The Journey to Porcelain  

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When I was studying art in college, I had to take a pottery class. It was a medium of art I had never had the privilege of working with. To say the least, it was difficult. I improved my skills throughout the semester, but did not come close to "having a handle" on this art form.

I remember being a bit frustrated when I would go to "paint" my pots and not know where colors were going to appear. Some colors will appear a different color as when they go through the kiln.

As life hands each one of us our fair share of challenges, we may forget what we can become through the challenges. Our lack of remembering is likely due to the fact we are uncomfortable going though the process and want leave the situation. This brings us to this week's quote...

A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go though the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain. ~ Mildred White Struven
There are a few things in life which we do not need to ever come out so hard that we are no longer flexible. However, this seems to not be the case in this quote.

Sometimes life can seem to be tough and cause us to experience some heat. That, however, is not the same as a furnace. The sun can appear pretty very hot, especially on summer months. Even with that heat, it does not compare to the furnace heat.

Furnace heat is extremely hot. I cannot imagine how hot a furnace would get. Regardless, the heat that is found in the furnace is needed to help the clay journey to become porcelain.

Now it's your turn...What have you experienced that has been the heat of your "furnace" which has helped you get through life issues?
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Graduates...Go Be a Hero!  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , ,

Inside each one of us is a hero. One who will persevere in difficult times. One who will lift others up when they are down on themselves. One who has a passion to see that companies or communities change because of a vision they possess.

Heroes aren't determined by the superficial qualities one possesses, but thy the qualities that make up the character of the individual

A few years ago I was given the privilege to address a group of graduating seniors. I not only wondered who would be the heroes that emerged out of that class, but in what ways they would become heroic.

The spiritual message was couched around part of the story of Moses. Most know that Moses parted the Red Sea, through God's supernatural intervention, to give the Israelites a way of escaping from the Egyptian army. However, some may not know that Moses did not originally desire to be their leader. When God approached Moses at the burning bush and told him he was going to lead the people of Israel out of bondage, Moses felt afraid and incapable.

Though Moses made excuses and saw the task before him as seemingly impossible, he still emerged as a hero. He had the privilege of leading as man as 2 million people out of bondage and into freedom.

We all have opportunities to "lead" others, which may cause us to make excuses, just like Moses. We might think, "I'm not good enough" or "no one ever listens to me."

However, making excuses only prevents us from becoming the hero that we're given the opportunity to be.

As you think about what you can become, whether you are a graduate or not, how will you be a hero to the people you come in contact with? You have the power to decide.

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Failures Will Quickly Fade  

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To put a number on the number of failures I've had in life would be difficult to count. From failing a conversation to a test to personal hopes, I've failed. Once nice thing is that most of the ones that I have failed at, I hardly remember. They tend to become a blur as I deal with the here-and-now and not think about the other failures.

If I were to guess, I'd bet you would have the same types of "memories" as I do. That brings us to this week's quote...

There are no more committed people on the planet than surfers. We fall down a lot. We turn around, paddle back out, and do it over and over again. Unlike anything else in life, the stoke of surfing is so high that the failures quickly fade from memory. - Surfer, Gary Sirota
I would guess that with each outing a surfer goes through, there are going to be about a 5-1 ratio of falls to "rides." That is just a wild guess, since Kansans do not do much surfing. However, to think about how many times they go out and how many times they fall off, there has to be a huge number of times the fall happens. However, I doubt they think about it much, for they just get back on and paddle out.

For you and I, to have times in our lives where we simply fail, we are challenged to get back on the surf board, paddle out and ride the wave again.

I challenge you to not give up, but rather keep getting back on the surf board and looking for the next wave to ride. It may be the biggest one that's ever been ridden, yet!

HANG TEN, DUDE!

Now it's your turn...You may know nothing about surfers, but what do you think about their commitment?
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A common comedic storyline is when a group of people are on a journey and they decide to take a shortcut. It will tend to never work out, in the end. The follies that follow are just part of the humorous storyline. The concept of the shortcut sets things up quite well for the laughs of the "shortcut."

