Despite Your Best Efforts

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Not your best week.

You walked 10,000 steps a day, and ate salads at lunch, and stepped on the scale.
You gained 2 lbs.

You spoke your mind, and wrote your senators, and finally did something.
The other side won.

You practiced patience.  You listened, and tried to comfort.  You nurtured, even.
But your teenager is locked in their bedroom, pouting.

You went to 2 meetings.  You met with your sponsor.  You prayed.
Yet here you are, sitting at the bar, a drink in your hand.
At what point in time do you just throw in the towel?  There’s nothing more demoralizing than working really hard for something, only to be greeted by failure.  We’re conditioned to believe that our best efforts will always be rewarded, that success comes to those who earn it.  When that doesn’t happen, it’s as if the world has stopped functioning properly.  We begin to question God’s plans.

11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. –Jeremiah 9:11

After all, why wouldn’t God want us to be successful?  Why wouldn’t God reward our hard work?  Why wouldn’t God’s plans match up perfectly with the responsible, healthy plans we make for ourselves? Actually…

When I think of God’s plans for us, I don’t think of God charting out our weight loss or even our alcohol consumption.  God’s plans, to me, are played out at more of a cosmic level.  Plans for our souls to flourish, plans for us to be adopted as children of God.  Plans to prosper us with long-term benefits like hope and a future that spreads into eternity.

And so, while God is always present and gently nudging us with Grace, I see the work of our daily lives as our work.  God provides a space for that to happen, called free will.

That means, some days our best efforts will yield us a bounty, and somedays we’ll fall flat on our face.  This is more of a gift than we realize, because the uncertain nature of our lives is what helps us grow.  Think on this:  We cannot always count on life to be fair.  Instead, God offers a lifeline– a future, with hope.

A tomorrow that allows today to be what it will be.

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

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Christmas is for adults, too.

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Everybody always says, “Christmas is for Children.”

Been there, done that.  It was great.

However…

I’d like to raise a few points on behalf of those who find themselves with a few gray hairs.  Or a lot of them.

Christmas is no less magical or profound or sweet or challenging now than it was when we were whippersnappers.

In fact, it may even be better.

Let’s talk about Hope:  I must confess I’ve done my time on the Island of Misfit Toys.  Feeling broken. Not sure where I belonged. But I’ve learned that everyone gets broken.  Everyone feels like a misfit from time to time.  It is the coming of Christ that gives our lives meaning and purpose.  Now I know what it really means to have HOPE!

Let’s talk about Love:  I’ve learned that there is no perfect present underneath the tree.  Hard as we might try, we can’t fit love in a box.  There’s only one gift that truly satisfies to that extent.  It is the gift that God gave to us, so that we might pass it on.  Now I know what it really means to have (and give) LOVE!

Let’s talk about Peace:  Every year I find myself saying, “has the world ever been this bad?”  My attentiveness to the suffering around me has developed, but so has my faith and resolve.  I believe there is no turmoil that the Prince of Peace cannot transform, and I want to help.  Now I know how to look for signs of PEACE!

Let’s talk about Joy:  Whereas once a gadget or a toy would make me giddy, now joy strikes me much more deeply. It is in the presence of family and friends.  In witnessing simple acts of grace.  In the Christmas story.  More than just the excitement of a season, I am reminded of what God With Us truly means both now, and the whole year round.  Now I know the ongoing thrill of JOY!

Oh, I’d never take back all those wondrous Christmases I spent as a child.

But I’m surprised to report that the Christmas miracle keeps on getting clearer,

…even as I keep getting grayer.

Merry Christmas.

Mitch

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originally published 12/14, revised 12/18

Sunday, 12/16/18 2-4pm at Jane’s Landing Coffee Shop in Mulvane KS — BOOKSIGNING PARTY!  Come drop by!

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You Need A Makeover

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Take a good long look at yourself.

If nobody else is going to say it, I will.

You, my friend, need a makeover.

Oh wait.  When I look in the mirror I don’t see you.  I see ME.  Maybe I’m the one that needs a makeover.  Maybe we both do.

Wouldn’t that be fun?  A day on the town?  Makeover Day! We could get new fancy haircuts, maybe some highlights?  We get our nails and toes done.  Then it’s off to the mall.

New outfits!  You get what you want, but I’m thinking about a couple new tailored suits.  This is just a daydream, so money is no object!  Makeover Day, from our head to our feet!

Our feet!  We need shoes.  Really nice ones, with brand names people drool over.  Maybe new jackets for fall.   Some jewelry?  Maybe I’ll get my nose pierced.

And then comes the makeup.  You can’t have a Makeover Day without the makeup!  Now I don’t typically wear makeup, but if you do, I’m more than willing to sit next to you in one of those department stores as somebody dolls you up perfectly. (I might check out some cologne).

And when we’re all done and shiny, we can take a selfie, so we’ll always remember this day when, on a scale from 1 to 10, we jumped from a 6 to an 8.5!

Wow, that was a whirlwind.

Was it worth it?  You and I hopping from store to store, spending hypothetical money on hypothetical self improvements?  Well, I had a good time.  It was kind of nice to pamper ourselves a bit, wasn’t it?

But this scripture kind of makes me wonder:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. –1 Peter 3:3-4

“The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”  I really like that.  When I look at myself in the mirror, that’s what I want to see.  More than the smoothness of my skin or how trimmed my beard is.  The makeover that matters most is predominantly of the spiritual kind. It’s easy to lose sight of that.

