Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Just for fun

How to Know You’re Aging Well

I love getting older. I am no longer in my mid-sixties, but have crossed that line. People initiate conversation with “older” people. That’s nice. Older individuals can get away with more because, well…they’re older. When I do something stupid, there seems to be more grace offered since I am older. 

But with age comes wisdom. The book of Proverbs states, “…the gray hair of experience is the spender of the old.” (20:29) Splendor sure sounds positive! Here are four observations that I have made about life at this age. I hope they give you something to look forward to.

  1. You will recognize a greater level of self-awareness. The older I become, the less I obsess about myself (disappearing hair, style, shaving, etc.) and find more joy in being other-centered. 
  2. You require less control. I find that I more readily admit that I don’t know something and feel okay about it. I am no longer proving myself to others.
  3. We walk in a deeper level of trust with God and realize we don’t always need to know what He’s up to or why He’s taking so long with His answer. I am more settled, more relaxed and more able to wait with a deeper level of patience.
  4. We recognize the need for a greater level of separation or detachment. We work, rest and play smarter. Detachment is no longer avoiding something that I should be doing. Detaching is recognized as healthy.

There you have it; four simple observations. Oh, and one more verse from wise King Solomon, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.” (16:31)

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Children, Encouragement, History, Parents

The Effects of Love

Harry Harlow, ever heard of him? He was a psychologist who studied the nature of human love and affection by using monkeys. His experiments were labeled controversial and any attempt to measure and quantify the need for love and affection during the behaviorist movement of the 1950’s and 60’s was, supposedly, not science. * 

It was a time when many psychologists thought showing affection and love to children had no real purpose and might even be considered dangerous. But Harlow set out to prove the powerful effects of love as well as the absence of love.

How did he do it? His most famous experiment involved a mother monkey made of wire and another made of soft terrycloth. Infant monkeys, raised by these two surrogate “mothers,” had the wire mother provide needed food while the soft, terrycloth mother provided no nourishment. The result? The infant monkeys went to the wire mother for food, but preferred to spend their time with the soft, comforting mother when not eating. Harlow concluded that the need for affection was instrumental to the need for closeness and security.

This important and rather cruel research provided significant changes to how orphanages, adoption agencies and child care providers cared for children and their needs. What a powerful study on the nature of love, affection and nurture for the human spirit. We can endure a lot, but apparently we cannot endure the lack of love, of meaningful touch, affection and the security that touches the human soul. 

Who do you need to love today? Who needs your warm touch? 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

*www.Verywell mind.com, Harry Harlow and the Nature of Affection, by Kendra Cherry, December 12, 20

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Being a Dad and a Mom and Taking Advantage of a Long Weekend

My wife and I loved watching our kids grow up. We didn’t experience the “terrible two’s,” but rather chose to enjoy the terrific twos. We never believed a child needed to be rebellious in their teenage years. We expected something different and prayed accordingly. We did our best to instill God’s love and truths into their spirits and prayed nightly with them as they laid their heads on their pillows. We broke up sibling fights and did our best to keep boredom from settling in.

We took our children on mission trips around the world, taught them to save their hard-earned money and to tithe. We enjoyed a devotional time together many evenings and loved to leave them in charge of teaching us some spiritual lesson they learned. 

We gathered for meals around our table and discussed our day. It was open conversation time and we specialized in laughing together. Their friends were always welcomed to our home or on our family vacation to the beach, especially in those awkward teen years when they really needed a friend. We included their friends into our family and did our best to be welcoming and hospitable. 

Quite often we had guests staying with us or around our table and we learned to serve and listen to others. On occasion we would travel to Philadelphia and do outreaches to the homeless and we visited our local mission, as well as the very alone elderly in assisted living facilities without visitors.

The children loved their grandparents and we knew relationships were solid when they came home and said, “Grandpa rules.” Being with and influenced by an older generation is advantageous in developing a culture of honor and respect within the lives of our children.

Get crazy and enjoy a good old fashion mud battle with your kids!

Traveling to the mountains together was a regular routine where we would sleep in an uncomfortable rustic cabin, fishing, swimming and playing in the crystal-clear creek. We hunted crayfish, caught lightning bugs and ate lots of yummy food made on a campfire. 

Our home was never a perfect one because it was filled with imperfect persons, but family is what mattered. Now our children have children of their own. Will they go and do likewise? I know so. Family is God’s idea, always was. This Labor Day weekend while you are not laboring, your family is just waiting for time together to build relationship. Go and build memories that will last a lifetime which will then be handed down to their children’s children.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Prayer

One of the Quietest Places in the World

Have you ever heard of the National Radio Quiet Zone? The United States designated a radio quiet zone in which any radio transmission is heavily restricted by law covering a land mass of 13,000 square miles in 1956. This quiet zone contains the largest, fully-steerable radio telescope in the world. It’s located in Green Bank, West Virginia.

