It’s All Up To You

In one of John Maxwell book “Developing the Leader Within”, he quoted the following:

We cannot choose how many years we will live, but

We can choose how much life those years will have.

We cannot control the beauty of our face, but

We can control the expression on it.

We cannot control life’s difficult moments, but

We can choose to make life less difficult.

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world, but

We can control the atmosphere of our minds.

Too often, we try to choose and control things we cannot.

Too seldom, we choose to control what we can…our attitude.

How true that is, and how powerful once we understand it.

There are two important truths here:

    • There is not much that I cannot control in life, but
    • I CAN control my own attitude.

I know people – and I’m sure you do – who spend their entire lives trying to control.  Trying to control their spouses and children and grandchildren, trying to control other peoples’ perceptions of them, trying to control other peoples’ actions, trying to control their lives, trying to control what the future will look like.

And it’s all futile. 

The discouraging truth is that we begin life with no control, we gain some control over our lives as we become adults and make our own decisions, but ultimately, aging is a process of increasingly losing control of different aspects of our lives.  Depressing, isn’t it?  And yet, it’s the human condition.  It happens to all of us, and no matter who we are, how influential or powerless we are, how wealthy or poor we are, how spiritual or unspiritual we are, how well we plan or how poorly we plan, it will happen to each one of us.

But the good news is that while I cannot control what happens to me, I can control what happens in me.  No one can choose my attitude but me; no one can control my response to life’s situations but me.

positive thinking or think negative positivity or negativity opt

Viktor Frankl was a Doctor of Neurology and Psychology.  In 1942, he and his wife were forced by the Nazis to abort their first baby.  In 1944, they are sent to Auschwitz, where he is separated from his wife, mother, and brother.  After Auschwitz was liberated by U.S. Troops, he learned that his wife was transported to Bergen-Belsen, where she died at the age of 24; and that his mother and brother were murdered at Auschwitz.  Despite all of these experiences, Frankl went on to write the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” – the book in which he wrote these powerful words:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Wow.  Consider the weight of those words after all that he himself experienced.  No one can take from you the freedom to choose your attitude.

None of us knows what today will hold, what we will face in the coming days or hours.

None of us can control most of what may happen to us.

But every one of us can control our own attitude.  Every one of us can choose how we will face this day, and all that it brings to us.

What attitude will you choose today?

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE for $6.99!  For ordering information, contact me at

Your Attitude Can Make the Difference!

One of my favorite passages of Scripture about attitude is located at the beginning of the book of Joshua.  Moses has just died; Joshua has taken over leadership of the nation of Israel – a nation of wandering nomads, who have spent 40 years without a homeland because of their lack of faith and disobedience.  God begins to speak words of encouragement to Joshua, preparing him for the challenge that lies ahead as they face their first hurdles – crossing the Jordan river, and then conquering the city of Jericho, the stronghold at the entrance to the Promised Land.

God encourages Joshua to be strong, to be courageous, to be obedient, to ground himself in the Book of the Law that God had given to Israel through Moses.  And then God gave this command and promise to Joshua:  ”This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9, NLT)


Can You Believe I Posted A Picture of a CAT?????!!!!

Isn’t it interesting that a part of what God was instructing Joshua to do was to protect his heart – to be careful of his attitudes?  Why was that?

I think it’s because Israel originally refused to enter the Promised Land 40 years before this because they let attitudes of fear and discouragement plague their minds.  And so, when faced with the opportunity to trust God’s provision and protection and enter the land, they instead let fear turn them to discouragement.  Without firing a single arrow or slingshot, they gave up – because their own attitudes defeated them.

And so, when we fast-forward 40 years, we find God telling Joshua to pay special attention to his attitude – to be brave and courageous, to be encouraged, to not give in to the temptation to fear or to be overwhelmed by the task before them.

Now, here’s the important thing to understand about attitude.  Attitude didn’t forge any physical weapons for Israel; it didn’t make their warriors any stronger; it didn’t give them greater speed or endurance; and it didn’t give Joshua an advantage in tactics.  It didn’t relieve them of the responsibility to walk into the land and face their enemies.

