Today, I’m beginning a personal challenge. A challenge to focus my positive thoughts and hopefully reduce much of the negative thoughts. I believe you would agree with me that words are powerful. The words we speak, think, and read ultimately effect us and others.
Recently, I have noticed that I have been talking about COVID-19 pretty much every day. Understandably, this reality has taken ownership of our daily lives. BUT….I’ve also become very aware that I’m not talking nearly as much about the things in my life that mean the most to me. My relationship with Jesus, my family, hobbies, dreams, etc. With that, here is my personal challenge. Maybe you’d like to attempt it with me. The concept is simple, but pulling it off will be a daily struggle and will require a ton of intentionality. I will be making every effort to completely ELIMINATE these words from my vocabulary. I’m not going to post them, speak them, or read them in the news (Lord willing).
I can hear the laughter already. Here’s where I’m coming from, though. The pandemic has become a daily reality for all of us. It’s everywhere. So, I don’t feel the need to continue talking about it as if it’s a new headline in the news or that it’s going to end anytime soon. I’m moving on in a positive direction today and into 2021. I’m not saying I’m going to act like COVID doesn’t exist, but I don’t need to continue feeding it verbally either. Friends, family, co-workers, feel free to hold me accountable. Better yet, JOIN ME!
Here in WA State we are undergoing more restrictions as COVID numbers are on the rise. Though these are arguably necessary, they are negatively affecting small businesses, grocery shopping, church gatherings, medical treatment, and much more.
My wife and I co-lead our missional faith community and we also work at a very busy grocery store in town. The latest restrictions are causing many in our community to go back into the ‘panic shopping’ that we witnessed last Spring. So, we are feeling all the craziness first-hand.
Thankfully, I was able to spend some significant time reflecting on life and scripture this morning (admittedly for the first time in over a week). And as is always the case with God, he kindly gave me a powerful reminder.
Whatever I speak, write, and post becomes my reality. Those actions (choices) define what is truth in my life. Like it or not, I can’t argue with that.
Let me share with you part of a reflection I wrote in my journal today.
Focus: Acknowledge the circumstances around you without adding to the negativity. Speak optimism & hope whenever possible.
This was big for me. It’s so easy to fall in line with the copious amount of pessimism and chaos in our world today. Allowing myself to simply blend in with the norm of that noise around us doesn’t lead to anything helpful. I don’t know if it’s possible to add white noise to white noise, but this is not what I want to be about.
Hence the title of this post, ‘Permissions > Restrictions.’ We don’t really have many choices in our daily lives when new COVID restrictions are placed on us. But we do have unlimited PERMISSIONS available to us. What do I mean?
You and I have an incredible opportunity to stand out, to be a loud sounding ‘gong’ in all this negative white noise. And it’s so rare right now that people will absolutely notice when we choose to react to negative circumstances differently than the vast majority of our surrounding society.
This does not mean that we ignore facts or act like COVID, politics, social unrest, and financial stress don’t exist. These things are very real and affect real lives. But another very real truth is that we have a loving God in Heaven who offers us wisdom, power, direction, and comfort for the times we live in. And God has given us each other. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have my faith, family, and community.
So….I’m making a declaration on my own personal attitude, my own behavior. For the remainder of November and all through December I will be making a conscious (imperfect) attempt at inserting optimism into conversations with others. The same goes for the thoughts that go on in my mind.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please drop me a comment below.
At the time of this post the Presidential election is still not called. Regardless of who you voted for, I think it’s safe to assume that most of us are very ANXIOUS to know who will be leading our country for the next 4 years.
But I was reminded this morning of a directive & encouraging promise that God offers us.
“Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7
We must pray with urgency and gratitude to God our Father. Then, his unexplainable PEACE will get us through this season, and the next, and the next….
Remember, God already knows who wins this election. May God bless our President, and may God bless America.
I voted yesterday. I live in Washington State, so there are no polling locations. You either mail it in or deposit your ballot in a ballot box. I personally chose the ballot box, mainly because I want to have control of my vote being received. I must admit, however, that the part of me that enjoys affirmation and positive reinforcement does miss being given the badge of honor ‘I Voted’ sticker as a reward for fulfilling my civic duty. Petty, I know…but honest. Is anyone with me on this?
Before you read on, know that this is not going to be a political post. Ok, yes. It seems like everything nowadays is/can be political. I agree. But my heart for sharing my thoughts today is much larger than that.
Between the voters’ guide, multiple state and federal websites and news articles it took me about 90 minutes to fill out my ballot.
(side rant) Does it bother anyone else when there are elected offices on the ballot with a single name? Why should they get my vote simply because they don’t have anyone running against them? I could leave it blank, but….oh, I digress.
Back to who I voted for!
Let me start by listing a few issues/stances that are particularly important to me.
