Thoughts After A Mountain Bike Ride

Seasonal Transitions

Have you ever wished you had made better choices? I have.

It’s late Summer and there is evidence of Fall fruits everywhere. The Mums in our yard have reached full height and are about to burst into orange flames. A Pumpkin seed took root by our front porch and it’s broad leaves stand on erect stems ready to collect rain.

Then there are the weeds. I don’t know all of their names, but it’s been a wet Spring/Summer and there are lots of them along my back fence line.

The same can be said with our personal lives. We are constantly reaping the benefits of our good and bad habits.

For example, I was in the habit of blogging weekly. Generally trying to get it out before the weekend. With the advent of a new job and Summer activities, that habit has taken a hit. Today I’m attempting to rectify that.

You too, may get discouraged from time to time. In fact, you may find yourself in a season right now where the fruits are far from gratifying. And if you take a minute and look back, you can see where habits went south.

The good news is you can start a new habit today or pick-up where you left off. But I don’t recommend taking a huge leap, I recommend taking a small step.

Simply order the book you’ve been meaning to read.

Start the computer and leave the blank screen staring at you rather than thinking about completing the whole task.

Get some gas for the lawnmower.

Purchase some totes for the decluttering project.

Sign up for the marriage counseling.

Call about the anger management sessions.

Do the research of finding a mentor or Life Coach.

The problem is it’s so easy to beat ourselves up about the past. We want to go back and fix our mistakes and take a re do. Some of those things are too far down river to go back and amend. Dip your paddle and keep moving forward.

The journey is never easy. This past weekend I threw my bike in the back of my truck and drove into the heart of the Adirondacks. The plan was to bike in six miles to an area I’d heard about. I parked the truck and began riding uphill for about two miles and after cresting the hill I rode downhill for about a mile before coming to a parking lot…full of cars! The access was a lot better than I’d thought. I was under the assumption you could not drive beyond the first parking lot!

After riding three more miles (Keep in mind along a dirt path) I reached my destination. The whole time I was asking myself what God was trying to teach me.

I’m still not quite sure to be honest. BUT, I did learn a couple of things.

1) The farther I got away from the truck, the more committed I was to reaching my destination. I kept telling myself I’d gone too far to turn back. Now if you’re deep in your journey and God’s telling you to turn back, you’d better. But if this is something you believe he wants you to do, then go for it.

2) The journey was less difficult when I took time to look around me and spent less time focusing on the path. I know this sounds counter intuitive but it helped me. I think we can get so focused on the destination that we get weary and we stop enjoying our lives. As I rode, I thought about how far my wife and I had come in our marriage. I thought about how our children had grown and the stages they’re in now. I thought about my career and the payoffs and setbacks I’ve experienced. Again, the journey isn’t always easy, but it has it’s rewards.

3) Next time I’m going to drive in as far as I can and take some peole with me that I care about. That day I needed some time to get my head back on straight. The woods is where I do that. But now that I’ve done the difficult exploratory work, I want to go back with loved ones. I want them to experience the fruits of my labors and see the body of water at the end of the path like I did for the first time.

So, in hindsight, don’t get discouraged if you’re in a difficult season right now. This may not have been the path you chose, but now that you’re here, it’s important to realize that it’s not too late. In fact, this path taught you some lessons you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

Now, you can stay on this path and this level or you can climb higher. Maybe right about now, you’re telling yourself that this path isn’t going help you become a better version of yourself. It that’s the case, do something about it.

Having said all of that, I promise you that you’ve reached the end of your rope, you haven’t. There is a whole new life waiting out there for you. It’s just a matter of making different choices and accepting the things that cannot be changed.

Moreover, I want you to know that God knew life would be difficult, so he sent his son Jesus to die for you. Jesus lived the sinless life that we’re incapable of living and we can be totally forgiven and free simply by recognizing our need for him.

Then, something amazing happens. It’s called grace. That means although we are undeserving, he wants to bless us. That means that regardless of the season you’re in, you have the assurance that he is for you and is actively working behind the scenes in your life to make sure that you succeed and prosper.

I don’t know about you, but I need that kind of assurance because I have times when I don’t perform well and feel unloved because of my poor performance…as a husband, dad, believer, friend, co-worker, etc. The good news is that as believers, we are loved, deeply and wholly. Our lives matter. We can make a difference and when we don’t we can rest assured that a difference has already been made.

Good In, Garbage Out

The Power of New

8:59 a.m. The Corvette in front of me stopped at the gate and I got out to see what time the Dump opened. The guy in the Vette turned out to be the manager who was opening the gate for the day. Perfect timing. It reminded me of the following principle.

Good in, garbage out.

I see this principle everywhere.

In the picture above.  Clean, fresh, running water displaces stagnant water.

Take the body for example. It takes in clean, fresh, oxygen and breathes out waste- carbon dioxide.

Digestion. The body takes in fresh, healthy food and gets rid of the waste.

Relationships. We associate with healthy people and disassociate with toxic people.

Again, this is a principle easily seen throughout the world.

The rub is when we keep gathering good things and never get rid of them.

As simple as the principle of good in, garbage out is, we all have a tendency to hold onto unhealthy habits, relationships, attitudes, etc.

Tomorrow we think to ourselves. Next week. Next year. The next time my co-worker is offensive, I’m going to speak up. The next time I feel like binging, I won’t. I’ll throw out that thing that’s damaging my soul, tomorrow. I’ll end that relationship next week.

