9.05.2016

For My Friends


Friendship is not supposed to be transactional. If my like for you is based on your like of me, then our relationship is more symbiotic than friendly. Symbiotic relationships are great for business but make for lousy friendships. Eventually a symbiotic friendship becomes one-sided, or parasitic. The health of the host is jeopardized eventually and detachment is necessary for restoration of health to occur. In transactional friendship or relationship there's harmony only so long as there's balance of give-and-take, give to get is the rule and constant score is kept. Friendship that grows and gives life is based on love that chooses to give without condition. Ancient Greece had a name for this love - agape. It's a relational choice I make to show kindness and love no matter what. I'm your friend not because it helps me but because I hope to benefit you. I choose to give without expectation of any sort of return. I choose to live in service to others because I want to live and love like Jesus loved me. My hope is to be your friend so that someday I can be of benefit to you. To live as a source of encouragement, hope, and support, ongoing and without fail. I hope to never hurt or confused agape, unconditional, love with transaction-based relationship. I want to give until I'm utterly spent with Jesus' love!

8.02.2016

Faith Frames Our Focus

The other day while listening to Steven Furtick share a message titled, "The Frame Game," I heard him say something that's really stuck with me. 

"Faith doesn't guarantee your results. Faith frames your environment."

Faith is our filter and our crop. Faith is where we focus. Faith is how we choose to see our world!

When we see our lives through faith in Jesus we can know we are ultimately victorious. I don't mean victorious in a "We're going to Disneyland" sort of way. I mean victorious in how we approach life in the ups and the downs. Faith sees opportunities where fear sees obstacles. Faith says I can withstand any storm that comes while fear runs to hide. Faith sees God's plan at work when fear only sees chaos and upheaval. 

Let's choose faith! Let's look to what God says about us in our day-to-day challenges, wins, and losses. Let's trust God's Word rather than the latest bad report. Let's grab onto the good Jesus did for us and refuse to hold on to the bad our enemy planned for us. 

Here's a link to The Frame Game for you too! https://youtu.be/owyXEZUMoms

5.21.2016

Build Bridges Over Walls


“Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors mean far more to GOD than religious performance.

The wicked get buried alive by their loot because they refuse to use it to help others.

Do your best, prepare for the worst— then trust GOD to bring victory.”
Proverbs 21:3, 7, 31 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.21.3,7,31.msg

Why these verses today?

"Justice with our neighbors"

As I considered that phrase, I was reminded of so much current national hostility toward those from other nations. There seems to be a groundswell of people, many media sensationalized, who believe we must close ourselves off from our global neighbors. The rhetoric says that we must protect our own and stop giving place to others in need, all veiled in a dust cover of safety and financial prudence.

We get into trouble when our lives become about protecting our ASSets. Our wealth becomes our prison. We're buried alive in our gilded coffins. Fear based living causes us to obstruct our view and hem ourselves in by building walls, rather than creating visionary bridges built with faith.

We fall into our enemy's traps when we live in fear of others plans, instead of by faith in God's plans for us. It's a much better place to live when we trust God to bring the victory!

2.16.2016

Possibility


"One of the best questions you can ask when something negative happens is this:

What does this experience make possible?

Do you see the shift? Suddenly, your attention moves from the past—which you can't do a thing about—to the future."

[Above from "Living Forward" by Hyatt & Harkavy, page 39]

I read this bit in chapter two last night and it's stuck in my head yet this morning. So often I've asked why something happens, and I find it's easy to get stuck in why-mode. 

I'm learning to ask, "What's next?" I want to grow to ask, "What's possible?"

Possibility is a seed of hope.

Possibility is a flicker of light in a pit of darkness.

Possibility is the first bit of dawn creeping over the horizon after a cold, dark, miserable night. 

When everything's fallen apart and it feels like you'll never be whole again, maybe ask yourself, "What does this (really awful hard circumstance) make possible?" Allow the answer to be a catalyst of hope in the midst of your storm.

Blessings today and always! –M

(I received a pre-release copy of "Living Forward" in exchange for my review of the book. I think you'd like it if you like resources for self-improvement. You'd especially like it if you're apt to goal-setting! And you may find it very useful if you've struggled, like me, with going beyond setting goals and actually implementing steps toward completion. 

