Take Five

Have you ever stood in your closet for much longer than was necessary trying to decide what to wear? Sadly, I have. 

Have you ever fretted over a bad decision and let it ruin your day?  Sadly, I have.

Have you ever said something and the moment the words slipped through your lips you immediately wished you had never spoken them?  Sadly, I have.

Too many times I have let something minor that seemed earth-shattering and life-defining at the moment become way bigger in my mind and emotions than I should have.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says to those listening that they shouldn’t let temporary issues cloud what really matters.  In fact, He says that all our worrying cannot even add a single moment to our lives and so it is pointless to let a molehill turn into a mountain in our minds.

So here’s my recommendation for you… and me… and all the others out there who struggle to keep life in its proper perspective on occasion… Take five.  Ask yourself…

– Will this really matter five minutes from now?

– How about five hours from now?

– Will I be concerned about this five days from now?

– Will this bother me five weeks from now?

– Is anyone at all going to care that this happened five months from now?

– Will I or anyone else even remember this five years from now?

– Will this have had any significant bearing on my life five decades from now?

– And lastly, five hundred years from now, when I am long gone and I have passed on into eternity, will this choice… this instance… this incident… this action… have made any difference… made any eternal impact on mine or anyone else’s soul forever?

Most of the time, when I practice taking five, I don’t get past five hours or five days before I realize that many things I think are such a big deal at the moment are truly trivial.  In fact, I was looking at old family photos recently and things that seemed like larger than life issues then, I had completely forgotten about now…. some of those less than five years ago.

So let’s take five when we get uptight.  Let’s take five when our heart is broken.  Let’s take five when we don’t get our way.  Let’s take five and get a little perspective… which just might help turn the situation around and respond more appropriately to it.

New-Fangled Possibilities

Growing up, I loved watching “The Jetsons” cartoon.  And I never thought I’d live to see the day when there was an actual flying car… but I saw one on the internet recently which built and tested in Europe.

Growing up, I used to love shows like Star Trek and Buck Rogers.  Again, I never thought I’d live long enough to see the day when people could communicate via video and audio over handheld devices… but I FaceTime with family regularly.

Now when I see a transparent screen on a tablet or a floating hologram computer screen on a movie, I realize that, before my boys graduate high school, they could be using such technology… as we travel across the country in our family’s flying car.

Recently I was watching one of those “Anne of Green Gables” TV shows when I heard the character Matthew Cuthbert say, “I reckon every new idea was modern once… until it wasn’t.”

What once was new to all of us before Steve Jobs pulled an iPhone out of his pocket and introduced us to the new world of smartphones containing phone, camera and computer all in one is now old hat.  Everyone has one… even kids.  They have even created a simple version for elderly folks who may not be ready for all the bells and whistles.

The same is true when it comes to the challenges in our lives.  Often, we can’t even imagine how we could overcome them.  We don’t see how we could get well… or get out of debt… or get an “A” in that class… or get that spouse.  We are limited by what we know and have experienced.

But God is not limited.  He knows all and has experienced all. And He has all creative ability within Himself.  So He can bring something to the table in an instant which is a game-changer for us.

Adam had never seen or imagined a woman when God gave him Eve.  Noah had never built a boat or seen rain when God spared him and his family.  Moses had never seen a sea part when God opened up the Red Sea and led the millions of Israelites through on dry land.  Elijah had never had birds bring him food till he camped at Kerith Brook.  The disciples had never seen someone stop a storm with their words… or heal the blind with mud… or feed the masses with the minuscule… or raise themselves from the dead… till Jesus.  But after those experiences, those people knew that God has ways of doing something even when we don’t.

God is ready, willing and able to step into the course of our lives and bring something we have never thought of… never dreamed… never imagined… never entertained as possible to change our situation completely in our favor!  So instead of sitting around singing, “Gloom, despair and agony on me,” today, try inviting God to work His power of the new and unexplainable in your life.  You may not see a way, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way.  With God, nothing is impossible!

Just pull out that smartphone… although you’re probably reading this on it, and so it’s already in your hand… and remember that every new idea was once modern… until it wasn’t.  Then ask God to do something new in your life, and one day down the road you’ll see that there really was a way… an answer… a solution.  What was new in this moment will be a lasting foundation to believe for other new help in the future!

Rat-Dog Becomes Teacher

We have a family member I don’t often write about… because she’s a dog. She’s a Schnauzer to be exact. At least that’s what the paper said when we adopted her on a trip out of town as the Lord answered the prayers of two little boys in our household.  Let’s just say she’s probably mostly a Schnauzer. And she’s a pretty good dog… most of the time. A couple nights ago, she was awesome!

For those who don’t know their doggie pedigreee history, Schnauzers were originally bred in Europe to serve on farms as “rat dogs.”  (I suppose there were people back then… like me… who didn’t annoying pests around their property but also didn’t want to have a cat.)  Schnauzers have wicked-quick reflexes and speed.  Their sense of sight is amazing.  And they will go after their prey with intense focus.

