Holy Anticipation

I typically struggle to sleep on night’s before a big event just like I struggled to sleep the night before Christmas when I was a little kid. (Yes. I was once little.). Tonight is one of those nights. I have a big event coming up tomorrow, and I’m hoping I can get a few hours of sleep. It could be a challenge, but I’m going to do my best.

Have you ever experienced this kind of anticipation?

The day before the first day of school….

The night before your wedding day….

The night before you start a new job….

The morning of a big test or a big game or a big meeting….

Anticipation is that feeling you get when you are so excited to see what will happen next. That’s the kind of anticipation I have right now.

What I am anticipating is a big deal for me. I look forward to it every year, and I’m always a little sad when it’s over. Then I have to start the waiting clock all over again.

What if we had this same kind of enthusiastic anticipation for some other things?

The hour before a meaningful conversation….

The hour before we get to spend time with the one we love….

The years before we spend eternity in heaven….

This kind of anticipation is holy. There’s something extra special about relationships with others and with God.

Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in the rat race of life, and we lose the sense of job and enthusiasm for things that will really last. Instead, we overly focus ourselves on things that will fade away.

As you head into the day, stop and think about the things that really matter in your life. Now take a moment to get excited about these things. Share your enthusiasm with others.

That’s Holy Anticipation.

That’s worth your energetic excitement.

What are you anticipating? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton (Book Review)

On my way out the door this morning, I loaded the Audible version of Toxic Charity – How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). I spent a lot of time in my car today, so I almost finished it. The book came at the recommendation of a friend, Shawn Smith, who serves in Guatemala. Shawn recommended the book recently after I reached out to him about Guatemala and our focus on Xenacoj.

In Shawn’s reply to my request for information, he suggested I read Toxic Charity.

Wow! This is a book, I’ll have to go back to again to fully digest the message. Many of the thoughts in this book have rolled around in my head especially in my more recent trips to Guatemala. You can actually read some of my thoughts in my book (Rooftop Reflections).

How can we make a difference without creating a problem? How can we help without creating unhealthy dependency?

Toxic Charity challenges the very essence of what we have come to know as mission trips and efforts to express our compassion.

Whether you are trying to make a difference in your community or in the world, you should pick up a copy of Toxic Charity. The book provides solid advice to make sure your help is really helpful.

When You Are Least Expecting It

I don’t look at my book sales very often. I’ve learned that the numbers will be what they will be. For some reason, I decided to look at my book sales the other day, and I was surprised to see that copies of my first book (On Track – Life Lessons from the Track and Field) had “surged.”

“Surge” is in the eye of the beholder for sure, but it was a surge to me considering I released the book over four years ago in 2014, and I haven’t seen many sales recently especially with all the attention pointed to my recent book, Rooftop Reflections.

I’m guessing the “surge” in sales was either related to the spring track and field season or to a couple of generous people who decided to purchase several copies to give away (or both). Whatever, I was pleasantly surprised.

Creating is a labor of love. You create. Sometimes people love it, and sometimes they hate it. Most of the time, they simply don’t care. In other cases, you have an impact that goes beyond your life, your knowledge, or your understanding. I’ve seen this over and over again here on my blog. People from all over the world have connected with me through the comments or through some other connection point. I’ve seen some posts simply flop, and I’ve seen others repeatedly draw traffic.

I’ve recently returned to a more consistent blogging schedule (I don’t know if you noticed). While I hope my writing impacts others, I have learned that my writing impacts me too. The discipline of getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the screen (and perhaps into your eyes) has been extremely satisfying and rewarding.

All this to say, keep creating. If you’re a writer, keep writing. If you’re a musician, keep playing music. If you’re a builder, keep building amazing things.

Your creations pay tribute to our Creator. They tell a story about you. And you never know, they just might have an impact on others (even when you are least expecting it).

What are you creating these days? What lessons have you learned from the creation process? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Words Matter – You Have the Power to Make Someone’s Day

Today, I was in the city (of Philadelphia) for an important meeting related to the largest project my office has ever performed. Without getting into a lot of detail, there were a lot of suits (including me) sitting around a table in a 49th floor conference room talking about bringing this project to completion.

After the meeting, I was walking through the lobby of the building where the meeting took place when a security guy took a few seconds to tell me, “Have a great day, young fella.”

Both parts were really nice, but the “young fella” part really made my day.

In my head I’m still 23, but my body is actually 46. While this may seem young to some of you, I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not as agile as I once was.