I've only read the first couple chapters but so far, so good! Get your own copy pre-ordered now at www.LivingForwardBook.com - order before the end of February for special pre-release bonuses too. Last I checked the book was selling for less than $15, plus over $350 in bonuses! Not bad for such a helpful resource!)

2.04.2016

Day One


“First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day, he named the dark Night. It was evening, it was morning— Day One.”
Genesis 1:1-5 MSG
http://bible.com/97/gen.1.1-5.msg

When we feel that bottomless emptiness it's so real. It's so alone like we are the last person on earth, unknown, unloved, unwanted, almost unreal except we know the real pain and heartache we're feeling! In that moment, when we are sucked to the depths of hardship, God is there. He is "brooding like a bird" over us - He is incubating us!

I had to look up brooding! (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_incubation) Imagine that God has us in his nest of creation, protecting, keeping, waiting with us for our time to break out of the chaos. It's dark in that place. It's uncomfortable and messy. We feel alone. We have to fight to break free. But the light is coming!

Day one is here!

•••

My friend Steve (www.stevewiens.com) wrote a great book, Beginnings, that released January 1st. Get yourself a copy wherever you like to get your books!

In Beginnings Steve takes us through some of the great, hard, wonderful, powerful moments we all may face as we begin and transition through this life. Beginnings are moments of Creation in our life. We can partner with the original Creator, God, in this process and allow him to mold our beginnings into wonderful details in our personal story. 

Live your life with Jesus. We are in it together!

1.31.2016

Let It Go


“Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of- GOD. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!”
Proverbs 31:30-31 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.31.10-31.msg

Proverbs 31: I'm not qualified to discuss this chapter of Proverbs. Nothing I could write would bear weight. I simply can't stand in the shoes of today's women and understand the various demands of time, energy, or emotion on their lives.

I read this chapter and think, "sounds like a tough standard to meet!" If I imagine my wife, or most other women, reading this I may have a different opinion. Then I may think, "Lemuel was a sexist pig and this chapter is complete BS! Cooking, cleaning, sewing, selling, working from dawn to dark while the hubby sits on the street corner waxing philosophically with the other lazy bones‽ Thanks...no...Hell To The No!"

So, ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to say today, let each other off the hook. Don't look at this chapter as the standard for womanhood. Don't compare yourself to this list, in the same way airbrushed, photoshopped, fantasies shown in magazines aren't the standard for beauty.

Instead, be uniquely you. Instead, men and women, live in the Fear-of-God. Live constantly leaning on God's word for you, and the promises he's given. The person, woman or man, to be admired is the one living completely dependent on God, completely given to his plan and purpose. Allow his plan to work itself out in your life. Be whole and complete in him. Let go of any other standard—they're all impossible!

Be confident in who God created you to be today! Be who you are in Him! Live freely before him. All the rest is performance, and perfect performance is not our objective. Perfect trust in God is—and we miss the mark there all the time too! Don't give up! Live full-hearted! Live free!

Blessings to you, today and always! –M

[Thanks to all who've followed along through Proverbs this past month. I hope 2016 is off to a good start. For many I know it's a rough go already. Hugs and prayers to you in this season. Keep moving forward! Hillsong's "Broken Vessels" 👌]

1.30.2016

Sparse Prayer


“And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things before I die; don’t refuse me— Banish lies from my lips and liars from my presence. Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little. If I’m too full, I might get independent, saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’ If I’m poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God.””
Proverbs 30:7-9 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.30.7-9.msg

Keep me from lying and give me only enough to be satisfied.

It's a sparse request and I find it admirable and worthy of high esteem. So often my prayers are filled with excessive cares, selfish desire, and hope for personal glory. I see in this simple prayer a powerful conviction to live within the bounds of my actual life without longing for more or less than what God provides me.

Keep me from lying - to myself, to others. Keep me honest about who I am in God's eyes - more than a conqueror, worthy, loved, redeemed. Keep me honest in my portrayal of myself before others - flawed, becoming, loving, hopeful. Keep me from the presence of liars so that I don't become like them.

Give me enough to be satisfied, yet faithful. It's so easy to want too much! And to believe that we are capable of handling excess responsibly. So often it's not the case. So often we handle excess destructively. And lack, we run from lack. In lack we worry and fret and forget who God is. We forget all the times he provided, and that he will provide again!

