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Fall is in the air!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Is It Time To Run The Anti-Virus Program?

I can hardly believe that we are knocking on the door of March already!  This year seems to be flying by… even faster than last year did!  Why, in one month we’ll be one fourth of the way through 2011.  It kind of gets you thinking about the need to stay true to your goals.  It is just too easy to let a day or two slide by without taking any action.  For before you know it, you’ll be watching the ball coming down the tower at New York’s Times Square (or the acorn falling if you live in Raleigh, North Carolina!), and you’ll be facing another year without completing the same old resolutions that you’ve been chasing for years!

A portion of our old friend in Hebrews 12:1 jumped off the page for me this morning as I considered today’s thoughts.  It’s the place where it says  ”…we must get rid of everything that slows us down…”  (Gods Word ©)  The idea of slowing down in the pursuit of our goals is what captured my attention.  Yesterday at church one of our terrific helpers talked about some of the different things that can slow down a computer, along with some remedies to prevent them or remove them once they appear.  I’m sure that all of us have experienced the frustration at waiting for a slow moving program or the never ending download!  Normally when this happens we immediately begin searching for the problem so we can rapidly get back to operating at the speeds that we are accustomed to.

This is the same approach that we should undertake when the progress on our personal goals begin to lag.  Just as there are computer programs that will analyze our hard drive and then initiate a fix, there are steps that we can take to search what’s happening in our lives and then initiate the fixes in the areas where any problems may be present.  It is still early enough in the year to discern any weak areas, make the necessary changes and then continue computing the goals we desire to complete before the end of the year.  Remember the end of Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to run the race and “never give up.”  (Gods Word ©)  Be quick to see, quick to adjust, and quick to receive your prize!  Keep up the good work!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today!”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Completing The Perfect Call

I had the pleasure of having an extended conversation with my younger daughter from Tulsa last night.  She was bursting with excitement as she explained many of the events that she has been experiencing over the last few weeks.  Included in these events was the completion of certain stages of some long term dreams/goals that she had set in her youth.  She spoke of the self satisfaction that she felt in finally seeing some of the steps to her life goals being accomplished. 

In the course of the conversation, JoAnna related some incidents in the past when some members of our extended family had voiced doubts concerning the dreams that she desired to follow in life.  They suggested a different, more tradition course, one that they felt was more secure… a direction that was closer to the one that they had followed in their own lives.  As my daughter recalled these times (that actually occurred on numerous occasions), she began to share with me the importance of listening to your heart while not allowing other people’s doubts to sway you from the calling you feel led to follow. 

Dreams are a very personal part of each of us.  They come from deep inside and at times may be unbelievable to others.  In fact, I think that one person’s dreams can actually scare another person because they are so different, so personal and so individual.  There is a story in the first book of the Bible where a boy by the name of Joseph told his brothers of the dreams that he had.  His brothers did not understand him, and became confused and  annoyed at his stories.  It finally came to the point where the older brothers feigned his death and sold him into slavery so that they wouldn’t have to deal with this one who was so different from the rest of them.  (read Genesis chapter 37)  Granted this was a pretty strong approach, but it illustrates a point. 

There are those who will not understand the dreams that you have had, and desire to follow.  In response to this, they will refer back to and gives directives based on their own experiences because these are comfortable with them.  And while the advice they give you may have been a good thing for them to adhere to, it may not be the best for you.  Please don’t misunderstand me here!  I’m not implying that we always reject council received from others, I am only suggesting that their advice may not always be the “Gospel truth” since that they may not understand the leadings in life that are unique to you.  I always try to make a point to gain a good understanding of those I am with before I council them.  I attempt to put myself in their shoes so that I can have a better understanding of their point of view, of their background and of their personal belief system.

My daughter is elated at seeing her plans and dreams, that have taken many years to reach this point, coming to a head.  She’s walked a sometimes rocky road, and will still have some mountains in front of her, but is proceeding with a confident and persistent attitude.  She is pleased now, that she did not allow herself to be bumped from her course by allowing others who doubted her dream to cause her to fall short of what she believes to be the perfect call of God for her life.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Never Give Up!

Wow… it is kind of hard to believe that they are forecasting snow for the San Francisco Bay Area over the next couple of days.  The last time I can remember it actually snowing in Santa Rosa, with it staying on the ground, was when I was about nine years old.  I clearly remember being sick and forlornly watching all my friends from my bedroom window while they frolicked in the white winter wonderland!  This gives substance to my beliefs about the ability of the things that you are expecting to happen even when it is thought to be impossible!

One weather report said that this would be the coldest front to move through San Francisco in thirty five years.  What good things are you expecting to happen for you?  Maybe what you are expecting is in the midst of a thirty five year cycle where it is getting ready to appear before your very eyes!  What can I say?  The proof of the seemingly impossible is staring at me outside my window!  Never give up. Keep believing, anything is possible.  Mark 9:23 says: “As far as possibilities go, everything is possible for the person who believes.”  (Gods Word ©).  Go ahead… stop and take a few moments right now and recall to memory all the positive things that you have expected to come into reality for you.  Strike the match to the burners of your faith, heat it up and look forward with expectancy for the tangible incarnation of your dreams.

