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    All posts in "faith"

    How To Set Right-Sized Goals

    HOW TO SET RIGHT-SIZED GOALS

    If your goals don’t scare you, you aren’t thinking big enough.

    Michael Hyatt

    Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

    H. Jackson Brown

    The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them.

    Jim Rohn

    Like many of you, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my goals for 2016 and my dreams for the future.  I’m thinking about where I want to be this time next year.  I’m thinking about various aspects of my life where I want to focus – family, finances, faith, fitness, career, etc.  And I’m taking time to write things down.  Sometimes I wonder if my goals and dreams are the right size.

    Are your dreams big enough?

    Are you setting goals that will stretch you to become a better person and accomplish more in 2016?

    I think many of us fall into the trap of being too safe.  We are too timid with the plans we make for ourselves.  We must learn to be courageous dreamers.

    I’m all about setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive), but I think we too often underestimate what is attainable and realistic.

    As you ponder your goals and dreams for the future, I challenge you to look at these two verses:

    For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

    Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of prayer in laying out your plans.  Without God, our plans will ultimately fail.

    The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

    How do you know your goals and dreams are the right size?

    For excellent reading on goal-setting, check out these articles:

    Refuge

    REFUGE

    A true friend encourages us, comforts us, supports us like a big easy chair, offering us a safe refuge from the world.

    H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

    When I did a Google search for the word refuge, this is what I found:

    ref·uge
    ˈrefˌyo͞oj,ˈrefˌyo͞oZH/
    noun
    noun: refuge
    1. a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.
      “he was forced to take refuge in the French embassy”

    I’ve been thinking about the word for a few days.

    What does it mean to be a refuge?

    On Saturday morning, I served at a women’s shelter – a refuge or safe house for women faced with domestic violence.  It’s hard for me to fathom the need for this type of service.  What would drive a man to violate his wife and children in this manner?

    There has been a lot of talk about refugees lately.  Individuals and family units are fleeing violence in the middle east in search of sanctuary.  Because of the terrorist actions in Paris on Friday, some are proclaiming we shouldn’t accept refugees in our country.

    I wonder how and why their ancestors came to this country.  Were they searching for something?  Were they running away from something?  Or were they looking for shelter from violations they were experiencing in their homeland?

    Inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is a plaque that reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  This is a quote from Emma Lazarus, and it seems to match well the messages I was taught in grade school.  The Statue of Liberty represented the freedom and shelter that our country was meant to offer to those in need of asylum.

    And now, we want to close our borders to those in need of shelter.  We use fear as an excuse to prevent people from experiencing the same rights and privileges afforded to our ancestors.

    I may be questioned about this, but I think it’s something we need to consider.

    As I thought more about the concept of refuge.  I couldn’t help but think about how this word is often used in the Bible (particularly in the Psalms) to describe God.

    • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1
    • Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”  Psalm 91:1-2
    • In you, Lord, I have taken refugelet me never be put to shame.  In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me.  Be my rock of refugeto which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.”  Psalm 71:1-4
    • “I cry to you, O LordI say, ‘You are my refugemy portion in the land of the living.’”  Psalm 142:5
    • You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”  Psalm 119:114

    God is our shelter, our safe haven, our sanctuary, our hiding place, our security, our refuge.

    As I contemplate the women who need the shelter and the refugees who need to escape, I think of my own life, and I realize I need to find refuge in God, and I need to be used by Him to bring refuge to others.  This last thought makes me a little uncomfortable, but I think that’s where I need to be.  And I’m guessing it’s where you need to be as well.

    How can you and I provide refuge for those in need of security? 

    I think this is a question we must ask ourselves and talk about with each other.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Election Day – How To Be A Politically Active Christian

    Election Day Politically Active Christian

    Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.

    Alexander Hamilton

    Today is Election Day.  Around the country, citizens are casting their ballots for the next leaders in their communities.

