The Struggle is Real…


I’m sure there have been times when you have wondered why your life is such a struggle. Perhaps you long for endless days without resistance in which you can enjoy long stretches of smooth roads where all of the obstacles have been removed for you. Maybe you don’t like conflict and look for a time when things come easy and without a fight. Possibly you’re just tired of the friction in life and long for some future day where the going will be effortless. But, sadly maybe, the struggle is real and though it is not ideal, there is something you can do about it. Until the day those promised, ideal conditions arrive, you have to learn how to fight; who you are fighting against and how to win… Welcome to the great competition of life.

It might surprise you to know that God never intended for life to be such a struggle. In man’s original state, life was gloriously simple. Everything man touched prospered and succeeded abundantly. There was no death, no sickness, no fear and no sin. But man, with his freedom of will, turned his rights and privileges over to God’s enemy. Ever since that fateful day, man had an opponent in the spiritual realm, working in conjunction with many other evil spirits, to make life as miserable for man as possible. Whether you believe it or not, this is the source of every difficulty; every defeat; every horrible thing that ever happened to you! But, this negative spiritual energy called darkness, is hidden from your five-senses awareness. The secret to his success is the secrecy of his moves. Many people laugh at the notion that there is a “devil” seeking to work them woe, dismissing it as foolishness and uninformed beliefs. Yet, they suffer by the same hand. Others refusing to accept the truth, attribute it all to God (who is light and in Him is no darkness at all). Then, in their own insanity, attempt to make “good” reasons for the tragic events that unfold in people’s lives, explaining away abuses and torture as serving some higher, unseen purpose. Both remain sorely misled and as such unable to fight back. The first step in winning in the struggle is to know who you are fighting against. You have to call a spade a spade. If whatever happened to you caused you grief, broke your heart or caused you to suffer in any capacity, it was not from God. The prospect that it came from evil may be frightening to you, but it is the reality. Every cancer, every disease, every sickness in every form came as a result of this same force, either directly or indirectly. The suffering you have endured does not mean that you are evil, but rather that evil exists and that God wants you to learn how to overcome it. God does not, as some have said, need evil in order to produce good. You don’t have to hit rock bottom to finally achieve success, no more than you have to touch the hot burner on the stove to know it is hot. Bad experiences do not have to precede good experiences. It is the truth of God’s Word that enables you to overcome and there is no other way…

Once you are very clear from whence your trouble originates, next you have to learn how to compete; how to fight back; how to win. First, you ain’t going to do it on your own. You and your own brain using your own wisdom and your own experiences ain’t going to get the job done. (Read that again) Your opponent has been using human logic against unsuspecting victims for thousands of years. Oh you think you can figure it out? The consideration of evil is the furtherance of evil. (Read that again, again) The more you consider trouble, the more trouble you will have to consider. Error is so complicated, so tricky, so well thought out that you on your own will be no match for it. It isn’t what you think or what you feel or what you know, but rather what does God say? God’s Word in its inherent and inerrant perfection is the only thing that cuts through the darkness, through the deceptions and gets right down to the heart of the matter. You win the struggles with God’s Word. God never promised this life would be without struggles, but He did promise that you can win in every situation. You aren’t big enough to do it on your own. But, with God’s help and with God’s Word you are more than big enough. Often your real problem has absolutely nothing to do with what you think your real problem is. That’s why your problem remains. In order to win you have to submit yourself to something bigger than yourself. You don’t turn yourself over as many erroneously report. Instead you submit your own stubborn five-sense reasoning to God’s Word and simply find those promises that apply and apply them. Don’t say what you feel like or what it looks like or what it seems like. Say what God’s Word says.

At the end of the day, nobody including myself, enjoys the struggle. I’d much rather not fight. But, like the kid who gets his lunch money stolen every day, at some point you gotta stand up for yourself and fight back. It is bad enough that you have to wrestle at times, but even worse if you end up succumbing and suffering every day or worse for your whole life. Life is NOT random as is common to say, but rather everything happens for a reason with many of those reasons being your spiritual opponent. Haven’t you suffered long enough? Aren’t you tired of the misery and frustration? Aren’t you sick of not knowing what the hell is going on? Well, my friends, you can know if you want to know. Oh sure you are still going to get stung at times. You are going to get knocked on your ass occasionally. But, you can get better at seeing it coming and even better at overcoming it, whatever it is. You don’t need me to tell you the struggle is real, but the victory is just as real as well once you learn how to access the answers. Yes, the struggle is real, but so is God. Get back up and fight! Fight!!!

