Stay With The Herd

If you’ve ever watched one of those nature specials about animals in the African wild, you’ve probably seen a lion chase after a gazelle. And the way the lions work is to identify one of the gazelles in the herd which is older, younger or somehow weaker. Then they work to get that gazelle separated from the rest of the herd in order to have a better chance of killing it. That’s because the lion instinctively knows that if it attacks in the middle of the herd, the herd… which outnumbers it… may turn on them, rally, counter-attack & somehow defeat the lion. So they weed one off, causing it to move away from the herd out of fear or thinking it can find a better way to escape the attack. But once the gazelle is by itself, it is no match for the lion.

Most of those type nature shows end with a narrator saying something like, “Such is the way of life in this African wilderness.” I’d like to say that it’s about the same in our lives.

The enemy of our souls employs this technique of dividing to conquer. He works to create fear, worry, anxiety and despair in us. Then he uses that to cause us to push away from the very herd of people who love us and could help us. No matter what your issue today… infertility… pornography… a broken heart… lack of purpose… your enemy wants you to feel like you’re the only one… like no one else understands… as if no one has ever experienced what you’re going through in just the way you’re going through it. And the more you feel alone, the more you push away from the herd. And then the more hopeless your situation feels.

But you have a herd. Run toward them instead of away from them. Run for your life toward them. They are not going to chide you for struggling. They are going to welcome you back into the herd. They are going to surround you and defend you. And even if someone did say, “Well, that wasn’t the smartest thing you ever did,” at least you’d still be alive.

The way to defeat this fear the enemy tries to use against us and separate us from our herd is to expose the struggle. The very thing that causes you fear… someone else finding out that you feel weak or that you struggle… is the very thing that will vanquish the fear. That’s because, when you open up and share about it in a right and healthy environment, others will acknowledge that they, too, struggle or have struggled with that very thing. Your aloneness will evaporate as you realize you are normal… that you are more a part of the herd than you ever realized.

And just in case you don’t know what I mean by herd, I’ll clarify… family… church… emotionally and spiritually healthy friends at work. Your herd is made up of those people who surround you who are healthy enough to help you. Truth be told, there are other weak and struggling members of the herd, but at least together you stand a chance against the enemy.

Let the lion go hungry. Stay with the herd!


A Promise For Giving Tuesday

Today is the day. More important than Black Friday. More valuable than Cyber Monday. Today is Giving Tuesday!

Over the past week, many of us feasted. Many of us traveled. Many of us bought items at special sale prices.

Today, across this wonderful nation, we have the opportunity to focus our collective attention on contributing… donating… giving. We have the opportunity to make a big difference with even a small gift. We weren’t willing to miss out on deals… now let’s make sure we don’t miss out on donating.

Some will give to organizations. Others will give to ministries. I’d like to suggest that we could even give to individuals. Many will give money, but perhaps you don’t feel like you have any extra money to be able to give. Then why not give of your time and talents?

Each of us can, and should, do something. What if everyone gave to someone today? How different would our world be by midnight? Not sure what you can give? Here are some ideas:

– Offer to babysit for busy parents who just need time to go grocery or Christmas shopping by themselves.

– Rake or mulch leaves for an elderly friend.

– Give a gift card for coffee to a college student to be used as they study for finals.

– Make a donation of simple hygiene products like toothpaste and soap to a local foster care organization.

– Take a meal to a shut-in.

– Pay for the coffee or meal of the person in line behind you at the fast food place you stop at.

– Find out something that a missionary in another country loves but can’t get while they are away from home for years at a time, and send it to them in a care package.

– Give one of the volunteer pastors at your church a gift card to Walmart.

– Give a blanket to someone who is homeless.

There are so many people around us who have needs. I’m not saying we have to match what we spent over the past week. I’m just saying we should give something.

We don’t just have to look up the big, well-known ones online and input our credit card number or text a number to donate $10. We can make a difference in the lives of someone we know or someone whose path we cross today.