    I’ve always had an interest in politics.  We are so blessed to live in a country where we can take part in the selection process for our local, state, and national leaders.  Voting is a right, a privilege and a responsibility.

    Free speech is also one of the rights that we have in this country.  Free speech gives us permission to defend our position on an issue or on a candidate.  I’m thankful for this right.  But I sometimes wonder if this right has gotten our country into trouble.

    With the creation and rise of social media, everyone has a say.  People’s thoughts and opinions are out there for everyone to read.  Once it’s on Facebook or Twitter or once it’s published on a blog, it’s a permanent record for all to read.  And it seems like everyone has something to say.

    Maybe I’m forgetful of past election cycles, but it seems to be that more and more people are posting personal character attacks on Facebook and other social media outlets.  Photo-shopped photos of candidates with disrespectful comments dominate my Facebook news feed.  To be honest with you, it’s wearing me out.  I wasn’t comfortable when friends and family attacked former president George W. Bush, and I’m not comfortable with the attacks on current president Barack Obama.

    Sure, it’s okay to disagree with policies, budgets, and agendas of our leaders.  But it needs to be done with respect.  The other day, I was reading the Bible and a passage from Ecclesiastes 10:20 stuck out to me:

    Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

    Today, it just doesn’t seem like people care about reviling or respecting our leaders. So how should we as Christians respond responsibly and respectfully?

    4 Keys To Being A Politically Active Christian

    1. Pray for our leaders. Whether or not you agree with a particular political leader, we should pray for our leaders.  Paul directs this in his letter to the Philippians:

    I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Philippians 2:1-2

    1. Don’t participate in the disrespect. Don’t add fuel to the social media fire by being disrespectful in your posts, comments, or conversations.  In our country where free speech is our right, dialogue intelligently and respectfully with each other.
    1. Vote.  This is your right, responsibility and duty. Let your voice be heard through your vote.
    1. Win, lose, or draw, live your life in a Christ-like manner. Whether “your” candidate wins or not, you have the opportunity to make a difference by how you choose to live your life. If you feel strongly about an issue like helping the poor, get involved by helping the poor. We don’t need our candidate in office in order for us to make a difference. We can make the most of each and every opportunity, and we can do so with respect. And we can still choose to love those who lead us and who debate with us – even if they disagree with us. (John 15:17)

    What other suggestions do you have for Christians to participate responsibly and respectfully in the political process? Are you being respectful or are you adding to the clutter?

    (Note:  My article originally appeared at Wisdom Of A Fool.)

    Drive Like Your Kids Live Here

     drive like your kids live here blog

    Drive like your kids live here.

    Last week, I was driving through the town of Macungie, PA on my way from one job site to another when I saw this sign in someone’s yard.

    Drive like your kids live here.  Obviously, the homeowner is trying to tell travelers to slow down and to drive safely as they pass through their community.  I’m pretty sure I was driving safely, but it was a good reminder.  When I drive am I thinking about others around me?  Am I driving like my kids could be playing nearby?

    Several years ago, my company conducted customer focused training where we learned tips and tricks for satisfying and winning over our customers.  Part of this training stuck in my head:  Talk to your customers as if you were talking to your Grandmother.  I’m not sure that either of my grandmothers cared much about building automation, but I know they both expected to be treated with respect.  And this is how I should be treating my customers.

    How would your life be different if you started acting and speaking as if your kids or your grandparents were sitting next to you?

    Would you treat people with more respect?  Would you be more alert to follow the rules?  Would you remove a few choice words from your vocabulary?

    Sometimes I think we need this kind of recalibration in our lives.

    Now I want to take this a little bit further.

    How would our driving change if we knew Jesus were sitting by our side?  How would we talk to our customers if we knew Jesus were listening into our conversations?  How would we relate to our children, our spouse, and our parents if we remembered that Jesus was there to observe?

    My daily prayer is this:  Lord, help me represent you well in everything I do today.

    I challenge you to start your day with this prayer and remember God’s presence in your life.