 

The dish alone is larger than a football field. This telescope can capture infinitesimal signals from space. The government prohibits the use of cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, microwaves and wireless speakers within a ten-mile radius that could cause any interference with radio observations. This “quiet” allows scientists to “hear” and to listen for any noise from outer space.

 

Where is your intentional “quiet space?” How do you quiet yourself so you can hear and listen to the voice of the One who created our universe? There are so many voices that require our daily attention, but there is One we must hear.

 

In Job 33, God said to Job, “Pay attention and listen to me; be silent…and I will speak.” There is a time for speaking our petitions and there is a time to listen. When we position ourselves to listen, we position ourselves to hear direction, to receive wisdom and to feel loved.

 

There are more than enough distractions in our lives today. Renew in your heart to allow your heavenly Father undistracted and unrestricted access and time by turning off those devices, reading His word and listening to Him. You will not regret one minute of it and neither will He.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Worry Will Steal Your Rest

There is a thief among us. It will rob us of peace, of joy and of sleep. We weren’t created to carry stressors which lead to worry that ages us prematurely. Worry wrinkles the skin, darkens the eyes and hunches over the shoulders.

 

To worry is to be in a constant attempt to figure out or manipulate the future. It is self-torment and the heavier the worry becomes, the more effort it takes to move forward. To be in a state of worry inhibits rest.

 

I heard someone once say when we live life out of rest, we release God to work on our behalf. But when we live in a lifestyle of carrying our own load, God rests. He will allow us to stumble and fall with worry.

 

One evening for devotions, my wife and I read this verse out of Isaiah, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Wow, we stopped and asked God to give us the grace to live in that very place, a worry-free place of peace and undisturbed rest.

 

Do you desire to dwell there too?

 

Ask Him, just as we did.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Bonus Devotional: Day 31, Final Words

“There are two great days in a person’s life ­– the day we are born and the day we discover why.”  William Barclay

It has been the goal of this thirty day devotional for you to discover why you were born and to never let go of those truths. Thank you for joining with me and allowing me to be a small part of your devotional life. I pray that every day has been a blessing to you. Enjoy this final blog on identity and don’t forget to purchase your own book.

In the Scriptures, God chose to call Himself “Abba” or “Daddy.” It has always intrigued me that He used family language. Jesus repeatedly said that He only did what He saw His Father doing. If Jesus, the Son of God, looked to His Father, how much more do we need to get lost in His approval, esteem, identity, and love? The following verses describe this relationship so accurately.

The mature children of God are those who are moved by the impulses of the Holy Spirit. And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!” For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!” (Romans 8:14-16 The Passion Translation).

No one will force you to receive your security and identity in the Father’s love and acceptance, not even God Himself. According to the verses above, He says you are already good enough. He desires that you receive the “Spirit of acceptance” and approval. You are part of His family, never an orphan. Allow His Holy Spirit to make His Fatherhood real to you as He whispers in your innermost being: “You are God’s beloved child!”

It is unknown who first said these words, but I think they are so relevant as we close this book. “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Together, let’s change the ending and commit to starting that change today. 

It is said that we become like those whom we spend time with. We will pick up their language, their mannerisms and sometimes their attitudes. Spending time with God is never wasted. As we learn His language, His word, His mannerisms and His attitudes, we will find ourselves becoming more and more secure in that identity. You will no longer be who you once were or thought you should be. You will become the distinctiveness of you!

It has been a pleasure to connect with you on a daily basis. You can sign up for my weekly blog at: calledtogether.wordpress.com

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Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Insecurity

Your Destiny II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 29

We have been justified by His blood. Romans 5:9

We have redemption through His blood. Ephesians 1:7

I blamed my father for most everything negative in my life.  After all, aren’t parents supposed to be kind, generous, loving and placing their children first?  Yes and no.  Not every parent is whole enough to be all those things to their children, as each one is in a different stage of healing and growing up themselves.  But still, I expected perfection from my father.  He was older, wiser and stronger than me.  I held him up as the one who should take all the blame for my messed-up life and for a while that worked for me.

Then one day I heard God whisper these words, “It is true, Steve, you did not have a perfect father, but you were never a perfect son and you, yourself, are not a perfect father.”  God was confronting me, kindly and with His truth.  I decided that day the blame game was over and that Jesus’ prescription to me read, “Forgive as you have been forgiven.”  It was the only way forward and it would be the only way I would really find God as my heavenly Father and not project upon Him that imperfect image of my earthy father.

God is the perfect Father.  He loves us perfectly.  He forgives us perfectly.  He disciplines us perfectly.  He has our best interest in mind.  God created a perfect garden within a perfect world.  He created mankind and placed him there with the perfect job.  He then created the perfect life mate and by Genesis three they were walking away from Him.  Not long after that, in Genesis four, Adam’s and Eve’s son committed murder when in a fit of rage Cain killed Abel. 

If we find ourselves becoming hurt over and over, we are very effectively creating a cycle of hurt and pain within ourself.  We must, according to God’s word, “put off” this “earthly nature” from the ways we “used to walk,” receiving hurt after hurt, and “put on” our “new self…the image of [our] Creator.”  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  (See Colossians 3:1-14.)  

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!  But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.  Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears.  But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.  And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.(I John 3:1-3)

Our identity must guide who we are becoming and with this new identity we have new authority, so that everything we say and do flows out of our identity in Christ.  This is the goal of God in our lives and the goal of our life in God.  This then is where it all ends, “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  (I John 3:2,3)  

We shall be like Him.  We shall walk in His identity, His life and His purpose.  There is no greater life to be lived than the one life in which we know who we are and Who we serve, Jesus Christ Son of God.

Question for reflection:

In what ways have you cast blame on certain others for your imperfections?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity

Is Your Identity for Sale? II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 27

I am more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37

I have been given fullness in Christ. Colossians 2:10

The gospel of John chapter 4 gives us an amazing story of insight of Jesus.  It’s a story of a woman at a well.  She had been married five times!  She had repeatedly tried to find security and identity in men. Plus, Jesus revealed to her that the man she was presently living with was not her husband.  Jesus does not say one condemning word.  He did say that drinking water will make you thirsty again, “but whoever drinks the water He gives them will never thirst again…a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   

When the Samaritan woman asked for this water, what was Jesus’ answer?  He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  Do you notice the dialogue going on?  “Give me the water; go get your husband.”  Jesus tells her He has living water with which she will never thirst again and she yearns for it.  

What would you do, but ask for it?  He does not answer her request in the typical way.  He puts His finger directly on the drawback in her life, the issue, her place of missing the mark, her one area that is out of control: the need of looking to men for security, identity, emotional and physical needs.  She then attempts to redirect Him in verses 19 and 20.  Jesus makes it clear that one day all will worship in spirit and in truth.  Then in verse 26, Jesus reveals Himself to her, not in a parable, not in an allegorical story, but simply saying, “I am He.”  How often was He that straightforward about who He was?

Jesus knew that she had been selling her identity to men, but He also knew an encounter with the One who could give her living water, water that would quench her insecurity and her identity thirst forever, would radically change her life.  I will never believe this meeting was accidental or a random encounter.  It was a sovereign confrontation, a meeting that was orchestrated by heaven itself because of the love of God for that one single woman at the well.

To you and to me He says, “I am He.”  I am your living water.  I am your security.  I am your identity.  I am your foundation for relationship so that your neediness issues can be resolved.  I am your healthy boundary keeper.  I am your esteem.  I am your beginning and your end.  I am your employer, your real-estate agent, your banker and your lawyer.  I am your retirement, your health insurance, your accountant.  I am your father and your mother.  I am your security and I am your identity.  I am He.

Have you found Him to be all these things? It’s okay to be at the well, but it is not okay to leave The Well still thirsty. He is present to quench your thirst regardless of how you came to the well or where your heart was at when you first encountered Jesus. He speaks to you today, “I am He.”

Question for reflection:

When you consider Him as the “I am” in your life, what do you know to be true about your identity?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Is Your Identity for Sale?

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 26

I am seated with Christ in heavenly realms. Ephesians 2:6

I am loved with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3

I am qualified to share in the inheritance of the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12

Imagine that you lived 2000 years ago and you just recently heard of this One named Jesus and most of what you have heard has been negative.  In some strange way, this man and the controversy that surrounds Him intrigues you.  You would love to meet Him and you think about traveling to His town.  

The thought leaves you until one day you hear that He is coming to your region and your town is in an absolute uproar. There are so many questions, so many reports circulating; why is He coming; will you see Him; will He see you?  You determine to get to the Main Street to get a closer look; you see the crowds making their way toward you and here He comes.  A strange anxiety and nervousness intensify within you as you anticipate His closeness. 

Suddenly, He’s right there in front of you and He looks your way.  You want to look down, but don’t know why.  In reality you can’t look anywhere but straight at Him.  Surprised, He’s looking straight at you—eye-to-eye.  You don’t know how to describe the feeling: His eyes, are warm, inviting, questioning.  You can’t look away; you’re undone, you’re lost in His presence and your heart is pounding.  He opens His mouth to say something, but to you it’s all in slow motion as you hear the words, “Come follow me.”  You want to say, “Who me?” but you can’t utter a word.  Without thinking, you find one foot going in front of the other and you are, in fact, following Him.

His latest teaching is strange, like He’s going somewhere that you cannot come.  You feel almost rejected, pushed out of the nest.  Being thrust into the future without Him is incomprehensible and unimaginable.  For you there’s no going back, no return.  You have caught something from Him and there is now no other way to live life.  It’s even stranger how He prays these days.  His prayer focus has shifted to something about returning to the Father and sending another to be with you and your eleven friends.  You don’t desire another; you desire only Him.  

You remember that first glance on Main Street and how His eyes met yours.  You remember feeling unclean but accepted, all at the same time.  You reflect on so many things now, things that you took for granted over the past three years.  “Go away, Jesus?  Where would you be going and why would you be going away from us?  We gave everything to follow you.  We gave up our businesses and our families.  We gave up our homes and our belongings.  We gave these things up to follow You and now You leave us and promise another?”  You scream inside, “I don’t want another. I want You.”  You go off to pray and He goes off to pray. 

Where did Jesus end and His disciples begin?  Where did His disciples end and He begin?  The relationships are so interwoven in this story and yet there is such clarity of who you are and whose you are.  Even though Jesus walked with these men for over three years, He did not request of the Father to bring them with Him or to stay a while longer with them.  Jesus knew who He was and He knew whose His disciples were.  He was not comparing Himself with the Father or in competition for the relationships.  He was not jealous or possessive of His disciples’ relationships with His Father and neither did He try to manipulate His Father’s plan.   Jesus did what He came to do and now He was leaving earth without His disciples.  (See John 17.)

Even though the Father had given these relationships to the Son, the Son respected the boundaries given Him and handed them back to the Father.  (See John 17:10 – “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.”)

Walk with Him today. He does see you and you can see Him. You are His and He is yours.

Question for reflection:

What were you feeling as you read today’s devotional and placed yourself in the midst of the story?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

You are Uniquely You

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 24

I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Ephesians 1:3

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 6:19

Every decision we make is made through our past experiences, our present desires and thoughts or our future wants or needs.  God has created us with the capacity to think within all three of these realms or dimensions.  The memory capacity of our brains is simply amazing, as it provides for us the knowledge needed from past experience for decision making today.

Just imagine if we lacked memory.  We would not know how to drive home from work today.  We would not know or be able to identify our spouse in the morning when we wake up.  We would have to start each new day reading a memory log from the day before: who we are, where we live, where we work or go to school.  Life would function so differently.  We can conclude memory is not only necessary for life, it provides so much wonderful meaning to life.

The Bible says what we sow, we reap (See Galatians 6:7, 8.).  What I sow today, determines the return I will have on that seed tomorrow.  If I desire a certain crop in the future, then I have to sow that seed today.  Not one farmer expects to reap where they have not sown, but every farmer fully expects to reap where they have sown.  You may expect to be a millionaire one day in the future, but if you do nothing and place no effort toward that goal today, you will never see it.  It is easy to then become deceived into thinking you’ll win the lottery or inherit that million, but without earning it.  The scriptures describe this type of gain as ill-gotten treasure.  (Proverbs 10: 2)

Do you want to live in health in your latter years?  Take measures today to exercise and eat healthy because when reaching tomorrow, today will be the past.  Do you desire to be free of pain from your past?  Then do something about it today and forgive those who have hurt you and bless those who have cursed you.  

Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of cavities as a child.  My family did not use toothpaste with fluoride in it.  Fluoride wasn’t even marketed in those days.  My trips to the dentist were fear-filled and excruciating.  Today, I pay the price of dealing with crowns to save my teeth.  My past dental care affects my present oral condition and will continue to affect my future.  

You just cannot separate these three: the past, the present and the future.  But you can start making decisions in alignment with God’s word and His direction for your life.  A better decision today means a better outcome tomorrow.  A destructive decision today means certain pain in our future.

For example, are you a worrier?  I mean, does your mind immediately go to the exercise of worry when an unknown is surfacing?  Or, is your response to a present worrisome issue one of going to your heavenly Father in prayer and trust?  One response is trusting and relying upon yourself and your capacity to worry (needing to solve the issue yourself) and the other is trusting God and His capacity to intervene both in the here-and-now and the future.  Philippians 4: 6,7 reminds us to not be anxious and if we’ll petition God along with giving thanks, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.  Peace does not follow worry; it follows prayer and trusting God, literally giving our worry to God.  (See Psalm 37: 1-8.)

Question for reflection:

If you find yourself to be a worrier, how does your worry affect your present-day life?

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