Encouragement, History, Just for fun

Fun Facts for Thanksgiving 2022

Being thankful is a daily exercise. Someone said our normal position in life should be “thanksliving.” Giving thanks can be and should be a lifestyle. We are encouraged to give thanks in all things. A thankful heart is so much better to be around than an unthankful heart. So, in the spirit of an American national holiday called Thanksgiving, here are a few interesting facts surrounding this celebration. Share them with your family around the table.

  • The American Thanksgiving is modeled after a 17th century harvest feast. However, the U.S. National Park Service states that in 1565 Spanish settlers in St. Augustine, (now Florida), celebrated a meal with Native Americans of pork stew, sea biscuits, wine and beans. It is believed the native Americans provided turkey and venison.
  • Around 46 million turkeys are consumed which is approximately 720 million pounds of turkey. Approximately 89% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Forty years ago, Butterball turkey company opened a hotline to answer questions and some 100,000 people call this hotline annually. 
  • The Swanson company began the concept of frozen dinners in 1953 when they overestimated the number of frozen turkeys they would sell. Rather than waste all that meat, they recycled and repackaged it into frozen TV dinners.
  • Thanksgiving became a national holiday when Abraham Lincoln made it one after the Civil War on October 20, 1864. That move was initiated and lobbied for by a woman named Sarah Joseph Hale most known for writing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
  • Other nations also celebrate this holiday in some form or fashion including: Canada, Grenada, Liberia, the Philippines, Saint Lucia and the Netherlands. 
  • The U.S. president “pardons” a turkey from slaughter on Thanksgiving. Where did this tradition come from? It dates back to Abraham Lincoln’s son who was upset that his family’s turkey was going to be killed for dinner.
  • According to the U.S. Calorie Control Council (who knew there was such a council), an average American may consume 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day.
  • And finally, the day after Thanksgiving is said to be the busiest day of the year for plumbers!
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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Men, Women

Blemishes, We All have Them

One day my wife, Mary, a registered nurse, returned home from work with multiple black spots under each eye. I asked her what on earth could have happened at work that evening. She told me, “Oh, you know all those white age spots I had under my eyes? Well, I had the doctor burn them off for me.” 

I shared with her that I never noticed any white age spots, but I sure did see the black ones and they were far worse! Mary saw those spots every time she looked in the mirror. Not everyone noticed them, not even her husband, but she did. 

We tend to look at a picture of ourselves and see the blemishes: the crooked nose, the mole, the scar, or the receding hairline. The same is true of our emotional blemishes and past sins. We “see” and recall our selfish behavior, our sinful exploits, and our insecurities. 

Colossians chapter one states this: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Colossians 1:21, 22)

Here is the really good news: the verses in Colossians tell us that those blemishes are no longer a part of us, we have been made holy and we cannot be accused any longer. We have been forgiven and we are free. We are reconciled and presented holy in His sight, without blemish and totally free from accusation! Stop focusing on the blemishes and start focusing on how your heavenly Father sees you.

(To all veterans. Thank you for your service. Enjoy your special day today!)

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Prayer

Another Election Day Approaching

As many of us approach election day here in the USA, I thought I would pass along to you some really healthy and sound advice. But first, let me share some of the best advice from God’s word found in I Timothy 2:1-3 from The Passion version.

 1-3 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

Some very sound advice:

  • I can deeply love people with whom I strongly disagree. I refuse to demonize any politician who is made in the image of God.
  • I have enemies and Jesus gave me power over them on the cross, but my battle is NOT against flesh and blood.
  • When you call someone by an evil name…you have decided that you know their heart. But, the Apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?”
  • Associating with, or serving political people, should not be confused with embracing their ideologies. All political offices deserve to be honored according to Romans 13.
  • I am commanded and called to pray for my leaders. If I don’t pray for them, then I don’t have a right to critique their success or failure.
  • My first allegiance is not to a political party but to the kingdom of God.
  • I cannot separate my spiritual views from my political views because the government of this world is being affected and infected by the invisible realm.
  • Great government doesn’t take away the right of people to sin. It does however, protect people from sinning against others and teaching people to do so.
  • It’s not the responsibility of government to Christianize the world. That’s the church’s job.  Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron, but He leads the church with a shepherd’s staff. (Bullet points written by author Kris Valloton.)

