Raw Reflections from the Journey

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Miracles I'm willing to work for (aka, New Year's Resolutions)

Sounds a little off, doesn't it? Miracles I'll work for? By definition, a miracle is something beyond the norm, and usually not something you bring about for yourself, but follow me for a minute (or two).

Typically, New Year's Resolutions are desires for something different because a person is sick of the way things are. So, typically, a statement of resolve goes something like this, "Next year, I'm not going to..." That's a set up for failure because its about eliminating some type of activity or behavior. Better is a statement of what one IS going to do. "Next Year I'm going to eat low cholesterol proteins toward the goal of developing a more lean body, and healthy cardiovascular system."

An even better and more successful way to accomplish goals is to visualize the end result and the benefits of achieving that end. "Next year, by June 2012, I will be cycling with the strongest group of riders in my hometown at or near the same body weight that I was when racing ten years ago." There are a lot of do's and don'ts embedded in that goal, but the way its said increases the probability that it will become a reality. And, it becomes more desirable as something I'll work for as I visualize myself doing this and enjoy some emotional imagination about how it will feel.

As 2011 winds down with a big accomplishment (Publishing our book, "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship") and a big loss (my father's passing on Nov. 28), I've been moved to consider what I want for the next season of life and the action-steps to make those desires a reality. The tired language of "New Year's Resolutions" just isn't cutting it for me, and some of my desires seem so big that I think they would be on the order of a miracle and would also require my cooperation to bring them about and sustain them, thus the lingo, "Miracles I'm willing to work for."

I came to this partially from experience in our counseling and coaching practice, Grace and Truth, this past year as we watched many miracles unfold. One was particularly poignant.

A person w/ life-long addiction came to a head when they attempted to purchase heroin. The deal went bad, and the buyer was slashed with a knife. The cut was millimeters from a major artery. Sobered by the near death experience, they prayed for Jesus to take the desire to get high. A week later, with bandages still in place, they appeared in my office with family for a pre-treatment evaluation. "I'm healed. I haven't had any cravings at all.", they said, in part because they didn't see the need for treatment since the desire to use had abated. "Great!" we exclaimed in celebration about the miraculous cure Jesus had administered.

"Now" I argued, "Let's begin an aggressive course of treatment to help you to steward your miracle". My tact was appreciated by a long suffering family. "God has graced you with the absence of craving to get high again. Now, let's support that with education about all the ways you can steward this with time-tested principles and behaviors that will help to support enduring sobriety."

The end of this story is happy, so far. Indeed, it appears that a miracle was wrought in this person's life, AND the follow-up treatment to educate about ways to handle any temptations to relapse, as well as development of healthy personal habits and disciplines and growth in interpersonal communication and conflict resolutions skills has been the due diligence on the back end of the miracle that supports it.

Make sense?

Perhaps you feel like you need a miraculous break-through in an area of life that has long plagued and troubled you? Or you'd like to return to a level of functioning or fitness (not just physical, but also perhaps spiritual, mental, relational, etc.)?

My conversation with the Lord recently has been to confide desires in several areas (physical, spiritual, professional) that I don't think will happen until they begin with the provision of supernatural grace. "Lord, here are some miracles I'm willing to work for. Would you begin by initiating them with desire or removing desire, and then give me the grace, desire and strength to say yes and no to the habits and activities that will steward the miracle?"

What are miracles you'd be willing to work for? What is the eventuality that you want to realize, and backing up from that (its 5 months till June for me), what do you need to start or stop doing, and do more or less that will make your desire a reality?

I've dared to write out my list, and I'm praying over it every morning, working as if the attainment of these goals depends on me, and praying for God's miraculous grace as if it depends on Him!

God bless,


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Laid to Rest

We laid my father to rest yesterday. Finally, closure on a long and painful illness.

It's pretty surreal to carry your father to his final resting place. A gray casket draped by a flag from the University he loved (Wittenberg), after a long but fitting service that featured music by choirs he trained and conducted and solos by him that included "The Lord's Prayer" and "How Great Thou Art". It was impossible not to sob. Dad sang The Lord's Prayer at our Wedding, and yesterday's service concluded with all of us joining him in the chorus of all four stanzas of How Great Thou Art. How fitting to hear him sing, one last time, and to join in praise for the One he served and sang about his entire life.

I'm stunned by how hard this is. I was warned, but didn't get it until I was on this side of it. "Losing a parent is really hard" the survivors said. "Wow". I didn't know how hard.

Three weeks ago I spoke at "Hope for the Holidays" for the funeral home that served our family. Littleton and Rue (www.littletonandrue.com) holds an annual service for the families they've served. This years service was Nov. 19th. I shared that my father was in hospice. Nine days later I joined the ranks of the survivors I spoke to.

What's so hard about this? The finality, obviously. No more phone calls, visits, "I love you dad", "I love you and I'm proud of you, son". No more actual conversations and experiences, only memories.

I shared the following at the funeral.

"Did you ever know a man to fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run as fully as my father? His was a life dedicated to fulfilling the legacy of his namesake, John Wesley (John Wesley Williams) who exhorted all he influenced with the following, 'Do as much good as you can for as many as you can, as well as you can, as long as you can'. Many of you have been saying that JW was a great man. Part of what made him great was that he believed that each of us was born for greatness too, and he dedicated himself to exhorting us to fulfill our God appointed destinies even while he was fulfilling his, which included him calling us forward to our own unique greatness. On behalf of our entire family, I thank you for coming to honor and celebrate my father's life and to enjoy the fabulous music God made him to make, one last time." And then I read Psalm 100.

I'm glad the service was long; almost 90 minutes. But it wasn't long enough. As each part of the program was concluded it was clear that dad was going to stop singing, and there would be no more, at least not in this life. We have the recordings, and they are marvelous, but we'll have to wait for the beginning of our own adventure in eternity to see and enjoy him again.

It's helpful to write. And thank you for reading.

Sleep in Jesus, dad. i love you. Jeff

Surfing and Sobbing: Sudden Shifts in the Grieving Process

You've either lost a parent, or you probably will. But the loss might not have been death, but some other sudden and significant loss or change in life. Whatever or whomever you've lost, you're probably familiar with grief and its varied expressions and emotions.

My dad died on Nov. 28; one week ago tomorrow evening. And it's been hard; harder than I expected. Others who've lost parents warned of this, but I excepted myself. "Dad and I have had the conversations we needed to have; differences have been resolved and appreciations expressed. "It won't be a big deal when he graduates to his eternal adventure", I reasoned. But it has been a big deal. I've had many more deep feelings and much more disruption to life than i expected.

I've encouraged clients throughout my career to expect 'waves' of grief, and to lean into them when they arrive. "Let yourself go with your thoughts and feelings. Don't suppress the feelings, or distract yourself." It's not always pleasant, but the alternative is to stuff and avoid feelings, medicate them with some type of distraction or mood altering experience or substance, etc. In other words, unhealthy alternatives even if they do temporarily relieve distress.

Friends and clients have said that my comparison of ocean waves to waves of grief has been helpful. Imagine sitting in the surf with your back to the ocean. Is this a game you've played? I do every time I get the chance to be at the beach. Waves come in one after the other. In between there are peaceful lapses, but then another comes. Some are gentle, but some are strong. Once in awhile big ones surprise you and even come up and over you. Grief is like this. Waves of emotion come in one after another. Some are gentle and some are strong. The healthy thing to to is to let yourself go with the waves of grief when they come. Think the thoughts and feel the feelings. I know, it hurts. Burning eyes, lump in the throat. But there's one way through grief, and its through it.

The pain will eventually subside. Time does heal. The waves may come in pretty strong from time to time, triggered by different thoughts, sites and sounds. But if you allow yourself to go through the process not only will you will be cooperating with God's plan for the process; to fully absorb and integrate the magnitude of your loss into your life, and thereby be prepared to live on.

With love, from one mourner to another

(I began this on Dec. 5, but didn't have the heart to finish it until today, Dec.11)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

About Face, Serving and Suffering

Got a bit distracted with the Acts of God in my own life the past few days; opportunities to serve as a counselor, proffering God's Grace and Truth to many desperate for a chance to try again, and His truth to be successful.

Acts 8 is Saul's sudden conversion. After Steven's death the Church scattered and "Saul went wild" persecuting the church. The blood on his hands from Stephen's death seemed to make him bloodthirsty. The language of The Message is poignant in regard to his angry incursions into homes of believers. Quite a contrast to the peaceful and harmonious fellowship they had been enjoying. Thus, Saul was feared.

But Jesus had had enough, and in one fell swoop stopped Saul dead in his tracks. "Why do you persecute me?" The Good Shepherd made a move to protect his flock, and in a surprising move, drafted a franchise player as His chosen man to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. Not surprisingly, this move was met with some doubt and consternation by those who'd know Saul as their nemesis.

But conscripted service isn't without a price, "Now I'll show him how much he must suffer for my name." Paul would now get to experience the other side of the persecution he'd perpetrated. Rejection and threats on his life were soon to come.

Still, Paul persisted in preaching, and eventually won the trust of believers.

What was it like to be Paul? His writings show increasing humility to his sinfulness. "Chief of Sinners" was a title he ascribed to himself. "Christ and Christ alone", "I want to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, have fellowship in his sufferings, and somehow attain to the ressurection from the dead". His passion turned 180 degrees from destruction of the Church to building and protecting it, all the while fully enjoying and passionately pursuing his own relational journey with Jesus.

For anyone with regrets Paul is an inspirational example, "Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Paul had a lot to forget. Regrets were probably numerous, including his sanctioning of Stephen's murder...let that soak in. From Killer to Evangelist. It wasn't the first time a rabble rouser had been gripped by God and it won't be the last.

What do you have to forget? If in Christ Paul could do it, so can we. Time to do a bit more running of the race.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Growing by leaps and bounds, men full of The Holy Spirit, Stephen’s death

Things were going swimmingly. The Way was growing by leaps and bounds and then there was a snafu…accusation of discrimination in food distribution.

This wasn’t the first time the disciples had seen and experienced a problem in their ministry. Jesus had some pretty rough going, remember? And they’d stuck it out even when others left. They had on the job training and now the advantage of the Holy Spirit. They called a meeting and apparently agreed on an effective solution, because the next you know, they are continuing in prayer and teaching/preaching God’s word while men full of the Holy Spirit AND good sense were selected to manage the food distribution.

“and good sense” jumps off the page. It wasn’t qualification for leadership to be filled with the Holy Spirit. They needed “good sense” too. Lots to be said for that. Practical wisdom; probably a factor of maturity and experience…

The Calling Journey, Tony Stoltzfus (www.coach22.com, or www.thecallingjourney.com) emphasizes that one’s calling is shaped over time through life experiences that give us the opportunity to find our identity in Christ (as opposed to various roles and titles) and to depend wholly on God for direction, discernment, provision, etc. Many a lad and young lady set out to do great things for God, or yearn to, but lack life experience that seasons, conditions and ultimately provides the background needed for wisdom to be cultivated.

Interesting that men full of the Holy Spirit (and good sense) took food distribution seriously and did it well. What if they didn’t? The Way may have sputtered or had a lull, but rather, it continued full steam.

Then Stephen, (the same Stephen named first as one of the seven chosen to oversee the food distribution?) is targeted by jealous and mean spirited dissenters for public debate. “they tried to argue him down” from a position that many would aspire to; “..brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them.”

Why can’t good stories continue uninterrupted? Why does there always have to be a villain to spoil the day? You see it in movies all the time. Peaceful and loving scenarios interrupted by tragedy or evil. In Ghost (Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze) the young couple in love is headed home from a date, smiling, laughing, loving and the man is accosted by a mugger and killed. Sudden violence and death. Why?

It’s the reality of the world in which we live, eh? And the same today as then. Evidence of an enemy at work to taint and tarnish all that is good, beautiful and righteous.

Acts 7 depicts Stephen’s demise, but notice that he doesn’t go down without making further inroads for The Way, and it’s leader. Similar to Peter in earlier chapters, he seizes the opportunity to preach to an audience by describing the history and context of the appearance of Messiah. The chronology continues for some time, and nearly lulls the reader into complacency when Stephen applies the coup de grace to the audience, seeking the same type of repentant response that Peter and the others had obtained in earlier episodes of public preaching, “And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors…”

Well, so much for a warm welcome and a polite audience. “At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed-he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side.”