Just some good thoughts…

 

Love… Why Don’t We Express it?


I had a great conversation with my grown son Joshua (Yoshie) this weekend. We talked about how people, especially people that are close to one another have such a hard time expressing their love, or for that matter expressing all types of good things they probably should be saying. What is about being kind and tenderhearted that causes us to take pause instead of moving forward? Why would we wait until people are sick or dying before we endeavor to communicate years of wonderful feelings we haven’t ever shared, or at least haven’t shared with any meaningful consistency? Why would your love for someone be left unspoken?

I remember some years ago adapting a Dale Carnegie principle regarding building people up, to my immediate family. I called it, “I love you because…” The object of my little experiment was to make an opportunity for our family to say things to one another we may have never said before. Basically, each of us wrote on a 3 x 5 card the family member’s name with the phrase, “I love you because…” to be filled in with some meaningful reason we loved that particular person. We chose one person to be the receiver of our words and went around the table expressing why we loved that specific family member. Then, each person expressed verbally why they loved their sister or mother etc. Once each person had shared to the family member, we moved on to the next receiver. Little did I know at the time, there would be such heartfelt emotion behind those words. Between the wine and the words there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. We didn’t just shed a teardrop here and there, but took part in some full on crying in our deeply felt love for one another. In that moment, between tears, I realized something profound. We all loved each other so much, but rarely felt permission to openly share those feelings. The love was always there and the tears weren’t sad tears at all, but we simply rarely said things like that to each other. Thank God we did it! (And for being the biggest part behind that little idea.)

So, if we feel it so strongly, why won’t we say it? Is it because it makes us feel vulnerable? Do we fear it won’t be reciprocated, ridiculed or made fun of in some fashion? All of us had a different upbringing. All of our parents had their own upbringing as well. In some homes, expressions of love flowed freely like water. In other homes those words were hard to come by. But, if those words were rare, it’s hardly fair to blame your parents. Chances are those words were scarce in their homes as well. Imagine trying to feel comfortable expressing your love for someone if hardly anyone ever expressed those words to you. It’s such a conundrum because though not expressed, we know that the love is there. So, we wait for some dire situation to force us into saying the things we haven’t said before. It’s like there is no time left to wait. But, here’s a thought. The people you love so much need to hear those words now, and later, and often in-between. You cannot really lose by saying those things. Even if the person you love makes fun of your heartfelt notion, inside in their heart, underneath all of that cover and pretend toughness, they needed to hear it from you, right when you said it! Just say it!

It’s so odd that in the world today, feelings of tenderness and kindness and love are shunned as if they represent weakness or perhaps aren’t manly or appropriate. It’s like to be a man you need to withhold your love in favor of toughness as a sort of preparation for the things your offspring (namely boys) might experience in the world. I can assure you, the best way to build someone up to face the challenges of life is with your love. You want your son to be strong? Shower him with love and acceptance. Ironically, few people have any trouble expressing their love to young children. Young children are safe recipients of our love. But, what about being a teenager or young adult negates that principle? Your 30 year old daughter needs that expression of love as much, if not more now, than when she was 5. We all need it desperately. Your brother you grew up with, who drove you absolutely nuts, needs your expressions of love. Your father who didn’t treat you right (God bless him as he was trying to figure it out also) needs your heartfelt expressions of love. Don’t wait until they deserve it, do it while they don’t deserve it. Do it now.

The only way to break the negative cycle is for you to break it. It really doesn’t matter if you receive it first. You be the first to break the cycle. Shower people with your love and kindness of heart. Have you ever ran into a truly kind person and left the better for it? You know what it did for you, right? So, you do it. Tell your wife you have being quietly residing beside for 30 years, how you feel. Tell her she is beautiful. Tell her what living with her has done for you over the years and the better person you are as a result of it. Tell her! Yes, I know she knows, but you tell her anyway! Your friend who always has your back and stands with you despite all your bullshit, tell them as well. It’s not weird or out of place. It’s weird not to tell them. You see, you and I have to be the initiators of the love. Take the first step. Don’t make it odd or difficult or risky. There is no risk in loving someone. The risk is found by not saying what you feel when you feel it. That’s the real tragedy.