That’s a good thing for us because we hate lizards around our house.  We don’t touch them, pick them up, hang them on our earlobes, or let them crawl on us.  We don’t care how many bugs they eat.  We just don’t like them.  So most lizards don’t last long around our house.

We’re not afraid of lizards… just basically disgusted by them. Granted, by the shrieks you hear from the other three people in our family, you might wonder. So you can imagine our consternation when, after opening the back door for only a moment, a decent-sized lizard bolted in the door as I was shutting it. The boys jumped up and hollered, “Lizard, lizard!”  I looked down, spotted it and began the hunt to evict it from our house.

I thought I had it trapped for a moment… until it shot across from behind my recliner to the loveseat portion of the recliner. I grabbed a flashlight, and PR31 set the boys as watchmen at each end of the sectional.  Tactical flashlight in hand, I began to search.  I spotted the lizard in the corner behind the curved portion of seating and thought I had it once more… until I didn’t.

Back under the sectional it dashed.  We decided it was time to bring in the big gun… Sugar the Schnauzer.  We began tilting portions of the sectional over, letting her search. Soon she was on the trail. And we tracked it down to the loveseat portion… where it had crawled up inside the under part of the seat. Sugar was going nuts. We could tell that she saw it and was following it all over underneath.

Finally, I followed her line of sight and spotted it myself.  I was able to coax it out with a fly swatter and thought I would be the hero by removing this bane of our quiet evening. But it eluded my attack once more.

However, it underestimated “the rat-dog”. When it bolted, she flashed.  And before we knew it, she had caught that lizard… in her mouth. (She can never lick us on the face again.)

She grabbed it and locked down… enough to kill it, but not enough to chew it up.  We were elated. That is, until she raced off toward our bedroom and under the bed with the lizard.  We ran to that end of the house with PR31 shouting, “Sugar, NOOOOOO!”

After pulling out a few items stored under the bed, we found Sugar and the lizard.  She would bite it, and drop it… move back, never taking her eyes off of it and dare it to move.  If it twitched or took one step, she would grab it again and give another bite. It’s tail came off in the process.  Eventually it moved no more, and Sugar came out from under the bed… proud as could be, leaving me to get the lizard out and dispose of it.

You should have seen her.  She was in her element. She was vibrant and alive.  She was excited and energetic.  It was obvious that she was doing what she was created to do.  She was living in her purpose.

That’s what life should be like for each of us, you know… full of passion and energy.  When we live in our God-given purpose for which we were created, the world springs into full-color.  We are vibrant and alive.  We are excited.

I’m not saying every moment of every day is the most exciting, incredible thing ever just because you are living in your purpose.  Every person faces challenges and a few dull tasks.  But the greatest part of living life your designated purpose is full and abundant.

Jesus said the enemy of our souls comes to steal, kill and destroy, but that Jesus came to give us a full, abundant life.  You have a purpose.  You simply need to connect with God, ask Him what it is and begin to pursue it.

Take a lesson from Sugar “the rat-dog”… live in your purpose! Go after what energizes you.  Go after your God-given purpose, and you will live a full life, making a significant impact on this world!

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

In the words of Michael W. Smith, “Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them.” (You’re welcome for that earworm. Go ahead, download it and enjoy it. You know you want to.)

Obviously, outside the Lord, my wife (aka, PR31) is my best friend on this planet.  And yet the Lord has blessed me with some other great friends.  Some of those friendships are only for a certain season of life, and then they shift over into a more casual acquaintance type friendship.  But others are for a lifetime.

I’ve discovered that the bonds of deep friendship are forged in the fires of shared adventure and adversity.  I want to share about one such friend in this post…

We have traveled to other states and other countries together.  We have ridden in cars and vans and buses together. We have flown thousands of miles together.

We have spent time in private conversation and stood on platforms in front of hundreds together.

We have laughed together. We have vented. We have cried together. (Granted, I cried more than he did because I’m a crier and he’s not.). We have talked about our joys. We have talked about our frustrations and struggles.

We have made some extremely difficult decisions together.  And we have struggled over the simplest choices of what to eat.

We have spent weeks together at a time. We have spent moments together.  We have shared early mornings and late nights.

We have “snuck out” of the housing compound with a missionary in Central America to get my friend some chicken strips and French fries so that he didn’t have to survive on skittles and tootsie rolls.  And we have “ridden our favorite ride” at Six Flags (Johnny Rockett’s restaurant) for more than six hours when it was just too hot to chase teenagers around the amusement park.

We even remained friends when I accidentally leaked his secret dating and probable engagement to the young lady who is now his wife during a late night snack with twenty other people.

What this is all adds up to is a deep bond of friendship which has been forged in the fires of shared adventure and adversity.  Proverbs 17:17 tells us, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

That’s who he’s been to me… always loyal… a brother.  I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without his friendship in my life.  This friendship is for a lifetime.

And I am challenged today to be that kind of friend, not only to him, but to others also.  So let me challenge you… If you have a friend like mine, let them know today how much you love and appreciate them.  And why not join me in the quest to be that kind of friend to someone else?  Your friendship could be exactly what that person needs!

