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Author: Rick

The Long First Step

You knew something was wrong. Maybe you were self aware. You recognized you weren’t enjoying things any more. Your energy was at low ebb. You had become an angry person. You blame your family. Their expectations of you are too high. They have drained your energy. All you are is a paycheck. They become the focus of your anger. You distance yourself physically and emotionally. There are fights and arguments. Gradually it dawns on you they are not the problem. You are suffering. Is it depression? Burnout? Mid-life crisis? On the other hand your friends and family may be the ones to point out that you are always angry. You don’t participate in activities any more. You stare off into space and when asked what you are thinking about you say, “Nothing” and it is the truth. They point out that you have changed, and not for the better. In a moment of clarity you admit they are right. They say, “Snap out of it.” They don’t know how hard you have been trying You are always the one in charge. You take care of others, they don’t take care of you. You are in control and so you tackle…

A Disruptive Party Guest

Have you ever had a disruptive guest at one of your parties?   Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?” Matthew 9:10. Msg This verse is about Levi, also known as Matthew. Right after Matthew began to follow Jesus he threw a party. Matthew, a tax collector, was probably not popular. But he knew some folks. He knew street people. In other words, Matthew had “rough and rowdy friends.” People from the “wrong side of the tracks”. Maybe some were pickpockets or homeless people. Matthew knew the seamier side of life. What did Matthew do? He threw a party for everyone he knew. A Jesus party. He wanted the people he knew to follow Jesus. And they came. Seldom are the homeless invited to a party. Who was the disruptive guest? The disruptive guest was Jesus. He was enjoying the party. There were some people there who were very proud of themselves.…

God You Want Me To Do What?

I like Moses. He has a great reputation. He lifted his rod and the Red Sea parted. As a lowly shepherd he asks for an audience with the most powerful man in the world, the Pharaoh of Egypt. Amazing! Shepherds were the lowest of the low. It was laughable that a shepherd would be allowed into the presence of the king. Not only that he was old, 80 years old. Ready for Social Security!  (Don’t count the old guys out!) And he spoke God’s word to Pharaoh:  “Let my people go!” (Imagine that in the deepest Charlton Heston voice.) Moses continued to face Pharaoh until Moses’ people were released from slavery. What a guy! But the real reason I like Moses is found in Exodus 3 and 4. Moses sounds like me. God said, “Moses I have a little job for you. I want you to go down to Egypt and tell old Pharaoh,  ‘Let my people Go!’” Moses replied, “Who me?” Have you ever had God ask you to do something, you look, and nobody else is around? Yes, He is looking at you. “Who Me?  You want me to do what?  I’m just now ready for my Shepherd’s…

Four Cons of Religious Hucksters

I almost got snookered. I almost fell for a pitch man. Nancy can tell  you that I am extremely sales resistant but this time… As a fledgling writer with a first book, I am vulnerable to pitches about it. One afternoon I got a phone call from a different publisher who said they were excited about promoting my book. The caller knew details about the book and said their “scouts” had identified my book as one they wanted to promote at the Atlanta book festival exhibit. (The Atlanta Festival is held for self-published authors and independent publishers to promote their books. The attendance is about 7,000 people. I did verify that.) It was enticing. They wanted me to come and sign books at their booth.  I was like wow, somebody thought my book was good! Then I researched this publisher. Warnings about them were posted on author web sites. Their ethics and actions have been repeatedly called into question. They almost had me. Jesus warned about religious hucksters in the Sermon on the Mount.  The Bible paraphrase the Message, puts Matthew 7: 13-20 this way:  “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for…

Is Self-Care Selfish? Is It Wrong?

“Love your neighbor as yourself”—Jesus Before you can really love your neighbor you must love yourself. But what does self-care mean? It begins with self-respect.You have been deeply loved by God. You are one of His masterpieces. Self-care flows from God’s love.  Selfishness and self-care are two very different things. Selfishness demands others respect. Selfishness is not kind to others unless there is some reward for it. It bullies others to gain respect. Self care is kind and respects yourself. You do not bully yourself or others because your contentment comes from deep within. Self-compassion is being content  with who you are, both strengths and weaknesses.. You are content with what you have. You are not jealous of the possessions and traits of others because you are comfortable with being the person God created you to be. Contentment means you don’t have to prove anything to anyone else. Selfishness hides the truth. It sweeps things under the rug. Lies are told as though they were truth. Self-care is not afraid of truth. It names and faces our inner demons and is not afraid. Self-compassion is courageous because He casts out fear by his perfect love. You are patient with yourself…

