A Choice of Burdens

I read a quote recently that I think really lines up well with the Biblical passage of Matthew 11:28-30 but also sheds light on it. Let’s start with the Bible passage:

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””

It’s a very well-known passage, one that is repeated and turned to during times of stress, fear, confusion, challenge and weakness, maybe one you yourself have said or read recently.  It’s one that we turn to because Jesus is clearly saying that although there will be burdens in life He is here to help us with them. Which is where the quote I mentioned comes in:

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” Lou Holtz

It’s very rare in life that we truly are out of option or that we have no choices. Typically we just can’t think of them or don’t like the ones that we can think of or see. But both the passage and the quote remind us to rethink that and be encouraged that the burden we bear doesn’t have to be the burden we see it as, and that there are options and hope, if only we would open our eyes.

Today I would encourage you to not only bring your current situations to God in prayer, but also take the time to really do your research and consider your options.  You’re only out of options and hope if you believe it is so or stop looking.  Maybe the one you’ve been avoiding is the answer.  Maybe it’s something you haven’t heard of before.  Maybe it’s something a friend has heard about and would be able to share with you if you share your burden with them.  Maybe today will be the day that brings hope back into your life.  But even if it isn’t, I know that God has everything under control and has a plan for everything, and He is here to carry your burdens with you.

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Life Fulfilled

Lent is only part of the story, and leads to the good stuff, the main event, the finale if you will. Lent is all the studying you do before that big test, all the prep you do before that big meeting, all the cleanup you do before the guests. It’s important because of what it leads to, what it prepares you for, not because of what it itself is.

Each day with each choice we make, each interaction we have, each step we take is all writing our story. As people of faith we have God helping to guide the story, leading us to meet the people we need to meet and be there for those who need to meet us, bringing us through the experiences we need and others need us to have, and generally supporting us through the humbling, sobering, heart breaking moments of real life.

And that’s what it comes down to. What would people say if they were to read your story? In one of my Lent devotionals that just finished were the following words:

“At the end of His life, Jesus says” ‘it is finished.’ He looked back on His life and decided to lay down His life. It as if this reflection now takes Him to a place of contentment where He can die. This is significant. Jesus died as He lived – fulfilled.” Mosaïek Church

Good Friday and Easter are both crucial because they do show that Jesus fulfills His life purpose and the promises He made when He came to earth. But technically Jesus only had to do the 3 days of Christmas, Good Friday and Easter to fulfill that promise: He lived, died and rose again. It’s those 30 some years in between those 3 days that Jesus intentionally chose how He wanted to spend His time, and as the quote above says, He chose to live every moment to the fullest.

I believe that what we read in the Bible is only a fraction of the amazing things Jesus did on earth, the personal interactions He had with people, the lives He touched. Jesus may have only been on earth for 30 some years, but He made the most of each day, experience, relationship, interaction and opportunity, especially the last few years. But even with all the ways that Jesus lived, I think the way He really filled in the moments were best seen when He took a moment to talk with someone one-on-one, or in taking time to love on the children, or never giving up on the Pharisees, and even in the moments when He was so very human like when Lazarus died or He took a nap on a boat.

Life is made up of countless moments big and small. Just like Jesus you’ve got a choice: you don’t have to live a fulfilling life, but if given the choice why wouldn’t you?

(This is a bit of the weekly devotional I sent out this week, click here if you’d like to learn more or subscribe)

The Day the Lord Has Made

As I was working on my weekly devotional this week, one of the verses that came to mind was Psalm 118:24 (ESV):

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

I think it’s a great verse to start the year off with, because it reminds us up front and center that this day, with whatever goes on in it, is a day that the Lord has made. I don’t say this to make light of whatever challenge you may be facing today, some days are absolutely brutal with their expectation of you and what they throw at you. Some days all you can do is make it through with as little damage as possible, and some days even that doesn’t go so well. As much as we might like to hope that because it’s a day God made that everything would be great, that’s just not the reality of living here on Earth.

So what can we be glad in when we face one of those days? I’d focus on the fact that there’s a day after today that hasn’t happened yet. As long as you keep living and pushing through, you’ll get to the next day, a day that is a blank slate and you can do almost anything with. You can’t erase the past, but you can build a different (better/bigger/quieter/healthier etc.) future. Today may not be a rockstar day, but it can teach you what you need going into the future. It may give you an experience you can use to help yourself or someone else in the future. It may be the motivation you need to make changes in your life.

What will you do with this day the Lord has made?

Victory is a Journey

For the past few years I’ve been following the story of two twin boys who were joined at the head and separated in a very difficult and complex surgery in October of 2016. It was a trial for them, their parents and their brother, and we only got a tiny glimpse into all of it. Today I saw that an update had been posted on their story and it spoke to me about this new year we’ve entered, with both words of encouragement and wisdom.

The first thing that spoke to me was the fact that they’re both still alive, developing and growing, which is really a miracle. It’s also a miracle that we’ve made it to 2019 without killing everyone off or doing more damage to our world than we could ever try to fix.

Second, the one thing the parents said repeatedly was that some things just take time. Things weren’t perfect the moment the surgery was done, it’s been years and they’re still dealing with setbacks and challenges. That said, they can see the growth and improvements that the boys are making. We expect things to be so instant in this day and age, but that’s just not always the case.

