Perseverance


A few days ago I wrote a blog entitled Wanting To Be In When Out.  It was about a sparrow that has been wanting to be in our house when he/she is out.  I don’t know the gender of the sparrow that has been pecking at our window, and it really doesn’t matter to the story I am writing.  Back to the story.

Every day over the past three weeks this bird, I will call it Sam which can either be a girl or a guy.  Well, Sam is at this window at 7:15 in the morning and stays there for a couple of hours.  Sam leaves for a couple of hours, and then is back trying to get in for another hour or two.  Sam has been at that window for 4-6 hours per day and has more tenacity than most any person or thing that I have ever known.

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Sam doesn’t give up.  Sam never gives in to the inability to get into the house.  It may be that Sam has a short memory like patients that have lost their short-term memory and will tell you the same story over and over, not realizing that the story has been told not 5 minutes before.

It may be that Sam has an A-type personality where there is nothing that will stop him/her from accomplishing its goal.  Sam’s mindset could be, “I’ll do whatever it takes to get what I want.”

Sam reminds me of a woman who needed legal protection so she went to the judge to get that protection.  The judge denied the request, and thought nothing more of the woman and her request, until she showed up again and asked for legal protection.  He said no, but that wasn’t the end of it.  She came back over and over again until he finally said, “I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think.  But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice–otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.” Luke 18:4-5.  It was her perseverance in seeking justice that caused the judge to respond.

As you read on a principle emerges for all of us.  “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying?  So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help?  Won’t he stick up for them?  I assure you. He will.  He will not drag his feet.  But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when He returns?” Luke 18:6-8

On this journey, sometimes we will be called upon to develop perseverance for the things in life that matter.  Make your choices wisely.

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Throwing Stones


Over the recent weeks we have experienced an interaction in our country that bothers me. It centers around the election of President Trump.  I want to assure you that this blog is not written for the purpose of supporting or criticizing President Trump.  What bothers me is the way in which each side is throwing stones at the other side and causing real divisions in our country.  It seems that on a daily basis one side throws a stone and the other side takes up a stone and throws one back, rather than trying to work together.

This is not just a recent phenomenon we have experienced. This kind of war of criticism has been going on since the birth of man. It’s easier to criticize others than to look at oneself and focus on our own flaws. We have experienced this as a child when we blamed Johnny for taking our toy truck, but didn’t focus on our decision to take his car. When we get stopped by a traffic cop for speeding, we question the gun that was used to detect our speed , or give excuses for our bad behavior, rather than taking responsibility for our own actions and working on changing ourselves.

If we are in a married relationship, the same tactics are used with our spouse. We have disagreements amongst our selves and are tempted to begin pointing out all the flaws and mistakes we have seen our spouse make. We can criticize so many areas and aspects of a persons daily experience. Bad choices. Personal perspectives. Beliefs. Qualities. Attitudes. Forgotten agendas. There are so many areas where we can criticize and throw stones at our spouse.

I am reminded of this pattern of throwing stones as I read this interaction between Moses and Miriam and Aaron. Moses was the leader of the Israelite nation and Miriam and Aaron were his sister and brother. They were at odds with one another and we pick up the conflict in Numbers 12.   “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.  ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’  they asked.  ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’  And the Lord heard this.”  Here is Moses’s brother and sister being critical of the choice Moses made to marry a Cushite woman and began to throw verbal stones at him.  Numbers 12:1-2

It reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5 where He says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

It’s easy to throw stones at others, when the real task on this journey is to continually work on removing destructive patterns of behavior in ourselves.  Just think what would happen if this principle could be applied to our personal relationships and our nation.

 

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Complaining About Hardships


It seems that every segment of life has its ups and downs.  When we were little children, the hardship we encountered happened when someone took our toy away from us, or when we couldn’t have the ice cream that our mouths drooled for.  We grew out of playing with toys, but relationships with the opposite sex caused us to spend hours upon hours thinking of the way we would ask that special someone on our first date.  Little did we know that hardships would come when they wrote a “Dear Jim” letter to us and read it to our face just before they walked out of the Cantina.

