That Baby!

Photo Credit: WDIV Detroit

Seems like we ALL are ready for this year to end! This has been a VERY tough year for many folks. Some have lost loved ones to the virus. Some have lost their jobs or their life savings. I’ve continued to hear stories of severe pain and misery this year. I think we all had big plans for this year and have been left watching the virus hijack our plans.

For many, the most immediate pain of this year resulted from the isolation and separation that was brought on by social distancing and the shutdowns. I have experienced this myself. I miss getting together with family, friends and especially spending time with the ones that we have that are most vulnerable. What a despicable disease to target those that may have the least amount of time remaining to see family and friends! I ache for these folks as they continue to sit in isolation waiting for this virus to finally go away.

This disruption and pain has a way of making us reflect on where we are.  What is important.  What we take for granted.  This feeling of uncertainty typically results in fear.  Fear is a very powerful emotion.  It strikes deep in our being.  Are you afraid of getting sick from the virus?  Are you afraid of what the future looks like for you after this is over?  

Yet, I can assure you that even with all the fear and uncertainty, there is still hope.  Hope in the future.  Hope that things will be made right.  For me, my hope is the little baby in the manger.  That baby! See, I have felt His love.  I have seen that He is faithful.  I have enjoyed the countless blessings that He has lavished on me and my family.  I know that he has plans for me and they are good.  And most of all, I know the end of the story and it is also good!

Do you feel hopeless? Having trouble seeing a way out? Does the virus or your situation leave you in fear of the future? Maybe the problem is that you don’t know the end of the story. You are holding on to this world as if the world is all there is. You see death as the end of the story. Yet, I can tell you that there is so much more. If you are feeling uneasy that is because you were made for eternity. You were made without an end. Death is NOT your final act.

That baby!  That’s the difference.  God’s gift to us.  This is the hope that we all need.  Listen- your story is bigger.  MUCH bigger.  He made a way so that you would have joy and peace.  So you could enjoy yourself and your time here on the earth and live WITHOUT fear.  That baby.  The Christ.  Emmanuel.  God IS with us!

Thank you for your continued support! Blessings to you and yours this holiday season!

Merry Christmas!

Do it Afraid

Fear is a funny thing. It has a way of freezing us up. Our natural instincts kick in and the result is that we will stop our movement and progress.

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We will overthink the situation.
We will seek the comfortable route or outcome.
We will avoid the fear and go around it.

I am not saying that fear is a bad thing. We have been conditioned to avoid fear for safety purposes. I am sure you remember some of the advice from your Mom.

Don’t play in he road…
The burner is still hot…
Make sure that I know where you are at all times…
Don’t go with strangers…

All of these are good advice. We should not proceed recklessly.  But one of her primary purposes as a parent was to simply keep you safe. While safety is important, I’m not sure that our primary focus on safety and what is secure and predictable is always healthy in the long run.

I have learned through the years that significant growth comes from pushing through the fear by doing it afraid. This is from a guy who is more cautious by nature so this “pushing through” is not easy for me. My tendencies are to visualize and analyze the things that could go wrong.  I have learned that there is a point where you just need to go and conquer the “what ifs”.

Kathy and I have served all over the world and in the inner city and have become accustomed to serving in environments that are viewed by others as unsafe. We are cautious and careful when we are in these environments.  We remain aware of our surroundings and do not proceed in areas alone.  Yet we have learned to push down the feelings of fear that will strangle the ability to move forward and serve. Our faith certainly contributes to our boldness and we have reached a conclusion that we have to go past and conquer the fear.

Your fear area may be public speaking.  It may be leading others.  It may be preforming a task that you don’t think you can accomplish.

Next time you are fearful to move forward, take a deep breath and push through it. Once you have stepped out it will be easier the next time. Fear has a way of fencing us in. There is life beyond the barrier and your world will get bigger and more rewarding. Go ahead.  Move forward.  Do it afraid!

So have you experienced the thrill of overcoming a fear?  Please click on “leave a comment” and let me hear your story!

The F Word

When I was in high school I remember sitting frozen by the phone thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Would I be rejected?  

Would she laugh at me?  

Would she make me feel foolish?  

Would everyone hear about it and think I was crazy?