Lastly, let us keep in mind the innocent in this election, for our vote matters to them. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “This is God’s message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!” (22:3, The Message)

Let’s prayerfully walk out this election like our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and not to a political party.

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Encouragement, History, Leadership, Marriage, Men

“One Man with Courage Makes a Majority”

Andy was a person who understood personal pain, grief and endurance. He fought in the Revolutionary War. He was captured, slashed across his forehead by a British officer with a sword and would suffer from migraines the remainder of his life. 

While imprisoned, he contracted smallpox. His brother died of smallpox, but Andy lived. Not long after his brother’s death, his mother died of cholera and then his brother, Hugh, also died. The hurt and pain within Andy pushed him to inflict pain upon others. 

But then, Andy fell in love with Rachel. They married only to find out there was a glitch in a court’s error and Rachel was still legally married to her first husband. It is said that Andy actually fought 103 duels to defend her honor! Andy’s body was riddled with bullets; one near his heart caused severe blood-filled coughing spasms.

Andy then fought in the War of 1812. After returning as a war hero, he ran for the office of the president of the United States. During his campaign his adopted son who was 16 years old died of tuberculosis. He went on to win the election of 1828. He served two terms.

President Andrew Jackson

In his first term of office, he lost Rachel to illness. Overcoming his grief as president, he wiped out the federal deficit before he retired to Nashville, Tennessee. 

On his deathbed, Andy spoke of heaven where he would “Go to meet Rachel…and Jesus.”

If you look at the U.S. twenty dollar bill in your pocket you’ll find the engraving of Andrew (Andy) Jackson, the seventh President of the United States.

                              ONE MAN WITH COURAGE MAKES A MAJORITY (Andrew Jackson)

Think of it–one of you, single-handedly, putting a thousand on the run! Because God is God. Because he fights for you, just as he promised you. (Joshua 23:10 The Message)

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Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

When We Mess Up in Our Marriage

No matter the length of time we’ve been married there are times we mess up. Maybe we become angry too soon over a small issue or we forget an important date or we fail to show appreciation for that extra special effort shown by our spouse. In any case, in our humanness we do the wrong thing every once in a while. 

And then there’s that reoccurring argument that raises its head up every so often. How do we get over that hump?

We may not try it, but we realize as soon as it happens we can’t take it back. Herein lies the problem. We said it, it’s out there and now we have to deal with it. 

However, all too often pride gets in the way of simply humbling ourselves and making a quick apology. We just don’t like to admit we were wrong…again. 

Here are a few steps to think about incorporating into your marriage so you don’t keep finding yourselves back at that same old issue or repeatedly feeling bad because you messed up once again.

  • First, realize that you cannot change history, but you can take responsibility for history and any issues you caused.
  • If it’s an ongoing issue we need to repent to God, ask His forgiveness and then ask Him for new patterns.
  • When talking about the issue, we need to both admit our failures.
  • While we may see things differently, where do we agree?
  • We need to both humble ourselves, move beyond the problem and then look for, pray for solutions.
  • What is the solution(s)? What can we both live with, agree upon and walk out together? You might start with the question, “If we could start over, what would we do differently in this area?”
  • Can we develop a new heart, a new outlook in this area? Can we identify new language to use that would help create a new attitude?

Early in our marriage, I thought Mary, my wife, was a “spender.”” She thought I was pretty “tight.” We didn’t agree on everything financial. Realizing we were stuck, we began to ask God for solutions and suddenly our eyes became open to a deeper truth. Mary was not a spender; she was actually a giver. I was not trying to be tight, but I was concerned about saving for an investment in the future. We were givers and investors. We changed our language as we healed from our financial differences.

Try it. Follow the steps above and ask your heavenly Father to redeem your reoccurring differences and mess-ups.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Issues of the Day

Am I Brainwashed?

I entered the US Air Force during the Vietnam war. I was not allowed to just participate without a proper military foundation and so there was this tormenting program called Basic Training. It was months of grueling exercise to get into shape along with mind-altering courses of instruction.

We learned how to stand at attention, stand at ease and how to march. We were forced to dress in military uniform, learning about the “P line” and how to match your shirt line with your belt line, with your pant line. We also learned how to make a military bed, how to clean latrines (Mom would be proud) and what was an acceptable haircut. We were required to participate in various classes on military law, military justice and military history. 