Affordable, quality healthcare should be accessible to every American.
Accurate COVID-19 information must be given to the public in an efficient, timely, and honest manner. In a pandemic, some public health mandates are necessary, but every community is unique and should be given the authority to decide the best course for their community.
A human life begins at conception. And all lives are precious. This must be protected.
Yes, black lives matter. Creating a better, more just future for all people of color in America will not happen by re-writing history and removing statues. History is exactly that…history. But we must make big changes and improvements in our legal system. Equal treatment and equal justice for everyone in our country should be our target. The black community cannot and should not do this alone. White Americans must step up to initiate change with them. What we need is tougher laws against hate crimes and hate speech. Additionally, law enforcement training needs some intentional reform.
The use of diplomacy and military action can both be effective with managing international relations and issues of conflict. It takes humility and wisdom to know when to use either one. The USA puts itself in a bad spot when our Commander and Chief leans heavily one way or the other.
The 2nd Amendment for Americans to posses firearms must be defended. There is, however, much need for better screening and stricter laws for gun owners who don’t have licenses and permits.
Now, combine all of that with the fact that I’m a middle-aged white male, Evangelical Christian, who generally leans toward conservativism. Depending how you view the above issues and what has shaped your own worldview, some of you would assume I voted for Trump. Still, there are others who would think I clearly voted for Biden. Oddly interesting, right?
Regardless of who I voted for and who you vote for, we do need to pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2) and abide by the laws that are enacted during their administration (Rom. 13:1). We don’t have to be happy with whoever is elected President of the United States when we wake up on 11/4, but we must move on. We must continue to move forward. We have a choice to make. We can spend the next 4 years complaining, bashing, protesting whichever administration ends up in the White House….OR we can rise above the circumstances and our own pride to actually work toward bipartisan change.
By now you’re probably realizing that I’m not going to actually name the candidate I voted for. Why? Not because I’m a private person or that I’m worried about people making judgements about me. Simply because there would be no purpose in doing that. When we know who everyone votes for we make judgements on them as a person, assume their political affiliation, and conclude whether or not we are on the same side. All of this is superficial and meaningless.
I honest don’t care how you vote. But I will give much more attention to how our society chooses to move forward and posture ourselves following 11/3.
Yesterday was Monday, but it was my Friday. I lost a job yesterday. The wave of emotions was mixed. In the 30+ years that I’ve been in the workforce this is the first time I’ve actually been ‘let go.’ It was also the main (largest) source of income for our family. Pride and providence are key themes here. God would rather I not be prideful in a job or position. And providing for our family’s needs is ultimately his job, not mine. Yes, I must work. But I shouldn’t worry about if our needs will be met according to my efforts.
Now, I also co-pastor a Missional Community (a faith family) with my amazing wife in Yakima, WA. And I work very part-time at a local grocery store. So, it’s not like I’m unemployed. But it was a pretty significant loss.
This morning I didn’t need to get up at 4:30am for work. I awoke at 9:39am, focusing on my health as I head into this new season. And in my coffee time with Jesus he led me to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. Between this and other readings my wife shared with me came this encouragement and direction.
Jesus reminded me that I’m to practice all of these, not only focus on just one. Praying all the time isn’t very effective if I’m not going to listen. And spending all my time searching only goes so far if I’m not spending time with God and in his written word.
I’m in a new season. And God has blessed me with incredible peace that he is here with me and his plan will be revealed soon.
A disciple is a LEARNER. And when we look at how Jesus interacted with his ‘learners,’ we notice 3 forms of engagement.
1. He taught them, both verbally and by example.
2. He let them experience his WHOLE life, not just the rainbows & unicorns side. (come on, we all have a unicorn side)
3. He extended grace & patience when they screwed things up.
Here’s what we DON’T see in Scripture. Or at least I don’t see it.
1. Jesus taught in the Synagogues (churches), but we don’t see him teaching a Sunday School class on discipleship.
2. He doesn’t provide us with a step-by-step process for making disciples.
3. He definitely doesn’t ask his disciples to do anything that isn’t already a regular part of his own life.
After over 20 years in vocational ministry, I’ve learned that doing organic, unfiltered life with others is the most EFFECTIVE kind of discipleship. We must not place a completion date on it, allowing Jesus to determine that. And lastly, each of us as followers of Jesus really needs to practice being the teacher AND the student…the Rabbi AND the disciple. Meaning, we should be simultaneously learning from the lives of other strong believers AND intentionally guiding others to deeper understanding of God’s Kingdom by way of OUR EXAMPLE.
What’s YOUR experience been with the issue of Christian discipleship? I’m super interested and would appreciate it if you’d drop a comment below.
