2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 35,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Are you in Good Health?

Not too long ago I was reading an article on health and health care and saw some interesting comments about physical health that made me reflect on spiritual health. One such comment said that everyone has a hunger for something…and where it is that your greatest temptation comes in dealing with your appetite is midday and then late at night…because those are the hours in which your body begins to crave what it desires. It went on to say that is why it is vital that you don’t skip a meal…because if you skip a meal and not give your body what it needs it will begin to desire what it wants.

When you don’t feed your body the necessary nutrients of health that it needs to stay healthy, your body in turn will begin to crave or desire to have those things that it wants.

You have to feed the body what it needs in order to diminish the drive and desire of what it wants. The reason you settle for snack food and junk food is because you did not have your vegetables and fruit and grain that is necessary. As I was reading that article the Spirit took my mind to spiritual health.

The reality is many of us fall to temptation and the things that make us weak because we have not fed our spirit person those things it needs in order to remain strong and healthy. When we don’t keep ourselves in good spiritual health it becomes easy to start to fall into doing things that we want…and when you are weak spiritually you will still want things you should have gotten over by now.

Everyone has a level of temptation

 All of us, no matter how saved we may profess to be has something we are weak to and can be tempted by. In Luke 22:40, it was Jesus who said to His disciples…PRAY SO THAT YOU DO NOT FALL INTO TEMPTATION…which says to me you can fall to what makes you weak even when you are following Jesus. You will never be tempted to do something you won’t enjoy…and you enjoy it whether you are saved or not. If you won’t enjoy it, then it is not a temptation. Everyone has a level of temptation. The only way to handle it is by making sure you are feeding your spirit what it needs… THE WORD OF GOD.

When you look at the temptation of Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus has been in prayer for forty days and yet when Satan comes He does not go into prayer but goes into Word. Your prayer life will be of no affect for you if you do not know the Word. When Jesus goes into warfare, He does not go into clichés and catch phrases and things He has heard at the church. When the enemy comes after Him He goes to the Word. It’s alright to quote and tweet Bishop and whoever else you want to quote, but when you are one on one with the devil, don’t just quote a sermon from Bishop…you better say, “THE BIBLE SAYS…AS IT IS WRITTEN,

No weapon formed against me shall prosper…
Stand still and see the salvation…
The joy of the Lord is my strength…
For thou, oh Lord, are a shield for me…
Fret not thyself because of evildoers…
The Lord is my light and salvation…”

Spend some tyme in God’s Word to feed your spirit and learn who you are and whose you are!!

3 John 1:2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along.

The Subtle Art of Starting Over

starting-overI don’t know about you but I’m a sucker for a good beginning. The opening chapter of a book. A beautiful sunrise. The bride walking down the aisle. The father holding up his infant son. The 18-year old heading cross country on a road trip. It’s that fresh smell of a new car. That first day of spring feeling. A good beginning is like an unwrapped gift. It holds promise, hope and possibility.

Of course, for every rosy-eyed beginning, there is another, far more ominous beginning. It’s the one that makes us weak in the knees and fills us with terror and uncertainty. It’s called Starting Over.

I know from a purely semantic point of view, starting over sounds an awful lot like your average beginning. But, if you’ve ever had to start over from scratch, you know as well as I do that it has a whole other vibe to it. Starting over is often the “do-over” we never saw coming. It’s the nasty beginning we feel is being shoved down our throats. A hurricanes ravages our home. We have to start over. We lose our job or our business fails. We have to start over. Divorce. Start over. Become ill. Start over.

In today’s world, starting over is no longer an anomaly. It’s a commonplace reality of life. We are constantly being called upon to pull up our boots, get back into the game and build up our life all over again. It’s a punch in the gut. And it can be tiring, defeating, and depressing. I’ll go so far as to suggest that “starting over” is one of the great challenges of our lives.  But, don’t jump off the bridge just yet. There’s hope. Lots of hope.

