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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Foodie's Guide to Life

Anyone who knows me well knows that I enjoy good food.  Anyone who doesn’t know me well, but takes a look at my physique, isn’t surprised.  If you are what you eat, I will have to admit that: (1) I am not always the healthiest choice on the menu; (2) I am, however, tasty and never boring.

I even plan trips and meetings around food.  I have one friend that I would describe as my “ian” friend.  No, his name is not Ian, but when we get together, we like to eat food that ends in “ian”: Indian, Egyptian, Mediterranean (close enough).  Another friend is a steak and/or seafood buddy.  I’ve got a couple of others that will almost always involve Starbucks.

When I am eating a meal that I know my kids would enjoy, I take a picture with my phone and send it to them.  Some people think that is cruel, that I am perhaps torturing them.  That is true less than 25% of the time. (I am not above the occasional harassing food photo).  But, in reality, I am sharing my love of food with them because, at the moment, I can’t share my love of them with my food.  I wouldn’t send a photo to them if I weren’t first thinking of them and wishing we could share this meal.

(My breakfast last Wednesday at the Toasted Yolk Cafe in Conroe, TX)

I share food photos with another friend who has moved several hours away.  We used to have lunch together at least every other week.  Now we are lucky if we manage to get together every other year.  The food photos we send to each other always deliver a message:  “I thought of you when I was eating this and I miss you, my friend.”

I feel like I should interrupt this and say, “Hello.  My name is Gerry and I am a food addict.”  But, I’m not going to.  I am unashamed.  Yes, I need to make healthier choices and I really am trying to do that more often.  But, you will never see me take the approach that food is no more than fuel.  God put these wonderful things in my mouth called taste buds and I intend to enjoy this gift while continuing to learn how to enjoy it in ways—like enjoying smaller portions--that allow me to honor Him with all of my physical being. He does not, after all, intend for me to be controlled by those taste buds.

Our lives also matter enough to Him that He wants us to develop a taste for more than good food. 

Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”   

Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

John 4:34:  "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Now that’s a meal to be savored!

Question: What is one way you can think of to apply the idea of the verses listed above?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How to know when you need a Timeout

(photo credit: basketballhow.com)

I watched parts of both NFL conference championship games yesterday.  In a couple of weeks I’ll watch the Super Bowl.  It should be a good game.  At least the advertisers are hoping so. By the way, I read a recent report from the Harvard Business Review that said 80% of Super Bowl ads fail to increase purchases or purchasing intent.  Makes you wonder about those big bucks those advertisers are spending.  But I digress …

One thing that you notice in these big games is the strategic use of the Timeout.  Each team gets three timeouts per half.  There are additional timeouts that may be called by the officials.  I started pondering (my long-time readers know where this is going) about a great question of life:  How do you know you need a Timeout?

  • Timeouts are called when you need a few extra moments to think strategically.  The coach may call a timeout to discuss a specific play to run at this moment.  Sometimes, we need to pause long enough to think through our next step.

  • Timeouts are called when there is confusion on the field.  The play clock is winding down.  The players are out of position.  A timeout lets you reset and refocus.  Sometimes, we need to pause long enough to calm our minds before continuing.

  • Timeouts are called when a play needs to be reviewed.  Things often happen so fast that the officials need to be sure that they made the correct call.  Sometimes, we need to pause long enough to see if a course correction in life is necessary.

  • Timeouts are called when there is an injury on the field.  The injured player needs to receive the proper assistance before play resumes.  Sometimes, we need to pause long enough to be sure to care for those who are hurting.

  • Timeouts are called when the television network needs to go to commercial.  … I’ve got nothing.

I spent part of this weekend with a group of pastors in a retreat.  In many ways, it was a timeout from their busy schedules.  All those timeout reasons above were partially observed (though that is not the metaphor we used).  Ok, maybe we didn’t deal with commercial breaks.  But I think all the others were included in some way.  All those guys went back to work in their churches yesterday, hopefully more effectively for having taken a timeout.

One of my favorite young couples has a precious two-year-old named Selah.  "Selah” is a Biblical term used 74 times in the Old Testament (71 in Psalms and 3 in Habakkuk).  It is likely a musical term that refers to a pause or rest.  The Amplified Bible translates it “Selah (pause and think of that)”.

Sometimes, we just need to pause and reflect.  Reflect on the reality that our lives matter to God. Reflect on what He is teaching us through the circumstances of our lives.

Do you need a Selah today?

Question: Which of the above "timeout" reasons is most important to you today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, January 13, 2014

I’m not sure if This is a New Chapter or a New Book

(photo credit: mstaires.com)

I am a reader and I come from a family of readers.  There is nothing like getting so caught up in a story that you can’t wait to turn the page.  Until you get to the final page.  Then, there is nothing like a new book.  That new book brings new possibilities.  What am I going to learn?  How is the author going to challenge me?  Make me laugh? Make me cry?

I’m not sure right now whether I have started a new chapter or a new book.  But one thing is for sure: the page has turned.

It is January, a new semester is beginning, and, in my house, it is irrelevant.

I started kindergarten in 1966 and remained constantly in school until the completion of my Master’s degree in 1988.  So, I was well-accustomed to school schedules from the student perspective. 

Overlapping that time period, my Sweetie became my Mrs and her job as a school teacher/counselor continued from 1984 until her retirement in May, 2013.  So, I was well-accustomed to school schedules from the spouse perspective.

Overlapping that, we became parents.  Favorite daughter started to kindergarten in August, 1993 and we have had one of our kids in school until favorite son graduated from college just about a month ago.  So, for 20 years, I have been accustomed to school schedules (and payments) from the parent perspective.

So, what I am saying is that for the first time in 47 years, no one in my house is going to school!  Ahhhhhh!  What am I going to do? 

