I was traveling early this morning on my way to a conference. As I prepared to land in Atlanta for my connecting flight, I realized that I had just enough time to grab a quick breakfast sandwich and coffee.
Everyone else had the same idea.
The line for the only open coffee shop was long and the customers were cranky and irritated. To top it all off, there were only two available employees working that shift. They were also out of about half of their menu due to supply chain issues.
But I noticed something as I waited in line. The woman who was working the cash register remained extremely positive. She greeted each customer with a smile and a heart-felt “good morning.” She repeated what items were available and apologized for the inconvenience and long wait. It was refreshing. No matter the temperament of the current customer- she stayed calm and pleasant.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
I was incredibly impressed with this cashier. Despite the circumstances and environment, she was encouraging and kind. It was an example that several customers commented on when they approached her at the register.
It’s an example of how my attitude can be an example…either for good or bad. If we have the love of Jesus in our heart, we need to SHOW it. Let’s commit to being that person who is full of hope and love.
We’ll never know what impact it’ll have on someone else.
My prayer this week is to be more intentional about being positive. And please let me know how I can pray for you.
Jimmy Braddock was born into a poor family of Irish immigrants in 1905. His parents were hard-working and did all they could to support their seven children in the tough neighborhood of Hells Kitchen in New York City.
Jimmy dreamed of going to Notre Dame and playing for legendary coach Knute Rockne. But college wasn’t financially attainable and Jimmy went to work. He discovered that he had a gift for boxing, and after a series of successful amateur fights he turned pro at the age of 21.
He was known for his toughness and had a tremendously strong right hand. After three years, Jimmy had compiled an impressive 44-2-2 record. He was eventually given a fight against the heavyweight champion, Tommy Loughran in 1929. His successful career took a bad turn that night, as he not only lost his shot at the title, but he also damaged his prized right hand.
He went on to fight 33 more times after breaking his hand, but never returned to his prior glory- going 11-20-2 in that span.
Jimmy eventually found himself a forgotten, broken boxer. To make matters worse, the events surrounding the Great Depression created an unstable time for Jimmy and his family. He was unable to box. He was unable to find steady work. He had lost everything.
But something happened over the next several years. He had to walk many miles a day to the New York City docks to look for daily work. The manual labor he participated in each day not only strengthened and healed his right hand, but it made Jimmy’s left hand even stronger than his right. Jimmy’s health had improved, as had his resolve to better provide for his family.
He got the chance to fight professionally again- and he jumped at it. Jimmy was first regarded as simply a journeyman fighter…and easy victory for other young boxers. But Jimmy won his early fights. And eventually garnered enough attention that he was given another shot at the title in 1935. Fighting a much younger and much stronger champion, Jimmy overcame all odds and defeated Max Baer to become the heavyweight champion of the world!
What can we learn from Braddock’s story?
Life is all about valleys and peaks: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Think about the obstacles that Braddock overcame. He was born poor, rose to become a successful fighter, lost everything and then fought back to reclaim his career and life. But he learned from each and every lesson in life. We can too. Our trials teach us steadfastness and perseverance so that we may become complete. What are you learning during periods of adversity?
When you don’t know what to do, do what’s right in front of you: Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3
When uncertainty and doubt hit Braddock’s life, he did what came naturally. He knew he had to take care of his family, so he went to work. He did what was right in front of him…a singular focus on survival. We can have similar focus in our lives too. If we turn our eyes to Jesus and make Him our first priority, all our other plans will become clear. What can we do? Read the Bible. Study and reflect on the lessons. Worship and serve others. Pray diligently.
Learn and practice gratitude: Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38
Braddock never forgot all the help he was given while he was a child and again as an adult when he lost everything. He repaid all the government assistance he and his family were given during the Great Depression. He joined the Army in WWII and trained soldiers in hand to hand combat. He later opened a construction business and provided many with an opportunity to make a good living. Braddock was grateful for what he had received. We should be too. Let’s have that giving spirit that comes from a relationship with Jesus. Let’s be thankful and give without hesitation to others.
My prayer this week is to look at obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow. Please let me know how I may pray for you.
I was driving to work earlier this week and witnessed a man cross his yard and pick up a poorly-thrown newspaper from his elderly neighbor’s yard…and go place it on her porch.
A simple, meaningful gesture.
A recent survey suggested that 55% of Americans are feeling more stressed than they were just a few months ago.
There are disagreements about the coronavirus and reopening our country. We are having tough conversations about race and justice. People are experiencing financial strain and social isolation.
There’s a lot to process. And it’s hard to know what to do.
A mentor once told me that when the world is chaotic and unclear, the best thing we can do is focus on what’s immediately in front of us…and act.
And what’s directly in front of me everyday? People.
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. Romans 13:9
During times of great societal stress and strain, we can all do something to help our neighbors. It’s truly simple…get out of “self” and into a “serve” mentality. Service doesn’t have to be a significant, public event. It can be as easy as paying someone’s electric bill. Or calling to check on the sick or homebound.
Or standing up for someone who desperately needs it. Your family. Co-workers. The child next door.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. Romans 15:2
Love your neighbor as yourself. And where are our neighbors? They are right in front of us.
My prayer this week is to have the awareness to recognize ways to serve my neighbors…and the courage to act.
I’ve been acutely focused on wounds these past few months.
My dad has struggled with diabetes for many years, but recently it’s gotten progressively worse. Recent surgeries have caused both physical pain and emotional hardship.
There are lots of unknowns related to his future. And the uncertainly can take you to dark places.