I don’t know about you… but I’m heading to the garage to dig out the sled!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Removing The Thorns Of Life

I spent the better part of this morning working on a client’s “low maintenance” yard.  As I was pruning branches and cleaning out the dead matter from under their lavender plants I began to realize how plants are a lot like us humans.  From there I moved on to another row of bushes with thorns up to an inch long and my thoughts of the comparison increased.

Many people, like plants, also carry around old dead branches and other rotting debris from their past with them.  Then there are those who have built up self defense mechanisms, sort of like thorns, so as to protect themselves from getting run over or hurt again by others.  At times these people are not too fun to be around.  They may be family members, neighbors, school mates, part of the staff at work, fellow church members or even close friends.  These people, like the plants that I worked on today, need to have the decay and/or the ungainly scars of their past removed in order to live a healthier, more productive life.  In the book of John the Father God is spoken of as the one who takes care of the garden of our lives.  It says that “He removes every one of my branches that does not produce fruit.  He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit.”  (John 15:2 Gods Word ©)

We are God’s hands in this world and at times, He will may call on us to help the hurting people we know.  This is not always pleasant work, and may be distasteful to us.  It is not very fun to be around someone who doesn’t seem to want your help and/or may be critical of you in your attempts to reach out to them.  (After working around those bushes and thorns today, my arms look like they were attacked by an alley cat!)  This is where love comes in.  These are the occasions when we have to put our own comfort aside in order to help another remove the scars of hurt that have marked their lives.  Know also that the healing process may take time so be prepared, be gentle and be sensitive.  Do you homework with them.  Don’t automatically think that you know what they’ve been through.  Hear them out and then carefully help them to let go of the pain and replace it with the love of God and your endearing friendship to them.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What are you expecting today?”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Seasons Of Life

My wife and I spent some time at my folks this morning working on their front yard.  As I was kneeling under the lamppost removing dead growth from their shrubs, it dawned on me how quiet it was in the neighborhood.  I remarked to my wife how things had changed since I grew up there.  When I was in my elementary school years the neighborhood was teeming with the sounds of kids having fun.  I stopped my work for a moment and pointed out to my wife all the houses that had kids living in them when I was young.  Now the neighborhood is in a place of transition.  All but two of the original homeowners (my folks and another older couple down the street) are left.  Many of the homes have retired individuals or couples living in them and a few have young families just starting out.

When I returned to my task at hand and turned on my electric trimmer (I love yard work because I can let my thoughts run freely as I work!) I began to think about the different seasons in life.  There was a time that the most important thing in life was how fast I could finish my homework or chores so that I could play with my friends on the block.  Then there came that cute, petite young lady with long brown hair, freckles, bright laughing eyes and a smile that could send me off to dream land, and all I could think of was spending time with her.  (Some things haven’t changed!)  I would spend every free moment at school with her, and then after dinner and homework we would spend half the night on the phone!  Weekends were the hard times…   I had to endure house chores and work before I could point the car to Piper’s house for the hot date that I had been waiting for all week!  Following high school there was college and then marriage followed in five years by the beginnings of a family.  Now after forty years of actually being together (including dating and courtship) we are back alone having raised our children and seeing them living out their own personal dreams.

I would be a liar if I said that I’ve never wished that I could go back to certain times or seasons in my life, but as I kneeled out in the warm sun today, I can honestly say that I am content in this season and look expectantly to the special experiences that are yet to be lived.  The Biblical book of Ecclesiastes is said to have been written by King Solomon in his later years of life.  In it he writes about the different seasons in life and states: “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 King James Version) I believe that God designed us for the different seasons in our lives.  Each year we add 365 days of wisdom and knowledge as learned by the daily challenges and pleasures we experience in our lives.  This unique data is what makes us who we are.  I think that is one reason that I really enjoy listening to seniors as they relate the events of their lives.  I am especially blessed and encouraged when I see those who may enjoy reminiscing the past, but yet live very much for the present.

I would challenge you today to live your lives like that.  Enjoy each season that you go through.  Learn as much as you can from them and then use that wisdom as part of your foundation for the present and future plans that God has for you to fulfill!  Yes, my wife and I may be dealing with some health issues at this time in our lives, (and you may have difficulties now too…) but it is only a season and its time will pass and a new season will begin that opens the door to endless possibilities for good things to happen!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Monday, February 21, 2011

Honoring The Office Of The President Of The United States

Today we honor the men who have held the highest office of our country in the form of a special holiday called President’s Day.  To this date we have had 44 different men fulfilling the duties of this calling.  Four of our presidents were assassinated while in office, thirteen had assassination attempts on their lives and two who died of sickness while serving our country have had rumors of assassination as the real reason for their deaths.