Someone will think that going on the shortcut will be much easier than following the general plan. In the scene we looked at on Sunday, we saw Jesus healing a paralytic and being the victim of the evil thoughts from the "teachers of the law." As we reflect back on that lesson, I want to look at what the "teachers of the law" did as a result of seeing Jesus perform the miracle and pointing it toward our behaviors. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Blasphemer ~ A blasphemer is someone who has spoken injuriously about God. It also means to hurt the reputation or credit of someone. Think about how you may have had instances in your life that you possessed these qualities about God. You may not have said something outright that defames God, but are other times when you are reducing the power of God to only be able to handle what you think He can handle? I think we need to watch our hearts and see if we are demonstrating a blaspheming attitude.
  • Hating ~ Hating can come out in various forms. Hating can be a result of feelings of prejudice, anger, jealousy, or envy. When we are seeing the skills or opportunities of someone else be better than our own skills, do we catch ourselves thinking negatively about them? These types of "evil thoughts" are going to be damaging to our spiritual life. Let's rid them before they rid us!
  • Let Go ~ Storing up evil thoughts about someone is not healthy. The more we keep something around the more we are going to entertain the thoughts about them. If they are negative, they are going to create some figurative pus and cause some infectious issues! Let them go, even when it's hard to do so. Negative should not be harbored!
It may be easier, in our minds, to think we need to hold on to a grudge, a jealous thought, or something similar. However, we don't realize, until it is gone, how heavy and how much effort it takes to hold on to those. We carry around these things all day, every day and it will become wearisome.

Jesus knows what you have "in you" which you need to let go of. Now it's your turn to try to start releasing those "evil thoughts." How will you go about doing it?
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Everyone has different learning styles. Certain groups are going to have similar styles and may be grouped into one of a few various styles. I think we all possess the ability to learn something from every methodology; we just prefer one or two more.

Maybe you are a person who likes to sit and listen to people. You may soak it in. Or you may see something and retain the information better. I think a combination of one of those with "doing" will help you grasp the concept all the more. That brings us to this week's quote...

Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand. ~ Unknown
It seems there are so many areas this quote is applicable. Directions, for instance, someone could tell me how to drive from one place to another and I may remember some of it (presuming there are several turns, etc.). I may be able to visualize it, to remember it more, if shown on a map. However, I will likely understand it much more after I have driven the route and know what to look for as I drive.

Careers are another example. You can go to college and be told many things, but that doesn't guarantee that you will know how to "do" a job. You can shadow someone for any length of time and see how they respond to various situations, but you are different and may respond differently. You can live and work in a career and be able to understand far more than you were ever told or shown, so to be able to do well at your job.

A third example is parenting. Were you one of those that had the "great ideas" before you had kids? "My kids aren't going to act like that" may have been your thoughts; partially because you thought you knew how to handle a child. I was one of those. To some extent that may be true, as I read or heard things on parenting. Following an example, TV or real life, I've learned some other ways of effective parenting. However, actually being in the middle of it, I have learned much more. As each child is different, there are applications to parenting one must apply at various times in various ways.

I like this quote when it comes to being involved in their Christian walk. There is only so much one can retain when told about the information pertaining to Christianity. I use a projection system to help people retain the information a bit more, and that only goes so far. Trying to spur people on to practicing the things they are informed about will allow them to retain much more or making the information that is being told and shown to them stick in an experiential way, also increases retention.

As you go through life, do not let yourself be limited by the auditory or the visual, rather go out and do things to grasp the deeper knowledge.

Now it's your turn...what is your example of gaining more knowledge of experiencing over hearing or seeing?
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Mother's Day is a unique day of the year. I have always found it fun to be able to do something special for moms - both my mom, my wife, and even other moms. It is a time of year that the family seems to say "thanks" when they may not say it much the rest of the year. Kids will make the "cutesie" things for their moms or buy them something with the idea of "greatest mom" on it.

