Sunday, October 29, 2017

Do You Want To Be Lied To?

Do you want to be lied to, or would you prefer to know the truth? That question might illicit an immediate and obvious response, tell me the truth. But I recently listened to a speaker who reminded me that often people really don’t want to hear the truth. Think about the funerals you’ve been to. Rarely do we hear a eulogy where someone states that the person who has passed was a self seeking lying user who took advantage of his family, friends and anyone else he came in contact with. While that might be the truth about the invidual, the person or persons giving the eulogy will find a way to say something positive in spite of the truth.

While I can’t control what people say, I can control the truth by doing my best to be the kind of person whose values speak clearly about the person I am. I am reminded of an exercise in the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People authored by Steven Covey; a book I recommend you read. Now if you have read the book and are like me, you probably skipped right over the exercise he asks you to do on page 96 (first edition) because you wanted to finish reading the book. But I have since gone back and done the exercise which asks you to imagine you are at a funeral and the person in the casket is you. There are four people who are giving the eulogy, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, and someone from your church. The exercise asks you to write down what would you like them to say about you, that is true. What you write will help you understand the values that truly define who you are as a person. Are they the things that you should value, the things that come naturally or the things that come from an intentional decision to be a certain type of individual? Clearly the exercise requires you be honest with yourself.

This exercise helped me to define five key values that identify who I am and who I fight to be each and every day, despite the natural desires that may contradict them. They are my values and each person has to fine their own, but typically they will center around some of the same key areas. Some may have more than five and others less, but what matters is that you figure out those values and ensure that they guide you through you daily living experiences; experiences that may challenge you to behave in a way that contradicts who you have decided to be.

The following biblical scriptures might be a good starting point to help define your values and who you really want to be:
Galations Chapter 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Do you really want to be lied to, or do you prefer the truth? Make the truth a pleasant one by being the person you truly want to be, a person whose values reflect a love and care for humanity that is beyond question. Just a little advice to go! 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What Do You Really Want?

Listening to a series of teachings on the subject of what do you really want which has inspired me to write about the subject.  There is a biblical teaching on the subject of what we really want in James 4:1-3.  James, the brother of Jesus, teaches that we often don't have what we want because we do not ask God.  He goes on to say that when we ask God, we don't receive because we ask with the wrong motives, we are focused on our own pleasures, pleasures that do not really address our true needs.

When I consider what James is saying, I think about how we identify what we really want and the reality is that often, we do not go into a long process of thinking about it.  Think about the answer to the question, what do you really want?  What we often neglect to say is, I want what I want.  Yes, the reality is what want what we want at that very moment.  We get upset at work because the decision did not go our way, we get upset at home because our partner did not want what we want, we get upset with our kids because they do not want to do what we want them to do, and so forth.  But have we ever considered the other side of the coin, how often when we get what we want and end up regretting it.  Think about how many times you, like I, have had this thought "If I could go back and do it again knowing what I know now, things would be so different".  Yes, if we could go back knowing that what we wanted then is not what we really should have wanted, things would be different.  Thus the need to carefully assess what it is really truly want, what drives the desires of our heart, and how we determine what we really should want.  Sounds a bit confusing perhaps, but think about it and consider what it is you really want.  As you think about it, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Is what I want today, going to get in the way of what I want for the future?
  • Is getting my way going to get in the way of what I want for the future? 
  • Is getting what I want followed by the reality that I also want it now?  
  • Is what I want now helping me with what I will want later? 
  • Is there a time where I didn't get what I wanted then, that I can be grateful for? 
  • Is what I want now only going to satisfy a temporary pleasure?
  • is what I want now based on a thoughtful consideration of how it impacts where I want to be later? 

More to follow on the next piece, just a little advice to go!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Not the Same Mistake Again!

Why do we sometimes find ourselves repeating the same mistakes over and over again? We have all heard folks talk about how experience makes you all the wiser for the next time you encounter a similar problem, but still we find ourselves committing the same mistakes. The fact is that experience only helps us if we take the time to analyze our experience and walk through what went wrong. That process has to be approached with a sincere willingness to recognize when we are the problem, when it was our poor judgment that led to the mistake versus blaming someone else. It is always easier  to look for someone else to blame for our problems rather than take responsibility for our own deficits.  Recognizing this truth is the first step towards an honest evaluation of our past mistakes.