    And the next time you drive through Macungie, PA, drive like Jesus lives there.

    Leave your thoughts in the comments.

    The Inside Counts

    inside counts

    What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    A few weeks ago, I was driving to meet one of my team members at a job site when something on the side of the road caught my eye.  A large pile of green leaves formed a mountain in the front yard of one of the houses I was passing.  As I approached the house, I noticed the leaves were actually still attached to branches which were still attached to the large trunk of a giant maple tree.  The tree trunk had separated from the roots at the very base of the tree.  The outside of the tree trunk looked like a normal maple tree, but the inside was filled with dark brown rotten wood.  No wonder the tree fell over.

    I wonder if the homeowners knew how unhealthy this tree really was.  The green leaves and the bark on the outside of the trunk left travelers like myself the impression that the tree was healthy.  In reality, the tree was rotting from the inside out.

    The fallen tree had me thinking the rest of the way up to the job site.

    Am I taking care of my insides?  Or am I just faking it hoping everyone thinks I’m doing fine?

    Many people dress to impress.  We wine and dine.  We spend like there is no tomorrow.  And we put on a shell that doesn’t give bystanders a real picture of what is on the inside.

    Self-examination and transparency with a few close confidants is required to give an honest assessment of what is really going on inside our skin.  Are we filling our minds with things that honor God?  Or are we filling our heads with trash?  Are we feeding our hearts and souls with “nutrition”?  Or are we consuming “junk food”?

    These aren’t questions you can answer in the comments of a blog post.  These are questions you must intentionally ponder.

    When you arrive at your answer, you have a decision to make:  What do you need to start doing to build a healthy inside?  What do you need to stop doing to prevent further rotting inside?  And what do you need to keep doing to stay on track and to build a life that honors God from the inside out?

    These are the questions I leave you with today.  Truly dwelling on these questions and your answers should keep you stretching.

    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

    Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

    The Long Walk

    long walk

    He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 

    Micah 6:8

    For the past couple of months, I have been taking a walk in the early morning hours.  The walk helps me wake up, but it also helps me to get my head and heart in the right place as I start my day.  Usually during this time, I listen to the Daily Audio Bible Podcast with Brian Hardin as I’m walking along the streets of my neighborhood.  Each day, Brian reads a passage from the Old Testament, a passage from the New Testament, a part from Psalms, and a verse or two from Proverbs.

    I’ve been listening to the podcast for a few years, and I appreciate the opportunity to walk through scriptures each year with the “Daily Audio Bible Community.”

    Today marks a special day for this community.  On July 7th for the past several years, listeners from all over the world take time today to take a long walk.  Brian lays out some thoughts about The Long Walk on the podcast website.  He encourages participants to take the day off to intentionally walk with God.

    I won’t be taking the whole day off today, but I will be using my morning walk to intentionally connect with God.  In fact, it’s my intent to forgo my time at the gym to take an extra long walk today.

    God is always walking with us, but the walk is so much better when we intentionally unplug from the distractions of life so we can plug into God.

    I’d encourage you to join others from around the world by taking time to walk with God today.

    How do you intentionally connect with God?  Are you up for a long walk today?  If so, tell me about your experience in the comments.

    Small Steps To Big Leaps – Getting Outside Our Comfort Zones

    comfort zone

    We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

    Walt Disney

    I consider myself to be fairly athletic.  I can hold my own on the basketball court, the football field, the baseball diamond, and the bowling alley.  I even do well in the swimming pool.  I can post up a player or block a shot in a basketball game thanks to my height.  I love running a fade pattern to the corner of the end zone while playing a game of pickup football.  I can hit a line drive up the middle for a single.  And with a little practice, I’m pretty sure I could bowl over 200 again.

    Despite my athletic abilities, I am terrible when it comes to board sports.  I can’t skate board.  I’m fairly shaky on snow skis and water skis.  And ice skating and roller skating are just as bad.  Part of it has to do with my high center of gravity.  When I fall, it’s a long way down and a painful landing.

