Whom did you reflect today? (Or maybe another word would be "what" did you reflect today?)

Through the day you may have had moments where you reflected one thing then another you reflected another. For example, you could have reflected a very bitter attitude when you were frustrated in a moment and then you had a phone call or a doorbell ring and reflected something totally different. That seems to be a classic example of reflecting two different things in a very short time. Plus, I've been guilty of it myself.

There are going to be those times of "slipping" in our Walk in Christ where we are going to let emotions get the best of us in a given moment. That doesn't excuse away the lack of control, but it does say that we are going to make a mistake. Our goal is to not let that be the "norm."

Sunday, we looked at several scriptures (all found here) as we discussed the idea of letting Jesus reflect in me in 2013. We focused on Jesus being reflected in our attitudes, speech, and actions. As much as those in the religious world would like to concentrate on their "Sunday" rituals as what may make them different, I would like to challenge you to think about how your everyday reflections of Him will make you seem "different," yet attractive, for the sake of Him. As we think about this, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Attitudes ~ Attitudes can be both contagious and like an out-of-control snowball. The first will affect others. Whether they are positive or negative, when you are go in to something with a certain kind of attitude, others will likely catch it - so watch what you are reflecting. The second will affect you. You will easily stay with that attitude for quite some time and it will have a tendency to pick up speed. If you are around others, it will also become contagious. Think about how your attitude will be impacting others this year.
  • Speech ~ We all know that the tongue is such a small and powerful tool. It can easily be used for good and just as easily for bad. It can take someone to 'cloud 9' and then cut someone to a very low depth. Sometimes, the tongue may not directly impact the person who is being talked about negatively, for instance, talking behind their back, but it will have a negative ripple effect. The negative sides of speech are slander, gossip, spite, lying, hypocrisy, and the like are going to have that same reflection of Jesus this year. Where as the positive sides of speech are compliments, encouragement, motivation, praise, blessings, and the like will have good reflections of Jesus in your life in the year 2013.
  • Actions ~ I remember a few years ago where someone thought that the parking stall I parked in should have been there's and they didn't send me a very nice greeting, as a result. It wasn't one of those "cut them off" situations, it was simply that they thought they were in the right and I was in the wrong. My wife and I had a good laugh about it, as a result. However, if I was in the wrong, it could have drastic effects on who they see me reflecting. Other times there will be times we need to understand that as a Christian, we are representatives of both Christ and our faith. Our actions represent Christ, first, in that we are showing how much of an impact He's made in the application of our life. Our actions represent our faith, next, in that it shows others who we belong to and who else goes with us along the way.
  • Results ~ I try to make hotel housekeeping know they are important and that I appreciate what they are doing, for me and others. I have done this for years, but I learned recently how, from the moment of check-in, how you compose yourself can have a lasting impact on your hotel stay. It confirmed how a positive reflection can have positive results. With that, how can 2013 be different? I will focus on the positive outcomes of positively reflecting Jesus in me in 2013. 1. See you as a pleasant person.
    2. Look forward to seeing/serving you.
    3. Be inconspicuously rewarded (a free appetizer, room upgrade, etc.)
    4. Develop trust in your showing of genuine concern.
    5. Create a sense of mystery to others as they see that you can remain focused even in crises.
    6. See that Jesus is not something you simply speak of but actually live out.
    7. Want to know why your relationship with Jesus affects you that way.
    8. Want to know how they can know Jesus the way you do.
    9. Learn to see that your spiritual friends are not hypocrites.
    10. Commit their life to Jesus.

To ultimately reflect Jesus in a consistent, positive way, to others in the coming year, we must also be conscious of what we are doing. It is not going to be easy and it is not going to something that comes about involuntarily. We must work at projecting Him in a positive way. We must think about how something may come across. We must remember that when we are in a hurry it is likely do to something we did/didn't do and any slow or irritating people ahead or around us are not to be involved or blamed. We must think about what we are going to reflect before we enter in to a situation, maybe reminding ourselves that we are a representative of God.

We can create people to see the greatness of Jesus in us as we go through 2013. I can't wait to see what happens as a result. I hope you will keep track and report back.

Now it's your turn...what other outcomes can you see as a result of positively reflecting Jesus? Or, what area will challenge you to make a positive reflection this year?

You can do it! The new year will offer opportunities that you may have never had before. The question is, how will you make the best of the doors of opportunities that will open up in 2013? The 'thing' about the doors of opportunity is that it is up to you to take the initiative to walk through. If you simply look at the opportunity, it will be like the sunset - here now, gone in a few minutes.

I have looked out at those sunsets and think, "Wow, that is beautiful and would make a great picture." Then, I will simply 'think' about it and then the moment is gone. So much are opportunities. We must take advantage of them while they are present. However, again, we must be the ones to go after them. Rarely will they come to us. That brings us to this week's quote...

If you believe you can do it, go out there and do it because that's the only way you're gonna get it! ~ Harry Main
How do you feel about Harry's thoughts? We can accomplish about anything we set our minds to in life. We can achieve greatness! Keep in mind that "greatness" has its own levels of what each person determines the height. For some it may mean money, for others it may mean reaching thousands, and for others it may mean simply personal success.

As you have a new year ahead of you, you will likely have new opportunities, as well. May you take advantage of the opportunities that come your way to achieve greatness. Believe it and then go out and achieve it!

Now it's your turn...what do you have on tap for 2013?

Merry Christmas!  

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I want to thank all of my viewers of my blog! May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy, blessed, and beneficial 2013!Share/Bookmark

If you are like me, there are some weeks of life which can seem like there is so much on one's plate that it is impossible to see it as a week that is overwhelming! Maybe it is work related, schedule related, financially related, or just life in general. There are lots of things can can cause you to be overwhelmed.

Having that feeling can seem oppressive as everything seems to be closing in on your life. The stress involved causes you to seem as if there is no "end in sight." Sometimes, common sense tells you there will be an "end" but in the middle of everything it seems difficult to see that "end."

Regardless of the source of the overwhelming feeling, to have some assurance or someone to guide you through the situation. Sunday, we looked at the scene when Joseph (Jesus' earthly father) was informed he was going to be a father and he seemed a bit overwhelmed. However, to be assured to know that Jesus, his son, was going to be "with us" as He was given the name Immanuel. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • You're What? ~ I can only imagine Joseph's reaction to Mary's news about her being pregnant. What it might be for you? Maybe it is an unexpected bill, news of someone's passing, news of a job loss, or some other news that rocks your world and comes out of no where. They are all with the potential to be overwhelming. How do you deal with these situations or something similar? Do you simply sleep it off or address it or talk to someone or try to do it yourself? May be find safe and sane ways to create an environment to grasp the news.
  • Save Them ~ It is a bittersweet moment when we think about hearing that your child would save people from their sins. The people would know this as likely a sacrifice for their sins. He would be given an honor that is unlike any other, but He would have a responsibility that is unlike any other, as well. God came to be with us, to be deity in human form, so that he could understand us and we could try to understand God.
  • God Revealed ~ It is fascinating that God would reveal himself in this form, to us. That God would leave His place of comfort to this place of discomfort. We can be grateful for such a God as this.
I am grateful to have someone with me, through God, to have the Spirit as a guide and helper. May you be blessed to have that same Helper for you as you experience times of feeling overwhelmed.

Now it's your...when do you feel overwhelmed?

A Great Time of Year to Be a Friend  

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Friends are truly priceless. To gain a friend takes some time. Those we may think are "friends" may not turn out to be the ones we can really trust and confide in as time continues. Acquaintances are not always friends. People we spend time around most are not always friends. Sometimes it seems as if I can count on two hands those who I would consider in this category. Those who would not be judgmental by an action I performed or offended by something I said. They would know me well enough to understand why I did or said the things I did.

One cliche my parents (probably my mom) always said was something like "You have to be a friend to have a friend." This time of year is a great time to experience that, whether it is to people you know or those you don't. That brings us to this week's quote...

Your friendship is a glowing ember
Through the year; and each December
From its warm and living spark
We kindle flame against the dark
And with its shining radiance light
Our tree of faith on Christmas night. ~ Thelma J. Lund

This time of year has a lot of opportunities to be a friend (or even a nice person) to people you are around. With all the shopping that is happening the "hustle and bustle" that takes place, why be the calm one? Why not wish others a "Merry Christmas" when they say "Have a good day" or "Thank you for shopping at ___."