What attitude DID do for Joshua and for Israel was to give them the will and the ability to go on in the face of overwhelming odds.  Attitude gave them the faith to trust God when circumstances seemed to be against them.

To use an over-worn cliché, attitude was the wind beneath their wings.

And attitude can be the same thing, do the same things, for you and for me today.

What kind of attitude will empower you to get through whatever life throws at you today?  This attitude:  Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I don’t know what this day will hold, for you or for me.  I don’t know the challenges that we will face, or the blessings that may come our way.

But I know this – no matter what, God is good.  And because of that, you and I can be strong and courageous.  We can face our day with attitudes of faith, and not fear.  We can choose to be encouraged.  Because God will be with us, wherever we are. 

What attitude will you choose as you face today?

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE!  For ordering information, contact me at

The Power of Positive Thinking

In the fall of 1984, I began working at Chick-fil-A in Westmoreland Mall, Greensburg, PA for a man named Bill Forster.

Bill and his wonderful wife Teri had a number of significant positive impacts on my life.  For example, Bill challenged me to apply to a new scholarship program that Chick-fil-A had established at Berry College in Rome, Georgia.  Bill and Teri supported me in that whole process, encouraged me to go for it, and didn’t complain when it meant I left the store to move to Georgia.  That set up a whole chain of events in my life, including a change in career direction, significant spiritual growth, amazing opportunities while in college, and even meeting Jewel.  I can honestly say that without Bill and Teri, I would never have met Jewel and married her, and we would never have had Bethany.

That’s a pretty significant impact for a couple to have on someone’s life!  And I know a number of other people who worked with Bill and Teri whose lives were changed positively because of their influence.

But I want to focus in on one significant area of impact that they had on me in today’s blog:  my attitude.


I grew up in Christian home with the world’s greatest Dad and Mom and younger brother.  I was privileged to be taught God’s Word from an early age, to memorize Scripture, to make wise choices (which I didn’t always do!), and to live my life in such a way that I would honor the Lord Jesus.  I was blessed with a lot of truth, and that foundation still stands strong today.

One area that I had never really considered, though, was my attitude.  I’m not sure why; I guess I just never put it together.  But Bill and Teri helped put it together for me.  They modeled it for me every time I saw them, or worked side-by-side with them.  It didn’t matter what they were going through, what the store was going through, or what life brought along – Bill and Teri always, and I mean always, had a positive attitude about life, about their ability to face life with God’s help, and about God’s blessings on their lives.

One night at work, after we had a brief discussion about some of my plans for the future, Bill gave me a copy of a cassette tape (that was a LONG time ago!) by Zig Ziglar on setting and reaching life goals.  That tape was a game-changer for me.  It opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and planning, to new possibilities in my journey with Jesus, and it helped me understand that I had made some assumptions about following Jesus that weren’t true.  I had somehow in my own mind arrived at a place of thinking that setting goals and wanting to be successful was counter to the Kingdom of God.  Zig and Bill and Teri helped me understand that God wants us to be fruitful, and that while fruit looks different in different professions and in different peoples’ lives, there was nothing selfish in wanting to excel wherever I was.  In fact, bettering myself would equip me to help others do the same at a higher level.  For teaching me that and for opening doors in my life and in my thinking, I will be forever grateful to Bill and Teri.

I also learned (again, I don’t know how I missed this, but I did) that I am responsible for my own attitude.  No one else can choose my attitude for me; and I can choose to have a positive, expectant, faith-filled attitude regardless of my circumstances or I can choose to let life and other people dictate my attitude.  It’s my choice.  My mind; I control what I feed it, and what I focus my thoughts on.  Up until that point, I had spent a significant part of my teen years with the attitude that “if I don’t expect much, then I won’t be disappointed.”  As a result, I had a horrible attitude about a lot of things.

I’ve learned since then that a positive attitude is a huge advantage in life.  How I think doesn’t change my circumstances, but it changes my perspective on those circumstances, it changes how I approach those circumstances, it changes how I approach God in the midst of my circumstances, and it changes how I portray Jesus to others in my circumstances!