And, funny enough, it starts with a new beginning, or a new way of looking at our lives. It starts by embracing the challenge of “starting over” as one of the defining moments in our lives.  Today, I suggest we not only accept this challenge, but to turn it into art, as a true expression of who we want to become.

Step 1: Don’t live in the past

“My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.” –Forrest Gump

Yes, it’s tough when we blow out our knee the week before the marathon, after we’ve trained for a year. And, yes, it’s tough when we have to look for a new line of work after we’ve been laid off by a company we’ve been faithful to for 30 years. Or a spouse leaves unexpectedly.

We want to believe we’ve paid our dues and we’re entitled to the life we’ve earned. And when life doesn’t go our way, it’s easy to dwell on it, be angry about it, and resent our predicament. And while it’s healthy to acknowledge our pain, to stay in that place of bitterness is to become frozen and stuck in tyme. The Art of Starting Over begins with acknowledging our past. Learn from it, forgive it, and be grateful for it. But, then move on, or as the Cherokee Indian Proverb says, “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

To start over we need to lose the idea of what was, and start facing what is. We need to realize that we won’t be able to let something better into our lives unless there is room for it. And we’ll never have room for something new if our minds are always reliving the way things were. The take-away is simple. Whenever you’re about to start something new, whether it’s a diet you’ve abandoned a dozen tymes, a new job, or a new relationship, practice letting go of the past as often as you can. Breathe out the past before you go to bed, and then when you wake up in the morning, pledge your day to stay in the moment as often as possible.

Stay active, be creative, go out in nature, visit friends, live, laugh, enjoy. It is in the present moment—the Now—where you’ll begin to slowly create a new you. It’s where you will not only find your future, but all your joy and happiness. There’s no better starting over point than that.

Step 2:  Accept starting over as part of your journey

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – 
Joseph Campbell

I know most of us like our beginnings to show up exactly when we expect them. Turn 5 and you go to kindergarten; become 16 and you get your driver’s license; graduate high school and go to college; fall in love and get married. It’s a clean and orderly pattern that is predictable and safe.

Trouble is, life isn’t always so neat and predictable. More tymes than not, it’s messy and unorganized. It’s stop, start, go three steps forward, then five steps backwards. We get to the finish line, only to be sent back to square one. And at this point, we can either shake our fists at the stars, crying foul that the other guy always gets the lucky breaks, or we can wake up and treat what happens in our lives as a cosmic road map to where we will find inner happiness and peace.

Regardless of what personal philosophy we may believe, somewhere down in the corner of our hearts, we have to know we’re not here on earth to go swinging sweetly from one planned event to the next. If you think it is, than this probably isn’t the article for you. But, if there is one microscopic part of you that believes we are here on earth for a more noble purpose, that perhaps we are here to grow, evolve, contribute and become what we’re capable of becoming, than maybe you can entertain the simple idea that “starting over” is exactly what you need at this moment to take the next step in your life. To realize your destiny, or as Joseph Campbell said, “to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Next tyme you’re called to start over, ask yourself a few simple questions.

  • Could this challenge be the defining moment in your life?
  • Can you find a way to reframe what a moment ago felt like a shot in the gut?
  • Can you see the possibility that there is something in your present situation that you need to learn, even if you don’t know what it is yet?

Answer these questions and you will have gone a long way from being a victim to a willing participant in the journey that is your life.

Step 3: Embrace the adventure

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
 – Helen Keller

Okay, so let’s say we can all let go of the past, and that we can now view starting over as part of life’s journey. This is a huge step. But, the real leap comes when we can start to enjoy the ride, and if not enjoy the ride, at least appreciate it for what it brings to our life. And I know this is easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about things like losing your home or restoring your health.

But, it’s possible. All we need to do is take our cue from those much younger than us. Have you ever wondered why young people have less of a problem with starting over than their older counterparts? I know the easy answer is to say they have no responsibilities. And it’s true. They’re not tied down to mortgages, careers, kids or even the notion of what life should look like. If something doesn’t work out for them, no problem. They can just go in another direction.

But, I believe the real answer is this: young people feel as if they have infinite choices and tyme. And with choice comes the inherent belief that every day contains the opportunity to start over.  Such is the power and beauty of youth.

Unfortunately, the older we get the more we feel that tyme is running out, which in turn makes us feel as if our choices are limited. Suddenly, we become paralyzed into believing that our lives depend on making the right choice, an idea which makes the whole idea of starting over become something we dread.

Well, guess what? We have a choice. And the choice might not be as tangible as it is for someone much younger. We may indeed be limited by family, work and responsibilities. But, we most certainly do have a choice. And the choice we have is in how bold we will be in starting over. How brave we will be as we face our challenges. How much of ourselves will we give to the task of starting over, and the job of reinventing our lives.

Our answers will determine the adventure that our lives will become.

Step 4: Believe that something better will come

“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
 – Alexander Graham Bell

I don’t think you can truly start over at anything without believing in your heart that something better will come from it. And this is much more than seeing the glass as half-full. This is embracing the philosophy that says all our experiences are an opportunity to make life better.  And by better, I don’t always mean easier or smoother. I mean better in the sense that we are kinder, more compassionate, trusting, helpful, loving, free, joyous, awake, and alive. Better human beings.

Ultimately, the Art of Starting Over begins and ends with a giant embrace of what’s possible. To switch careers. Find the right mate. Discover our purpose. And sometymes the only way we can do this is by having to go back to the beginning.

I learned this firsthand and it wasn’t easy. I had to completely start over.

And while it is a challenging path, I’ve since started a new business, doing things I never would have done had I not been forced to start over. I have stepped out of my comfort zone, and begun writing about subjects I would have never touched before, taking on projects I never believed possible.

The journey is far from over, but life is beginning to feel like a great adventure again. I feel the power of youth and choice. I’m finding that starting over isn’t a jail sentence.
It’s an opportunity to reinvent my life, to become alive, connected and awake.

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Bill Apablasa

Jesus Doesn’t Want Your Risk – He Wants All Of You

all in 2I’ve been thinking a lot about risk lately. In my little circle of Reformed theology, taking risks for God is currently cool. It’s in. It’s what all the cool kids are doing. Fellow bloggers are writing about crazy; don’t waste your life, radical love. And I really am grateful for these guys. I’m grateful that they are encouraging the next generation to go hard after God. I’m grateful for the Harris brothers challenging young men and women to do hard things for God. If any of you guys happen to stumble onto this, please feel my gratefulness.

But I’m starting to think that we might be getting the principle right but getting the application wrong. Here’s what I mean: when I read the books on being risky and radical and crazy, I come away feeling like I need to do something really, really big for God. I need to take a risk by uprooting my family and being a missionary to India. I need to be crazy for Jesus by adopting four Vietnamese orphans. I need to be radical for Jesus by starting an inner city ministry to the homeless. If I’m not doing something big for God, I’m wasting my life. If I’m not going big for God, I might as well be sitting in front of a slot machine in Vegas, slowly throwing my life away.

Now don’t get me wrong, all those things I mentioned above are good. If God calls you to do those things, do them with all your might! But if I don’t do these things, am I wasting my life? Am I not being crazy radical enough? I don’t think so. Here’s why: being a Christian is fundamentally radical, risky, and crazy.

In Mark 8:35, Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it.” To be a Christian, we must lose our life for the sake of Jesus. We must be willing to give up everything for the sake of Jesus. This at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus gets all of my life. Jesus gets all of me. Whatever he says goes. I am no longer my own. That’s crazy, radical, risky talk.

