well-intended beach days never happen.

The funny thing is that it isn't about being in a particular location, or a quiet spot, in order to find that solace we so desperately need. We just think it is.

In a house of screaming kids, TV's blaring, teenagers talking on speaker phone, etc. you may think -- sure, how can I find a quiet moment amongst all of this? And you will convince yourself that the only quiet time you can find is when you have time to escape for a long weekend to a sleepy beach town, a stay at a vineyard, or just a few nights at a remote B&B. This is usually followed up with -- and how would I ever be able to escape to that?! I've got the kids, a dog, my job, etc.  It's hopeless!

Take a long weekend and visit a quiet place. It's a lot different than moving there because guess what? When you move to that quiet, sleepy beach town, you are taking those kids, that dog, a job...

My point is that you can go anywhere in the world looking for solitude, looking for peace, looking for perfection, but you aren't going to find it. Really, you aren' me. Those things are not in any place. Ok, so maybe temporarily, but that is just a facade. 

The real thing isn't anywhere but inside you. So where ever you are, that is where you can find peace, quiet, tranquility -- all those calming feelings. BUT, there is a catch. Believe me, you are great and all, but if you don't have God in your heart or you don't have a relationship with him, then you will search forever for those lovely feelings and never find them. That's right -- without God, trying to find peace is like walking through the desert and only seeing mirages, but never any water. 

"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive that you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." - Luke 11:9-10 (NLT) 

So, use your vacations to enjoy time with your loved ones. Don't use them as a way to find the quiet you already have inside you. And, make your relationship with God a priority -- everything else will fall into place, I promise you. Last but certainly not least -- If you aren't sure how to start a relationship with God, please reach out to me: 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

If today is your last...

Have you ever really thought about the fact that we may not be here next week? Tomorrow? By 9:00 pm tonight? We don't know when we are going to get called home -- we just know that we will one day. It is inevitable. 

And then there are those who sorta get a heads up... say you fall ill and your doctor tells you that you only have a small window of human life left in you. Or, maybe you hear a small voice or get a feeling that your time to head home is coming... 

Think about it: You hear the words, "Good morning, <insert your name>, today is your last day to live on earth." What would you do? How would you react? 

Something tells me some folks may begin rushing around in a panic trying to quickly pack everything into 24-hours that they didn't take the time to do before now. All those things on the bucket list -- the sky diving, the traveling, seeing your favorite football team play live, trying to finish the kitchen sink ice cream challenge, singing a solo at church -- you never did get around to them. You thought there would always be tomorrow. Now, you are in a panic. How can you possibly have time to finish the list? You realize that there are all these things you wanted to do and never did because you put them off. 

Other folks may call family members and want to spend their last hours feeling love and sharing memories before they head home to Jesus. Warm embraces and many tears. Yet, many laughs and comforted hearts, too. 

Then you have your folks who are just in shock. They just sit there. Maybe they watch the second hand move around the clock while stuck in a blank stare. Maybe they play with the zipper on their jacket and get lost in thought. Maybe their legs feel like lead and they cannot move them no matter how much they want to frantically run away.

It doesn't matter which you reaction you have -- you can still find yourself being slapped in the face that, above all of the menial things, you never took the time to get closer to God. Because there is a huge difference between knowing of God and actually knowing God. 

So, if today is your last... what would you do? Would you run about in a sort of panic or would you fall to your knees and pray for mercy? 

Truth is, we don't know when our last day is. We don't receive an e-vite in our e-mail asking us to add the event in Outlook. No, we don't.

Let your knees find the ground today. "...for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." - 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NIV)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Do you know her?

Sin is selfish.
Let me say that again: SIN. IS. SELFISH.

Have you ever given it any thought? Your choices, your sin -- that is between you and God, right? After all, who can be affected by your sinful desires other than you?

Do you remember the story of King David and Bathsheba? Maybe you do, Maybe you have never heard it. Either way, I am going to tell it to you ... 

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant." 

So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”

Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died. - 2 Samuel 11:2-17 (NIV)

King David committed a sin. In fact, he committed many of them. And to cover up his sin... rather than repent... he let his sin... his selfish desires... affect the lives of so many people. King David slept with a married woman, Bathsheba committed adultery, Uriah ended up losing his life due to King David's setup, and the illegitimate child that was born between Bathsheba and King David died, and so on. 

Sin is selfish. 

How do your choices, your desires, and your decisions affect those around you? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I saw Jesus

I saw Jesus.

I met Jesus the other day. I was on my way home from work and had just taken my exit off the interstate. While sitting at the stoplight, I saw a man holding a sign that said, “Hungry, please help.” He looked to be in his 60’s or 70’s and was limping as if his right leg was damaged. His deep gray eyes, disheveled silver hair and leathery tan skin told me that he had been on the streets for a while and his story was long and hadn’t been easy.
I knew that I didn’t have anything in my car to feed him, but I did have a $5.00 bill. I rolled my window down, signaled for him and held my hand – and the money – out of the window. He came to me as quickly as his crippled leg would let him. Reaching for the money, he...

Friday, January 13, 2017

How much of yourself do you reveal?

What makes us so hesitant to be ourselves with others? Why do we close ourselves off, only showing what we want others to see? 

There are so many possible answers to these questions, but I think it all boils down to fear. Whether it is fear of being judged, laughed at, cheated, or even fear of being hurt. It is likely the basis of why we only open a few windows to our inner selves. 

This is especially true around strangers. 


It could stem back to how we were raised and it could also result from experiences we have had in life. Painful moments mold us as much - if not more - than joyful moments do. Without getting into too much of the intricacies, we will just say that all of our life experiences make us who we are -- and thus can reveal a lot about why we only show certain parts of ourselves. 

Let me tell you why this has been on my mind. See, I discovered this Christian writer's conference I would really like to go to. It is at a camp -- similar to a retreat. They have what they refer to as "hotel rooms" that come in single and double occupancy. When I attempted to book it, it looked as though the private rooms were sold out -- which leaves me with a double, should I choose to go. 

The very idea of sharing personal space with a complete stranger just doesn't sit well with me. At all. In fact, I'd love to go to this conference but the mere fact that I may be sleeping next to Jane Doe just, well -- let's just say it is enough for me to think ahead to booking early for the 2018 conference. 

This whole scenario has made me think -- why am I having such a hard time sharing a personal space with a stranger? What am I afraid of? (People have done this for years, I know)

I thought about Jesus and how he was, in a sense, homeless. He would stay with people as they welcomed him into their home. He embraced people. He loved people. Even people he didn't know. 

Jesus didn't put a wall up around himself to protect himself from strangers. Jesus spent time with people he didn't know without fear. In fact, Jesus even kept company with the outcasts and the undesirables -- the people you think would be feared the most. 

Jesus shared himself with everyone.

How did he let himself be comforted by strangers and be himself - Jesus - without worry? He lived breathed, and walked on the earth just as we have. So why wasn't he scarred or bruised from years of living. Why did he not feel the need to protect himself? (Duh.. he is Jesus).

Jesus knew that he wasn't alone. He knew his Father was with him and that his father would protect him. He knew not to fear -- for real. We quote verses from the bible and we talk about not fearing, but we do anyways. But, Jesus -- he didn't. He lived out the peace spoken in his words, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27 (NIV) 

Jesus knew he had nothing to fear. He knew there was a purpose and a plan for everyone he met. We should know this, too. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

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