Us preachers, teachers, writers and public speakers would be wise to take a lesson from this; to have eyes for God when presented with any opportunity to declare truth and to invite the unsaved to repentance. By doing so, we’ll make the most of every opportunity to present a life-saving message and truth; that God so love the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him would not perish, but have ever-lasting life…

Better to offend for a moment by confronting others with the disturbing truth that Jesus is Savior and Lord and that they (we) are sinners doomed to damnation unless and until we repent of sin and surrender to Him, than to offend them forever by NOT telling them.

Being careful to not offend was not the way for those of The Way when it first began, and so it shouldn’t be today.

Finally, following the example of Jesus, Stephen prayed for Jesus to take him, “Master Jesus, take my life”, and then his final worlds, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”….Sounds a lot like “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Stephen appears to have been a pretty good student, and so he didn’t miss his opportunity to live for Jesus and then to die for Him as the first Christian martyr.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Acts 5 - Sudden death, harmony, additions, healing, jail break and a whipping

Could a single chapter pack any more information? The happenings in Acts 5 are worth an entire book!

First, there’s the duplicity of Annanias and Saphira. Bad choice to lie about money…not sure all the lessons to be learned, but The Message puts it this way, “God is not to be trifled with.”

It is interesting how this couple would dare to be duplicitous in the context of all they’d probably seen. They’d probably witnessed at least the results of the descent of the Holy Spirit onto and into the Apostles and all who were saved, the healings done by Peter and others, etc.

Striking them dead seems an Old Testament behavior by God, and not the grace-walk of Jesus who liberated sinners from death sentences (e.g., the woman caught in adultery). So why this severe response?

One thought is that He wanted to protect the purity of the fellowship that had just begun by sending a stern message about fidelity to Him and His way as the imperative for His presence and power in their lives; ‘follow me wholeheartedly and you will really, really live (preach, teach and heal in ways that compel others to live for me too), but live for self and manage your own affairs with your own wisdom instead of mine and you will die; sooner or later you will die.’ Both NT and OT teaching is about the destructive consequences of sin…so perhaps He thought it was a good timely and not so metaphorical reminder?

Then there’s the harmony of the believers. How did that happen? My thought is that it was the side effect of their focus worshipping Jesus and doing the Great Commission. Have you heard that a peace-time Army turns inward and has a lot more conflict during peace-time than during war? During war it comes together to work toward common goals, but in peacetime there is time and space to pick fights about essentially inconsequential matters…to me this is a possibly accurate analogy re: what it takes for harmony; focus on the main thing.

Then there’s a curious statement, “But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both.”

Why were they admired? For their steadfastness in the face of persecution? For the remarkable signs and wonders they performed? For their unity, harmony, generosity? All are unusual spectacles for sure. And it was pretty radical, “…outsiders were wary about joining them…” BUT, those who put their trust in Jesus were added right and left. Seems that once they had revelation of Jesus being who He said He is that fears about being identified as part of the persecuted “WAY” fell away. The remarkable unparalleled Jesus was worth following even if it cost them.

Healings were 100% it seems. WOW! Can you imagine how crowds would flock for such healing today? It seems that in the west we hear of an isolated miracle here and there but not entire outbreaks….why? If it happens at all couldn’t it happen en masse?

Jail break – if it was me breaking out I’d be laughing hysterically. “What’s next? Isn’t this a hoot? Can you imagine having any more fun? They can scold us, warn us, jail us, but unless they kill us they aren’t going to silence us or stow us away!” And don’t miss this point: The angel that opened the jail house door and led them out gave instructions to be followed immediately, “Go to the temple and take your stand. Tell the people EVERYTHING there is to say about this life!” Wow, now that must have taken awhile. That’s a lot to tell! And note that they were freed for a purpose, to proclaim the Gospel. We too are freed from sin for purpose, to make Him known and to walk fully and wholeheartedly in The Way.

And finally there’s another scolding, warning, and a whipping. “That ought to silence them…physical pain.” But the irrepressible disciples have an answer for that one, too!

“The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name.”

Nothing was going to stop the spread of the good news and the growth of the number of those who would join “The WAY”. Nothing ever has…and nothing ever will!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Acts 4 - We Can't Help but Speak about What We've Seen and Heard!

Acts 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit continues on a roll of courageous preaching that has spectacular results! 5000 now believing in Jesus! Good thing he waited for the Holy Spirit just as Jesus instructed, “Wait for the Holy Spirit and then you will be able to do these things.” I think the same applies today regarding the beginning of ministries, churches and even speaking truth or exhortations in love, “Wait on the Holy Spirit and then you will be able to do these things.”

But now for some consequences; The Temple police and Sadducees have Peter and John arrested, “Indignant that these upstart apostles were instructing the people and proclaiming that the resurrection from the dead had taken place in Jesus.” (The Message). Why were they indignant? Two reasons: 1. In a sentence, it was their job to instruct the people, “The religious responsibilities of the Sadducees included the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. Their high social status was reinforced by their priestly responsibilities, as mandated in the Torah. The Priests were responsible for performing sacrifices at the Temple, the primary method of worship in Ancient Israel. This also included presiding over sacrifices on the three festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem.” (Wikipedia on Sadducees). 2. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. That is why they were sad…you see? J

Just one more reason Jesus was offensive to the religious establishment, and still is, I think. He upset the order of society/religion by making the proclamation of the Gospel a free for all. Anyone filled with the Holy Spirit could proclaim it and teach it. As the Wiki article on Sadducees says, “Their religious beliefs and social status were mutually reinforcing, as the Priesthood often represented the highest class in Judean society.” In other words, they had a lot to lose is they allowed “these upstart apostles” to continue preaching and teaching. How sad that they didn’t realize the fulfillment of the Scriptures that Jesus represented; that history was made in their midst. Concerned with preservation of the status quo, they decided instead to persecute the messianic rabble rousers followers.

Chapter 4 is so full of memorable statements. Peter and John’s umbrage about being questioned for healing a crippled man, “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross!” “Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.” I’m getting chills as I type.