The words of the security guard were powerful. The lifted me up. They brought a smile to my face. They made me feel important. They made me feel youthful and energized. And all it took was “Have a great day, young fella.”

Our words matter.

And we have the power to make someone’s day through the words we share.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to use your words to positively change someone’s day. You never know. Your simple words make actually change someone’s whole life.

You matter and so do your words. Use them wisely.

How you words positively impacted your life? How would your life be different if someone used positive words instead of negative words? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Prayer to Start the Week

The past few days, I’ve been blogging about prayer.

What a better way to end the weekend and start the week with a prayer. Here’s my prayer right now…

God:

Thanks for bringing the sun out today after several days of rain. The brightness and the chance to be outside was just what I needed.

Thanks for the time with my family and my church, and thanks for some time on my own. These things seem to fill me up.

As I prepare for a new week with challenges and opportunities waiting, I want to give you my worries and my concerns. I also want to thank you for how you work upstream. In the midst of the ups and downs, I want to represent you well. Give me the wisdom, the strength, and the recall to use my words wisely, to lift others up, and to listen to what others have to say. I’d also ask you to open up my heart to the needs of others. I can become so self-focused sometimes, and I need you to keep my eyes and heart open to the needs of others.

Thank you for where you have put me in my life right now – father, husband, friend, leader, co-worker, writer. May I make the most of the opportunities you have given me, and may I also remember to trust in you and to rest in you.

You are Great. You are Wonderful. You are Beautiful. You are Wise. You are Amazing. You are Marvelous. You are Good. You are Worthy. You are Love.

May I reflect You as I begin this new week.

In Your Son’s Name, Jesus, I pray.

Amen.

Repetitive Prayers vs. Creative Prayers

Much of my growing up years took place in Mt. Holly, New Jersey where my parents moved when I was 8 years old so my dad could take a pastor position at First Presbyterian Church. It was here I remember hearing – then saying – the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. I’m sure there were times when it had lots of meaning for me and there were other times when I said the words without putting a lot of thought to them.

How’s your prayer life lately?

Do you repeat the same thing over and over again when you pray?

Do the words of your prayers mean anything to you or are you simply falling into a pattern of words you’ve said over and over again as you’ve prayed?

I think it can be healthy to say prayers that others have written, and I would even say that sometimes all we have is the pattern of prayers to hold onto as we navigate everyday life.

But I also think we could be more creative in our prayers. For one, we are made in the image of God, and God is the Creator. He is creative; therefore, we are creative.

Perhaps our prayers should be more reflective of the creativity we have inherited.

Here are some ideas to add creativity to your prayers:

  1. Pray in a different location than normal. If you normally pray at the kitchen table or the bed, go to a different room or a different place altogether and try praying.
  2. Pray out loud. If you are normally a silent prayer, try talking as you pray.
  3. Write out your prayers. Writing your prayers can be a great way to express what’s in your heart and to note what you are hearing from God through your prayers.
  4. Ask God for more creativity in your prayer life. This may sound silly, but I think God can make you more aware of the words you say to Him.
  5. Pray consistently. This may sound like a trap that leads to repetitive prayers, but I think it may actually cause you to be more creative with our prayers. You may have noticed that I have been blogging more consistently the past couple of weeks. Interestingly enough, the return to more consistent blogging has helped me be more creative in my writing.

I’m sure there are other ways to add creativity to your prayers. In fact, I’d love to read your ideas for adding “spice” to your prayers.

Share your ideas for creative prayer in the comments below.

Wordless Groans On Our Behalf

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/rom.8.26.niv

Yesterday, I wrote about the decision to pray or not to pray.

It’s Friday night, and I’m exhausted. The end of the week started with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. The purpose is still there, but I’ve expended the energy. I’m looking forward to recharging over the weekend. For now though, I feel a little weak.

The verse about reminds me of an element of prayer. When we are weak, when we’re feeling in creative and disconnected, when we’re at a loss for words, the Spirit shows up to help us out. In fact, the Spirit uses wordless groans to help us connect with God.

It’s like a Life Line on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

We can barely gather the energy and strength to speak a coherent word or sentence, but the Spirit goes to bat for us.

You don’t have to have your words polished and ready to go. You don’t have to “out pray” anyone.

You simply must come before the Father and allow the Spirit to speak on our behalf.

That’s prayer.

To Pray Or Not To Pray – That Is The Question

One of the greatest attacks of the enemy is to make you busy, to make you hurried, to make you noisy, to make you distracted, to fill the people of God and the Church of God with so much noise and activity that there is no room for prayer. There is no room for being alone with God. There is no room for silence. There is no room for meditation.