Why start with you, with a self examination? Simple, when looking at repeated mistakes look for the common denominator.  You are clearly going to be the first common denominator that needs scrutiny.  What did you do or fail to do that may have led to the problem? It takes humility and sincerity to concede the mistakes you may have made. Fixing those is the first critical step you must take before you can address any other contributing factors.  We should all remember the Bible story that reminds us to take out the plank from our own eyes before dealing with the spec in our neighbor’s eye. If you keep making the same mistakes at work, dating the same losers, having the same arguments with your spouse, etc. start by addressing your actions and how you can improve those. Get advice from someone your trust who is succeeding in the areas you are struggling, they can provide insights that can help you do better. Please remember the humility piece, don’t ask for the truth if you can’t handle the truth.

Once you’ve identified the challenges, then do something about them. Be intentional on making change happen in your life so you don’t repeat the same mistakes. Focus on your emotional maturity, recognizing your weaknesses and how to keep them in check. Then use the strengths you possess to help you compensate for your challenges. Understand that you can avoid repeating the same mistakes by planning to do better and being intentional about it. Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Battling the Giants in Your Life!

We all have or will at some point in our lives find ourselves facing a challenge that appears impossible, an unsurmountable “Giant” of a problem.  There is the biblical story of David and Goliath that often reminds me that given the right approach, we can overcome the giants we may face.  The biblical story of David and Goliath, found in 1 Samuel 17, provides a lesson on how to approach and defeat the giants in our lives.  Here are a few strategies I’ve learned from how David defeated Goliath:

1. David did not confront the problem using a conventional approach.  He first put on the traditional battle gear and then quickly discarded it because he recognized that using a conventional approach was not going to work.
2. David focused on his strengths, not his weaknesses.  Rather than look at the giant and conclude that he could never defeat him, he considered his areas of strength and chose to approach the problem from a strong point.  He picked up five stones and his sling shot, recognizing that his expertise in this area would give him the distinct advantage of striking from a distance.
3. David did not overestimate his skills, he was realistic and level headed.  He didn’t pick up one stone assuming he was going to dispose of his problem in one attempt, he picked up five stones.  He was ready to take five shots, five approaches to overcoming the challenge he faced.  He demonstrated humility and recognized that eating this elephant might take more than one bite.
4. David did not get discouraged or dismayed by the size of the problem, Goliath was one big giant of a warrior.  Instead, he trusted his faith in God and the gifts that God has given him.  His emotional intelligence was critical as he displayed self-awareness by recognizing what he could achieve, self-regulation by controlling his fears, and motivation by focusing on the goal and the importance of the victory.  
5. Finally, David used the victory to his advantage.  His ability to take down the giant, to overcome this insurmountable task, enabled him to lead others confidently into battle. He recognized that this victory provided momentum to win the greater battle and quickly moved on to the next challenge.

There are many lessons to be learned from David’s strategy for defeating Goliath.  He would go on to become the King of Israel and win many more battles because he was faithful to God, remembered to think out of the box, focused on his strengths instead of his weaknesses, believed that victory was possible, and used the victories of the past to motivate others to take on new challenges.  You too can defeat the Goliath’s in your life, it simply takes faith in God and the wisdom of a shepherd boy called David.  Just a little advice to go!  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Message to Politicians, Cut The Crap!

Sounds a bit harsh but I remember several people in my life telling me to cut the crap and get with it. As a youngster my wresting coach would tell us to cut the crap and get with the work out. As a student several of my instructors advised me to cut the crap and work to my potential. Today, I think it is time we told our political leaders to cut the crap.

Our politicians need to understand that their role is to represent the best interest of the people they serve both within the boundaries of their political constituency as well as the rest of the citizens living within our country. Our political leaders also have to consider the realities of those who while not citizens of this country, are hear both legally and illegally. I’m not condoning criminal behavior, but I am also not naive to the fact that many of those who are here illegally, the majority, are here because we have employed them and taken advantage of their willingness to work for much less than the average citizen. Lets not be hypocrites.

The problems we face as a country are complex and require a great deal of sincerity and a commitment to do what ever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think (do) such things (Philippians 4:8). Yes we have so many politicians who proclaim they are trying to keep this country a Christian country but then turn around and neglect the biblical teachings that are the foundation of our Christian faith.

