The new house!

The new house!
This is our spring and summer view from the kitchen of our new home in Oklahoma!

Friday, December 31, 2010

You Can Do It!

This morning as I was pondering my final posting for 2010, I was drawn back to the same scripture that I closed the blog with yesterday, and I can think of no better way to encourage you as you begin your journey into the New Year ahead.  

The Word I quoted yesterday is actually the end of that particular verse.  The entire verse in my favorite translation says: “Don’t you realize that everyone who runs in a race runs to win, but only one runner gets the prize?  Run like them, so you can win.”  (I Corinthians 9:24 God’s Word ©)  What occurred to me today, is that even though we have likened our progress in life to a foot race with other contestants, the truth of the matter is, that we actually run this race alone.  Each of us has a unique destiny in life, and although we can use similar tools to gain victory in our walk on this earth, each of our paths are different.

I think that is what the apostle Paul was trying to say.  He said that everyone enters the competition to win, but only one gets the trophy, so run like the winner runs!  In other words, as you get set in the runners blocks, focus like a winner.  As you progress through your race, do so with the winner’s attitude and discipline.  It is your time to shine!  It is totally up to you whether you win or lose…

So, my encouragement to you, as you look to the days and months ahead, is that YOU CAN DO IT.  2011 IS YOUR YEAR FOR VICTORY AND SUCCESS.  Set your face like flint toward the finish line for each of your goals, don’t allow discouragement to get you off track, stay true to your foundation and have fun as you accomplish the little steps each day.  Have a blessed and safe New Years, and I'll see you next year!  Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?” … or better yet, “What am I expecting in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Can I Turn My Dreams Into Reality?

Okay, be honest with me now… Did you take some time yesterday, to allow yourself the luxury of letting go of your inhibitions and dreaming big dreams for your life in 2011?  I sure hope that you did, because I began to let the creative juices flow, and I have to tell you, it felt good.  In fact, as I released my imagination without restraint, I experienced a real sense of freedom from the anxieties of everyday life and a deadening of the report that seems to be in each of us, that keeps bringing up the lie that stops us dead in out tracks by saying“it can’t be done”.  Do you remember that old commercial for the relief of heartburn that said “How do you spell relief?”  Well, in our case, the relief we are talking about is not a physical disorder, but a mental one.  As I initiated the planning process for 2011, relief based on my foundational beliefs, was spelled d-r-e-a-m-i-n-g.   

So, let’s move ahead with this.  Yesterday I introduced the process of planning daily steps that will help you progress toward the completion of each of your goals for the New Year.  One of the definitions of the word steps is to walk a little distance. So what we need to do each day is to walk a little distance toward our goals.  It is very important to keep walking and to do so with a definite destination in mind.  There is a scripture in the book of I Corinthians where the apostle Paul is, once again, comparing growth in our lives to that of his participation as a contestant in a foot race. He states: “So I run – but not without a clear goal ahead of me…”  (I Corinthians 9:26 God’s Word©) 

This verse brings me back to my illustrious career as a track star in Junior High.  I spoke a couple of weeks ago about some activities that took place as I ran the 220 yard race.  While in ninth grade, I also was a member of the 440 yard relay team.  The team was made up of four runners, each running a 110 yard sprint before passing on the baton to the next member of the team.  While it is important for each member to keep an eye and/or thought on the finish line, the biggest point of focus for each runner (except for the last runner) should be the member of their team ahead of them awaiting the baton.  So, you could say, that successfully passing the baton to your next teammate is like completing the daily step that you are taking toward the completion of your overall goal, which in the case of the 440 relay, is to have the last runner on your team cross the finish line... hopefully in front of everyone else!

After you establish what you would like to accomplish for 2011, begin to break each goal down into small attainable daily or weekly steps for you to work on throughout your race to the finish line.  Write down your final goals as well as each step on paper and then cross out each completed step as you go.  Post this sheet in a conspicuous place to act both as a reminder and encouragement to your work in progress.

In connection to the verse mentioned above, the apostle Paul also made the point to “Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize.”  (I Corinthians 9:24 Good News Bible©)  So, I encourage you to be brave, do your mental stretches and grab a pen, a hot cup of coffee, a sheet of paper and turn your dreams into reality!  Keep fine tuning your focus and be determined to win!  Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Allow Yourself to Dream...

This morning I began to turn my thoughts in earnest toward personal goals for the rapidly approaching new year.  A portion of scripture that especially caught my eye, as I read the Bible within this mode, was a portion of Luke 2:40.  This verse contains the last few sentences of the Christmas Story that we’ve been looking at over the last week or so.  What makes it interesting is that this verse is the one that, in effect, sends off the Hero of the story into his childhood years.  The verse says : “The child grew and became strong.  He was filled with wisdom…”  (Luke 2:40  God’s Word©)  The very next portion of scripture takes place some twelve years later.

There are three areas that are covered in this verse.  They are growth, strength and wisdom.  As I looked into the original meanings of the Greek works, I discovered that these areas denote all the aspects of a human being.  It infers the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional parts of man.

After observing this, I was a little stunned for a moment, so I kicked back in my chair and hung my feet over the corner of my desk.  While staring off beyond the far reaches of my ceiling, I began to realize that this is the perfect goal, not only for me, but for all of us, as we move into the year ahead.  What better ideal than to grow and become strong, with wisdom, in every nook and cranny of our beings!  Wow…  a total reformation in 2011!

