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COVID Life Sucks, but God Still Offers Peace!

(Not a political blog post, but one of personal struggle and faith)

I live in Washington State. Yesterday, our governor announced a state-wide mask mandate for everyone regardless of vaccination status.

Now, I have made the personal choice to receive the vaccine. But I was against it for a very long time. It simply bothers me that government institutions are pressing heavily on people to get a vaccine injected into their body that to this day still has not been approved as safe and effective by the FDA. I chose to get it on my own timing and for my own reasons. And I completely support those who have chosen not to get it.

This entire discussion will change once the FDA fully approves it.

For now, however, we are stuck with a gigantic question. How do we approach daily life at work and at home with positivity and hope when virtually everything we see in the news and that is being forced upon us by our elected officials points to despair and frustration?

I have come to realize something this week. Allowing ourselves to float aimlessly down the river of societal unrest not only does not help us, but it actually causes us to get more unhealthy. Our clarity of thought, mental health, and overall outlook on our world gets flushed down a truck stop toilet when you and I allow mainstream news outlets, social media, Hollywood, and self-serving politicians to shape how we decide to live our day and treat others.

Do you agree?

I spent the entire evening last night feeling sick to my stomach. My anxiety was higher than it’s been in months. “Take slow, deep breaths. Stop looking at the news” I would try to tell myself.

I slept 9 hours last night and I still awoke feeling like I had been drug on the ground behind a running horse through the desert. After taking my wife to work I came home, took a shower, and sat down at the table with God, His word, and my journal. It was time to have a discussion.

Next, I was reminded of the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us these traits are ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ These are character traits that God hopes His followers will develop for every season of life.

One of my favorite quotes over the last 30 years comes from pastor and author, Charles Swindoll. He says, “My attitude is made up of 10% my circumstances, and 90% how I react to them.”

Ouch!!! My 90% reaction last night contained none of the above-mentioned 9 Spiritual traits.

This is what led me to write this post today. I am a pastor and follower of Jesus. If that’s you as well, we are called by God to be set apart from the norms of the world. God asks us to stand out in how we love and how we posture ourselves when facing fear, frustration, and uncertain times.

May I encourage you today? Especially if you have been feeling similar to me recently, take time first thing in the morning and again right before bed to meditate on God, His goodness, His promises, and His power. I’m going to do my best to do this too.

I’ll leave you with this. Yes, I have very strong opinions on how our leaders are facilitating the COVID situation, what’s occurring in Afghanistan, racial injustices, the current labor shortage in America. But when it boils down to it, our character and public posture must be shaped by God’s word and strength, NOT by the social issues that dominate today’s news headlines.

Do you agree? What do you struggle with most today? Have you figured out how to keep yourself centered and positive in the midst of the current chaos we live in, or do you struggle like I do?

Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Contentment Is Learned

I don’t make enough money. I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Workplace negativity annoys me. Extreme social behaviors fueled by the pandemic often cause me to have ill feelings towards others.

Can you relate, or am I alone on this?

While all of these statements are true for me in my head, I also recognize that the magnitude of their truth only grows when I give it permission.

I don’t make enough money. Actually, I do. ‘Enough’ is relative. I have enough because God always provides for my needs. I may not have excess, but excess is not essential.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night. True…but I could have went to bed earlier. I wasn’t proactive.

Workplace negativity annoys me. Ok, so why don’t I choose to allow it to energize me to be an element for change toward more positivity?

Extreme social behaviors fueled by the pandemic often cause me to have ill feelings towards others. It is what it is. I’m not going to singlehandedly change societal behaviors, most of which are personal pet peeves anyway. I even talked with my therapist about this. (Yes I’m in therapy. Healthy people seek help while unhealthy people remain unhealthy in their solitude) She challenged me, “Why are you allowing others (strangers) to occupy so much of your limited emotional capacity?” Yeah, good question.

You see, all of these examples of mine are choices. Choices for action or mindset. Choosing to take the better path is usually more difficult and requires conscious effort. But we CAN do it!

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬

The apostle Paul wrote this in one of his letters while imprisoned. He had learned to be content because of his past experiences, both of pain and joy. He shares that in every circumstance he has learned the ability to ‘do all things’ in order to live in contentment because of the strength made available to him through Jesus.

Now, you and I don’t always have the ability to change the circumstances around us. But we do have choices regarding how we model walking through them.