Paul wrote: “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Sometimes health means getting rid of the old and focusing on the new.

Things like self-limiting beliefs.

Traditions.

Habits.

Mindsets.

Routines.

Eating habits.

Social habits.

You can probably think of a few of your own.
I’m reminded of my grandmother who never got her license because her father criticized one move when she was learning to drive.

Remember, good in, garbage out.

Sometimes you may even find your self in a situation where you are just taking garbage in.

If that’s the case, there’s still time to change.

Maybe it’s things that are keeping you back. Always remember that people are more important than things. Yet it’s so easy to forget that and focus on what you have, need or want.

Eventually you get all you can, can all you get and sit on the can.

Then there’s the maintenance of all that you have. Jesus talked about this. He commanded us to store up treasures in heaven where there are no thieves to break in to destroy, moths to devour and rust to corrupt and tarnish.

If you’re not careful, you can get so caught up in materialism that it will suffocate you.

Mind you, I realize it’s a common disease in the West. I’m fully aware how crippling it can be and all-consuming.

Perhaps it’s time to whittle down some of your personal possessions. If you have two coats, give one away. Twenty pairs of shoes, donate ten.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of getting rid of some things that are no longer useful and are just taking up space.

Keep a piece of paper and a pen handy for a couple of days and every time you find yourself thinking about and worrying about physical things, write it down.

People. Is there someone in your life who is nothing more than a vampire? Why are you allowing them to suck the life out of you and your family or organization. Maybe it’s time to end the relationship. Some people, no matter how hard you try, are ever going to change.

Don’t go and unfriend someone just because they disagree with you. But if they are a troll, who is constantly cutting you down, do something about it. Have the uncomfortable conversation. Detach. Whatever you have to do to get rid of the garbage that’s filling up your life because of their unhealthiness.

Reading. One of the best ways to fill your mind with fresh thoughts are books. If you can’t afford them, there is always the local library. With a library card, you’ll have FREE access to unlimited supplies of magazines, books and DVDS.

Any book that gives you just one single revelation is easily worth it’s price. The person you’ll be five years from now will be the direct result of the the books you read and the people you spend the most time with.

Look for a book that addresses your major pressure points at this moment.

Remember, good in, garbage out.

Are you broke? Get a book on finances. Depressed? Get a book that will give you some strategies to feel good again. Overweight? Get a book on diet and exercise.
The first book you’ll want to read is the bible. There are tons of free versions online. You’ll find that there’s just something about it. It has a natural tendency to fill you with good and while displacing the garbage.

The trip to the dump was a success. I got rid of a bit of junk and now I’ll be able to create some safer, tidier areas in my personal living spaces, especially the garage. It only took a small amount of time and I’ll be enjoying the results for quite some time…months and maybe years.

So. If we’ll take a few minutes here and there, we can begin to take in some good and get rid of some garbage. We don’t have to go to extremes or buy the farm. Small, sound decisions over time have a snowball effect. Sometimes it means simply washing a dish or two or sweeping the floor.

One small, simple action, is sometimes all it takes to get the ball rolling and move in a healthier direction and go the distance.

Is Your Dad Glad?

How to Have a Long, Full Life

Have you ever had a time when you felt like you were failing in every area? Maybe even in your lowest moments you’ve wished you were someone else, that you had the advantages they had by birth. Then you could be a billionaire real estate mogul or a rich and famous musician.

Me too. It’s so easy to get our eyes off what we have and focus on what we don’t have. The end result is pain.

When it comes to our geneologies, it’s not that some things are too painful to talk about. The fact is that it’s healthier to focus on some details and forget about others when it comes to making peace with our origin and destination.

There’s a phrase in the bible that sums this up pretty well. Moses wrote, “Honor your mother and father. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12)”.

I’m going to climb out on a limb and say that there are many people who are not at peace with their past. Or their parents. God knew that we would find blame with our parents and so he recorded these words.

If you were to trace these feelings back to their origin, it all boils down to this. “God, it’s all your fault that I have the parents I have.” If you were to say that, you’re right. However, if you feel shorted because of this fact, your real problem isn’t your parents, your real problem is with God. He’s not wise enough, or loving enough, or kind….

Here’s another trap. When we don’t know what God is really like, it’s easy for us to imagine he’s just like our earthly father. Not true. While your earthly father may have godly attributes, he is not God. The fact that we all have imperfect dad’s is evidence that we all need a perfect heavenly father.

The good news is that we can all have a perfect heavenly Father. In another place, God says, “I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:7).

Does that mean that you earthly father was perfect and that you should just forgive him for all of his faults in the past. No. Does it mean that you can though if you choose to. (Gulp) Yes! That’s just my opinion. But here’s what I’ve found. When we let others off the hook, we let ourselves off the hook. Life is too short to have hangups keeping us back.

The fact is that our heavenly Father is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

When we start looking to have our needs met by anyone other than God, we look bad and so does God.

For example, when we complain on the job and brag about God at the same time, God isn’t glorified. All they hear is that our God is not big enough to satisfy us.

If you have children, you know what I mean. Does it make you look good when your child has a temper tantrum at the check out line in Walmart?

Some thoughts on being satisfied with God and glorifying him.

Passions.  What are they? In the words of Eric Liddel, “God made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure.” What is it for you? Are you carving out time to do the things you enjoy or ‘grinding it out’ so that you can do what you want sometime in the future. For me, it’s being in the woods. When the pressures of daily living mount, that’s where I head to get alone with God and calm my mind, will and emotions.