The Bible actually has a lot to say about how we think and how our thoughts affect our lives, as well as the lives of those we encounter.  Over the next few weeks, I’m planning to dedicate several blogs to the power of positive thinking.  Don’t let the terminology close your mind to what the possibilities that God’s Word can open up to you!

We’ll dive in on Wednesday’s blog.  In the meantime, I’d like to leave you with 3 questions to consider.  Feel free to comment below, if you’d like to dialogue:

  • Who has had the greatest impact on your attitude in life?
  • How would describe your overall attitude about life – positive?  Negative?  Neutral?
  • How would the person who knows you best describe your attitude about life?  (Sometimes others can see things in us and about us that we become blind to over time.)

I’m looking forward to sharing with you some of the things I’ve learned, and am learning.  In the meantime, remember that you and I can “do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV)!

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE!  For ordering information, contact me at

Measuring Success, Re-Visited!

Confession time – tonight, I was glancing through my Facebook wall.  A friend had posted something a few days ago that I had neglected to respond to, and so I had a moment and wanted to go back and respond.  When I pulled up my page, one of the first things I saw was my own blog post from yesterday – “How Do You Measure Success?” 


I saw that no one had like my post.  I thought, “What the heck???!!!!!  That was a good blog!  I did some good writing!”  I wondered what was wrong.  I started to become discouraged.

Then I realized what I had done.

I had allowed the fact that no one “liked” a post – a post about not finding your value in goals and recognition from others – to discourage me.

I had judged myself on the very standard that I had told others to avoid!

Now why am I writing this and admitting it?

Because I need to.  Because if I keep that in the dark, it can create issues for me.

Instead, I’m exposing it to the light. 

One of the things that is a struggle for me is that I seek peoples’ approval.  And that means that if I’m not careful, if I’m not intentional, and if I’m not walking in the Spirit, I can act out of that need for peoples’ approval. 

That’s not healthy.  It’s rooted somewhere in a lie that I’ve believed about my own lack of value or in where my value comes from.  I’m still working through where and when and why I first believed that lie, and what the actual lie is.  And, I’m still learning that all the approval I need is my Father’s approval.  My value doesn’t lie in what anyone else thinks of me or says about me, and my value doesn’t even lie in what I think about myself.

My value has already been determined by my Father, and He demonstrated my value through His Son Jesus at the cross.

The tough thing is that I know this.  In fact, those of you who attend Awakening Alliance know that I preached on this very thing just two weeks ago.  But man, is it hard to re-program our thinking when we have lived under the influence of lies for a long time.

Honesty is hard.  But it is powerful.  And I want to be free.  So, here I am, being honest about not practicing what I just preached about and blogged about it!  This wasn’t easy to admit to myself, let alone to all of you.

But I’m learning.  Tonight or tomorrow, I’ll probably be on Facebook, and I’ll probably notice if anyone like this post or not.  But before I do, I’ll remind myself that it doesn’t matter.  As my friend Rob Reimer says often, the issue of my value was settled at the cross.

I’ll end with the same two questions I asked Wednesday, because I needed to ask myself these same things again: “What about you?  How do you measure yourself?”

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will be available in just a few weeks.

How Do You Measure Success?

I’m reading this great book right now titled Anonymous:  Jesus’ Hidden Years…And Yours by Alicia Britt Chole.  After reading and working through Chase the Lion and spending some significant times considering goals and dreams, this book is an interesting reminder that often, before we step into the fullness of God’s preferred future for us, there is a season of waiting and allowing God to do deep internal work in our hearts.  We need that preparation time – without it, I believe we run the risk of running ahead of God and even being unable to deal with the success that can come with walking into our destiny.  Conversely, without that preparation time, if the pursuit of our dreams doesn’t end up the way that we envisioned it, we can be devastated and end up in a place of despair.