The Unknown

Christopher Columbus lived an adventurous, astounding, amazing life… but he probably didn’t realize it.  Oh, he wanted to attempt fantastic feats of exploration.  He desired to discover.  But at the end of his life, I’m not sure Columbus fully realized the significance of his life.

For example, Columbus’ life ended with him mostly a lonely and forgotten man.  Many discredited his efforts. And in the end, few wanted to be his friend.  Most people failed to recognize his significance during during his lifetime.  Yet he had inspired and emboldened countless new explorers.

At the end of his life, Columbus thought he had accomplished one amazing thing, when in reality he had accomplished something far different… far greater.  He died thinking he had found a way by sea to Asia.  But he had really discovered trade winds which led to an area of the world which was on the verge of discovery and development.  His trip inspired and informed others, making future explorations possible.

Columbus died not knowing what a significant impact he had made on this world… on those people who would sail in his wake.  He may not have been the first to sail westward… He may not have discovered America… He may not have have discovered a westward passage to India… He may not have found great riches… But he made an impact the likes of which few ever accomplish.

Or do they?

In Matthew 26, the account is recorded of a woman crashes a dinner party where Jesus is and pours expensive perfume… probably the most expensive and precious object she owned… on His head. Some people complained that it was a waste of money. Some people misunderstood her. Most did not realize her significance. But Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” 

I’m sure that woman Matthew wrote about didn’t realize what a big deal she was at the time… kind of like Columbus… kind of like you.

I’m guessing that, even as you read this, you truly do not comprehend the significance of your life.  You probably do not realize that you are impacting the lives of so many people in such a big way.  You most likely have no clue about what your real accomplishments are.

People may not recognize your contribution right now.  Sail on anyway!  You may not be as popular as someone else.  Be adventurous and make discoveries anyway.  You may not get everything right, but choose to live your life to the fullest for the Lord.  And there will come a day down the road… perhaps when you are old or have passed on… when people will tell the stories of your greatness and you will be remembered for all that you achieved.

And for those who have poured the perfume on the head of our Savior, there will be a day when we are rewarded as well as remembered.

You’re Joking… Right?

One of my favorite movies of all time is… Rocketman.  In it Harland Williams plays the bumbling and yet brilliant Fred Z. Randall who, through a series of ridiculous events, ends up on the first manned mission to Mars.

Once clear of earth’s orbit, Fred accidentally ends up on a world-wide broadcast of a video call between the President of the United States and the astronauts.  The President asks Fred what it’s like up in space, and Fred replies, “From up here, the earth looks like a giant blueberry.”  The call ends with Fred leading people across the world in the song, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.”

What Fred portrayed in that scene is a known fact for all of us alive today… the earth is round.

But when Columbus lived, many people did not believe that now well-known fact.  In fact, most people believed the world was flat… even though brilliant minds had been suggesting for hundreds of years that it was round.

Yet Columbus believed.  He had faith. Oh, I’m not suggesting he was a Christian or that he was as perfect as some of our history books would portray.  Truth be told, he was wrong about much of what he thought.

But he was right about believing the earth is round.  He believed.  He believed so strongly that, though it took him many attempts to gain the financial backing and actually find a crew who didn’t think they would fall off the edge of the earth if they sailed too far, he persisted.

That’s what faith does. Faith motivates us in the face of doubt. C. S. Lewis wrote, “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who runs in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”  And just five verses later, the writer of that letter tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith.

So ignore the naysayers today. Run the opposite direction when you know in your heart God has promised you that you are running the right way.  Just as Columbus was willing to put his faith in a round earth to the test, be willing to test that of which God has assured you. And one day we will be celebrating your accomplishments!

Oh, It’s Gonna Happen

It’s like our six-year old, Austin, cannot even see the possibility of a negative outcome when he is wanting and believing for something.  He sees a toy or a game that he absolutely has to have, and he begins to tell us about it. As he describes it in detail, he says things like, “When I get it, I’m going to…” Not “if I get it,” but “when I get it.”

In his mind, there is no possible way we would say “no” to his request.  And it’s not a greed thing (though he has his moments… as do I). He is so innocent and full of faith in our ability to provide what he wants and our willingness to bring him joy.

He entered a contest today in which he has the possibility of winning an iPad mini.  In his mind, he has already won. He just has to wait for the contest to come to a close and receive his prize. He doesn’t even consider that there is a chance he won’t win.  He doesn’t consider that other kids might also have a chance to win. The odds mean nothing to him… because he is going to win.

Oh, that I would view my Heavenly Father with such childlike faith!  Oh, to be able to completely exclude any possibility that God would not answer my request.  Oh, that I would never view failure as a possible outcome, only success.

And yet, isn’t that what Jesus instructed His disciples to do… to have faith like a child? What a radical concept that must have been for them. What a radical concept it often is for me.

God is a good Father… way better than me. Surely, I can count on Him to come through for me. There is no reasonable explanation for my doubting. I will win! I will receive! I will be filled with joy… because He laughs with me… and loves me… and lavishes blessings on me.

Of course He does. Why would I think otherwise?

For the record, He feels exactly the same way about you. So put on your faith like Austin & believe for the best to come your way today!

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