Finding joy even when your situation says you shouldn’t

Finding Joy

Joy and thanksgiving are bigger than happiness.  It’s even possible to find joy in the toughest of situations.

Have you ever heard of Randy Pausch?

He seemingly had everything that you could ask for.  He was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.  He was a pioneer in his field and had earned a reputation as someone who was working to open doors for women to pursue careers in computer science.

Then, he received the kind of news that usually does one of two things — brings us closer to God or pushes us further away.

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11 ways to become a totally ineffective volunteer

oldguyVolunteer:  A person who willingly (and without pay) offers to help an organization or individual.

Have you ever wanted to volunteer?  For most organizations and churches, your willingness to jump in and “volunteer” is a reason to start the happy dance. Volunteering is a the lifeblood of religious organizations and nonprofits.  Honestly, these organizations would be unable to function without those who answer the call to volunteer.

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No strain, no gain: Forgetting the past and moving toward God


Have you ever strained for something? It requires you to pull forward with everything that you have.

Don’t look over your shoulder.

I heard that rule when I was running track.  Don’t get caught looking over your shoulder.   When you look back, you lose momentum and you lose sight of your goal.  When you look back, you slow down and your opponents catch up to you.

So, don’t look over your shoulder.

There are many times in life when we can get caught looking over our shoulders.  We lose sight of the goal — the big picture — and we look back.   Maybe, it’s that we carry baggage from something that has happened in our past.  We struggle to forgive, to let go and to more forward.  So, we keep looking back.

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I’m an outsider: Finding Jesus at the fringes


Life on the outside of the church is very different from the perspective of an insider.

It’s taken me awhile to get to this place, to understand it and to embrace it.  So, I’ll just write it “aloud.”

I’m an outsider.

It’s the way I’m built and wired.  It’s the way that I think. How do you define an “outsider?” Outsiders feel as if they are not part of a particular group.  Maybe, you’ve been there as well.  I’ve felt that way too many times to count.

I’m an outsider.

I can be the proverbial “square peg” in a round hole.  It takes some effort for me to find my place, to feel comfortable and to be myself.  I’m cautious.  Maybe even cautiously hopeful. Continue reading

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Changing the world requires turning back to the mission of Jesus


Jesus gave his followers a “world-saving” mission.  Our call is to continue the mission today.

The world today is in chaos.  There are fights and arguments, protests and riots.  There are clashes — verbal and physical — between those who supports President Trump and those who supported Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama.

There are clashes over social issues such as illegal immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage.  We are challenged by war, conflict and terrorism.

Churches face a struggle in this turbulent world.  Denominational membership is dropping as denominations split.  Our Christian “unity” is revealed in a recent report that there are now 54,000 denominations in the world.

And the landscape is changing for families.  A child growing up in America today is the least likely of any generation thus far to grow up in a church.

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The power of praying for ‘open eyes’ when reading Scripture

scriptureRecently, the pastors at the church I attend asked us to read and meditate on Psalm 119. I decided to write some more about it.   If you’d like to read the first post, click here (It’s about following God when you feel totally flawed.)

We need to talk about a very sensitive subject when it comes to our life of faith.  In fact, it might be one of the most important things that we do in growing closer to God.

So, I’ll just ask and put it on the table: “Are you reading Scripture?”

In asking that question, I want to say that, first off, I’m not trying to be preachy.  I’ll openly admit, I’m asking that question to myself.  I’ve been working to repair my relationship with God and to see myself as God sees me.  So, understand that, I am working to improve this area of my faith walk.

Second, I ask the question because it needs to be asked and honestly answered. A recent report by the American Bible Society suggests that only 39 percent of practicing Christian millennials view the Bible as a source of moral authority.

And, yet, it is our source of the unchanging word of God.  It is a collection of books that ties together the story of salvation, forgiveness, grace and mercy.  Scripture is God’s love letter to us.  Scripture shows us the need for a savior, shows us the savior and then explains why the savior is important.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s look at Psalm 119:17-24 as it shows us the need to read Scripture and some of its benefits.

17 Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. 18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

It begins with a prayer, a request, maybe even a plea, that God will be good to his followers. It’s a call for blessing that comes with following the Law of God (in other words, Scripture).  Then, there is the life-changing part of this prayer.  The “servant” asks the Master (God) to open his/her eyes to be able to see new things, the wonderful things, in God’s law.

Maybe, that’s a change of perspective in a couple of ways:

  • Scripture is an ongoing conversation between us — the readers — and God.  This prayer is an appeal for open eyes, for discernment, to be able to see new things in Scripture.  Essentially, when we are having this conversation with the Holy Spirit, we could read the same passage repeatedly and find new things about God and ourselves.
  • The purpose of God’s law is to help us to worship and see wonder in what it means to follow God.  Scripture is not simply a list of things we “don’t” do.  It’s a pathway to being able to see our lives in light of God’s ongoing work.

Then it continues with the writer connecting to God.

19 I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. 20 My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

First, there’s an understanding that there is something bigger than this world.  There’s more than simply living here.  The writer feels as if he or she is passing through life as a stranger in this place.  As a stranger, the writer pleads for God to reveal his law and commands.  And, there’s a reason.

At the very foundation of our being, we have a longing to experience a relationship with God. That relationship is developed when we read through Scripture.

Think about some of the tough times you have experienced in your life.

  • Were you deep in the study of Scripture before this tough time hit?
  • Did you feel drawn to study scripture more as a result of going through the tough time?

I understand that it’s not easy to read scripture and understand it.  It takes us being intentional about it, finding the time and praying for understanding.

And, there’s something that the study of Scripture points out in us:

21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed, those who stray from your commands. 22 Remove from me their scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes.

Arrogance could be defined as believing that you are a god with the little “g.” Arrogance is trying to do it your way, to solve your problem, in your time.  Yet, the writer is reminding us that when we experience arrogance, God will do something.  As Andy Stanley said in a sermon series on Jonah: “God is generous in his grace and thorough in his discipline.”

I have a 5-year-old son who sometimes finds himself in timeout.  One of his complaints about going to time out is that it “is no fun.”  Sometimes, I remind him that that is the point of discipline.  It’s not fun.  It stinks to receive discipline, but it is necessary to learn and grow.  The discipline I have received chisels me and helps to bring me closer to the image of who I can be in God.

When we grow in God’s law, we strive to do righteous things.  We seek to move closer to God.  And that’s important for the tough seasons of life.

23 Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. 24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.

It’s never fun to be the target of slander.  Frankly, it hurts to be the focal point of rumors and malicious comments.  Those harsh, critical and mean-spirited words and actions from other can bruise us at the very core of who we are.

The writer of this Psalm seems to understand that feeling.  In this case, it’s the rulers (the bosses) who are sitting together and slandering (in other words, spreading gossip and rumors).

So, where does this writer turn when the slander and rumors are swirling around?  The source of joy for the writer is Scripture.  Those words, those laws, of God can become a delight and source of strength when others are being hurtful.

I completely understand the reluctance you might have in this one.  Sometimes, my gut reaction is to lash out at those who are inflicting the damage.  Yet, this writer is urging us to take another approach.  We are to turn to God, to meditate on Scripture and to experience the power that comes with it.

In summing up this passage, we find the following reasons to study the Bible:

  • God supplies the needs of his followers.
  • God opens our eyes to see wonderful things in Scripture.
  • Our soul, our foundation, longs for a relationship with God that is found in reading Scripture.
  • Scripture provides guidance and discipline.
  • Scripture is a source of calm in the storms of life

You might not be an expert in Scripture and that’s okay.  You might struggle to read a passage a day.  Yet, reading Scripture is a discipline that helps us in our walk with God.

I’m taking small steps in my faith life now and I’m trying to read something everyday.  I keep a devotion book in my car and spend some time in it and the Bible before I walk into work each day.  It’s something I have to be intentional about.  I give others the permission to ask me what I’m reading and hold me accountable.

So, give it a try.  Read a chapter of John everyday for the next 21 days.  Read the book of Mark.  Start with Genesis.  Read Psalms.  Try. is based on the idea that every life story can be reignited when we reset it, renew it and redeem it.  You can contact me with ideas, questions or suggestions at or by following me on Twitter at @reignitemystory.

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Following God’s Law when you feel totally flawed: Reflections on Psalm 119

scriptureThis past Sunday, the pastor challenged us to read and mediate on Psalm 119 in preparation for this week’s worship service.  After reading through it (and, yes, it is long), I decided to show some of my work and share a post or two on what is speaking to me.

While I was in college, I took a required class in business writing.  The class was a mix of students from many disciplines and majors.  The purpose of this class was to teach us to communicate in business settings.  (Yes, I took this class in the days before wide usage of e-mail)

In one particular project, I worked with a group on a memo project.  The three of us turned in the same memos for the same project.  Yet, when the grades came back, the other two students had an “A” and I was awarded a “B.” Continue reading

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