Sound incredible?  I really don’t think so!  What better way to view the immediate future than with the beginnings of a plan that explodes with anticipation of great expectations of good things happening for you!  How do you approach something like this?  Well, as my pastor’s wife once told me when we first returned from Oklahoma a few years ago… “One step at a time!”  While keeping a glancing eye on the final goal, concentrate on the day to day steps immediately before you.  Each successful completion of a small step, denotes a victory that moves you ever closer toward the final stroke of the overall picture you are painting.

We’ll take a look at some of these steps tomorrow.  Until then, begin to let your imaginations flow as you consider where you would like to be at the end of 2011.  Take some time to dream… and allow yourself to dream big, without constraint!  Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Innocence and Total Trust

While watching the end of a movie last night, my wife and I received a text from our youngest daughter in Oklahoma requesting us to take a look at their Christmas photos that she and her boyfriend had just uploaded to Facebook.  We slowly uncoiled ourselves from our snug places on the couch and from the dog sleeping luxuriously between us and made our way back to the study.  As the pictures came up on her Facebook page, we began to enjoy all the shots of my daughter, her close, special friend, our youngest son and a friend of his, as they posed around the decorated home.  

Our daughter had planned for this occasion for weeks.  She prepared an exquisite meal of steak, fresh green beans and my mother’s old Italian special recipe of potato gnocchi with a fresh basil pesto sauce.  The pictures ranged from the standard views of the various individuals posing on the couch, to the young men making humorous faces and finally to the unwrapping of the Christmas presents.  It looked to have been a fun and memory filled celebration of our children’s second Christmas away from home.  My wife and I laughed at the different scenes and I wrote back silly comments which my daughter and I bantered back and forth with by texting on our phones.  It was a great experience that just made my day!

This morning as I thought about the photos, I began to realize what was so special about  them.  The event that they captured was an expression of young innocence and total trust.  There was expectancy written all over their faces.  They had planned for a special, fun time and received exactly what they had expected!  The night and day that the photos  recorded were completely void of worries and cares.  There was a peace and joy present in that home that literally leaped from those photos taken 1800 miles away from our home in California.  Nothing else mattered to them at that time, because they knew in Whom they trusted.

This immediately brought me back to the reaction of the young teenage girl that was presented with an outrageous announcement over 2000 years ago in the Galilean town of Nazareth.  This event would totally unravel her life as she had known it, and had probably planned it for the future.  But while she questioned the mechanics of event, she readily accepted her role with complete innocence and trust in her God.  Her response to the Angel was simply: “I am the Lord’s servant.  Let everything you’ve said happen to me.”  (Luke 1:38 God’s Word©)  She later went on to sing her praises to God, amplifying her complete trust in the One that enlisted her for the assignment.

My children and their friends, just like Mary, have many trying things that they are dealing with in life.  Being away from home, finishing school, jobs, making major decisions that will affect their entire lives and so on, but do they allow those daily issues to rob them of their joy of life?  No!  Why? Because they have an innocent and total trust in that same foundation that my wife and I have.  Do they have situations and thoughts that work to bring them down, you bet, but they do not give more than a few moments of attention to them, choosing instead to seek the guidance of their foundation and replace the attacking fears with a solid faith in the One they have come to personally know as faithful and true (see Revelation 19:11).

No matter you age or your place in life, this is a major key to living your daily life successfully, with an expectancy of good things happening for you.  Remember this is the week to begin to set the milestones for your life in 2011.  Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, December 27, 2010

Is Your Christmas Joy Beginning To Fade?

Well it’s the first day after the long awaited Christmas weekend and while some are back into the daily grind, others are still languishing behind within the relaxing clutches of the long holiday vacation!   My wife and I have put the calendar on hold as we stretch two more days into our official Christmas season.  So, for us, it is still the season to be jolly.  I was even pleased to still hear our local Christian radio station playing some Christmas tunes this morning.  I have always enjoyed playing the familiar holiday songs into the first of the year.  (Although my kids may not share my exuberance, after I would play my favorite Christmas CD repeatedly for days on end!)  I was one of the odd-balls at my old job at Home Depot who enjoyed the Christmas music they played everyday from Thanksgiving on.  I was always disappointed come the day after Christmas when we would return to work only to hear the old love ballads blaring over the store P.A!  I always like to squeeze out as much of the joy of the holidays as long as I can!

Speaking of joy, there is a story in the Old Testament that tells of a time when a portion of the Israelite nation was allowed to return to Jerusalem after years of captivity, to rebuild the walls of the city. (Nehemiah chapters 7 & 8).  While in captivity these people had not been able to hear the teachings of Moses.  In the seventh month of their return, Ezra the priest and the governor Nehemiah brought the people together so that they could read to them from the Book of God’s Teachings.  The people began to cry as the words were read and explained to them after such a long absence. As their tears flowed, Nehemiah and Ezra encouraged the people not to mourn or cry for this was to be a happy time for them.  They expounded to the people that “Today is a holy day for the Lord.  Don’t be sad because the joy you have in the Lord (or the trust you have in your foundation...) is your strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10 Gods Word©)  With this the people went out and had a big, joyful celebration.

