Challenge, Encouragement, Healing

We Create So Much of Our Own Pain

So much of the pain we walk in is self-imposed. Far too often our own unhappiness results from how we respond to negative situations.

If we take a moment and think back to a few negative situations in our life, we’ll often discover that in some form or fashion they have worked out or were at the least not as negative as once perceived. Granted, this is not always the case, but I’d venture to guess some of our sleepless nights would have been avoided if we would have known the eventual outcome verses the one we projected in our minds.

Let me give you an example. When my wife and I were building our home many years ago, one of the invoices submitted to us was double the contractors actually “good faith” estimate. We had no expectation of that happening and had not changed anything too drastically to warrant an actual invoice that was double the estimate. I talked to others to try and find out what to do. I worried and I had several sleepless nights trying to imagine how we were going to pay this bill.

Finally, I called the contractor, we met and eventually worked out the difference. I could sleep again. Did we rightfully owe the money? I’m not sure, but to this day, because of the action we took, I can look that man in the eye without any remorse. In the action we chose, we also considered the relationship and decided that the relationship was more valuable to us than money or ongoing hurt and self-imposed pain.

What are you worrying about? What keeps you up at night? How much self-imposed pain are you walking in? 

Here is a Psalm (37) that helps me: 

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Women

Thankfulness and Marriage

My wife and I recently spent several days on our annual evaluation and vision time. We take time away to look at our year, evaluate our goals and pray about the year ahead. It’s a time that has become very precious to us and one that we would not desire to miss. As my wife often says, “I feel like we come away from this time on the same page and in agreement.”

It’s true we do, but let me tell you how we begin this time. We give thanks. Yep, we take all the necessary time needed to say thank you to God for every aspect of our year past. To be thankful for the good, the not so good and the unexpected can change our attitude, lighten our heart and bring a deeper level of satisfaction.

Someone once said that when we lose our thankfulness we begin to focus on what we feel God is not doing in our lives. We did not focus on our losses, we focused on thanksgiving. Being thankful is contagious. The more things we find to be thankful for, the more we walk in a spirit of grattitude (I Thessalonians 5:18). 

Thankfulness brings encouragement and helps us to focus on what we recognize as ultimately God’s goodness to us. Being thankful for things one wouldn’t normally be thankful for or for things considered questionable helps to release those things to God so that we are not carrying them. Thankfulness is like therapy you don’t pay for. It’s medicine to your soul and spirit.

The book of Colossians tells us to “Overflow with thankfulness.” As you enjoy friends and family this Thanksgiving here in America, remember to give thanks even for the things that we do not normally express thanks for. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news

A Fugitive for 36 Years!

Have you ever felt like you were running from something? Ever sensed as though you needed to watch your back? Have you experienced that disturbing dream where you were desperately trying to outrun something or someone?

William Asher III lived his life this way. He was a fugitive from a California prison camp for 36 years. “On the lam,” they call it. It wasn’t until his mother was on her death bed that the authorities finally caught phone records (from his secret phone number) in his attempts to reach and visit with his mother.

Asher, as an escapee, lived a pretty normal life. He assumed numerous alias’s, married, raised a family and worked as a truck driver but must have lived a life of mistrust, always running internally, ducking from police or anyone he deemed suspicious. Quite honestly, it must have been nerve-racking and an exhausting way of life. He is now being held at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, CA.

I am guessing there is a bit of relief on William’s part, finally caught, no longer running and a conscience that may be easier to live with.

Fifty years ago, I remember running, trying to escape. The Holy Spirit would not leave me alone. My time was up. I needed to stop fleeing and turn myself in to my heavenly Father, confess my wrongdoing and receive freedom. And, oh, what a glorious freedom He has granted me!

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Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Let Freedom Ring!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the home of the Liberty Bell. It is encased in glass and resides near Independence Hall. It was the abolitionists who named the bell. Prior to the 1830’s it was known as The Old Statehouse Bell. The name was changed as America began the fight against slavery.