Today as you live your actual life, be honest and satisfied. Follow Jesus into the shadows and allow him to illuminate the darkness. Trust him to keep you safe and whole!

Blessings to you, today and always! –M

1.29.2016

Paralyzed?


“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in GOD protects you from that.”
Proverbs 29:25 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.29.25.msg

Trusting in God protects you from that.

Strong words today! The fear of what others might think of us is said to disable us. We're considered unable to fully function when we're afraid of others' opinion. Fear can paralyze.

So what's the alternative? Is it self-confidence? Do we become bold, brazen, and self-interested? Do we operate with no consideration for the impact we have on others?

No, I don't think so. The way we counter fear of others opinion is to be confident in God. We trust God. We choose to believe what he said about us in his word and through Jesus. We lean on the promises we were given in scripture. Trusting in God protects us from fear of man.

Where does fear of man pop up in your life? What areas of life do you feel paralyzed to go through? How could you allow Jesus to enter that space today?

You and Jesus are enough. Hold tight to his promises to you. Lean into his love for you. Pray. Love. Laugh. Be free. Be confident in Jesus' love and life in you.

Blessings to you, today and always! –M

1.28.2016

Understanding


“When the country is in chaos, everybody has a plan to fix it— But it takes a leader of real understanding to straighten things out.”
Proverbs 28:2 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.28.2.msg

Our world is full of chaos. I pray for our leaders to have true understanding in the midst of it all. As we go through this next year, hear the speeches, and cast our ballots, I pray we are all led by God rather than fear or self-interests.

As you live today, be prayerful for our leaders, current and future. Lift them up in word and deed. Remember they are on your team. We are in it together. Let's live united in strength, not divided in fear.

Be at peace. Live boldly. Love without conditions. Pray continually.

Blessings to you, today and always! –M

1.27.2016

Stay Sharp!


“You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.27.17.msg

Who are you sharpening? Who is sharpening you?

I'm thankful for the many friends who sharpen me in this life. I need ya! In my case I'm doubly blessed because most of my best friends are also my family. We love and support one another, and occasionally keep each other sharp too.

What does it mean to sharpen one another? Some may say it's correcting and pointing out the flaws of another. Perhaps, but I'd like to offer another view.

When the steel of a blade is dull, it's often due to use. Tiny bits of wear and tear cause the edge of a blade to roll over just slightly and build into a burr. Instead of a keen, straight, sharp blade the metal is rounded and blunt or dull.

It takes care to correctly sharpen a dull edge. The blade is worked against a sharpening stone with concern, slowly returning the rolled burr to its original shape. When steel is used to sharpen steel it's done so to repair and make useful that dull blade.

I think we can be like that too. I think we can sharpen our friends when they're worn and dull. I think we can be sharpened by our friends when we're worn and dull too.

Be an encourager to your friends today! Help them to be sharp! Help them to be whole again! Fill them up with kindness and joy and peace and love. Sharpen them up.

And be sharpened by your friends too! Let them in. Enjoy them! Receive their love and hope and laughs and care. Take pleasure in one another. Love each other well!

Stay sharp!

Blessings to you, today and always! –M

1.26.2016

Let It Go


“Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself.”
Proverbs 26:4 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.26.4.msg

What if we applied this verse to life? At home? In our parenting? Politically? Driving down the road? What if we simply stopped responding to the stupidity of fools?

Imagine the peace. Imagine the bliss you might sense if you gave up responding to the fools in your life?

Could it be that simple? Let's give it a shot!

Blessing to you, today and always! –M

1.25.2016

Refresh


“Like a cool drink of water when you’re worn out and weary is a letter from a long-lost friend.”
Proverbs 25:25 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.25.25.msg

When you're worn out and weary.

Anyone else feel that this morning? That Monday morning momentum moving too slowly to make much difference? That lack of motivation to move at all? No, yeah, me neither!

Today as we consider our to-do lists, our priorities, our stuff; let's also consider who we might encourage. Think about someone you could share a cool drink with. Who comes to mind?

Now drop them a message. Preferably something hand-written, placed in an envelope, and mailed with a stamp! Give the gift of encouragement today. Send a message of love, strength, and support. Be a gift of refreshment!

Blessings to you, today and always! –M

1.24.2016

Rescue the Perishing


“Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,” will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know— Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”
Proverbs 24:11-12 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.24.11-12.msg

Rescue the perishing, don't hesitate.