Don’t love in silence even though you both know the feelings are there. Love outloud! Say it, express it, do it. I love you because…

Just some good thoughts…

 

Finding Your Missing Peace…


Life can be a topsy turvy affair. You are definitely going to experience your share of ups and downs, highs and lows, good times and bad times. Sometimes things work out for you and other times they may not. Some circumstances are going to challenge you down to the very core of your being. Chances are you will experience pressures, stress, negativity and downright agitation. But, did you know that the turbulance, the unrest, the feeling unsettled, the churning inside is all an indicator that something is not right and needs to be changed; to be remedied; to be fixed. It’s not something you must learn to accept or live with, nor is it a necessary part of being a human being. In its basic essence it is the absence of peace. You need to find your missing peace…

Children do not live with agitation in their hearts. When something is bothering them, they instinctively know they need help to get it cleared up. They don’t put up with it for very long. It’s only adults that try to acclimatize themselves to the unrest or worse find things that cover up the distress. When people are suffering inside, it’s only reasonable to seek the source of those feelings. But instead, people just sort of move on or ignore it. They wait for a new day or for some length of time to pass hoping something will change and bring their peace back. They think that peace is something you need to attain, rather than a natural state that has been tampered with and manipulated. They never consider that there is something they are doing or choosing, knowingly or unknowingly, that invites in the agitation. Wrong thinking and wrong behaviors steal away your precious peace. They promise something good, but fail to deliver on the promise. Error in all forms cannot produce good, no matter the adornment or appeal. Darkness wears many disguises, but regardless of the costume still brings in darkness. In order to find your peace, you have to learn what is wrong, what is error, what is darkness. You cannot go by what people say or the masses or the so-called experts. You’ve got to go by what God’s Word says…

There is a verse in the Bible that states, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…” The Greek word for “rule” is brabeuó which literally means “to umpire.” It (the peace) let’s you know if you are safe or if you are out. Things you think about that cause you agitation are out! Thinking fearful, worried thoughts cause you to churn inside. The churning, the unrest, is the umpire telling you, you are out! If you continue to stay your mind on those wrong thoughts your peace will not return until you stop thinking those wrong thoughts. Some behaviors you engage in cause you to feel good about yourself. Other behaviors cause distress. Behaviors that cause distress are the wrong behaviors or you have some wrong teaching concerning those behaviors. If someone taught you years ago that dancing is a sin, then every time you dance you will feel agitation. However, the error is not in the dancing, it is in your thinking. You are believing something that is not true based on wrong teaching. The world is chock full of wrong teaching and it has been tying God’s people up for centuries. It’s hard to find someone who feels worse about themselves than the average Christian. Yet, it’s not their sin that is defeating them, it is holding on to wrong thoughts about themselves, condemning themselves, focusing on themselves, that’s killing them. You can multiply this scenario out indefinitely. Yet, for all this, you already have the solution within yourself. Does what you are thinking about cause you to be at rest or unrest? Do you have some behaviors you engage in that always leave you feeling bad? The peace inside is your umpire and that umpire never misses a call.

If you are unpeaceful as hell, you have to ask yourself what have you been feeding your mind? What are you dwelling on and focusing on and concentrating on? Where does your mind naturally go? All of that fear and worry you have been dutifully entertaining has never, ever led you to anything good. It’s not good information that helps you feel better. Has it ever helped you feel better? Does contemplating your or your loved ones demise help you to live? You see, you have to get it out of your mind that fear has any useful purpose! Fear thoughts, worry thoughts, anxious thoughts, doubtful thoughts are all error and will take away your peace faster than a speeding bullet! The key to overcoming fear is found in your refusal to consider the thoughts. Oh I know, you think you can figure it out if you just invest enough churning. But, you aint going to figure it out! Instead, you will just become a big mess inside, drinking liquor and taking pills to make it stop. Your mind is feeding on something and you are the one responsible for what you feed it. The crippling negatives of the world are everywhere and have been ever since the first man went astray. But, just because they surround you doesn’t mean you have to perpetually contemplate them. Don’t let them in…

Do you want that wonderful peace inside that assures you everything is right and nothing is in need of repair? Do you want that inner calmness that makes life sweet and beautiful and tender? Do you want to find that long lost feeling of repose and know that you are safe and protected on every front? Then, you have got to do something different with your mind. You have got to change how you have been thinking. You have got to alter what you have been feeding your heart. Life will still be full of ups and downs, but you won’t be. You will still have to face pressures and stressors and threats, but you don’t have to remain agitated by them. There will still be hard times and hard days and hard circumstances, but inside you can remain at peace because you know who ultimately has your back. I hope you find your missing peace…

