Perspective is everything!. Here’s what my wife and I have been experiencing in the recent six months.
Moved into a new home.
Three positive COVID tests in the family.
Finally bought a second car.
Missed Thanksgiving due to quarantine.
Gave up a great job.
Our first grandchild was born.
Missing out on a big leadership retreat in Lake Tahoe.
And the list goes on. Challenges and blessings, all of it. That’s where perspective comes in. It would be easy for me to say that the past six months have been really difficult. While that may be true, I’m challenging myself to change my perspective and language. Another way to frame this is to state that it’s been really BIG. See the difference? It’s still true, but ‘big’ identifies both the negatives and the blessings.
Know what else? God…God is BIG! His promises, power, and love for us is absolutely enormous. We don’t even have the ability to comprehend all that he is.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. Psalm 147:5
God has proven to be bigger than my worst trials, and active in BIG ways with every single blessing I’ve had. Is this true for you too?
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The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us quite poetically that there is a time for everything. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to start a podcast and a time to end it so you can focus more on writing.
Ok, so all you Bible scholars caught me. That last part isn’t in the Bible. But the general lesson still remains. Seasons come and go. There really is an appropriate time for everything.
Today, I made the difficult decision to shut down the Faith & Entertainment Podcast. I had a blast with this show and it did serve a purpose for a season. I was blessed to be able to meet and interview guests like Jamie O’Neal, Michelle Warnky, Shawn Johnson-East & Andrew East, Jenny Catron, Holly Tucker, April Kry, and so many more! We talked openly about living a life of faith in Jesus while pursuing careers in professional sports, acting, and music. And the biggest compliment I received about the show wasn’t comments or shares from listeners. It came from the guests expressing how they really appreciated the chance to talk about their faith in an authentic and safe place. I’ve even been able to stay in touch with many of them since their interviews. You can still listen to each episode now through 03/04/2021 if you like.
Part of my decision to drop the show and focus on my blog is that I’ve learned I’m a much better writer than presenter. Plus I’ve had my blog for over 14 years. The podcast actually began as a blog interview with well-known entertainers and evolved into a podcast after recording my interview with Olympic gold medalist & gymnast, Shawn Johnson-East and her husband. With that, I would say that it’s highly likely this blog may showcase additional interviews in the future.
Seasons come and go. They change with time. The podcast isn’t the only thing changing for me. (If you have listened to the podcast, thank you!) My wife and I had to quarantine not long ago for 12 days. She tested positive for COVID-19. I’m pretty sure I had it somewhere along the line too, even though I tested negative three times. I’ve been struggling with COVID ‘brain fog’for a number of weeks now. It hasn’t greatly effected daily life for me, but it has caused me to step down from a remote job with our faith network that I took on back in August, 2020. But I am grateful that I am still able to function well in my other two careers.
One very positive season that has arrived for us is Winter! I’m not talking about the cold, snowy one. I mean our new grand-daughter, Winter Rose. Cailey and I have officially become grandparents….and we’re loving it!
That’s enough about me. So, what about you? What changing seasons, decisions, blessings, or challenges have you faced in recent months. Drop a comment below.
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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.