Others. Last weekend my son and I went to our first Yankees game. Aaron Judge hit two homers. The next morning I watched a Youtube video to see what his response would be. When asked what he thought about hitting his longest homer of the season, he said, “Not much”. Then he went on to give his team the credit for playing so well. Something magical happens when we give others credit rather than ourselves. In contrast, have you ever been around anyone who blames everyone around them for their lack of success?

Joy. As a parent, you know that when your children are most satisfied with you, you are most satisfied with them. For example, they like a shirt you surprised them with. Or a phone that you bought them. Or a word of advice that you gave them. In contrast, when your children are miserable it makes you miserable….if you let it. As you get older you realize that your children are going to go through times and seasons of discontent. It can only bring YOU down if you let it.  I can imagine some of your hearts are aching right now because your relationship with your child.  God wants to use this season to strengthen you and grow you if you’ll allow him to.  God wants you to reach the point where your joy is found in him, and not relationships, circumstances and income.

Work. Many people I talk to as a pastor want to know what God’s will is for them. Some even wonder what God’s perfect will for their life is. They want to know how they should spend every moment of their existence. As if God is some kind of director and there is a script floating around out there somewhere and they’re supposed to learn it and act in unison moment by moment. If God has one for me, I haven’t figured it out yet. As a pastor, I feel like saying, “If you find out, let me know.” What if we substituted the word work for will? Will seems kind of intangible. To me, work is more tangible. The work that God has for us is laid out perfectly clear in the Great Commission. Like most of the bible. He’s given us the plan and left it up to us to figure out the implementation.

I used to work construction. Every foreman had their own form of leadership and way of doing things. However, at the end of the day, they were all successful in completing their projects. Admittedly, some of the finished products were better than others. However, when everything was said and done, people were able to pull up to the gas pumps we installed and fill their cars.

Your job isn’t to be perfect. Your job is to be the best version of yourself that is possible. However, if you keep blaming your past and your parents for the state you’re in today, you’re not glorifying God. Father’s Day is a reminder to all of us to be thankful for not just our Dad’s but our heavenly Father who makes all things possible.

 

O.K, So Everything is Going Relatively Well….What next?

How to Live Beyond Being Happy

So maybe you’re six weeks into something new and things are starting to gel.  Or, it’s been a year since you lost your spouse.  Now you’re beginning to wonder what is next.

I remember being newly single in college and not knowing what to do.  Everything changed in an instant.  I didn’t want to do much.  Mostly, I thought about diving into the Saranac River and seeing how long I could hold my breath.  In retrospect, I just wanted to be numb to what was going on.  Ever feel that way?

Wanting to feel better is a natural tendency, however it’s not the only option.  Pretty soon, your comfort zone gets uncomfortable.  Stay inside the box for too long and you’ll suffocate.

It’s counter intuitive, but life begins outside your comfort zone.  Be it a new job, circumstances, challenges…illness.  There’s just something about embracing a challenge that is rewarding.

Years ago I met a guy in his eighties who was still taking college classes.  “I’m a life-long learner,” he said.  We all should be.  In the words of Bob Dylan, “He who is not living is dying.”

Here are some things you can do if you’re stuck in a rut.

Start something new.  It’s called a sigmoid curve. Google it.  When you reach the top of the learning curve and start declining, it’s time to start climbing again.  Challenge yourself in a new way.  Rewrite your business plan.  Learn Greek or Hebrew.  Offer a new service.  Start a new business or stream of income.  But whatever you do, start something new!

Find a new way To travel to work.  To spend time with your mate.  To spend money.  To save.  To improve your diet.  To study the bible.  To meet people.  To earn a living.  To have fun.  To network.  To grow.  To challenge yourself.  To donate.  To learn.  To write.  You get the idea!

Meet new people. New people bring new perspectives.  They teach you new things and allow you to teach them.  It’s a give and take kind of thing.  What kind of people do you need to meet to accomplish your goals?  A guy I just met used to be a salesman.  He would go to shoe stores and buy shoes that had damaged boxes or minor blemishes and give them to potential clients.  He’d attach a note that said “I’ll do anything to get my foot in the door.”  I wouldn’t have learned that unless I took the time to meet and learn from him.  Meet new people It will change your life.

Develop a new mindset.  Negativity gets us nowhere.  Write down some affirmations and review them daily.  Stop letting the weather or circumstances dictate the quality of your life.  Decide to be content with today, not this Friday or next year when you have your dream job.  Those kinds of tomorrow’s never come.  Learn to be content no matter where you are, Paul was.  Capture your thoughts in a journal.  Meditate daily- it doesn’t have to be for hours.  Start out for a minute or ten a day.  During that time focus on shutting out all distractions.  Occasionally focus on a the excellent things in your life and world.

Of course these are only some ideas to get you started.  Be creative.  Years ago I decided to take a leave of absence from my steady job to work at a summer camp.  One of the best decisions I ever made.  Had two incredible summers!  Summer’s here.  So what are you going to do about it?

Are You Growing?

One Simple Way to Tell

What if there was a simple way to guarantee you are growing? Strange question, right? But the fact you are reading this blog, tells me you think about this sort of thing. Wondering if you’re growing is part of what it means to grow.