When I think of biblical examples of people who had to wait for their God-given dreams to come true, it isn’t hard to come up with a list:

  • Abraham waited decades to have his promised son.
  • Joseph waited years to see his dreams of leadership fulfilled.
  • Moses waited 80 years to see Israel set free from Egypt.
  • David waited about 15 years after he was anointed to become king over Judah, and another 7 years to become king over all Israel.
  • And of course, Jesus waited 30 years until He stepped from the obscurity of a carpenter’s shop to public ministry.

Waiting is hard.  Especially when you absolutely know that God has promised something to you or called you to something.  But waiting can be so powerful because of the work that God does within us as we wait – if we cooperate.  If we wait patiently for Him to say “now is the time.”  If we learn in our time of waiting that what has been promised or what we have been called to is not the ultimate goal or fulfillment that we will find in life, but that in knowing God more deeply, we will find fulfillment.


In the book I referenced at the beginning of this blog, Alicia Britt Chole writes this:

…there is quite a bit of room between self-promotion and utter passivity in our stewardship of God-size dreams. At present, I am attempting to rest in alert availability. “Alert” because I am not living in denial of the dreams in my heart. “Available” because God is a gentleman and I am quite comfortable waiting for him to open doors. Truth is, I do not have enough character to walk through doors I open for myself…

…after all, is not our true aim and aspiration just to be near God? Jesus seems to exemplify this perspective. Whether “Not yet, my Son” tucked him away in obscurity or “Now is the time” made him the news, Jesus appears to have walked unstressed and unhurried. His peaceful pace seems to imply that he measured himself not by where he was going and how fast he could get there but by whom he was following and how closely they walked together.  (Chole, Alicia Britt. Anonymous: Jesus’ hidden years…and yours (Kindle Locations 481-484, 488-491). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. )

Wow.  I love that.  “He measured himself not by where he was going and how fast he could get there but by whom he was following and how closely they walked together.”

Sometimes in our rush to get to a destination – a goal, a life experience, a ministry position, a new home, or some other worthwhile dream – we miss the most important thing – knowing our Father and deeply experiencing His love.

I’ve said, and heard other people say things like:  “I’ll be happy/satisfied/content/successful…”

  • “When I get married…”
  • “When I get a promotion…”
  • “When I get a new job…”
  • “When I have children of my own…”
  • “When I can be in full-time ministry…”
  • “When I meet someone…”
  • “When I am making more money…”
  • “When I lose weight…”
  • “When I win MVP of the world…”

(Well, I haven’t actually heard anyone say that last one.  But I have met a few people whose actions and attitudes made me think that maybe that was the only thing that would make them happy!)

I’ve got goals.  I am working hard to achieve them.  I have things that I want to accomplish, dreams I would love to see fulfilled.  But I am learning that there is joy in the journey, that the ultimate destination is my Father, and that fulfillment comes from being with the Father, not from achieving what the Father reveals to me.

“He (Jesus) measured himself not by where he was going and how fast he could get there but by whom he was following and how closely they walked together.”

What about you?  How do you measure yourself?

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will be available in just a few weeks.

“People Are Idiots!”

I used to say and think that all the time.

(I am slowly re-programming my mind.  I want to see people the way my Father sees them.  I don’t want to judge people.  That’s a subject for another blog.)

The reality is that people (me included) sometimes do dumb things.  Really dumb things.

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Pennsylvania State Police Chaplains’ Conference for the first time.  It was a great experience.  I had the opportunity to meet a number of other chaplains and some State Troopers.  I also learned a lot about police procedures, investigations, and even forensics.  And, I learned that people who commit crimes are often caught because they make dumb mistakes.

I will never forget a statement that one of the instructors made as he taught:  “Don’t expect irrational thinking to produce rational results.”  He was talking about how people who are committing crimes tend to think irrationally and make unwise choices, which often result in their being caught.

Thinking Man

That same statement applies to life in a lot of different situations.

It applies to our lives when we give in to temptation.  We think irrationally about the outcome of giving in.

It applies to our lives when we believe lies – lies about ourselves, about others, even lies about God.  We think irrationally about what is actually true.