This is my approach to everyday in life.  I may not always wake up as a beaming ray of sunshine, but after a little time spent encouraging myself in the Book of God’s Teachings, I can usually begin to see my day in a new light.  That Light  helps me persevere through the trials and tribulations that I face and it strengthens my resolve in expecting good things to happen each day.

So while Christmas may be over, the joy of the season does not have to vanish along with all your decorations that get boxed up and put away for coming year.  Look with expectation to the year ahead.  This year, make the decision to allow joy to fill you and strengthen you as you forge on into 2011.  Now is the time to shore up your foundation because it will be that foundation that keeps you steady and joyful when things around you may start to shake!  Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, December 24, 2010

Are The Ghosts of Christmas Past Visiting you?

I awoke fairly early this morning and in an effort to stir up the good feelings of the holidays, I began to dig up memories of Christmas’ in the past.  I was brought back to the time, as a child, when all I wanted for Christmas was a particular Matchbox police cruiser.  (This was before Hot Wheels and other plastic renditions.  These cars were made of metal and separately packaged in small boxes.)  I recalled when my mother put that small red wrapped box under the tree with my name on it.  Now, you have to understand that this was about a week before Christmas, so that I had an entire week to handle the package and dream about it’s contents.  (which turned out not to be the police car but a neat red fire engine!) Then there were the times when my older brother and I would spend hours making up imaginary stories with my Matchbox cars under the family Christmas trees through the years.  I then moved through time to that first Christmas Eve when my senior high girlfriend (later to be my wife) and I sat hand in hand on my folks couch and opened up our gifts to each other, and then progressed to the warm feelings of the many memories of the Christmas mornings with our four children as they grew up.

While slowly traveling through the past thirty years, I began to realize that although all of these remembrances brought me a multitude of pleasant thoughts, they did give me the serenity that I had desired the exercise to produce.  Why wasn’t this jaunt through memory lane producing the comfort that I was seeking?  Well, it slowly began to dawn on me that Christmas to many of us is centered around the past.  That is why Christmas is a very rough season for some people.  Life goes on and situations change. Children grow up, spouses die, friends move and none of us are the same people we used to be.  I mentioned a few days ago how we can use the positive events of the past to ignite our expectations for the future, and this is still solid advice, but there also comes a time where, as in this case, we need to let go of the past memories and live for the present by developing new traditions that fit your current place in life.

Once again, this Christmas is to be totally different than all of ours in the past, since none of our children will be with us for Christmas Eve or Christmas day.  I can let that bother me or choose to thank God that I have my wife with me, and that we can spend some precious time together, celebrating “The Message” (see yesterday’s posting) in a brand new way.  That serenity comes to me in knowing that we have raised four wonderful, happy children who, in various stages of their young adult lives, are pursuing their dreams.  Two in Oklahoma attending Bible School (actually our youngest graduated last year…), one in North Carolina with her terrific husband and our oldest in central California with his lovely wife and two daughters.  And think of this… we get to extend the holidays  as we will celebrate another family gathering with my older son and his family next week.  So, yeah… it’s different, but you know what?  It’s going to be even better, because we are expecting this to be the best Christmas yet!

So, my Christmas prayer for each of you, is that you can enjoy your particular traditions of Christmas (or be able to start new traditions) with a renewed enthusiasm filled with peace and joy.  Remember that the multitude of the heavenly armies that appeared to the shepherds (once again see yesterday’s post and Luke 2:13-14) came singing a proclamation of peace that man had never known before.  Don’t allow the ghosts of Christmas past steal the peace and joy that this Christmas holds for you and your loved one. 

And after you turn off the lights tonight, after all the preparations for tomorrow are complete, peek out the window and imagine for a moment that night long ago, when the angels were guarding their flocks in the deep of night, when suddenly the glory of the Lord lit up the sky.  Let that Light shine in and through you this year.  Have a blessed Christmas!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

- Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Do You Have A Message Of Great Joy?

Well, there’s only a couple of days left until Christmas.  How are all your preparations for this most wonderful commemoration going?  Our stockings have been hung by the chimney with care, and I am ready to end this year without having a care…  How about you?  Are you prepared to set aside all the anxieties of 2010, and enter into the new year proclaiming an expectation of joyful news for the coming years, like the angel did to the shepherds in Bethlehem a few thousand years ago? (see Luke 2:1-20)

Let’s think about that scene for a few moments.  Here we have a group of men expecting to go through another routine night watching over the sacrificial lambs that were kept in the hills near the town of Bethlehem, when suddenly all the expectations of their lives were dramatically changed in but a moment of time.  The story says that as the angel of the Lord appeared to them, the glory of the Lord lit up the sky.  After he related his message to the stunned shepherds, this angel was then joined by a multitude of angelic hosts.  When this story was originally penned, the word “hosts” was a common term used to describe troops of armed soldiers.  One of my commentaries said that the translation of “a multitude” could better be translated “THE multitude.” 

Imagine, then, if you can, the shepherds are sleepily tending their sheep, when suddenly the darkness surrounding them turns to daylight, as all  the angelic armies of heaven appear before them to enforce the lone angel’s message, as well as highlight the event that was occurring in a stable behind the inn in the town.

What was this message?  It was the Good News that would finally give you and I the ability to come back home to the One that created us.  It was the message of my foundation that gives me the confidence to have expectations of great joy in my life in the coming year, even when circumstance may try to dictate a different story.