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Remember when you were younger and you wondered about this sort of thing. Maybe there was a door in your bedroom closet and you measured how tall you were every so often. At that time you wanted to measure your physical growth. Maybe you looked forward to the day when you were taller than your Mom or Dad or Sister or Brother. Chances are, you haven’t measured your height in a while. At some point you felt as though you’d reached your final height, so there was no longer any need to measure.

Have you ever wondered if the bible has anything to say about growth? The answer is yes. Plenty.  It even talks about how Jesus grew.  Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Jesus grew physically, in stature; he also grew in his ability to apply the things he’d learned, in wisdom; and he grew spiritually and socially. That’s a lot of growing. However, none of this growth occurred over night!

Impatient people, on the other hand, are constantly checking to see if they have grown. They’re like the child who asks their parent to measure their height once a week.

Photo on 4-7-16 at 9.16 PM

Chances are, as an adult, you no longer measure your height. However, you are always measuring your growth in other areas, be it finances, leadership ability, or fitness, just to name a few. And when you do, you always end up feeling lousy because there is a perceived lack of growth. Let me state the obvious. Chances are you haven’t grown much in the last week or month because….well, that’s not the way growth happens.

Mature people realize growth takes time and they measure accordingly. What if rather than measuring every day or once a week, you began to measure monthly? Or annually? See the difference? It’s not that successful people don’t take the time to reflect on their growth, they do. The difference is, mature people realize growth takes time. So when they measure, they look back over longer periods of time while reflecting. They ask themselves, “How have I grown since this time a year ago?”

Growth takes time. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical fitness, spiritual maturity, social or intellectual growth. As a mature leader, part of your job is to realize this principle and to help your followers to understand it better. Encourage them to commit to the long haul before they bail out. Explain to them that growth takes time, but the results are worth it. Teach them to set small and large goals.  Challenge them to commit for six months to a year.  Emphasize the importance of journaling and records.  Both are great ways to record important information for later reflection.  Stop measuring their growth so frequently, that’s only a recipe for frustration.

Besides measuring too often, immature people compare their growth with that of others. When they want to feel good about themselves it’s easy to compare themselves to someone who is floundering. If they’re really delusional, they compare themselves to a star in their field. Big mistake. That’s a recipe for depression and heartache. Mature people take responsibility for their own growth or lack thereof. We’ll never reach our potential as long as we’re trying to measure up to others.

Mature people also measure themselves by God’s standards. They realize they’re responsible for how they live despite the actions and direction of their peers. They make it a point to seek God’s will for their lives and to follow his leading. When in Rome, they never do as the Romans do.

There was a man in the bible called Asaph who knew how to truly measure his own personal growth. In Psalm 73:24 he said this to God, “You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny!” The exclamation is mine. You see, it’s not that Asaph never got depressed. He did. Quite a bit, in fact.   However, whenever Asaph faced a set back and needed encouragement, he always reflected on God’s activity in the past. Why not take a few moments to stop reading and do that right now?

Feeling better? Good. When we stop to reflect, God’s goodness in the past reassures us of God’s goodness in the present and in the future!

So if you want a simple way to guarantee you are growing, don’t compare yourself to the person you were yesterday or last week. If you want a true estimation, compare yourself to the person you were six months or a year ago. When you do, you’ll be amazed! And while you’re at it, don’t compare yourself to others. That’s only a recipe for pride and/or depression.

I guarantee if you look back on the person you were a year ago, you’ll see that you’ve grown. Maybe not in every area, but probably in more areas than you realized.

How To Climb Out Of The Swamp and Stand On A Rock

Blah Blah Blah

He had hands the size of pie plates that were brown as the land he tilled, and now he’s dead.

It’s 5:53 in the morning. I’m sitting on my back porch drinking coffee and listening to the birds sing. The grass is so green you can smell it. It’s going to be an amazing day.

It wasn’t always that way. There used to be days when I dreaded putting the first foot on the floor. We could go all the way back to college or the teen age years before that. Ironically I used to have a paper route and had to get up with the birds. I remember doing all I could to load by bag and balance my bike. The first couple of deliveries were a balancing act.

As the route progressed, the bag got lighter and the world around me looked brighter. It’s funny the things you remember when you reflect. I just remember working really hard, seven days a week and being looked at as a total loser. I used to have zits (not acne) and was waiting for someone to like me and say I was such a good kid, but it never happened. Sometimes I thought about riding my bike into the local swamp. They wouldn’t find me, just the handlebars sticking out of the muck and the papers sprawled all over floating on top.

Before those days there was the farm. Great BIG amazing place! Life everywhere. It throbbed all around you. Used to wake up once in a blue moon and go down to the barn. It hummed. The milking machines clicked and the cows bellowed. We used to grab an utter and squirt a barn cat. My grandfather, the guy with big, brown hands, leaned his head against the cow flanks and maneuvered the milkers with one hand. Then he’d lean against the wall and we’d talk. Don’t remember now what we talked about, but it was amazing.

I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. I REALLY REALLY miss him. When I tip toe around the house in the morning real early so as not to wake anyone else up, I envision him doing the same. There was dim flourescent light over the kitchen sink. You could hear the Coffee garble as he filled his cup and tip toed out the doors toward the barn. I used to feel sorry for him, but I don’t now that I do the same thing. He had mastered his circumstances in a way that took me 45 years to grasp. I’m still grasping. But I LOVE my day more than I ever have, especially the start.

Three more things about developing the early riser habit!