It applies to our lives when we live in the shadow of wounds that we have received.  We think irrationally about our identity.

It applies to our lives when we live in fear.  We think irrationally about God’s love (which casts out fear) and about possible outcomes.

Don’t expect irrational thinking to produce rational results.

Don’t expect an addict, in the grip of addiction, to do what is rational.

Don’t expect someone whose soul is wounded and whose perspective is therefore distorted to respond rationally.

Don’t expect the person you’re trying to help to respond rationally to your advice, your aid, your comfort -whatever you have to offer – if they are not really in place to receive what you are able to offer.

That may sound like jaded thinking, but it’s honesty.  When you deal with people, you have be wise in how you deal with them.  You have to take the time to listen, to observe, to understand.  And you can’t let your expectations of how they should respond or what you think is rational keep you from loving them, despite their irrational choices.

The good news?  I can’t expect irrational thinking to produce rational results.  However, I can always expect that God is at work.  And I can always expect that Jesus can redeem even the worst of messes, the worst of choices, the most irrational decisions.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences.  And it doesn’t mean that those who make irrational choices won’t suffer because of their choices.

But God loves us, even when we make irrational choices.

In fact, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We live in a world in which we are surrounded by people making unwise and irrational choices.

But each one of them is a person for whom Jesus died, a person God loves.

So when you’re dealing with that frustrating person today – remember, if he or she is in a place where they are thinking irrationally, don’t expect that they will make rational choices or respond to your help rationally.

But don’t give up them.  Jesus hasn’t.

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

How to Say “No”

I love reading.  And I love writing.

I spent a significant part of my life thinking and dreaming about becoming a published writer.  But I convinced myself that I either didn’t have the time to write, didn’t have anything to say that was worth writing about, or just couldn’t or wouldn’t succeed as a writer.

Last year, a couple of close friends challenged me to stop making excuses and go for it.  So I finally decided to do that.  I started writing regularly, and started investing time and money in learning about writing and in improving the quality of my writing.

I wrote and published my first non-fiction book ( a devotional), started my second non-fiction book, and am over 400 pages into writing my first novel.  I’ve been learning about things like building platforms and becoming more consistent in writing and posting blogs.  I’ve pushed myself to write even when there have been times that I wasn’t sure what to write, or didn’t feel like writing in the moment.  Or even didn’t feel like I had anything worth writing about.  I’m not saying I’m anywhere near having it together or having “succeeded” as a writer.  I still have under 100 blog subscribers and I haven’t invested significant time into building that “platform” yet.  But I’ve tried to be more consistent about writing and posting.

And then I missed posting a blog on Monday.


Sunday was a very full day, and Sunday evening was very full as well.  So I didn’t get a chance to write on Sunday evening for Monday morning.  And then Monday…well, Monday was a full day, too.  A lot going on.

What does this have to do with anything?  And why am I rambling on about writing and all this stuff?  What does it have to do with anything that I’ve been blogging about?

Actually, it has quite a lot to do with what I’ve been writing about “being.”

Sometimes, in order to just “be” you have to say “no” to other things.

In this case, I had a couple of busy days and nights, and as much as I wanted to write, I had to say “no” to that – and to myself – in order to just “be” and rest a little.

I wasn’t saying “no” to writing for forever.  I was saying “no” to overextending myself beyond what I was already doing.

I had to remind myself how to say “no.”  And here’s the secret:  (you might want to pause for a second, pick up a pen and a piece of paper or a notecard, and write this down.  It’s huge.)

In order to say “no” – well, you just say “no.”

That’s it.

I know, I know.  Too simplistic.

But it’s the truth.

You see, there are some things you and I cannot say “no” to, and there are some people that we cannot say “no” to.  Our jobs, our bosses, our responsibilities, our commitments, our spouses, the IRS – you just don’t say “no” and expect it to be okay!

But there are some things you have to say “no” to.  There are times you have to say “no” to something you want to do in order to take care of your soul.  There are times you have to say “no” to opportunities in order to have greater future opportunities.

