Fillings and Feelings

positive-thinkingWhen I was a kid, the most important meal of the day was supper.  Mom was an excellent cook, and she worked hard to prepare the evening meal for our large family. Mom and Pop worked even harder at trying to steer their eight children in the right direction.

Each evening the family gathered around the dinner table to eat and to discuss the days events.  One evening,  Mom and Pop spoke about an incident at school in which I had hurt the feelings of a classmate. As we discussed the situation, my youngest brother said:  I have feelings too, see!  Then, he opened his mouth and pointed to the fillings in his teeth.

The truth is, fillings and feelings go hand in hand. How you feel about life is determined in a large part by how you fill your life. If you don’t fill your mind with what is right, what is left?

Your life is like your car, if you fill the tank with the cheapest fuel available, your engine may not perform at an optimal level; likewise, if you fill your mind with two-bit thinking, you’ll never live a grand life.

To fill your tank with some high octane thoughts, heed the advice of the Apostle Paul and think on whatever is just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

Happy Holidays?

Christmas-giftsWhile walking the aisles of a home improvement store, I was miffed by the sight of a wreath emblazoned with two words:  Happy Holidays. This frustrates me because it’s an impotent message that castrates Christmas of it’s substantial significance.

Christmas is not in need of some slick marketing campaign; it’s message might be centuries old, but it’s hardly antiquated.

The secularization of Christmas reminds me of the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!

The message of Christmas is filled with love and full of hope. God loved us so much that He gave us the gift of His son and as Phillips Brooks said in O Little Town of Bethlehem: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

The hope of Christmas is not some neatly wrapped gift that is placed under a tree. It is the gift of Jesus—the baby of Bethlehem.

As the day of Christ’s birth draws closer, I encourage you to give some thought to these words of Peter: Prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed (I Peter 1:13).

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving’s Golden Rule

macys-parade-tom-the-turkeyTraditions are a large part of many of our holiday celebrations.  An absolute essential for some homes is to halt all activity to watch the march of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The ritual in other homes will involve football and the riotous cheering or jeering as favorite teams either win or lose.

While the Macy’s Day Parade, the game of football, and other long-held traditions can be good, they are as listless as your turkey-stuffed grandpa when he crashes on the sofa, if they fail to observe the Golden Rule of Thanksgiving.

The rule is not a third piece of whip cream-covered pumpkin pie: it is the peace of God and letting it rule your heart.

In a world of trials and tragedies, it is the peace of God that will carry you through your personal times of heartache and turmoil.  A key principle of the Golden Rule is the jewel of thanksgiving.  Paul spoke of this in one of his letters (Colossians 3:14-17):

  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful (3:15).
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (3:16).
  • Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17).

When the peace of Christ is ruling in your heart, it becomes the umpire that manages the game of life. When this peace is joined with the giving of thanks, worry-filled thoughts are refocused on the blessings of God.

Many of the Psalms focus on the blessings of God, and they are full of expressions of thanksgiving:

  • Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (107:8-9).
  • The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (28:7).
  • Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (106:1).

Whatever your traditions may be, I encourage you to pause at some point in your celebration to focus your thoughts more on what God has given and less on what the world has taken, and give thanks to Him.

Are You Bushed?

Sleep-DeprivedBecause I don’t like the government tinkering with my sleep pattern, I’m not a fan of Daylight Savings Time. I’m hoping the government will eventually learn that you can play with a clock, but you can’t turn back time.

It takes some people months to adjust to the change, and they stumble around like a zombie, saying: “I’m bushed.”

Whether it’s an interruption in your sleep or some other issue, there are times when most of us have felt like we’re weary, worn-out, and at the end of our rope.  If this sounds like you, you may need to get Am-bushed.

To understand my terminology, think with me about the plight of the Hebrew people during the Old Testament days of the Pharaoh. The Jewish people were in bondage and in need of help, so they cried out to God in prayer. The answer to their prayers came in the form of a desert-dwelling, leather-skinned, sheep-herding, soon to be deliverer by the name of Moses.

At this point in his life, Moses was disillusioned. He wasn’t living the life to which God had called him, and he was running on empty as he yearned for that elusive something that would change his life.

Then it happened, and it was anything but ordinary.  Moses saw a burning bush, heard a voice, and turned aside to wipe the sand out of his eyes.  Was he seeing a mirage or was he dizzy due to the searing heat of the desert?

It was no mirage–it was majesty.  The burning bush was a bush that didn’t burn; it was ablaze; but it wasn’t consumed.

It was a spectacular sight to Moses, and he was stunned when he heard the voice of God emanating from the bush: I’ve seen the affliction of my people. I have heard their prayers. I know their sorrows. I’m going to deliver them.

Even more shocking to Moses was the news that he was to be the deliverer.  In need of confirmation, Moses asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God replied, “I AM THAT I AM.”

Moses’ life changed on that day when he was Am-Bushed. He had felt as though he lacked eloquence, but God assured him that he was a diamond in the rough.  He had felt empty, so God filled him. His life had been meaningless, so God gave him purpose.

The life of Moses is an epic account of how God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. It’s the narrative of what God can do through you.

Tragedy in Texas

broken-heart-valentine-background_1048-4957For many people, today’s shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas has stirred-up unwanted memories of Las Vegas, Columbine and Charleston. We should not be surprised that these events are beyond our comprehension, because they are often perpetrated by people who lack a conscience.

Sociopath and psychopath are words that have been used to described shooters or mass murders like Harris, Klebold, and Roof, as well as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader. The DSM-5 classifies sociopathy and psychopathy as Antisocial Personality Disorders and sets certain criteria for a diagnosis:

  • A disregard for laws, social mores, and the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior
  • Sociopaths are agitated, disorganized individuals, and they are unable to blend in with society

Psychopaths are high-functioning individuals who manipulate people with their charming personality. While they do not actually feel emotion, they can learn to mimic emotions to blend in with the crowd.

Due to their lack of conscience, people with these disorders process emotions like a blind man negotiates a maze; one doesn’t feel, the other doesn’t see, and both find the task daunting.

Dr. Martha Stout a Clinical Psychologist and former Harvard Medical School instructor, offers this assessment: An emotional word is love, hate, anger, mom, death, anything that we associate with an emotional reaction. A nonemotional word is lamp, street, hair, rug, that kind of thing. If I had electrodes hooked up to you right now and I said a string of words, and some of them were emotional and some were not, I’d get a larger spike on the emotional words. We are wired to process those words more readily than neutral, nonemotional words. We are very emotional creatures. But sociopaths listen as evenly to emotional words as they do to lamp or book—there’s no neurological difference. ~THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

The obvious question is: How do you treat someone who has no conscience?  The prerequisite to change is a desire to do so, and without a conscience there is no desire. Without a conscience there is no good or evil, and the need for true healing is a recognition of that which plagues the heart.

One thing that never changes in these instances is the need for prayer, and I encourage you to pray for those who were touched by the tragic events of today.

 

 

iCan

canWe live in a fast-paced age marked by technological advances that have changed the way we live. Thanks to Samsung, people think of the Galaxy more in terms of a cell phone than they do the planets and stars.

As a child, I can remember being taught that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Today, however, many people think they can’t live without an apple, as in iPad, iPod, and iPhone.

While it’s true, that in some cases, technology has made life much easier, it has also made it more complex and less simple. With this in mind, let me share the simple truth of my iCan approach to life.

The basis of my iCan methodology is found in Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I believe I can:

  • Find the strength I need in times of trouble—Psalm 37:39: the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble.
  • Find the confidence I need to face the challenges of life—2 Timothy:1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
  • Find the light to lead me out of the darkness—Psalm 27:1: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
  • Find the strength to persevere—James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
  • Find the grace I need for today—2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness

I encourage you to take an iCan approach to your life, and remember that, God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Are You Happy or Glad?

smirkThat people expend a great deal of energy in the quest for happiness should come as no surprise.  After all, the Declaration of Independence states:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

I think it is important to note that while a person may pursue happiness, the founding fathers did not guarantee it; and, the right to pursue it has been endowed by our Creator.

Some people have wasted their life in pursuit of that which can be fleeting and once attained is found to be of little substance.  Harvey Weinstein is a case in point; his life has been an endless pursuit of sexual gratification at the expense of those he has abused.  Weinstein may have not realized it yet, but the flesh has an insatiable desire for more.

A person might find momentary happiness in the things of this world; however, gladness is the fruit of a fulfilling relationship.  In the Old Testament Nehemiah spoke of this when he said, the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Gladness is not found in some sleazy get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it some cheap gimmick; it comes from a relationship of the heart.  The love of God for man and man’s love for the Christ who died for him. Jesus said He came so we could have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

 

Psalm 70:4

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified!”

Picker-Uppers and Put-er-Downers

judgment-1024x682-1-730x430Do you judge-mentally or are you judgmental? One is a well-reasoned response to a given situation, while the other is an irrational reaction. One investigates the specifics seeking the best outcome for everyone involved, while the other is condescending and self-serving in its handling of the facts.

A judgmental person thrives by focusing on your weaknesses and failures. As long as he can do that, he doesn’t have to think of his own puny performance and fatal flaws.

Paul challenged the church at Galatia to address this issue: “If a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. For each one will carry his own load . . . whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith (Galatians 6).”

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • When someone stumbles and falls, do I reject him or restore him?
  • Am I reaching out with a “spirit of gentleness?”
  • Do I have a “holier-than-thou attitude?”
  • Have I examined my life to deal with my own shortcomings?
  • Do I look for the opportunity to help carry the burden of the heavy-hearted?
  • Am I like the Good Samaritan, and try to do good to all?

Your answers to these questions may help you determine if you are a picker-upper or a put-er-downer. Which of the two are you?

A Day For Weeping

vegasLike many of you, my attention today has been focused on the tragedy that has occurred in Las Vegas.  As I think of those whose lives have been taken by a suicidal and homicidal man, and the survivors who will struggle with their emotions for some time to come, I remember some timely words from the New Testament: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Today is a day when the collective heart of our nation aches, and it is a time to weep with those who weep. It is not a time to promote agendas or to draw unfounded conclusions; it is a day for compassion and prayer.

This is also a day when the God question will be asked: If God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?

God has created only that which is good.  When God created man, God gave him free will.  God’s perfect creation can use his free will to choose to do evil. All people are free to choose to do good, but they are also free to do evil. The one who is free to love, is also free to hate.

I choose not to use the name of the shooter, but he chose evil; he chose to inflict harm on the innocent; and, he will answer to God for his actions.

Please join me in praying for the people of Las Vegas.

Buds and Blossoms

SONY DSCA first glance the white flowers in the picture to the left add beauty to the shrubbery; however, the white flowers are actually part of a nuisance vine that clings to the host plant and drains it of its strength.

A similar process can subtly take root in our lives.  Something that seems harmless will attach itself to our daily routine.  Eventually it will blossom into a habit that saps us of our strength and robs us of our vitality.

Because thoughts can become habits and habits can control our lives, we need to be aware of their presence.  A simple and effective way to do this is to follow the 4 Star Process:

1.  Self-awareness:  Become aware of what you are thinking by recording your thoughts.

2.  Think about the thought.  Is it catastrophic thinking?  This type of thinking is characterized by words such as:  always, never, should, and must.

3.  Action:  Many of our thoughts are part of an unconscious process in which we act without consciously thinking, we need to practice disciplined thinking: Eliminate thoughts of Grudges and Gossip, and embrace thoughts of Goodness and Grace.

4.  Rehearse:  Successful public events are often preceded by hours of private rehearsal.  Benjamin Franklin said that, By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Rehearse and prepare by examining your  brain drainers and brain boosters. These come in the form of the thoughts and habits that Paul speaks of in the verses that follow:

  • Brain Drainers:  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.   But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice,  slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:5-10).
  • Brain Boosters:  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,  whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever  things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8)

Here’s a question to keep you thinking:  What buds are about to blossom in your life?