You look forward to seizing the day. When we were kids, we used to get up at the crack of dawn while the fields were still covered in fog and trudge our way for miles out across the highway in the distance to Fosse’s Pond. By the time we got there we were soaked with morning dew and steam was still rising off the waters. We soon learned fish like worms early in the morning. Occasionally one would surface and SLAP the water when it landed. Now that I’m a little older, every day is a trip to the pond. Getting up early has reawakened my sense of adventure. Every day now I fill the 5 gallon bucket with memories and carry it home, switching hands from time to time to easier carry the load.

Your lows get lower and your highs get higher. My grandfather’s been gone almost twenty-two years now. My Mom has been gone almost sixteen years. My Grandmother’s been gone almost eleven years. There’s a trend here people. The older you get the more you will experience difficult days. But you will also experience and appreciate all kinds of other days. The tendency is to pretend that nothing hard is happening in the world. We tell ourselves soldiers aren’t getting their limbs blown off on a daily basis, our friends aren’t walking around with their hearts ripped out after failed marriages, our children aren’t feeling the pressures of something that moves faster and faster every day! But they are. They really are. But in the midst of it, we can learn to trust. We can believe that behind it all. Behind the curtain there is a God. Someone who loves us and has our best interests in store and is in the process of making all things new! Just this week our circle received news that one of our mentors graduated from a long, painful battle with Cancer. You can’t ignore that. However you also can’t ignore the fact that he impacted many people and his legacy lives on. Embrace your highs and lows. Give up on the idea that life will never be painful. Nobody’s ever made it out alive except for Jesus and even he had to die first.

You’ll be ready. I remember getting up to do the things I enjoyed on Saturdays and days off and taking half the day to wake up. Not any more. Everyday is Saturday! Gazing up now, there’s more light. Still an overcast morning but the grass is a thousand shades of green brighter. The glass table on the back lawn looks like an Adirondack valley covered with small ponds and lakes. The Lilacs are budding and drops of dew are hanging on the furniture. I’ve been away for an hour and fifteen minutes. It’s going to be an amazing day. Did I mention the fact that it’s Friday? All week, I’ve been looking forward to the treat of driving my truck to work. The kids are moving about and starting their day inside the house. My wife has been seizure-free for just over two years! I’m ready for whatever life sends my way. I’m expectant. Anticipating untold miracles today. I don’t want to ride my bike into the swamp anymore. The zits are gone. People can hate me and voice there opinions about me and I’m good with it. I can love them in a way I couldn’t before. I can laugh. Smile. Encourage. Make someones day! And it all began with getting ready. With starting a new SIMPLE habit of getting up early like Grandpa. Whatever it is you’re looking forward to in life, start preparing now. One of my mottos has always been “If you don’t see it before you see it, you’ll never see it when you see it”. In the words of Steve Brown, “You think about that!”.

Your rest will be sweet. I sleep like a baby. No more lying in bed and thinking. In fact, I get in bed by a certain time. Whatever it is that is so important, can wait until the morning. That means the notifications and ringer get turned off. I’m not Super human. If my phone is a machine and it needs to recharge every night, God knows I need to rest. The quality of your rest at night determines the quality of the day that follows. It’s a myth to think you can work all day and night for days on end and not come apart at the seams. If you work hard, you need to play hard and rest hard.

You don’t have to be Superman or Super Woman twenty four hours a day, but you can be if you want to. And it all begins with carving out a routine that works best for you. The sooner you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, the sooner you’ll reap the results of a life that makes a difference. You’re mistaken if you think you can stay up night and day and not experience any collateral damage. At least that’s my experience. You aren’t a turbine that was designed to start and run forever. You’re human. Don’t forget that.

However, don’t get discouraged about this thing called life. Many people have gone through it and managed to enjoy it in the process. You don’t have to be like my grandfather who got up every day at the crack of dawn and worked ’till sunset and you don’t have to be like me. But I promise that beginning the habit of starting early will revolutionize your life and maximize your enjoyment everyday tenfold!

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Psalm 127:2

What Is Your Superpower?

When I was around ten years old, I looked out the window and my grandfather was drowning! Minutes before, he’d been standing in the shallow-end and everything was fine. Now his baseball cap was floating in the deep end of our swimming pool. He was a farmer and there had always been too much work on the farm to learn how to swim.

Have you ever noticed that as we get older, we seem to reach the age where we stop believing or attempting the impossible?  In time, everything becomes routine and we begin to stop dreaming. Just like muscles that atrophy without use, our dreaming muscles get weak.

Then it happens. There is a tragedy or an accident, a set back, Cancer; something happens and we feel powerless.

As a pastor, I can’t tell you how many people have come to me with questions and broken hearts. Be it a failed marriage, bankruptcy, diseases, there are a lot unsettling circumstances in this world.

Then there are the movies, right? Most of us like a good story we just don’t want to be the main character when bad things happen.  But to be a good story, there has to be a disaster.

Here’s a short synopsis. First, there is always the setting. Second, something happens, or goes terribly wrong. The plane, for example, that was flying smoothly just moments before hits turbulence and plummets to the earth. Most are killed upon impact but nine of the passengers live.

After the crash, or set back, you begin to wonder how the story is going to end. Maybe right about now you feel like the plane crashed and there are only nine survivors. How are you, the hero, going to survive and reach safety?  What steps do you take to get off the island and back to the mainland?