Think about this message as being the real reason for the Christmas season.  On Saturday as you enjoy your family traditions, give a consideration to that baby that was laid in a manger in Bethlehem and ponder the possibility of your foundation being supported by the multitude of angelic hosts, fully arrayed in battle regalia, ready to assure that your expectations for 2011 are met each day… just for you!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When The Past Can Help Your Future

In continuing with my yearly study of the Christmas Story, as told in the Biblical book of Luke, I came across another example that will aid us in our quest for great expectations of good things.  Yesterday we talked about the angel Gabriel’s visitation to the older priest, Zechariah, and mentioned the angel’s subsequent visit with Mary.  Gabriel used a valuable tool in helping Mary to buy into the announcement he was making to her.  When she questioned what seemed to be the natural impossibility of the coming event, the angel immediately told her of another seemingly impossible occurrence that had taken place only six months earlier.  He stated that “Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age.  People said she couldn’t have a child.”  (Luke 1:36 Gods Word©)  This look at the past convinced Mary that she could expect the future to turn out just as the angel had said it would.  (See Luke 1:37-38)

Now, while this example is describing a couple of complete miracles, it still points us to the truth of being able to use the successes of the past to help us see our good expectations for the future through until completion.  I can name many times where a look back at how things had turned out in the past gave me the confidence to believe for the meeting of current desires. An example that comes immediately to mind was the need that we had, about 12 years ago, for a new family vehicle.  To make a long story short, when I finally accepted the reality that with four kids, a trailer and a wife who liked to bring all the neighborhood kids to church with us, it looked like the only vehicle that would work for us would be a Suburban.  With that settled, I then had to figure out a way to purchase it.  I had just received a promotion at my job, but still didn’t feel comfortable adding another car payment to the family budget. 

When I began to fret about it, I remembered that I had gone through this same quandary a year before when I needed to replace my small pickup.  At that time I had gone through a series of car deals that had fallen through.  When I finally stopped trying to make things happen and put my trust in my foundation, a set of totally unforeseen occurrences happened.  I suddenly found myself in the position to purchase a five year old Camaro that had only been driven on weekends in dry weather, for a great price.  Can you believe that!

This memory helped me to set aside my fears, and begin to expect good things to happen in my current situation.  Within a month I was offered a part-time staff position at our church, with a salary that would more than cover the monthly payments for a new Suburban.  Let me clarify here, that although the past success did help my resolve in my positive expectations for the future, I did not expect the current circumstances to follow an identical path of the past event.  It was the positive completion of the past that gave me the fortitude to stand for a new set of expectations to be accomplished in the present endeavor.

While some of our past experiences do not end with success, many do.  Be selective in your memories, and dwell on the successes rather than the failures in life.  This will give you a much better outlook on your future, and the strength to indulge in great expectations of good things in the days ahead.  Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Does What I Say Matter?

Each year during the holidays, I like to take some time to look at the Christmas story as recorded in the Bible.  The Bible is like an exquisite dish of Italian lasagna that is jam packed with layers of rich ingredients.  The more you dig into it, the more amazing flavors and taste tantalizing delights you’ll find!  (Wow… Do you remember that Christmas story that talks about the kids having visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads… I must have visions of Lasagna in my head, since my mom is giving us some lasagna for dinner tonight!!!)  

When I re-read familiar stories in the Bible, I therefore always expect  to receive some new revelations from them.  Last week as I studied the story of the birth of Christ in the books of Matthew (chapter 2) and Luke (chapters 2&3) I was not disappointed.  While intently observing the events that unfolded, I was intrigued to see how many supernatural visitations of heavenly beings were involved in this world changing historical event.  I definitely got the impression that God did not want there to be any mess-ups with His plan!

Today as I read the account of Zechariah and his visit from the angel Gabriel announcing the news that the elderly priest and his long past child bearing age wife would have a son, I thought of how this situation is like the ones that we all face on a regular basis.  Now don’t get me wrong, here… I am not talking about news of having a baby, but about the reaction that Zechariah had when he was faced with the decision to believe or not believe a bit of news that went against their years of negative circumstances.

Have you ever been believing for some positive event to happen and after awhile began to give up when it looked like it just wasn’t going to occur?  I know that I have some times in the last few months that something inside of me wanted to yell out “I give up!”  But yet, I have never given voice to that unbelief because my foundation is based on my understanding that no seemingly impossible situation can cause God’s word to fail!  The angel Gabriel set this principle forth in the very beginning of the New Testament when he told Mary, a little after his encounter with Zechariah, that “nothing is impossible for God!” (Luke 1:37, God’s Word©)  By not giving voice to the negative thought, I followed the example that Gabriel gave to Zechariah.  The old priest and his wife had believed to have a child their whole married lives, but it was to no avail and now when he was around 99 years old, an angel appears and tells him to get down to Walmart to buy some diapers… Yeah, come on… there’s no way… not now!  But God had a plan, and in order for it to work He needed Zechariah’s agreement.  It was imperative that Zechariah’s words lined up with what was going to happen to his wife Elizabeth.  He didn’t want Zechariah to go around spreading his negative views and thereby spoil the plan that was established before the beginning of time.  So what did the angel do to guarantee the plan of God?  He shut Zechariah’s mouth!  He told the priest that he would not be able to speak until their son was born… and it happened just as the angel said!  (See Luke 1:20)

Our spoken words can have a great affect on what is happening around us.  Once you have set your goal for something good to come to past, never give up!  Resist the urge to mutter those little complaints when it seems to be taking a long time for your positive goals to occur.  Once again, trust in your foundation (or change it if it’s not working!), hold fast  to your can-do attitude and see your plans through until they manifest themselves in your lives!  Look at Zechariah… a year later, at 100 years old, he was the man of the hour passing out cigars at the temple gates!  Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself, “What am I expecting today!”