But what if it's dangerous? What if I don't know them? What if I've heard rumors about how awful they are?

Rescue the perishing, don't hesitate.

What if I'm busy? What if I'm broke? What if I don't agree with their lifestyle or beliefs?

Rescue the perishing, don't hesitate.

What if they don't appreciate it? What if they go right back to their demise? What if they hurt me in the process? What if that's none of my business?

Rescue the perishing, don't hesitate.

What if there are no excuses? What if Jesus meant it when he said do for others what you'd want done for you? What if he's watching?

Rescue the perishing, don't hesitate.

It may not be popular. It may not be safe. It may not even be right in some cases. But I'd rather error on the side of love and grace than on the side of fear and apathy any day!

Blessings today and always! –M

1.23.2016

Life 101


“Listen with respect to the father who raised you, and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her. Buy truth—don’t sell it for love or money; buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight. Parents rejoice when their children turn out well; wise children become proud parents. So make your father happy! Make your mother proud!”
Proverbs 23:22-25 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.23.22-25.msg

Much of Proverbs is written as a sort of primer passed from parent to child. We are encouraged to read and truly listen, to ingest its principles and become wise. In many ways Proverbs is our Life 101 handbook. Read it. Study it. Remember it. Apply it. Become wise.

When faced with choices as big as whom to marry and as small as what to wear, we can ask ourselves, "What is the wise choice to make?" Given the circumstances, in light of past experience, with a nod toward other's input, what is the wise choice?

If we begin to apply wisdom to the best of our ability, we will begin to move toward a life that turns out well. Make your parents proud! Whomever they are: biological, fictional, mentors, absent, horrible, wonderful, hovering, helping, whatever! Be wise for your sake!

Apply Life 101. Choose wisdom. Be you!

Blessings today & always! –M

1.22.2016

Duck!


“A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered.”
Proverbs 22:3 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.22.3.msg

Don't get clobbered by ducks!

Jesus, give us the wisdom to know what's right and the courage to do what's right, even when it's hard!

I read this prayer from Andy Stanley years ago and hold it in my head and heart. Father, help me to see trouble coming long before it gets here, help me to know what to do, and give me the strength to do it.

Troubles come. Hard times hit. Bad days rise up. Reports are grim. Health is scary. Aging is exhausting. What to do?

We can wring our hands and shake with fear over what's ahead, or we can trust God and lean into the direction of the Holy Spirit as we move forward. There is no guarantee of ease, but we are given peace. They aren't the same thing.

I want to be wise. I want to see trouble coming. I want to live in peace. I want to have the wisdom and courage to take the next right step.

Be prudent today. Take the long view of things. Make choices to be in position where you want to be. In it all, be at peace. Trust God to see you through the valleys. Laugh and praise him in all things. Allow his joy to be your strength.

Blessings today and always! –M

1.21.2016

Give


“Sinners are always wanting what they don’t have; the God-loyal are always giving what they do have.”
Proverbs 21:26 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.21.26.msg

What could I give today? Will I? Will you?

Gifts are cool! I like to give them and receive them. I like the whole experience of gifts...considering the gift, preparing to give it, the exchange from giver to receiver, the reveal, and the long-term memories associated. Gifts can be extremely simple yet wonderfully meaningful!

Of the 5 Love Languages, I tend to top the list with gifts. It seems like the shallowest of the 5 languages (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, & Physical Touch) the gifts one seems shallow. Oh well, guess that's okay too.

What can I give today? We all have something to give. We just need to see it and give it. It may be a tangible thing, or it may be a dazzling smile to a friend in need. Whatever you have, give it today!

Focus on all you have to give today. See your abundance! Give full hearted and generously!

Blessings today and always! –M

1.20.2016

Deep Waters


“Knowing what is right is like deep water in the heart; a wise person draws from the well within.”
Proverbs 20:5 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.20.5.msg

Deep water. Deep blue. Beautifully dark. Deep water flows in the darkness carrying life to all who draw from it.

As we go into a new day let's draw from the deep waters. Let's drink fully from the place of knowing what is right. Let's make right choices today. Let's choose life and love and laughter. Let's become the real us, the whole us, the us we were created to be.