It’s not hard to say no.  You can do it right now – maybe even practice.  Put this down, go look in the mirror, and just practice saying “no” for a few minutes!

It’s really about making choices – what is most important; what am I willing to sacrifice; what should I sacrifice; what things should I say “no” to in order that I can say “yes” to other things.

What things in your life have you been saying “yes” to instead of saying “yes” to Jesus, for example?

It’s a good question for each of us to ask ourselves – what should I be saying “no” to that I’ve been saying “yes” to?

And maybe it’s a good question to ask Jesus – “Jesus, what should I be saying ‘no’ to so that I can say ‘yes’ to more important things for You?”

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

“Don’t Judge Me!”

I don’t hear it quite as much recently, but a few years ago, it seemed like everyone was saying “don’t judge me…” for just about everything – eating ice cream, wearing pajama pants in public, eating weird combinations of things, cheering for a certain sports team, watching certain TV shows, etc.  It was usually meant as a fun way of saying “let me do my thing, even though I realize it may look weird to you!”


The truth is, though, that none of us like to be judged.

However…even though we don’t like to be judged, and as followers of Jesus we know it’s wrong to judge others, the truth is that if we’re honest, most of us judge others fairly often.  We usually don’t express it out loud, but we can think some pretty harsh things.  (Well, I’m confessing I do that more than I should.  Probably none of you ever do that, right???!!!)

But judging people is dangerous for our souls – more dangerous than we may realize.

I was reading a devotional from Ted Dekker’s “The Forgotten Way” today when I read something that helped me understand this more clearly.  So just to be clear, this is not original with me.  But it was such a strong realization that I wanted to share it with you.

Jesus warned us against judging others in Matthew 7:1-5, where he said, “Stop judging others.  Before you point out the speck in someone else’s eye, get the telephone pole out of your own eye.”  (That’s the HP version – “Hunter Paraphrase.”)

But why is judging so bad?

Ted Dekker helped me realize something about judging that I had never seen before in Scripture.

In Genesis 2:16-17, God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 

Think about that.  The fruit of that tree was the knowledge of what was good and what was evil – in other words, the fruit of that tree was judgment.  Not just knowing the difference, but deciding what was good and evil.

Dekker puts it this way: 

“Yeshua (Jesus) made it plain:  when you judge others, a plank of offense blocks your sight.  When you begin to see, your might be surprised to discover that your whole life is full of judgment against people, things, places, nations, groups, and above all, yourself.

Why?  Because the flesh was born out of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, which is condemnation.  Thus the flesh loves grievance and is addicted to negativity, which is its food for survival.

But if you remove that plank of offense against others, you will see clearly.  Surrendering judgment frees you from its harsh judgment of you.”

Do you get that?  Our very sin nature was born out of the fruit of judgment!  So when we judge (which is, in essence, taking the position of God over others), we are feeding our sinful nature and not our nature as a new creation in Christ.  In judging, we are choosing to live as who we once were, not who we are in Christ!

When you see that clearly, you begin to understand that judging is one of the most harmful things that you can do to your own soul.

“Ahh,” but I hear some of you say, “but what about discernment?  Aren’t we supposed to discern?  Isn’t discernment even a spiritual gift???”

Quite true. 

Let me suggest an important difference.  Discernment, which is of the Spirit, is based on hearing from God, and will not result in us treating the other person with anything other than love.

Judgment, which is of the flesh, is based on condemning others, and will result in us acting out of a critical spirit or at least looking at others out of a critical spirit, rather than out of love. 

In other words, discernment reflects the Father’s heart; judgment reflects the flesh, and a pharisaical heart.

Another way to consider it:  Discernment is restorative and protective; judgment is punitive and often takes offense – or takes the offensive.  (I know; I’ve done plenty of judging.)

I know, I know.  “But what about…what does that look like…how about…”

This is a blog, not a chapter in a book.  What I’ve tried to give you this morning is food for thought about our thought lives, not a completely developed theology or a guide to how to walk this out.

