How maintaining your computer teach you about you?

My computer was running slower than normal the other day. I am sure this happens to you from time to time as well. When trouble shooting the problem, I realized that I had over twenty different applications open at the same time. No wonder it’s operating system couldn’t keep up. This led me to think about what I have learned about rest and reset dince my bout with Guillain Barre in 2019. Throughout the day, I engage in many different activities and conversations. I may be only focused on one or two of them at a time but the rest, like the programs on my computer, remain open. They can sap my energy without me knowing it. I hope the following comparisons to your computer and your life will be helpful.

1) Make sure you have the right operating system. Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

2) Set times throughout the day to consciously close down things you have finished or will continue working on later. I set alarms on my phone at 6, 9, noon, 3, 6 and 9 for this very reason. I remind myself to Be still and know that I have a God who wants there to be peace and not anxiety in my life. It is like defragging the hard drive. Taking the time to remove the Thoughts, fears, and anxieties things that limit our capabilities and focusing on the abundance God has provided in my life. The First15 devotional shares, “God’s love has the ability to completely overwhelm and satisfy every one of our needs. Everything he gives us satisfies, transforms, and leads us to abundant life.” “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.” ISAIAH 66:13

3) I heard someone online the other day share this thought when faced with challenges or defeats. This can be used in your personal life as well as professionally. In each situation, we must Face it, Trace it, Erase it, and then Replace it. One must first FACE and be conscious of what is causing the dilemma. We then must TRACE back to where the problem originated. When we find that place, event or thought, we need to ERASE it and then move forward by REPLACING that negative place with a new mindset. Replace old thoughts with new thoughts w affirmation, word tracks, and memorizing scripture This allows us to become our newest version of our best self. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! It is not unlike a System reboot, a Full on reset. Like Zephaniah 3:17 exhorts, “The LORD your God is in your midst, Victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Rejoice and in spite of the challenges you face no matter what they might be. 

We have the latest versions on our phones and computers, why not make sure we have the latest version of ourselves?

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The challenge of wearing a mask…….

I read a devotional this week written by Beth Ann Nichols. It really got me thinking about how wearing a mask has changed how I relate with people. Beth Ann shared, “Never before have we looked into the eyes of our fellow man more than during this pandemic. With masks covering our smiles, our frowns and our quivering lips, we’re left with the eyes to tell our stories—and to “listen” to the stories of others.” I realized that I have to be more intentional on letting folks, whose paths I cross, know that I care. The mask itself shows I care because I am wearing it, not only for my own health, but also to make others feel comfortable being around me. What it doesn’t do is let people know I am smiling. It has also caused me to not engage with people as I did before Covid.

Matthew 6:22 says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes. So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light.” Luke 11:33 shares “We are not to light a lamp and put it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl (or mask 😀) Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eyes are the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light”. When Jesus speaks of eyes and light, He means all people should keep their eyes on God because the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Beth Ann goes on to ask, “What do people see when they look into your eyes? When they’re forced to hold your gaze, do they see kindness, gentleness, joy? This has caused me to think about how a mask and staying social distanced has caused me to be less thoughtful about making people I encounter that they are seen and appreciated. Her exhortation motivated me this week to find ways to make sure people whose paths I cross know that I appreciate them. How?

I have started focusing on others eyes above their masks. It is amazing what we see when I look into theirs? I have learned that so many are feeling lonely, discouraged and are experiencing an emptiness. I am trying to initiate some interaction even with my mask and staying social distanced. People are at first surprised but are so grateful because like me, a lot of us have withdrawn without even knowing it. So my encouragement to you is give it a try. Step out and reach out to someone today. Each of us can help the world find its new normal. A normal where we all can show each other we care and want the best for them. Go out and shine the light.

Zephaniah 3:17 sings over us all. “The LORD your God is in your midst, Victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Rejoice inspite of the challenges you face no matter what they might be.  As my friend Don Sankey reminds me every day, even behind your mask, #makesomeonesmiletoday “Let your smile change the world but don’t let the world change your smile.” author unknown

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Sometimes it is a whisper, sometimes a nudge

The scripture above says, Jesus knocks on the door of your heart but only you can let Him into your life.
Once I opened the door to my heart and allowed Him to take residence, I have experienced that He keeps on knocking, nudging, and whispering to us. He does this so we can live out Hebrews 10:24 “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

There are a couple of things we need to do for Him to use us in this way. 1) Take time to stop and listen. Psalm 46:10 says we are to “Be still and know that He is God.” Think about your own life. When you are busy and focused on something, you don’t hear what someone near you might be saying or notice that they might need your help. How then can we hear what God is asking of us if are not taking the time to listen to what He has to say or what He want us to learn?