When I look in the mirror I want to see a spark of hope in my eye, and the confidence of a believer in my smile.  I want to be a reflection of the beauty God created in me.  It’s the kind of inner beauty that sees wrinkles as laugh lines, and grants an assurance that every hair on my head has been counted by God, freshly cut or not.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a sin to want to look your best, even though I’m typically a bit of a slob.  I just think the spiritual makeover should take precedent over the physical kind.

So, thank you God for making what I see when I look in the mirror.  Good job.  I’ll try to see what YOU see when you look at me.

Thanks for loving me just as I am.

(But I’m keeping the suits)

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

 

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EVEN

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As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.
Psalm 71:14

Don’t despair.

Even if the world today seemed to conspire against you.

Even if the work outweighed the play.

Even if it seemed nobody spoke your language.

Even if the Kingdom seems farther away than it did yesterday.

And don’t give up.

Even when you were embarrassed or shamed.

Even when the nightly news cut you to the quick.

Even when the momentum is pushing in the wrong direction.

Even when everything just hurts.

For the Lord is our God

Even at the gates of destruction.

Even at the end of time.

Even at the darkest dusk.

Even at your side.

And our God is good!

Even in spite of it all.

Even in your heart, and mine, and theirs.

Even in this very moment.

Even in ways you cannot fathom.

Rejoice!  Do not despair!

Have a great week,

Mitch

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12:12 training

 

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Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12

I believe I have failed this verse completely.

First word:  Be.

Yep, I’ve blown that before.  Now, ask me to “do” and maybe I can help you out.  Or to ruminate, or worry, yes I’m your man.

But to “Be” anything is a challenge.  Let alone what I’m suppose to be:

Be Joyful.  Be Patient.  Be Faithful.   Gulp!

These are not simple things to ask for!  To be joyful — well, I’ve managed that from from time to time, but certainly not on command.

To be patient? This is maybe the hardest request out of the whole verse.  It’s just not something I’m any good at.  Not for more than maybe 5 minutes at a time.

Then, to be faithful.  Oh Lord, I wish I were.  I work on this one, I really do, but it’s a challenge for me.

Be joyful, patient, and faithful.

Already it seems impossible, but then add in the conditions, and I’m positively sunk.

Be joyful IN HOPE.  So as I try to muster up a little hope for my life, I need to do that joyfully.  Yikes.

Be patient IN AFFLICTION.  I have trouble being patient at the drive through lane, and you want be to be patient in affliction?

And finally, be faithful IN PRAYER.  You want me to be consistent in my prayer life, reaching out to God as much as I possibly can?

Hmm.

Ok, maybe I can be faithul in prayer.

Which maybe means maybe I can try

to be the rest.

After all, I might not be Romans 12:12 perfect,

but I can be in 12:12 training.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Christmas is for adults, too.

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Everybody always says, “Christmas is for Children.”

Been there, done that.  It was great.

However…

I’d like to raise a few points on behalf of those who find themselves with a few gray hairs.  Or a lot of them.

Christmas is no less magical or profound or sweet or challenging now than it was when we were whippersnappers.

In fact, it may even be better.

Let’s talk about Hope:  I must confess I’ve done my time on the Island of Misfit Toys.  Feeling broken. Not sure where I belonged. But I’ve learned that everyone gets broken.  Everyone feels like a misfit from time to time.  It is the coming of Christ that gives our lives meaning and purpose.  Now I know what it really means to have HOPE!

Let’s talk about Love:  I’ve learned that there is no perfect present underneath the tree.  Hard as we might try, we can’t fit love in a box.  There’s only one gift that truly satisfies to that extent.  It is the gift that God gave to us, so that we might pass it on.  Now I know what it really means to have (and give) LOVE!

Let’s talk about Peace:  Every year I find myself saying, “has the world ever been this bad?”  My attentiveness to the suffering around me has developed, but so has my faith and resolve.  I believe there is no turmoil that the Prince of Peace cannot transform, and I want to help.  Now I know how to look for signs of PEACE!

Let’s talk about Joy:  Whereas once a gadget or a toy would make me giddy, now joy strikes me much more deeply. It is in the presence of family and friends.  In witnessing simple acts of grace.  In the Christmas story.  More than just the excitement of a season, I am reminded of what God With Us truly means both now, and the whole year round.  Now I know the ongoing thrill of JOY!

Oh, I’d never take back those wondrous years of Christmases past.

But that wonder has never left, if we know where to look!

It’s in any heart that embraces the HOPE, LOVE, PEACE, and JOY of Christmas…

and never lets go.

Merry Christmas.

Mitch

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Have you been abused?

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Some things need to be said.
And I’m gonna say em.

If you have endured
(or are enduring) some form of abuse in your life
(Sexual, Physical, Psychological…)

You aren’t alone.
You aren’t alone because abuse is more prevalent than most of us realize.
You and I encounter people every day who are victims of child abuse, or spousal abuse, or rape, etc.

BUT ALSO

You aren’t alone because
of all the places where God chooses to be,
God MOST chooses to be with those who suffer.
God is with you right now, arms around you.

You deserve to be safe, and happy. 
God wants that for you,
and will never give up on pursuing that for you.

If you are not safe, or not happy, I’m very sorry.
Whether your abuse happened 30 years ago
or is happening right now,
pain is pain.

This little devotion probably won’t change that.
But just know that I was thinking about you today.
Whoever you are.

And if there’s a way I can help,
Listening to you.
Praying for you.
Helping you be safe.
Pointing you towards people who can help in other ways,
I will try.

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which means
that I believe Hope Springs Eternal.
that good can triumph evil.
that Love can heal what has been broken.

That is my wish for you today.
To be healed and hopeful and triumphant.

In the name of Jesus,
May it be so.

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