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Christmas Thief...

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the home, everybody was stirring as to the mall we must roam…  When our children were young, the week before Christmas always signaled our family’s full thrust in the personal experience of the Christmas season. 
By this time all the hours of time and energy that we had put into the church Christmas production had come to fruition as we always tried to schedule the show on the weekend before the church kids were out of school for the holidays.  I usually took this week off from my secular job as well, so that I could focus my attention on the family’s Christmas celebration.

The first matter of business entailed the mandatory trip to one of the malls to complete (or better yet, to start  and complete!) our shopping for presents.  I found that as I got older I began to enjoy this trek less and less.  Instead of relishing the pleasures of all the holiday decorations, the smiling faces in the stores, the Santa stage, the Christmas train and all the other seasonal delights, I found myself dreading the traffic on the roads, the game of circling the parking lot like a bird of prey waiting to dive into the first open slot, and then the long lines of shoppers awaiting their turn to spend their hard earned cash.  What had happened to me?  As a kid and into my early thirties, I always looked forward to the whole shopping experience.  Now it was beginning to haunt me like a bad dream!

Looking back, I can see that I allowed the pressures of life to rob me of the peace and joy of the greatest event of the year!  Yes, Christmas can be a very stressful season with all the demands that come with it, but that doesn’t mean that I had to let those outside pressures change my attitude.  By Christmas day, I would be so tired that I could only give my kids about half the attention that they desired as they tore into the gifts under the tree.

With my new found outlook on life over the last few years of expecting good things to happen to me, I am beginning to take charge of how I experience or you could say “celebrate”  life!  This Christmas will be very different from all the other celebrations for my wife and I, as our kids are literally spread around the country and won’t be with us on Christmas day.  But you know what… my wife and I decided today that this will be the best Christmas that we have ever had, because we are expecting great things.  I don’t know yet what they will be, but I do know that it is going to be GREAT!

How about you?  What is your attitude as you make your way into this week before Christmas?  Don’t let disappointments and or the pressures of life steal your celebration of the most special time of the year.  Do you realize that this is the only time during the entire year that complete strangers around the world will smile at each other and reach out to help others in need?  Be a part of the holiday cheer, trust in your foundation and enjoy the peace and joy that the angels spoke out to the shepherds tending their flocks on that lonely hill in Bethlehem many years ago.  (see Luke 2:1-20) Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winning The Race

This morning as I was indulging in my personal Bible study time, I was led to the first couple of verses in Hebrews, chapter twelve.  These two verses have been a mainstay to me over the last few months.  They make some statements that got me thinking some more about yesterday’s subject of planning for the future.  While planning is very important, it is only the first (and maybe the easiest) step in seeing your expectations met in the way you desire.  After the planning comes the doing!  For most of us, this next phase starts out with great anticipation of victory, only to get bogged down when some sort of adversity comes up.  This is precisely the point that my scripture in Hebrews addressed today.  It starts out by telling the reader to run the race (of life) that is set before us with patience.  The word patience that is translated from the original Greek infers “the characteristic of a person who is not swerved from his or her deliberate purpose… by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions).  For us that would mean to keep our eyes on the expected results that we have set forth and to not deviate when distractions present themselves as we are pursuing our plans for the new year. 

The scripture likens this process to a runner participating in a track race.  It is very important to the runner during the race to focus their eyes on the finish line and not to look around or back at the other racers.  Any distraction, no matter how small, can cause the participant the loss of a few seconds and could mean the difference as to the place they finish in the race.  This brings me to the remembrance of my illustrious track career in junior high.  

During my seventh and eight grade years I participated (with less than spectacular results…) in field events as I had been encouraged to throw the shot-put by my gym coaches and my Dad.  As the season approached for my last year in junior high, I made a decision to follow my heart and to train for the 220 yard sprint, as well as become a member of the 440 relay team.  As the season progressed, I would consistently come in fourth place, behind one of my teammates. Although I was disappointed, I did not give up but decided to work even harder in practice.  I can recall spending many long hours after school repeatedly running a 220 and then walking one.  Then came the magical time (at least to me!) where I actually beat my teammate, came in third place and received my first letter point.  (In order to receive a sports letter – the one you can wear on a jacket or sweater – you have to earn a certain number of points which were determined by the place you finished a race in.) 

