Monday, August 31, 2015

Never Get Over the Wonder of Life

There was a time in my life when I wasn’t at least a little tired; I think it was when I was seven. Kids always have unlimited energy, like fully charged batteries that never drain. Eventually, we become adults with grown-up responsibilities, such as jobs, spouses, kids, and a mortgage, and suddenly we realize the stamina all this requires. The naps we hated as children become something longed for like mirages in the desert. We are dying of thirst, and fatigue, and if only we could lie down in that blissful oasis, even for a short while, we would be re-born. Ah yes, we would recline in streams of cool water, close our eyes in ecstasy, and emerge refreshed and ready to take on the world. Like David facing Goliath, we could whip anyone.

When I was seven, I was never tired. Such boundless energy has a source, which is the wonder of life. Children today have lost touch with said wonder, and therein lies the tragedy. When I was seven, my brother and I received Superman suits as gifts from our parents. Someone in the copyright department was sleeping through this epoch of my childhood because I remember well that Superman logo screaming “copyright infringement” to a slumbering world, yet somehow no one noticed or sued anyone. We ripped the plastic covers off our suits, donned our costumes, and flew about the house, arms outstretched before us, bright red capes streaming behind us, like super heroes seeking dangerous criminals. Numerous passes through the kitchen and dining room perhaps caused our parents to reevaluate the wisdom of their gift. Right before takeoff, I recall reading a warning label printed in the cover of our Superman suits, which said, “Warning: this suit does not give wearer the ability to fly.” I said, “Hey Tom, look at this; someone thinks wearing this suit will make him fly.” My brother returned my derisive jest with a pitying gaze, and then he raised his arms before him and was again in flight.

I doubt any seven year old kids today would surrender their IPod, laptops, video games, or smartphones, even for a moment to fly around the house in a Superman suit. That is a shame, because they do not know what they are missing. They would discover overlooked delights. They already possess the energy. They simply need a positive outlet.

I am always looking for a positive outlet or something which will give me energy. Maybe I will find a Superman suit and go for a fly around the house. I wonder if the neighbors would think it odd if they saw me cruising the neighborhood, arms outstretched, red cape wildly flapping behind me as I ran down the street seeking to right the world’s injustices. My wife would not blink an eye. She has already lived through my phases of, I want a motorcycle, I think I will get a Corvette, I am certain I can climb Mount Everest, perhaps I will become a mixed martial arts fighter, and the latest, I am certain I could be the next “American Ninja Warrior” champion.

Never be fearful of dreams, for they are energizing. Live, dream, aspire. Thank God for every day. Make the most of life and redeem the time we have. Never get over the wonder of life.

God bless you today.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Seven Things We Should Say to Our Children

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  –Ephesians 6:4

Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of overhearing a conversation you did not intend or want to hear?  This happened to me the other day in a grocery store parking lot.  I was walking back to my car after shopping when I passed a man and a teenage girl, presumably his daughter, having what sounded like a heated conversation.  As I passed by I heard the man say to the girl, “Retire?  How can I retire?  I can never retire and it’s because of you!”  I know better than to interfere with other peoples’ conflicts, but my heart ached for this girl.  The man said something she may negatively remember the rest of her life.

I know what the man said to the girl, but what do you think she heard?  I believe she heard something like, “You are a terrible burden to me and you’re causing me a lot of trouble – more than you’re worth.”  I walked away from this considering all the times I have spoken harsh words to my sons in moments of exasperation that I later regretted.  The only way to overcome the harsh words we have spoken in the past is to resolve to no longer speak them.  The next step is to cover our children with positive words of encouragement.

The following are my suggestions of things we should say to our children:

1. I love you.  These simple words speak volumes, and no matter how old our kids get, keep telling them this.

2. I am proud of you.  The world will point out our kid’s mistakes, so it is up to us to let them know how proud we are of their accomplishments.

3. You can accomplish this.  Listen when our children speak of their goals, hopes, and dreams.  Encourage them with the reminder that anything is possible if they trust God and set their minds to it.

4. I am here for you.  It’s up to us to let our kids know they can count on us when they need us.  When my sons were teenagers, we made a pact that if they were ever in a situation and needed me to come and get them, I would come, no questions asked.  Remind them that if they are at someone’s house and there is alcohol or drugs and they do not want to be there, they can call you and you will come – without judgment or lecture. 

5. You have a bright future.  This is the polar opposite of telling a kid how worthless he or she is, and believe me, countless children are often told such hateful words.  Remind our children often that they are unique individuals of unlimited worth and potential.

6. So, how’re you doing?  Are we truly willing to listen when our children speak to us?  If you have a trusting relationship in which your kids are willing to talk to you, then you are blessed, my friend.  Nurture this trust and let your kids know when they want to talk, you are willing to listen.

7. I’m sorry.  If we have failed our kids in some way, spoken harsh words, or were not there when they needed us, then a heartfelt apology is in order.  Swallow your pride and tell them you are sorry.  You may be surprised by the results.

Are there helpful and encouraging words you would add to the list?  How may I pray for you and your family today?  Start a discussion.  As always, you may post anonymously. 

Family is God’s gift to us.  Cherish them and nurture them.

God bless you.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ten Reasons Life is Worth Living

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.  –Psalm 3:5, 6

Often when I am talking with someone and trying offer encouragement, I realize I have no idea the true depths of despair the person may be experiencing.  He or she may be teetering on the edge of giving up on life altogether.  It may be that the person you speak kind and encouraging words to today may be hanging onto life by a slender thread, and your words could mean the difference between life and death.  Who knows that the person we bump into at the bank or grocery store may be so mired in sorrow that checking out of this world is beginning to look like a viable solution.

Several years ago, an acquaintance of mine stopped by the church office to see me.  I had known this man to be a hard worker, family man, and by all outward appearances emotionally solid.  He sat down in my office and began to speak of the internal struggles he was facing.  Through tears he confessed he believed his family and the world at large would be better off without him.  I sought to convince him that this wasn’t the case.  “Your family needs you,” I assured him.  “People all around you need you,” I said.  I sat there hoping and praying my words rang true and hit home.  I am glad to say the man is still here, and while I don’t see him very often, he is still among us, which means he is fighting the good fight of moving forward with life.

Maybe you have felt like the man I spoke with.  Perhaps you have experienced the hopelessness of despair and sorrow.  Let me assure you like I assured him that the world is a better place with you in it.  God has a wonderful plan for your life.  With this in mind, let me share today my ten reasons life is worth living.  Some of these overlap a little, but I pray they are an encouragement to you. 

1. Life will get better; give it more time.  You will be amazed at how life will have improved in a year from now.

2. You are an individual of immeasurable worth and potential.

3. You are not here by accident.  You were created by God for a divine purpose.

4. You are stronger than you think you are.

5. There are people who love you and need you in their lives.

6. The world is a better place with you in it.

7. You may feel terrible, yet you will be happy again.

8. God is perfectly willing to help you.  Ask and He will be there for you.

9. You possess gifts and talents from which others may benefit.

10. Joy is coming.  Seek it and wait for it.

How may I pray for you today?  Perhaps you just need to get something off your chest.  As always, you may comment anonymously.  

God bless you, it's going to be a great day!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Life Will Get Better. Give it More Time

For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.  –Psalm 30:5

            Endless days stretch before you.  The little squares on the calendar mock you.  The hands of the clock appear to be your enemy.  Your mind is troubled with hard questions. 

            “How will I make it through today?” you wonder.  The question can go no further, for you dare not think too far ahead.  Attempting to think beyond right now is too painful.  It’s all you can do to make it through the next few moments.  Dark thoughts crowd into your mind.  They tell you lies.  In your anguish you begin to believe, even if it’s for only a moment, life will never get better.  You feel you are stranded on this island of misery with no hope of rescue.  You come to a harsh and desperate conclusion; life is no longer worth living.

            Stop right there.  You must cease from thinking in these terms.  Allow me to share with you a simple truth which explains why I am so serious about this.  Life will get better if you will give it more time.  Let’s not play with any shallow parables about time healing all wounds.  Right now you need something of greater substance.  Put away any thoughts, no matter how sketchy they may be, of doing something drastic, and give your life more time.  If you will heed this advice you will be amazed at the results.  One year from now you will be amazed at how your life will have improved. 

            I understand perfectly what it feels like to believe life is no longer worth living.  Joy is gone, happiness is a foreign idea, and peace is overshadowed by constant gloom and sorrow.  Simple tasks such as getting out of bed, shaving, showering, getting dressed, and facing the world all have become too much trouble.  Pursuits which once brought tremendous joy now seem pointless.  Lying in bed and sleeping look much more appealing.  In fact, if given the opportunity you would sleep all day every day.  You sleep because while in the twilight of dreams you no longer contemplate how miserable you feel.  Were you to relay all of this to me I would pat you on the shoulder, gently, calmly, and share with you my own dark battle with depression.  During my darkest days when I thought I could go no further and life would never get better I resolved, with God’s help, to hold to a simple truth; life will get better if I give it more time. 

            How long did it take for me until life got better?  My struggle lasted six long years, from 2000 until 2006.  However, I held to this certainty; life will get better.  Heading into the sixth year I again claimed this powerful principle.  I again reminded myself that one year from now my situation will have improved.  The following spring the light shined, the dark clouds parted, and with God’s help the climb out of sorrow, depression, and all the accompanying loneliness and despair began in earnest.  Each succeeding year has become brighter as I have learned how to better manage and overcome depression.

            You can accomplish this.  You will get better.  Life will improve.  Your situation can and will look brighter.  No matter how lonely and desperate you may feel do not give up.  Give it more time.  You will be amazed down the road how life has become better, brighter, and more hopeful.  You will live again and you will be happy.

            Does feeling better and living a happy and productive life appear impossible?  One year from now your life will have improved. 

            Take life one day at a time, one hour at a time, and if you have to do so, take life one minute at a time.  You will never know the joys which await you if you give up.

            Keep going, for life is worthy living and will get better.

            Your journey has just begun.

How may I pray for you today?  As always, you may comment anonymously. It's going to be a great day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Seven Things we Ought to Say to People

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.  –Proverbs 16:24

I recently wrote a blog post about things we should never say, and so today I bring you my list of what we ought to say at every opportunity.  Each day we encounter people who are probably hurting inside.  No one knows what is truly going on in someone else’s heart, but if your heart is anything like mine you are most likely burdened with all sorts of problems, stresses, and situations capable of producing a level of anxiety.  What a difference when someone speaks kind and gracious words to us in those moments we are down.  The right words, spoken at a time when we are discouraged, are like a healing balm to a troubled soul. 

Speaking words that help and encourage those around us is an intentional practice. We must be disciplined in our approach to how we relate to people.  In light of the negative words we often hear, the following is my list of what we ought to say at every opportunity.

1. Thank you.  These simple words carry great weight and go a long way toward expressing gratitude.  The words are applicable in countless situations ranging from being given a gift, assisted with a task, or told something helpful.

2. You’re welcome.  No doubt you have said, “Thank you,” to someone and the reply was, “No problem,” “Don’t mention it,” or “Don’t worry about it.”  These phrases carry the implication of gratitude, yet leave us feeling short changed.  It’s as if your expression of gratitude was unnecessary.  I know people rarely mean anything negative by such responses, yet an opportunity was missed.  Try sticking with the classic, “You’re welcome,” and see the difference it makes.

3. I appreciate you very much.  Here we distinguish between what someone did and the actual person.  Were it not for the person, what he or she did for us would never have happened.  The emphasis is on the individual rather than on what he or she did for us.  These words have the power to lift up people who are questioning their self-worth.

4. It’s going to be all right.  When going through a trying and difficult time, it often helps to be reminded that the problem, no matter how great, will one day be behind us.  This is always preferable to the negative and discouraging words we hear each day.

5. I hope all this works out for you.  Whenever a friend or loved one announces a plan that doesn’t make sense to us, such as I’m getting married, I’m moving to Nepal, or I’m changing careers, we do well to avoid a knee jerk reaction.  When someone drops a bombshell on us our first instinct is to jump up and say, “You’re going to do what?”  Sound advice, given at the proper time, is beneficial, but in the meantime a kind word of hope is always appreciated.  Letting someone know you hope everything works out well in the long run is usually well received.

6. I’m praying for you.  Having said this, be sure to then follow through with your promise to lift the person up to God in prayer.

7. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.  Never speak these words unless you are committed to being available when the person needs you.  You may have to take the person by the hand and follow this declaration up with, “I mean it; call me anytime if you need me.”  In time, someone may offer his or her help to you and you may  be the one reaching out in time of need.  Such care and kindness may mean life or death to someone.

I trust this is helpful.  Perhaps you are going through a hard time and need someone to pray for you.  I welcome an opportunity to do that.  As always, you may post a comment anonymously. 

God bless you – it’s going to be a great day.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Value of Human Contact

And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.   –Luke 5:16

The other day I was outside and while swatting at what I thought was a bug that had landed on my neck (it turned out to be a leaf), I dropped my cell phone.  And when I say dropped it, I mean I really dropped it.  The fall was from about the level of my face and the phone fell to the concrete patio.  The damage was complete and I ended up acquiring a new phone.  I was able to salvage all my pictures from the old phone, but I haven’t been able to do the same with my contacts.  I will have to reenter those manually.  Having those contacts is important.

I say this because my phone contacts illustrate the need for human contact.  All those names and numbers represent people I know in one way or another.  Relationships can be difficult and at times exhausting, yet we all need them because we need human interaction.  Remove human contact from our lives and we run the risk of becoming lonely and bitter.  This isn’t to say we do not need a little time to ourselves, because we all do.  Someone has coined the phrase “me time” to describe time we spend alone.  Getting away from daily interactions for a while to rest, reflect, and regenerate is vitally important to overall health.  The Bible shows how even Jesus took time to get away by Himself for prayer and personal renewal.  Jesus was empowered then to come back to His relationships refreshed and prepared to minister to and encourage the people around Him.

Happy and well-adjusted people typically have a network of support and relationships built into their lives.  They choose to live within this framework of interaction with others rather than isolation.  Cutting ourselves off from the support of others is dangerous.  Keep involved, continue reaching, out, and keep making a positive difference in the world through helping others.  You might say, ‘What about all the toxic people in my life?”  My answer is work around them, don’t let them get you down, and distance yourself from them if you have to.  Remember the only person you can change and control is you. 

Have relationships burned you out or hurt you?  Is there something you’d like to get off your chest today?  Please let me know how I can pray for you.

God bless you – it’s going to be a great day.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Seven Things we Should Never say to Anyone, Ever

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  -Matthew 7:12

When Jesus spoke of doing unto others, He referred to an attitude of being proactive in how we relate to people around us.  We desire to be treated with respect, dignity, kindness, and mercy.  Therefore, if we desire to be treated this way, we must demonstrate such conduct to the world.  Our words carry great weight.  Consider what we say and how we say it.  Are we tearing people down or building them up?  One kind word has the power to alter someone’s outlook, especially if the person is feeling down.  Sadly, the reverse is true.  One harsh or inconsiderate word can bring someone down from the positive mindset he or she was enjoying.

Many years ago while serving on staff at a church in another state, I was attending a church sponsored fellowship.  Door prizes were awarded, and since I rarely win anything, I was pleased to have won the incredible prize of five free trips to a tanning salon.  I had no intention of using them as wild horses couldn't drag me into a tanning bed, but I remarked to the person next to me about the prize.  The person sitting next to me, an elderly woman named Francis, replied, “Well, you need a trip to the tanning salon; you always look so pale and sickly.”  Ouch!  That still stings.  People make odd statements to each other and sometimes the words are bewildering.  When we speak uplifting words to others, we receive wonderful rewards.  We encourage others, and we come away from the encounter feeling better.

Here are my seven things we ought never to say to others:

1. Are you okay?  You look so sad.  No one wants to be told this.  I have had moments where I felt fine, and someone goes out of his or her way to comment on my sorrowful expression.  Nothing is to be gained from this statement.

2. You look tired.  If you were feeling wide awake before, chances are you’re feeling sleepy after someone tells you this. 

3. Wow, you've lost a lot of hair.  There is no need to ever tell a man he is going bald.  I am one of these lucky men who started going bald in my thirties, and yes, I am reminded of it from time to time.  The next time you’re tempted to say this, stop and remember the person no doubt saw himself in the mirror within the last hour.  He knows he’s going bald.

4. Wow, you've really put on some weight.  This ranks right up there with asking a woman if she’s pregnant.  She may not be.  Someone has sarcastically suggested that we ought never to ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless she is in the actual act of giving birth.  That, or if she’s wearing one of those shirts with an arrow pointing down to her stomach that reads, “Baby on the way.”  As with hair loss, people are fully aware of how much they weigh and how they look.  Few of us appreciate being told we have put on weight.  The only time this might be acceptable would be if the person is a cancer patient who had lost dozens of pounds, is now in remission, and is finally looking healthy again.  Otherwise, the topic is best left alone.

5. You are way too thin. You should gain some weight.  What is a healthy weight anyway?  Unless you are a doctor conferring with your patient, such advice is best left unsaid. 

6. Are you feeling all right?  You look sick.  Why anyone would ever feel the need to utter this statement to someone is beyond me, but I know it happens.  As with telling someone how tired he looks, when we tell someone he or she looks sick, the person might begin wondering about it and start actually feeling ill.  Such is the power of suggestion. 

7. I don't care.  What people need are affirming and encouraging words.  If you have had the unpleasant situation of sharing your thoughts with someone only to be told he or she doesn't care you know how this hurts.  These words convey that you aren't important and I do not have time to listen to you.  

 Compliments, kind words, joyful words, and words that encourage and build people up are always appropriate.  Leave the negative statements alone.  Resolve to speak only what helps others.  You have the power to make or break someone’s day.  Help make it a great day.  Check back later as I'll be sharing my list of things we ought to say to others.  

So, what bizarre things have people said to you?  I would love to hear from you today.  As always, you may comment anonymously. 

God bless you.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Monday Morning Stretching

I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.  –Psalm 34:4 

Spiritual growth is like physical growth in that we have to be stretched in order to grow stronger.  Sometimes I pray and acknowledge that God is stretching me, yet if you are anything like me, you wonder how much more stretching you can take.  Each new challenge, every new obstacle in our path, and each difficulty is an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.  We either grow through the experience or we fall apart.  Growth is always the better outcome.  Since God is the source of our strength, faith in Him results in forward progress with a brighter outlook rather than giving up.

No doubt you are facing difficulties today.  Your problems could range from battling depression, a long term illness, or a rebellious child.  Any of these has the potential to rob us of the peace and joy we would like to have.  Let me challenge you to trust the Lord with the trials you are facing and claim the peace that is ours in Christ.  God has a plan and you are not alone.  Take heart, rise up, and walk forward to a better, brighter day.  Try as we might, we cannot hide from our problems.  A spiritual approach is to face them head on and walk forward in God’s power.

Yes, it is Monday morning, and perhaps you are feeling down.  Pray for strength, claim God’s power, be thankful, count your blessings, and resolve just for today to live life to the fullest.  God has a plan and it’s going to be a great day.

How can I pray for you today?  Feel free to leave me a comment in the comments section and tell me what’s on your mind.  As always, you may comment anonymously.  Maybe you need to get something off your chest.  I welcome the opportunity to come alongside you and encourage you today.

God bless you. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Feeling Burned Out? Take Heart - There is Hope

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men.  –Colossians 3:23

A character in one of my favorite sitcoms, Seinfeld, once remarked that his mind was, “As barren as the surface of the moon.”  He was speaking of the burnout and exhaustion he was going through and as part of the genius of the show, this serious sounding description of his condition was humorous.  In real life, of course, there is nothing comical about burnout.  The condition known as burnout affects people from all walks of life.  Burnout is the condition of being so tired, exhausted, and overworked that all energy for going forward and thriving in one’s position is gone.  I have known many pastors affected by this and I have experienced it myself. 

However, the condition is in no way limited to the pastorate.  Anyone can suffer from burnout.  While depression affects our entire being, burnout is typically centered on one area such as our career or current job.  You may be reading this right now and thinking, “Yes, that’s me; I so dislike my job that it’s all I can do to make myself get up and go to work each day.”  When suffering from burnout, we have no problem getting up on our day off to take a trip somewhere or perhaps enjoy work around the house.  But when Monday comes, we’re feeling pretty low.  Our employment is no longer bringing us any fulfillment.

Take heart, because if your career has you burnt out, revitalization is possible.  Consider again that attitude makes all the difference.  The following suggestions may prove useful.