 

The bell weighs 2,080 pounds and is made of a mixture of bronze, copper, tin, silver and lead. However, the bell on display in Philadelphia is not the original bell as the original one cracked on its first test ring in 1752. It is said that the bell was then melted down and a second one was cast.

 

In its earlier days, the bell rang to summon lawmakers and Philadelphians to meetings. A second crack occurred around 1846. There was an attempt to repair it but, unfortunately, the repair ended up making the crack even worse. The bell could no longer be used.

 

The bell bears these words, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land unto the Inhabitants thereof.” The final sound from the Liberty Bell was when it was last struck seven times on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The Philadelphia mayor did so to spell out the word “Liberty.”

 

Liberty, what an important word. A one-ton bell was created to remind us of its importance for all Americans. It meant freedom from despotic government control, freedom from foreign government control and freedom from restriction, captivity and confinement. (Dictionary.com) The Liberty Bell, preserved for all to still see today, stands as a permanent reminder of a nation created to stand for liberty and freedom.

 

And where do we find those two words in our rich, Scripture-filled American history? Isaiah the prophet penned and Jesus read one day in the temple the following, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.”

 

Jesus went into the temple, opened the scrolls, read these scriptures and closed the scrolls. It was a word spoken to the world for the generations to follow. Jesus Christ has come to proclaim liberty and to set all mankind free. Quite honestly, no government can do what He can in our lives. Do you personally know this Anointed One? If you do, let freedom ring and tell everyone you know!

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Men, Parents, Women

Parents, Phones and Distractions

Statistics of children becoming injured has decreased steadily since 1970, thanks to safer play areas, safer play equipment and closer supervision. Those statistics are, however, changing and injuries have increased from 12 to 17% since 2007.1 What happened in 2007 that could possibly begin an injury increase in children? The answer is distraction by smart phone use. 

Emergency-room doctors see a growing trend of hand-held devices as the explanation for a child’s injury rates to increase. All the while, users do not consider themselves distracted while they are checking their email or responding to a text message.2 The numbers of growing injuries to children with distracted parents looking down at phones has increased exponentially.

An 11-year-old child was pulled from the bottom of a swimming pool, “unresponsive.” “The department of Children and Families concluded that ‘the death was a direct result’ of inadequate supervision.” The child’s mother was distracted and “twittering” as the child drowned.3 Parents are being charged with “reckless endangerment of a child” due to the increased number of accidents and injuries as a result of increased screen time rather than properly caring for and interacting with their children.

Your child is begging for you to watch him make the basket or see her hit the ball. It’s how they receive your affirmation and approval. It’s how they are complimented for accomplishing a feat. If you as the parent are so distracted by your phone, it will not be long until you unknowingly send the message to your child that your interaction with your phone friend is far more important than they are.

When your child is requiring your attention, put your phone away and give them your undivided eye and ear contact. It will let them know they are the most important thing to you at that time. They will continue with the conversation and be ecstatic about your interaction. 

Cell phones today are decreasing relational and personal face-to-face connection. We are quickly losing conversations that bring life or instruction. I have repeatedly witnessed moms and dads glued to their phones while their child is desperately crying out for a need or to have a simple question answered. 

Before you realize it, your child will be graduating from high school and be off to college. Soon your daughter will be walking down the aisle and you’ll wonder where all of those childhood years disappeared to. Do not raise your child in such a way that one day you regret the times your child felt like they were second place to a hand-held device.

“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children…take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (Ephesians 6:4, The Message)

1-3: Wall Street Journal article, The Perils of Texting While Parenting, by Ben Worthen, 2012

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Challenge, History, Just for fun

Pennsylvania’s William Penn, a Holy Experiment

William Penn landed in America in 1682 near what is known today as New Castle, Delaware. Penn belonged to a society called the Quakers. His faith was persecuted in England and he was coming to America to establish a new colony that he contended would be a “Holy experiment.” That experiment was a place where there was no established denomination or church.

 

Pennsylvania would be a safe, free of persecution, place for Quakers and other oppressed faiths from all across Europe. This new colony also attracted German-speaking Amish and Mennonite who came to be known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch.” The first city Penn would establish would be named Philadelphia–Greek for the city of “brotherly love.”