“They couldn’t take their eyes off them-Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education….then there was this man undeniably crippled all these years, and there he was, standing upright – so healed! – what could they say against that?” ummm. More chills. I think I get excited cause I want to take walks to the temple and to give the gifts of God…the things that people need and that will cause them to celebrate with exuberant joy…One of my favorite childhood Sunday School songs was about how this healed man went leaping and dancing and praising God. The visual Bible, Acts also portrays the scene of him dancing up the steps of the Temple and it provokes joyful laughter.

I love the fact that Peter and John had the religious leaders over a barrel. Intimidation and threats weren’t effective with them. They were bent on telling as many as possible about Jesus so that they might find salvation in Him, and whether jailed, beaten, killed, they were going to preach and teach, “Judge for yourselves whether it would be right for us to listen to you instead of God. As for us, we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”

Peter’s courage was no doubt fueled by Jesus’s mercy on him after his many mistakes; trying to take the head off the high priest’s servant and denying Jesus. It’s easy to imagine the conversation in his head, “No way, I’m not making the same mistake a second time. It’s all too fresh that I lied to save myself. But now, after watching Jesus give himself up for us, and very specifically giving me a second chance I’m not going to blow it…even if it costs me my life." And eventually it would.

Acts 3 - Silver or Gold Have I None, But What I Have I Give Thee!

I just love this story…Peter and John on the way to a prayer meeting…a man crippled from birth carried to a place where he could solicit for handouts. Peter saying, “I don’t have what you want, but I can give you what you need!”

How does Jesus continually do the same for us. We ask for what we want, but He gives us what we need, including the experiences we need in order to have opportunity to have Him formed in us! (Romans 8).

And then Peter, realizing a crowd has gathered in response to the celebration of the man who was healed, seizes the opportunity to make clear how the man was healed, “Not by my/our piousness or our own power” but by God through his son Jesus, who He glorified….and then on to the same type of message of conviction he’d preached at Pentecost in chapter 2.

Makes me think of I Peter, 3:15 “Always be prepared to speak about the reason for the hope that you have.” These words were in Peter’s heart and mind…he was ready on a moment’s notice to testify to what he’s seen, and to preach a message of truth unto conviction and repentance.

The point shouldn’t be missed how Peter’s courage to preach such a bold message was in stark contrast to his cowardice during the passion when he denied knowing Jesus, and the restoration process that followed on the beach, “Peter, do you love me…” Yet more evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead. Peter wouldn’t be preaching like this for a lie, and certainly wouldn’t be risking his neck after a history of saving it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Acts 2 in three parts

I chapter 2 in three parts.

First, the disciples at Pentecost still awaiting fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to fill them with His Holy Spirit, his very presence which he promised them would be with them till the end of the world! Earlier, he’d said something like this, “It’s good if I go, for if I go then I will send the comforter the counselor, the One who will remind you of everything I have taught you, the One who will empower you to do what I did and even greater things than these.” (that’s a composite paraphrase of the things that come to mind that Jesus said one time or another about the promise of the Holy Spirit; I may look them all up later and study each verse separately).

Pretty amazing promise, and if I was a disciple, I’d be pretty excited about it, especially after watching the things he did; heal lepers, blind, deaf, paralytic, cast out demons, raise the dead (Lazurus, et al), and even raise from the dead himself. Calm the seas, empower Peter to walk on water, heal the sliced off ear of the high priest (thanks for the opportunity to demonstrate more of my divine power, Peter), etc., etc. the end of the gospel of John says that if the sky was a parchment and the oceans wells of ink it wouldn’t be enough and there wouldn’t be enough room on earth to hold the volumes of books that would be written…so there’s even more than we know!

And suddenly the place where they were together was filled w/out warning w/ gale force wind…and like wildfire the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks….and no doubt, they knew that Jesus had kept his promise to fill them w/ the Holy Spirit. In fact, before the crowd could make any accusations to the contrary stick, Peter speaks authoritatively, quoting from Joel about God pouring out His Spirit in the last days and the different manifestations that would verify that it was from him; young men and women prophesying, etc.

Second: Peter doesn’t stop w/ explanation of what has happened. He preaches to enlighten the crowd about Jesus; who he was and is, and what they’d done to him. Under conviction, many asked what they should do, and Peter responds succinctly w/ the infamous words, “Repent and turn to God. Be Baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!” And many do, about 3000 of them. Pretty cool altar call!

Finally, body life is described as a generous community of fellowship. Not only did their practices of gathering together frequently, sharing meals and giving to one another according to need meet needs and edify the believers, but also provided a compelling example to the masses, “who liked what they saw and were compelled to join , ‘the way’ Sounds easy. Sounds fun. Sound like something I’d like to be a part of.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

21 Days of Reading the Book of ACTS - and ACTS 1

A friend shared over dinner the other night a desire to be a man of the Word of God, and to do so means regularly ingesting it. The next day I suggested that we form a covenant to do a daily daily reading plan. The day after he suggested ACTS for the next 21 days, beginning today (Nov.3) and ending Thanksgiving. His thought was to be inspired by the actions of the early believers. Would you like in on this? Acts is actually 28 chapters so some days will cover more than one chapter…your discretion how much to read each day.

I’m going to make some notes and probably SOAP (see below) portions of passages and share w/ you. If you are inclined to do the same it would be cool, like a virtual fellowship meeting. You could post your reflections in the comments section of this blog, or not...Just thought I'd invite some interaction...

Here is the introduction to ACTS from The Message:

Because the story of Jesus is so impressive- God among us! God speaking a language we can understand! God acting in ways that heal and help and save us!- there is a danger that we will be impressed but only be impressed. As the spectacular dimensions of this story slowly (or suddenly) dawn upon us, we could easily become enthusiastic spectators, and then let it go at that – become admirers of Jesus, generous with our ooh’s and aah’s and in our better moments inspired to imitate him.

It is Luke’s task to prevent this, to prevent us from becoming mere spectators to Jesus, fans of the Message. Of the original quartet or writers on Jesus, Luke alone continues to tell the story as the apostles and disciples live it into the next generation. The remarkable thing is that it continues to be essentially the same story. Luke continues his narration with hardly a break, a pause perhaps to dip his pen in the inkwell, writing in the same style, using the same vocabulary.