Bam! We all have a Superpower. The people on the island reach the mainland again and so do we. It may be because we exercise our superpowers or someone else exercises theirs and the helicopter comes along and lifts us to safety on a stretcher made out sticks and rope.

Here are some characteristics of Super heroes.

  1. Many times, we aren’t aware of our superpower until called upon to use it. Your daughter has Cancer and you stay by the bedside day after day even when it looks like there is no hope. Or, you lose your job and have no idea how you’re going to feed your wife and kids and pay the mortgage. Or, you lose both of your parents in a car wreck. Up until these things happen, we usually feel special in no way at all, but when we’re called on to rise to the occasion, we accomplish the extraordinary. Are you with me?
  2. We often have day jobs. Clark Kent works for the Newspaper. Bill Bixby is a scientist. Although they are capable of great feats, they pass the hours in between being productive and making a  contribution to the world. You may work a job with little recognition then come home and cook supper and help the kids do homework. When your head hits the pillow at night you’re exhausted.  That’s what superheroes do.
  3. We are human. The Hulk has a temper. Clark Kent is insecure. Wolverine is torn between a desire to live peacefully and a need to defend himself against those who wish to harm him. None of us are perfect. In fact, in the words of a good friend, we are perfectly flawed. But because of this, we see ourselves in them and them in ourselves. Somehow we’re hopeful. We realize that our flaws are no excuse to sit on the sidelines and not exercise our superpower. We may not be able to save the world, but we can all do something. We all may not be able to fight, but we can at least carry bullets. We may not have a million dollars but we can give someone bus fare when they ask.
  4. We live marked lives. Despite the fact that we are trying to help the world, there are forces and people who wish to destroy us. There’s an age old world of good vs. evil and the bad guys are out to get the good guys. While it’s difficult enough to pull off the feats that we do, superheroes must always be vigilant for their enemies as well as the falling towers!
  5. We’re likable. Even when we’re gruff. People still can’t help but like us. Why? Because despite all of the challenges we face and our frailties, people love us. In some cases, they love us even more because they realize we are not going to give up despite our struggles. We find out we are a bundle of weakness and strengths. In some cases, we even grow.  Don’t ever believe it when someone tells you they never struggle.

I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but I do know this. You are capable of more than you realize. Up until now you were probably hoping to pass through this world unscathed. Unfortunately, nobody goes through life without pain and suffering, especially when you’re a superhero. But there is good news.

You may find that you are capable of more than you ever realized. Keep doing the ordinary until you’re called upon to do the extraordinary. Remember you’re human and that all kinds of opposition surfaces when you attempt anything worthwhile. You’re also not only likable, you’re loved. Breathe.  It’s o.k to be human.

By God’s gracee, I got to my grandfather in time and eased him back up into the shallow waters. Yet one day, years later, I did end up standing by his bedside as he lay there lifeless. I couldn’t help but stare at his wedding ring. Despite all of his trials and heartaches, he had been a faithful husband and transformed the lives of many people, especially mine. But what strikes me now as I look back is this. That day I jumped in the pool I learned I was capable of more than I could have ever imagined. Not just physically, although that was part of the lesson. I found out I had the power to save someone’s life. Not just anyone, but someone I loved dearly. Go save a life!

COME TO THE FOUNTAIN AND…

As I wrapped up my study time this morning, specifically my time of visualization, I was reminded how exciting it is to have the power to make choices! You will make many choices today and while it is important to make good choices, the attitude you choose is just as important. Let me explain.

We should not only make good choices on a daily basis, we should also be thankful that we have the privilege of choosing!

Maybe it’s because my wife and I watched Lion last night. I promise not to give away the plot, but the setting is in India. Did you know that 80,000 children go missing every year in India? Most of us, however, do not face these types of living conditions. Aren’t you grateful?

Instead, you and I will have the opportunity to make many choices today. In fact, we will most likely choose between what is good and what is best. For example, we may drive through the McDonald’s drive through and that’s o.k. Or we may eat a banana. While both choices fulfill our need to eat, they both have different nutritional value. Meanwhile, kids in India today may eat nothing or have an opportunity to eat something that is less than desirable but has nutritional value.

After we’ve eaten breakfast, you may choose to shower. Most likely you won’t shower for just a minute or two, you’ll shower until you are forced to get out of the shower to go to work or somewhere else (wherever you choose). Do you see my point?

The fact that we have choices should be pretty evident by now. So lets talk about power. If that word brings up to0 many pictures of abused power, think more along the lines of action. What actions will you take today?

First, you’ll have the ability to act and get out of bed. As I write, my son just came into the kitchen and asked me to come and look at a bird he saw outside the bathroom window. The return of our feathered friends in the Northeast after a long winter is something to really be thankful for.  Power allowed him to make that observation and share.

Again, isn’t it wonderful that we get to make so many choices on a daily basis. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel really thankful.

I’m thankful that I will walk into any room in my house today, flick the switch, and a light will come on.I’m thankful there’s a car out in my driveway waiting to take me to work.

I’m also thankful I’ll be able to take in the scenery on the way to work and listen to some good music.

I’m thankful I’ll get to hug my children and wife today. I’m also thankful for the opportunity of looking into their eyes one more day.

I’m thankful I have a job to go to and all of the tools I need to do my job properly. Today I’ll have the pleasure of writing, reading, helping people, cleaning, etc.

