Friday, September 23, 2016

The Surprising Seed of Heaven

 Poem by Mark Wilson  Photo by Hannah Wilson

 Faith, the seed of heaven
 planted by surprise in earthen soil.

 The barren ground reluctantly invites, mostly disdains
 this small possibility of hope.

 Stirs slightly, irritated, yawns and then settles
 back in lazy slumber mostly convinced
 that the interruption is merely
 a burial of another empty dream.

 Entombed in heavy darkenss
 the seed of heaven sings
 as it reaches for a land beyond its grasp
 and hopes for the hand of God it cannot see.

 But no dark place can silence
 the song of faith and hope.
 And calloused soil cannot withstand
 for long refreshing rains.

 Slowly, steadily, the seed of heaven toils
 upward, onward,
 through the dark
 towards heaven's gate.

 Sometimes singing.
 Sometimes sighing.
 Always longing
 for destiny awaits.

 Heaven beckons,
 Earth responds.
 That is the order of
 all created things.

 The earthen tomb
 becomes a womb
 of life anew --
 and resurrection!

 A seed, a sprout, a stalk,
 and then a slendid crimson flower
 Blooming where it first began
 it's morning hour.

 Looking up to see the smile of God
 Looking down upon the sordid place
 from which it came.
 And bearing precious treasure. . .

 another measure . . . 
 of the seed of heaven -- faith!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Financial Struggles Help Us Grow

Everyone deals with financial setbacks from time to time.  Money doesn't buy happiness - -but the lack of it can sure bring a lot of stress.  My father, talking about the lean years of the Great Depression, said they pinched pennies so tight, Abe Lincon hollered!  George Washington has hollered in my hands a few times!

When facing hard times financially, it pays to remember these are the only times we have.  We need to keep a proper perspective. Here are some important reminders as we face adversity:

1. God is far bigger than the problem.
If a financial crisis looms like a mountain, remember -- God is the mountain mover! There's no challenge too great for the Almighty. There is not one situation beyond His ability. Instead of telling God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big God is!

2. Hard times teach us wisdom.
Difficult days force us to stop and evaluate where we are, what we're doing, and why we're doing it. Nobody becomes wise with ease. It takes trouble to grow in patience and understanding.

3. The valleys are where we grow.
We rejoice on the mountaintops -- but we grow in the valley. Hardship forges character and makes us better people. The sweetest people I've ever met are those who have gone through the most difficult experiences.

4. There's always a reason to be thankful.
If we look for blessings in the darkest days, we will find them. Thanksgiving brings a special joy and peace.

5. We are never poor if we are rich in love.
In loving relationships, we find true wealth. Money can buy things, but not true happiness.

6. It's only money.
When the budget is tight, just remind yourself, "It's only money." Life is much more than money. We must never let money troubles take our focus off the more important matters of life.  Why get so uptight over little green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them?

7. We're blessed to be a blessing.
One major purpose of money is to help and encourage others.  If you happen to have a little extra, then. . .
a) be thankful
b)  be generous
b) be a blessing.

8) There's always hope at the end of the day.
No matter what happens, you'll get through it. The sun will rise tomorrow. When all is said and done, all will be well -- and only the eternal things will remain.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Your Results Depend on Your Reliance

“If you rely on training, you accomplish what training can do. If you rely on skills and hard work, you obtain the results that skills and hard, faithful work can do. When you rely on committees, you get what committees can do. But when you rely on God, you get what God can do.” 
-- Wesley Duewel in Ablaze for God

Friday, September 16, 2016

Grow For It!

We either just "go" through life or we can grow through it. 

The difference between going and growing is the big "R" -- Reflection!
Life is not so much about what happens to us as what happens in and from us.

When we take the time to reflect upon our experiences, we learn important lessons from them.

Failing to glean truth from circumstances, leads to a long rough journey of difficult consequences. going from bump to bump with a few ditches between. 

Reflection brings wisdom and understanding. Why just suffer through difficult experiences, when we can gain something from them? Why waste mistakes?

"Experience is not what happens to you," said Adlous Huxley, "It is what you do with what happens to you."