Now it's your turn...how will you be a friend to someone this holiday season?

We have all had moments where we were really afraid. Sometimes it is over an "artificial" or created fear, like watching a scary movie. We logically know nothing on the screen is going to affect us but we are caught up on the moment. Then, there are the "noises" or "shadows" we see in our house that may cause some fear. Then, there is news that may come in the form of a doctor telling us we have terminal cancer (or having a relative find that news out). Then, there is having a phone call telling us that our mom, dad, son, daughter, or someone else close to us has died. Then, there is being involved in a death-is-likely situation, like being held with a knife to our throat or gun to our head. Though the severity is worse with each one, the fear also may increase.

I can only imagine myself in some of the latter situations and how I would react. My fear would be "through the roof" in some situations. Fear is real and every person handles it a bit differently. However, one thing is for sure, that God is there for us in the middle of our fears! It takes a lot of maturity in some of the more severe areas of fear to really find comfort in Him; but the opportunity is always present.

Sunday, we looked at Psalm 23 where David mentioned the idea of fear. It was also coincidentally an opportunity to talk about the recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary. Here are some applications to choose from use this week...

  • Real Fears ~ There are some fears that are identified which I must say make me laugh. I think "How could they be fearful of that?" However, to those people, those are real fears. I know that even the small amount of fears I have, I CAN overcome them. For instance, I don't like the "drop" feeling of a roller coaster or other free fall rides. However, I know I would be able to live through them if I chose to make that decision. I don't love snakes but if I know they are there, I'm fine (but nervous). What makes us fearful of things is a mystery. One good thing is to identify them and understand them, then when confronted, talk to God about being comforted in the midst of your fears. Also, even when we don't understand others' fears, we can still be compassionate toward them.
  • Valley of the Shadow of Death ~ This is a great wording to conjugate a scary scene. Valleys are low - so you may have no way out. Shadows are dark - darkness generally makes us a bit apprehensive and uncomfortable. Death is avoided - we don't want to experience that any time soon. When we experience those dark times in our life, which we all will (in one form or another) may we be ready to turn to Him to help lead us through and comfort us in our journey.
  • Fear No Evil ~ Romans 8:31 comes to mind here..."If God is for us, who can be against us?" I would like to think that if I was experiencing a life and death situation, I would have my fears relieved a bit by knowing I have done what I needed to do to have heaven as my home. My fears would likely be centered around leaving my family and their loss in a husband and father, more so than my life, itself. May we rest assured that nothing evil is going to be able to affect us in a spiritually negative way, in these situations. Stay with God and He will be there for us!
  • You are With Me ~ The shepherd was the "best friend" to the sheep. They listened to his voice and followed him everywhere. They trusted him like no one else. Whether they encountered good pastures or threat of wolves, they learned to trust him. As we think about our Shepherd, may we learn to trust in Him like the sheep do to their shepherd. May we rest assured that He's always near with me. May we find comfort in our victories, defeats, times of hurt, fear, and apprehension. God is good! Read John 10 for more on Jesus as our Shepherd.
I cannot imagine, having two young children, what it must be like for those who lost the loved ones at Sandy Creek Elementary to not know that was their last time to see them alive. To know they will never enter their classroom again. To know they will not open any Christmas presents this year. To know they will never sleep in their bed/room. To know they will never experience another birthday. To know they will never be able to hug them or receive a hug from them. To think "If I knew today was going to be the last day I had with them, I would have done/said [this]!"

It doesn't have to be in tragedies that we have those thoughts. May we appreciate everyday that we have together with those we care about because we never know what will happen.

If you experience the loss or the dark journey, may we find solace in the fact that God is constant and is here for us constantly!

After the next sentence, you will find a list of those who were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (in Newtown, Connecticut). Other sites have released pictures, but here are names. Pray for all those involved. Rest in peace, Sandy Hook victims!

Now it's your turn...when have you had a fear that seemed almost impossible to see God in the middle of that time of fear?


    Charlotte Bacon, 6 Daniel Barden, 7 Olivia Engel, 6 Josephine Gay, 7 Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6 Dylan Hockley, 6 Madeleine F. Hsu, 6 Catherine V. Hubbard, 6 Chase Kowalski, 7 Jesse Lewis, 6 James Mattioli, 6 Grace McDonnell, 7 Emilie Parker, 6 Jack Pinto, 6 Noah Pozner, 6 Caroline Previdi, 6 Jessica Rekos, 6 Aviele Richman, 6 Benjamin Wheeler, 6 Allison N. Wyatt, 6


    Dawn Hochsprung, 47 Rachel Davino, 29 Anne Marie Murphy, 52 Lauren Rousseau, 30 Mary Sherlach, 56 Victoria Soto, 27

Sound of Courage  

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How many of you remember the book/movie "Red Badge of Courage?" The young man who doesn't show courage but is rewarded for it. How about in the "Wizard of Oz" and the lion who wants to have some courage? He does a lot of "roaring" to try to demonstrate that he is courageous.

Typing that last word reminded me of the movie "Courageous" that followed four police officers and their families. You may think that their courage was found more on the police beat as they encountered different dangerous situations. That, however, is not the whole part of the case, rather their courage was found how they dealt with their spiritual life, their family life, their professional life and it all boiled down to integrity. How they would respond in life with the courage to stand up with integrity.

The sound of courage is not always what it seems...which brings us to this week's quote...

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
Not too long ago I was surprised that there were ducks whose call was not the normal "quack, quack." I had been taught and teach my kids about the idea that the sound a duck makes is "quack, quack." However, that was not the sound of all ducks.

Maybe there are times which courage roars and we presume that is the sound that "courage makes." What about thinking about other sounds that courage makes. It may not be loud and may be very quiet. In fact, sometimes it may not make a sound at all. Courage has a sound that is all its own in particular situations. Maybe the wisest is the quietest. Regardless, I like the sound of courage from this quote that challenges me to get up and try again tomorrow.

Now it's your turn...what sound has courage made in your life and when did that sound occur?

I cannot imagine what it must be like for kids to have parents that are so busy that they forget to pick them up. I've seen this on movies/television and heard of some small stories like this in life, but never have experienced it. I was fortunate to have parents that didn't forget nor can I imagine "forgetting" where my kids are at or when they need to be picked up. I know there may be the occasional honest mistake but the child may not even realize that it was an honest mistake.

Most of the time in the movies the time is exaggerated to be a long time later that a person is picked up or someone is stood up for an engagement. Counting on someone and then being let down can be devastating.

There are various instances of being let down. Some may be a bit higher on the scale where other situations can be brushed off pretty easily. Sunday we looked at I Samuel 30:1-6 and Hebrews 5:7 while examining situations in the lives of David and Jesus. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Poor Choice ~ Sometimes we are going to make a poor choice. Whether it is something we say or do, it will have a negative repercussion. Instead of wallowing in our poor choice and/or the effects which follow, may we find strength in God, even if it is easier said than done!
  • Extend Grace ~ Knowing that we can make a poor choice, there are those who may let us down because of a poor choice. May we make every effort to extend the gift of grace and forgiveness their way. This will help you to keep carrying the burden around with you and let you move more freely.
  • Relate to Jesus ~ Jesus' life seemed to be filled with disappointments. I am not taking out any victories, but the disappointments did not just come at one time. People let him down regularly. Whether it was people in his close circle or people who were claiming to be religious but were not. We can appreciate how He dealt with his friends letting him down and how we can deal with such situations. Appreciate and relate to Jesus when you become a victim of "friend let down."
Having people that let you down is a sad part of "real" life. People don't always live up to our own expectations and as much as we hate that, we can learn to find strength in God during those times. David was a great example of finding strength in his God. May we see that as the all-sufficient source of our strength in any disappointments we may encounter.

Now it's your turn...when have you been disappointed by someone and how did it feel?

Better Things Ahead  

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The past. Every person has a different one. Every person has some "skeletons" in their closet which they must deal with and try to keep in that proverbial closet. Similar to the person who "cleans" by putting everything in a closet or under a bed, the past is still present even when it is hidden. Just because we hide it does not take it away. Hiding simply takes it out of sight but not out of mind.

The past does not always mean things that we are "guilty" of or that we "did." The past can be filled with events that happened to us. Bullies, bad relationships, abuse, failure, rejection, cancer, illness, fear, and the list could continue.

I have my own set of past memories. Even though I may go on with everyday life like there really is nothing wrong, it doesn't take much to think about it and rehash some memories. However, even if I may remember the past, I know it shouldn't be forming who I am today and for the future. That brings us to this week's quote...

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. ~ C.S. Lewis
As I am getting a bit older, I am noticing that my body is not responding to things like it did in the past. Physically, I am bringing the past to the present - the choices of the past affect the status of the present. It is a tangible reminder.

That can be the way our choices of bringing memories and issues of the past with us into the future. You choose how the past "handles" you. Does it have a grip on you or is it simply a 'sticky note' reminder that you know its there and you can take it off very easily. Which are you going to choose?

Understandably, there are things of the past that may be to a level that you are never going to forget. I cannot imagine how some people who have encountered heinous attacks can make the future seem brighter. Similarly, other violent/shocking life experiences are going to be very traumatic on individuals. So there is no superficiality in this thought and challenge to look to the future with a sense of brightness. The key is stated above when we must understand how we are going to choose letting the past "handle" us. Are we going to take control or let the past control us?

Maybe you need to find someone who you can visit with if you haven't had your "breaking" point. If you have had that point, maybe you can think about how you are stronger than the past. If you are religious, know that God is bigger than any past issue and He can help you throw it. Look to the future, there is a brightness found there!

Now it's your turn...what memory of the past do you need release the grip of? What do you need to do to accomplish this? Feel free to leave comments...

During some stressful weeks I come home not mentally where I need to be. Having a job that doesn't "end at 5" has its ups and downs. Some days the downs are definitely challenging, but the challenge sometimes simply comes to me and the way I handle things. Sometimes I am weary and fail to leave things "at work" and know it can be picked up tomorrow. I may want to "finish" some tasks and five o'clock comes too soon and my mind stays on that task for a while.

The more I am mentally "at work" the less I am connected with my family. Some days this is easier than others. However, it reminds me of the lesson we discussed on Sunday as we examined Galatians 6:9-10. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Take a break ~ You may need to walk away from a situation for a short time to cool off or do something else. You may need to simply say "No" to things to give yourself a break.
  • Take some time to breathe deeply ~ Take a deep breath, hold it, let it out, repeat several times until you start to feel relaxed
  • Get Out of Town ~ Away from chaos and let yourself refill
  • Disconnect from life ~ Turn off cell phones, computers, and turn to something that will refill, refuel and refocus
  • Make a plan ~ Look over your life and see how you can reassess things to make it be a bit more “refilling”
  • Quit Giving and Start Taking ~ Take time for yourself and let people know it. This isn’t selfish, it’s necessary from time to time
  • Sit in Silence ~ Take some time to think and/or pray. If prayer, then give it to God and repeat until you feel the sense of relaxation
  • Learn Your Limits ~ You know when you are at a breaking point – before you get there, be aware
  • Ask help from others ~ You don’t have to do it all by yourself, it is ok to ask other people to help.
There are things you can do that may take more time or little time – activities of relaxation or responsibility. Some activities take a “season” – a hobby, etc., some activities may be able to be completed in a day, a long walk, a phone call, a day trip, and some activities you can use to refuel when you can take the time – may not be a set time – a quiet afternoon, go to bed early, doing something you enjoy with your family.

It is important to not grow so weary in doing the good things that we are not "on our game" when temptations and trials come our way.

Now it's your turn...when have you felt so exhausted that it caused you to be more susceptible to the "Enemy?"

Shaping Life  

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When I was younger I remember being told that I needed to choose my friends wisely. Those I hung around would have an influence on my future. Occasionally, I was reminded of this when my mom didn't like my ongoing behavior; accrediting it to my peers.

Those who we are around can have a great influence on us. That influence could be toward the negative or the positive. That influence could project us forward, drag us behind, or keep us stagnate. How we choose will make a difference in our life, so the choice is yours. That brings us to this week's quote...

You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay? Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change. ~ Jim Rohn
As you read through that quote, how did you respond? What is your current situation(s) like with those you are around? How are they treating you? Are you challenged to read anything? Do they make you move toward the positive in your thinking or challenge your thinking? What will you "become" because you know them and hang around them?

Are you okay with where your life is going? What do you need to do to make things become better? What changes in a portion of your life must you make?

This challenges me to keep going with people and situations that can make a positive difference in my life, rather than have people that will drag it down.

Now it's your turn...What will your life look like in the next six months after you answer these questions?

Have you ever had one of those projects that seemed to get bigger the more you were further along into the project? I have had remodeling projects which seemed to take at least 1/3 longer time than I expected. Then, I've had art projects which seemed to just become bigger and bigger the more invested in it I became.

Similarly, on Sunday, we looked at Jesus receiving a few loaves of bread and some fish to feed a large crowd, in Matthew 15:29-39. He took those few items and turned it into enough to have leftovers. He multiplied what was given to Him. This is the crux of the message for me, the fact that He took little and made much. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Magnetically Therapeutic ~ Jesus seemed to always attract crowds to Him. Whether they wanted healing or to hear Him talk or to "set Him up" they wanted to be around Him. There are people that you know who may have that type of personality. Someone who others seem to just want to be around. What qualities did Jesus or others we know have that is so attractive? May we emulate those types of qualities from Jesus and others we know which is attractive. Maybe we can attract them to Jesus!
  • Act of Mercy ~ If you compare the feeding of 5,000 to the feeding of 4,000 there will be similarities. One difference to note is that Jesus is the instigator of desiring to feed the people. The people had been with Him for three days and now they were heading home. They didn't have any food left, according to the text, so Jesus takes it upon Himself to provide. He is dishing out mercy on the people. As He will provide for us when we are depleted we can recognize that and be grateful. As God is "rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4), it is demonstrated through the acts of Jesus. What an awesome God we serve!
  • No Money, No Problem ~ Jesus is the well of abundance. This well may be small in appearance (just one guy) but from it comes forth everything. The disciples seemed to act like the blind that Jesus healed when they were not seeing the possibilities of how this feat was going to be accomplished. They were looking at the "here and now" and also the glass "half empty." You would think they knew they had the "trump card" in Jesus, but their minds took them away from Him and His abilities to the problem and impossibilities. We can be much like that, when we have a problem, we foresee the obstacles more often than the opportunities. When we have a financial setback, do we wonder more about "where the money will come from" or "who will God put in my path which I can show who I am" to? It may change our outlook and may be worth a try.
As Jesus took this small amount of food and turned it into enough to feed around 10,000 people, what will He do with your "small" items? Do you have a "pipe dream" that you see not much possibility in accomplishing? I am guessing the disciples looked out at the crowds with much the same lack of optimism, yet look at what Jesus did in that situation. What will He do in your situation?

Now it's your turn...what "small" thing will you give to Him?

This time of the year is filled with families who are getting together and enjoying time together. Sometime during that time together they will likely share in a meal together. For some people, there may be more than one “Thanksgiving” meal that is shared with more than one family unit. For some families, they will go to Thanksgiving at one side of their family tree and Christmas at the other side.

As you know, with holidays like Thanksgiving we tend to focus on being thankful and gratitude. These are great things to be focused on in a world that tends to focus on problems. Then, all the positive that comes with Christmas and the “most wonderful time of the year.” Who cannot help but to love this time of year? However, there are some that may not be at the pinnacle of the idealistic side of the holidays.

As this time of year is often spent with family, there stands some special population that sometimes seems to be overlooked or shoved to the side. I am speaking of those who have lost loved ones over the past year. I know that there will be those who have already spent their “first” holiday season, birthday, and other special days without their loved one, but there is something about that “first” season away from a loved one.

In the past year, I have known several who fall into this category. Though I hadn’t spent several of the previous holiday seasons with my grandma and uncle, I have lost them both in the recent months. Along with that, a great gentleman who I was close to was suddenly killed on a motorcycle accident this past summer.

As I think about these three individuals, my heart goes out to their families. In the case of my grandmother, my father and his siblings lost their mother. In the case of my uncle, he left behind a wife, two sons and their families, and three sisters, plus other family members. In the case of my friend, he leaves behind a wife, three kids and their families, plus other family members.

As I reflect on these three situations I cannot help but wonder how this Thanksgiving and Christmas will affect them. For several, they have spent several of these holidays with that loved one and this one is going to have a void.

Along with that void there will be sadness and tears. Although this is a season that is normally positive in nature, for those with a void in their holiday season, all positive will be at least a bit clouded by the vacancy of their loved one.

To no longer have your loved one in your life is going to present its various levels of difficulty as you venture into the holiday season. With that void in one’s life this season may not be the “most wonderful time of the year” because you will be missing that person who, a few months before, was in your life.

For those who are experiencing their “first” holiday season without a special loved one, I would like to say I will be praying for you as you travel through this holiday season without them. If you know of someone in this special population, I would like to ask you to be praying for those you know. Pray that God may comfort them as they reflect on their past, which they were fortunate to spend with their loved one. May the Great Comforter fill the void for all of you who are missing something this holiday season.Share/Bookmark


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Happy Thanksgiving!

A day to be full of gratitude; appreciating all that one has in their life. Appreciating everything from health to family, house to job, and there will likely be "things" involved in that list somewhere.

Most will be enjoying a meal that is bigger than can be consumed in one setting. Others will be eating a meal with several people that are not their family but they enjoy their company. However, there are those people who will be sitting down to the meal this year who will be saddened because they have lost a loved one whom they miss celebrating this holiday with - maybe a first, but not limited to a first.

Whoever you are eating your meal with, this is a holiday about gratitude, which brings us to this week's quote...

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie
The other day at my Bible Class at a local nursing home, we all shared some various memories we have had around Thanksgiving. Along with that, we shared things we are thankful for in our life. Then we discussed how saying and hearing things we are thankful for kind of lifts our mood. Even when we are listening to others share their expressions of gratitude, we are still lifted.

Now it's your turn...How has the quote been applicable to you?

One of my first "disasters" in preaching school came within the first couple of weeks of school. I was in Old Testament History I with Richard Rogers. At the beginning of the class, he had mentioned that we would be having quizzes on Mondays. The content of the quiz would be made up of last week's material and some of the previous week's material. That would mean you didn't just remember one week's worth of information, but you needed to be ready for the second week, as well. I remember taking the quiz and being frustrated, knowing I didn't fare so well. I was correct, my score - 61% - OUCH! That was terrible! I felt embarrassed and ashamed. However, it caused me to rebound like I never had done prior in all my years of education. From that point on, I either made a perfect or only missed a couple, always getting a score of 98-100%. It took some persistence to make that happen!

There have been times in my life which I had to be persistent in fighting through obstacles to make something happen. The obstacles take the form of many things. However, persistence is the key.

Sunday, we looked at Matthew 15:21-28 and the scene of the persistent Canaanite woman who had a girl who was demon-possessed. As we reflect back on that lesson, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Identifying Him ~ The woman identifies Jesus as "Lord, Son of David" when she approaches Him. How do we identify Jesus when we are talking to Him? Is He our Lord? Is He "Hey, you?" Is He "Jesus" (said in a vain, frustrated tone)? Is He our Savior? Whatever we identify Him as, are we making sure He is priority in our life? That is one of the main factors in how we identify Him.
  • Waiting in the Silence ~ One of the most intriguing part of this passage is Jesus' initial response to her plea. His response is silence. Silence is filled with question marks. We may be saying/thinking "Umm, hello...anyone there?" as we wave our hand in front of someone's eyes to see if they are listening. This woman has just come to Jesus with an urgent plea regarding her daughter and he says nothing. Are you good at waiting in the silence? I'm not. As we are waiting, think about this, there may be times in our life that God is delaying our request, rather than denying it. That was powerful to me!
  • Crumbs of Power ~ Jesus initially is explaining to the woman that Israel (this woman is a Gentile) is the privileged people and should be receiving God's choice benefits. Her reaction entails that she simply wants to receive some of the crumbs. She knows that if she were to have simply a little of Jesus it would be enough to save her daughter. How about you? Are you content with just a little of Jesus or do you need Him to show up "big" before you're content? Crumbs are all we need! Enjoy the crumbs of power through faith!
  • Don't Take 'No' For an Answer ~ This woman was not going to let anything become too big of an obstacle to make sure her daughter was healed. We can show those around us how awesome of a God we serve as we are examples of being persistent in our faith. When you see a "no" coming your way, keep praying...you never know what will occur as a result!
Keeping on keeping on is a skill that takes persistence to display itself. It would be a skill that would be beneficial for people to understand when it comes to things of the unknown, like how God responds to us. We are going to receive a lot of "silence" when it comes to asking God for help because we simply cannot hear His voice in the audible form. So as we are waiting, how are we going to respond? What are we going to do when God seems to "show" us that He is responding to our request? May we be consistent and persistent in our requests that we make toward Him.

Now it's your turn...when has persistence in prayer or life paid off? When has it not?

Expected Outcome  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , , , , , ,

When I was a freshman in high school one of my classes was called "Beginning Shop I." Almost the whole year seemed like a waste of time. We didn't get to use one single power tool the entire year, even if we learned about them. There was one day which our whole class had been kind of goofing off and our teacher was getting frustrated with us. I don't remember what I did or didn't do, when I heard my teacher exclaim "Spence!" I responded, "What? I wasn't doing anything." He zinged me by saying, "That's the problem."

I wasn't working on my assignment so I wasn't going to have much of a chance of completing the assignment.

When it has come to getting things completed in life, procrastination or distraction can have a tendency to sneak in. I may put things off or choose to do something else instead, for the time being. What is going to happen in that time I am either putting it off or choosing to do something else is nothing. That brings us to this week's quote...

You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
What have you aimed to start in life but you did nothing to get you there. The result is predictable - the end result will be nothing.

What is something you wanted to try to pursue but haven't started yet? If you want to have the outlook you envision you need to begin. Otherwise the result will be predictable. There may be no guarantee that what you pursue you will reach, but there basically is a guarantee that what you don't pursue you won't reach.

What steps do you need to make in order to get yourself closer to your goal?

Now it's your turn...what do you need to start?

You have certain traditions that you've grown up with that may have been surprising when you found out someone did it differently. There may be some traditions which you established when you became married and had a family of your own. Traditions can help moments be that much more special. However we can't expect all to fall in love with our tradition(s).

What about for those of you who are religious, by nature. What traditions do you hold as important, possibly going as far to say the lack of observing them may shake up your faith?

In Matthew 15:1-20, Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law to point out that Jesus' disciples were not washing their hands prior to eating. As my lesson pointed out, this was not a commandment, but it was something that had been observed as a traditional activity.

As we reflect back on that lesson, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • What's Important ~ Importance is one of those lovely subjective words. What is important to you may not be important to me. The reverse is also correct. If you view certain things in the worship setting as important and I don't - who is right? You can feel free to see that it is important and observe it all you want, but there are many matters in which I may not see them as important. I fear to make a list, so you can leave comments if you wish. However, may we watch our judgments when it comes to "who does what" in the religious circles.
  • Three Fingers Pointing At You ~ Pointing a finger causes you to have three that are pointing at you. There may be the occasional "good" reason to point out a wrong in someone. However, as Jesus replies to the claim of the Pharisees, they were not doing what is right and needed to watch out!
  • What Comes Out is Polluted ~ We've all likely had the stomach flu. When you vomit all that polluted food that you ate, plus stomach fluids are coming out. The food you took in was not bad, but this partially digested food was bad. Jesus points out that what goes in does not make us defiled, rather what comes out of us is what defiles us. Watch out and make sure that what is coming out is not full of defilement.
  • Dumb Question ~ As a minister, some people have a warped view that I know"everything" about the Bible. I wish that were the case, though it is flattering to have people come to me with questions. I am always in a learning process. In the passage, Peter asks a question that Jesus responds with a sense of a rebuke. Almost giving the thought that this was a "dumb question" that he asked. When you ask God questions that may be "dumb" just know that you are in good company. Peter was a good guy to be paralleled with. Ask God all the questions...He knows we are just "us."
Pointing out that one's tradition is better or that others should be following it is treading in dangerous waters. Keep in mind that traditions are different than commandments. When we see commandments, they are something we should be observing.

Where is your heart when you are pointing out the wrongs of others...traditions or actions? May we look closely at our hear in those situations.

Now it's your turn...when have you been bound to a tradition you didn't agree with? Religious or otherwise...I'm eager to hear!

Work Never Begun  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You may have seen signs that say something like "Future Home of" and there is an organization or business name associated with it. Have you ever seen any of those types of signs on properties that never seem to change?

These types of properties make the surrounding property look kind of sad because there is no promise of that building or property getting finished. So, it all just sits there - waiting to be developed.

However, as sad as the property looks, at least someone took the time to start. That brings us to this week's quote...
Can anything be sadder than work unfinished? Yes, work never begun. ~ Christina Rossetti
I think there are lots of "works", within people, that are never begun. There is likely a lot of people who have potential for success simply hidden within them. You pass by them on a regular basis without even knowing it.

There could be properties booming all around us, everywhere we go, if they were simply started - if the dream would commit one foot in stepping out to take the first step.

If you could do ANYTHING
in life, would your present life look any different? Even if you are in your "dream" job, would you have something about the present situation that would cause it to look different?

What causes it to not look like that? What could you do to make it start to look like your "dream" position? Think about it and work to develop ways to achieve it! Share/Bookmark

"Come on, you can do it! I dare you! [Pause of hesitancy] What are you, chicken? Bawk, bawk!" goes the conversation from peer to peer as one is trying to get the other person to try something which they are apprehensive about. Maybe the person goes through with it or maybe they back down. Trouble could be on one side, whether it is trouble with authorities or risk being physically hurt.

The invitation is there but the person is reluctant, for whatever reason. Though there could be the potential of being hurt after committing to the challenge, the example fits into Jesus' invitation to Peter in Matthew 14:22-36. Peter is in the boat and Jesus is walking to him and the other disciples on the water. The disciples are frightened when they see Jesus approaching. Jesus identifies Himself. Peter asks a question.

"Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water."

Jesus responds to Peter with the invitation to walk to Him. Peter starts to climb out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. However, let's break this down a bit. Imagine the scene, the winds blowing, the waves crashing, the boat rising and falling and Peter is climbing out of the boat. We don't know how big the boat is to know how far he had to climb down to touch the water from the side. We don't know if he dipped his toe into the water to see what the temperature was like. We don't know if he took off his shoes/sandals. All those details are not known, but the scene most of us picture is probably a guy that is going over with confidence. However, did he have as much confidence as we give him?

Rather, was his confidence level much like the person in the opening illustration that is hesitant to jump? Is his confidence about as high as yours is when you are met with challenges that just seem to shake you up? Sunday we looked at the scene where Jesus walks on the water and invites Peter to do the same. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Post-Event Prayer ~ After you have had the opportunity to be involved in an event, maybe one you hosted or simply helped with, take time to pray. Pray for yourself, your guests, those who helped, those who played a part but were not present, etc. Within those prayers you can be thankful, pray for others' week, ask God to continue to open doors, ask God to refill you after you feel drained, or a number of other prayer requests. Typically, it would be a good idea to do this on your own, in a solitary place. It is good to end the day or an event with prayer, we need it!
  • Jesus Shows Up Unexpectedly ~ When you think things are going a certain way, you may define them "as planned" that is likely when Jesus will be there. Similarly to the surprise the disciples received when they thought they saw a "ghost" but it was actually Jesus, we may be totally blown away by His arrival. This won't be a tangible person who will simply "drop in" on your life, rather it may be an opportunity for you to share something of yourself with others and/or the situation. Don't let it frighten you, revel in it!
  • Come... ~ When Jesus shows up and you have the opportunity to respond, you will have to make the choice. Jesus will ask you to respond. Be ready for it and "come on" so that you can meet up with Him and enjoy the time together as you expand the Kingdom together!
  • Get Out of the Boat ~ A book which was released a few years ago was titled "If You Want to Walk on Water, You Got to Get Out of the Boat." I have not read it but I have always liked the title. The title alone is challenging to me to think about how we must be willing to get out of the boat to do what we're asked/invited to do. My question is..."What is your boat?" What is is going on in your life that you are struggling to have the courage to climb over in order to put your foot into shaky ground? Is it something you are procrastinating about, simply fearful, relationship issues, bullies, your weight, etc.? In order to help any of these, we must quit hiding in our boat and climb out so that you can "walk on water."
I believe that we are met daily with at least one opportunity to get out of a "boat." We have the opportunity to respond in faith to something that is set before us. It may only take opening our mouth to climb out of the figurative boat. It may take picking up the phone or writing a letter. It may take walking across the street. There are all kinds of ways which we can look for to get out of our boat.

Now it's your turn...what "boat" are you riding in which you need to get out of?

Limit Your Planning  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , ,

Planning in life can have its good parts but also can have its bad. I have areas in which I am flexible, but there are also parts of life which I might be described as inflexible. I have a side of me which I like to have things go a certain way each day. You may narrow it down to "as planned." But there is also a side of me that enjoys some unplanned things. Of course those are subjective so I may prefer some and not prefer others.

Even though a side of me is resistant to being flexible, another side looks forward to the possibility of interruptions. I have had days where God through me a curve ball and I had to switch gears very quickly. Those are the days when I look forward to what He might be sending me. There have been some very interesting curve balls thrown at me through the years. What have you experienced in the "unplanned" department? That brings us to this week's quote...
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~ Joseph Campbell
Trying to hold on to the planned in life can be dangerous and wearisome. It binds us to where we are at. If we have our minds ready for the unplanned, then we have a sense of freedom which we can go about life without being confided or holding on to the plans and seeing what God will bring our way.

As you go about today, tomorrow, or next week, you may have to plan out certain parts of your day but be ready for the interruptions and unplanned things that are going to come about. You never know what is waiting for you up ahead...God might have something super exciting for you!

Now it's your turn...what do you like or don't like about God bringing unplanned things your way?

When I am traveling and I see either orange traffic cones or traffic at a greatly reduced speed I am actually seeing "inconvenience." That word, inconvenience is quite broad. It could be an inconvenience because I am on a time schedule or because I simply hate to slow down from my plans for the day (aka controlling when I stop). I fail to see much of anything else. I know my feeling is totally selfish and if I could "fly over" the standstill, I would in a heartbeat.

One part which I could be missing is praying for the people involved in a wreck that may have occurred or praying for the construction workers. I might also miss having a small pause in my day to pray for other life situations.

You see...I would be failing to "see"; I would guess most of us would. This is a likely response, that we might become annoyed and not see the possibilities.

Sunday, we looked at the lesson known as the "Feeding of the 5,000." Within this miracle we see Jesus having been brought 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed this vast crowd. Some see possibilities while some see obstacles, inconvenience, annoyance, and lack of vision. As we look at this lesson that challenges our vision, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Re-Do the Math ~ If I were to ask "what does 5+2 equal," the overwhelming majority would say "7." That is a common and logical response. However, the numbers are not always simply numbers. To look at the Feeding of the 5,000 and think that 7 pieces of food were going to feed that many people is illogical. We must understand that we serve a very "illogical" God, when it comes to our understanding. His ways are higher than our ways, as Isaiah would say about God. We try to understand, but we have a difficult time doing so. As we see matters "stacking up against us" we must re-do the math because God may have other plans.
  • Seeing is Deceiving ~ Have you ever not liked a food simply because you saw what it looked like? It wasn't appetizing, on the surface? Have you ever bitten in to such a food, even with reluctance, and realized you like it? I have been on both sides. That also plays into effect when it comes to how we view potential Kingdom possibilities. Do you see someone who you pass off simply because of the way they look or walk? They may simply be putting that shell up on the outside, but inside they are of great potential! Don't let seeing deceive you!
  • Gaining Confidence ~ Looking in the mirror may cause us to realize that we are only one person. We have the potential to do so much, but see ourself as only "one." The irony of this is, for the Christian, we have a helper with us at all times that is working things out more than we can imagine. As we have Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are blessed to always live in a majority! When going into a matter, seek Him and gain the confidence needed to help accomplish the task.
We often focus on the "me" in life. We want to try to do what "me" can and become frustrated with what "me" cannot. May we try to put more of God into it and see what "we" can do, especially on the things that are out of our hands to make a difference.

Now it's your turn...what will you and God team up with this week to make a difference?

People will sometimes ask me what made me choose to begin a career in ministry. I think I may disappoint some when I don’t have this eureka-like experience of when I felt “called” to this lifestyle.

I didn’t have ministry on my radar at all in my growing up. I fell in love with the work of the manager/trainer in high school. I started out as the “water boy” type of person. Just your typical freshman who was the errand boy and carried the equipment out to practice and games, along with making sure there was water for the players. I was pretty much the bottom of the barrel in the way of popularity and respect. However, there was something about it that I greatly enjoyed. My pursuit of this career took me through college and two years as a professional trainer at a community college.