Two of my favorite presidents were Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.  I recently read a book on the Civil War that summarized the events that occurred each year throughout the war.  I was truly amazed to understand the personal involvement that Lincoln had in directing the various campaigns of the Union Army.  The strength, character, and devotion of this man to the cause of the saving of our nation was beyond credibility! It would be interesting to read the history books today had he lived through the reconstruction period after the war.

While some may question my choice of Ronald Regan as another favorite president, I strongly believe that this man also had a similar passion for the good of our country as did President Lincoln. Reagan described himself as an undying optimist, especially in regard to America’s future.  I am a personal witness to how his actions in the early years of his first term fostered a rebuilding of the morale and confidence in our country following the Vietnam War years and the failed rescue attempt during the Iran Hostage Crises that ended after 444 days in January of 1981. In the introduction to his book “God and Ronald Reagan”, political historian Paul Kengor stated that “Ronald Regan is hailed today for a presidency that restored optimism to America, engendered years of economic prosperity, and helped bring about the fall of the Soviet Union.” (God and Ronald Reagan. Copyright  © 2004 by Paul Kengor)

Whoever your favorite President may be, it is important that we honor these men who  relentlessly served and strived to do their best for the protection, growth, prosperity and moral fiber of our citizens.  These men’s successes or failures should not measure our respect for the office of the President of the United States. Whether we agree with their personal beliefs or policies or not, we should still highly respect this office and its place in the government of our country.  I salute the men who have held this office and thank God that we live in a country where we have the freedom to vote and participate in a democratic society.  Join with me today in honoring our Presidents while envisioning Kate Smith singing “God Bless America, land that I love…”  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting… today?”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today we are celebrating my dad’s 90th birthday, and while I have been reminiscing about raising my own kids and my job as a father this last week, I’ve been thinking today about my own childhood and the example my father set for me.  My dad is a first generation American born in Richmond, California from Italian parents who traveled across the sea from Italy.

If I remember my heritage correctly, my grandfather came to America, worked various jobs on the west coast before settling in as a landscape gardener.  Once established he sailed back to Italy and brought home his new bride.  By the time my dad was born, my grandfather’s business included many estate homes in San Francisco.  In fact my dad says that it was the business from these estates that kept them afloat during the great depression years.  Dad delivered papers throughout his school years and even won a trip to Catalina Island for his sales efforts.  When the war broke out he was running track in College and became a welder in the fledging shipyards in Richmond.  Shortly thereafter he enlisted in the Army-Air corps and with his education and clerical skills became a member of a team that traveled throughout the country inspecting the various airbases.  As he was preparing to go overseas the war came to an end and he found himself stationed in New York.  On one cold and snowy weekend he and a couple of friends decided to go to a local USO dance.  While there he met my Mom and the rest is history!  A funny story that my mom likes to tell about their first encounter was when they danced together that night.  My mother initially thought that my dad was very conceited as they danced in silence to the big band swing songs, until she discovered that he was busily concentrating on counting his steps so he wouldn’t step on her feet!

After being discharged from the Air Corps my parents made their home in New York and my dad began to learn the family business.  My mom’s dad owned a garment factory with two partners.  After a few years and the birth of my older sister, my folks decided to move back to California so that my dad could continue with his education and his dream to become a teacher, as well as to be near his folks.  Once settled back in Richmond and living in army housing (there are quite a few stories about this adventure!), my dad completed his studies at San Francisco State, received his teaching credentials and began teaching in San Francisco.  Shortly after this he took a interim position at a school in Cotati California Our growing family which now included my older brother, settled in Santa Rosa and my dad accepted a position at the newly opened Herbert Slater Junior High School. My dad’s love for this age group caused him to stay at Slater for the remainder of his career.

My dad was a devoted teacher, who was known to be strict but fair. For years, we could hardly go anywhere in town without someone coming up and saying “hello Mr. Berruto!”  I have never had anyone tell me that they did not enjoy him as a teacher.  During his years at Slater he taught various subjects but finally settled in with his love for languages as the head of the Foreign Language Department. 

Dad was very involved at church. He was (and I believe still is…) a member in good standing with the Knights of Columbus, was a regular usher at church services, handed out gift baskets at Christmas, was the Cub Scout Troop leader (I can still picture him in his full dress Indian outfit!) and very active with my mom in the local Italian Federation Group.  My folks loved to dance at the many social events they attended, enjoyed good Italian food and the friendship of the many countless individuals, couples and families that they knew through church and my dad's work.

My dad has always been a gentle, and emotional man with a love for nature, which is how I developed my love for camping, gardening and the great outdoors.  He has always been devoted to my mom and our family and set the example for me as to how to care for my wife and our kids.   Now, at 90, he has slowed down some and is dealing with some physical needs, but still exhibits the love, and concern for others along with a good sense of humor that has marked his life.