I am write this post to share and encourage you to tune in and listen to God who wants to share with us what He wants us to do. The simplest of acts can have an impact. Sister Jean B. Bingham says it this way. “Sometimes we think we have to do something grand and heroic to ‘count’ as serving our neighbors. Yet simple acts of service can have profound effects on others — as well as on ourselves.” We are called to share. We are called to live out the scripture, James 2:14 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? The beauty of acting out our faith is the more we exercise acting on the whispers and nudges, the more He shows us how to let others know we care. Sometimes it is just a text, a phone call, a timely handwritten note. We might drop bagels or some other treat for no apparent reason other than they came to mind. There is power in simply following up with someone after you have said you would pray for them. It is uncanny that no matter the act, time and time again people will say, “how did you know?”, “You doing this came at the perfect time”, or “You have no idea how much this meant to me” I have also been struck recently by how God leads me to answers at a time where I have been challenged in some way. I will read something in a book or the Bible or listen to a devotional that speaks so clearly to my present circumstance.

The key to acting on what God has for you is not doing it for your own gratification. It is not about getting recognition or being patted on the back. It is about opening your heart and mind so that God can tell you who He wants you to serve. A friend calls it “doing awesome things quietly” My dear friend Pamela prays it this way. “Lord, help me discern Your voice and follow You first, the One uniquely worthy of my surrender and allegiance. And may my following You be a draw for others to follow You too.”

It really is a simple process if you allow yourself to slow down. In the midst of the quiet, you will begin to have people come into your mind. When they do, act on it. Open the door so God can be present with you in every moment. You will begin to experience the wonder of being His conduit in allowing His Kingdom to come on earth as it will be heaven. In that moment, you will find yourself becoming “thankful in all things”

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It is all about taking that 1st step

Take a moment to reflect. What are you struggling with these days? Where is there doubt in your life? If we are honest, there is not a day that goes by where life doesn’t bring some type of challenge. I heard the quote the other day “life is like a gym membership with a difficult cancellation policy.” Another one is “life is a merry go round with no way of getting off” Sound familiar? As I wrote in my last post, freedom can only be found when we pray and surrender to God’s ways realizing we are not in control. Tim Keller says it this way.
”Tim Keller-“To the degree you can shed the “unreality” of self-sufficiency, to that degree your prayer life will become richer and deeper”. So in the midst of whatever life is throwing at you, the first step is to let go and trust that God will carry you through. The first step has to be ours as a sign of our willingness to trust. You can read about these first steps throughout the Bible. Here are just a few:
Moses picking up the snake trusting it will turn into a staff. Moses placing the staff into the water so that sea would part for his people. Abraham placing his son Isaac on the altar the four men taking their paralyzed friend to Jesus. A father coming to Jesus asking for him to heal his child. The sick woman who reaches forward to touch Jesus’ cloak hoping it will heal her. The Prodigal son turning around and taking the 1st step back toward his father.
The first step for them and for us is placing our hope in and trusting that God is in control no matter what the circumstances. Only then can we begin to experience the freedom to live life in the way it was meant to be lived.

The same thing can be said about taking steps to to build relationships with those with whom we disagree, Jim Denison shares four steps found in the Bible.

  1. Ask the Lord where and how to begin, confident that he will lead us to those he is already preparing for our initiative (cf. Acts 16:9–10).
  2. Pray for the humility to learn what we do not know and to change what we need to change (Philippians 2:3Proverbs 18:12).
  3. Ask for the words to speak and the grace with which to share them, knowing that life transformation is not our work but that of the Spirit (John 16:7–11).
  4. Trust the results to the God who knows our hearts and loves us unconditionally (1 Samuel 16:7Romans 5:8).

As I wrote a couple posts back, it all comes down to where you place your trust. Take the first step today to Love God with all your heart, Love others as He loves you, and then let go and experience the freedom of trusting God with the outcome.

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Do you have to be in control or can you let go?