 

This experiment was said to be a great success as many differing denominations of Christians lived together in peace. Further, in Penn’s colony, there would be absolutely no ill treatment of the native Americans as Penn insisted they would be dealt with fairly and honorably.

 

Penn died in 1718, but many of his desires continue in this state. William Penn was the father of Pennsylvania, known as the Keystone State which means “Penn’s Woodland.” Penn’s Woods claims 63,200 farms covering nearly eight million acres. These woods still boast of over two million acres of dedicated state forest land.

 

Pennsylvania is rich in natural resources. Today its Marcellas shale gas fields are said to have enough natural gas to supply every major city of the U.S. for 200 years. Oil was first discovered in this state and coal has been a rich resource of energy in the past.

 

The soil of Pennsylvania is blessed. In the county I live in, Lancaster, one of 67 counties, there is a total of 609,181 acres and 439,481 of those acres are presently farmland. That farmland produces $469 million dollars’ worth of poultry and eggs, $425 million dollars’ worth of milk and $159 million dollars’ worth of beef cattle. The land also produces abundant crops of corn, forage, soybeans, wheat and other vital animal and human food supply.

 

William Penn, thank you for your “Holy experiment” as so many of us here in Pennsylvania, across America and the world enjoy the fruit of your faith and labor. Thank you for the righteous seeds planted of which we now reap the benefit. What difference are you called by God to make in your world today? What seeds are you called to plant so that a harvest of righteousness is reaped in the years ahead?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing

How to Ruin a Relationship

Everyday people ruin good relationships by trying to collect a debt. Someone hurts us and we long for justice. We are looking for a payback, but we’re attempting to collect on a debt that is not ours to collect on. It is clearly human nature to desire a wrong be made into a right and that we be seen as the one in the right.

Who can pay you back for the wrong done to you over the course of your life? Can your parents? Can your spouse? Can your co-worker? It is not always possible and most times you will be disappointed or let down. Eventually a relationship is ruined by our expectation.

But what if we handed the injustice over to God? What if we prayed and said, “I choose to not become bitter or strive for justice, but rather I lay the injustice at Your feet and ask You to settle the matter.” And then, in leaving it with God, we let the person off the hook.

If we’re truly humble and allow God to settle the matter, our imagination can stop running wild with thoughts of retribution. We can tell ourself there is no need of payback. Further, we can choose for this relationship to remain intact and stop expecting what we perceive to be a wrong turned into a right by our personal effort.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Just for fun

Are There More Grains of Sand or More Stars?

What are you thinking? Are there more grains of sand on every beach, in every desert or are there more stars in the heavens?

The University of Hawaii wanted to find the answer to how may grains of sand are actually on the earth today. They counted those grains found within a teaspoonful and then multiplied that by all the beaches and deserts in the world. The number? Their very rough guess was seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains.

When you look into the heavens you can possibly see several thousand stars. But the Hubble telescope can count even distant galaxies of stars. Due to this it is estimated as of 2003 there are 70 thousand million, million, million stars that are observable within the universe. This means there are multiple stars for every grain of sand.*

Now check this out: “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand…” (Psalms 139: 17, 18) And this: “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalms 147:4)

I am not sure if that gives you goose bumps but it does me. God’s thoughts about me and you outnumber the grains of sand! And God, the creator of each and every star has named them all. I am overwhelmed by the thought of His love, His thoughts toward me. I am so secure in that love and His thoughts toward me. 

Thank you, heavenly Father, for your love and thoughts that outnumber the grains of sand and the stars in the heavens for mankind who You love with an everlasting love!

*WITF Krulwich Wonders, David Blatner author of the book Spectrums.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Does Money and Marriage Mix?

Recently I came across a survey initiated by Fidelity Financial of 1,700 couples.* The purpose of the survey was to discover money matters and how well married couples are agreeing with their financial picture. Surprisingly, 71% said they communicate about financial matters very well and 61% said they talk about their finances at least once per month. That’s good news. 