Don’t you just love it when you’re reading a familiar scripture, one that you’ve read or heard taught on many times before, and something completely new jumps off the page and grabs your attention? Well, that happened to me today so I wanted to share it with you.
I was in Mark 6 today, reading probably one of the most popular and well-known stories in the entire New Testament. Remember the feeding of the five thousand? Let me sum up.
The disciples had just wrapped up a ton of ministry work and teaching and were reporting to Jesus. To which, Jesus asked them to come away with him to a remote place away from the demands of ministry for a time of rest and rejuvenation. They haven’t even really had time to eat. When they had arrived by boat to their destination the crowds met them there. They were recognized from the shoreline and word got around (as it usually did with Jesus).
So, Jesus had compassion on them and continued many teachings into the evening time. This is where it gets interesting! The disciples suggested sending the crowds into the nearby villages to get dinner. I think they really wanted to just get something to eat for themselves. I don’t blame them, I’d have suggested it myself. I love food. But no, the work was to continue because Jesus instructed them to give the people something to eat.
The disciples replied with (I hear a bit of sarcasm in this text) asking him if they should spend a large amount of cash to buy enough bread to feel them all. Jesus asks them quite simply, “How many loaves do you have?” To this, the disciples said, “Five, and two fish.” The story continues from there with how they organized the crowd in groups and everyone ate until they were full. And of course…the leftovers.
Here’s my reflection point. Jesus didn’t ask them anything about fish. He simply asked how much bread they had. I have a couple thoughts on this.
First…the disciples knew their teacher’s heart. Maybe they were simply saving time getting him their entire food inventory knowing he’d probably ask after hearing about the fish.
Or…they could have suspected Jesus was about to do something miraculous (this is my belief) and their hearts were inclined to bring all they had to him in faithful obedience.
This is what God spoke to me in this revelation. When Jesus is about to do something incredible and asks you and I to be part of his work, it’s best to allow him to work with all that we have to offer. This doesn’t always mean that he’s going to use all we have, but I think it’s a heart thing. Don’t you? Just because Jesus doesn’t ask us for something specific does not necessarily mean he doesn’t want it.
What does this section of scripture speak to you today? How is God talking to you through his Word in this season? Comment below 🙂
Welcome to the Faith & Entertainment Podcast! Each episode features followers of Jesus who are professional athletes, recording artists, or actors. I interview each influential guest on their personal faith, how it has impacted their professional careers, and how they journey through difficult seasons of life with Jesus.
Hover over pictures below to reveal guests names. Click anywhere on the collage to visit the podcast home to begin listening!
Athletes & Influencers: Shawn Johnson-East & Andrew East
Recording Artist: Krista Angelucci
Recording Artist: JessLee
Recording Artist: Morgan Myles
Recording Artist: Land of Color
Recording Artist: Charly Reynolds
Recording Artist: Grayson Rogers
American Ninja Warrior: Michelle Warnky
Recording Artist: Jamie O’Neal
Let me know who YOUwould like me to interview next for this series! Drop a comment below. I am an ordained pastor in the Church of God. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and have been working in faith-based counseling for over 20 years. Each of these discussions have greatly encouraged me, and I pray they encourage you too.
I’ve been participating in the OneWord365 movement for well over 6 years now. The concept of focusing on just one single word for an entire year has helped me to give concentrated attention to an area of my life in a simple but powerful way.
For both 2018 & 2019, I used #Moments in social media posts involving family, special occasions, etc. to help me acknowledge the daily blessings in life that I might normally let slip by. I’ve learned to not take these for granted.
After having the same word for two consecutive years, it took weeks for me to discover my word for 2020. But, here it is…LEAN.
First and foremost, I desire to LEAN into the person, presence, and influence of Jesus daily.
Second, I cheated a bit on this so that I could incorporate four additional words. I spelled out ‘LEAN’ within the words Daily, Reset, Peace, and Kindness.
Daily – Building predictable patterns, or regular habits, into my life has become something of great importance to me. Simply stated (and not so simply practiced), I want to maintain this focus each and every day. This requires discipline and prioritizing.
Reset – If I keep this specific area of focus in front of me each day it will allow me to ‘reset’ my mind, my attitude, and my priorities.
Peace – Also known as calm, restful, and tranquil. Philippians 4:7 reminds me, ‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Who doesn’t desire this?
Kindness – Confession time. It seems that the older I get, the more irritable I become with even small things. So, I want to practice the art of reacting slowly. James 1:19 says, ‘Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;’
Here’s the connection. Only by effectively leaning into Jesus every day will I be able to grow in these other four areas.
Lastly, as a new approach to my OneWord I will be writing a 7-day scripture/prayer reflection based on my OneWord. This really excites me.
Do YOU have a OneWord365 to give you clear vision in 2020? (Sorry, I had to slip that in there) Leave a comment below.