At the next track meet as we were preparing to line up for the race, the race director called out our school name and said for our best runner to line up in the lane where he was standing.  When I glanced over to my teammate, he pointed to me and told the director that I was the one to go to that position!  It was then that I knew that all my determination and hard work had paid off.  While I do not remember how I finished in that particular meet, I did learn a lesson that has stuck with me for life.  While all odds said that I would never be a fast runner and be able to compete successfully in competition, I made the decision to ignore what the situation seemingly was saying, worked hard and kept my eyes on the final goal.  At the end of the season, I did not earn enough points to receive a letter, but was happily surprised when our track coach called me up in front of the entire school at the end of the year awards presentations and gave me a letter for being the most improved member of the track team as well as a record holder for the 220 run for our school!  The only bummer was that this occurred during the last week of the school year, so I never did get to wear a letter sweater around school!  (Ah… the dream of any young man…)  Oh, by the way, I was a record holder simply because it was the first year they ran the 220 in my weight class, so my best time had to be the record!  The next year it was totally shattered by another student at the school…

So what’s my point?  As you are making plans for 2011, dream big, trust in your foundation and be prepared to stay focused on your expected results.  Know that distractions and bumps in the road will occur, but be determined to run your race and to attain the prize (your letter!).  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

La, La, La, La!

I received an email this morning from a ministry that we have supported over the years and was very excited to see that they were talking about many of the same things that I’ve been sharing with you over the past couple of weeks.  They mentioned how they always earnestly expect great things to come as one year ends and a new one begins.  I have to agree with them.  Not only is the holiday season special as we celebrate the traditions of Christmas, but it is also a good time to review the blessings of the year that we are wrapping up and look forward with great anticipation to the many good events ahead. 
The things that we dwell on as we look at the past and plan for the future, over the next couple of weeks, could very well shape the outcome of 2011 for us! 

On Sunday morning our Pastor shared a scripture from the book of Romans, chapter one verse sixteen.  This verse tells how the Good News of the gospel is God’s power to save everyone who believes.  He went on to explain how the word save (or salvation in some translations) incorporates not only the salvation of our souls, but also healing for our bodies, and the meeting of our needs.  Wow…you talk about Good News!  (The literal translation for the word gospel from the Greek is: good tidings or good news!)

My foundation not only gives me great expectations of Good News  for the months ahead, but it IS  the Good News  from which I plan my life!  Gee, I can’t miss!  I’m getting excited just thinking about that as I write this post!  A few years ago, I wrote a children’s song that goes: “I have a firm foundation of Jesus in my life, He helps me make it through my day without strife.  Oh, He placed me on a rock so my feet won’t slip, and the devil can’t give me no lip, La, La ,La, La!”  It has a catchy tune that helps the words to stick in your mind.  So, while I can’t sing the song for you right here, I do hope that you’ll review the rhyming lyrics until they do stick in your mind and then act as a guide for your 2010 review and 2011 planning!  Stay tuned, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Fear of Change

Well what do you know… It is the middle of the week, the sun is shining for the first time in awhile and I am expecting to have a great day!  Let me continue with the second lesson that I learned from our midnight escapades the other night.  As I delved further into the cause of the anger surge that I had experienced, I saw that it was caused by a chain of events that had been building up within me.  In being ruthlessly honest with myself, I began to understand that the anger was ignited by the fear of a possible permanent change in my wife’s health which would cause a change in our lifestyle and more importantly, in our relationship.  Most of us do not like change, and especially when there is the possibility of it having a negative impact on our lives.

Numerous years ago I worked for a large electronics firm that was going through some major upheavals.  Our section of the company had just split off from the parent corporation and after more than 50 years as the main contender in its field, was suddenly faced with stiff competition from a variety of smaller firms that were successfully entering the marketplace.  What ensued was a brisk launch of changes in most areas of the business that focused on making us a much more efficient and cost effective manufacturing entity.  

As you can imagine, these changes were met with vehement resistance from a large percentage of the employees.  As a Process Supervisor I was faced with the task of explaining the upcoming changes to my crew, and I literally spent many long hours attempting to answer their many questions and calm their fears.  The most difficult individuals to work with during this time were the workers who had been with the company for a long time.  Many of the machinists in our division had been with the company for over 15 years, and they were very set in the way things had always been.  The fear of having to deal with something new was quite freighting to them.  In the months that followed, many of the workers accepted the changes, while others fought them every step of the way.  Eventually most of us were forced into an even bigger upheaval as the manufacturing plan was totally revised and all production was sent overseas.  This decision sent a few thousand people into a whole new experience of job hunting and lifestyle changes!

Fear of the unknown can be very scary if you don’t have a strong and proven foundation to support you through the shaky times in life.  My foundation gives me the confidence to know that even though times may be rough right now, that the future will prove to be even better than the past.  Therefore, I need not allow fear to take any affect in my life!  Psalm 18:30 assures me that “The promise of the Lord has proven to be true…” (God’s Word©)  Yes, we may have to fight some battles, but we progress forward with the assurance that He will turn our darkness into light and give us the ability to break through whatever barricades that might get in our way. (check out Psalm 18:29)  How do you receive change?  Do you have a strong support under you that can turn your darkness into light?  Think about it.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Love Never Fails

I learned a lesson last night that I thought I’d share with you.  It has to do with our two familiar subjects of foundations and change. I had to get up in the middle of the night and help my wife on numerous occasions.  During the last time, which occurred about 4:45 AM, I felt a strong sense of anger rising up inside of me.  This is an unusual emotion for me as I am known to be a fairly relaxed and mellow individual.  When I completed the task at hand and was returning to the warmth of the covers, I began to pray and ask what that feeling was all about.  What immediately came to my inner thoughts was that I was thinking strictly about myself.  I was more concerned about my own inconvenience than the struggle that my precious wife has to deal with on a daily basis.  With that revelation, the anger in me quickly dissipated and I fell into a fitful sleep.