As a young man I had never experienced anything like it. The goal of the military drill sergeants was to create an airman, one who was no longer classified as a civilian. Civilian life was over, at least for the next four years. We were to look like, sound like, think like and react like a trained military soldier. 

I’ve been told a number of times that as a dedicated Christian I am not living in the “normal” world.  Or, that I am “brainwashed.” There are times that I know I can take those comments as a compliment and at other times they trouble me. I guess it depends on who is making the remark. 

But here’s an honest observation: If the military thought they could make a soldier out of me by teaching a totally new way of life, then I believe Christ can make a disciple out of me by teaching me His way of life. It takes a renewed mind, a mind that transitions to believe His normal revealed throughout His word, the Bible. 

Am I now brainwashed or is my mind being renewed (see Romans 12:2) to think God’s thoughts and to learn to obey His voice? In the military, I had no choice but to do things their way–the military way. And when I discover God’s way, I also discover the best way, the trusted and safe way that now becomes my normality.

Do not be ashamed if you are accused of being different. You are supposed to be different: look differently, think differently, act differently and respond differently. God’s nature is to become your nature. Embrace the difference and be Christ’s soldier, proud to serve in His army!

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

II TImothy 2:4
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Challenge, Encouragement, History, Identity, In the news, Issues of the Day

Who Gets to Speak the Final Word?

I was sitting in a fourth grade elementary school class when our teacher was called out to the hallway. When she returned she was crying, telling us between sobs that the President of the United States had been assassinated. After she defined the word “assassinated,” we readied ourselves to return home as she announced an early dismissal. 

Devastating news, for sure, that went around the world quickly. But there was another celebrity that died that very same day–the British author C.S. Lewis, an intellectual defender of the Christian faith. 

C. S. Lewis was an author of many books that are now classics like: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis spent most of his earlier years as an atheist. But he began to realize that God was “closing in on him.” He discovered the joy he was missing in life would be found in the faith he had resisted. 

Lewis was a rather shy professor of literature at Oxford and Cambridge universities and he passed from this earth in the shadow of another, His death hardly registered on the news blips of the day. 

Another personal hero of mine died in the shadow of a famous celebrity. Mother Teresa passed from this world the day before Princess Diana’s extravagant funeral. It’s no secret that Princess Diana, who was a friend of Mother Teresa, would steal the limelight from a woman who had given her life to the poor and the needy. It is said that Mother Teresa could carry all of her life possessions in a five-gallon bucket. 

These death eclipses seem unfair, but don’t they speak to how the godly live their lives? It’s not our life that we are lifting up but rather, Christ’s. Even Paul the apostle said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 

While the world celebrates the rich and the famous, God celebrates the obedient, the humble and the servant. Recently, during the highest holy days of the Christian faith, The New York Times had a headline article titled, “In This TIme of War, I Propose We Give Up God.” It was just one more anti-God diatribe.

That article reminded me of a 1966 Time magazine cover article announcing God was, in fact, dead. A few years later that same magazine had a cover article titled, “The Jesus Revolution.”

Let’s let God have… THE FINAL WORD.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Three Vital Questions for Marriage

Discovering how we need to change in order to reflect love is an effective strategy for our marriages today. Here are three reality questions to consider.

Question number one: Do you realize that you were born into brokenness? We all have imperfect families, wounded backgrounds and personality difficulties. When we found the “perfect” person, we found someone like ourselves — in need of healing. While weddings reflect perfection, e.g., perfect clothes, flowers, beauty and pageantry, they are actually filled with imperfect people. Psalm 51:5 reveals, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” I must realize that in my natural, selfish state I do not always reflect Christ to my life mate.

Question number two: Do you realize there is no perfect marriage? Only one relationship on this earth started out perfectly: Adam’s and Eve’s. Their world was perfect, their jobs were perfect and their lives reflected that perfection. But, Adam and Eve chose to walk away from perfection and by the second generation one of their children committed murder. Marriage is not perfect because the two individuals that make up the marriage are not perfect. Within the first 90 days of marriage, we quickly discover we married someone unlike us.

It is God’s story and strategy to begin to hold us together through our differences. You see, my wife is what I am not and I am what she is not, but together we make an amazing and whole team. Ephesians 5: 25- 27 says that, as men, we are called to love our wife as Christ loves His church. We are not Jesus, but we are His representatives.

To love your spouse is to give your life and your love to the point that you bring healing to them.

