Post-birthday Musing: Forty-four years and counting

Yesterday was my birthday. It marked the start of my forty-fourth year on earth. Forty-three years have come and gone. Plenty of good, bad, and ugly have gone on those years. For me, the anniversary of my birth is essentially my personal New Year. It is a time to focus on God’s working in my life in the past, present, and future. As such it is a time of reflection, evaluation, submission, and thanksgiving.

    In terms of reflection, it is a time to look back to the changes that have occurred in the past year, the steps accomplished and the personal growth. It is a time truly to examine what it is that God has done in my life. The growth and progress in our lives can go un-noticed or seem insignificant unless time is spent looking back at how things have changed. Granted some years there seem to be more regression then progress but each year brings about change. In this past year though there has been definite growth in the spiritual, emotional, and relational level. The biggest area of growth is beginning to use and exercise the voice God has given me. Also and besides using the voice, my eyes, ears, and heart have been made aware of things previously ignorant or dismissive of in terms of the levels and layers of deception in the church.

    Not only is time spent reflecting on what progress have made in life but also time looking ahead at what areas still need work and what steps are needed to take to meet goals and vision. In doing an evaluation it is a good time to think about steps to take in year ahead and make plans for reaching those objectives. Certainly, in doing personal evaluation there are dangers. One danger is to start engaging in making comparisons rather than honest self-appraisal. At times it is hard to accept and recognize the differences in life. It is easy to look at folks my age who have children graduating from high school, for example. Another easy comparison is to look at where I am in my career and profession versus other people my age. The truth is God created each of us different and we do have different experiences be they good, bad, or ugly. How God shapes, guides, heals, and uses each of us is unique to our own personal journey and relationship. Yet, it is real easy to focus on what we think we lack. It is also really easy to focus on ways things may not have worked out as expected.

In terms of our agendas, plans, goals, visions, or objectives things often do not work out as we expect and it can be really easy to get caught up in our plans for bettering ourselves and engaging in our own plans and visions. As such, we need to constantly be evaluating whether we are pursuing our own plans or God’s plans. Ultimately such an attitude requires an evaluation of personal level of submission. A person’s birthday is a good time to take a hard look at self and renew submitting to God and serving his Kingdom versus our own. Granted, this is needed even day to day, moment to moment, but I find that a Birthday is a good time to commit the year ahead and any personal goals or plans to the King of Kings. It is a good day to renew the surrender of self.

Finally above all else, it is a time to be thankful before God for what he has done in your life, what is coming ahead, and what is going on in the moment. We need to remember whether we perceive progression or regression, if we are happy or unhappy, to be thankful. We are directed to rejoice in the Lord always, regardless of what else is happening. Our rejoicing really is not about our circumstance or what is happening but really about our surrender to Jesus the Messiah as King of Kings and His working in our lives to refine us. So whether the year was filled with many blessings or many trials, still rejoice for God is at work and He is the source of any peace or strength. Really after taking a step of surrendering self to God and submitting to him, the step of thanksgiving and rejoicing should be natural.

    In closing this article, I do want to simply encourage each reader to take time ask God to give me clarity and wisdom to see what he has ahead. Pray that I grow in my dying to self and practice greater moment by moment surrender of self. I have plans for the next year of my life, I have hopes that have yet to be fulfilled, but not as I will but as He wills. Above all my forty-fourth year of life is in God’s hands and I am thankful for whatever lies ahead.

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Swineflu Health Alert: Responses to health concerns

     Most everyone should be aware by know of the ongoing concern regarding the H1N1 virus being described as a swine-flu. Anytime there is a prospect of a pandemic it is scary.  We all have choices when we hear these kinds of news reports and world news events. 

     We can ignore concerns and engage in no preparation or precaution.  This is not a wise course of action, for there will be times coming when varied plagues and illness become more rampant.  There will be plagues about the earth, it is just a matter of when. 

     We can become panicked and fearful.  Often when news of disaster, world health concerns, or other potential disasters fear easily takes hold.  Fear is a natural response to such news events.  The question is what do you do with the fear.  You can become obsessed and withdraw or you can use it to draw you to take steps for your safety. Our feelings of fear are always a signal of a need for action, the question is always about whether the fear is real or perceived. 