When I dragged myself into my study a few hours later, clutching a much needed cup of coffee, my eyes were drawn to my Bible which I had left open to Psalms 18 the previous evening.  As I read the song that King David had sung to the Lord after being rescued from the hand of his enemies, along with a commentary on the first three verses, I was enthralled with the personal depth of affection that David expressed.  His relationship of love toward the Lord made me stop and reflect on my depth of affection for my wife.  I was reminded about the verse in the Bible that states  that Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:8 - NIV).  Getting angry hurts everyone involved and usually results in complete failure.  Responding in love fosters a healing environment that will always succeed.  This scripture is talking specifically about the God kind of love.  Which brings us right back into the realm of our foundations. 

I should and can act in love, even when it’s not comfortable for me, because my foundation assures me that His love working through me will never fail!  My wanting to reach out in anger is strictly selfish and self-serving.  Pausing to allow His love to fill me and guide my emotions opens the door for God’s success plan to be the blueprint of my life, as well as affecting a positive influence in the lives of all those around me.  Have you ever thought about what makes you act unbecomingly toward others?  Does your foundation need an adjustment or replacement?  Think about it.  I’ll share my lesson about change in tomorrow’s post.  Until then, stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Anticipating Significant Events

Well what do you know… today is Monday the 13th, and there are 13 more days until Christmas!   There must be something significant about that bit of trivia, but alas… I can’t think of anything!  Have you ever had a day like that, where you think there should be something significant about it, but you just can’t figure out what it is?

Yesterday started out as one of those days for me.  I woke up excited that it was Sunday, and that for the first time in awhile, my wife and I were not teaching another class so that we could participate in the adult service.  I had a feeling that something significant was going to happen, but at first had nothing to base the premonition on.  This is a place where your foundations come into play.  As I have mentioned before, my foundation is firmly entrenched on my faith in the Word of God.  With that understanding guiding me, I began to see that my excitement was derived from the anticipation of hearing God’s Word preached at the morning service.  There is a scripture found in the Bible, in the book of Romans chapter ten, verse seventeen that says that our faith is built up or strengthened by hearing the Word of God.  The significant something that I was sensing was that I was highly expectant of the results of my attending church.  I was not only going to get to hear the Word of God preached, but I was also going to get my faith built up so that I could believe for even greater things to happen in life!  Wow!  It wasn’t just going to be a significant event, it was going to be a spectacular day…  and as I look back this afternoon, I was not disappointed!

You too, can have a greater sense of anticipation (and even control) of good things happening for you each day, as you build your life on a firm foundation that can’t be swayed by the ever-changing events in today’s society.  Is your foundation as solid a rock as The One described by King David in the Old Testament? (see Psalm 18:2)  Think about it.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Time For Change

Early this morning as I was enjoying my personal Bible study time the word change came into my mind.  As I pondered various thoughts about change I was reminded of Albert Einstein who once defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."1  Many of us want situations or events in our lives to be different than what they may currently be, but we do nothing to affect a change.  Throughout this week we have discussed looking at life from a different perspective.  To not let the negative influences that may be screaming at you from the moment you awake to determine the outcome of your day. 

Previous to my study time this morning I poured my self a fresh, hot cup of java (yes, I bought some more coffee and half and half yesterday!) and gazed out at the greenery in our large patio.  Just about every plant looked pretty pathetic due to the colder weather and rain… Every plant, that is, except the lemon tree that we have planted in a large container next to the sliding window.  In stark contrast to the dying, shriveled up summer vegetables and some other potted plants, the lemon is green and lush with bright new growth and large green lemons just waiting to ripen up!  That one vibrant and healthy plant gave the patio a sense of life even though everything else looked bleak.

I thought of that example as I contemplated change in relationship to what we are expecting each day.  If we can make just one positive change in an otherwise deteriorating day it can have the effect of turning the overall outcome from failure to success.  Might I suggest that you take a little time this weekend and think about the parts of your days ahead where you might be able to do one thing differently.  It could be an attitude adjustment, getting up a little earlier, not watching that new program on T.V. or simply making the decision to smile when things get somewhat crazy!  One small change could affect a positive influence and give you a great expectation of good things ahead. ...Ah, go ahead and give it a try!  It may just lead to a whole new way of living!  Have a great weekend.  Stayed tuned, and keep asking yourself… What am I expecting today?

1  Albert Einstein. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2010, from Web site: 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Look For The Color In Life!

I awoke this morning with a determination that I was going to have a good day.  I was not about to let a headache or the dark clouds that greeted me as I looked out the large window over the staircase that rises to our bedroom loft have any negative effect upon me.  So I threw on a sweater, ambled down the stairs, flipped on the heater and headed into the kitchen to brew up a fresh pot of Starbucks coffee.  Well, it seemed that things were not going to go my way as I opened up the cupboard door.  Reaching in I suddenly  remembered that I had run out of coffee beans the previous morning and had failed to pick up a fresh bag!  Turning slowly around I thought about my morning resolution and bravely poured out the day old coffee left in the coffee maker and put it into the microwave.  At the sound of the timer bell I gingerly pulled out the hot cup, poured in a little 2% milk (yuck… I was out of half and half too!), took a sip and looked out the kitchen window.  As I peered up past our patio fence what caught my attention was not the dark clouds or light rain, but the beautiful colored leaves on the tall maple trees reaching toward the heavens beyond our home.  Those bright tones of yellow, red and orange totally captivated my thoughts and instantly brought a warmth and cheer into my morning.  You know… even that first sip of the day old coffee tasted good!