The story of Jesus doesn’t end with Jesus. It continues in the lives of those who believe in him. The supernatural does not stop with Jesus. Luke makes it clear that these Christians he wrote about were no more spectators of Jesus than Jesus was a spectator of God- they are in on the action of God, God acting in them, God living in them. Which also means, of course, in us.

Acts 1

The following really stands out to me:

- “After his death, he presented himself alive to them…” what a simple, non-assuming statement, yet so profound! After his death he…..

- People don’t do anything after their death! What kind of man was this?

- “he talked to them about things concerning the Kingdom”

- of course! Kingdom things were the most important things!

- “they ate meals together” Well, if there was any question about Jesus being raised from the dead in his physical body, let this put it to rest. He ate!

Next is his instruction to wait for the Holy Spirit to come on them

- “When the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be ABLE to be my witnessed in Jerusalem, Judea and unto the ends of the earth!

o Not until the Holy Spirit comes on you will you have the ABILITY to do the great commission.

o Don’t try in your own strength by human wisdom; dummies!


- they didn’t take matters into their own hands due to impatience. They followed his instruction to wait for the Holy Spirit to come on them

o how do we know today when the Holy Spirit has come upon us?

§ Physical signs and manifestations?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good Grief and Misc. update

Three months is a long time to be absent from a blog! Sorry...

July was the trip to India. Click here if you missed the blog.

August was recovery from the trip. September was...??? (what was September? Where does time go?) And now we're nearly 1/3 of the way through October? Hmmmmmm....

We are finishing our book, "How to Coach Your Marriage: Skills to Heal, Strengthen and Protect Your Relationship", developing our recently approved not for profit organization Great Relationships, Inc., managing a counseling case-load, planning and praying for a Church leadership retreat, a series of suicide prevention for the US Air Force, and preparing for a combo trip to California during which we will cultivate relationships and share a Marriage Coaching taste and see with trained coaches and couples passionate about marriage ministry. THEN we will relax as a couple for 4 days by the ocean to commemorate our 25th Anniversary (12.25.85)!

And now for the grieving.

Tears began to flow in earnest this past Thursday upon receiving a call from my step-mother that dad had been hospitalized and that his Dr. had advised calling family. So, after adjusting our schedule, Jill and I embarked on a 600 mile journey to NE Iowa. Eleven hours later we fed dad supper, then adjusted his bed, lighting and curtains for his evening nap.

It really stinks to see this once robustly healthy man bed-ridden, and plagued with unrelenting pain. Never again will he tour a golf course, mow the lawn or even see his home. Disease is having its way and it appears that he soon he will transition from time and space to eternity.

We're all grieving (I feel some sting and burning in my red eyes as I type), and we're all reminiscing. Grieving is unavoidable and it stinks! (and its a blessing!) Just below is a note I wrote to our personal prayer partners

"Thank you for allowing us to continue to communicate with you by email. As you know, grief is hard, but to live well we must grieve well, and that means going with the thoughts and feelings provoked by loss and change as they come…and come they do, relentlessly, just like ocean waves.

Dad hasn’t made his transition to heaven yet, but after an opportunity to speak with his Dr. at length it seems that it won’t be long. He has chronic, severe and irresolvable pain in his back, shoulders and hip. As the Dr. said, the parts are worn out. Therein lays the problem. Resolution of pain could come from surgery, but he isn’t strong enough and well enough for that. Even if he was, recovery from hip surgery would be prohibited by non-functioning shoulders. And on it goes.

As Susan says, “Faith makes the difference.” We grieve, but not as ones without hope.

Ironically, a golf course is beside the hospital. After talking with the Dr., Jill and I said goodbye to dad (Susan and her mom took our place), and took a walk on the golf course. Some of you know the significance of that. Golf was special to dad and me. He taught me to play at a young age, and it was a sanctuary where we could meet peacefully to enjoy the game and each other through the difficult years following his and mom’s divorce. Dad in the hospital dying, and Jill and I walking down a fairway that can be seen from his window….it was a beautiful day, and a flood of memories and tears ensued. I kept thinking that the final thing I want to say to dad is, “Wait for me on the first tee.” There’s got to be a golf course in heaven."

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your love and support.

The Raw journey continues as do the Raw Reflections from the Journey.

Love and blessings, Jeff

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sent...and supported!

During the ramp up of the Clark Co. Ohio community marriage initiative in from late summer 2003 throughout 2004 (until the culmination of the project in a public signing of a covenant by clergy) staff and pastors convened on Wednesday mornings to pray. It was clear to us (Jill and I) that more and better for marriage in our community would come against spiritual strongholds that would not fall or be pushed back except by the power of prayer.

Every 7am prayer meeting began with worship. I put a CD w/ a mix in the computer and selected shuffle. And every session, the computer selected "He Reigns" as part of the sequence of songs for the morning. If you aren't familiar, the Newsboys lyrics basically indicate that the Gospel is for every culture and every nation in the world. We raised our eyebrows in surprise as it became suspicious that the Holy Spirit was mixing the songs with purpose; that He was calling our attention to something bigger than an initiative for just this community.

As the plot unfolded, and Marriage Savers Clark County morphed into Marriage Resource Center of the Miami Valley under the superb leadership of Lavern and Ronda Nissley and staff the Lord's direction became a bit more clear. Jill and I were led to Maryland to share what we'd learned with others, Lavern was tapped for wisdom from directors around the country, David and Teresa Mabry served and learned for a time before taking a church in Columbus where they share what they learned in Springfield, and on it goes...God's way of disseminating life-giving and marriage-saving information and skills.

This summer, eight years after saying yes to more and better for Clark County marriage and family, friends in S. Asia have invited us to visit them, and to share some things we've learned, and friend's here are supporting the venture.

Last Saturday evening a gathering of these precious friends enjoyed curry chicken, apple/mango chutney, naan bread, basmati rice and Texas sheet cake (which one doesn't belong?) made with love, from scratch. And then they prayed...over every aspect of this trip. Here's a bit of one participant's review:

After visiting on the deck there was a prayer time...all gathering around Jeff and Jill...putting hands on them and blessing their visit to friends in India...I've never experienced anything like it...the praying was so simple and plain and covered all things that they may encounter...