 Politicians need to understand that serving their constituents means serving in the best interest of all and not aligning themselves with the lobbyists and special interest groups. We have a country that is in need of true health care reform, reform that focuses on doing what is right so all of our citizens can have affordable health care. The same is true when it comes to job creation, tax reformation, and many other critical decisions. We should all be committed to changes that benefit our children, family members, friends, seniors, and neighbors. Politicians should act based on doing what is true, what is right, what is pure, what is lovely, what is admirable, what is excellent, and what is praiseworthy! That might not get them re-elected but it will make them worthy of the calling that God has bestowed upon them.  Perhaps then, we can sincerely proclaim that we are the greatest country in the world and reflect it in our actions, actions that speak far louder than our words. Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Endurance Is A Must!

There is a scripture in the Bible that reminds us to stay joyous even in the difficult moments because we derive endurance from our trials and tribulations.  Successful people were not always successful, but rather became successful because of the endurance they developed as a result of the failures they experienced.

Endurance was the topic at a recent graduation ceremony I attended where the speaker encouraged the students to not give up despite failing.  He explained that failure was an opportunity to learn, grow, and do better reminding them of a number of leaders who failed but endured:

  • Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken had his secret chicken recipe rejected over a thousand times before succeeding at the age of 65.
  • Frank W. Woolworth started the Woolworth Company (now Foot Locker), his boss did not allow him to wait on customers because Woolworth "didn't have enough common sense to serve the customers."
  • Fred Smith while a student at Yale University presented a business idea to his business management class that received a nearly failing grade. The idea was for a parcel service that could deliver packages overnight. Smith ignored the grade and founded FedEx.
  • Rowland Hussey Macy, between 1843 and 1855, opened four retail dry goods stores that all failed. He learned from those mistakes, and hit it big with his next store in New York City, Macy's.
  • Walt Disney  was fired by an editor because, "he lacked imagination and had no original ideas." His first animation company went bankrupt and it's said that he was turned down hundreds of times when he sought financing for Disney World. The Walt Disney company makes average revenue of U.S. $30 billion annually.

There are many more examples of people who endured despite their many failures, they remained persistent, opened to opportunities for improvement, capitalized on the positive feedback, disregarded the naysayers, and endured.  It is in the most difficult of moments that your character, integrity, and values are tested, refined, and perfected.  Stay true to who you are, opened to endless learning, and faithful to the one who will never leave you or forsake you, our Heavenly Father.  Endure!  Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

When Is Enough, Enough?

When is enough, enough? Yes, perhaps we should all ask ourselves this question. I have been working with the homeless since 2010 and have come to recognize the tragic hopelessness within which so many people exist. From the challenges of mental illness to the tragic emotional, physical and sexual abuse suffered by so many who find themselves experiencing homelessness. My work surely drives me to ask the question when is enough, enough?

Throughout my various careers, I have found myself blessed by God's grace. My journey has taken me from the poverty of a family of 9 in a three bedroom apartment struggling together to make ends meet. Many other families struggled alongside us and many would not overcome the traps of poverty, violence, and deprivation existing within the world in which we lived. God's grace coupled with a spirit of hope and hard work enabled my siblings and I to overcome our circumstances and find ourselves blessed beyond what we could have ever imagined.

My past helps me understand the sense of hopelessness of those struggling to overcome homelessness and make ends meet, thus everyday I work to give of myself and of what I have to bless others. The father of the Methodist faith, John Wesley, came to a place in life where he answered the question when is enough, enough. He decided that enough was being able to pay his living expenses and all he earned beyond that, he would dedicate to helping those in need. I can't think there is a greater test to our faith and commitment to humanity than to put our money where our mouth is. It is not easy to make such a commitment, but imagine the impact we would have if we all committed to living within a budget that provided for a practical life style and then dedicated the balance of our finances to helping those in need.