My friend, Famous Dave Anderson, made the following observation:

"Failure is the hallmark of success. It can be the starting point of a new venture such as when a baby learns to walk, it has to fall down a lot to learn the new skill. Failure is also the mark of a success you've worked for. When a pole-vaulter finally misses in competition, it shows how far he's come. That failure becomes the starting point for his next effort, proving that failure is not final!"

I once heard John Maxwell say, "When you fall down, you might as well pick up something!"

I say, "Grow for it!"

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Art Resides in the Pauses

A legendary pianist was once asked, "How do you handle the notes as well as you do?  The artist responded, "I handle the notes no better than others; but the pauses. . . Ah!  That is where the art resides!

-- From Rest in the Storm by Kirk Byron Jones

Friday, September 02, 2016

You Can Bounce Back After a Setback

Setbacks are a part of life.  Nobody goes from one success to another without experiencing difficulties and troubles.  As philosopher, M. Scott Peck said,  "Life is difficult."

Sometimes, life feels like a climbing a steep mountain on a hot, humid, summer afternoon, and there's no end in sight.  The struggle in oppressive heat and pressure brings weariness to the bone.  Our spirits naturally wilt in the afternoon heat, under the stress of these conditions.  

We've all experienced these seasons of depletion, and troubles have a tendency to get the best of us, dragging us down into discouragement and despair.  If we don't get the best of them, they will get the best of us.

Of course, it helps to remember that even Jesus had wilderness days when he was tempted, and he said, "In this world, you WILL have tribulation" (John 16:33).  At least we're in good company.

Troubles and heartaches are a part of life, and so we need to learn how to bounce back.   "Resilience," said Joe Batten, "is the central quality from which all other growth will flow."

Thankfully, God gives free refills!

If you've been struggling in a difficult valley, here are a few helpful suggestions I've adapted from Norman Vicent Peale's Power of the Plus Factor:

1.  Always believe that God can help you turn any setback into a comeback.

2.  Picture yourself as having a lot of rebound left in you.  Your inner strength is still unimpaired.

3.  Think positively, especially when you feel the lowest.  Remember, the setback may contain the answer to your comeback.

4.  Remember that God is always bigger than what's the matter.

5.  Fear not!  Stand up and face your fear with God.  He gives faith and love that is bigger and stronger than fear.

6.  Use the "12 Big Plan":
     *  Pray Big
     *  Think Big
     *  Believe Big
     *  Act Big
     *  Dream Big
     *  Work Big
     *  Give Big
     *  Forgive Big
     *  Laugh Big
     *  Imagine Big
     *  Love Big
     *  Live Big

7.  Be willing to talk about it, and find someone who will hear your heart.  Healing often comes with verbalizing.

8.  Always be helpful to thers and you will have friends who will help you turn setbacks into comebacks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Surviving the End of Summer Panic

I've noticed something buzzing around Hayward lately.  It seems like people are extra busy these days.

Of course, most of us are busy all the time, but as the summer is drawing to an end, a lot of folks have gone into warp drive.

Here's my theory:  I call it "The End of Summer Panic."  We scurry around like an army of ants because we know that autumn and winter are on the way.  There are three thousand jobs to be done and three weeks of good weather (maybe.)

How do we survive the "End of Summer Panic"?  Let me suggest a few helpful hints:

1.  Prioritize:
Make a list of everything you have to do, and want to do before summer's done.  Rank the items according to how important they are.  Start with the most important thing and then work down from there.  Remember, however., that "urgent" isn't always "important."

2.  Plan Ahead:
You can do more during the next six months than you could possibly imagine, but you need to plan for it.  Use the 7-P Principle:  Prayerful Prior Planning Prevents Pitifully Poor Performance.  Often our lives get overcrowded and jammed with too many responsibilities because we to plan ahead.

3.  Put Aside the Non-Essentials:
Most of us engage in activities that aren't that important.  Look back over your calender from the past week, checking it for time-wasters.  Invest in things that matter instead of spending your precious time and energy on junk.

4.  Place God in the Center:
When we make God the center of our lives, everything else falls into place.  He is the center of the universe already -- so why not allow him to be the center of your daily life and schedule planning?