That was a humbling, and very encouraging experience! Just as humbling is the $ support that has been voluntarily contributed for this trip. It just keeps coming! Ultimately it is an expression of love for those with whom we will share our lives in a few short weeks for a duration of three weeks! To go with purpose, loved, befriended and supported has been an awesome faith-building experience, and we're sure there is more to come.

Less than a decade ago we barely dreamed of the possibility of such an adventure. All we knew is that we said 'yes' to a persistent request from God to participate in development of more and better for marriages in this community. But we should have been suspicious, I suppose. After all, He is the God of all creation, and His children are scattered everywhere!

What is He asking from you? And what have you said? Or what will you say? The choice is to play it safe and say no, or to dare to say yes and see where it leads. Each of us have opportunity now to participate in God's plan and purposes. Whether we say yes or no, He'll get it done. The question is whether or not we will be among those who enjoy the adventure and thrill of imparting Him and His ways to others, or whether we'll be observers to cheer for others.

But while overseas is adventurous and romantic, the opportunities are here, on our path every day. What is it that He has been speaking to you about, or what have you been invited to do that you are considering? How will you decide if it of Him? Is it something you are passionate about? Have you been prepared for it in some way?

Thanks for reading, and God bless,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reliability Ratings

How do you make decisions about who to share your heart with?

I used to be more of a daring optimist when it comes to openly and transparently sharing my heart with others. Why? Well, after hearing a compelling presentation about levels of transparency* and the effect of transparency on relationships (it expedites the development of authentic relationships), I decided that more good things were possible from taking the risk to be real in comparison to being closed.

My verdict after a decade of this practice is this: It works, and it costs.

And now I have a problem that I'm hoping one of you might help me to solve (via testimony or encouragement through a comment). I'm finding myself guarded about what I share, especially with people who have low reliability ratings. What I mean is this: If a person tells me that they are going to do something, and then don't do it, I find myself shrinking from opportunities to share with them.

Now, is this just good sense, and consistent with Biblical teaching about throwing pearls before swine (I know the language sounds harsh, and that there are a few ways to understand that passage). Is reliability a quality of "Safe People", and is my reaction one that is healthy because it is reasonably self-protective? Or have I lost something, and have I become a casualty (at least temporarily) in a saga for healthy, meaningful and potent relationships? Maybe just a run of bad luck in terms of reliable people?

No, the world isn't black or white. My life is rich with people who do what they say they're going to do. AND, I'm NOT saying that my reliability rating is 100%. I know I've vowed to do things and not done them. If you're reading this and you think, "Hey, Jeff promised something to me and he hasn't done it" please bring that to my attention. I'd like to make it right. Shame on me if I'm living in a glass house and throwing stones.

There, I feel better, but I hope you hear me as I intend. I'm not trying to rant, but rather I'm trying to confess a struggle, check reality...and well...to be transparent. How ironic!

blessings, Jeff

*Three levels of transparency
- Level I - I will never share what is real with you
- Level II - I'll share if you share, but you go first!
- Level III - I will share openly about my honest thoughts, feelings and struggles so that God's work in my life can be seen...regardless of what you do.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birthday Reflections: The First Day of the Rest of My LIfe

Today is my birthday which is as good of reason as any to wax philosophical. I know, I know...I don't really need an excuse do I? Well, if you will indulge me, I'm going to honor my stream of consciousness...I really need to process some things. Birthdays alone prompt me to reflect on how I'm living, but there is more. This one converged with a visit to my father who is currently living in a nursing home. Jill, Laura and I got back late last after visiting him for the past three days in Minnesota.

It was dad who introduced me to the magnificence of today, and every day we are blessed to live, "What is today, son?", he would ask afresh, as if he'd never asked before. "The first day of the rest of my life", I learned to reply. I really didn't get it when young, but as the reality of middle-age has set in (I'm 46 today), and as I watch parents struggle with maladies of aging, it means more and more. No doubt our days are numbered.

As I carried the last load of luggage from the car last night I paused to look at the stars which were exceptionally bright in a cold and dark sky. "I wonder the number of times I'll get to see these on a night like this before eternity?" Please don't misunderstand this as morbid preoccupation with death, but rather the opposite; appreciation for life and the magnificence of it.

For me there was nothing quite like seeing my hobbled father, a physical shadow of a once exceptionally strong, passionate leader to bring home the reality of limited days of life...and to move me to serious reflection About how I'm stewarding it: What do I think about? What do I do? And how do I do it? The bottom line question: How well am I living my life per the calling I have received?

One of the benefits of aging is awareness of the limits of time and energy. And a birthday is as good of a time as any to hit the reset button for a fresh start. What am I compelled to start doing, stop doing, do more of and less of?

- More fun with friends and loved ones
- More time in prayer, on walks and in love with Jill
- More free time away from my laptop and blackberry

- Less fretting about provisions
- Less anxiety about patients getting well

- Start taking dedicated periods of time away from the office and home office (days and partial days OFF)
- Start every day with quiet time, reading and reflection

One practical action-step Jill and I have already taken was to adjust our schedule for more balance and variety. Still the the reality is that a significant internal adjustment is required to make the most of that structure, and no one gets it better for me than Phillips, Craig & Dean in the song, Let God be God. Check out the lyrics...I find them humbling and reassuring:

You said “Lights ON”
And a blinding sea of stars began to shine
You said “Birds SING!”
And a million melodies filled up the sky
You said "this world,
Spinning through a crowded Milky Way"
Well the sun comes up
And the sun goes down
And God doesn’t seem to need my help
But the One who holds the sea in place
Is watching out for every step I take

I think I’ll let God be God, I’m giving up control
Think I’ll relax, step back
It’s time for letting go
If you kept the universe in sync
A million years or so
Since the Keeper of creation knows
I think I’ll let God be God

You clapped your hands
The thunder rose and lightning filled the sky
You bring new life
A tiny newborn baby starts to cry
The tide rolls in and it rolls back out
And never has God needed me to help
The One who sees the sparrow fall
Knows what I need before I even call

I think I’ll let God be God, I’m giving up control
Think I’ll relax, step back
It’s time for letting go
If you kept the universe in sync
A million years or so
Since the Keeper of creation knows
I think I’ll let God be God

Yeah, nothing takes You by surprise
Never late, always on time
The One who holds the sea in place
Is watching out for every step I take

Monday, March 7, 2011

No Rose Garden (but plenty of water for the flowers...in the basement)

April (March) showers bring May flowers...