Most recently, I have begun a journey towards minimizing my possessions in an effort to maintain a practical lifestyle while dedicating my resources towards helping others. It means being able to help someone pay their rent who didn't get this month's child support, helping someone struggling to get back on their feet by paying their driver's license suspension fines so they can drive and find employment, or paying for new tires to help a co-worker avoid taking a loan that would incur ridiculous interest payments. No, I am in no way comparing my efforts to those of the great minister, John Wesley. I am simply starting a journey towards sacrifice and minimilasim for the sake of helping others who I know have a legitimate need. Most I've helped, have found a way to return the money which enables me to use it to help others who have a need. Imagine what could happen if we all took a step of faith and decided enough is enough and started to bless those in need. Wow, what a difference we would make. When is enough, enough for you? Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

All The People

What does all the people mean, does it not mean that everyone is included.  Jesus loves all the people of the world means all the people not just a select few.  Believers often confuse the fact that Jesus does not limit his love just to them.   They forget that we are called to love all the people, not just the ones that are easy to love.  In fact, Christ challenges us to love the least lovable, those who give us every reason not to love them.  Anyone can love the lovable, which is precisely why we all describe babies as so lovable.  Surround yourself with a bunch of two year olds and your perspective might change with regards to how lovable babies are.  In the end, we are called to love all the people much as he loves all of us regardless of their condition or conduct.  

In Luke 2:10-11,  the birth of Christ is announced and he is proclaimed as the savior of all the people, not just the most lovable.  Christ journeyed through our land to set the stage for His message to be delivered throughout the world so that all the people, Jews and gentiles, would through his grace find a path towards his gift of salvation.  His death and resurrection is the covenant that provides all people a path to salvation.

Salvation is the understanding that there is an almighty God, that He created us, and that God provides a path by which we can move out of sin and into holiness; the holiness that enables us to attain eternal life and a heavenly home. This path enables us to be reborn from a fleshly sinful life to a spiritual sinlessness and a sin forgiving life.  It is critical to understand that our flesh binds us to a sinful nature but Christ unbinds the flesh enabling us to overcome our sinful nature, to recognize sin and resist it.  His grace provides all the people an opportunity for repentance and never ending forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a washing away, a complete disregard of any sinful conduct regardless of the severity of that sin.  God is not particular about his forgiveness, it is given to all who seek it and given without condition to anyone who recognizes him as the giver of forgiveness; the redeemer of all.

The gift of redemption is evidence of God's love for all people.  It is an unconditional love that is freely provided regardless of who we are and how we are.  Whether believers or sinners, the love is never ending.  Like the prodigal son who left his father and persisted in pursuing his sinful nature, we too may persist in sin.  But the story does not end there, when the prodigal son returned covered in sin and filth his father did not curse him, deny him or tun his back on him.  Instead he ran out to greet him and welcomed him home.  He celebrated his return recognizing that while his son was lost for a time, he was now found.  He recognized that his son was seeking his forgiveness and love and unlike most of us opted to avoid the "told you so" verbiage and freely embraced him with his loving arms and a spirit of forgiveness.  So too, God welcomes each of us who repent and turn away from our sinful nature celebrating the fact that we have returned home.  His arms are opened wide waiting for all the people to find their way back home.   Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Why I Quit Facebook!

One of the detractors we face today is social media, not because it is bad but because many of us have allowed it to consume us. I was sitting at the movie theater today when I was distracted by the glow of the cell phone in the hands of the person sitting next to me. I turned expecting to see some young person acting irresponsibly only to find an elderly woman on her Facebook account. I thought to myself, we have all lost our way. It seems even the elderly are pre-occupied with staying on top of what is going on, possessed by an unquenchable need to know.

Facebook provides the benefit of constant communication which if properly managed could be informative and productive. However, when it becomes an addiction that keeps a person glued to their mobile device, there is clearly a problem. Additionally, the debates occurring on Facebook often lack a factual foundation leading to arguments based more on opinion than reality often resulting in divisiveness between co-workers, friends, and family. Instead of Facebook bringing people together, it is often doing quite the opposite.

So with great intentionality, I decided to do something about the problem. I quit Facebook. I removed myself completely from Facebook and guess what, I survived. I also shut down most of my cellular app notifications so my cell phone isn't dictating when I should open an app. This may make me appear weird in today's world and some may even suggest I am overreacting, but just google, "apps to help you stop using apps". You will find apps like Break Free to help you stop using your mobile phone, apps like SelfControl or Freedom to help you control your use of apps, and numerous articles on why your favorite apps are designed to addict you. Not kidding.