Turn the page.

Sometimes when I am reading in bed at night, I start to get sleepy.  I’ll get stuck on one paragraph and read the same thing over and over until I just give up, close the book, and go to sleep.  Sometimes life is that way.  We get stuck.  We get tired.  We do the same things over and over, making no progress.  What’s the solution?  Pause, rest, and turn the page.

Sometimes it seems we have come to the end of something significant (like something that has ended after 47 years) and there is not another page to turn in this story.  What’s the solution?  Pick up the next book.

I have been accused of having a philosophy that “he who dies with the most books wins”.  That’s not true, but I do have a lot of books and I keep buying more.  I sometimes get asked, “Have you read all the books on your shelves?”  No, but I plan to.  I plan to keep reading because I can’t wait to see what I will learn next.  And I plan to keep living out the story God is writing in my life because I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Our lives matter so much to God that He keeps writing new chapters (and even new books).  

Question: What’s keeping you from turning the page?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What Would You Do With $31,536,000?

(Photo credit: elephantjournal.com)

In this first Life Matters of 2014 let’s pretend that a generous benefactor has given each of us $31,536,000.  Say that number aloud like a game show announcer: “Thirty-one million, five hundred thirty-six THOUSAND DOLLARS!”  Sounds even bigger, doesn’t it?

Now, we’ve been told that there is no such thing as a free lunch (or 3 million of them), so of course this gift comes with some stipulations.

1. The money is not yours; you are only managing it. 
2. You are, however, completely in charge of how it is spent.  
3. The benefactor has unlimited access to your records and knows how you spend every penny.
4. There are no refunds; once it is spent, you cannot get it back.  
5. The benefactor can call for the unused portion at any time.  
6. At some point, a full accounting will be required.

If that scenario happened, what would you do with the money?

There is a story in the Bible (found in Matthew 25) about a man who went on a long trip.  Before he left, he called his three servants together and entrusted his property to them, giving different amounts of money to each one to manage, based on their abilities.  When he returned from his trip, he called the servants back together to settle up accounts.  Two of the three had wisely invested the money, putting it to work, and had doubled the original amount.  The master congratulated them for their faithfulness and invited them to share in the profits. The third servant was afraid of what might happen if he somehow lost the money, so he had hidden the original amount for safekeeping and returned it to his master.  The master was angry that the servant had not, at least, deposited the money in an account that would have earned a little interest.  He punished the servant and gave his money to the others.

Jesus told this story to illustrate a great truth: You and I are responsible for how we invest the resources with which God has entrusted us.  We are not responsible for how the market performs.

Now, going back to our original game …it actually isn’t pretend.  At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, our Benefactor gave us 31,536,00 seconds to manage in 2014.  Those seconds are not ours, but we are in charge of how they are spent.  Our Benefactor knows how we spend every one of them.  Since time only moves forward, once we spend them, we can’t get them back.  Our Benefactor can call for the unused portion at any time; it is likely that someone who is reading this will not be with us this time next year. We will all one day give an accounting for the way we managed the seconds He gave us, and all of them matter to Him.

At the time I am writing this, we have already spent over 353,000.  How are you spending yours?

QUESTION: In what ways do you want to adjust the way you are investing God's resources this year?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year’s Resolutions Results Guaranteed … Or Your Money Back!

(Photo credit: the producersperspective.com)

Do I have your attention? Now if I could only figure out how to get you to send me ONLY $19.99 for this amazing secret, I could accomplish my resolution of becoming independently wealthy.

Most New Year’s resolutions are broken by January 6.  Are we really that bad?  Lazy? Incompetent? Weak? 

I think it is more an issue of focus.  It is not that we cannot focus, but that we focus on the wrong things.  So what I am offering here are two focus-shifters and four strategies that I am absolutely convinced will bring us positive results in 2014.

First, the focus-shifters ...

1. Instead of focusing on the “what”, or even the “how”, focus on the “why”.  Focusing on the “what” would be something like, “I am going to lose weight.”  Focusing on the “how” might be, “I am going to limit my calorie intake to 2000 per day and exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 days a week.” Those are great “how’s” to support the “what”. But why?  Here’s where we stumble.  Focusing on the “why” could be, “I am going to develop a healthier lifestyle so that I can be more healthy and effective in everything I do.”

2. Instead of focusing on personal benefits, focus on benefits to others.  That good “why” of being more healthy and effective becomes a great “why” when I am more healthy and effective so that I can be a greater blessing to my family and my world.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God completely and the second is to love others. (Matthew 22:37-40).  He even commanded us to love others like He loves. (John 15:12)

So, now that our focus is adjusted, we need some strategies.

1. Accountability: Enlist a trusted partner to be your “alarm clock” for your “what, how, and why”. It works even better if the accountability is mutual, encouraging each other.

2. Deadlines:  Always keeping your “why” at the forefront, develop some short-term markers along the way. “By March 1, I will have lost 8 pounds … or paid of $500 in debt … or written 3 chapters of my book.” The best thing that ever happened to my writing was having a weekly deadline for the newspaper.

3. Grace: Don’t let failure be your final answer. If you don’t reach a goal by the deadline, don’t give up.  Set a new goal, renegotiate your accountability, and start again.  Consider it a brief layover on the journey.

4. Prayer: Never underestimate the value of your most powerful accountability partner.  Some of the most important “why’s” are too hard to keep in focus when life happens.  Each day is a new chance to begin focusing on the reality that your life—with all the “what’s, how’s, and why’s”—matters to God.

I can’t guarantee that you will keep your resolutions, but I can guarantee that you will see God at work.  

And that’s worth way more than $19.99.

QUESTION:  What are some other focus-shifters or strategies you might add to this list?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject.