Life’s Trails and Trials

pathA person’s path in life can be influenced by the trails he walks and the trials he endures. I’ve walked many trails that have been scenic adventures, and I’ve encountered several trials that were dismal and disappointing.

There will be times in life when nothing makes sense.  The trail will seem too steep to climb and too long to endure. When David experienced a situation like this, he realized that God had already walked where he had never gone and could see what was beyond his vision.

David said: When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path (Psalm 142:3).

The next time you have a tussle with a trial, remember that:

  • God never leads His children down the wrong path
  • You may not know where the path will lead you, but God does.
  • Just because you’re confused, God isn’t confounded.
  • God is present, and He will not abandon you.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Attitude’s Cradle of Forgiveness

ForgivenessWinston Churchill was right when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  For better or worse, your attitude has life-changing potential.

Some people have never looked at life through rose-colored glasses; instead, they seem to be prone to a negative bias. On the other hand, there are some who find the silver-lining in every cloud.  The difference between the two is Churchill’s little thing.

This is even true with the way people read the Bible.  Some people are more apt to see a negative theme when a verse is every bit as ripe with a positive principle.

A case in point is the New Testament principle of sowing and reaping. Stated in a few words it says that you will reap what you sow. Far too many people try to put just a negative emphasis on this passage when it is positively pregnant with potential.

Newton’s cradle is a good demonstration of the principle of sowing and reaping.  Newton posited that “action and reaction are equal and opposite.”  When one ball is released (action), a ball from the opposite side swings out in equal distance (reaction).

Jesus used this principle in a discussion of forgiveness:  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

How much different would your world be if you retrained your attitude to focus instead of the negative?

I encourage you to begin this week by sowing the positive seeds of kindness and giving the gift of forgiveness to those who have wounded you.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

What is it that lies within you?  It’s your attitude and the potential to love others as Christ loves you.  I encourage you to give some thought to Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good (The Message).

Happiness: A Key or a Principle

keyHe’s no locksmith, but Michael Porter thinks he has discovered an important key—the key to happiness. Porter, a Harvard economist, has been researching social process and how to measure it.

Through his research, Porter has found the key to a person’s happiness is the opportunity to change and better one’s life:  Porter’s research suggests this “is a crucial but elusive ingredient to a smoothly functioning society—or what, at the individual level, one might call happiness (Quartz).”

Another researcher, Dr. Stephen Post, has studied the different components of happiness for several years.  He believes the key to genuine happiness is found in living the Golden Rule.

When you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, there’s a good chance that you’re a person who volunteers to help those in need. The willingness to help others can enhance your sense of well-being.

A study found that 41% of people who volunteer an average of 100 hours a year report a greater sense of well-being, saying that volunteering

  • 68%: “has made me feel physically healthier
  • 92%: “enriches my sense of purpose in life
  • 73%: “lowers my stress levels,”
  • 96%: “makes people happier,”
  • 77%: “improves emotional health,”
  • 78% also reported that volunteering helps with recovery “from loss and disappointment”

Typically, people who give of themselves to others have less trouble sleeping,  and they experience less anxiety, less helplessness & hopelessness.  They also report better friendships and social networks, and sense of control over chronic conditions than people who are more self-centered.

In his, It’s Good To Be Good, research, Post says:  ….as one achieves a certain shift from selfishness to concern for others, benefits accrue.   His research suggests that a person may feel good when he gives a financial gift to an individual or a cause; however, the benefits of helping others are most pronounced in direct person-to-person “hands on” activities.

The key research by Porter and Post simply validates the principle posited by Jesus over a thousand years ago:  Treat others the same way you want them to treat, and you both will be blessed.

When we embrace the words of Jesus and begin to live the Golden Rule, a satisfying life is within our reach.  According to Post, one way to elevate happiness is to reach out in helping behaviors and contribute to the lives of others. That happiness in turn elevates giving, which in turn elevates happiness. The two fuel each other in a circular fashion – a classic feedback loop.

The words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer leave us with a thought worth thinking: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve

Insoles For The Soul

foot-1Yesterday I saw the aging process in the life of a small child and his grandfather—both were trying to walk.  The toddler was doing what toddlers do; he was learning to walk.  He would take a couple of stumbling steps, fall down, and get up and go again.

The obstacle that challenged both young and old was balance.  The toddler was trying to learn it, and his grandfather was trying to regain it.

Due to the aging process, disease, strokes, and diabetes, some people begin to notice an increasing problem with maintaining their balance.  According to Harvard’s Wyss Institute, the neurons in the feet are part of the problem.

The neural ion channels are part of the nerve system in our feet and they help to control our balance; but, they are “often desensitized in seniors.” The result of this desensitization is a person is more apt to fall.

The Wyss Institute learned that random vibrations could reopen the neural ion channels, so their researchers began to develop an insole that would create those type of vibrations.   Testing of the technologically advanced insole has shown an increase in both motor control and balance.

In 2013, Discover Magazine reported that seniors standing on the vibrating insoles in the lab demonstrated the same balance as people in their 20s.

Whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual, balance is an essential to every aspect of a healthy life.  This was at the heart of Jesus’ encounter with Mary and Martha. Like these two sisters,  we can struggle to find the balance between work and worship.

What are some of the characteristics of a balanced life? The balanced person will:

  • Realize that he is a new creation in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Understand he is both an offender and the offended, so he will offer and ask for forgiveness: Ephesians 4:32
  • Learn to abide in the abundant life of Christ: John 10:10; 15:11
  • Pursue loving relationships: John 13:34, 35; Romans 12:16

To live a balanced life, do your best to maintain the spiritual channels that keep you in step with Christ.  You can do this by living for Jesus and not just yourself, and by continuing to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).”

 

 

Facing The Sun

7036268-sunflower-field-sunsetThere are less than 3 million people who call Kansas home. If you’re among this number, you may know the sunflower was designated as the official state flower in 1903.  This long-stemmed flower with petals of golden yellow is classified as a turnsole plant, a word of French origin and one that means to “turn towards the sun.”

The sunflower, like all plants, is not self-sufficient—it depends upon the sun for essential nourishment. 

Health conscious individuals are learning what botanists have known for many years:  In proper amounts, there are some benefits associated with exposure to the sun.  There’s ample research that’s easily available, and it indicates the sun’s rays are beneficial both physically and mentally.

While the sun is important to you physically and mentally, the Son is even more vital to your needs spiritually: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).”

Cultivate the habit of rising in the morning, facing the Son, and following Him throughout the day.  When you practice this routine you develop a God-focused regimen of strength that recognizes that it’s, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).”

So, when you rise in the morning,  why not give the Son a chance to shine on you?

The Time Is Right

whatever2I hate the two times each year that we’re forced to try and manipulate time by changing our clocks.  Regardless of whether it’s forward one hour in the Spring or back one hour in the Fall, my internal clock doesn’t change; and, I’m out of sync with the rest of the world.

As I was setting my clock before I went to bed last night, I thought about a time related statement from the Apostle Paul:  “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly . . . demonstrating His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).”

As I thought of Paul’s “right time” statement, it occurred to me, that the right time is the time when God is present:

Because God intervenes at the right moment, you can know He is always present: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you (2 Chronicles 20:17).”

God promises to help battle the bullies, calm your fears, and give you hope for tomorrow, “for the Lord is with you.”

A Blue Denim Gospel

IMG_0623I’m a blue jeans sort of guy, and I’ve never been much for pomp and circumstance.  Most days of the week, with the exception of Sunday, you’ll probably see me wearing a pair of blue jeans crafted by Lee.

When I slip my britches on of a morning, I see the label to the left.  It speaks of over 125 years of craftsmanship and authentic quality.  When I read this label, I’m reminded of the way God works in the lives of His children.

“We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” ~Ephesians 2:10

Each of us are the unique creation of the Master Craftsman.  We reflect the authentic quality of His love, and we are the instruments through which His grace and mercy flow into the lives of others.

When you look at this verse in the words of The Voice, you get a better understanding of the workings of God: “We are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.”

You aren’t some barely legible and hastily scribbled note on a brown paper sack.  You’re a carefully etched piece of poetry written by the hand of God, and the rhyme and rhythm of your life is the evidence of His workmanship.

You truly are a piece of art.

Aye-Sight: Seeing Eye to Eye with God

healthy-eyesight-tipsI think you’ll agree that the health of your eyes and good eyesight is of critical importance: Good vision helps you in every aspect of your life.

The same is true when you consider your spiritual life.  Good eyesight is an essential to spiritual health, and poor eyesight can be devastating.  In Psalm 119, there’s a verse that focuses on the object of your vision:

Psalm 119:36-38

Turn my head and my heart to Your decrees

and not to sinful gain.

Keep my eyes from gazing upon worthless things,

and give me true life according to Your plans.

Verify Your word to Your servant,

which will lead me to worship You.

Instead of wasting your time on the worthless, invest it in the precious.  Take a look at these “eyesight” verses:

  • Psalm 19:8: The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
  • Psalm 26:3: For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.
  • Psalm 33:18: Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, and on those who hope in His mercy.
  • Psalm 34:15: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

I’ll close with Psalm 119:18, and I encourage you to make it your prayer for today: Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.

Discreetly Discrete

character_stonesSometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with strange or random thoughts on my mind.  When this happened recently, I was thinking of two statements that Jesus made:

  • The first is an admonition to be discreet: Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
  • The second is a command to be discrete: Be in the world, but not of the world.

As I thought about these two statements, the words discreet and discrete came to my mind.  Even though these words are homophones, they are not synonyms.  Discreet implies wisdom in your behavior or speech.  Discrete means: distinct or separate.

What section of the Bible outlines a discreetly discrete Christian life?  I think it’s the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

What change can you make to help you become a discreetly discrete person?