Somewhere during my last year and a half of college and my two years in the profession of being an athletic trainer and instructor, my focus started to shift toward ministry. It piqued my interest and started to gather some advice. I decided to go into something I never thought I would be even remotely interested in pursuing. It didn’t take long to realize that I love ministry. As a person who has several talents, ministry has seemed to have allowed me to use those talents to touch the lives of many people.

As you can see, there really was no “Aha!” moment, but rather the idea of ministry came through influence and something inside of me that seemed to click with the profession. One thing that I have always had a difficult time doing in ministry was fitting into a “box” when it came to ministry. I did not want to have the stigma that was attached to ministers. I have always liked to be “real” and approachable. I want people to still be themselves even when a “preacher” is around. I love the opportunities that have come about through being in ministry to help or minister to people. That is some of the priceless moments.

As the chairman of the Thomas County Ministerial Association, I have had opportunities to be around and minister to other ministers and pastors. We love our jobs and care deeply for the people who we are privileged to speak to and serve. We feel blessed to be in the positions we are in.

A few years back, a church was looking for a minster and they put some of the following phrases in their job opening: “long hours, little pay, great retirement benefits.” They were being lighthearted in the way that they were advertising, but for most of us who work in ministry, this holds true.

Until a few years ago, I never realized how busy an insurance office and agent can be. I pay my premiums automatically so I hardly ever set foot in the office of my insurance agent’s office. Since moving here, four years ago, I think I have went to see their office about six or seven times; first few times to set up my new residence and the rest to get my free yearly calendar. I say that because for most I don’t think they realize how much goes on in a minister’s life. It is generally not a physical laborious position but there is a lot that goes into the mental side of things.

We are always “on” in the eye of the public. We must be wary of the way we conduct ourselves for threat of rumor that can dampen our influence. We do not get to be “done” at 5:00 PM, for someone can call us at a moment’s notice. We try to please everyone. Whether it is sermon delivery style, teaching, how often we visit or call, how much or little we are in the office, people have their opinions about us. Some even think we work for them instead of Him.

Each minister or pastor has their various passions. Each has their own delivery styles. Each one is simply different. However, this is important; each minister has feelings and runs out of steam once in a while.

This month has been set up as “Pastor Appreciation Month” and I challenge you, if you haven’t already done so, to appreciate your minister or pastor. You will likely never know what it is like to be in their shoes. They are concerned about your spiritual well-being and will do whatever they can to help you with your walk in Christ.

Maybe it is something tangible that you can do for them to show your appreciation or maybe it is simply a nice comment or text. There are various things you can do to show how much you appreciate them. Maybe you can surprise them and “appreciate them” during other months in the year, as well.

Let’s appreciate those who serve us!

I want to thank all those who work tirelessly to serve Him!Share/Bookmark

Confined by Walls  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever painted yourself into a corner? If it is literal, you find yourself with a small area left to paint and no where to stand. Maybe it was in the figurative sense, whether in a conversation or a different kind of project. Again, in either case, you find yourself a bit trapped in getting yourself out of the jam.

I have been a victim of this self-inflicted issue in the past and isn't the most pleasant thing to experience. You find yourself scrambling to remove you from the small spot you are now finding yourself in.

One thing is for sure, the way you found yourself in the corner was due to some lack of judgment on your part. This brings us to this week's quote...

You are confined only by the walls you build yourself. ~ Unknown
Someone once said something like "People can't make you do anything, it is a choice you make for yourself." This even fell to emotions. People don't make you mad, you choose to get mad. You could choose, even though it may be hard, to not become mad.

When you see yourself as being confined, think about what it took to get you to that conclusion. In so many instances where people are coming to the point of "I can't do it" there is a lot of that which stems back to choices you made previously.

We have the power and ability to do a lot of things in life and we have the power and ability to inhibit. When you get down to it, we must think about what our choices were to get us to either point.

Now it's your turn...what have you experienced that was confining by walls which you built?

Your heart races, you may start to sweat, you feel an overwhelming amount of other emotions all because of guilt. Something you did that you feel horrible about. Maybe you don't want to share because it will ruin a relationship. Maybe you will lose your job. There are a number of possibilities that could happen because of an error you made.

Maybe the error was due to a lack of judgment. Maybe it was due to a sense of compromise of "just this one time." Maybe it was due to greed or simply some other situation that caused the error to occur. The outcome is the same - you feel guilty.

Sunday, we looked at Herod's error in identity of Jesus, calling him John the Baptist - who had been recently beheaded. He had made some decisions in this passage (Matthew 14:1-12) due to the guilt he felt from previous decisions. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Misfired ~ Sometimes we do things in life with hopes to accomplish one particular goal but what comes out of it is something completely different - in a negative way. Maybe we say something sarcastic that comes across rude, instead of humorous. Maybe we try some sort of a stunt and we end up damaging us or something else. Regardless of the situation, we were going one direction, but we ended up with a negative outcome. Herod made a promise that he probably thought would have one outcome, but there was actually a negative one that resulted. May we try to think ahead with our decisions to help the outcome not be a "misfire."
  • Not 'Over-correcting' ~ When a decision you've made causes you to feel so bad that you want to try to make up for it by doing something good, then you may over-correct that mistake. Over-correcting can cause problems. You may become out of control. Herod had this sense of "out of control" life with his decision that started with putting John in prison. John didn't make it any easier as his boldness cost him his life. For us, if we are feeling guilt then we need to watch how we react and
  • Throwing Off the Weight ~ You have carried this guilt with you for the past several hours to days, maybe weeks or months. Worst case scenario, years. How fun has it been to have that weight with you day-in-and-day-out? It is likely stressing you out and may actually be causing physical damage to your body. That damage could lessen your lifespan. Is the weight and stress of the guilt better than confessing your wrong and dealing with the consequences/repercussions? I have been in the first part of this application and though the repercussion was not enjoyable, it was definitely freeing! If you have something to confess, there will be a sense of freedom that you experience. I am not suggesting the repercussions will be the most pleasant but it will be better on your body than carrying around the stress from guilt.
Guilt is not the most easy thing to deal with. The overwhelming majority of the time, the guilt is something we brought on ourselves. We made the choice to do whatever it was where guilt was the effect. How has guilt affected you - in the past or present? Have you had opportunities to release some of the weight? Have you carried some guilt on your shoulders through life that caused you to be prematurely stressed? Have you over-corrected with other choices in life because you felt guilt? Have you procrastinated due to guilt? Lots of things we may do because of guilt! The sooner you can release it the better things will be, in the end. The longer you carry it the worse things will become.

Now it's your turn...How can you relate to this post on guilt and its affects on your life?

You have a big "project" that you are working on and have been putting a lot of effort in on it. You have been strained mentally to make sure all the details are in place. Then, after it is all done, the "project" came out a success. Whether that project was a research paper, a big event, an art project, or something else, you can now look back and see the fruit of your labor. It makes you happy to see it all come together like it did.

I hope you can relate to the above scenario. I know that I could. There have been many times I am planning something and enjoy looking at the outcome. It definitely makes me momentarily happy! That brings us to this week's quote...

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
I would categorize the above quote into a "proverb" because there are likely exceptions to it. However, I can definitely relate to what Roosevelt was saying. There is something that is exciting about achieving something when it is couched with putting in a strong amount of creative effort. I guess it speaks to my creative side.

I think there are several that are in the same boat with me. There is something that is thrilling about seeing a work or effort come together for something good. The downside of it, for me, is that I look for the next opportunity to have a similar feeling. Once one is completed then I look for the next.

I like to stretch my creative mind. I am in the middle of what direction to go with a painting that has no boundaries. So, deciding what to do is challenging, but yet will be rewarding in the end.

Now it's your turn...when have there been times which the above quote held true (or false) for you?

Catching Snowflakes  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , ,

There are times that it is definitely fun to be a kid. The things you have the opportunity to do as a child that are taken away as you grow up. Last week, we were blessed to have a mild-temperature snow. It was super pretty coming down but didn’t stick to the ground. The kids were able to bundle up and go outside for a few moments. They played as the snow fell, but also they had the opportunity to catch some of the snowflakes on their tongue.

Ava made me laugh when she was looking up to catch snowflakes because she said the snowflakes went into her eye. So, she would look up and squint her eyes for just a few seconds to catch a few snowflakes and then wipe her eyes and face.

Oliver, as the picture shows, used his hood to shield his eyes from the snow falling. So he was able to stay in that position a bit longer while catching snowflakes. They both had a lot of fun for the few minutes they stayed out in the soft-falling snow.