Let me suggest this for today – take a few moments and ask the Spirit, “how do I judge others, and myself, without realizing it?  How badly am I hurting my own soul when I do that?”

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Be All You Can Be!

I remember seeing ads for the Army a long time ago that used the tag line, “Be All You Can Be.”  I looked it up on Wikipedia and found out that it was the official recruiting slogan of the U.S. Army from 1980 to 2001.  It must have worked pretty well – it stuck in my mind, and I’m sure it stuck in the minds of many others!  And I lived in Canada for 4 of those years!

“Be All You Can Be” sounds exciting; it’s motivating, it creates an image of excellence in your mind when you imagine it, and it opens your thinking up to new potential and possibilities.  And it has multiple applications!  Who wouldn’t want to be all they can be – as a spouse, as a parent, as a professional, as a friend, as a whatever-your-hobby-is.  I love to write – I want to be all I can be as a writer!  And I enjoy playing tennis – I want to be all I can be as a tennis player!  (Although realistically, there are some major physical limitations that come into play there as I get older.  And there are certainly some issues with my form and habits and style and overall ability and…wow, now I’m depressed about my lack of real tennis skills!)

“Be All You Can Be” isn’t a bad tag line when we’re thinking about spiritual formation and “being” either.  At least, it’s not bad unless it creates a “performance mentality” within us about “being.”

Because “being” isn’t about performance.  Not at all.  It’s about simply being – being with our Father.

But we live in this competitive, performance-based, action-oriented, pressure-filled world in which we are constantly challenged through advertising, social media, peer pressure, and cultural norms to be better and better.  Look better.  Feel better.  Have better hair.  Better skin.  Better muscle tone.  Better eating habits.  More hydration.  More exercise.  At work, get more done.  Be more efficient.  Be a better employee, or employer.  At church, be a better follower of Jesus.  Be more compassionate, more generous, more active, more serving, more involved.  The lists go on and on and on and they get tiring just reading and thinking about them all.

And if we’re not careful, we can bring that performance-based mentality to “being.”  We can feel guilty over how poorly we think we do at it.  We can assume others judge us for how we “be” or fail to “be.”  In fact, realistically, there are probably some of you who are reading this who think that because I’m writing about it, I think I’m better at it than you are and that I’ve judged you for not being better at “being.”  (That’s not true, by the way!)

Being is just that – being.  Just being with your Father. There’s no right way, no wrong way.  Over the past several blogs, I’ve tried to share some simple tools and methods that are effective in helping us slow down and “be.”  But “being” is about you and your Father, and because of that, it’s a very personal thing.  Ultimately, you are the only one who will know how you are best able to set other things aside, slow down, be silent, and just be with your Father.  It will take time and intentional trial and error to learn that about yourself.  But it’s well worth it.

And ultimately, you are the only one who can make the choice for yourself to slow down and make space to just be with Him.  No one else can do that for you.  No one else can do that for me. 

All the blogs, articles, podcasts, and books in the world won’t change that.

So let’s start with today.  Sometime today, will you choose to just be with your Father – to just sit with Him and enjoy His presence?  Why not take a moment right now – decide when and where, and put it on your calendar.  And then show up when the time comes.

The more often you “be”, the easier it will become, until one day, you will wonder how you ever made it through a day without “being” with Him.

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

“Being” Together

I spend a lot of time with people.  I love people; I care about people.  I have a lot of compassion for hurting people, and whenever I am with hurting people, I find myself desperately wishing I could do more to help them.  It’s difficult going through painful things, and it’s difficult watching friends go through painful things when you feel helpless to do anything about it.  But I’ve learned that sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is just to be with someone in their pain.

One of the reasons I am in full-time ministry is because I want to help people grow and experience all the life that Jesus has for them.  People matter.

And people matter to God.  Jesus proved that at the cross.

But people are also problematic.  They can be cruel and hurtful and they can stab you in the back.

My journey with people has been complicated.  As a PK (“preacher’s kid”), I watched my parents go through a lot of pain because of things that people said and did.  And so as a result, I often judged people internally, assuming I knew their motives and personalities – often without taking the time to get to know them.