I guess what I’m saying is it’s good to be alive! That may not be the deep, empowering, mind shift you were looking for today, but it sure works for me.

I don’t know about you, but in my limited experience, we have a tendency to take things for granted. Be it our families, our jobs, life itself, friends, luxuries, needs. We all need to make time and recalibrate our thinking. Here is an actionable step I’ve been taking that I think will really help you.

Visualization.

Many sports figures have used it for years. Tiger Woods, for example, visualizes every shot he’ll take before actually taking it. He probably needs to do that off the golf course as well, but that’s another story.

Now let me ask you a question. When you think about the day to come, what are your thoughts? Do you imagine the day being a success or a failure? Enjoyable or difficult?

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most people dread their day. Unless they’re going on vacation that particular day. It shouldn’t have to be that way.

Remember, we all make choices. In most cases, we have good options. And, it’s fun-even highly pleasurable- to make choices. So why not choose to not just endure your day but enjoy every facet of it?

Rather than fighting with your spouse today, why not imagine yourself responding in a loving manner regardless of what he or she does.

Do you see the difference? We could visualize all kinds of other things, but we won’t. The important thing is to face the reality of where you’re at, to choose where you want to go, and adjust accordingly.

Likewise, don’t just picture yourself achieving success. Imagine how good it’s going to feel when you….walk across the stage to receive your diploma!….Lose the twenty pounds!….know that you’ve had a date night once a week for a year straight!

The morning is the best time to make this happen. You don’t have to visualize for 10,15 or 20 minutes. Start with a minute or two, maybe 3-5 minutes. Set a timer on your phone. Do it while you’re driving or walking to work. The duration of the activity isn’t important…. building a new habit is.

While you’re at it, don’t get in the habit of doing it the same way every time. You might get some old magazines and cut out pictures of things you like, places you want to go, people you admire.

The key is variety. Often times, we need to keep doing what we’re doing, we just need to be more creative in the ways we’re doing it. Always be on the lookout for new and innovative ways to complete old tasks. In the end, you’ll be thankful and so will the people you lead.

You may love Blueberry pie, but if you ate it during every meal for the next month, I guarantee you wouldn’t be so fond of it 30 days from now! The same is true with this or any new habit. You have to commit for the long haul. If visualization and thankfulness appeal to you, don’t just try it for a day or two, commit to the next 30 days. In the meantime, what would it look like if you were to take a clean piece of paper or your devise and write down 10 different visualization exercises to use during the next 30 days?  Come to the fountain and you can be satisfied!

Your Mate Shouldn’t Be #1

If you’ve searched the world over and found ‘the one’, or if you’re still looking, it’s time to refine your search. There’s nobody out there who is going to fill that spot, except for one person. Today you’re going to learn about that person and why they’re the only one who can make you happy.

 

Between my second and third year of college, I met her. The one, that is. Or so I thought. Nine months later, or so, she was gone.

I remember sitting in the dining hall at Plattsburgh State looking at an Apple Jack floating in a spoonful of milk and not having the strength to eat it….Good times! Need I say more?

I was fortunate, my ‘one’ got away before marriage. Since then, God has given me an incredible wife.  I couldn’t have hand-picked a better one and she is an amazing mother to our children to boot.  Maybe you weren’t so fortunate. By that I mean, they were ‘the one’ but now that you’ve been married for a while, that’s no longer true.  I’m not saying marriage is easy, but it becomes even more difficult when we place demands on our spouse that they are incapable of meeting.  Although I’m not perfect and never will be, I have learned a thing or two.

 

Here’s the catch….If your ‘one’ is not ‘The One’, you’re going to be sorely disappointed as you go through life.

 

Let me explain. I’m glad my ‘one’ got away because I hadn’t meant ‘The One- Jesus’ yet. Maybe if ‘the one’ had stuck around, I wouldn’t have met ‘The One’ shortly after. I met Him and the rest is history.

The bible says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important  command.” Matthew 22:37-38.

How do we keep the greatest command in the whole bible? By loving God with all of our heart, soul and mind. If we love anything more than God, that person or thing becomes an idol.

God has given us this command because he loves us more than we could ever imagine and knows we have a tendency to put other things and people before him. He also knows that idols will let us down every single time. The fact is, nobody can meet your needs and wants better than God!

So, is it possible that you’ve put your mate on such a pedestal that you’re expecting them to be perfect? Good luck with that. If I told you that your spouse is God, you’d laugh out loud and say that was the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard. However, as a pastor, I meet and talk with many people who expect their spouse to be perfect.

 

Maybe you’re not married yet. In fact, maybe you haven’t met ‘the one’ yet. That may be better news than you think! Have you met ‘The One’?

 

If you haven’t, why not talk with a friend or someone else who knows Jesus. Ask them to introduce you to him. (By the way, that’s also a good way to meet your future mate….wink, wink).

If are single, and you do know ‘The One’ (Jesus), are you compromising your Christian values in the pursuit of love or are you upholding them? I hope you’re not compromising and thinking you’ll come clean and pursue your relationship with ‘The One’ after you reel in ‘the one’ (a.k.a the hot, handsome, fun guy at the gym). Here’s why.

Like attracts like. While you pursue ‘the one’, it’s important that you be the kind of person you are looking for. If you want to meet someone with little or no moral values, go for it. The choice is yours. However, if you want to meet someone who is trustworthy, reliable and puts the needs of others before their own, then you need to be that kind of person. In fact, those three brief character traits pretty well sum up those of ‘The One’.