Just some good thoughts…

Slow Down to the Speed of Life…


All of this social distancing and requirements to stay home have inadvertently provided us with some important clues about how we have been living our lives. Most of us are moving too damn fast. We have so many things to do, much of which are self-inflicted, too many obligations, too many commitments. We have been literally running for our lives from thing to thing, activity to activity, trying to get it all done and by all I mean everything we have read we should be doing. In between all of our “must-dos,” we fill the remaining moments with our televisions, binge watching Netflix series coupled with our incessant need to check Instagram and Facebook and whatever else pops us to use our every remaining moment. Like an addict, we have been convinced we need something else like non-stop activity to be okay. God forbid we should have nothing to do! The things we do, we don’t do properly or give our full attention. We ram and cram and make do ever trying to get to the next moment, the next fun time, the next vacation. And while we are being completely preoccupied, we have stopped thinking and dreaming and planning desireable future moments. We no longer have time to get the bottom of our issues. We don’t have time to think or so we think. Someone convinced us we have to figure everything out for ourselves and work harder and do more etc. We are driving ourselves crazy. We need to slow down and return to the speed of life.

There was a time when we didn’t have the Internet or for that matter TV (or TV consisted of 3 channels and they all went off around midnight). We didn’t know what everyone was doing at all times and it was good for us. The news we did get was very limited, reserved for the big things that threatened our happiness. Today we devour the bad news, filling our minds with it in excess under the guise we are keeping ourselves informed. How much more do you want to know about the virus?  How much more is there to know? It’s not education, it is fear being fueled and fed by more fear. It’s no wonder the world runs on anxiety. The world can appear to be a scary place, but how much more so when your mind is constantly being filled with all of the things that can get you? That’s maybe why we are so dang busy. If we take time to slow down, we might actually have to deal with it all. But, dealing with it is exactly what you need to do. You have to take time to do something with your mind about the things that are bothering you. You HAVE to deal with them. I know you would rather not. Me neither. But, like any obstacle impeding your happiness, you have to take them on and move the roadblocks from your path. They aren’t going to move themselves no matter how busy you make your life. Slow down, breathe and take the time you need to get things straight. Get things clear. Take the time. You cannot get to the next place until you learn to overcome the challenges in your current place. Slow down people and learn to live again.

Life was never designed to be this frenetic experience where you run from thing to thing, from pillar to post, hoping you end up somewhere good. Life is full of variables and things that need your attention, many of which aren’t monumental. Sometimes I think that God is more pleased that you took the time to fold your sweater than He is with all of your super accomplishments; that you took the time to organize that harassing evil called your sock drawer, over all the money you donated. Don’t you see it? Your only requirement is what the day demands of you and whatever that is, that you invest your whole heart fully into its accomplishment.   Call your mother. Clean out the closet. Write the poem. Tell someone who has been on your heart how much they mean to you. Buy someone a gift instead of the gift card. Think! Make time for yourself to think and consider. What has been eating at you lately? What, like a splinter, is under your skin? You can either get it out or wait for the infection. But, either way, it has got to come out. The unseen problem with the frenetic life is that you don’t have time to handle you! You haven’t given yourself an opportunity to get you straight. But, trust me on this one, you gotta be straight before you can get anything else straight. Murky and confused isn’t going to get the job done. Clarity and clear perception gets the job done. Slow down and get things straight.

Slowing down to the speed of life is about getting back on God’s wavelength. God is not in a hurry. God doesn’t miss anything, ever. He isn’t running you around like a squirrel, herky-jerky, flitting around, full of anxiety and care. He is calm and relaxed and sure of everything. He wants you to feel the same way. He doesn’t require that you know all the answers, but rather acknowledge that He does and in so knowing, lay it all on Him. Everything that ever bothered you, bothers Him when it isn’t resolved in your life. Like any good parent, He wants you to be happy. He already knows what has been screwing you up and exactly what you need to know and do to make it stop. But, in order for you to know, you have to give Him a little time. You have to slow down in your quest for self and trust someone outside of yourself. You need time to think. You need time to pray. God is bigger than any virus!

Stop running man. Stop dashing lady. Stop letting fear dominate and rule your existence. There’s an infinitely better way and you can find it (Him) by slowing down to the speed of life…

Just some good thoughts…