The hardships seemed to get bigger as we found out that jobs we wanted were snatched up by someone more qualified than we were and were devastated by the “better luck next time” thoughts.  Growing into adulthood had its ups and downs, but the downs in life have more ramifications and pain attached to them as we journey through life.  We have a choice on whether to focus on the downs that come our way or focus on the positive aspects.  Whether we are a child, or a teenager, or have reached the adult life, hardships come and hardships will go.

I was reading in Deuteronomy where the nation of Israel was on a journey and began focusing on the hardships they were encountering.  “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.”  ‭Numbers‬ ‭11:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬  They had escaped from Egypt and had been wondering in the wilderness for about 1 1/2 years when God lead them to the promised land He wanted them to enter.  They probably complained about the mana they ate everyday for the last 1 1/2 years.  Thinking about it, if I had to eat the same food every day, for over a year, I might find myself in their shoes unfortunately.  Mana every day.  Nothing else but mana.  The people complained about their hardships.

It’s easy to focus on the negative of life rather than focus on what’s positive.  The people took the easy way and looked at what they didn’t have, rather than what they had.  God’s perspective when we encounter difficulties and hardships of life is to focus on what’s positive.  In Phil 4:8-9, Paul says, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”

On this journey, there will always be hardships and those hardships will become more and more difficult to deal with.  In the midst of our journey, we have a choice of whether we focus on the hardships, or put our focus on those things that are true, and right, and lovely, and excellent and worthy of praise.  It’s our perspective that determines our focus.

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Wanting To Be In When Out


An interesting thing has been happening at out house the last two weeks.  We started noticing it at the breakfast table when we began hearing a pecking sound that was tickling our ears.  It wasn’t like a woodpecker that sounds like a machine gun.  It was a peck that was infused with silence.  Then another peck.  Silence.  Then another.  It got our attention so we began to look as to what might be inside our house but found nothing.  We looked up at the window just above our front door and found this in the picture.

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As you can see just below the light, this bird would sit on the bottom of the window and peck.  He (or she) would then begin to fly from one side of the window to the other seeking a place to enter our house (it would seem to us).  This just didn’t occur for a couple of minutes, but for hours upon hours.  This bird was relentless about wanting to get through the window into what he or she was seeing on the other side.  This experience has gone on for days upon days upon two weeks now.  This bird never gives up.  It wants in and nothing will seemingly stop the quest to go to a place that it isn’t.

I have been reminded because of this bird that we have similar patterns on our journey.  When we were in junior high, we wished to be in high school.  When we got to high school, we wished that we were in college.  When we were 15 we wished for the day when we could drive.  When we began to drive, we wished for our own car and a new car and a newer one.  When we were single, we wished we could be dating.  Dating carried with it similar patterns as we looked for other men or women to date.  As a single, we began to think that being married would be better than our present situation and found out that marriage has its own set of problems.

I could go on and on with the pattern of wishing we were somewhere else or with someone else than our present situations or relationships.  I do believe that if someone is being physically and or emotionally abused, it is important to do something about that relationship and seek the necessary help to alleviate the problem.  But if we are trying to escape a difficult situation or relationship because we think the someone or something on the other side of the glass is nicer, we might want to rethink it.   Our perspective can change when God sheds His perspective on our relationships or on our situation.  He can give us insight as to what He wants us to learn in appreciating our present life.

On this journey we are called to “bloom where we’re planted” so today we can start the blooming process by looking at all the positive things we have in our relationships as well as our situations.  It might give us a whole new world out there to explore and appreciate.

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Speeding Up To Stop


Nadine and I went on a date in South Scottsdale and decided that we would drive back on the main side roads versus the freeways as we were heading home. Scottsdale Road is a six lane road with stop lights every half mile. In the more congested places there are stop lights every block, so it can be slow going at times. The speed limit for the street was 45 mph so that was what I was doing as we headed north.

We were talking about life as I drove and I began to notice something as we were driving. When stopped at a stop light there were 10 to 15 cars around us obeying the traffic lights. When the light turned green, it seemed as if I was being left in the dust as all the cars were in fast motion and I was in slow motion. They most certainly beat me to the next light, but they had to stop for the red light and I was slowly approaching them as the light turned green and off they went. There are at least 20 street signals on the stretch from where we started to Shea Blvd. where we turned. At each light we would catch the cars, truck, and vans that started fast, but would have to stop at the next light and wait for it to turn green.