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

“What do you want to be when you get big?” our 3 year old grandson asked my wife Nancy. “Well, I think I will be a grandma,” she replied. Gabe said, “No. You can’t do that. You can be a farmer, like me.” Gabe already has his future figured out. So what is in your future? The Bible advises: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”  Proverbs 3:5. What is the key of walking into the future? Today’s problems can’t be solved with yesterday’s solutions. Tomorrow’s problems will not be solved with today’s answers. Living in nostalgia-land is living in the state of denial. What to do? Trust God and wait for His insight and wisdom. The first step to prepare for tomorrow is to realize God is God and you are not. Humility opens us for the future. Humility admits we don’t have all of the answers. Only the humble are teachable. Step one is let God be in charge. The second step is to have a grateful heart. A walk with God is a walk of joy. Our gratitude may contain the seed of the solution we seek. All we…

What Daniel Teaches Us About Committed Prayer

“Pray to me or it is the lions for you.” And so King Darius commanded all people to pray to him as their god. Pretty bold law isn’t it? But the governor of the nation, Daniel the Hebrew, is bolder still. What was Daniel’s response to the law to worship King Darius? The Bible says: “But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10 Daniel prayed as usual. He worshiped the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Prayer for Daniel was routine, a time to be alone with God. He had a set time, a specific place, a schedule for prayer. “As usual”, the Bible says, Daniel prayed. Would that be your response? There are lots of ways to pray. There are the quick lightening prayers scattered throughout the day. There are prayer books you can use to guide your thoughts. Short devotional books can show you an aspect of God’s character and encourage prayer. Smart phone apps can send you…

Slippery Slopes and Dirty Laundry

Whenever we go on a trip we always forget something. Home from a recent trip Nancy asked where I put the bag of dirty clothes. I had to mumble, “I don’t remember.”  My memory was registering high on the “forgetter-meter”. “I just don’t remember.” I finally had to confess. About twenty minutes later Nancy came back into the room. “I looked everyplace for that dirty laundry. You forgot it didn’t you?” “Uh. I think you are right. I don’t remember putting it into the car with the suitcase.” Yep. As per usual I forgot something. Do you think the motel will wash and return our dirty clothes? I don’t think so, either. Dirty laundry. I see people posting dirty laundry all over Facebook. Cursing, obscenities and gossip with no source in reality, is everywhere. In earlier times the F-bomb, when it was used, was truly an explosion. Now it has the effect of a wet firecracker. What happened? When did we start gaining speed on this slippery slide of incivility? Do we lack empathy for others? Why are we quick to judge? Has stress hardened us?Are there so many messages vying for our attention we can’t filter out the harmful?…

Following Jesus Through Troubles

We follow Jesus together. There are times when we despair. In these verse of 2 Corinthians Paul tells his friends that he and company were under great pressure…they wondered if they could live through it. 2 Corinthians 1:8 “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.” We have times like that. A child develops a cystic fibrosis. After working for 30 years your depression disables you. You are young and develop severe diabetes. Troubles turn us inward, isolating us from others. Peace of mind shatters.  Our thinking processes confused. We become convinced us that lies are truth, and truth lies. Our world becomes a lonely place. We despair even of life itself, just like Paul. We were not designed to go through life alone. And so… We follow Jesus together. Who is in your support team?  Who do you laugh with? Who do you cry with?  Do you have a mentor who can teach you about walking the Christian life? We need peers. We find strength from those who are going through similar trials and temptations. We need new Christians who share the excitement of beginning the Christian life. Jesus…

Remembering Our Legacy

Monday is Memorial day. It is the day we remember those who died protecting our freedom. We need to do this. For “there is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Though unknown to us these young men have been our friends. Unnumbered young marched off into the crucible of war to give us the right of liberty. We need to remember them. We are also in a spiritual war. It is good to remember those who have fought the fight, finished the race, and have kept their faith in Jesus. One of those in my life was Joe. Joe, a pastor, had an infectious laugh. His ministry was to conflicted churches to bring peace or to resolve conflict. Insults, mean comments, and gossip, just rolled off of him. But most of all he had a gentle spirit that empathized with you. He was a man of gentle toughness. And he served a lifetime for the Lord he loved. Bob was another spiritual friend who had a tremendous impact on my life. Although blind, his family and friends bought him a braille Bible. It took volumes to print the Bible in braille. In…