Guard Your Heart

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

Marcus Aurelius

I had a bit of a mishap this morning.

After my 6AM call with my men’s group and before my 7:30AM call with my Rotary club, I thought I had enough time to trim my beard, take a shower, and get dressed for the day.

I was right on all three accounts; however, things didn’t quite go as I expected.

I took the hair trimmers out of the linen closet in our bathroom. I removed the cover from the trimmers, and I proceeded to begin “trimming” my beard. To my surprise or perhaps horror, I realized I had failed to put the appropriate guard on the trimmers before I started my “manscaping.”

I called into the other room to alert my wife to my predicament.

I couldn’t just leave it as it was, and I couldn’t put the guard on now as the beard hair length had already been determined. What should I do?

I left the guard off of the trimmers, and I essentially shaved off my beard leaving a layer of stubble across my face. I’ve had the beard for a couple of years, so my face looks a bit different now. Perhaps, I even look a little younger without the beard.

My morning mishap with the beard trimmers left me with a lot to ponder.

In general, I am a fairly guarded person. I’m not great at spontaneity, and I typically think before I speak. Most people would label me conservative or at least rather serious. Sometimes I’m envious of people who let their guards down with more ease than I do. They can get their feelings out there for others to hear.

On the other hand, the Bible talks about the importance of guarding our hearts.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Guard rails are there to protect us. They protect us from going of the right path, the right road, the right trail. They keep us out of danger.

When the author of Proverbs talks about guarding our hearts, he is telling us to protect our hearts above all else – to make sure we are keeping the bad out and allowing the good inside. He reminds us that what comes out of our heart is a direct result of what we permit into our hearts.

Paul seems to echo the writer of Proverbs:

“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 (NIV)

We must guard what goes into our hearts and minds.

I recently came across an excellent resource initially spoken by Earl Nightingale and now available as a short book. In The Strangest Secret, Nightingale says “We become what we think about.” It’s a call to be intentional in our goal setting, but it’s also a reminder to make sure we are thinking about good things.

As a result of Nightingale’s challenge, I began writing a goal on a new index card every day, and on the back of the card I write out Matthew 7:7-8:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

What guard rails have you but in your life? How are you dealing with the thoughts and ideas that come into your heart and mind?

These thoughts are the result of my morning mishap.

My beard will come back. I’ll be more diligent in making sure I am using the right guard for the trimmers. And I’ll be more intentional in guarding my heart and mind.

Until Further Notice – Grant Grace

“Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.”

Anne Lamott

We are blazing a new trail.

We are walking down a path unseen by our generation.

There is not an owner’s manual that tells us exactly how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, experts and leaders are making educated decisions and suggestions regarding how to proceed and what could happen next.

Not everyone will get it right.

Not every leader will make the right decision.

It’s easy to second guess our leaders as we sit at home. “He should have done this.” “She shouldn’t have said that.” It seems easy to be the quarterback when we are sitting on our butts on the sidelines. It’s not so easy when we are in the middle of the game with our opponents coming at us.

It’s time for granting grace to our leaders. Those leading in our companies are trying to make the best decision possible for their employees, their customers, and their shareholders. They may or may not get it right every time.

Those leading in our communities, our regions, and our country are trying to make the best decisions possible for their constituents. They may or may not get it right every time.

Those leading in the medical world are trying to make the best decisions possible for their patients. As we have seen, they haven’t been able to save every patient.

Grace is an ingredient we all need in our lives. And we must learn to give it as well.

Until further notice, grant grace!

Prayer: Remind me of the grace I have been given. Give me wisdom, courage, and empathy to understand and to grant grace to others.

Ponder & Discuss: To whom do you need to grant grace? (Share your thoughts in the comments.)

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

Acts 20:32 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Enjoy Family Time

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”

Lee Iacocca

The COVID-19 disruption has been exactly that – a disruption. Normal life as we had known has been completely disrupted. It’s like someone jamming a stick in our bicycle spokes while we are moving down the road. Our bicycles have stopped and thrown us off the path we were once traveling.

Disruption isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can force us to reevaluate and consider how we might want to do things differently.

One of the things that happened for me as a result of COVID-19 is that both of my kids came home from college to finish out their academic year under my roof. While I know my kids are missing their friends, their independence, and their own routines, it has been a blessing to have them home again.

We have eaten meals together. We have played games together. And we have taken long walks through our community together.

When the world restarts (hopefully soon), I hope we will learn from the disruption we are all experiencing. I hope we will spend more time together as families. I hope we will take time to slow down.