 

No matter where you are on your journey, it’s not too late.

 

– Don’t let your mate take the #1 slot in your life; only God can fill that space.
– Be the kind of person you expect your mate to be.
– Pray. If you’re married pray with your spouse. If your single, and looking to marry, pray for your spouse.

Maybe you didn’t know it, but according to some studies, only 8% percent of married Christians pray together. Out of those 8%, less than one percent of married Christians who pray together divorce.

The national divorce rate for Christians and Non-Christians is 50%. If you like those statistics and want to take a chance, go ahead, the choice is yours. However, if you want to remain married or have a marriage that stands the test of time, pray with and for your spouse!

As always, you can comment in the box below.  What is your own experience with this subject?

 

One Thing That Has The Potential To Cure And Maim

Sooner or later trouble moves in and how you address it makes all the difference in the world. Whatever you do, don’t do what most people do.

Ironically, you won’t notice when trouble moves in. At first you just assume he is a visiting house guest. You may even show him the town. Then it happens.

You come home one day and his socks are in your drawer. One morning you walk in to the bathroom and he’s using your toothbrush. You ask him to leave. He doesn’t.

You call the police to have him removed, and they do. There is peace and quiet, but you’re left to wonder when he’ll be back.

Some aren’t as fortunate. Trouble moves in and takes up permanent residence. He comes in the form of chronic pain, fatigue, uneasiness, debt….

Before most people do the right thing, they usually try to solve the problem on their own. Thankfully, we all have a device to help. With our devices we can find all of the information we need in the wink of an eye. For example, if it’s 9:00 Friday night or 1 a.m Wednesday morning, our problems are no match for our device. You guessed it, our cellphones and computers.

Most of us as Christians would never dream of consulting a fortune teller or a Ouija Board.  Yet, all you have to do is type in your symptoms and problems and the race is on. You can spend hours finding out what is wrong with you. In some cases there are even videos people made who had what you probably have.

However, after the satisfaction of diagnosing your illness, your original houseguest shows up and is more annoying than ever. He convinces you that really you should call the under taker and make your final arrangements.

While this may all strike you as comical, the truth is our over-dependance on knowledge can be a handicap rather than a blessing. True knowledge is wonderful, the problem is that anyone with a keyboard and a domain can come across as an authority today. In ancient days it was called the power of the pen. Today we call it the internet.

Now before you write this author off as a crack pot, please understand he is not against knowledge. But this is the tendency I see. As a society we have reached a point where we value quick answers rather than discipline and commitment to the long haul.

For example, when it comes to debt, it’s inexpensive and convenient to just go online and listen to a six minute Youtube video on debt reduction. No big deal. If it doesn’t take, we’re not out of anything.

If our marriages are struggling, we decide we’ll try going to church online. That’s not to say there aren’t great videos online. There are. However, we weren’t designed to do life alone, we’re designed for relationship.

The crux of the matter is that most of us prefer self-certified experts rather than professionals. By now, you’ve probably figured out that your sister-in-law, although she doesn’t charge and her intentions are good, may be adding to your problems rather than helping them every time you call her for advice.

Look at it this way, when you have a tooth ache, do you go see your neighbor Tom and have him use the tools in his toolbox to fix your tooth?  That’s ridiculous you say, but what’s the difference between that and going online when you need personal spiritual advice?

It’s hard to believe it but we live in a day when pastors are considered just a step below used car salesmen.  They’re to be avoided at all costs, unless of course you’re in a jam.

The good news is you may not be as sick as you think you are.  Maybe the pain you’re currently experiencing is just a gift to help you get the help you need.

I know this one lady who couldn’t stop bleeding for twelve years! She was constantly on the look out for help and spent every last penny she had in the process. Not only did she experience physical pain, she experienced emotional pain in the form of shame and was constantly accosted psychologically! Finally, she met a Dr. who treated her and cured her illness. Can you imagine her joy?

When we try to save a dollar or some time, by taking a “shortcut”, we often do more damage than good. It’s not that they’re aren’t any experts these days, there are. The problem is there are a lot of counterfeits.

In your search for the real thing, don’t let the counterfeits discourage you. Again, they are often well meaning and readily available but that doesn’t mean they deserve a minute of your time. In fact, the minute you stop referencing them, they’ll go away.

You, yourself may be an expert. Congratulations! We need more people just like you. However, just because you’re an expert in one field, it doesn’t make you an expert in all fields. Taking it just a step further, if you’re a mechanic, I’d be willing to bet your own car is in much need of repair. If you’re an accountant, I bet you’re own books are a mess and you have the habit of spending more than you make. Yes, you may be an expert and you’re helping a lot of people but you are also the proverbial cobbler whose own kids have no shoes.

In fact, I bet if I were to ask you to name someone who is an expert in your field, you’d be able to blurt out their name without a moment’s notice. Why don’t you call them and talk with them? Do you think a dentist drills and fills his own teeth?

Perhaps by now we’re tapping a bit closer to the heart of the matter. We all believe we can do it alone, when it was always designed to be a team effort. Find an expert with ‘skin on’. Stop trickling away your fortune to multitudes of lazy boy quarterbacks and pay the expert his reasonable fee. Those freebies that have got you this far may be just fine for now but you know they’re going to fail you at 3 a.m when you crash and there isn’t anyone around to help you get the help you need.

“And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.” Mark 5:29