    Needless to say, I’m more than a little timid when it comes to trying any kind of new board sports.

    Have you ever been scared to try something new?

    Maybe your past experiences have left you feeling hesitant to cross the boundaries of your comfort zone.  Your fears and anxieties may be preventing you from having the time of your life.

    I went to Ocean City, Maryland this weekend with my family to relax and spend time with some good friends.  The weekend included many memorable moments.

    My friend, John, has a paddle board, and he was insistent that I give it a try.

    A paddle board looks like a long, wide surfboard.  Riders stand on the board and use a long paddle to maneuver the board through the water.  Balance is essential to successfully staying on the board.

    I watched him try it first.  Then I encouraged my younger and more agile daughter to give it a try, and she did a great job navigating the calm waters of the lagoon behind John’s house.

    Next, it was my turn.  I voiced my concern about trying this new thing.  The sight of jellyfish in the lagoon did not do a lot to comfort me as I considered the strong possibility of me joining them in the water below the paddle board.  Nonetheless, I had to give it a try.

    I found my way from the dock to the board, and I quickly started to tip the board.  I sat back down on the dock for a moment to reconsider my decision.  I decided to give it another try, and I stood back up on the board.  I gently pushed away from the dock, and I felt my legs shaking as I tried to stay on the right side of the paddle board.  I made a small circle, and tried to come back to the dock, but John wouldn’t let me.  I looped around again, and I went a little further out into the lagoon.  Before I knew it, I was standing up a little straighter, and I was beginning to lift my head up so I could enjoy the view.  I stayed out in the lagoon for ten or fifteen minutes (maybe it was only five minutes), but I did it!

    I could have said “No” when John asked me to give it a try, but I’m glad I said “Yes.”

    It’s natural to be afraid of trying new things like this.  We all have boundaries in which we feel comfortable.  Sometimes though, it’s necessary to get outside of our comfort zone.  Taking an adventure on a paddle board is something that will help me overcome my hesitations when I face a bigger fear in the future.  The paddle board experience is really just practice for getting outside my comfort zone.

    I don’t know what fears and anxieties you face today.  I don’t know where the boundaries are on your comfort zone, but I’d like to challenge you today to take one small step to push the boundaries on your comfort zone.

    Get off the dock and onto the paddle board.  Take a leap of faith and try something outside your comfort zone TODAY!

    When was the last time you pushed the limits of your comfort zone?  What is your next step in getting outside your comfort zone?  Tell me about it in the comments.

    Guatemala Photo Of The Day – Faith Moves Mountains

    When I went to Guatemala the first year in 2012, I went with my daughter Hannah and our church high school youth group.  I left Leanne and Isaac at home.  It was an amazing trip, but it was also a very hard trip.  Being so far apart was difficult, and it was especially difficult to fully translate the experience to Leanne.  I had fallen in love with a place and a people an hour and a half outside of Guatemala City, and Leanne was stuck at home.

    A year later, I was able to take Leanne and Isaac with Hannah and I back to Santo Domingo Xenacoj, and they had the opportunity to see and experience what I had just one year before.  On Leanne’s second trip in 2014 in which this photo was taken, her passion for the people of Xenacoj has only grown.  She has been taking Spanish classes and lessons to improve her communication with the natives.  She is actively considering ways to help and to go back.  And she is telling the story of God’s love and redemption.

    With this mountains in the background, I am reminded that all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed and God will move mountains.  For me, getting Leanne to Guatemala required faith.  I look forward to seeing how God will use Leanne (and me) to impact the lives of others in Xenacoj and at home.

    DSC_0106

    To The Rescue

    rescue

    I’d like to rescue people in trouble, like Superman.

    Sheridan Smith

    When I was a toddler, my parents lived in the town of Carol Stream, IL.  Carol Stream is a western suburb of Chicago.  We lived in a three bedroom ranch home with a crawl space underneath the house.  I have fond memories of climbing the giant willow tree in the backyard of this house.  What I don’t remember is the time our neighborhood flooded.  The water on our street kept going up and up and up until it crested at the floor level of our house.

