Ignoring the Chance to Help

Broke Down Car

Have you ever had that urge to help somebody, but passed up the opportunity?  I have.

Last night, I was out for a nice, brisk run.  The wood fireplaces were burning, my breath was warming the cool air around me and the Christmas lights were sparkling bright.  It was awesome.

As I came around the corner, I saw a gal standing next to her car with the hood up.  My legs were tired and I was nearing the end of my run.  The thought of helping her did cross my mind, but I breezed right on by her…..”I’m not a mechanic.  There’s not much that I could help her with,” I told myself.  Excuses, excuses.

Suddenly, I felt the tugging to stop and head back that way.  Maybe I could offer to call a tow truck.  Maybe I could offer company.  Maybe I could offer a hug or a prayer.

So I turned around and started heading back….trusting the nudging that I believe was God.

As I approached the place where the car was, I noticed that the hood was now down.  I also noticed that the gal was inside her house…..she must have lived there or was visiting for the night or something.  Either way, she looked taken care of and in good company.

I know this is a pretty anti-climactic ending to the story.  The result of my attempt to help wasn’t anything special, but the important lesson that I learned was deep.  I listened to that persistent whisper, telling me to go back and help.  I fought the urge to keep running and instead, followed my heart.  You know what, I think that’s good enough for God.  He’s more interested in our heart and intentions vs. the end result…..ALWAYS.

Sure, God will bring some circumstances along our path that reap crazy, cool results.  Other times, I think God likes to test our character.  To see if we’ll follow Him in the little, small, simple things.  Sometimes, these are the toughest tests to pass.

I’ve missed many opportunities to help others in my life.  Pretty embarrassing, but true.  I’m thankful to have learned the simple lesson of following God’s lead and listening to that still, small voice…..even if the story doesn’t end with me in a cape, saving the world.

Have you ever missed an opportunity to help someone in need?

God Bless,

Paul

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If I’m Good, Will God Buy Me a Lexus?

IS-F and friends

I just watched this holiday Lexus commercial on TV.  There was this guy who was doing nice things for people….buying a coffee for the Salvation Army bell-ringer and even stitching Santa’s clothes or something.  The commercial then ended with this dude mysteriously finding a set of keys to a Lexus.  You know, a reward for being a good guy and doing nice things for people.  He was on the “nice” list.  He earned the car.

Maybe, if I’m good enough, I can get a Lexus.  That would be cool.  Hey God, hook a brother up!

The same goes with life and the afterlife for that matter…..I’ve heard it said many times that, “I’ve lived a good life.  I’ve been a good person.  God’s ok with me, I’ve earned His approval.”  It’s a common thing to think this way and I get it.  It’s how our culture has programmed us to think.  It’s how religion has programmed us to think for that matter.

Don’t get me wrong.  God wants us to be good people.  He wants us to love others, to be selfless, to help the widows, to save the orphans, to feed the hungry and to give our stuff away.  He wants us to do these things under the umbrella of our belief in Jesus though.

I’m about to get really culturally unpopular here…..You could be the most talented, selfless person.  You could be honest, caring and upright.  You could be the most amazing human being who has ever lived….BUT, when you die and you don’t know or believe in Jesus, your place in Heaven is not reserved.  It’s not secure.

The only way to Heaven is through Jesus.  He’s the gate.  He’s the object of our belief, our affection and our joy.

This upsets a lot of people.  We are not a black and white society.  We’re multi-colored actually.  There are multiple ways to achieve anything.  There are multiple gods to worship and multiple ways to reach Heaven.  It’s all about us and the ever-popular options that we love.

We are ALL called to do the opposite of what the culture is teaching us.  We’re called to take the narrow road.  We’re called to trust in Jesus who is unseen.  We are called to put aside ourselves and dive into a relationship with our Creator out of faith.  Trusting that Heaven awaits.  All this is not by our own effort, but by God’s calling.

I’ll say it again; it’s not by our own effort, but by God’s calling.  You can’t earn it….it’s a gift.  Our only job is to believe and receive.

The stuff on this earth rusts.  People’s approval fades.  Our bodies decay.  The only thing worth investing in is our relationship with Jesus.  He provides the life that lasts.

Let’s trade in our earned Lexus’s for a relationship with a God that loves us.  What do you say?

God Bless,

Paul

It’s Christmas Time Baby!

christmas paint

You hear that sound?  It’s the clip-clop of rushing feet, scurrying around town, rushing from stop to stop .  It’s the cheerful holiday music, persuading us to set aside the realities of life and just be happy, happy, happy.  It’s the continual swipe of our credit cards, purchasing gifts for loved ones.  It’s the clanking of dishes as we prepare cookies and foods to enjoy.  It’s the honking of horns and raising of voices as we get frustrated with the rush of it all.

This, my friends, is Christmas in America.

I mean really, is this what Christmas is all about?  We put so much pressure on ourselves.  We have created a cultural norm centered around commercialism and doing things the “right” way.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.  I’m a goofball really.  I’m constantly singing songs, taking the back roads to look at lights and I play a mean mouth-horn…that’s for another story.

There’s also really good people out there who transform lives during this time of year.  Unfortunately, it really seems like a rarity these days.

