Life as a Rodeo

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Three Lessons Learned from a Virus

What a difference two weeks can make.

Just a few short days ago, I was considering overseas travel this Fall. I was busy preparing for a business trip to Florida in April. The university campus where I work was filled with students coming back from Spring Break. Everyone was eating out, traveling freely and worshiping with friends. Life was good.

All of that has come to a sudden halt.

The coronavirus has now been labeled a worldwide pandemic. The United States now leads the world in confirmed cases. 

Schools are closed, sporting events are cancelled and travel is restricted. Americans are being encouraged to only go out when necessary. Social distancing has become a “thing.”

We are hurting: financially, educationally, emotionally and spiritually. 

The coronavirus has in Biblical terms, become a Goliath

But I’ve learned three key lessons in the past two weeks that I’d like to share.

  1. Human interaction is essential.  We’ve been asked to limit our exposure to others and the world is hurting…because we are built for fellowship! Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17.  We need to make certain that we are interacting with others on a daily basis…either on the phone, social media or an appropriately-spaced walk with neighbors! Companionship- in whatever form- is important.
  2. God’s beauty is manifested in the outdoors.  We’ve yearned for opportunities to get outside during the coronavirus episode. While we’ve been discouraged from shopping, dining out and traveling…simple activities like walking the neighborhood with family or taking drives along country roads have become an oasis in this time of isolation. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Psalm 145:5 I’ve taken time to watch both sunrises and sunsets on several occasions in the past week. God’s glory is all around us in the outdoors. Get outside and enjoy his wondrous works.
  3. Focused prayer is crucial to building our faith.  I’m guilty of rushing through prayers each day. But my prayer life these past two weeks has been more specific than usual. Prayers for the struggling. Prayers for the medical professionals and first responders. Prayers for a vaccine. Prayers for the small businesses and schools. Intense, focused and intentional prayer. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

It’s hard to see any silver lining, but my hope is that we emerge from this crisis a stronger, more humble nation. Many of life’s distractions are limited right now, so perhaps our focus can be on purposeful relationships with family and friends… and our walk with Jesus.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

Jesus loves you.

God bless.

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Empty

I took this photo of my Jeep tonight as I left the office.

It’s been a wild seven days. Early last week, we had a campus of excited students and a myriad of activities. Within 24 hours we were shifting classes to online formats and letting students return to their homes. It’s like we flipped a switch.

And it’s not just here. The coronavirus has impacted lives all over the country. We’ve watched the situation overseas with interest in the Fall, but few realized how fast the virus would spread…and how quickly it would impact our lives.

We’ve been encouraged to stop gathering in groups. To isolate. To stay at home. The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to create distance from one another.

And like the photo of my Jeep indicates- it’s a lonely existence right now.

The Los Angeles Times ran a news story this week about how working from home, seeing empty shelves in stores and- yes- the plunging stock market can cause anxiety and depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even talk about it on their website.

And man…I’m feeling it.

The Bible speaks quite a bit about times like these.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:6-8

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lordyour God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Tough times come. I’ve read about the plagues from 100 years ago. We’ve faced uncertain financial future before. Wars have ravaged our country and torn apart families. This earth is filled with uncertainty and fear.

But Jesus provides peace. He promises hope. He promises a future.

When I doubt myself or our future this week, I pledge to double-down in my prayer life.

When I’m anxious about our current situation, I will give it over to the One who cares for us beyond measure. I’m going to pray to the One who loves me unconditionally.

And when I feel empty, I’m going to ask Jesus to fill me with his love and blessed assurance.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Pray for me during these uncertain times. And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless and keep you. Always.

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Wounded

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 (Luke 15: 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:

  1. Learn from the pastAn 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.
  1. Focus on the presentSet your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
  1. Realize the potential of the futureTruly, 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.

God bless you.

 

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Pause

We’ve entered the busiest time of the year.

End of year deadlines at work. Holiday travel. Last-minute shopping. Receptions, events and special holiday programs.

It’s also a stressful time. A recent study suggests that 62% of people report elevated stress levels during the holidays. The main culprits? Family and financial pressures.