This year, my son saw a card that had earrings connected to it. The earrings were decoration for the card not a "bonus" to give to one's mom. He initially said he wanted to pick that one out because of the earrings. I thought he was going to want to buy his mom some earrings. Since my wife likes to lean toward "real" jewelry, I didn't want to have to deny him the opportunity to buy her some earrings. Luckily, he was just meaning the card, which was not the one he ultimately chose (thank goodness!).

It was fun to hear him give an answer for what he was wanting to buy her. He wanted to buy her, either a "fancy" or "nice" dress. He is already thinking that she would want "pretty" things. Kids pick up on this quickly!

In the sermon, we focused on three women, Jochebed (Moses' mom), Hannah (Samuel's mom), and Eunice (Timothy's mom). As we looked at these, we saw some ways they, as women and moms, loved out loud to their children. Something I think most moms thankfully do, already. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Sacrifice: Jochebed ~ Mom's are probably the most sacrificial people. They are willing to go through pains in life for their kids (and mate). They will give up appointments, take menial jobs, eat the scraps, and a whole lot more just to allow their family to have the better end of a situation. Jochebed was one who sacrificed "everything" so that Moses could live. It turns out it was for the best. He did survive and also lead his people out of Egypt. May we take from Jochebed that she would sacrifice so much for her children; this case, for Moses, and may we sacrifice for others.
  • Commitment: Hannah ~ Even following through with the simplest of tasks can be a challenge. Making a deal on the front side, before the answer, can cause a lack of following through with that commitment. Hannah prayed a prayer committing to offer her son to God, if she were permitted to have a child. God opened her womb and she became pregnant. One of the greats about the story is that she followed through with her plan, after consulting God. May we take from Hannah a commitment to follow through to God (and others).
  • Faithfulness: Eunice ~ As a mother typically has a strong bond with the children, sometimes the mother's faith can be more influential. We don't know the extent of Timothy's mom's faith, but she was commended by Paul regarding that faith. May we see the example and importance of putting faith into the lives of those we influence as we practice "loving out loud."
Mothers are special and unique. They may be females to begin with, but when they become a mom, it is as if they go through a neat change. I am speaking as a male and a father. I know there was a change in me once I had children. I also have observed this in many women who became moms. Most all of them that thought "one way" now think totally different because they have kids to take care of.

I think it is awesome that my wife was given the privilege of becoming a mom. I always knew she would be a great one!

Now it's your turn...what has been some great memories of your Mother's Day, either this year or years past?
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Tuesday's Text  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

I love to encourage! See the right hand column (or on my home page on the right hand column how you can start receiving free texts of encouragement each Tuesday!)

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As a parent, one of the many fun memories is to have the chance to see your child take their first steps. These are not simply the steps the exact time when they start walking, but even over the following days, weeks, and months. If you've been a parent or guardian of a child you understand my point of view.

However, are these "steps" limited to the one-foot-in-front-of-another kind? I would say "no." There are all kinds of steps a child takes as they grow up. Steps are more than with feet. There are steps to completing a project. Similarly, there are steps a person takes to growing up. Some examples may be feeding oneself, talking, running, going to preschool, playing T-ball, dance recitals, 4H groups, learning the books of the Bible or memory verses, and the list could continue. All these can be exciting and challenging.

In almost all of these steps, the end was not able to be seen because one would not know the extent of the success that may come about in any particular situation when you are at the beginning. However, without taking the first step, the end would never be known. This brings us to this week's quote...

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King had some good sayings for people to take to heart. Faith is essentially invisible. Whereas the demonstration of faith is tangible. Faith has power, like the wind, but cannot be seen without the effect.

I remember when I was a few months away from graduating from preaching school. I wondered how I was going to be able to do the job which I was being trained to do? As time grew closer, I became more nervous. When the time came for me to take my first job, my thoughts pretty much came true. I was so much more inadequate than I realized. I felt like I was taken out into the country and asked to find my way back.