So here’s my worry…..through all of the rushing, eating, giving, receiving, singing…..I’m worried that we may lose focus a bit on what Christmas is really about.

It’s about a man named Jesus Christ, as the first 6 letters of the word Christmas represent.  It’s a celebration of His birth and all that Jesus stood for.

This Jesus guy has single-handedly changed history.  The majority of modern scholars agree that Jesus was a real person who made a real impact on history.  Whatever you believe about His divinity is up to you….but one thing you can’t deny is this; no other person in history has ever been talked about more.  No other person in history has caused as much controversy.  No other person in history has had as many books written about him/her.

In my case, as a Christian, I celebrate Jesus as God.  I remember His birth and I thank God for His place in history.  He ended up dying on a cross for humanity, providing a free path to Heaven by His grace.  God has changed my life and this is the time of season that I get to focus on that.

To be honest, I totally lose focus of this all the time.  I, too, get caught up in the hustle and bustle.  I find myself getting more excited about the seasonal beers vs. the quiet times to reflect.

I mean, shoot, is it possible to have a great Christmas season while honoring Jesus at the same time?  You bet.  Really, with Jesus as the focus, the food tastes better, the crowds feel calmer and relationships feel closer.  We need Him….we’re wired to need Him.  He created us after all.

I’m thankful.

God Bless,

Paul

Where We, As Christians Have Failed

coffee

Many, many, many people have a bad taste in their mouths for Christians.  In many ways, I can understand why.  We can be close minded, hypocritical, selfish, demeaning, prude, fearful, sheltered, prideful….the list could go on.  I get it.

I think we often talk the talk, but we fail to walk the walk.

We had a guest speaker at our church this last weekend.  His name is Bob Goff.  This dude is dynamic and full of joy.  He’s a normal, yet exceptional guy who loves Jesus….and it shows.  He inspired me.

Bob said a lot of amazing things on Sunday.  I zoned in on one thing in particular though.  He mentioned that we, as Christians, need to say 3 words more often….I DON’T KNOW.  These 3 words are often lost in the Christian vocabulary.  Well, at least they were lost in mine for quite a few years.

I understand that these words are nothing exceptional.  Here’s what they do; they show humbleness and openness.  There’s comfort in hanging out with someone who doesn’t have all the answers.  This is the kind of person that I would want to meet for a hot cup of coffee.  This is the kind of person that I would want to share life with.  This is the kind of person that I am striving to be on a daily basis.

Here’s the thing…..we, as Christians should be the most approachable people on earth.  We should be overflowing with the hope that only Jesus can give.  We should be humble, always seeking more.  We should be at peace with what we know and also with what we don’t know.  Our role is to be open, to share truth and to love a lot.  That’s the meat of it…..and that’s also where we’ve often failed.

Instead of inviting discussion, we either puff out our chests in pride or we sink back into our comfortable circles of like-minded people.  I think part of this is due to fear.  We’re afraid of rejection.  We’re afraid of not knowing everything.  We’re more concerned with converting people to our own opinions vs. turning them in the opposite direction, towards Christ.

People can’t see Christ through a façade of perfection.  People see Christ through someone who has faced struggle, obstacles, success, failure, heartbreak, loss…….a real person.

I wonder what would happen if us Christians actually walked towards conflict.  If, instead of beating people over the heads with our Bibles, we offered them a seat across the table instead….to discuss life’s frustrations, hopes and challenges.

Thanks Bob for reminding me that the main thing we’re called to do is to love and love a lot.  To go out and do…not out of obligation or guilt, but because we are blessed.  To hold our drinking cups loosely for others, knowing that if they’re thirsty, they’ll take a drink.  Our job is just to hold the cup with love in our hearts.

God Bless,

Paul

My Fat, Big-Boned, Husky Story – The Power of Words

They love each other...

Words can sure make a difference to those around us, can’t they?

We can encourage, empower, sympathize, validate, challenge, question, love, tear down, ridicule, gossip, discourage, hate and many other things…..all with the same words, rolling off of the same tongue.  Isn’t that interesting?

When I was younger, primarily in elementary school, I faced many negative words, often in the form of insults.  It was a part of the whole bullying chapter of my life.

I remember one day in particular.  I was walking up the street, heading somewhere….I can’t remember where exactly.  To my right was my neighbor’s house.  It was a rickety old thing, half-finished and thrown together.  They had a large deck that faced the street.  So, as I strolled by, minding my own business, I heard shouts, laugher and chanting.  It sounded like it was directed at me….it was.  They were (by “they” I mean the mom and some of the kids) shouting, “whale watching, whale watching!”  They were referring to my weight.  Shouting at me like I was some large, over-stuffed whale, slowly meandering down the street.  It was pretty mean, it was immature and it added to the complex that I already had about my size.

Now, granted, I wasn’t obese or anything.  I was just a thicker kid….”husky” and “big-boned” are the words that my mom used to comfort me….bless her heart.  In my mind, I was more than just “thick” or “big-boned”, I was huge.  I was a walking marshmallow…..which brings me to my point; the negative power of my neighbor’s (and other’s) words caused me to view myself differently.  I believed the words.  They caused me to struggle for many years with self-image.  I was disgusted with myself.  Pretty sad really.