When I shaved off my beard a few years back (after 27 years with it), many people began to tell me how much I looked like my dad.  I take that as a great complement, because of the many positive things that people always saw in my dad, and how they remember him throughout the years.  Happy Birthday, Dad!  If I can be remembered as walking in your footsteps, then I consider myself to have attained a major accomplishment in this life.  Thanks for the example that you set for me, Greg and Sue, as well as for their children and mine.

Psalm 91:16 says: “With a long life will I satisfy him…” (NIV)  My Dad has lived a satisfying life and is dearly loved by my Mom and the rest of our family.  What a wonderful testimony to the goodness of God!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What are you expecting today?”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Future Am I Providing For My Family?

Well, I have to admit that it was pretty exciting to have my daughter share with us on the blog yesterday.  I mentioned to Jamie that as I typed the intro to her post, that my memory was flooded with examples of all the stories, plays, skits, and the intricate book that she had written over the years.  She was instrumental in starting and directing the youth drama team that we had at our church a few years back.  She wrote many of the skits, and/or edited them to fit the player’s levels of expertise, and to best suit the audience that would be watching their various performances.

How did she begin to explore and then develop these talents?  I’m sure that it all began from observing her mother and I as we ministered through song and drama in the churches we attended.  It all started for us after my wife and I had been dating for a year or so and were very active in the Baptist church that I mentioned last week.  I had the inspiration to write and direct an original Rock Opera at that time in the early ‘70’s.  If you’re old enough to remember back that far… Christian Rock Operas were the new and coming thing!  (Do you recall Jesus Christ Superstar?)  It was surprising that we practically filled that church auditorium at both performances.  (If I’m not mistaken, it sat around 300…)  It’s kind of funny looking back at it now, but when we played the theme song for our church congregation as a promo for the upcoming event, some members of the congregation actually walked out because they had never had a drum set or electric guitar in their services before!

In the years following, we have written and performed numerous original children’s and youth plays, skits, songs, and other programs of which our kids helped with as stage hands, actors, writers and musicians.  So, you see, they never had a chance but to develop some skills and derive pleasure from these activities.  (Our youngest son is currently on the drama team at his Bible School!)

Now, I am saying all this not to brag but to prove a point.  Our kids are watching everything that we do, that’s how they learn.  Jesus Himself said: “What I am saying is what I have seen in my Fathers presence…”  (John 8:38 Gods Word©) They pick up both the positive and the negative attributes that we display.  As with Jamie, I can see reflections of me in all of my kids.  Some are great like Jamie’s writings, some are not so terrific and are areas that I didn’t handle so well and now some of my kids are dealing with the same issues.  

So what exactly is my point?  I am suggesting that we all take a good look at ourselves in our day to day life.  What does your family and those that regularly come in contact with you see in you.  Is it something that you want carried on in your family’s heritage, or should it be stopped at this point in your family tree?  I know that there are definitely some things that I wish I could have done differently when my kids were growing up, but then I realize that the past is over and that the only thing that I can now change is the present and the future.  How does your future look?  What would you like to see your kids emulating in their adult years?  Take a self inventory and make the decision to begin the necessary changes in order to provide the best future that you can for your family.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Being Thankful

Hello Everyone!  I have a treat for you today!  I am proud to present to you an article posted by a guest writer, that just happens to be my oldest daughter who now resides with her husband in North Carolina. Jamie has always displayed a love for writing beginning with her imaginative stories in her elementary years followed by short stories and a historical-fiction book penned in high school.  Jamie has also written and directed a full length Christmas play, and has assisted me over the years writing skits for live performances as well as for puppets in our various Children Church and Youth programs. Her current articles include a posting online on HubPages. Enjoy her article and don't forget to read her bio following today's post.

You know when you have those days (or weeks) when you feel like nothing is going your way? You’re stressed out at work because you’re the new guy (or the old guy), your spouse has suddenly discovered ten new reasons as to why you annoy him or her, and your Maui vacation money has to go towards car repairs.  Then there’s the time that you’ve just realized that you’ve been gypped the second burger in your McDonalds dollar double burger sandwich after you’ve left the drive-though (true story!). When we experience such awful days, it’s easy to become consumed with anxiety and depression. We begin to think about how bad everything is, and how there is no answer to our problems. We lay awake at night, our minds tortured beyond relief, and we can literally feel our hair follicles turning gray or falling out of our scalps completely!

But, in times of great struggles, there are also great answers! I was going through much of the same issues I mentioned above in the last several months. Life wasn’t going how I wanted it to go, and mind was going OCD with worry and fear about the future. Then, one day I was praying, and the Lord showed me these verses: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 King James Version) I had previously prayed and asked God for the answers to my concerns, but I was still dealing with negative thoughts that weighed my faith down. In meditating on these verses, I realized that I needed to look on the bright side of my life, and be thankful for all the good things that had happened. I began to make a list of all the blessings that my family and I had received recently, and immediately I began to feel at peace. My mind stopped screaming out negative thoughts, and I began to feel good about life again. It was amazing!