Finally, the parents are thankful to have this time with their boys. It was a do-or-die surgery, 80% of those joined at the head die by age 2. So the only choice the parents had was to pray for a miracle, and a miracle they got. We can choose to leave this life, but I have so much more hope for the future than I am discouraged by the past.

The bottom line is I hope that in 2019 we’ve gotten through the absolute worst and only have some more bumps to contend with. I’m tired of always fighting the most extreme of uphill battles and would like to see a year in which more things go my way and your way, more things go the way of more people. I don’t expect easy or perfect all the time, but some less exhausting wins would be nice. I’m hoping for a year that shows we’ve finally turned the curve, what about you?

Hope for 2019

The new year is just a few hours away and you may be one of the many who are celebrating the end of 2018. It’s not wrong to celebrate being done with something that was less than awesome, but it’s better to celebrate what’s ahead. You should never celebrate what’s done (and not great) with the enthusiasm, longevity or passion that you celebrate what’s yet to come or the victories you’ve achieved.

So I’m going to celebrate what’s ahead, the new possibilities that are coming in 2019, the opportunities to change and grow, the people I will meet, the days to enjoy the world, the transformations of nature, the successes in business and relationships, the victories I will help bring about, the relationships I help build, the ways that humanity gets to grow, and the ways we get to support each other.

Every day brings with it choices we have to make. I would hope that you choose to enter into 2019 with hope, joy, confidence and an attitude ready to conquer whatever comes your way. To make 2019 a year that you lived and loved and dreamed to your fullest. To enjoy 2019 with new friends and old. To being a year of laughing more.

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin

Hope and New Beginnings

We’re just days away from the year, some of us have already packed in this year and are eagerly trying to urge the days to move quicker and get out of 2018. I’ve got a couple more blog posts in store between all my blogs before the end of the year with some reflection, anticipation and hopefully words of wisdom before we get there.

In Philippians 2:4 it says: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” In 2018 (and 2019) I don’t think it’s possible or right to not consider yourself and your own importance, but I don’t think that it’s right to only focus on yourself and never on how your life impacts or could impact others. Everyone, from the biggest leaders to youngest children should consider the impact they can have on the world, and on the feelings, hearts and minds of others.

Today I read an article about the Queen’s annual Christmas message, she spoke about the Biblical Christmas story: “I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone; it’s needed as much as ever.” and about how to navigate this world of uncertainty, change and differences of opinion: “Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding…”

We could try and conquer world hunger in 2019, and honestly I think solving world hunger would be fairly simple to do if a few people would put their minds to it and more people stepped up to the plate to follow through on their directive. As impressive as it would be to do that, there’s something that I think is more important and as as big or bigger of an impact, and that’s doing our best to be at peace with and have respect towards each other.

It’s easy to make a snap judgment about someone, but it takes a little more care, compassion and heart to stop for all of a moment and really see them and really listen to them. It’s my hope that 2019 is a year of beginnings of respect and goodwill to all mankind.

In the (Christmas) Beginning

This week begins the season of Advent which leads up to the birth of Christ.  While Jesus isn’t born each year, it’s still a special time to celebrate life and the amazing gift that He gave us when He came to earth.  You know, every story starts somewhere.  Usually it starts in the beginning.  So today I thought we’d talk about the least favorite beginning of the story of the birth of Jesus: the list of people in Matthew 1. I know, as a kid you probably skipped over the chapters you had to read in the Old Testament of people who were born, died or were just being counted. Endless lists of names don’t really seem to have a purpose, or do they?  So as I was thinking about this and about Christmas, it got me thinking.

The beginning is where people always start.  We can’t skip to the middle of the story of our lives, we have to start at the beginning.  And as Jesus’ story in Matthew reminds us, the beginning technically starts before our true beginning: someone had to come before you in order for you to exist and they had a story.  I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with history, mostly because some people have decided that the only way you can talk about history is to make it drier and more boring than an old wild west town during a dust storm.  The truth is that each and every period of history was exciting!  But it was only exciting if you knew where to look, talked with the right people or started looking for the stories behind the people of those times.  Jesus is no different: there are people with amazing stories who come before Him.  Those stories we’re familiar with: Ruth the courageous widow, David from shepherd to king, Josiah the boy king, and Zerubbabel of Nehemiah’s time just to name a few.

However, the truth is also that there are some people with stories in Jesus’ line who aren’t that great: like Ahaz and Manasseh.  Their less-than-stellar lives could lead some people to raise eyebrows or think less of Jesus (or anyone else who came after them).  Think about people in our time who look funny at you just because you’re related to a Kardashian or Cyrus?  But you cannot do anything about who came before you, just like you have no control over who comes after you.  Unless God decides to end the world, there will be people who come after you who may have things to say about your life.

My point today is very simple: everyone starts in the beginning.  How the story ends isn’t set in stone yet.  You’ve got the power to choose not only which ancestors you see as role models as well as where your life takes you.  Even better, just because your past is not so great it doesn’t mean that your future can’t be amazing.  In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says “Don’t think that I have come to destroy the Law of Moses or the teaching of the prophets. I have come not to destroy their teachings but to give full meaning to them.”  You can’t destroy the past, all you can do is create the future.  What will you do with your future?