Our final question; number three: Do you have the mentality of an owner or a renter in marriage? I had a nagging issue with a basement wall in my house that was repeatedly becoming damp. We had torn it apart and rebuilt it only to have moisture show up again. We have now torn it apart a second time. I am the owner; I will do whatever it takes and spend whatever money it takes to make that wall dry again. It’s an owner’s mentality. Owners do what’s best for the property at their own cost and sacrifice. Too many couples are renters today–they’re out the back door while owing three months’ rent. A renter’s mentality in marriage will bring damage to a spouse because they lack long-term commitment. They’ll walk by the weeds every day and not bend over to pull them. A renter in marriage does not think in terms of making an investment in their marriage. Marriage by nature is designed for owners, not renters.

Owners invest their own sweat equity, their life savings and their day-to­ day care to repair, clean and manage their property. Why? It’s a lifetime investment. It’s an asset, not a liability. Owners desire an increase in value over time.

Do you take ownership for being healed and bringing healing to your marriage? Are you in your marriage for a lifetime investment and have a passion for an increase in value? If you answer, “yes” to these questions, then you are taking ownership, growing through your own brokenness and imperfections.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Why Are You Married?

Have you ever been to an ox pull? We were in New England, seated on a set of old wooden bleachers at a county fair; we had never experienced a real, live ox pull. Let us try to describe it to you: two mammoth oxen are yoked together, side by side, and behind them is an apparatus like a hitch. The hitch is connected to a large chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds. The oxen are commanded by their owner (called a driver) to pull together and drag the concrete slab as far as they possibly can. It was quite entertaining, and we immediately began to realize something with the teams of oxen. Some were young and inexperienced. Some pairs were noticeably different sizes. Some simply refused to work with their partner. But those teams that were mature and experienced knew how to work together, with their driver shouting out commands at their sides. Those teams, we noticed, pulled the heavy concrete a lengthy distance. 

We found ourselves thinking about how the teams of oxen were a picture of marriage—specifically, the picture of a team of two either working together successfully or failing miserably to pull in unison. It was not the biggest or strongest team that won; it was the oxen that could work together, each performing to the best of its ability. Working alone, the block wouldn’t move an inch; but working in complete harmony, the teams would succeed in reaching the goal. 

It astounds us to discover how many couples do not know why they are married. For what reason(s) has God called you together into this union? Those who once were two have been called to move as one. When the two oxen didn’t compete with one another and acted as one, they were surprisingly successful. 

Businesses, civic organizations, churches, and the military all have mission statements. If they understand this statement and what goals are to be accomplished, all of the members or employees of these organizations know why they belong. Mission statements are composed of descriptive terms like “to serve the homeless of our city,” “to build a better and more efficient home,” or “to protect our nation’s borders.” When God created man, He also created a mission for man. God gave Adam and Eve an assignment from heaven—to tend the Garden of Eden and to rule over creation. 

This assignment was not just busy work; it was a charge from God to care for God’s creation and to replenish the earth. There was purpose, a co-mission in this first marriage, and Adam and Eve went about each day fulfilling that call of God upon their lives. Both you and your spouse can discover your co-mission, just like Adam and Eve. You each have both spiritual and natural gifts that balance and complement. As husband and wife, you are a team, yoked together to fulfill all that the Father has planned for you. Perhaps God has called you to the business realm, to be in worship ministry together, or to raise your children or to pay off your mortgage early. All of these can become pieces of your mission together as a married couple. 

Life can get busy and pass us by rather quickly. Before we know it, we’ve been married for five or even ten years. We can begin to myopically focus on the stuff of life that has no real or eternal value or lasting effect upon our lives and the lives of others. It’s important to remember why God called you together in matrimony, and writing your mission statement as a couple can help to refocus your marriage on the things that truly matter. 

Where it all began for us 

When Mary and I first discovered the idea of mission as a couple, we were already many years into our marriage. Looking back over several decades, we realized that our first co-mission assignment came from our local church. Our pastor asked us if we would consider starting a bus ministry. The idea was to fill a bus with unchurched kids and bring them to Sunday school. We loved visiting the kids and their families every Saturday and picking them up in our red-and- white converted school bus early Sunday morning. Sometimes they ran to the bus half-dressed due to a lack of parental involvement, but they were excited nonetheless. The bus ministry was so successful that we began a second route, and then a third. Soon we were reaching the parents as well as the children and were helping to grow a multicultural fellowship. 