So the next time you feel like your world is crashing down around you, and you’re losing control of your wits, stop and take a deep breath. Remember the blessings that God has given you, and thank Him for them. There are the big blessings like when your car broke down, and you had enough cash to get it fixed without using the credit card, or a large debt you owed was unexpectedly forgiven. There are also the daily blessings such as you and your spouse are still madly in love with each other, and everyone in your family is healthy and strong. There are so many occasions and circumstances to be thankful for that are often forgotten in the midst of negative pressures. The more we focus on the good parts of our lives, the easier it will be to not freak out over the areas that are giving us grief. Be thankful, and God’s peace will keep you at rest! 

Bio:  Jamie Matthews

Hello! I'm Jamie Matthews, Pastor Jim's eldest daughter. My wonderful husband David and I moved this last year from California to North Carolina for a new job opportunity. Talk about an adventure! We drove cross-country in five days flat, stopping only for coffee, energy drinks, fast food, and our nightly hotel rooms. Our two Rat Terriers, Lizzy and Lucy were such good girls, sleeping most of the time right behind the front seats of our car. We traveled through 12 states, and took as many pictures of the countryside as we could as we drove past at 70 mph! We are now settled in our new apartment, David's doing great at his new job, and I'm scrap booking all the travel pictures. We love our new city, and are enjoying getting to know the area! That's my current life in a nutshell. Thanks for the opportunity to share words of encouragement to you. I hope that you are blessed by them!!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Free Supply Of Never Ending Peace...

I was meditating on Biblical peace again this morning and was reminded of another scripture where the same Hebrew word shalom is used.  (see yesterday’s posting for more info).  Isaiah 26:3 says that “Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  (King James Version)  As I studied out the various parts of this verse, I noticed that the word translated perfect is also from the Hebrew shalom.  That turned on a light in me as I (in my lightning quick understanding!) realized that the writer must have wanted to stress a point by repeating the word twice in the course of his statement.  One of my commentaries suggested that the literal translation could say that the person who keeps their mind (or imagination or expectations) fixed on their foundation will live in a state of peace upon peace!

What a thought… Living free from the up and down emotions caused by the ever changing events around us and walking in a personal zone of peace that leads to even more peace throughout each day.  Sound a little far fetched?  I don’t think so.  The New Testament is full of characters who went through many different trials and tribulations, but yet lived in a state of personal peace and satisfaction throughout them all.  I personally have many Christian friends (including my Pastor) who live like this.  From what I see, and have experienced myself, it takes determination and a solid decision from which you will not turn back, once you make it.  The foundation that you choose is the ultimate key to success.  Mine says that I can live in perfect peace as I keep my expectations and imagination focused on Him… and you know what?  I’ve tried it, and it is true!  How about you?  Can you say the same?  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Living With An Air Of Excitement and Expectancy!

I had the honor and the pleasure of officiating at the wedding of a special couple today.  To make things even better, it was my first Valentines Day wedding!  I love being able to be a part of a couples life at this initial and critical time in their lives together.  While every wedding is unique in its own way, they are all identical in the atmosphere of excitement that fills the air before, during and after the ceremony.  Today’s service was no exception to the rule.  The Bride and Groom were filled with a vision of good expectations for their new life together.  You could see the affection between them and the total agreement as the ceremony progressed.  Their personally written vows were filled with love, honor and care for each other.  They flowed as one as they confessed to live their lives under God’s covenant marriage relationship.  After the service they stood aglow in the radiance of a new commitment to one another, and a strong expectancy for their future together.

I think that is why I like weddings.  It is a time in people’s lives where they are going forth in union toward the goal of success for the rest of their lives.  As I mentioned, the very air today was charged with excitement and expectancy.  I believe that weddings are also important for those witnessing the event.  It is a time when they can remember their own special day and recommit to each other and the goals that they had set.

This is the way that we should live everyday of our lives!  It is something that God desires for each of us.  Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord.  They are plans for peace and not for disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.” (Gods Word©).  The word peace in this verse is the Hebrew word Shalom which means completeness or health in your body, mind and finances.  That’s the kind of peace that feelings alone cannot give.  It comes from a dependence on a higher foundation.  I shared this with the couple last night as we went over today’s service, and let them know that this is precisely God’s plan for them.  That a marriage centered on God and His Word can weather the various storms that come upon us in this life.  It is also the same advice that comes from personal experience in our marriage that I give to you this day!  With Him as our foundation, we look to live each day with the same air of excitement and expectancy that was prevailing at the wedding today, and it the same excitement and expectancy that you experience also!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Friday, February 11, 2011

It Time To Make Your Choice

Wow!  What a day… I woke up this morning to a vision of clear blue skies, with no frost on the neighbors roofs and with the sounds of birds singing their joyous notes filling the air!  “This is the day the Lord has made.  Let’s rejoice and be glad today!”  (Psalm 118:24 Gods Word©)  You know, sometimes you just have to throw aside every care and concern, any feelings of depression or fear and give in to being happy and relaxed while choosing to live life to the fullest extent!