The New York Times recently reported that from 2016 to 2017, the proportion of adults who described themselves as more anxious than the previous year was 36 percent. In 2017, more than 17 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode, as did three million adolescents ages 12 to 17. Forty million adults now suffer from an anxiety disorder — nearly 20 percent of the adult population.
These are the known cases of depression. The actual numbers must be astronomical.
Wounds have always existed. There are many examples in the Bible:
The woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11)
Struggles with family, like the prodigal son (Luke15: 11-18)
Persecution because of following Jesus (2 Corinthians 11: 23-28)
We hurt in many ways. Wounds of regret of past sins. Wounds of illness and sickness. Wounds of broken relationships (perhaps the toughest of all…)
Fortunately, we have a Savior that has borne wounds for us.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. ￼He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. ￼When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. ￼He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 2 Peter 2: 21-24
By His wounds we have been healed.
How do we begin to heal? I suggest three ways:
Learn from the past. An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:15. We must learn from our mistakes and acknowledge our forgiveness. (“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:45). We must also seek forgiveness from others when necessary.
Focus on the present. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
Realize the potential of the future. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life. John 5:24. Finally, remember that suffering always precedes glory, as the Savior said of his own wounding (Luke 24:26).
I don’t know what you are struggling with today, but I do know that there is relief. My prayer focus this week will be for the millions of unknown issues across our world that are creating wounds.
And if I can pray for you specifically and confidentially, please let me know.
The stores in my hometown are already filled with Christmas decorations. Holiday wreaths adorn neighborhoods mailboxes and doors. Social media is filled with photos of friends displaying their Christmas trees. Holiday music is on the radio.
I’m not sure why. Thanksgiving is an important season of reflection and gratitude. A time to pause with family and friends. A time to count our blessings.
But we’re barreling right past it toward Christmas. A missed opportunity to celebrate all that we are thankful for in our lives.
It’s not surprising, actually.
How often do I stop during the day to reflect on the blessings in my life?
Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 106:1
God has richly blessed me with a great family, incredible friends, my health and a job that I love. I’m so blessed.
Yet I don’t pause and say “thanks” nearly enough.
I skip thanksgiving every day, if I’m not careful.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
My prayer this week is to pause more often…to stop and thank God for the blessings in my life. My family. My health. My friends.
I was recently traveling on a crowded flight on a work trip. My row was full, but fortunately I had an aisle seat.
Just across the aisle was a woman traveling alone with a toddler and a newborn. She had her hands full….literally. The infant was crying and the toddler was all over the seats, floor and aisle. The mother looked exhausted.
The toddler and I struck up a series of short conversations while we waited for takeoff. She asked lots of questions.:
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
Where are you going?
What are you reading?
Do have babies at home?
I enjoyed our interactions, and it seemed to keep the toddler occupied (and give her mom a break).
Shortly into the flight, the toddler announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. Her mom said that the baby had just gone to sleep, and asked if she (the toddler) could wait until the plane landed.
The kid couldn’t wait. It was an emergency. She needed to go NOW.
Frazzled, the mom looked across the aisle at me and said:
“I hate to ask you this, but can you please hold my baby while I take my daughter to the bathroom?”
She looked sad and anxious. I’m sure that she had weighed her options and determined that her best solution was to ask a stranger to hold her sleeping baby while she assisted her toddler.
“Of course,” I replied. She reluctantly placed her baby into my arms. I held her sleeping child for about 5 minutes until the family returned to their seats.
“Thank you,” the mom said with tears in her eyes.
I sat back and processed what had just happened. This woman trusted a stranger to hold her precious baby so she could help another child. She was out of options and had to throw her trust into me.
Trusting your baby to a stranger.
Have you ever felt so desperate that you didn’t know where to turn?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and trust not in your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
Our faith is tested daily. We have health obstacles, work issues and family troubles. Sometimes challenges in my life are so complex that I can’t see an answer.
But I have to remember to let go and ask God for guidance.
This week my prayer is to not rely on my own wisdom, but to ask God for solutions and inspiration to address life’s challenges.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Psalm 118:8
My neighbor walks his son to our local elementary school everyday. I get watch them as I leave my house for work. They walk and talk for the three block journey to the school.
What a great experience it is for the dad…starting his day with his son.
And what an opportunity it is for the son, too. What protection and comfort he must feel! He’s starting the day with his #1 fan by his side!
For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Luke 11:10-13
I realize that I have that same opportunity. Our Heavenly Father is waiting for us…ready for us to come to Him for comfort, counsel and peace.
My prayer this week is to be more intentional about my time with God. I want to make more time each day to go to Him in prayer. To ask for advice. To seek comfort. To offer appreciation for the blessings in my life.
I had the pleasure of traveling to Africa several years ago. It’s a fascinating continent and the beauty of the terrain and the warmth of its people make it a wonderful place to visit.
I’ll never forget the lions, either.
There’s nothing more incredible than watching lions in their habitat. They are stately, handsome and powerful creatures. Lethal hunters too. Watching them stalk and attack prey from the safety of our vehicles was an incredible…and eerie…sight.
Beauty and death. All in one package. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.
Isn’t sin like that too? It’s enticing and fun to watch. It feels good too.
And while we are warned of the devil’s power, his tactics of deception often times make sin hardly detectable. Sin creeps into our lives and clouds our vision…changes our hearts. Before we know it, sin can overpower us.
Let’s not kid ourselves. The enemy is real. And he is ever-present.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
My prayer this week is to take an honest assessment of the sin in my life. I don’t want the attractive nature of sin to take my focus away from a full life with Jesus.