    It wasn’t a safe condition, and there wasn’t an easy way for us to get to higher ground.  My Mom, my Dad, our dog, and I were trapped inside our house uncertain of the future.  Would the water keep rising?  Would we have enough food to last a few days?  Would we be safe?  (I don’t remember having these thoughts, but I’m sure my parents must have been very scared.  After all, this was long before the days of the cell phone.)

    As the water reached the high point, a rescue team showed up at our front door in a boat.  Our family was taken to higher ground where my Grandpa was waiting for us to take us to his house which was not endanger of flooding.

    We all need to be rescued.

    You may not realize it, but you are either on the edge of incredible danger or you once were at some point in your life.

    I was listening to the story of a friend the other day who was recovering from a very deep valley in his life.  As I heard his story, I realized I how blessed I was to be where I am today.  I also realized how close I was to my own deep, dark valleys in the journey of my life.

    For one reason or another, I have been protected.  This doesn’t mean I can let my guard down.  It doesn’t mean I haven’t faced trials and tribulations of my own.  It does mean I should be thankful for the blessing of being rescued.

    I think and talk a lot about living a life on mission – about having a mission mindset.

    This has to be our natural response to the rescue we have experienced in our own lives.

    In John 3:16, Jesus says “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, and whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.”  (my own paraphrasing)

    God sent His Son on a rescue mission for you and for me.

    Because we have experienced rescue in our lives, we should have a mindset to help rescue others.

    How have you experienced rescue in your life?

    The Discipline Of Taking Risks

    tandem-skydivers-603631_640

    Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

    T. S. Eliot

    When was the last time you took a risk?

    What ultimately led to you taking the risk?

    I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big risk taker.  In fact, my natural inclination away from risk seems to grow more and more as I age.

    I was listening to a podcast the other day, and someone said “The biggest risk is not taking a risk.”

    Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

    Being risky doesn’t have to mean doing something stupid, but it does mean getting outside your comfort zone.  It could mean taking a calculated risk.  According to dictionary.com, a calculated risk is:

    a chance of failure, the probability of which is estimated before some action is undertaken.

    This type of risk requires discipline.  If we don’t learn to take calculated risks from time to time we will live a life of regret and wonderment.  We’ll be left to wonder what could have been.

    Three years ago, I was imprisoned by a fear of failure and a fear of the unknown.  I missed out on many opportunities because I lacked the courage and faith to step into the unknown.  This is about the time my friend, Adam Flora, asked me to join him on a missions trip to Guatemala.  It would have been much easier to simply say “no” than to go through the anxiety of saying yes and worrying about the potential outcomes.

    Fortunately, I decided to take the risk.  I calculated the chance of failure, and I made the leap of faith to go along on the adventure of a lifetime.  This trip changed my perspective on short-term missions, on Guatemala, and on the importance discipline of taking risks.

    Several years ago, Jason Fountain guest posted on my blog, and he shared an interested story in his post.  Here’s an excerpt from that post:

    John Maxwell relates a story shared by sociologist Anthony Campolo.  Campolo tells about a group of 50 people over the age of 90 years old who were asked one question: If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?

    The question was open-ended and the people’s answers were varied. However, three ideas consistently emerged.

    1. If I had it to do over again, I would reflect more.
    2. If I had it to do over again, I would risk more.
    3. If I had it to do over again, I would do more things that would live on after I am dead.

    Number two on this list was all about risk.  As I watch my daughter preparing for college, I am reminded how quickly life moves forward.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to end up like the people in Tony Campolo’s survey.  When I get to the end of my life, I want to know for certain I lived my life to the fullest.  While it may stretch me, I want to practice the discipline of taking risks.

    How about you?

    How would your world be different if you made the decision to practice the discipline of taking risks?  How has risk-taking made a difference in your life?