It’s Friday and a quick glance at the weather maps across the country tells me that it is going to be a decent weekend for all!  Why not choose to fall in step with the loveliness of nature that God has created around you and plan to see all your great and encouraging expectations fulfilled during the next two days.  Who knows… you might even have the chance to reach out and be a fulfillment to someone else this weekend!  Live expectantly so that you don’t just have (as my wife always says…) a weak–ending to your week, but a strong beginning for the week ahead as well as the rest of your life!

Joshua who followed Moses as the leader of the Children of Israel in the beginning of the Bible, commanded the people, after they had conquered the land of Canaan, to make a decision.  He told them to choose, that day, whom they would serve.  Did they want to stay in the ruts of the past and serve their old fears and inhibitions or did they want to step out into a new and better lifestyle by serving their God (or their foundation) and be all that they were created to be.  (see Joshua 24:14-18)

I can ask you the same question today.  Whom will you choose to serve?  The decision is up to you.  I’m tired of letting the obstacles in life de-press me and hold me back.  I choose to live life to the fullest so that I can be blessed and thereby be a blessing to others.  Is it an easy road to take?  No, but the rewards of this diligent lifestyle far exceed the failures of living in fear and anxiety!  Remember:  Let’s rejoice and be glad… TODAY!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Extinguishing The Darkness

Yesterday I spoke a little bit about living in “the shadows” of what could have been.  Well, I got to thinking about those shadows in the wee hours of the morning today, and had some more revelation that I thought that I would share with you. It is kind of interesting in that I had a dream that I was preaching somewhere and found myself expounding on the subject of “shadows.”

So… think with me for a moment here.  Just what is a shadow?  One of Webster’s definitions of the word states that it is an imperfect and faint  representation of something.  A shadow is usually caused by an object getting between you and a source of light.  With that in mind, think of the good things that you are expecting in life to be focused in that source of light.  When things, say people, thoughts, ideas or events come between us and our expectations, then our clear vision is blocked and what is left is an imperfect or faint (and usually distorted) representation of what we are believing for.

This is where your foundation should come into play.  There are times when you may not have a clear view of what you are expecting.  When this happens you can’t necessarily go by your natural senses, you have to rely on what your foundation says in order to carry you through until the object causing the shadow is removed and the light has an unobstructed path.

As I have mentioned before, my foundation is based on the Word of God.  John 1:5 says that His Word “shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it.”  (Gods Word ©)  It is reassuring to know that my foundation will always burn brighter than any object that tries to makes its way between me and my expectations!  How bright is your foundation today?  Are you seeing more shadows  than light?  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Are You Expecting?

It has been about a month since we last talked about the personal goals that we had set for 2011.  How is the progress on your plans unfolding as we move through February?  Mine is coming along surprisingly well.  I have to admit that this has been the most organized pursuit of New Years resolutions that I have ever attempted!  That’s not to say that I don’t have some catching up to do, but I have been working diligently on at least one goal in each of the various areas that I had committed to.

This would be a good time for you to take an inventory of where you are.  Dig out and then dust off the list that you made at the end of last year. Take a few moments to make a reality check on each goal and then jump in with a renewed interest and zeal. 

Hebrews 10:23 leaped right off the page as I read it this morning, and it is exactly what we need to hear  concerning the pursuit of our goals.  It begins by saying that “we must continue to hold firmly to our declaration of faith.”  (Gods Word©)  The word “faith”  in this verse would better be better translated as “expectations” .  Therefore it is really saying that “we must hold firmly to what we are expecting!”  So just what are you expecting concerning the attainment of your goals?  Do you want to end this year in victory or living, once again, in the shadows of what could have been?  It is up to you.  Hebrews 10:23 continues by stating that “The one who made the promise is faithful.”  (Gods Word©).  My foundation promises to stay faithful to His promises as I stay faithful to the pursuit of what He has called me to do.  Don’t give up, but give in to a total surrender to your foundation. Take a deep breath and then jump back into a winning stride in your race of life!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

PS:  If you need to, go back through the blog archives from last year to review the goal process.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Importance Of Encouraging Messages

I was studying in my Bible this morning in the book of I Timothy chapter four, where the Apostle Paul is giving the young pastor some solid direction for successful church ministry.  Among other things, he advises Timothy to give encouraging messages.  (ITimothy 4:13)  When I read this I was drawn back to my first ministry position as a youth minister at First Baptist Church in Santa Rosa, California.  It was a very formidable time for me, and I remember fondly our senior pastor Bob Heydon.  He was a seasoned minister with a growing family and a large thriving church.  I learned many things from him throughout the five years that I served under him, but the greatest lesson of all was his love for the people he served.  In all those years I cannot remember one time where he ever uttered a negative word about anyone.  As the youth minister and a deacon in the church, I had lots of opportunities to see him operate in closed door sessions, discussing church problems and or the personal needs of various members of the congregation, and like I said, it was always done in a loving and encouraging manner. 