Isn't it interesting how a little color can brighten even the dullest of days?  Do you look for the color in life when things seem to be going contrary to what you desire?  Maybe it doesn’t jump out at you like those trees did for me today, but it is out there all around you just the same.  Keep expecting good things in your life, and don’t be deterred when obstacles may get in the way.  Look for the color and after awhile you won’t be swayed by the gray in life anymore!  Stayed tuned, and keep asking yourself… What am I expecting today?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trusting In Something Greater Than Yourself

As I looked at the weather forecast today I noticed that in whatever part of the country our kids are living in, it is either cloudy and cold or raining and cold!  Doesn’t do much to energize one in the middle of the week does it?  What is your attitude about Wednesdays?  In many of the places that I have worked through the years, Wednesdays were usually the worst day of the week for my co-workers.  If they could make it through “Hump Day” then they were half way through the week until the weekend!  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  For many people, their thoughts and plans for the weekend is the life vest that carries them through the drudgery of the work week.

Yesterday we discussed enjoying each part of your day.  Today let’s look at enjoying everyday of the week.  Everyday can have something in it that can be meaningful and pleasant for you.  Once again, it all depends on what you are expecting to happen.  I remember a lesson that I learned many years ago while taking an economics class at the Santa Rosa Junior College.  I have to admit that I just didn’t understand what the professor was trying to teach us.  When the time came for the final exam I was in a panic as I did not want to end up with failing grade.  My wonderful girlfriend (who’s now my wife!) came to my rescue as she shared a scripture with me about casting all my cares upon the Lord because He cares for me (I Peter 5:7).  She told me that I needed do my best in studying for the exam and that He would do the rest.  Well, her counsel worked for I had a peace that helped to set aside my fears as I studied and began to have some revelation about the subject material.  When the day of the test came I walked courageously into the auditorium, opened up the test booklet and went (somewhat) confidently through the test.  I am happy to report that I passed the test and received a “C” as a final grade.  Considering how I struggled with that class, the final grade was like an “A” to me! 

So what’s my point?  I learned the importance of placing my trust in a higher source.  One whom I have increasingly come to depend on for the results of every situation in my life.  When I put my trust in Him for that economics test, my expectations of passing the class soared from utter impossibility to the real possibility of success!  Why?  Because I was no longer depending on my own limited understanding, but on The One  whom I believe knows all things!  I may not always have a clear idea of  what each day of the week may hold, but I do know that the promises in God’s Word say that good things will happen as I continue to put my trust in Him.

So it’s raining, cold, wet and miserable outside… so what… I still have high expectations that good things will happen for me today!  What about you?  What if you have some tough things facing you on the job today, or an exam or presentation at school?  What are you basing your expectations on?  What is the foundation that you have to help you through the situations in your life?  Are you living a guessing game, or do you have that same peace that goes beyond your understanding (Philippians 4:7) that a 19 year old kid received back in 1973?  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Looking at The Overall Picture

This spring was the first time in many years that we had an opportunity to plant a garden at our home.  Both my wife and I were very excited as we remembered the large vegetable gardens that we always had when our kids were growing up.  This year was different in that we now live in a cluster type home with two patios.  This meant that we were limited in what we could grow and where we could plant.  After analyzing the sun’s patterns in the two yards we decided that the larger patio off the dining room was the right place to plant the garden.  With that decision behind us we then went to work preparing the area for the planting.  It was kind of a long and difficult task as we first had to do some major trimming on a large tree that was blocking most of the sun from the proposed garden area.  But we didn’t mind the effort as we kept the end goal of delicious home grown tomatoes and zucchini’s in our minds throughout the workout.  Finally the tree was trimmed, the ground was turned and amended with soil additives (ie; manure – the dog loved this part!) and the tiny green plants were tenderly placed in their assigned areas. From this point on the excitement began to build as we worked through the daily routine of tending the garden and watching the plants grow from small sprouts into large, green leafed specimens that reached toward the sky! 

Well, due to a cooler than normal summer and a little too much shade in the patio area,  this year’s garden fell short of the quantity and quality of vegetables that we had hoped for.  Would we do it again next year?  You bet!  For each part of the process involved in preparing, planting, tending and then enjoying the harvest, no matter how small, was well worth the effort.  My wife and I were able to work together on a project throughout the spring and summer months.  We experienced the joys of watching the garden grow and then relished the satisfaction of eating the fruits of our labors.  We expected for good things to come from the activity and we were not disappointed with the results of the overall project.

Sometimes when we examine the results of a project, or the events of a day, we may be too quick to judge its success or failure when we look strictly at the end results.  As with our garden project this year, you have to look at the entire package in order to qualify the final rating.  Don’t let a less than perfect finish take away the joys that you experienced throughout the event.  By enjoying the various stages of your day you can still come out on a positive note and end the day with a winning attitude!  Stayed tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting, today!”