Until further notice, enjoy family time.

Prayer: Remind us that our disruptions could be Your divine appointments. Teach us to treasure our families.

Ponder & Discuss: What has this disruption made possible for you and your family. (Share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

Psalm 122:7-8 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Be Thankful

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.”

Zig Ziglar

When life gets hard, complaining seems to come naturally.

If you are following mainstream media or social media, you are probably seeing a lot of complaints, accusations, and negative talk.

It’s time to change things up.

It’s time to be grateful.

Thankfulness reminds us of our blessings in the midst of challenge. It puts us in a better mindset for tackling the problems in our pathway. Thanksgiving is more productive than complaining.

Here are three practical ways to practice thankfulness whether or not you or in the midst of crisis:

  • Thank God for your food. It seems so simple, yet many of us overlook the blessing of our meal. A simple prayer at the beginning of your meal time is a great way to practice thankfulness.
  • Start a family thankfulness journal. My wife started this a few years ago. At dinner time, the journal is passed around the table. We each write one thing for which we are grateful that day.
  • Write down three wins or three blessings each day before you go to bed. This provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the day.

Thankfulness won’t fix every problem there is in your life, but it will set you up to move forward with hope and a positive attitude.

Until further notice, be thankful!

Prayer: Thank you for the blessings in my life. Create in me a heart of thanksgiving.

Ponder & Discuss: Why are you thankful today? (Share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Keep Learning

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Mahatma Gandhi

The “Stay Home” requirements as we navigate this COVID-19 disruption could easily be taken as permission to lock ourselves into our houses, sit on our couches, and allow our brains to atrophy.

Now more than ever is the time to keep learning – to expand our knowledge, our understanding, and perhaps our perspective.

So here is the question for all of us: What are you doing to learn during this crisis?

Here are a few things I’m doing to learn through this experience:

Learning can happen in many ways. The key is to resist complacency, to be intentional, and to open up ones mind.

Here are some ideas for ways to keep learning when you are stuck at home:

  • Read a book. Find a book at home that was collecting dust. Order a book on line (paper version, electronic version, or audio version).
  • Watch a documentary. With all the streaming services, there is no greater time to learn from the hours and hours of film which can teach us.
  • Interview an expert. Call up a friend who has knowledge or experience that you lack. Ask them questions, listen, and learn from their responses.
  • Listen to a new podcast. I have learned so much from listening to informative podcasts related to faith, money, marriage, leadership, and many other subjects.

Here’s the bottom line, don’t waste this time.

Until further notice, keep learning!

Prayer: Don’t let me be complacent. Open my mind. Teach me what is right.

Ponder & Discuss: What are you doing to learn these days? (Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.)

“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.”

Proverbs 1:5 (NASB)

Until Further Notice – Connect

“In this age of omniconnectedness, words like ‘network,’ ‘community’ and even ‘friends’ no longer mean what they used to. Networks don’t exist on LinkedIn. A community is not something that happens on a blog or on Twitter. And a friend is more than someone whose online status you check.”

Simon Sinek

Social distancing is a term that has gained significant popularity as a result of the COVID-19 disturbance. The term is used to imply staying away from each other in order to prevent the spread of the virus in hopes of flattening the curve to avoid overtaxing our healthcare systems and hopefully minimizing the death toll.

I really think they should have used physical distancing instead of social distancing. Physical distancing implies physical separation. Social distancing implies social separation.

We were made for community (even if you are an introvert), and social separation points towards a breakdown of community.

We live in a time when social distancing is not completely necessary. While I long for a return to face-to-face interactions, I’m grateful I can attend my church on-line. My Rotary club continues to meet weekly thanks to the wonders of Zoom. And I continue to meet with business colleagues over the phone and other meeting software applications.

We still need to connect. We still need human interaction. We still need community.

Until further notice, connect with others!

Prayer: Help us be intentional when it comes to connecting with others. Thank you for making us for community.

Ponder & Discuss: How are you connecting with others while you’re maintaining your physical distance? (Please share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Be Active

“To me, if life boils down to one thing, it’s movement. To live is to keep moving.”

Jerry Seinfeld

Have you heard about the Corona 15?

The Corona 15 refers to the 15+ pounds people are expected to gain as a result of being isolated during the Corona Virus pandemic.

I can see how that might be possible. All the gyms are closed. Many parks are shut down, and people are left confused as to what to do. Instead of figuring out a way to be active, it’s easier to find that comfortable place on the couch watching Tiger King on Netflix.