This is a way of life that I have tried (not always successfully!) to carry on in my own life throughout the years.  It is too easy to find faults with individuals, especially when they may not think or live their lives like we do.  It is a lot harder to take a stand of love toward the unlovely but the results are so much more rewarding and enduring to both you and the people involved!  I think some of the best advice that I have received over the years, and can pass on to others, is that if you don’t have something good to say about someone, then don’t say anything at all!  What was that old song about silence being golden?

It just so happens that I was talking to a friend last week that attended the old Baptist church when we did.  She mentioned that she had actually had some contact with Pastor Heydon in the weeks before he died a number of years ago.  She said that in his letter to her he explained how he had always preached on the love of God throughout his active ministry, but had not experienced that love in such a deep measure as when he entered into the battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

So once again that special man reminded me of the importance of reaching out to hurting people, even when the situation may not be comfortable to us.  We are God’s hands on this earth.  You may be the only contact with the love of God that someone may have.  Don’t waste those golden opportunities by criticizing or complaining about someone.  Reach out with an encouraging word or action and you might have that same lasting affect that Pastor Bob Heydon had in my life some 35 years ago!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Monday, February 7, 2011

Natural Vitamins

Good Monday Everybody!  How was your weekend.  I’m not sure how it is where you are, but our weather here in northern California has been nothing short of spectacular.  It was pushing 80 degrees yesterday!  The sunshine and warmth does wonders to build up the body and soul.  I’ve read that sunshine is the best and only natural source of vitamin D.  It is very therapeutic.  You think God knew what He was doing when He created the sun?  After all, the Bible does say ”And God saw everything that he had made and that it was very good.”  (Genesis 1:31 God’s Word ©)

I remember listening to a lecture in Bible School where the dean was sharing many ideas on how to avoid burnout in the ministry.  One of his points was to spend time outside on a regular basis.  This corresponded with a question that one of my wife’s doctors asked us, at a recent appointment concerning the amount of time that we spent outdoors.  When we told him about our daily walks and part-time lawn and garden care business, he was very pleased and stated how important it is to take advantage of the medicinal qualities that are available when we enjoy nature around us.

As my wife and I were out walking just a few minutes ago, I thought about the meaning of the word depression.  When you look at the word itself, it gives the simple idea of being pressed down or compressed!  It is kind of like having a weight placed on you to hold you down or back.  Spending time outdoors gives me the effect of being re-inflated and built up!  When I worked in merchandising at Home Depot, there were times that I just had to get out of the store and walk through the parking lot in order to get a fresh perspective and release the stress that had built up inside.  The store in Coloma California was particularly conducive to this as the store backs up to a grove of trees.  When the pressure increased I could simply walk out the dock door and breathe in the fresh air coming off the near by bay tinted with the crisp fragrance of eucalyptus!

So, go ahead… You deserve a break today, so get up and get away… step outside and enjoy the natural restorative vitamin D that is available right outside your door!  Breathe deeply, re-inflate your creative juices and take dominion back over your day!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Take A Close Look At Your Kids...

If you have been following the blog throughout this week, you’ll recall that I mentioned different conversations that my wife and I had with some of our kids.  Well, this was one of those great times where we actually had the pleasure of having extended conversations with each of our four children in one week.  Since they are literally scattered from coast to coast, this was kind of a unique experience for us! 

On Monday we got to have a live video conversation (via Skype) with our older daughter in North Carolina, and then later in the day, spend some time with our youngest son in Oklahoma.  On Tuesday it was with our younger daughter also in Oklahoma and yesterday I spent some time reminiscing with our oldest, Josh, who lives in the central valley here in California.  Josh was telling me about the upcoming church youth retreat to be held this weekend in Tahoe, where he and his best friend were asked to lead the praise and worship services at each of the sessions during the camp.  I believe that he said that this was the seventh year in a row that this particular church has requested him to lead the musical worship portions at the retreat.  As we delved into the details of his preparations and plans for the various services, I was drawn back down memory lane to the late 1970’s when I led music services for a few years at a regional Baptist youth snow camp.

As I later discussed our conversation with my wife, I began to realize just how special it is to have a son that is experiencing some of the same events that I had when I was his age.  Now, please don’t get me wrong here…  My son can run circles around my level of expertise on the guitar.  While I can pluck a tune, keep a good rhythm and lead a group of individuals in song, Josh can make a guitar sing and lift up the congregation until they literally sail right into the very presence of the Holy of Holies!  But nevertheless, it is pretty cool to see your son as a chip off the old block!  All of our kids are musical and can play a multitude of instruments.  (They get that from their mother!)  They have all used their talents in the church and have been a great blessing to many.  It is really something to be able to look and see the things that you have helped to put into your kids as they bud and then blossom in the world around them.