Seek to view your work as a calling rather than a job.  God has strategically placed you where you are for a divine purpose.  Whether you are a janitor or an executive, give your all to your work, because you are in the position of influencing peoples’ live around you for the better.  Your employment is your mission field.

God is using your work for providing basic necessities.  Consider that without that dull job you go to each morning, you and your family would be homeless, which is a condition affecting countless people right now.  Take on a new attitude of thanksgiving for all your work has allowed you to possess, such as a place to live and provision for your family.

Unclutter your life.  Getting rid of clutter from our homes and workplaces is one of the most energizing practices we can pursue.  While you’re at it, getting rid of car clutter makes us feel great as well.  Is your desk at work buried in junk mail and other stuff?  Resolve today to have the most organized desk in the office.  You will be amazed at the result.

Seek to encourage those around you.  What is your attitude at work?  Are you sullen and critical?  Do you complain about the boss and fellow employees?  Do you gossip with coworkers about others?  These attitudes fuel burnout.  Resolve to cease from speaking ill of others.  Make a commitment to say only kind words about your manager and fellow employees.  Rather than cut others down, seek to build up people around you with gracious, kind, and encouraging words.  Practice this every day and burnout begins to dissolve.

Get some exercise.  I know I keep harping on this, but it’s just that important.  Moderate exercise or daily workouts do wonders for our overall outlook.  Give it a try.

Recommit your life to God.  Resolve to daily pray and meditate on God’s Word.  What a wonderful difference this practice makes. 

I trust this is helpful.  Should you desire to comment on today’s post, please feel free to do so.  I would love to hear from you and pray for you today.

God bless you, my friends.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

God's Word on Happiness and Joy

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. –Job 5:17

When you eat the labor of your hands, Youshall be happy, and it shall be well with you. –Psalm 128:2

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, -Psalm 145:6

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. -Proverbs 15:13

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. –James 5:13

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. -Psalm 5:11

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the Lordhas comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted. –Isaiah 49:13

Whatever trials you are facing today, trust God, keep going, look to His Word, strength and power, and keep moving forward in faith. God has a plan and He will bring you through whatever difficulty you are facing.

God bless you today.

Friday, April 24, 2015

More Thoughts on the Power of Words

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.  –Proverbs 16:24

I am continually amazed at the power of words.  What we say can cut like a knife or heal like a soothing balm.  Many of us recall what we were told as children about words and their power; “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  Ah, if only that were true.  I remember painful words spoken to me decades ago.  Sometimes those memories swim to the surface and we relive those sore moments.  To be fair, we remember nice words spoken to us as well, but those negative words carry sinister power.

Allow me to challenge you today to take to heart what God’s Word says about the words we speak.  Good words are indeed sweet when spoken to a friend or family member in need.  Consider also that the pain someone is feeling may not be visible at all.  No doubt we will encounter hurting people today, and yet their pain is all inside.  What we say might encourage them in ways we cannot imagine.  Your words today could hold life or death to another person.  Unkind and negative words fall effortlessly from our lips.  We hardly have to try.  However, the uplifting, helpful, kind, and healing words require energy and effort. 

Need a few examples to assist you today?  Try some of these:

I am praying for you today.

Don’t give up – God has a plan.

Life is worth living, so keep going.

You are a wonderful person and I am thankful for you.

Thank you.

Call me if there is anything I can do.

You get the idea.  Resolve to speak only good words today.  What we say helps others and even as we speak them we feel better.  Negative, hateful, critical, and mean words bring us and everyone around us down. 

Have you been hurt by words lately?  Need to get something off your chest?  Let me know how I can pray for you today.  As always, you may post anonymously. 

God bless you – it’s going to a great day.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays

You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefor God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.  –Psalm 45:7

What is it about Mondays?  People I encounter on this particular day of the week are sometimes going through the day a little reservedly and hesitantly, as if waiting for something bad to happen.  I am certain you understand.  I have heard pastors refer to this day as “blue Monday.”  We have been going all weekend, we gave ourselves fully to leading in Sunday worship, and then Monday comes.  Yes, it can be a letdown.  For others, the day follows an enjoyable weekend where the realities of work, bills, and real responsibilities return in earnest.  Don’t be surprised if you ask someone on a Monday how he or she is doing and the person replies, “Well, it is Monday.”  It certainly is.