And during this time, we can also squeeze out time with Jesus. Yep. I’m guilty too.

I suggest that we all need a pause.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Take your cares to Jesus…and He will give you relief and rest.

Pause for five minutes today. Intentionally take time to pray. Focus completely on your blessings and needs. Offer up your hopes, desires and fears. Jesus craves this time with us.

And He will provide relief.

My prayer this week is to pause each day and spend more time with our Lord and Savior.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Skipping Thanksgiving

We’re skipping Thanksgiving this year.

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.

And especially, Jesus Christ.

I don’t want to skip thanksgiving ever again.

And please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you.

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Tug of War

The college where I work really celebrates Homecoming in a big way. One of the student traditions is a huge tug of war competition called “Rope Pull.” Literally hundreds of people- including alumni- come out to watch student groups compete against one another.

As I watched this week, I couldn’t help but think about my own personal tug of war. The daily struggle between doing good or allowing my selfish desires to take control.

Pride. Selfishness. Anger. Resentment. Greed. All of these feelings cloud my thoughts and let the pull of sin take over. A losing battle of tug of war.

Fortunately, Jesus won the fight over sin. We may lose a battle, but Jesus has won the war.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the means of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

While our sinful nature can cause us to stumble and fall, we can be confident that God will always provide hope, escape and relief.

My prayer this week is to examine my heart for hidden sin and bad habits- and to have the courage to pray for strength to deal with it.

God loves the humble in spirit! Let’s recognize our struggles and resolve to do better.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Walking with the Father

I see an awesome sight most mornings.

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 want to experience the Father.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Comparison is a Thief

Like many of you, we are dog people. We’ve got two rescue dogs that keep us entertained and laughing.

Mack and Sky have similar stories. Both were abandoned as pups and were hungry for attention and permanent homes. But that’s where the similarities end.

Mack is a laid back pup that is grateful for anything. A rub on the head. A treat. A long walk. Whatever the day, he’s just grateful to be with you.

Sky is different. She’s never satisfied with what she has…but wants more. Take her for a walk? She wants to go farther. Give her a snack? She’ll ask for more. Rub her back or belly? She’ll cry when you stop.

Her biggest issue? Comparison. She will let you know if her meal isn’t comparable to Mack’s portion (although he outweighs her by 80 pounds). She’ll check out Mack’s treat before she’ll enjoy her own. It’s a running joke around the house…Sky just can’t fully enjoy life.

I’m not altogether different.

Like Sky, I often compare my life to others and let that dictate my own happiness.

A better car. A nicer house. The perfect family.

Comparison robs me of happiness.

Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Be content with what you have. Take notice of the blessings God has given you. He is faithful and gives us all we need.

This week my prayer is to focus on my blessings, and to be content with my present situation.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

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Abandoned coffee

IMG_0716For Hollianne and me, one of life’s greatest joys is a hot cup of coffee before daybreak.

Our boys are coffee drinkers too.  Or- should I say- coffee pourers.

My boys are notorious for preparing a fresh cup of coffee, doctoring it up with their favorite sweetener…and then leaving it on the kitchen counter.  For hours.

They get out of bed with lots on their minds…last minute homework, packing duffle bags for football practice and getting ready for school.  Breakfast is almost an afterthought.

And so is their coffee.  Cups filled with cold coffee adorn our countertops each day.  Forgotten.

I have a parallel in my spiritual life. I’m great about reading my Bible each morning. Praying too. But the busyness of the day soon provides a big series of distractions.

Duties at work, home and in my personal life consume my mind and daily activities. My self-centered nature prevents me from reflecting on the words of God…and from praying throughout the day.

In short, I’m a reader and listener…but not always a “doer.”

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

I have this great gift- a daily, unlimited source of grace, hope and forgiveness.  Yet I leave this joy untapped.  A cold up of grace and hope that often goes unused throughout the day.

My prayer this week is to be more intentional of reflecting on God’s love. I want to drink of His love and mercy and let it impact my whole being…all day, every day.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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