Excerpt from the book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve and Mary Prokopchak.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

How to Provide Critical Input and Feedback

I’d venture to guess that most of us like talking more than we like listening. Counselors are paid to listen, but for the majority of us, we’d rather express our opinion versus listening to another’s. 

Having written a number of books and plenty of articles and published well over 600 blogs, I have, without trying, widely opened the door for feedback, push back, criticism and opinion. When I write something like a book I embrace the input of others, their corrective feedback and their helpful, critical eye. Using what I call pre- readers makes for a better book. Having hand-selected persons who I know will read the material and will also be willing to give me honest and fair input is invaluable.

By the time a book goes through editing and then proofing, being scoured for theological correctness and cultural sensitivity, etc., the author is ready to be done with it. This process can take several years and can be somewhat grueling.

Our first widely published book, Called Together, was featured in a magazine article about methods of premarital counseling. It was great to see it featured and to read the positive article about its effectiveness. One month later came the letters to the editor. While most were positive, one was extremely negative. It was obvious the writer of the letter never read the book, but those toxic and inaccurate words were already out there and I could not retrieve them or add a rebuttal. 

The same is true with online reviews where books are sold. While many are positive, there are those who criticize your work and give you one-star ratings for the most trivial things. Once again, authors cannot provide a rebuttal or even go on the offensive to somehow set the record straight. You have to learn to take the good with the bad and not lose sleep over it. 

Articles and blogs are somewhat unusual because it’s much easier to be critical of these than it is a book, primarily because of their shorter length. My experience with this type of writing is a bit different. Let me explain.

Negative responses from your audience might begin with a question. You, the author, do your best to provide an answer. This then provokes another question or two which are often not related to your response to their first question. You once again attempt to not be defensive, take the question as sincere and provide an answer. Now the tone begins to change and you begin to pick up that the questions were leading and a ruse for what is to come.

The next expression is pushback and criticism of your written piece. If you as the author continue to try and respond, the critic can easily become venomous, strongly opinionated and letting you know rather loudly that they are right and you are clearly wrong. The whole thing begins to break down and starts to feel really bad.

The worst part is this is normally not a person who when reading your many blogs or articles ever writes back with a positive comment or word of encouragement. This type of person is waiting for you to slip up and wander off into one of their sacred cows. And this criticism from the critic whose only goal is to prove you wrong by their expertise or life experience, is really to ridicule you and tell you how wrong you are. It is typically pretty unfair, undesired and often unprovoked. 

Most likely there will be nothing productive from the conversation and it will become more and more toxic along with the possibility of it also becoming anger-filled. 

How should we respond and give critical input to an author?

There are respectful and acceptable steps we can take that do not create further offense, hurt and anger. Let me share a few helpful steps with you. These are steps that I have incorporated into my life as well.

  1. Know your boundaries. Stay within your field of ministry or expertise. (See II Corinthians 10:12-18.)
  2. Earn the right to speak into another’s life and what they write. If at all possible, make sure of the health of the relationship first. This builds trust which allows truth to be spoken without taking offense.
  3. Thoroughly read what is written. Do not allow a word in the piece to cause you to emotionally react. Try to be sure the author is saying what you think they are saying and do your best to not only read words but to hear their heart.
  4. Find the positive. What can you agree with and then include this in your comments.
  5. If you don’t understand something, then humbly ask the author for further clarity. Perhaps you are misreading the piece.
  6. Questions to the author that are leading in nature will be picked up by the author and you will be setting yourself up for a defensive response. Stay away from leading questions. These are questions with an agenda attached to them, e.g., “You don’t really mean what you are saying about ______, do you?”
  7. Give your input through your experience or knowledge humbly. The author will receive it when it is felt that it’s coming from a genuine experience and a genuine heart of humility.
  8. Do not keep the dialogue going beyond one or two responses. It just gets defensive after that. If there is disagreement, let it go.

You can do all these steps without being defensive or argumentative. A know-it-all response will come across as not legitimate, but rather arrogant.

When responding, keep these verses in mind:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:12-14)

 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col. 4:6)

I hope this will help to give improved and more gentle responses in a sincere effort to be a builder in conversation keeping the admonishments in mind from the above listed scriptures.

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