This week has been an interesting one. It marked two years since I was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome and was left pretty much paralyzed. It is funny how the brain works. Every moment I couldn’t move seemed endless and yet, only two years later, it is hard to conjure up the way I felt. I obviously was unable to control what was happening to my body and was forced to trust that others would know what to do. I did not want to be alone if something happened because I was unable to hit the call button. It was a challenging time. Yet, there was something freeing about giving up everything because I had no choice. Someone else would have to check my emails, Facebook messages, voice mails, pay the bills, etc. My only job was to do what was next to get better and I did.
March 2nd came around again in 2020 and so did this virus called Covid. Little did I know I would lose control again on March 12th when my doctors told me I needed to self-isolate because of my compromised immune system. I had regained my health and now the way I worked, spent time with family, mentored folks, and gave back to the community was turned upside down again. The spring turned to summer, then fall, into winter, and here we are entering spring again.
I continue to learn so much as I journey through these two experiences and other types of adversity. It has not been easy and there have been times I have lost my joy. The beauty though has been experiencing the freedom of letting go. Admitting that there are things going on I can’t control. My only job is to be the best version of me in the present. Taking pride in what I do with each day to make a positive difference with those whose paths I cross. PRIDE in this case is broken down this way.
Personally Responsible for Individual Daily Effort

This focus works whether in business, as a husband, father, brother, grandfather, or a friend. What can I do today to be better in all these relationships. While recovering from GBS or being isolated because of Covid, I had to find other creative ways to be the best version of me knowing there was and is so much I can’t control. So how is it done? Here are my thoughts.
1) instead of fearing or worrying, Trusting that God is in control and wants only good for me. Psalm 56:3
2) do not complain or grumble over things you can’t control. Instead, find ways to serve others. Philippians 2:14 This will reignite your Joy.
3) remember that “all things work together for the good”

Finally, I would encourage you to start journaling. When I was paralyzed in the hospital two years ago, Dottie and I got two great pieces of advice. The first was pay attention to the trends. Watch all the numbers. Sometimes the oxygen level, blood pressure or temperature may go the wrong direction but how are they trending over the course of the day. Second, don’t compare the day, compare the week. We kept record so we could see small signs of recovery from one week to the next. Both of these kept us from slipping into discouragement along with our fervent hope that I would get better.
You can do the same in your life not matter what challenge you face. Lean in and find the “eye of the storm”. Know that God is on the journey with you. Nissan Parwar says it this way, “Lord grant me the strength to be content where I am. The patience to wait on your timing and the faith to remember that you have your hand always on my heart” Ask Him to help make you a little bit better today than you were yesterday. Take that first step and then the next. Pretty soon you will look back and be amazed where it takes you and who you have positively impacted along the way.
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Who can we trust?

It has now been a couple of weeks since we watched our elected officials grapple with whether the President of the United States should be impeached for a second time. No matter which side you fell on regarding this decision, I found myself asking these questions. Was it true that the constitution does not allow for an impeachment after they leave office? Did the President know folks were coming to storm the Capitol? Was this just done because the Democrats wanted one more shot at Mr. Trump? Were the news outlets reporting objectively or was their desire to just sell more advertising?
These questions led me back to my main question, Who can we trust? We all have people in our lives that we think we know and to whom we can depend. This was further compounded for me when I heard about two strong Christian leaders who were living sinful private lives while leading thousands to and in their faith journeys. I was saddened to hear this had happened but was not surprised. Why? Because, like many leaders in the bible and like most of us, they fell prey to the things of the world. The end result is, should we choose to place our trust in man, we will ultimately be disappointed. Nor, can our family, friends, and colleagues truly trust us as we will make mistakes as well. The Bible makes it clear in Romans 3:23 that ALL not some “sin and therefore fall short of the glory of God” Meaning, people will disappoint us and we will disappoint others. It also means that there is no one we can truly trust except for God.

So what is the answer? It is that at the end of the day, we are only responsible for ourselves. I don’t mean this in a selfish, “it’s all about me way”. Quite the opposite. we need to have an attitude that no matter what comes our way, no matter how someone else wrongs us, how we respond is the choice we get to make. God exhorts us to “turn the other cheek”. He says “love others as I have loved you.”