As the years have gone by, I have gotten through the whole self-image struggle.  God has replaced my negative thoughts with truthful thoughts.  I have peace in knowing that I am God’s creation, made for a purpose….His purpose.  I will never forget the memories, the pain and the confusion though.

Deep down inside, no matter who we are or what we believe, there is a need to be included, to be needed, to be loved.  It’s how we are wired…for relationship and interaction.

My struggles have changed my heart.  I am more sensitive to other’s feelings.   I try hard everyday to watch my words, to encourage and to make people laugh.

There’s a bible verse that talks about our words being an overflow of what’s in our heart.  I think it’s true.

Please join me in the daily struggle and challenge of watching our words.  Look for opportunities to empower.  Look for opportunities to encourage.  Look for opportunities to give hope.  Look for opportunities to love and love a lot.  You might just change someone’s life with just a few words.  You never know.

How have other’s words made an impact on your life?

God Bless,

Paul

What’s Your Decision?

English: Fork in the Road In the middle of now...

I think there comes a point in each of our lives where we are forced to make a decision.  We approach that classic fork in the road and we have to choose a direction….you ever been there?

We can face big decisions, or small, everyday decisions, but they’re decisions nonetheless.  It’s part of life.

The biggest decision of my life came when I was younger…..I honestly can’t remember the age or the time, but I know I made it.  This decision was simple at the time, but it has become more and more complex, mysterious and beautiful as the years have passed.

I chose to believe in a Man.  Well, not just any man, His name is Jesus Christ.  I remember feeling that internal pull….a calling maybe, I don’t know.  I chose Him though.  I chose to believe that He was God in the flesh.  That He was born, he lived, and that He died an excruciating death, nailed to 2 pieces of wood, formed into a cross, for humanity.  That He died not because we earned it, but because He is love.  That He came to save you and me from the hell that we deserve.  Deep stuff.  Controversial stuff.  Truth stuff.

The key to me arriving at this place came from both a realization and a need.  I realized that I was a sinful, gross, bad-intention-filled, hypocritical lonely person who didn’t stand a chance apart from Jesus.  I had a need and desire for hope…..I needed something or someone to put my trust in.  That Something and Someone was Jesus.  He called and I responded.

So I turned…….I turned myself around and I pointed myself in the opposite direction.  The fancy word for this is repentance….so I guess I repented.   Instead of looking to please myself, I was determined to please Jesus.  To love (or attempt to love) others the way that He loved me.

The road hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been worth it.  I have studied, I have questioned, I have doubted, I have struggled, I have overcome, I have fallen on my face in a dark room, crying out for the feeling of His Presence.  Oh man, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

My decision has turned into a journey, which has turned into a passion, which has turned into a life change….a heart change really.  It’s a fluid thing, always changing like each ripple in a stream.

Could I have chosen to take the other road?  Absolutely.  We all have that choice.  Most of us have heard about Jesus.  Some of us have accepted who He is and have chosen to follow Him.  Others shudder at His name.  Some are indifferent…maybe you are fighting the tugging as you read my words…I don’t know.

I am not here to convince anyone to take a certain road…..that’s God’s job.  I’m only here to say that there’s a better way.  I encourage you to dig deep and check out this Jesus guy.  He created you, He loves you and He wants to spend eternity in Heaven with you.

God Bless,

Paul

Who Steers Your Ship?

Life is a precious gift. Don't waste it being ...

Last night, I had a conversation with a man who I greatly respect and admire.  It was about life.  It was candid and real, which I appreciated.

We discussed sorrow, hope, perspective and living each day to it’s fullest.  It was an inspiring conversation….one that you leave feeling refreshed and invigorated.

He’s facing an uphill battle with a loved one.  It’s bringing life into perspective very rapidly, maybe too rapidly….well that’s what we discussed….who are we to determine how rapidly is too rapidly…make sense?

God’s in control, he really is.  Sure, we don’t understand the current circumstances in life sometimes.  They can be painful and confusing, I get it.  Many times, we are at a loss and the only thing left to do…..which can often be the most difficult thing to do…. is trust.

As we trust that God has engineered things specifically for His purposes, we can find some freedom in that.  Not freedom from the pain necessarily, but freedom from fear.  There’s peace in knowing that a greater power is pulling the strings.

Often, this freedom gives birth to perspective.  Man, perspective can sure steer a ship.  It can allow a person to truly appreciate each day, each moment, each challenge for what it is…..an opportunity to grow and marinate in the mystery of life.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  Our plans are never set in stone.  Our health is never predictable.  Our world can change in a flash.  So why not live every day to it’s fullest? Why not trust in a God who’s bigger than us?  Because it’s easy not to.  We fall into the trap of fear….into the trap of control….into the trap of self-preservation.  We all do it.

I invite you to join me in the daily pursuit of perspective.  To pull up our boot straps and trudge through the muck and the mire of life with our chins held high.  We are blessed with the gift of life and the guidance of a God who loves us.

Have you ever gained perspective through tough times?

God Bless,

Paul