The best advice I can offer for handling Monday is to face it full on, head on, and come out swinging like a prize fighter.  Begin the day by taking time to pray and seek the Lord.  Give to Him the burdens and fears you are facing.  Take time to meditate on God’s Word by allowing its truths to penetrate your mind and heart.  Come up with a workable plan for the day.  Get moving and keep going in God’s strength.  Here are additional strategies that might prove helpful on Monday and any other day, for that matter:

Stop dwelling on past mistakes and failures.  We have all failed in some area, probably miserably.  Seek God’s forgiveness, seek the forgiveness of someone you may have wronged (if this is appropriate), realize you are only human, and move forward.  Do not allow past mistake to define who you are right now.

Get outdoors.  Sunshine is extremely therapeutic. Get outside on a sunny day and breathe in the fresh air. Be thankful for the moment you have to enjoy a clear and beautiful day.  If it’s pouring the rain, be thankful for that too.  Parts of the country are facing drought that is wreaking havoc with crops and water supplies.  The sun will come back out soon.

Get some exercise.  Even moderate exercise such as taking a daily walk works wonders.  Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure you are physically able to handle whatever exercise routine you choose.

Smile.  Smile at people you know.  Smile and say hello to strangers you pass at the grocery store.  Smile while talking on the phone (the other person will sense it in your voice).  Smiles are indeed contagious, and even if not reciprocated, you will feel better.

Let others have the glory.  Take time to listen.  Don’t interrupt others to tell your story.  If someone is telling about a trip to Florida, just listen.  Resist the urge to tell about how you also went to Florida last year and how great it was.  Let it be about the other person.  People will love you for this.

Be positive and encouraging at all times.  Five years ago, my wife Andrea was in a life and death battle with cancer.  I recall having a conversation with someone about her condition.  The person said, “Oh, that’s a shame.  I had a friend who had the same kind of cancer.  She died in about six weeks.”  That wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear.  Trust me on this; if someone tells you about a loved one who is battling cancer or some other illness, speak only positive words.  “I am so sorry to hear this.”  “I’ll be praying for him.”  “Please let me know if there is anything you need,” are all appropriate responses.  Offer to bring a meal, drive the person to his chemo treatment, or babysit if there’s small kids around.  These acts of kindness are always appreciated. 

I trust this is helpful to you.  Please let me know how I can pray for you today.  As always, you may comment anonymously.  It’s going to be a great day.

God bless you.    

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Confronting and Overcoming Bitterness

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.  –Hebrews 12:15

Numerous people succumb to the dark forces of bitterness and I have encountered many such persons over the years.  One lesson I have learned from them is I do not want to ever become bitter. My goal in this post is to encourage you if you are struggling with bitterness and also to provide strategies for handling bitter people.  God’s Word warns us of the danger of bitterness.  It begins as a root and then springs up into our lives creating negativity as it grows.  Bitterness taints our outlook and causes us to see only the dark side of life’s challenges.

The following are traits of bitter people, which I have personally observed.  I’ve also provided strategies for dealing with them:

Frequent and loud complaining.  Bitterness has a voice and it comes out in complaining.  Ask a bitter person how he or she is doing and the answer will typically involve complaining about something or someone.  One method for deflecting this is to not join in the complaining.  Seek to steer the conversation toward a more positive discussion.  In a recent blog post I wrote about the benefits of resolving to speak only positive words about others (Strategies for Coping with Hurt Feelings).  This works well in dealing with bitter people as well.  This requires effort and is at times exhausting, but if the bitter person is someone we love and desire to help, then the energy is worth it.  We also grow personally and spiritually though the process.

Resentful of the successes and accomplishments of others.  Bitterness results in an inability to rejoice with others when their lives go in positive directions.  Bitter people often have a hard time being glad over someone else’s accomplishments.  Rather than rejoice, they may even feel jealousy because it did not happen to them.  Lecturing or preaching at a bitter person might only serve to make the situation worse.  As Jesus’ followers, we are to set an example of what true thankfulness and rejoicing looks like.  All us of know people who make more money than us and don’t seem to have the struggles we are facing.  Seek to focus on our own blessings and we will be able to rejoice over theirs.  The bitter people around us will see our Christ-like attitudes and hopefully follow our example.