I feel like I got run over by the Sandman this morning. My body is feeling the wear of cold winter days and long hours at the front of my battle zones. I'm trusting God for life and health and energy and joy. I want to drink from his deep waters today. I want to know what my next right action is and do it. I want to find my rest in his strength. I can endure all things because Jesus strengthens me. 

Blessings to you today. Be strong and courageous. Chin up, shoulders back, and get ready for your battles. Fight to win today. I hope you'll know better today how loved you are. I hope you'll know better today how strong you are. I hope you'll know better today how to step into tomorrow.

Draw from the deep water.

Blessings today and always! –M

1.19.2016

Congenial, What?


“House and land are handed down from parents, but a congenial spouse comes straight from GOD.”
Proverbs 19:14 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.19.14.msg

Congenial: pleasant because of a personality, qualities, or interests that are similar to one's own.

I had to look it up!

Often, home is not too far from where we were raised. I know there are exceptions, but for many, home is where we've pretty much always been. Our parents lived here, we live here, our kids will live here. Moving out of that default position, if desired, often takes a bit of luck and a great amount of effort. In that way, our "house and land" are passed down from our parents. Where we are is in large part due to where we were born.

But a congenial spouse, someone we enjoy and whom enjoys us, they are a gift straight from God! I know Danielle has wondered a time or two in our 20 years of marriage whether God had given her a gift receipt along with me‽ She even tried to return me to Fleet Farm (for store credit, orange slices, anything)!

Seriously though, relationships can be incredibly challenging. Having someone "congenial" alongside is wonderful! We are gifts to one another. Sometimes that's a conscious choice we have to make toward each other, to be a gift to our spouse. We have to choose to lean in rather than pull away. We decide to focus on what drew us together instead of what draws us apart.

Thank God for your spouse! Choose to be their gift today. Focus on what draws you together.

For those who'd just as soon return or exchange their "gift," I don't pretend to have all the answers. My encouragement: be the best gift you can be, focus on the qualities that drew you in, and trust God to reveal your path. Relationships are hard to navigate. No matter what. 

In it all, choose to become you, the real you. Allow God to work in you and mold you into the person he's created you to be. You're never completely finished, you're always becoming. Continue to become you. Continue to trust God to reveal the real you. Continue to release the real you to the world around you. We need you!

Blessings today & always! –M

1.18.2016

Safe


“GOD ’s name is a place of protection— good people can run there and be safe.”
Proverbs 18:10 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.18.10.msg

We wake up feeling the ache. Another day. Another week. Another new beginning but we'd rather pull the blankets close and lie in slumber than begin. In our cocoon of sleep we feel safe and warm and able to be free of the cares this day may bring. Reality may bite and we may not be up for the challenge. The ache is real on Monday mornings.

God is there with us today! His name is our strength, our safety, our protection. We're encouraged to run to him today. Run to him and be safe! That warmth we long for is found in him. Our hearts long to be safe and known. Run to God who knows each of us and all of us. Be safe in his Strong Tower!

Blessings today and always! –M

1.17.2016

Be a Cheerful Eeyore!


“A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.”
Proverbs 17:22 MSG
http://bible.com/97/pro.17.22.msg

I usually read this verse and consider my own countenance. Am I cheerful or not so much? Often, not so much! Over the years I've been compared to party animals like Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh's life-of-the-party friend. [Side note: the cool thing about Eeyore's friends - they loved him as-is. Think about it.] I'm not typically Tigger (tee-eye-double guh-errr)!

Today I read this verse a little differently. I considered the people around me. Am I surrounded by cheerfulness, or gloom and doom? What effect does that have on me? When I consider the impact of my relationships on my energy, am I aware of how I'm impacted, and how I impact others?

When I'm surrounded by gloom and doom in my relationships, on the news, in my thoughts, it leaves me tired. Bone tired. When I'm surrounded by cheerfulness, internal and external, my health improves!

This makes me want to be a happy Eeyore rather than a sad Tigger. I want to improve the health of those I surround. I hope those surrounding me will do the same.

Sounds silly I'm sure but cheerfulness matters. And I'm a donkey on the edge some days – a whole different story! So let's be cheerful today when we're able. And let's be cheerful today for those who aren't able too!

We never know the real struggles surrounding us, be an agent of good health to all you meet today!

Blessings today and always! –M