   Another natural response is that of becoming obsessed over the concern.  When there is concerns of significant magnitude it is real easy, especially in this day and age to get caught up in attending to every piece of news on these items.

   The best course of action is to simply take the steps ready to prepare for the eventuality and take reasonable precautions.  The biggest thing any person can do to avoid infection is to engage in frequent hand washing.  When in public, it is also important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.   There are also vitamins you can take that can help prevent or minimize viral infection. This can include use of Vitamin D, heavy doses of Vitamin C, or other supplements.  There is information on the Internet that gives extensive directions for natural preventive supplements such as here: http://standeyo.com/NEWS/09_Health/09027.prep.4flu.

     Times like this are also a good time to re-evaluate your spiritual status.  It is a perfect time to reflect on areas of your life to make changes. It is a perfect time to consider whether or not you have turned your life to Jesus the Messiah and accepted the gift of salvation. For those that have, it is a good time to pray and seek and follow any prompting God may be stirring in your life.  This is true whether this health concern turns into a global plague/pandemic or just is simply another wake up call. 

    As a believer in Jesus as Messiah and one who seeks to walk in surrender to the Kingdom of God, it is not easy.  At times like these, thoughts become focused on how personal plans can be undone by such concerns. Yet, not my will but God’s be done.  God is and remains in control.  Sickness, illness, plague, and death all are in the course of the human experience, yet ultimately God has greater in store.  Only in God through the work of Jesus as messiah is there any true peace and joy.  And this is a perfect time for the body of Jesus, those of us serving the Kingdom of God to reach out to others and point them to the truth of God’s grace.  It is a time to pray and a time to call others to turn from their selfishness and recognize that no one is capable of self-redemption. Redemption is only possible through Jesus.

     So in closing, this is a time of concern.  There is a real threat to health that may impact the globe.  This is a great time to see to taking precautions for this life and to evaluate your spritual health and status.  It is also a great time to find ways to reach out to those around you and it may be as simple as praying for the safety and well being of those you know and who are around you.  Above all seek what God would have you do in time like this, at whatever the cost to self.

Lessons from a blown car engine: Stop, listen, and surrender

Learning that the engine to your care is beyond repair and needs to be replaced is never news you want to hear. It is even worse when you learn that there was a lack of personal responsibility which in turn invalidated the warranty. This news is new that causes lots of stress and conflict.

Learning that something said or written was hurtful and offensive to a friend is never news you want to hear. It is even worse when you take on a felt responsibility to smooth out a conflict in views and have faulty expectations and hopes. This is something that ends up with lots of hurt and need for relationships to be reconciled.

Both instances certainly did happen and ultimately were a result of being too caught up in my own thoughts and attending to self. God most likely tried to give warnings, even suggesting alternate actions, but when it came down to it, self was listened to over anything else.

When it comes to the car, there were thoughts to get the oil changed. At some point, self-deception came in and convinced self that what had not been done actually had been done. The result was the damaged engine and invalidated warranty.

In writing to my friend, I had a sense that what I had written shouldn’t be sent and wasn’t really what needed to be said nor what I wanted to say. Yet, I wrote what I wrote and sent it anyway and damage was done.

The biggest lesson here is when we don’t take the time to listen, seek God, and listen mistakes can be made that lead to damage. In both these cases, what was best for self, or though best, is what was engaged. Ultimately I reacted out of my own self and not in surrender to Jesus with the result of damage. It is a lesson learned, no matter what felt responsibilities, priorities, or busyness that if you do not stop, pray, listen, and surrender but act out of self-will and selfishness damage will occur.

Granted, not every bad, self-involved choice or decision a person makes results in damage. A lot of bad choices can be made that do not result in bad consequences. This very fact is even what leads us often down the path of acting out of self and taking risks and not listening because we think we know the answer. What God would rather have us do is seek, listen, and surrender. I hope, next time I need to listen I do a better job of setting aside self and walk in steps the God sets before me rather than my own.