Today, I am still inadequate, but I have a better grip on things. I rely more on God and less on me. Though I never know what is going to be around each corner, I do not make that a priority. My priority is taking the next step and looking forward to the surprise that God will bring about. (and boy, do I look forward to God's surprises!)

Now it's your turn...what, in your life, do you need to take the first step in faith without seeing the whole staircase?
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What Kind of Man is This?  

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If I were to ask you who was the greatest man of the 20th century? Would you be thinking of an athlete? Would you be thinking of a President? Would be thinking of a musician? Would it be someone totally different? I would like to know who you're thinking of, at the end you can leave a comment.

After you've thought of who you were thinking of, think of what made them rise to the top of your list. You are going to have a number of reasons why that person was above someone else. That is one of the interesting things about this process is that you decide. Nothing is wrong about your answers, they are simply going to be different.

When you think of those reasons, they are reasons that are above all the other men who you contemplated that could have been the "greatest man of the 20th century." Even if that man was your father, brother, or someone of non-celebrity status, they have amazing qualities that resonate with you.

When the disciples experienced the storm and then Jesus calming that storm, they were amazed. Wouldn't you be? The weather went from 10 to 1 in a matter of moments. Who can do that? The answer is easy to give, yet sometimes hard to comprehend. The answer is Jesus. He can do it. He did that. What kind of man is this? A great one!

As we focused on the portion of scripture in Matthew (8:23-27) that talks about this incident. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • What Makes Him Great? ~ What is one or more reasons that makes Jesus "great" or "amazing" in your mind? Was it the healing? The resisting temptation? The willingness to die for you? Is it something else? Why is that reason(s) so important to you? Allow the reason(s) you chose to be a motivator to live a life that reflects you think He's great
  • Expect the Storms ~ Life is spicy - nothing is never the same from one week to the next. My week, last week, had some "lightning and thunder" to it, though no actual storm came. I was asked to do something out of the ordinary and I didn't expect it. However, things will come when we're going with the Father!
  • Enjoy the Calm ~ You could ask the disciples on that boat of what section they would like the best - the calm, storm, or some other portion? You would probably have a lot of "calm" voters. As you make it through your storms in life, enjoy calm in life, as well. When you are there, in the calm, don't forget to say "thanks."
This man, Jesus, is a great one, an amazing one!

Now it's your turn...what makes Jesus great to you?

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cc Within the past few months a video on YouTube was released that was titled “Why I hate Religion, but Love Jesus,” by Jefferson Bethke. At the time of this writing the video currently has been viewed 20,757,918 times. This video went “viral,” which is one that becomes popular through the process of Internet sharing. I am sure that some of those numbers were repeated views. However, that number is still astonishing. It definitely raises some questions for us all.

If you haven’t viewed the video, what are your initial thoughts from the title? Does it strike you as true or false? Regardless of your answer, why did you answer it the way you did?

If you have viewed the video, what was your reaction? Agree or disagree? Why or why not?

Often times the term “religion” has been symbolic of “Christianity.” The problem seems to be when “religion” becomes equal to “Christianity” because they are not. Religion shows the institutional side of Christianity, which many seem to not be attracted to at all. Christianity is about Christ, which I see is about relationships. Religion is about showing up and checking off a list of duties you deem necessary. Christianity is about putting self second to other things to live a life of servitude.

Religion attempts to look good, from the structures or d├ęcor of the buildings to the clothes you are wearing. Christianity may look nice but that isn’t a priority.

I grew up with “religion” in mind. The denomination I have attended since birth made “doing it right” a priority over what it actually means to “do it right” outside of the church building. I had no idea what I was supposed to “do” in my everyday life; how I was supposed to live out my Christianity. I only knew I was trying to get “you” to look like me.