Well, there's been plenty of water, but no flowers in our basement...as of yet.

This past Saturday morning had a leisurely beginning...barista Jeff had created his and her cappuccinos, we'd taken a walk (during which we noticed which houses were perched above the flood waters and which ones weren't). "I'm glad our sump pump is working well", I thought to myself. Little did we know.

At home, after our walk we'd begun to consider how to invest the open day when Laura sprung from the basement to announce, "There's a flood!"

Oh no! The sump pump had taken a nap, and 4-6 inches of spring rains were rippling across every square inch of the basement...groan. Spontaneous healing of the pump helped the waters to recede, but the damage was done; carpet and padding, soaked wooden furniture legs, and thousands of papers, journals, pictures...oh well, we did say we wanted to lighten our load the next time we move.

"These light and momentary troubles..."

Tim and Bridget (our landlords) were great as usual; kind, compassionate and responsive. Within minutes they'd made insurance calls (I made ours with my feet still covered in water..a true SOS call from the basement), and arranged a professional group to clean and restore. Thus began a parade of water workers. By phone and email we celebrated mutual grace and compassion; "Life happens...why get our knickers all knotted up?"

By Sunday afternoon it was getting old. Adrenaline of a new challenge had worn away, and now came the inconvenience, work, smells and the realization that house guests due w/in the week would have to be placed in places that we hadn't planned to place them...but we'll be together (Carly and Gabby, Jocelyn and Bella). Being together and staying together through life's valleys is what it's all about anyhow, right?

Jill and I shared an emotional jug last night (no, not homemade moonshine to allay our anxieties), but rather a talking exercise designed to help us identify and express honest feelings. It's cathartic and builds closeness. After working through mad, sad and scared feelings we got to glad. "What are you glad about?"

"I'm glad that we've learned in life challenges to turn to Jesus"
, I said. "His words are comforting", I thought. "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest", and "In this world you will have many troubles, but take heart. I have overcome the world."

Light and momentary troubles...that are achieving a victory in us that overcomes the world. yep. I'm glad for unexpected challenges...even if they are a bit wet!

Monday, February 14, 2011

To Have and To Hold

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
~ Genesis 2:24 (NIV)

I was almost too nervous and too emotional to say my vows, let alone really understand their meaning. I just wanted to make it through the ceremony.

As Jill was escorted down the aisle by her father, my knees quivered. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized she was making me her one and only, forever. I was so humbled and overwhelmed. And, I suppose I was scared, or at least I should have been scared about holding her in love, the rest of our lives.

To have a wife is a gift. To hold her is a responsibility that is fulfilled only by selfless love. That’s something I’m still learning.

Privilege comes with responsibility. I get to have her and I must hold her. While I have exclusive rights to emotional and physical intimacy with my wife, I also have responsibility to love and to provide for her. Maybe this was another reason my knees were shaking – my subconscious knew that I was getting in over my head.

Jill often shares with couples that she and I have grown up together. We’ve been learning love for a long time. I feel sad when I contrast my bride’s happy and hopeful expression at our wedding with images of her tear-stained face when I’ve hurt her. If there was anything I vowed not to do when we married, it was to not cause pain. But I have. Being human, it’s impossible not to. I find that sad.

Life outside the Garden of Eden is tough. Pain is inevitable. It’s a clear consequence of sin. Sadly, in relationships, we hurt each other by what we say and don’t say, and by what we do and don’t do. Our best intentions sometimes go unnoticed and sometimes they are misinterpreted. Sometimes we don’t cooperate with our partner’s right to have us or to hold us. And sometimes we make it hard for them.

Recently we coached a couple by phone. She was full of pain, anger and frustration. We facilitated her sharing lots of angry, sad and scared feelings. He admitted that he had to clench his teeth and bite his tongue to keep from rebutting with his own thoughts and feelings. After she was done, he described that she was holding him, but that he wanted to pull away. She felt held by him hearing her heart and wanted to be close, despite having been hurt. He was struggling with anger about some things she said, and confusion about how she could want to be close to him. I think that’s a good picture, a realistic picture of what it’s like and what it takes to hold on to our vows in marriage; to hold on through hurt.

The pastor who officiated our wedding could have commented on our vows. It wouldn’t have been romantic, but it would have been realistic. “That’s right, Jeff and Jill, to have and to hold. You’ll have to hold on through the rough times and hold on through hurt. The happiness of this moment and the newness of your marriage will wear off at some point. Reality will set in and you’ll probably have a fight. Feelings will be hurt and your vows will be tested. When those times come, it will be important to hold on through the hurt.”

Are you hurt? How are you holding your partner? How are you holding on?

Lord, you are one who holds on through the hurt. As you hold us, we can hold each other. Thank you for your stubborn love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Boundaries? To Protect Your Purpose

Boundaries sometimes get a bad rap. Some people don't understand or like when you say no, or when you live by a calendar. Saying "no" or "not now" is taken as personal rejection, "You don't like me or value me enough to spend time with me." But that's not always the case.

Some of the most Kingdom successful and productive people I know set and defend firm boundaries to protect time and energy. They know what their life is to be about, and therefore say no much more often than they say yes. They live by the maxim Gordon MacDonald made famous in Ordering Your Private World "If you don't schedule your time, others will be glad to schedule it for you."

What got me thinking about this? Two things: 1. Clarification of boundaries between professional time and personal time with a friend who also employs me as a Leadership Coach for his business, and 2. Desire and determination to finish a book to teach as many couples as possible how to coach their own marriage.

First, the former. Do you know why some counselors avoid telling people on seatmates on airplanes what they do for a living? Because we will inevitably be told about their problems as if they are doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to work a little bit more. No thanks. Believe it or not, asking, listening, conceptualizing, diagnosing and treatment planning are energy intensive, and those services deserve to be compensated. But, I'll admit that when led by the Holy Spirit to answer directly about what I do, I will be truthful. The rest of the time I say, "I work in healthcare." All but the persistent and insensitive passengers get the point, "He doesn't want to talk." Not the best 24/7 witness, I know, but this blog is Raw Reflections so I'm trying to keep it real. When it comes to friendship, I want to relax in reciprocal relationship and not be "on duty" to access my psychological or Leadership Coaching database of experience to perform these professional functions.