However, one in five couples revealed that money is their greatest relationship challenge. And, two in five shared how they argue about money with their spouse occasionally. One in four stated they are all too often frustrated with their spouse’s money habits but choose to not confront it in order to maintain peace.

So, what were some of those highlighted disagreements?

  • Over 50% disagree about how much savings is needed. 
  • Forty percent disagree about the level of risk to take with investments.
  • Thirty four percent disagree about who is the “spender” and who is the “saver.”
  • One third disagreed about their families next large expenditure.

The most challenging stat from this survey for me came when it was revealed that only 50% of couples make financial decisions jointly with their husband or wife. I simply cannot imagine making money decisions without consulting one another, without honoring the other and without a prayerful process of discloser and input. Disagreement about finances is so often at the center of spousal disagreement and disagreement is a powerful weapon that eventually hurts both parties, not to mention also affecting the children.

My wife and I suffered from the marriage money mix. I thought she was a “spender” and she thought I was a “tight wad.” We accepted those terms as who we were or how we saw one another, but in time and with better discernment discovered that we were both wrong. We desperately needed each other’s view of finance, but we also desperately needed to find agreement.

I was wrong as I discovered that my wife was not a spender but rather a “giver.” She discovered that I was not a tight wad as much as I was saving for our future dreams, an “investor.” We discovered that we were both right and when we found agreement, we found peace in the mix of our money matters. We discovered that we each needed the others input and view of finance.

Do not allow financial disagreement to spread in your marriage. Get on a livable, agreeable budget. Discover the needs that you are each trying to meet in the midst of your disagreement. Pray about your finances together. If necessary, seek counsel and do not keep putting it off.

When we kick the financial disagreement can down the road we will discover mistrust entering into the equation. Where there is a lack of trust, there will be a deeper marital issue to deal with.

There are 2,350 verses in the Bible that speak to the issue of finance. Apparently God knew we needed extra counsel in this area of our lives. Here are just two of those amazing verses:

The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live. (Proverbs 15:27)

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11)

*From the Sound Mind Investing newsletter, 9.13.21

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

An Appropriate Use of Social Media

Yes, I am on social media and, yes, I have often thought of removing myself. I especially find it difficult in election years and quite honestly, I tire of the bickering, name calling and strongly opinionated responses that people write. I have rarely “unfriended” someone, but am often tempted to do more of it.

Further, when the largest corporations in the world (social media outlets) and their owners are regularly testifying (justifying really) about their practices in Washington, DC and when they can dictate what “hate speech” is or is not, there are even more reasons to leave them behind.

Today I am forced to think about what I believe to be truth, recognizing that some individual who does not hold my values works for one of these giants and deems me unfit to offer that truth on their social media platform. It’s a new day and one that I would have never seen coming.

Here are a few reasons that I think are unacceptable practices when using social media.

  • To use a social platform to destroy, attack or assassinate another human being.
  • To continually exalt only yourself.
  • To spread gossip.
  • To only post partisan politics and never post the good from “the other side” or the wrong from your side.
  • To not speak honorably toward those who think and see things differently than you do.
  • To be involved in any form of speech that you would not use face-to-face with someone.
  • To make sweeping characterizations of a specific group of people you do not agree with.
  • To write or make inferences that are hurtful or harmful to another individual or group.
  • To speak critical heart judgments of persons you do not personally know or have not heard their side in the matter.
  • To pass something on to others that you cannot verify as truth.
  • To assume you know and everyone else is clueless.
  • To write something that could affect your employment or future employment.
  • To divulge any form of confidentiality.
  • To be unwilling to post a retraction when you need to.
  • To be unwilling to apologize to your readers when you are wrong about something you’ve written.
  • To become angry and to respond in anger when criticized by a reader.

I have made some of these mistakes and have been thankful when someone lovingly lends correction. Save yourself some future issues and police your social media use. Remember, whatever seeds you sow you will also reap.

Consider this very wise advice from a man named Paul:

And never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to help them…So never grieve the Spirit…or take for granted his holy influence in your life. Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another…. 

(Ephesians 4: 29 – 32 TPT)

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