It seemed like they were all in a hurry to get somewhere, but were getting to their destination about the same time we were. They were in a “hurry up and wait” mindset. Hurry stunts the opportunity for God to speak to our lives and give direction to our steps. Dallas Willard said, “We must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

A good exercise to do if you are one of those drivers is to see whether or not you can get to your destination without using your brake or come to a stop. It means that you have to be intentional in looking forward to see what’s in front of you and drive accordingly. This kind of driving allows you to slow down and remove the stress that driving can cause when you see others in a hurry.

On this journey we have the opportunity to make decisions and choices that slow our daily routines down so that we can truly smell the flowers that come our way.

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Hidden Treasures


On Tuesday we as a nation celebrated Valentines Day.  Well, I’m not so sure that we celebrated it, but maybe Hallmark cards created it and we have accepted it as one of the days that we mark on our calendar.  Anyway, Nadine and I took the afternoon off to recognize our love for one another by taking some time to be together and decided to go to a place I had never been, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden.  I have lived here 30+ years and have never been to a place that draws thousands of people daily.   I have never been into cactus and their beauty, so I have never had a desire to spend hours looking at cactus.  For me, when you have seen one cactus, you have seen them all (by the way, I surveyed my friends who have lived in the Phoenix area for years, and none of them had gone to the Desert Botanical Garden either).  Nadine had gone a handful of times and wanted to go so off we went.

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We got to the place only to find that the $22.00/person was waved because of Valentine Day, so we got in free.  We heard of Gertrude’s Cafe right inside the entrance so we stopped to have a bite.  The sky was blue with a hint of paper thin clouds off in the distance, topped off with 72 degree weather and a slight breeze rustling the trees.  It was a perfect day to look at cacti.

I found out that there are over 1200 different kinds of cacti that I had no idea of.  One of the most unique cacti that I saw was the one on the left called the moon cactus.  It is like a vine that crawls all over rocks and up trees as in the picture.  The more we walked the more I began to appreciate these spiny things that I had seen as only a nuisance in the past.  By the time we left, I was interested in coming back to investigate more of what we didn’t have time to see.

The Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden was a hidden treasure for me that I  had never investigated in my 30 years of living here.  How many of those treasures we miss in our life because we have a preconceived perspective of what it might be and choose over years never to step out and see if our perspective is true or will be blown to smithereens.

On this journey, we will all encounter opportunities to look for hidden treasures.  Don’t let assumptions and perspectives cover over those opportunities to see the beauty that God created.

 

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Fair-Weather Fan


I have a flaw that I need to admit to.  I am a fair-weather fan when I watch the teams that I say I’m a fan to.  To be specific, I follow the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos, and the Arizona Cardinals.  I lived in Boston for 7 years, grew up in Colorado, and have lived in Arizona for 32 years.  I love to watch my teams, but when they get behind, I have a tendency to get up from the couch and go into the kitchen, or other places, because I hate to see them losing.

Yesterday was the Super Bowl featuring the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. If you have heard the news, the Falcons went up 28-3 over the Patriots and I was in the kitchen trying to find some comfort food to soothe my feelings.  Tonight wouldn’t be the night that the Patriots would get their 5th Lombardi trophy.  My tendency as a fair-weather fan was to turn off the television, but this time I decided to hold off on my emotional desires and continued to watch.

Little did I know that what was unimaginable began to happen.  What went against all odds began to go against all odds.  The New England Patriots began to crawl out of the hole and score one touchdown after another.  They scored 31 unanswered points and in overtime beat the Falcons, the first overtime in the 51 years of playing the Super Bowl.

I learned something last night.  Nothing is impossible even when it seems doomed to defeat.  The New England Patriots taught me something last night and that is to never give up.  It reminds me of Winston Churchill who when he was asked to give a high school graduation speech to a military school of young men.  He got up and said, “Never give up!!!  Never give up!!!  Never give up!!!” and he sat down.  When all seems to be lost, there is always another way out.

On this journey, there will be times when it seems like there is no way out but to give up.  I’m here to tell you to stick with it.  If the New England Patriots can come from 25 points behind and win, your circumstances, no matter how bad, can be turned around if only you don’t give up or give in.

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