The second reason I've been thinking about and identifying and setting boundaries was the impetus for this blog entry; protecting time and energy needed to fulfill some of my life purpose through a portion of Jill and my mission: To inspire and equip as many Christian Marriages as possible to have a pleasurable, hopeful and purposeful marriage for the Kingdom of God and to help them to help others to have the same. One means of doing this is in writing, and we've had a book "in the works" for way too long. It bothers me every day that it isn't yet in the hands of couples who don't know what they don't know about essential skills and attitudes they need to heal, strengthen and protect their marriage and to help other couples do the same.

The point? Since we live in time and space, there are a finite number of hours in a day that we can be productive; yea, a finite number of hours left to live this life, and to fulfill our God-given purpose before we hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

So, boundaries are good, not bad. They protect people and purpose. They define how much of us we give to others, and when we give that. Since time and energy are in limited supply each day, stewardship demands that I judiciously parcel these out to the people and purposes that God puts on my path. So, if you hear me say "no", or "not now", it doesn't necessarily mean that I don't care about you, or that I don't value an endeavor in which you are involved. It means that I'm continuing to do my best to do my best with the purposes that God designed me to fulfill, and the people He's given me to love and care for.

Hmmm. Back to work!

Blessings, Jeff

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Making Desires Reality, One Day at a Time

I'm psyched, and I want to write about it.

Today ended the 7th week of P90X for Jill and me. We began December 20, and one day at a time we now find ourselves at day 49! The results? Fewer pounds, less fat, more muscle, better flexibility, greater strength, cardiovascular fitness and a positive sense of well-being. There's a really big difference in all of these measures between day one and now, but the psychological benefits are the ones I probably appreciate the most; confidence and a sense of accomplishment from doing something my body didn't want to and my mind said it couldn't.

What broke the inertia of relatively sedentary middle-aged mindset that included aches, pains and low moods from lack of vigorous exercise? Desperation and desire to look and feel different. Note the emphasis on desire. Many programs work but only if we work them, and working them consistently is a result of motivation.

If you asked me in December what I wanted, my list would have looked like this:
- to be able to reach my toes again
- to be fit and flexible enough to get on the racquetball court again
- to wear my current wardrobe comfortably
- to eliminate neck and lower back pain
- to be able to ride my bike comfortably through mountainous terrain
- to be comfortable in my own skin like I was when I was fit

The list of desires was enough to break the inertia of fear of failure in a tough fitness program. I wanted the results bad enough to endure the discomfort.

Now, not to trivialize or be sacreligious in any way, but this reminds me of what was said about Jesus, "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross" (Philippians 2). In common vernacular this is expressed as, "No pain, no gain."

Forty-nine days of exercise* were strung together as single days, one day at at a time. It was only about a half-hour ago that we completed today's routine, so we're not physically or psychologically ready to tackle tomorrow's workout. We'll deal with that tomorrow, and we'll be rested and ready. Today has enough other objectives to fill it, and so we'll give ourselves to those too.

I think the instruction of Jesus to live one day at a time is often overlooked and undervalued. Not only is one day at a time all that we've been made to handle physically and psychologically, but it's also the key to relaxing in relationship with God and others. Just today, it's all I have to think about, and as I do, it will become a strong link to tomorrow, and the next day...and the next, and...

So today, do what you can do. Don't do nothing, because you can't do everything, do what you canand see how far it gets you.

Blessings, Jeff

Thursday, January 6, 2011

An Ode to Laura (Beth)

Her life almost wasn't. Her mother badly wanted a third child, but her father doubted if he had enough love and could "earn" enough provisions to nurture her. The mother persuaded the father. A night of passion ensued. A child was born.

Laura is a remarkable soul; tender and compassionate, she is a tenacious and gracious friend and sister.

What motivated my writing? I'm listening to the music of this lovely young lady. She is tenderly tickling the ivories to express the tender and creative nuances of her soul...and her papa is crying.

A remarkable talent is now thriving in this world to bless, inspire and encourage just as her PAPA ordained.

Laura, as we discussed before your first choir solo this past Christmas: You have been given a special gift by your Maker to bless, inspire and exhort others. May you nurture and express all that He has put into you, and as you do may you enjoy Him and find pleasure in that which He has created you to do.

I love you. Dad

Keep Pushing Play

Are you blue? Did you experience a letdown after the holidays? I did. Much anticipated visits by family and friends are past. Winter is fully present, and Spring is a long way off. How to remain encouraged and on the job, fully present as an encouraging presence in the lives of others?

"Keep pushing play" were the final words of the fitness instructor on the popular fitness video, P90X. I appreciate Tony Horton's encouragement. The workouts are very challenging and can be demoralizing if one isn't able to complete all the reps or do them as well as the ultra-fit athletes on the screen. So, I really appreciate the realistic instruction, "Do you best, and forget the rest" which translates, "If you can't do everything we do as well as we do it, it's ok. Do your best and trust your body to adapt to the demands you put on it. You'll be able to do more and better next time." Of course they're right. I'm much stronger, fit and flexible today (day 19) than I was on day one).

I remain fascinated how the lessons learned during the pursuit of physical fitness apply to every endeavor in life that requires persistence.

"Keep pushing play"
- Keep doing what you were made to do.
- Do not become weary in doing good, for we will reap a harvest if we don't give up (Galatians 6:9).
- Don't do nothing because you can't do everything. Do what you can.

And a more lengthy exhortation from John Wesley that resonates with Tony Horton's exhortation to BRING IT (bring your best and most intense efforts):
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can

The decision to "push play" on the fitness video means that heavy breathing, perspiration and burning muscles are on the way. It's not a decision made lightly or easily. After pushing play a price will be paid, but the results will be worth it.

What does it mean for you to "push play" today? At home in marriage, with family, at work, in ministry? What price will be paid, and what outcome will be worth it? And what does BRING IT mean for you? What is your best?

Persisting in doing good...