Was I overstepping my boundaries?

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Sometimes I just couldn’t pick up the phone.  I tried to overpower the thoughts that I had, but sometimes they just won.  I wasn’t good enough.  What was I thinking?  She is way out of reach for me.

I was strangled by the F word.  FEAR.

Now as I look back at it- what is the worst thing that could happen?  She says no.  There may be some laughter and maybe I was overstepping.  Yet, I will never know because I didn’t try.  The F word.

Fear is powerful.  Yes, I am a man and I have been afraid and ducked out plenty of times in my life.

When I should have moved forward.

When I should have taken the chance.

When I could have stepped out and made a difference.

What does the F word do?  Let me give you a few of the finalities of fear.

You Freeze:  Fear stops you from making a decision.  You stop.  And while you are stopping, the rest of the world is moving.  You loose your advantage.  You are now looking from behind.

You Miss The Boat:  Opportunities are an instant.  A moment in time.  When you decide to wait or you decide it’s too risky, the opportunity is gone.  Things change.  You can’t go back to that spot.  It’s gone, quite possibly forever.

You Determine The Outcome:  If you fail to act you know what will happen.  Nothing.  You have decided it.  Maybe that’s what you want.  Maybe the risk is too high.  But one thing for sure,  It’s done.  If you choose to risk the outcome might be good.  Choosing not to risk decides the answer.

Often the root of a failure to act can be traced to pride.  I never loose.  I always come out on top.  What would everyone think if I actually failed?

Yet failure is actually healthy.  It doesn’t feel good when you are in it, but I have learned some of my greatest life lessons through failure. So what do you really learn in failure?

You learn that the sun will rise the next day.  You find out that the people that really love you are still there.   You find out that the F word is mostly in your head.  You find out that faith is the thing that allows you to risk.  Faith in yourself.  Faith in your family.  Faith in a Father who loves you no matter what!  Fear is a product of the enemy.  An old scheme he uses to take away your power.  A way to neutralize you in the spiritual battle that is going on around us.

So what are you going to do?  Are you going to crumble and let the F word decide for you and make your final decision OR will you fight through it and go for it!  Do something risky.  Do something big.  Shake off the F word, have faith and trust in yourself!

So what do you think?  Have you had times when you were overcome with fear?  Have you failed to act because of fear?  What do you do the beat the F word?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

Different Is Good!

Yesterday Kathy and I went on a hike through the Cahuita National Park along the Carribean coast of Costa Rica.  We had a guide who had an amazing eye to pick out wildlife far off in the trees.  The diversity of life that we saw was remarkable, yet everything fit together and you had the feeling that it all belonged together

Why do we always strive for things to be the same?
This park is located along the Carribean coast near Panama.  This area was settled by turtle hunters from the Carribean islands about 150 years ago.  These settlers have roots in Africa so they do not look the same as either the indigenous natives or the native Costa Ricans.
The lore is that the Costa Rica Carribean coast is more dangerous because of these Carribean natives and widespread drug influences.  Well, we were approached by the Rastafari peddling their stuff but this is not much different than any Carribean beach town.  So why is there so much talk of this area being so dangerous?  What is the reason that there is this fear and apprehension about this area?
Because they are different.
Costa Rica is not immune from discrimination.  The native Costa Ricans complain about the Nicaraguans as well as the African Carribean people.  A wise lady told us that she believes that the discrimination is based on money.  The Costa Ricans feel that they have these illegals and others costing the country money, much the same as our current conversation in the U.S.  I think this is part of it.  There is a self centered element in nearly every discussion and this logic is consistent here.  Yet, I think there is more to this.
I think much of the struggle for diversity is based on fear.
We want things to be the same.  We want things to be like us.  Anything else brings a sense of discomfort.  We like things vanilla.  We like security and the predictable.  Yet, this is not the design.
Nature screams diversity.  The design of everything from our Creator is abundant, rich, and diverse.  So what can we do as leaders?
Fight the urge for conformity.  When choosing your team, make some bold choices.  Choose the ones that are not like you, or the ones that don’t fit the mold.  If you are analytical, choose the artist.  If you are an introvert, maybe the conversationalist.  A diverse team will always be superior.  This is the design of nature.  Different is better.  You will see!