Of course, I had to get in on the action, to show Ava how to do it. As I was tipping my head back and catching a few on my tongue, it made me feel like a kid for that ever-so-brief moment.

I am mystified by the fact that Jesus uses kids as illustrations. Sometimes we simply become so wrapped up in our own adult life that we forget what it is like to be a kid. No worries...no responsibilities...just be a kid. Being a kid can be fun and exhilarating! Take some time this week to be a kid - even if there are no snowflakes to catch!!

What is it about rejection that can hurt so much? Is it the fact that you open up yourself to a cause or commitment? Is it the hope of "making it" in whatever area you are pursuing? Is it the rawness of our feelings being later scraped across asphalt? Is it the feeling of time wasted? There are various reasons.

Rejection is something that can be hard to endure. The greater we flay our hearts and feelings in a matter the greater the damage. We put so much effort into something only to hear some sort of rejection can be damaging.

I remember feeling a sense of rejection after not winning, nor knowing how well I did, in a science fair project. I felt I put a lot of effort into making the project to the best of my ability, but after not winning, I felt rejection. Maybe you've had some sort of rejection in life and know how painful it can be. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Unexpected Outcome ~ There are times which you may say or communicate something and the outcome is not what you expected. When someone is working toward a goal and their goal becomes derailed. This derailment causes the receiver to respond in a different manner in which we intended, it will present a sense of rejection. Have you ever felt like this? What is the feeling you felt?
  • Mistaken Identity ~ Jesus went back to His hometown of Nazareth and taught in the synagogue. He started teaching and the people were "amazed" and started asking about His heritage. At one point, this caused them to not believe in what Jesus was saying and sharing. They were calling him a "carpenter's son." This title was trying to demean His authority. It is interesting that they didn't even think about Jesus being the Son of God! If they would have understood who He was, they might have understood His power. Are we like that at times? Do we know who He is, but do not think and appreciate what He is capable of? Let us not mistake His capabilities on our lives!
  • Missed Opportunities ~ The text says that the people missed out on miracles because of their unbelief or lack of faith. I live a lot of life that deals with opportunities as "I'd rather get a 'no' than an 'I don't know.'" I want to kick myself when I think that I may have missed an opportunity for something good. Sometimes we may not know what we miss out on because there was not a hint of it given. However, I would be so mad at making the choice not to "believe" if this was the result - no miracles. I want every ounce of God in my life that I can. May we challenge ourselves to keep our faith high so we do not have any "I don't know" moments when it comes to any God-workings in our life!
Jesus may not have performed many miracles for these people, but He still died for them. Which makes me appreciate some of what He did for us. Even in the times of our unbelief and/or rejecting Him, we were still "died" for. He loves us enough to give himself up for us. He was rejected but He still went on. Do you feel rejected? May we keep going on knowing there is a God that sent His Son and a Son that was willing to die just for you. I hope that gives you some encouragement as you experience any form of rejection in life.

Now it's your turn...what rejection(s) in life have caused you the most grief? How did you bounce back from the setback?

Laying a Foundation, Firmly  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , , , ,

There are certain professions in this world where people are just "asking for trouble." Leadership or executive, in general, is not going to make everyone happy and going to have criticism thrown their way. Officiating in events, whether it is sports or otherwise, is not going to make people happy all the time. Politicians are going to hear a ton of criticism. Just about any profession that will encounter some type of evaluation from others is simply setting you up for a challenge.

However, there are those in those professions that feed off of criticisms. There is some type of a rush that they get from having the responsibility in their hands and wanting to move forward with decisions. This is not a psychopathic type of a rush, but a sense of enjoyment that comes to them. I was one of those that felt a rush when it came to umpiring. I started to enjoy the "boos" that came from the crowd. Part of that is just a "part of the game." Generally, when it came from the crowd, it was simply a selfish "we didn't get the right call" kind of boo. Especially, when it came to balls and strikes. Most of the time the crowd was wrong. Their vantage point is way off from being right there.

Being able to be successful is to use those situations and still be able to perform the job well. That brings us to this week's quote...
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him. ~ David Brinkley
When you have bricks coming your way, it can have a tendency to hit you in the head a few times. Once you get hit in the proverbial head a few times, then you start to duck. Once you start to duck, you realize those are necessary bricks, so you start to catch them. When you catch them, you then start to lay them down for success.

Bricks can help create a foundation. Use the bricks that come your way to help create a good foundation for your week, your career, your mission, your passions, and your life. The bricks are sure to come...deal with them in the right manner!

Now it's your turn...what bricks have taught you lessons? What were you doing when you were receiving those bricks? How have you been able to achieve a sense of success with bricks being thrown your way?

What Will Things Look Like in 2022?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , ,

Some things in life I think will never change, especially when you are living in the moment. However, some things, over the years, have seemed to change. Like a child, who seems to grow faster when you are not around them, things in life seem to change more when you look back on their progress.

Film for cameras is one of those things that has changed drastically over the past ten years. The change is that you practically cannot find film in an average store. There simply is not a market for it anymore. Cameras have gone to digital formats and trying to find film is virtually impossible in the average department store.

Recently I saw a rerun where someone received a gift of a “filmed” camera for a Christmas gift. This scene started me to think about how film was something which seemed timeless. However, it did have its time.

What about some other things in life that have been around for years? What about tires for our vehicles? Will there ever be something that is just as comfortable but maybe doesn’t need any air to maintain a level for a good ride. Also one that has a lot more wear on them? Could they not be made out of rubber but, rather, a chemical mixture to create the substance? You may think “No, we’ll always have tires.” I think that, too. But I also thought we’d always have film in cameras.

What will the differences in the churches look like in 2022? Will there be much of a change in some of the churches by that time? Will songbooks or bibles be practically useless? Will some churches go back to house church only or “sit at home and watch on your computer?” Will we become more casual or go back to more dressed up? Whatever does happen will affect the way we share our faith with others. Ponder it...what will be the trend in 2022?...it will be interesting to find out!

How would you describe "momentarily?" The other day, after completing my order at a fast food restaurant the employee told me our food would be out momentarily." Because I knew the employee I joked and said that "momentarily" was a subjective term. It could be anything from 2 minutes to 20 minutes. If we were speaking from God's perspective, "momentarily" could be hundreds of years. So how would you describe it?

Let's now go with an object to describe. How would you describe an anvil? Imagine you are describing this object to someone who had never viewed one before. How would you describe all the various parts of the anvil. If the person were a sketch artist, who knew nothing about an anvil, would you be able to describe it well enough that the artist could sketch it?

Sunday, we looked at several parables where Jesus uses these parables to help describe the "Kingdom of heaven." Similarly to describing the anvil, each description may take a different approach, but it is still an anvil. Jesus uses different approaches to describe what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. In each one, it is still the "kingdom" just approaches from different angles. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • What's in Your Garden? ~ The weeds in the parable looked similar to the plant. Plus, the weeds grow "close" to the plant. Pulling up the weeds would damage or kill the plant. Additionally, the weeds are not advantageous to the growth of the plant. Look around your life...are there weeds that you need to be aware of? If pulled (removed) on impulse, they would damage you. Maybe they need to be carefully taken away from your life.
  • Grey Poupon? ~ Do you see things that you are doing as insignificant? Are you laboring over things that do not seem to make any difference? Are you being there for people who are not recognizing your efforts? The mustard seed can become quite large, when it becomes a plant. However it starts out as something really small. Keep going, even if you feel insignificant. Your life matters - you matter! Who knows what will come from what you are putting in.
  • Holy Bloating ~ (This may be a stretch) When you are a Christian, we are given the Holy Spirit as a "gift" to take us through life. We are said to be "filled" with the Spirit. As you have this work within you, it will grow and make a difference. Similarly, the yeast works in the dough. May we appreciate and look forward to the work of the Spirit that is within us! As it swells great things are happening!
  • Stumbled Upon ~ It is kind of fun to find-by-accident something you had not seen in a long time. Maybe something you thought you lost but now found. Those that didn't expect to find their faith, but stumble upon it, can appreciate the value and greatness that it brings to your life. Sometimes we do not realize what we have because we haven't stumbled upon it, yet.
  • Finding Pearl ~ To look all over for something and then find it is a great feeling. It may not be something you lost, but another example is going shopping for an item and finding "just the right one." You searched and you found. You value and treasure this item. The Kingdom of Heaven is that "just the right one" type of item that brings a great significance into your life. If you have it...appreciate it!
  • Dragging...the Net ~ The Kingdom will have a lot of the good and the bad involved in it. As we live in the Kingdom, we must be aware that there is a sense of the "race" to the prize is an individual one. As we try to take others with us, everyone must choose for themselves. With that, you will have fish around you, when the net is drug in, that will be good and some that will be bad. We must examine our own self, as well. Which fish are we?
The actual Kingdom of Heaven is the same. But the way it is explained is different. Similarly, you would have various amounts of descriptions for it. I cannot fathom all the depths and breadths of the Kingdom of Heaven. It will always remain a mystery. After studying these descriptions, I still see a great mysteriousness to what is involved.