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You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram! Here’s a little about me if you’re interested.

What If Pike’s Peak Disappeared?

God’s love for you and I is more consistent, guaranteed, and tangible than it is for mountains and hills to be in their same place each morning.

Our family lived in Colorado Springs for a couple years. The front range was majestic. And Pike’s Peak could be seen virtually from any location in town. Residents could count on it being there.

And yet, scripture tells us that it’s more likely for Pike’s Peak to disappear than it is for God’s love for us to cease.

Rest in that truth today. And if you are finding it hard to believe, take that to God. Be honest with Him. He only has warm, open arms for you.

Be blessed.

Subscribe to the blog newsletter HERE to stay in the loop with an occasional email from me (not enough to be annoying).

You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram! Here’s a little about me if you’re interested.

I Lost My Job Today

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.

What is God reassuring you in this season?

My OneWord For 2020

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.

OneWord 2020

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.

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How To Weather The Seasons Of Life Like A Boss!

Ha, that title is the EPITOME of click bate (and I do hate click bate).

I’m not weathering my personal current season of life like a boss, so why would I even attempt to write something like this for anyone else?

Easy.  I’ll give you two reasons.  1. This isn’t really for you.  It’s for me.  Writing helps me process my thoughts, mood, and ultimately my actions.  So there!  2. Confession.  Yep, sharing my own shortcomings will hopefully keep me humble, and might even encourage someone else along the way.

So, with that….

fall

For many of us, changes in the four seasons require certain behaviors from us.  Here are a few examples.  Our clothing changes depending upon how warm or cold it is outside.  One season may call us to shovel snow or put de-icer on the driveway.  At other times in the year cutting the grass or raking leaves might be in the cards.  And the list goes on.  There is very little, if anything, you and I can do to avoid these types of elements.  We are forced to make modifications to accommodate the particular elements of each season.

winter

The seasons of life are absolutely no different!

We must look ahead, prepare, and sometimes expect the inevitable challenging elements.

spring

Take empty nesting, for example.  As much as I knew it was coming, it felt like it came out from nowhere!  This is still a challenge, even though it is going really well.

In the past 6 months, my wife and I have:

  • Relocated back to our home state of Washington from Colorado. (with two of our kids, plus a fiance’)
  • Begun discovering what leading a Missional Community looks like.
  • Started adjusting to military life with a son in the Navy. (he’s shipping over seas next week)
  • Getting used to another son living away in Colorado.  It’s hard when they’re not close.
  • Discovered the health and beauty of doing bi-vocational ministry in our community.

summer

In all of that, here are a few ways we have tried to weather these seasons like bosses!

Community | Authenticity changes everything.  Plus, God created us to live in community with one another and with Him.  To support and encourage each other.

Meditation | Prayer, or often simply sitting in the Lord’s presence.  In this current season, sometimes all I can do is sit quietly by myself and think about Jesus.  Sitting with Him while doing nothing is so therapeutic!

Exercise | Even when we don’t feel like it.  My wife and I go to the gym 5-6 times each week.  We’re not always excited about this, so it is helpful when we hold each other accountable to go weather we feel like it or not.  The key here is simply to remain active somehow.

Talk | With each other.  For us, this has made our marriage even stronger.  We share our real anxieties & pain with each other.  I realize this is a significant struggle for most men, but trust me.  Your marriage will advance to a level it’s never been before!

Journaling | I use Evernote and blog.  If you prefer the old fashioned paper and pen, try getting yourself a nice Moleskin tablet.

In the end, all seasons come to an end so that new ones can begin. The Bible reminds us that there is a season for everything, a time for every matter under heaven.  This should encourage us when we are in a dark season that better days are coming.  Likewise, it gives us advanced warning when things are sailing smooth that …

What about you?  What season are you in, and what have you found to be helpful to weather it?

OR….which of the items I mentioned above tend to be challenging to actually implement?

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Comments and questions are welcome below.

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Movements Toward God

Watch this music video by Rend Collective.  My personal insights follow below.

I pray the lyrics to this song meet you where you are in life today.

 

I simply LOVE this worship band (family).  I appreciate their hearts for worship and Kingdom Ministry.  Because of their obedience to God’s call on each of their lives, I’ve been encouraged and strengthened through some significantly challenging seasons in recent years.  In fact, one of my favorite songs (My Lighthouse) is the reason we have a developing lighthouse theme in our home.