It is all about to what are you tethered? Is it to the world or to the One who created you and knows how you best should live. I wrote about this concept a while back. Here is the link

So how do we do it? If you have been reading my blog, you know Andrew Murray says it happens when we “Abide in Christ” like branches cling to the vine. Gregory Boyd in Present Perfect says we need to remind ourselves that “God is in the Now”. He goes on to say when we strive to honor Him the we can trust in the outcome. When we allow ourselves to detach from God’s presence thinking we can live life on our own power, like a branch, without the vine’s nourishment, like the faith leaders who lost their way, we lose our strength and the ability to live as we were meant to live. Charles Stanley says another way to think of it is to stop and wait. “The word wait has a different sense here—it means “pause for further instructions.” It’s not passivity; rather, we must choose to stop our actions and listen for God’s directive. Sometimes the Lord is silent for a season, but He has a purpose. He knows the perfect time for us to act, and until that moment, He wants us to wait. More strength and character are required to be still in the midst of a storm than to frantically seek our own solution.” May we all go out into our worlds acknowledging our desire to do things under our own power. When we do, the only one we can truly trust, promises to make us strong enough to persevere through whatever challenges or disappointments that come our way. Allowing us to remain “thankful in all things”.

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Do not be discouraged. Do not allow yourself to despair.

Psalm 27:14 simply states, “Wait for the Lord. Be Strong, Take Courage. Trust in the Lord.” Over the last year, I am guessing, like me, many of you have struggled with trusting God given all that is going on in the world. Every time it looks like things are settling down giving us a glimmer of hope, we hear that the virus is mutating, virus cases continue to spike, and despite the promises, the vaccine continues to be out of most of our reach. Whether it is being lonely, out of work, knowing people who are sick; These things are creating angst in all of us. I would like to write that these challenges will be soon be over. Instead, I want to share what I have learned during this self-isolation season of my life.
As I try to embrace the uncertainty of these days, one thing has become quite clear. The Bible’s call to trust God and serve others is what lifts me out of the feelings of despair or discouragement. Writing this blog post is a great example of this thought process. There was lots going on this weekend and I just didn’t feel like writing. I asked, “what do I have to say about remaining thankful in all things?” What I have to say is finding ways to serve others can make the difference as it lifts you out of your own pity party when you see what you do for others can make a difference. Here are a few messages I received over the last couple days that what we do for others can have a positive impact while also lifting our own spirits.
“A little reflection on Christian love…..You are a precious friend. I will always remember you and Dottie’s love and support.”

“Michael. Thanks for your steadfast communication with me.” “The Lord used you right on time this AM. One day I will explain how this meant more today than you can know”

“My mother truly appreciates your thinking of her and the support”

The scripture says in John 15:10,11 “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” The commands Jesus is talking about are found in the Gospel of Matthew 22:37-39. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

I have found that encouragement comes from knowing God loves me. I then try to focus on sharing that love by serving others as He has commands. It has worked for me. I pray and believe it will work for you too!

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Musings on a snowy day

What is it about a snow day? Where I live in Charlottesville, VA, snow days are a big deal. Everyone talks about it for days before and things shut or slow down during and after the event for a couple of days. Part of the attraction is that sometimes because of the mountains to our west and the Atlantic Ocean not far to our east, it goes around us and doesn’t happen at all. We got one today 😀

Watching the snow fall early and into the morning, I relished it’s beauty and the way it brings a fresh look to my usual perspective. The view from in front of my house or off the back deck is the same. (see below) Yet, it has been changed by the newly made winter wonderland. What came to mind is that it is only temporary. It is exciting and allows us to enjoy something new but pretty soon it melts away and the view is back to what it was before. The deer poop in the back yard is still there. It is just under the white blanket that will soon go away.

This is true about our lives as well. How many times do we try or do new things hoping they (like the snow over the deer poop) will cover up what is really bothering us? Interestingly, what deer leave behind can be harmful to your yard if not removed. The same can be said if we don’t deal with what causes stress and worry in our lives. It just spreads and causes more damage. If we are to remain thankful in all things, we need to find what brings us our purpose and our joy. Only then can we fight the circumstances that want to rob us of that very thing.
Paul David Tripp says it this way. “Looking to creation to do for us what it was not meant to do will not only disappoint us, it will enslave us, and for that there is rescuing grace.  We need to be constantly pointed toward the One who alone is able to satisfy the longing of our hearts.” What the world has to offer us is like the snow. It is temporal and will melt away leaving us disappointed and once again, yearning for something more.
Most of us know the Latin phrase, carpe diem, meaning “seize the day.” What we all need though is Coram Deo which is Integrity found when men and women live their lives knowing they were created to be in a relationship with God. A Ligonier ministry writer said it this way. “It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.” What it is not is a life that continues to be disappointed as it goes from one experience or snow day to another hoping to find happiness.
The good news is that God makes it all possible. He desires to be in a relationship with us and says the darkness of our imperfections are made as white as freshly fallen snow. Isaiah 1:18. James 4:8, says “if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us” and when we do we can have that snow day experience exclaiming “new every morning, new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”

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Are you Ready?