Highly critical of other people.  Bitterness leads to a critical spirit.  This demonstrates itself in constantly pointing out the faults of others.  Not only is this exhausting to those who hear it, but it is also contrary to Jesus’ teachings on grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.  Again, make a conscious effort to not take part in a conversation where someone is being verbally skewered.  Encourage the person to seek out the one he or she is speaking of and talk about their problems or differences in an adult manner, as Jesus said we are to do in Matthew 18:15.  Unfortunately, it’s always easier to speak unkindly about people behind their backs than to lovingly and calmly confront them.  Remind the speaker that if Joe is being run down that it isn’t fair because Joe isn’t around to defend himself.  Also, encourage the other person that it’s better to pray for Joe rather than speak ill of him behind his back.  Again, you are setting a Christ-like example in the presence of those who need to see it.

Firm belief that bitterness is justified.  Bitter people are often self-righteous and cynical.  They have been hurt or burned by past experiences and relationships, therefore they believe they have the right to be angry, negative, resentful, and critical.  Such attitudes are damaging to the home, workplace, and the church.  Follow Jesus’ example and deal with such persons lovingly and gently, while setting a positive example of what a Christ-like spirit looks like.  And pray for such persons that God will touch and change their hearts.

Bitter people are difficult to be around and they will often drain the life right out of us. They are toxic to the bright outlook Jesus calls us to possess.  This is why it is so vital that we maintain our own personal walk with God and stay in daily prayer and meditation on God’s Word.

So how about you?  Has bitterness crept into your heart?  If so, recognizing it is a step forward to overcoming it.  I welcome an opportunity to pray for you today.  As always, you may comment anonymously in the comments section.

Life’s too short to be bitter.  Rise up and claim a better, brighter day.

God bless you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Rising up to a Better and Brighter Day

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.
–John 10:10

I mentioned last week in another post how that when I returned from my Ohio visit, the spring season seemed to have come alive.  A week later spring has exploded; everything is in bloom, the days are getting longer, the weather is warmer, and everyone around me seems as delighted about all of this as me.  The yard around our house is surrounded by trees and an abundance of plants.  All this plant life had been left unattended for at least a few years.  This was one of the challenges of this great house we bought last year and we still have a tremendous amount of landscaping we hope to do in the coming years.  But that’s okay, as we are enjoying the process.

I now understand why many retired people I know spend so much time doing yard work.  Working outside around the house is relaxing, relieves stress, and gives a feeling of accomplishment.  We do what we can, but mine and Andrea’s work schedules only allow us to work on the yard as time permits.  Yes, I could see myself puttering around the house all day tending the plants, bushes, shrubs, and flowers.   Often when we are out in the yard, our two dogs, Ada and Leon, look at us with expressions that seem to say, “Isn’t all this wonderful?”  I agree with them wholeheartedly. 

All of us need something to get our minds off the stress and difficulties we face.  As time passes by, I am learning the value of taking time to cherish life’s simple, quiet moments.  Consider the blessing of just having the health and strength to rise out of bed and face the day.  I frequently minister to people who are physically hindered from getting out of bed because of illness, but I also encounter emotionally paralyzed people as well.  The burdens of life become so great that even the simplest of tasks such as getting dressed and going outside become nearly unbearable.  Depression and anxiety become overwhelming, robbing people of the peace and happiness they would otherwise be enjoying.  If this describes you, do not delay in seeking treatment. 

You may not be clinically depressed as I was for a number of years, but you have ceased to enjoy life and all its blessings.  If this is where you are, then let me encourage you to trust God for a fresh perspective and renewed outlook.  Life is meant to live, not survive.  Stop right now and think of all the blessings in your life.  If you are reading this, then you have shelter, electricity, and most likely food in the house, which makes us far better off than millions of other people in the world.  A vacation is nice, but so is a quiet time of communion with God at sunrise on your back porch.  Rise early tomorrow and breath in the wonder that is another day of life and an opportunity to live it to the fullest.

So, how can I pray for you today?  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.  Your story will encourage someone else.  Keep going, my friends.  It’s going to be a great day.

God bless you