Check out this verse from the video…

I wanna stand true
No matter what’s new or comes through
I can’t stand still
Whatever hits I’ll keep making movements to You

As a believer in Jesus, this is what I hope to be true of me.  That whatever hits my life, whenever it occurs, I will be able to continue making movements (progression) toward my God.

Would you consider sharing this post with someone you know this week?

 

Comments, prayer requests, and questions are welcome below.

You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram!

 

You Cannot Google-Search God

Well, not God himself…but his greatness.  Check this out.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.  (Psalm 145:3) 

Have you ever searched the internet for a specific website or topic, and you just get this page error?  Well, the same thing occurs if you attempt to Google search ‘God’s Greatness.’

404

Unsearchable: a primitive root meaning to be nothing or not exist.

When the Psalmist claims that God’s greatness is unsearchable, he literally means that the ability to gain full, comprehensive understanding of all that defines the greatness of God does not exist!  You and I can scratch the surface of that understanding and we can experience a portion of that greatness in our own lives and story.  But to search and find all of his greatness?  My friend, it’s just not possible.

Why?

Simply because his greatness is so vast and astounding that our finite mortal brains cannot contain it.  It would be like trying to save 5 terabytes of valuable family photos on a 1 gigabyte flash drive.  It would be impossible!

So, why is this a good thing?  I’ll answer that with a question.  Do you want to serve and worship a god who has limits?  One who you can easily define and contain inside a box?

I didn’t think so 🙂

I’ll leave you with this final thought.  Just because God’s greatness is unsearchable does not mean we should not attempt the search anyway.  The journey to searching the greatness of God leads to a clearer understanding of the ‘HEART’ of God.  The only way to discover new things about God’s heart is to enter into the abyss of the unsearched.

 

Comments, prayer requests, and questions are welcome below.

You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram!

Why You’re Being Attacked

Does God’s Spirit ever hit you on the head when you are reading the Bible or a good devotional?  Well, that happened to me today.  And this quote particularly stuck out to me.

blessed.001.jpg

There’s a reason you are being attacked.  (If you’re not, go encourage someone who is)  You are blessed and favored by our Father in Heaven.  And the enemy…well, he comes after the blessed and favored.

By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.  But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever. – Psalm 41:11-12

Yes…God does delight in YOU!  Keep your eyes laser-focused on Him and maintain your integrity.  The only power/influence the enemy has over you is what you give him.  We have already won because He already has the victory.

This is as much a reminder to myself as for anyone, but I thought I’d pass it on to you as well.  Hang tight….your current struggle is not without purpose and Jesus IS walking with you every step of the way.

 

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Sabbatical | Day 3

This is technically Day 4, but I still want to share from yesterday.

(Be sure to check out my Day 1 and Day 2 posts)

The key moments for me were continuing my reading in ‘No Other Gods’ and having some sweet time of personal worship.  I find it cool how the Lord can enter into fellowship with me while simply lying on my back in my hotel room with my earbuds in.

When we take the time for Him, He takes the time for us.

And as it is with most of my Sabbaticals, I have not done all that I originally intended to at the beginning of the week.  And today reminded me that this is not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, I came upon a Tweet today asking for church leaders to share their story…particularly about their current ‘Phase’ of life and ministry.  I could not resist. I love sharing my story, both the good and the less pleasant sides.  If it hadn’t been for others telling their personal stories I may not be where I am today.  So I share to encourage others.

origami_windmill_hires

Anyway, in doing this I want to share with you a personal quote I included when I emailed them.  Here you go.

“Our partnership with God in His Kingdom work is never contingent upon our comfort, happiness, or confidence.”

 

While I was thinking back over the past 6 months it dawned on me.  God doesn’t wait until we are living on the mountaintop, free of pain and 100% sure of Him being right there with us, to ask us to do something HUGE for Him.  Nothing happens to us that does not pass through His hands.  This doesn’t mean that God necessarily  ’causes’ all things to happen to us.  It does mean, however, that when we’ve given God a definitive ‘yes’ He will be active, aware, and verbal in our relationship with Him regardless of what is going on around us.  The critical thing here is to maintain healthy personal soul care.  If we aren’t doing this it can become nearly impossible to hear His guiding voice or feel His involvement in our daily lives.

What about you?  How have you been hearing from God recently?  Leave a comment below.