You know, we don’t always have to get a receipt for tax purposes. Someone is keeping better records of our generosity than the IRS. God offers a pretty amazing promise in Proverbs 28:27 for those who take this to heart… “Whoever gives to the poor will lack NOTHING.” (Emphasis mine)

I, for one, plan to find a way to give today. As I write this, I don’t know who… or what… or how… I just know that I plan to give. And I hope you will also!


People’s ideas of success vary greatly, and so I cannot be a success to everyone.  But I can be of value to each person.  If God lets my path cross theirs, then I have within me the ability to be of value to them.  It may be with a smile… or a hug… or help with schoolwork… or advice about dating… or how to have eternal life… or helping them break through writer’s block.  I can be of value.

The key is two-fold:

1) Be sensitive to God’s voice as He directs your steps.  If He nudges you to do something for someone, or say something to someone, do it.  He will always make you of value to others.

2) Ask people what you can do to help them.  You may have the knowledge… or the skill set… or the tools… or the wisdom they need to accomplish their dreams.

Forget trying to please people… and instead just try to help them.  Value trumps success.

Lessons From An Elf- Part 2

Oh, come on… You didn’t seriously think I could stop with one lesson from my favorite Christmas movie, Elf, did you?  Here’s another great takeaway… As Buddy “the Elf” grows up in the North Pole, he is trained along with all the other elves about Elf culture.  He learns that there are three points in “The Code of Elves.”  What we learn from one of those points is that, “There’s room for everyone on the nice list.”

Everyone.  I like that concept.  I’m a people person.  I like to include people rather than exclude them.  I like big teams, big groups, big clubs, big crowds.  Where there are lots of people allowed in, someone has an open heart and open arms.  And “the nice list” has room for everyone.

In other words, we can each choose to be nice… today.  We can choose to have a great attitude even when things don’t go our way.  We can choose to be generous even when our funds are low.  We can choose to love and forgive and release even when people have treated us wrongly.  We can choose to help someone out even we are tired and don’t really feel like it.  We can choose to smile, give, serve, help, and love.   We can choose to speak words of encouragement, hope, kindness, dignity and joy. It’s called being nice.  And we can be added to the nice list today by our choices.

This concept of Santa having a naughty and nice list isn’t anything new, though.  God has a list that He will check as we each face eternity.  It’s not a list to be scared of because He has made a way for everyone to be added to His “nice list.”  He doesn’t expect us to be nice enough on our own to make the list.  He sent His Son, Jesus, as the perfect nice list Guy, who would take our punishment… you know, for those times when we aren’t quite so nice… so that each of us could be on that eternal “nice list” no matter how naughty we’ve been up to this point.

Better yet, He helps us to be nice as a reflection of what He’s done for us… It’s like He put us on His “nice list,” and then said He would help us live that way.  II Peter 1:3 tells us, “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.”  That means, if we will choose to be nice today, He will help us live it out.

Some people think they are stuck as “Scrooges” in life… that there is no hope of them ever making the nice list… but that’s just not true.  If we learn anything from my favorite Christmas movie, it ought to be that people can change… can have their name moved off the naughty list and onto the nice list.  And while Santa may be fictional in the way we know of him today, God is most certainly real.  He wants to help you be nice all throughout your day.

So, whether you’re on the field, on the job, or even on your sickbed today, ask the Lord to put you on His eternal “nice list” and then help you to make the choice to live like you’re on it!

Keep The Lamps Bright

In doing some research recently, I came across some info on Wikipedia about “lamp trimmers.”  These were people who served on board ships before electrical lighting was used.  They were specialists who would go around the ship every few hours to make sure the oil lamps were all burning brightly, since the only light under the deck of a ship was what these lamps provided.

These folks were skilled at knowing just how to trim the wick to make it burn the brightest and the longest.  They knew just how much oil to keep in the lamps so that they would not run out, but would not burst into flames if they got knocked off and broke.  In other words, they made it their life’s work to provide light for others.  And they did it consistently, faithfully.