Yesterday, I made the decision to take a long walk. My wife dropped me off about ten miles from our home, and I walked home.

Despite the need to physically distance ourselves, we can still be active.

“A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”

Proverbs 13:4 (NIV)

Don’t be a sluggard. Don’t be lazy. Don’t settle for the Corona 15.

I encourage you to go for a walk, go for a run, or go for a bike ride. Find a way to be active.

Until further notice, be active!

Prayer: Don’t let me be lazy. Help me take action today.

Ponder & Discuss: How will you be active today? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Be Responsible

“I try to lead by example, being conscious of others and being responsible.”

Angelina Jolie

Some people think and say “You better look out for yourself, because nobody else will.”

Do you believe this?

One of the things that has greatly concerned me about our society throughout this whole COVID-19 crisis is the run on toilet paper. I know it sounds minor to some, but think about it for a minute. Many households in our communities and in our country are filled with far more rolls of toilet paper than they will use anytime soon while some people cannot find toilet paper for their homes.

Obviously, being responsible during COVID-19 if more than controlling your purchase of toilet paper. It means following the CDC guidelines (washing your hands, wearing a cloth mask in public, social distancing, etc.). It means checking in on your neighbors. It may mean ordering takeout from your favorite local restaurant. The toilet paper thing just got under my skin.

The hoarding, the all-out self-focus, and the failure to think of others has me concerned. Some people may disagree with me, but I believe capitalism can be a good thing when it comes from a position of responsibility; however, the hoarding, self-focus possibility that comes with capitalism is not a good thing especially if it keeps necessities out of the hands of those who can’t get to the grocery store for one reason or the other.

When I think about trying to be responsible, I think about words I often pray, “Lord, help me represent You well in my home, in my career, and in my community. Help me be a good steward of the resources You have given to me.” We have a responsibility to look after others – not just ourselves.

This is a crucial time for our generation. Will people look at this period of our history as a time when people took responsibility and made the world a better place? Or will people look at this period of our history as the end of “love your neighbor.”

It’s important for each of us to think about what it means to be responsible – especially in times of crisis. Is it possible to take care of others while taking care of ourselves?

Until further notice, be responsible.

Prayer: Help me be responsible. Help me represent You well in my home, in my career, and in my community. Help me be a good steward of the resources You have given to me.

Ponder & Discuss: What does responsibility mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”

James 2:8 (NI

Until Further Notice – Something Good Is Happening

“Hope is the most exciting thing there is in life.”

Mandy Moore

I wonder what it might have been like that first day after Jesus’ resurrection. I’d like to think there was a buzz in the air. People were hearing rumors about Jesus coming back to life after the brutal trial and crucifixion. People were probably whispering hoping that the news was correct. There was a sense that something new and exciting was happening.

Today is Easter Monday. For many of us, there is confusion about what to think. We are still feeling stuck in the isolation left in the wake of COVID-19, and yet there is this feeling that something good is about to happen.

God is still up to great things. If we open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts, we will see the new things He is doing right in front of us.

As you head into this new day and this new week, I encourage you to look for the good things happening.

Until further notice, something good is happening!

Prayer: Open my eyes to the good things going on around me.

Ponder & Discuss: What is one good thing going on right now? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Take Time to Celebrate

“Lord knows, every day is not a success, every year is not a success. You have to celebrate the good.”

Reese Witherspoon

Today is Easter Sunday. Typically this day would be marked by going to church and gathering with family and friends. It is a day for celebration.

This year, Easter Sunday will be different. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, we can’t go to our church buildings, and we must refrain from larger gatherings with family and friends. I think we are all a little confused about what it might look like to celebrate Easter this year.

Our family will be attending one of our church’s on-line services this morning. We decided to dress up as if we were going to our church on Easter morning. We will spend time cooking and eating a delicious Easter meal. And we will more than likely connect with our extended family thanks to the wonderful technology of high-speed internet, video cameras, and Zoom software. We will find news ways to celebrate this year, and I’m guessing it will be an Easter we will long remember.

In the middle of crisis, it’s important to find reasons to celebrate. There is still good going on around us. While the pain and hardship of this current pandemic is real, there is reason to celebrate.

Today, I celebrate a risen Savior. I celebrate time with family. I celebrate God’s beautiful creation. I celebrate the healthcare workers in our communities. I celebrate friendship. I celebrate you.

Until further notice, take time to celebrate!

Prayer: Remind us of Your goodness. Teach us to be thankful and to celebrate. Thank you for Easter.

Ponder & Discuss: What can you celebrate today? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:7 (NIV)
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