In one portion of Jefferson’s poem he challenges by saying, “Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice; Tend to ridicule God's people, they did it to John The Baptist; They can't fix their problems, and so they just mask it; Not realizing religion's like spraying perfume on a casket.”

I think that grace is one of those “Christianese” words that we have used in churches forever. However, the depth of its use has become stripped and devalued. It has become a selfish word, meaning that you like grace given to you but have a difficult time giving it to some people. It is a challenging word to practice. The time you need to practice it may be the most difficult. The religious will sometimes throw the “Jesus” card out there to think He will fix everything, when, in fact, He may not. So, His name is used as a mask when a situation may not actually get better. On occasion, using phrases like “God will make a way,” “He doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” or “God works all things out for good” are phrases that have truth in some circumstances but are not guarantees for every situation.

Here are some additional lines from Jefferson’s poem, “See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core; It's just behavior modification, like a long list of chores; Like lets dress up the outside make look nice and neat; But it's funny that's what they use to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath.” Have you ever had a religious experience where you didn’t feel you made it past the surface? Instead, you did your religious things out of duty? Or dressing up to look nice. How about the thought of looking like religious “mummies” by dressing up? Religion just seems to be about the wrong things. It tends to keep away the relationship and is concerned about the “what” you do in life and how often it’s done.

We can all put on a good front, as that is what the institutionalized part of “religion” seems to cause us to do. It is like Jefferson put it, “like [we’re] saying [we] play for the Lakers just because [we] bought a jersey.” We want to look like we belong to Jesus but it doesn’t go past the covering.

The “religious” in the Bible were often corrected for their outside acts and dead hearts. Jesus called them fools. All they were doing was living a life following the rules. The church needs to let Jesus in, not just spew “Jesus” out from their mouths. Jesus is the cure for sin and “religion” can cause you to have an infection. It makes you feel good but it doesn’t go deep. Religion causes us to work but Jesus already did the work.

Understanding what Jesus did and why God allowed what Jesus did should cause us to be eternally grateful and humbled. It is not us who had to pay the penalty we deserved to receive because of sin. When sin came into the world, in the Garden of Eden, God separated Himself from us. To allow Jesus to die was God’s plan to be able to have the intimate relationship with us. Religion simply does not do that. Those that have a relationship with Jesus are religious, in nature, but those that are religious do not necessarily have a relationship with Jesus.

I am thankful that Jesus died so that I can have a relationship with Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit. May I never be just religious.
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Living in western Kansas means that you are going to experience some windy days. It is a prominent weather outcome whenever there is going to be a change in the weather. It is not odd at all to have a forecast of 15-25 mile per hour winds for a day. That might be our norm. To have a forecast of 35-45 would be less frequent, but not out of the ordinary. People still go on with their activities for the day. Is this complained about, yes. Is it accepted, yes.

Last week I was flying to Atlanta, Georgia and the captain alerted us that it was windy there. He was also warning us about our landing, as that may be a bit rough, due to the wind. Aside from the landing, I had to laugh to myself about the description of it being "windy." Living in Illinois for a few years, their windy was not the same as "western Kansas" windy. Descriptions are subjective, so to be told something is windy is relative upon their view.

How do you respond when you experience a day that is windy? That brings us to this week's quote...

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. ~ William Arthur Ward
If this quote accurately labeled people, then I've seen a lot of pessimists in my day! However, I think you can be pessimistic about "areas" in life, where you will be optimistic about other areas. Regardless, I found the quote interesting in a few ways.

For one, it may be talking about the wind, but really it seems to be pointing to life. Those that tend to have a life filled with complaints are going to look at life pessimistically. Those that are always looking on the "bright side" are going to see things optimistically. Those that see life as unpredictable and will encounter victories with celebrations and defeats as opportunities to learn seem to see things realistically.

The question is where are you in most cases? Are you to one extreme or another? How does life treat you when you see things a certain way?

May we lead more of our life "adjusting our sails" rather than the other two extremes.

Now it's your turn...What was your reaction to the quote?
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