We live in a world much like those levels under the deck of the old-time ships.  And we should be those who commit themselves to making sure we provide light in the midst of darkness.

Light gives hope.  Light shows the way.  Light reveals.  People in our lives need light.  Let’s be lamp trimmers.

The 58th chapter of the book of Isaiah in Scripture challenges us to help those in need, saying that not only will we turn the darkness into light by doing so, but that the Lord will also bless us bountifully for our efforts.

It doesn’t take much to bring light to someone’s darkness… a kind word… a thank you note… buying them a coffee or a meal… sending them an encouraging text… congratulating them when they have done well what they do… helping them when they are busy and feeling overwhelmed.  It doesn’t have to be overdone, just like the lamp trimmers didn’t overfill the lamps.

We can trim lamps at home… at work… at church… at the gym… at the restaurant… at school… online… anywhere.  And you know, as we provide light for others, we also help light our own path.

So, from the early outset of this week, let’s determine to be those who bring light to the darkness of anyone we possibly can.  Trim on!

The Making of a Marriage… Or Any Other Great Relationship- Part 2

PR31 and I had been married about six to eight months when we went to stay with her folks for about six weeks in between jobs.  During that time, we went to the young married couples Sunday School class that her mother was teaching.  The class was packed because she was an incredible teacher. She was way ahead of her time in utilizing video curriculum to elevate the excellence of the class and kick off discussions.

One of those video series she used was by Gary Smalley.  Well, PR31 and I got intrigued with them… and since we lived with the teacher, we had access to the videos whenever we wanted.  And since we were in between jobs, we had time to watch them.

One of the greatest takeaways we gained from those videos was a session he shared on communicating with word pictures to help the other person understand how what they said to us made us feel.  The illustration he gave was of a couple packing to go on vacation.  The husband pinches the wife’s side and asks if they are going to eat desserts on this vacation. He is only joking and means the pinch as a loving touch and the question as a joke, but she takes it as him saying she is overweight and doesn’t need any desserts on vacation.  Smalley picks up a small rock, a pebble, from a table and drops it on the floor… and says this is what the husband thought he did.  Then he picks up a huge boulder and drops it on the floor with a loud thud… and says this is what the wife felt when he said it. He used a word picture to help the audience understand what each was thinking and feeling. And he urged couples to find some way to help their spouse understand better what they were thinking and feeling.

This was nothing new… just sort of new to us.  I mean, Jesus used word pictures all the time to help people understand what God is like… and what matters to Him… and how God feels about certain things.  We call them parables… “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” or “Suppose one of you…”

Well, this Word picture thing sounded like a good idea for helping us learn to communicate in our marriage.  And low and behold, that Smalley guy is one smart cookie.  It began working for us… and it still does.  We even use it with our boys now.

Sure, it takes a while to figure out how to figure out the best word picture to share with a person. But you figure it out. It might go something like, “When you rub that dry napkin between your hands, it’s like someone raking their fingernails down a chalkboard… it drives me nuts.”  Don’t give up.

Sometimes the word picture doesn’t really convey the truth. So we added our own part as a disclaimer before the word picture.  We might say, “Let me try a word picture to explain how this makes me feel.  But if I mess it up, please let me walk it back and try again to get it right.”

Basically, this slowed the conversation… gave latitude for attempts at communication… and extended grace to the other person when they were genuinely trying to express thoughts and feelings in love.  These are always good for your marriage.

Over time, we built up enough word pictures which we both understood that we could say, “Okay, you know how you said… Well, think of that because this thing makes me feel exactly the way you said that makes you feel.”  Suddenly, the light would go on for the other person, and resolution came a lot more quickly because we now shared a common word picture that gave us a handle on how the other person was feeling,

So go ahead… give it a try the next time you feel your blood pressure rising because of something your spouse just said or did.  You can make a great marriage.  And hey, it works with any other relationship as well.  You can have a great marriage… or friendship… or parent-child relationship.  Anyone can do this.  And you’ll be glad you did!