As the multifaceted events of this week begin to come to a close and the weekend unveils itself before you, I would encourage you to spend a little time reminiscing the good things that you have accomplished in and with your families.  Many times we dwell only on the negative events and fail to see the good that is popping out all around us!  Maybe some of it is disguised, but believe me, it is still there.  Be an investigator if you have to, pull out the magnifying glass and seek out the positive actions that your family is emanating due to your direct influence on their lives.  Matthew 7:7 says to “search and you will find…” (Gods Word©) You’ll probably be surprised in that the more you look the more you will find!  Then, sit back and savor the moment.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Beware Of The Thief...

This morning I returned to my daily reading of the Old Testament after about a weeks hiatus where I was fully consumed with the New Testament book of Hebrews.  I took up the story in the book of Exodus immediately following when Moses had made his first attempt at convincing Pharaoh to let the Children of Israel go free.  Moses’ initial efforts where, shall we say, less than encouraging in their report.  The Pharaoh basically told him to forget it, and that the people must have too much time on their hands to be thinking about going out into the desert to worship their God.  So, in response to the request, the Pharaoh stopped providing straw for the bricks the Israelites were making.  He told them to find their own straw while continuing to keep their production numbers stable. 

Moses immediately went crying back to God, Who did an amazing thing as He told Moses what He was going to do.  He said that He was going to show Himself to be Jehovah, which literally means “the self existent one” on their behalf.  Exodus 6:1-8 records the event.  The word “I” is used eleven times as Jehovah explains what He will supernaturally accomplish for them.  The following verse is the one that stopped me in my tracks, though.  It says: “Moses reported this back to the Israelites.  But they would not listen to him because they were so discouraged by their back-breaking work.”  (Exodus 6:9 God’s Word ©)

By focusing their attention on the situation at hand, the Israelites lost any hope at ever being delivered from their 430 year old bondage in Egypt.  As I pondered this thought, I was immediately brought back to my own situation that I face everyday concerning my wife’s health.  While I know what God has provided for me and my wife through the finished work of Christ, I can easily get distracted and depressed by discouragement when I take my eyes off of the promise and begin to trust in the deception that plays before my eyes.  I can also see this vividly occurring in others around me in my daily life.

As this information was revealed to me this morning, I heard a clear voice rising up from inside me saying “That is why I called you to a ministry of encouragement!”  While discouragement is a thief to the accomplishment of our hopes and dreams in life, encouragement is a tool that helps to keep the pathways of our minds clear to see, hear and then properly respond for the vision that has been developed for our lives.

As you read through the book of Exodus into the book of Joshua, you will come to know Moses as one of the greatest encouragers of all times.  You will see him use everything in his power and beyond to successfully lead the nation of Israel into their promised land.  Those who chose to keep their hope in what they saw, died in the wilderness, while those who trusted in the words of their God, Who did not need anything visible around Him to line up before He could accomplish His plans, lived to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labors in the land of Canaan (see Joshua 24:1-15).  Which way will you choose today?  Stay tuned, stay focused on your foundation and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Relax and Enjoy The Snow!

Well today, my wife and I had the pleasure of talking to our youngest daughter who also resides in Oklahoma.  Like myself, she is a graduate of Rhema Bible Training Center where her brother is currently attending.  Much of our conversation revolved around the major snow storm that had just gone through the area where she is.  I shivered as I looked at the clear blue sky with 65 degree temperatures outside my study’s window and thought about the 9 degree frozen environment that she was viewing out the window of the home she was at!  She mentioned the fun she had at being thrown into the snow by her boyfriend, and her attempts at retaliation!  (I told her to go show Jeremiah that these California bred girls are tough characters and don’t give up easily!)

She is really enjoying her extended stay in Oklahoma and is beginning to see it as home for the next few years.  With a new job, new ballet school and private violin lessons, her days are bright and future is on track. 

Our conversation got me to thinking about attitudes and the different ways that we look at things.  I always saw our time spent in Oklahoma as a temporary assignment.  We were there for school and then were headed back to Calie and full time ministry.  Because of that attitude I never settled in and thought of it as home.  I now see that I probably missed many good opportunities because I did not let go of California and give our Oklahoma adventure my all!

I see a totally different attitude with my two younger kids.  They are fully committed to living where they are, seeing everyday as a new adventure, and are happy and satisfied with their lives.  While neither of them believe that they will stay in Oklahoma for the long haul, they are peaceful and content and look forward to the days and months ahead.

I guess this is another lesson in planning for the future.  There has to be a balance between what is happening ahead of you and what is coming up around the corner.  Once again, we need to keep an eye on that finish line, but not at the expense of missing out on today!  I think that this is a common mistake with parenting.  Many parents, especially fathers, will be so concerned at providing for their kid’s futures that this miss providing for their kids emotional needs today!

There is a section in the book of Philippians that tells us to not worry about anything by giving all your concerns to God, and then to let His peace be our direction finder for what is coming up ahead of us!  (see Philippians 4:6-7)  Don’t make the same mistake I did by being so caught up in making everything work today, so I could leave and progress to the next phase of my life!  Relax a little!  Trust your concerns to your foundation and enjoy the ride, while staying alert to the directional signs on the road of your life.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself…”What am I expecting today!”