If You Can

It was a big weekend in our house; we celebrated two college graduations. Our daughter graduated with her BA in Communication with a minor in Marketing and I graduated with a Masters in Public Administration. It makes you wonder what you can really accomplish if you put your mind to it. Yes, there is always a little hard work to add in the mix but you have to want it in order to achieve it. At this point in my life, I wasn’t sure how I could get it done. I was working here and there; I’ve been on City Council and working through those challenges, and then try to meet the demands of a Graduate program. A good friend of mine asked me how I managed to juggle all of the balls at once. Honestly, I’m not sure but I know a few things helped tremendously. I have an awesome family that is understanding and patient. My wife and son in particular, suffered most during these past 18 months. They missed me simply being present in the family. I was constantly working on homework or writing papers while they picked up the slack around the house. My son missed out on our quality time together – the whole point of my working from home. My friends were supportive and always encouraging. So how did I manage to juggle all of the balls? I didn’t, it was a team effort! If everything is possible, what would you do? Is there something holding you back from going after a dream or the next step in your career or life? I found myself talking about enrolling in a Masters Program for months before I finally did it. Eventually, I just took my fears straight on and jumped in. Having the confidence that I was protected by my faith is what I believe allowed me to leap. There are no boundaries in your life if you have the right people in corner; starting with a strong faith in God’s power.

“’If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

I love imagining Jesus speaking to me directly when I read verses like this. We’re just sitting outside on the patio on a sunny afternoon with perfect temperatures. I, of course, say something that gets His attention and He replies, “If you can?” As if to say, “why wouldn’t you?” or “Why do you doubt yourself?” He then begins to reassure me about all of things I’ve done so far and how God has been at work all of these years preparing me for this moment. “If you can?” He says again. “Why can’t you? Give me one good reason why you can’t”, He dares me. Of course, I have no good reason other than being afraid. He then gently reminds me, “Everything is possible if you believe in the power, the grace and love of God.” I learned over the years that God puts a team of people in our life to prepare us for just a time as this. I never imagined going to school at this point in my life but I’ve been preparing for it for years and I just didn’t know it. With God, everything is possible. Don’t let anything or anyone stand n your way.

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Trouble and Doubt

I won’t deny that there are a lot of things to be worried about these days. I would suggest that many of us worry about things that don’t exist or things that we anticipate will happen but never do. This week our daughter will graduate from college and move back home until she finds a job. The job market for college graduates, let alone thousands of others, has been horrible the past five years. Fortunately, she has three great job possibilities that she will have to choose from. I’m not worried. What troubles you? Is it something tangible or is it something that you are worrying about before it actually happens?

I’ve never been known as a positive person. I’ve always had to be planning for the worst but hoping for the best. In management, you have to be on guard for the things that will hurt you or the organization. It’s important however, to celebrate when things go right. Many managers forget to do that. They become so focused on problem avoidance or fixing problems that they fail to recognize the great things happening around them. They worry about things that “could” happen and miss the good things that do happen. So what are you worried about? What troubles you? It’s impossible to avoid worrying so the key is learning to keep it in check. Others have suggested that worry and doubt is more of an emotional response and that the best way to counteract it is through logic. Look closely at what you are worrying about and see if it is an actual or a perceived problem. Th.en you work through the emotions to find solutions

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?
Luke 24:38

In this verse, Jesus was speaking to His disciples when He first showed Himself to them. What if Jesus was asking you these questions? Why are you troubled and what doubts do you have? Jesus would tell you is that you should be sending all of your worries to the Father. It can be argued that the emotion of worry (trouble) is a product of the devil. It is a great way to put separation between you and God because if you don’t think that God is with you in your life when you are feeling crushed by doubt, you will turn away from God.

Maybe you’ll rely more on yourself, maybe you’ll turn to “an escape” or maybe you’ll simply let the doubt take over and crush you. When these things happen, you push God away; just what the devil wants. Before that happens, go back to Jesus asking you – He is speaking to you in this verse; why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? How will you answer Him? We’ve been taught in other verses to lift our concerns to God in prayer. Sounds like great advice.

What is Love?

In particular during these past two weeks, I’ve witnessed three people demonstrate what love is. We all say that we know when we find love it but so many of us can’t define it. Few of us are lucky enough to find that person, get married and stay married; we know love and express it in many ways. Lisa and I started dating 31 years ago this month (maybe even this week) and she has always shown me what love is. Her support of my career and of each step during my non-traditional education path, not to mention the thousands of dollars from our savings and she never said no. Not to mention the five houses we’ve had in three states because of my career. I could write all day about her but she isn’t one of examples. One is of a wife being by her husband’s side as he has his third brain tumor removed while being worried that she’ll won’t be able to meet the needs of her clients (she’s a sole proprietor), another is the best friend of our dear friend’s (Joe) wife who made sure that I knew about Joe’s retirement following his stroke 14 months ago. She also is there for Joe’s wife Kathy, to help her or to just listen because Joe needs constant care. Kathy says that everyone should have a friend just like her.

But the one most demonstrating love is Joe’s wife Kathy. We met them just over 27 years ago when Joe and I started to work together. They became great role models for Lisa and I about raising a family. Today, Joe is in a wheelchair and unable to care for himself. Kathy tirelessly cares for him and does so with a positive attitude and a smile on her face. Everyone that knows her will say that she is one of the strongest people you will ever meet. She has always been there for her friends when they had trouble. Her and Joe were there for us when our daughter was born prematurely at 27 weeks. She takes care of Joe with such love and care. She will even joke that this isn’t what she envisioned in retirement but she is grateful for what she has. To me, this is what Love is.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. 1 John 3:16

To be honest, this devotion is not ending the way I envisioned when I started it. So, what is love? I believe that we recognize love because we have seen it demonstrated to us. People like Kathy learned about love from someone else, who learned it from someone else and so on. The first real show of love came from God and has been written for us in the Old Testament. God continued to fight for His people, protect them and still cared for them even when they disobeyed. Instead of turning to anger for rejecting His commandments, God turned to Love and sent us His Son; a savior to give us all a chance to be with Him.

During His ministry, Jesus taught us about Love. He asked for forgiveness of the Soldiers crucifying Him because they did not know what they were doing. Jesus taught us to take care of each other and serve one another not ourselves. He knew what was happening to Him and yet He still gave His life for us. He could have pushed the “Easy Button” and went somewhere else to avoid His death, He didn’t. The friends that I’ve seen over these past two weeks could have found another way to deal with their situations but they didn’t, there are plenty of “Easy Buttons” to push these days. They didn’t because they all know what real Love is. We don’t know why Joe had his stroke or why my other friend’s husband has had three brain tumors, but God is showing us what love is through these amazing people.

Easter is the reason for our faith

Happy Easter Monday! For some reason this Easter really hit home for me, from a “Christian Church” perspective. I’ve always known it but I wanted to write about it this week because, Easter is really the point of our Christian faith. We say at Christmas that we should remember the reason for the season but Easter is the whole point. As Christians, we have nothing without Easter Sunday. So, I’m going to write this week’s devotion a little, okay a lot, differently. I want to focus on the whole message of what the third day really represents and start with a prayer first:

Almighty God the Father, open our eyes to see hope eternal in the empty tomb and let us rejoice. Through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

St. Paul writes in a letter to the Corinthians about the resurrection of Christ Jesus. I have nothing to add this week but his words, which were divinely inspired by God. In this letter we see God’s grace; we see that no matter what we’ve done, we are forgiven and; we know that we have hope in our lives. 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

I pray that you are reminded that God is with you and that Jesus died for all of our sins. It is because of His death that we now can enjoy eternal life.