Newfound Joy

It happened somewhat unexpectedly.  It was there… inside me, but dormant.  Till about a year ago.  Life changed, and I discovered this newfound joy… writing.

I speak publicly, and have regularly for more than two decades.  So it’s not that words are new to me.  If you’ve followed the blog, you know that I enjoy the stage and the microphone. And that won’t go away anytime soon.

But what I didn’t see coming was how much I would enjoy sitting at the desk, pecking out keys to capture life… and truth… and encouragement… and hope… in words on paper… or screen.  Unlike preaching, when I write, no one is usually around.  Well, the dog doesn’t count.

Sure it’s still communicating.  Of course it’s still using words to convey thought. But it’s a whole new world to me… all this blogging and publishing stuff that writers do. And yet it has somehow awakened something in me I did not know I had. Something planted there by God before He ever formed me in my mother’s womb.

Let me ask you… Is it possible that you have something in you yet to be discovered?  Is there something wonderful currently dormant in you?  What if you began to excavate around that area of your life and uncovered something truly special which you and others around you could enjoy?  Maybe it’s completely different than what you used to do… or do now… or think you’ll always do.

Why not take some time this weekend and find something inside you that is longing to be let out, longing to be shared with others?  Who knows?  You may be the next Picasso… or Mozart… or Steve Jobs… or…

Spread your wings a little… the air is great up here!

A Friend In The Business

I have a friend in the HVAC supply business. He totally came through for me today.  Our thermostat went out yesterday afternoon.  I happened to mention it to him in passing conversation last night at church, and he said to let him know if I needed help with it.

I’m a decently handy guy around the house, at least handy enough to try something out of my league in an effort to learn something new… and save some money.  So I purchased a replacement thermostat last night on my way home from church, and I set to work on it.  I wasn’t too far in when I realized I was in a little over my head.

So this morning, I texted my friend and asked for his help.  Wow! He came through for me in a huge way, doing some of the research with professionals for me, and giving me the confidence to believe I could do this with the right information.  He even encouraged me to call the manufacturer at just the right point in the installation.  In the end, we have cool air blowing on this end of the house again, and it was because I have a friend in the business who knew how to help me in my time of need.

I’m reminded that I have another Friend Who is essentially in every business.  Jesus knows all things and is always with me.  So I always have Someone to turn to when I am in need.

Today, if you’re in need, you need to meet my Friend in the business.  If you’re facing illness, He’s the Great Physician.  If you’re battling loneliness, He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother.  If you’re struggling financially, He is the Provider.  There’s not a situation you will ever face that you couldn’t have a Friend in the business.

I’ll sleep easier tonight… not just because of my friend in the HVAC business, but also because of my Friend in the life business.  If you don’t have Him as a friend, let me know… I’d love to introduce you to Him!  And if you need help with your air conditioning, I know a guy, too!

All Times

An amazing friend texted me out of the blue today just to ask how I’m doing. No agenda other than to express love and concern for me. No words other than encouragement and commitment to walk the journey of life together with me. I have nothing to offer this friend… other than friendship. This was a bona fide act of love.

We all need this kind of friend in our lives. We need those people who will make the journey with us… through the great times, as well as those times that are less than worthy of being posted on social media.

We need people who will speak life into us… people who will cheer us on… people who care enough about us that they will stick with us even when they are the ones doing all the giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

That friend made my day, but they also inspired me. I want to be that kind of friend. Not just back to them. I want to pay it forward as well. I want to speak life into people who have nothing to offer me in return. That’s what Jesus did… and He IS my role model.

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times...”. What about you? Is there someone you can think of right now to whom you could be that kind of friend? If so, go ahead and plant that seed of kindness. Down the road, when you need that kind of friend, the Lord will make sure you harvest what you planted.

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