My son sent me a Hillsong Church sermon the other day titled, “Are you Ready” by Tolu Bladders. Here is the link. Listening to it reminded me of a theme in the Bible I rarely hear preached about but have personally experienced over the last couple of years. Peter wrote in his 1st letter, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope/stance that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. The sermon and this verse took me down three streams of thought. What does he mean when he encourages us to be prepared, how do I prepare, and how do I know when I am ready?

The first lesson is know what you believe and why you believe it. Take the time to learn how to articulate the reasons for your stand on a given issue. Don’t push your beliefs or viewpoints on others. Instead, wait for them to ask what you think. That way, hopefully you will have “walked the walk before you talk the talk” earning the right to be heard.

By treating those around you with, as Peter advises, gentleness and respect, your answers will be better received even if the other person might not agree.
How do I prepare is the second question and the one we don’t hear preached on very often. The Bible makes it clear that many of those called by God to lead or speak for others were forced into a “timeout.” Moses (exiled) , Job (sickness and loss) , Noah (build an ark) Esther (wait and fast before the seeing the King) , Ruth (leaving her home to serve another), David (hiding in the caves from Saul) John the Baptist(time in the desert) Paul (from persecutor to apostle), and even Jesus (40 days in the desert) himself were placed into times of waiting before God used them for His purposes. Why? Because like us, they could have been tempted to charge out on their own power rather than waiting on God to send them out. These heroes of the faith teach us that we need to wait and make sure we understand what we are being called to do. It also takes time to study and learn so that we can back up what it is we are to say.
If you read back through their stories, each of them wondered about the third question of this blog post, Are you ready? The answer from God came in different ways to all of them but it can be summed up in Isaiah 6. Like with the others, God came to Isaiah asking Him to worship Him. Isaiah knew he was unworthy (Isaiah 6:5) and yet God cleansed and redeemed him. When God knew Isaiah was ready, Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Because Isaiah drew near to the Lord, studied His ways, and been taught what needed to be said and done, Isaiah said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:7,8) Whatever you are feeling called to do, I encourage you to take as much time as you need to make sure you have studied and know your position well. Be willing to listen to others points of view but when asked, articulate your points with gentleness and respect.

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What are we doing to Love our Neighbor?

John taught, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). We are to “be imitators of God, understanding we are all God’s beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1–2). 

I am saddened to see so many these days choosing to not walk in love. This past week I have heard friends calling others human scum and willfully ignorant. I have also spoken to people who say they will no longer be friends with people that believe or support a certain individual or cause. I am guessing these last two sentences have brought a certain person or belief to your mind. That is why I want to encourage all of us to step back and remind ourselves we are called to Love our neighbor. That does not mean we have to agree with them or condone certain actions. It does take a willingness to treat others respectfully so that we can be willing to understand different points of view. Miles McPherson, in his book The Third Option, writes that we all have blind spots. His premise is you will only see people a certain way if you just engage with others who are like minded. He challenges his readers to get out of their comfort zone and spend time in places where they have never been and with people that think differently than them. How can that happen if our mindset is “ I won’t have anything to do with those kind of people”?

I know reaching out to people you don’t like will not be easy but if each of us won’t do it, who will? I believe we are to be men and women who are willing to give up our will to be used by God in extending and advancing His love and care here on earth. We need to become servant hearted so we can lift up others’ needs above our own interests. It can start with doing a random act of kindness to a neighbor across the street or a colleague at work who may not look like you or had the wrong election sign in their yard. Let me be the first to say it is hard to make it my first instinct and doing it can be challenging. It becomes even more powerful when you do it for no other reason than you want them to know someone cares and knows they live there. As a friend says, “doing awesome things for others, quietly”
Romans 12:15 says, “we are to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” Paul writes later in Ephesians 4:32 “Whatever wrong someone does to us, we are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Hebrews 10:23-25 encourages us toward this honorable endeavor. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Yes, even Inauguration Day.

How awesome would it be if we all made a New Year resolution to “Love our neighbor”? What does it look like for you? St Francis of Assisi in his prayer below, answers the question much better than I ever could. First, pray that God would give empower you take this on in your own life. After that, change the pronoun to plural and pray it for the community and the country in which we live. From our lips to God’s ears, please Lord, hear our prayer. Lord, Teach us your ways. Let us love each other as God sees us. We are His Beloved.

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