Today, I limit my media interaction to LinkedIn which leans more towards the professional than the social and provides a positive forum to express my views. I look at it once or twice a day and that is more than enough. When I want more information about what is going on in the world, I turn on the radio and listen to the local public radio station. When I want to know more about what is happening with family or friends, I make a phone call or write a letter. Radio news, phone calls and letter writing, some old fashioned advice to go!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Making America Great Again!

How do we make America great again? The reality is that we can't make America great until we address the flaws and biases within ourselves. America cannot be great when it continues to ignore the poverty within its own borders and blames that poverty on immigrants when in fact we have enough resources within this country to eliminate all poverty. America cannot be great when the elderly are left to live off of the crumbs of a broken social security system, when we as a nation have the resources to ensure every senior retires to a safe, peaceful, and worryfree life. America cannot be great when we continue to judge people by the color of their skin versus the content of their character and then deny it happens. America cannot be great when those of us who practice the Christian faith insist on passing judgment and condemning others even though Christ accepted each of us unconditionally through his grace and love.

America can only be great again when each of starts to live by the values that can ensure its greatness. Values that commit us to caring for the poor and sickly, that  enable us to embrace all people regardless of the color of their skin or religious faith, that obligate us to act out of love, peace, joy, and kindness will make America great again. Making America great means each of us has to commit to live by these values. I don't know about you, but I'm reaffirming my commitment to live by these each and every day. I'm re-committing to give from what I have to those in need, to love the least lovable, to care for the elderly, to respect all people and forgive those who are the least deserving of that forgiveness. Most of all, I am committing to practicing grace towards others; a grace reflective of the unmerited favor that God demonstrated when he accepted me as his child. Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Evil We've Become

Christian faith is built upon the biblical principles and teachings of our churches and religious institutions throughout the United States and the world.  From the beginning of time the Bible teaches that original sin separated humanity from the sinless life God intended for us.  A seed of sin was planted within each of us, the evilness that we either overcome or the evil we become.

Today, the evidence of the evil within us is evident as we see the hate and disdain many have for those who are different from them leading to so much hate within our own country as well as the rest of the world.  Despite the many biblical teachings that tell us not to judge, not to hate, to forgive, to turn the cheek, not to have a Spirit of condemnation, to love our enemies, and so forth, we continue to focus on false dialogues based on the forceful imposition of our faith on others.  What happened to loving others into a walk with Christ and understanding that this world is not our home, that in it we will not find perfection.

Christ knew we were not of this world, that we should leave the things of this world to this world, that our faith has always brought condemnation, but that in Christ we could withstand and overcome that condemnation.  Many live within the falsehood that we can make “America Great Again” as if Christ has taught us that we could turn America around and make it a Godly nation.  Biblically, we are taught that making America great again is the furthest thing from the outcome of the journey we are traveling.  America will continue down the wicked path it has traveled since the creation of the first man and woman.  Our task is not to make America Great again, but rather to reflect the shining light of Christ upon those who are in the darkness with love and grace, much as He shone his light upon us so that they too may see the path that leads to a life free of condemnation and full of the promise of tomorrow.

Perhaps if we focused on making our individual selves great again, true believers, free of our own evilness and walking in God’s grace, we would have a greater impact on those who are lost in the evils of this world.  With each life we touch and with each person who believes and chooses to walk a Christian walk, we prepare for the reality that Christ will come again and that he will come because of the sin that will undoubtedly overtake our land.  Yes, we don’t give up on standing for our faith, but we keep our efforts in perspective with the reality of what we know is to come.  Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Attitude in 2017!

As I start 2017, I am committing to a new attitude for the year. I recognize that my attitude is something that I can control, though I often fail to keep it in check. You see my attitude is often impacted by the circumstances I encounter throughout my day. People who have bad attitudes make it difficult for me to remember that their bad attitude doesn't mean mine has to be bad. Attitude is something each of us can control by simply making the conscious decision not to allow the people or situations we encounter daily to negatively impact our attitudes.

In 2017, I am choosing to have an attitude that reflects optimism, joy, empathy, hope, love, peace, compassion and Godliness. I refuse to allow the circumstances of the moment, regardless of how difficult they may be, to lead me down the pessimistic path that seems so prevalent in today's world. I am committed to having a positive attitude at home, work, school, and life in general. Imagine how joyful life would be if we all worked to ensure we had a new attitude in 2017, one that was truly focused on the unconditional celebration of the gift of life. Let's just do it! Just a little advice to go!