I spent a lot of my life closing people off.  Oh, I was friendly and went out of my way to help people; I would have said I loved people.  But inwardly, it was another story.  And trusting people?  That was very difficult.  I decided as a high school student that it was much better to not let too many people “in” – to not be vulnerable with too many people.

I would still get hurt, but not as deeply.

And then one sunny Florida afternoon, I was having lunch with a friend.  He was a church-planter; I was pastoring an established church.  We were both bi-vocational, struggling just to make ends meet, and working on the same job together.  That day, we were talking about some different experiences we had gone through in ministry, life in general, and I don’t recall what else.  He asked me something, and I brushed off his question with a vague response.  I will never forget what he said to me next:  “Don, you don’t make it very easy to get ‘in.” 

I knew exactly what Tim was talking about.  I was vigilant about keeping the walls up.  Even with my friends.  And he was frustrated because he was opening up to me about deep life stuff, and I was happy to listen to him and be there for him – but I wouldn’t take the same risks of opening up to him as he was taking with me.

climbing helping  team work , success concept

What does any of this have to do with “being”?

One of the ways that we learn to “be” and that we just are able to “be” is to spend time in community with people.  And the deeper you go, the more vulnerable you are, the more intimate the community becomes, the deeper the “being” becomes.  In other words, in the act of being vulnerable and opening up and sharing your life, you are “being” in one of the ways that God created you to “be.”

That’s hard for me.  But after that conversation with Tim a couple of decades ago, I’ve pushed myself to take risks.

It hasn’t been easy and I haven’t always been as “real” as I need to be.  But I’m taking the journey, and I’m taking it with friends.

Here are a couple of ways I’ve intentionally tried to lean into community:

  • A group in our church meets every week for “Coffee With Jesus.”  Over the past few years, the make-up of the group has dramatically changed.  It was difficult for me.  It went from a “safe place” to a group with a few safe people, but many more people with whom I wasn’t sure I felt safe.  But I took the risk of being real.  And I survived.  And now, that group is a safe place – which I would never have known if I hadn’t taken the risk of being willing to be vulnerable with my own life.  (I’m learning, among other things, that you can’t really lead without being vulnerable.  It’s important to set boundaries – Jesus certainly did – but a certain amount of self-disclosure is vital to effective leadership.
  • A few years ago, a good friend invited another friend and I to spend a day with him in Erie.  We went to Presque Isle and spent the day hanging out.  We had a conversation about creating intentional, vulnerable, honest community within our group.  It was exciting and terrifying at the same time.  We talked that day about things that we had never talked with anyone about before.  It was a huge risk.  But after a few years of intentionally getting together monthly, we talk about anything and everything.  I’ve been asked some pretty hard questions in our times together.  In fact, we’re getting together this afternoon because I asked them for some help with processing some crap in my life that has been stirred up with the physical issues I’m dealing with right now.  It’s not always fun or comfortable, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
  • Over the past few months, Jewel and I have had opportunities to connect deeply with two other couples who are going through some serious life struggles right now.  We’ve shared openly with them about some very difficult issues in our lives, and they have done the same with us.  Each time, it felt like a huge risk to me – old “stuff” tends to come flooding back, and the issue of “I’ve been burned before” rears its ugly head.  But we are finding deep friendship and Christ-like support in walking through some very hard things.  Without these friends, we would feel very alone in some of the things that we are journeying through right now.  But with these friends, we feel loved and accepted and we know we’re not in this alone.

So what’s the bottom line of this long, rambling blog?  It’s this – if you really want to learn to “be” you need to “be” in community.  You need to take the risk of opening up to some people and talking about the deep things of your life – the joys, the pains, the trials, the fears, the doubts, all of it.  You need to be wise; choose your friends wisely.  But go deep.  Being with the right people can help you “be” on a whole new level as you experience the Presence of God in deep community.

It’s a huge risk, I know.  It sounds terrifying.

And it is.

But it’s worth it.

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.