I loved digging deeper and I loved wanting to dig even more!

Now it's your turn...which description (parable) is the one you like the most and why?

Being In the "In Crowd"  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , , , ,

It doesn't take long in a child's life for them to learn about the "in crowd." We all start out appreciating all people, including peers. However, whether it is from parents or society, we learn that people are going to be in specific groups. The simplest one is whether or not you are in the "in crowd."

As you continue into adulthood, there is another type of "in crowd" but many people will simply join whoever they have in common. There will be various groups. It is interesting to see those who were not in the "in crowd" in high school, but rather they became more "in" with adults.

With adulthood you can belong to a great group depending on how you operate in life. With some people you will try to keep them as friends; whereas other people you will either not care or simply not want to be friends with them. What is likely is that people will determine who you are by your friends. This brings us to this week's quote...

A man is known by the company he keeps, and also by the company from which he is kept out. ~ Grover Cleveland
Who is in your life? Have you ever noticed that people have determined who you are based on the friends you have? Of course, the friends you don't have have been determined in part, at least, by you also.

We all have circles of which we belong. Those circles are going to be categorized by others. Your circle has a category. I don't know what yours would be categorized as, but it does have a name.

Take into account those whom you allow into your close circle and those who you have not allowed into your circle. By either way, you will be categorized.

Now it's your turn...When have you been falsely categorized? When have you categorized someone else?

My grandfather used to grow a good sized garden for a guy who lived in the city. I can remember him creating a PVC watering system that would cover multiple rows. He garden that produced enough stuff for my grandma to can various vegetables, while still enjoying the immediate produce. I can remember plants like corn, tomatoes, green beans, onions, and dill being grown in this garden. I never know if he had a poor year or not; from my perspective it was always a good year.

The soil almost always seemed right which helped in the abundance of produce. We must not forget that he worked hard at making that garden what it became. It didn't simply grow without any help from man. However, that seed he planted would have simply been seed until it penetrated that tilled and softened Oklahoma dirt.

Sunday, we looked at Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 at the parable of the four soils. In essence these four soils represent four hearts. Each one of us have a heart that will be softened toward certain areas and hardened toward others. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Trampled Heart ~ Some hearts have been walked all over. Someone may have just treated you pathetically in life or God hasn't lived up to your expectations. These types of experiences may cause us to be hardened. For instance when that heart hears something about God, it will be impenetrable. It will simply sit on the outside and not be able to penetrate. Is that your heart? What needs to happen in order to have a good crop?
  • Starving Heart ~ Some people eat like they have not eaten in a long time. They simply eat really fast, hardly taking a breath. They greatly desired food so much it is as they were starving. The food will go down well, but won't last long. Is your heart starving for something? If you were able have what you were starving for how would you react? As the heart that desires the Word so much that it will be absorbed quickly. Unfortunately, it will not stick around because there is not enough to sustain it. Is that your heart? What needs to happen to have a long-term produce?
  • Choked Heart ~ You have a desire to have a relationship with Jesus like those you envy. Someone has shown to you what that lifestyle looks like but you cannot seem to make your life look like theirs. You have tried to put Jesus in your life and tried to develop that relationship, but things just haven't worked out to meet your ideal outcome. When life hands you weeds, it is basically choking you out of what you desire. Is that your heart? What has been choking you out of the relationship you desire with Jesus? What needs to happen in order to have a good crop?
  • Fertile Heart ~ Some people seem to be able to grow a garden each year and they have a great reputation for doing so. They put in the work and effort in order to make their crop become plentiful. Just like my grandpa's garden, it takes continual work to make this become the outcome. Is this year heart? If it is your heart, it is likely because you are putting in the effort in order to make it be fertile. You make choices which help in the production of the crop. Continue on, my friend!
We all have hearts. We all have hearts that are hardened and softened toward various things. Some of the topics in which you are hardened toward, others will be softened toward.

We must not forget that others will have hearts that are soft or hard (or somewhere in between) toward hearing of Jesus. When we are trying to share our faith we must keep these hearts in mind. With that understanding, we can relate to how others react to the "good news." Also keep in mind, the seed may sit a while before it starts to grow - let's be patient. May you become ever fruitful in your evangelistic endeavors.

Now it's your turn...when have you experienced any of the first three hearts/soils? And/or when have you seen them in action?

People often need reminded how good they really are. Life has a way of sucking the goodness out of people. Whether it is temporary or long-term, something comes along to be a “goodness sucker.” When you are a child, you want to be notable in your parent’s eyes. You will ask for their attention in various ways. You have a natural instinct to try to achieve that in any way you can. When it is lacking you may “act out” just to receive some attention. As you get a little older the days on the playground will serve as one of your platforms. You will try to be good at the things you try to gain friends and respect. When there is a lack in the areas mentioned, you may become snotty and even mean to try to demand attention. Then the teenage years come and you start to develop a desire to have a place in society. You may start to dress a certain way or talk a certain way, all in hopes to be the best “you.” As you phase into adulthood, the responsibilities become greater as well as greater amounts of stress. You handle each stress differently and may be able to handle some better than others.

In all of these scenarios some things are still vital. What are those vital things? They include the fact that you matter. Whether or not your parents give you the attention you deserve, you matter. Whether or not your friends on the playground think you’re the best at things, you matter. Whether or not people understand why you are acting like you do, you matter. Whether or not the stresses of adult have weighed you down, you matter. In the good and the bad situations in life the same theme runs through it all – you matter.

We can easily forget this when it comes to life, as I speak from experience. Each one of us has various experiences, so what I have experienced may not pale in comparison to what you have experienced. However, as a third child of four, I can remember doing some things to try to make myself stand out in my family. I can remember enjoying attention from my parents. Craving the time spent with mom and dad, individually and together. As I went to a few different schools, I can remember trying to prove myself at each school. Even at the school I attended the longest, I can remember continually trying to prove myself. As one who had struggles as a teen, I can remember trying to be more mature to fit in with those older than I was, including adults. As an adult, I have had various stresses and found myself swimming in worry. I wish I would have had someone there reminding me along the way that I mattered. This last sentence is not to say that I was degraded nor did I never receive any encouragement, but life has a way of drifting. Amongst our drifts, we tend to forget to remember that we matter or remind someone else that they matter.

Recently, I saw the movie titled, “The Help.” This movie was about the lives of black women who served as maids in the homes of white families. The maids were often referred to as “the help.” They were often degraded, due to issues with segregation. Some families built separate bathrooms for their “help” to use. These maids were more than cleaning ladies. They were also nannies to their young kids. They invested their life into their work, caring for the families.

One of the main characters worked for a family with two young children. The older of the two was around three-years old. The maid to this family would often say to this young girl, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” Then, she would have the little girl repeat the phrase back a time or two. She wanted this little girl to know that she mattered, not only in the eyes of the maid eyes but also in the eyes of the little girl.

As a parent, I have found that it is necessary to make sure my kids know that they matter. There have been several times when I told my son that I was proud of him he would get a smile on his face. It immediately showed me how important it was for me to express that to him. There have also been times when he would ask “why” I was proud of him.

For parents, I want to challenge you to let your children know that you are proud of them, not just love them, no matter their age. I still enjoy it when I hear from my parents those types of words. We cannot fill their minds with encouragement that simply makes them feel good but tell them honest words describing why you are proud of them. This is also important when you may be talking to a younger child that is experiencing some jealousy of older siblings.

I also want you, as a reader, to understand that you matter. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. You are good at many things. May you utilize those good things as you go through life. You are important to your culture and society. You have a lot to contribute. You matter to many, including me. Though I may not know you, I would be able to find something to be proud about. Celebrate your accomplishments and revel in your smallest of victories!

Remember, you matter! Now, say this phrase a few times, “You is kind, you is smart, and you is important!”