Paul Washer

Tonight, I received a phone call from my dad and mom asking me to pray for something related to my extended family.

Obviously, this is something I’m praying for already.

But the phone call got me thinking.

How many times do you say you’ll pray for so and so? How many of those times do you actually pray for so and so?

Asked another way…how often do you tell people you will pray for them? And many of those times do you actually follow up by praying?

Maybe you are a prayer warrior like my wife.

But I’m guessing many of us aren’t as consistent with our prayers – especially when we offer to pray for someone or something.

The Bible talks a lot about prayer…

…pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

…pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:28)

…pray that you will not fall into temptation. (Luke 22:40)

…pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do. (Jeremiah.42:3)

Look up prayer in your Bible application (like YouVersion) or in your concordance. You’ll find many other prayer references.

If the Bible talked so much about prayer, I think it’s probably a big deal.

What stops us from praying continually like it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17?

Lack of faith? Laziness? Impatience? Lack of focus? Fear of inadequacy? Failure to make prayer a priority? Self-dependence? Short-term memory?

It’s probably all of the above for many of us.

Prayer is an important discipline. It gives us the opportunity to talk to and listen to God. Prayer gives us the opportunity to acknowledge who God is. Prayer gives us the opportunity to confess our shortcomings – our sins. Prayer gives us the opportunity to express thanksgiving for God’s movement and provision in our lives. And prayer provides the opportunity to bring our requests and concerns to God.

Next time someone asks you to pray for them, make sure you mean it when you say “yes.” Write down their request. Commit in your heart and mind to pray about the person or the situation. Follow-up with the person to see how your prayers are being answered or to adjust your prayers to changes that may have happened along the way. Consider praying for the person or situation right then and there when you are asked.

If you’re not going to pray for them, don’t lie and tell them you’ll pray.

One more thing…if prayer isn’t your thing, go find someone who is a prayer warrior. Ask them about their prayer life. I bet their answers will be helpful.

How’s your prayer life? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Busyness – Are We Aiming at the Wrong Target

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

Socrates

How are you doing?

Busy?

Unfortunately, busyness has become the badge the many people chose to wear. We think people will think we are important when they hear we are busy. Perhaps, we are too afraid to face the things we really need to face, so we get busy doing things that don’t really matter in the end.

If your goal is to be busy, you just might be aiming at the wrong target.

Tonight, I had a fantastic conversation with a group of men who are serious about becoming better husbands, better fathers, better leaders, and better men. We talked a lot about busyness.

I shared with them the experience I had last week when I realized I was overwhelmed. (If you read my blog posts over the past two weeks, you’ll get a feel for what I shared.)

I thrive on being busy. That’s what I keep telling myself.

In reality, I need a break from time to time, and I must learn to slow things down.

I was perusing an article on Lifehack in preparation for my conversation with these men tonight, and the article said “When you’re busy, your aren’t present.”

And one of the men said, “Busyness is the enemy of intimacy.”

Last week along with tonight’s conversation confirmed that I’m not alone.

I don’t want to be known as the guy who was always busy.

I want to be known as the man who was there – for my wife, for my family, for my friends.

I want to make sure I’m aiming at the right target.

If you’re interested in jumping into conversations like this one with other men, consider signing up for the Stretched Men Group. You can learn more at www.stretchedmengroup.com. Once you’re on the website, signup to schedule a free (no obligation) phone call with me. I’d love to talk with you!

Are you too busy? What do you do to slow down? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Everybody Always – Thoughts on a New Book by Bob Goff

I’m on a mission to read 52 books in 2018. I’m a little behind schedule. So far, I’ve read 18 books, and we are in week 20 of 2018. I’m just two books behind schedule. Not bad for a deliberate (slow) reader.

I just finished my 18th book of the year – Everybody Always by Bob Goff.

This is an excellent follow-up to Bob’s first book, Love Does.

In Everybody Always, Bob shares more personal stories that help us see what it looks like to become love. As I read the book, I experienced a mix of emotions – joy, sadness, happiness, wonder, and love. Bob’s stories of learning to love the “creeps” of the world challenged and changed me. I was encouraged to think about what it means to love my enemies. And I was reminded that I am a work in progress.

If you are looking for an encouraging, humorous, and heart-challenging read, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Everybody Always – Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People.

I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

“God’s endgame has always been the same. He wants our hearts to be His. He wants us to love the people near us and love the people we’ve kept far away.” Bob Goff

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