What does this look like practically? What does it look like to be radical for Jesus every single day? Well, it actually looks pretty ordinary. At least in the world’s eyes. Being radical for Jesus means fighting against our sin aggressively, and being willing to do whatever it takes to cut sin out of our lives (Matt. 5:29). It means blessing those who hate you, and giving your possessions to your enemies (Matt. 5:39). It means being poor in spirit, meek, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matt. 5:2-11).

God_Needs_You 2The Bible’s description of the radical Christian life is not particularly sexy or glamorous. Being radical for Jesus means being subject to the authorities (Rom. 13:1). It means being patient in tribulation, constant in prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, and showing hospitality (Rom. 12:12-13). These aren’t particularly exciting things, but I think we need to realize that these are radical! The world does not operate this way. Those who don’t know God curse in the midst of tribulation, never pray, indulge their sins, curse their enemies, and despise righteousness. If we seek to obey the Bible, we will be radical. If we seek to follow Jesus, that will inevitably lead to crazy love.

I’m not opposed to doing big things for God. We need more people in the mission field and the orphanages. But for most of us, being radical for Jesus means being faithful to do the “ordinary” Christian things. The Christian life is inherently radical, inherently risky, and inherently crazy. Following Jesus means dying to myself every single day. That is radical. If I seek to obey God’s word, my life will look very different than the rest of the world.

If God calls you to go to the mission field, wonderful! Go hard. But if God calls you to the cubicle field, don’t feel guilty! Be radical right where you are. Fight against your sin. Serve your spouse. Give generously. Spend tyme with the outcasts. Share the gospel with your neighbors. Remember Jesus doesn’t just want your risk. He wants all of your life.

*Resource(s) and Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco, Stephen Altrogge

Trust, Faith.


I’m discovering that God must be so wise to know all the innumerable outcomes of our poor choices and still orchestrate all the tiny infinitesimal butterfly effects for our good.

I’m finding that God must be so gracious to know all our messed up motives and methods and selfishness and still offer grace at every step, every choice, every fork and branch in the road.

I’m understanding that God must be so compassionate to hear the prayers of billions of people at the same time and still answer them all with individual care at the same exact moment, even to two people sitting right next to each other who can’t stand each other, like a Father who wants us to get along.

I’m trusting that terrible uncontrollable circumstances don’t always need a moral spiritual lesson: but only need the presence of my ever-present Father who embraces me in my darkest shivering and my worst lament. It’s the difference between a friend giving me a lecture or a friend who is simply there. I can hear the lecture one day, but I just need Him first.

I have found that God has always had His providential loving hand in all the ways I’ve failed, entering into the fray like a divine crane to protect and provide and rebuke, writing His story into mine with many things I couldn’t understand then: but now I’m understanding them, even if only a small glimpse of His heart with my frail limited sight.

I’m seeing that His vision is bigger than mine.


Photo(s)/Resource(s): J.S.

The Frustration of Our Timing Versus God’s Timing


movingmountains-andfollowingcats asked a question:

Hey FS4C, what are some Bible stories (not just short verses) that talk about waiting patiently when it seems like God’s promises are taking forever? And, what are some stories to read for when you feel lonely? Thank you!! 🙂 (by the way, I love all of the answers you give when people ask questions.. sometimes I have the same questions and your answers are totally wonderful! Thank you for everything!)

Hey my friend, thank you so much for your kindness.  Here goes one of my favorite stories of waiting.  My other advice to you is to check out Acts 12, Genesis 37 and 39-50, and the story of David from 1st and 2nd Samuel.

Mark 5.  A synagogue leader (a local pastor) named Jairus approaches Jesus and his entourage.  Jairus has a sick daughter who’s nearly dead, and Jairus knows Jesus can blow it up.  They travel together through a crowd, but at this point Jesus is a rockstar and there are masses of people pushing and bumping and moshing to get to him.

One of them is a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.  She’s tried doctor after doctor and probably herbal tea and a vegan diet and kale, but nothing has worked.  She grabs at Jesus in hopes that he will heal her.

Suddenly, Jesus stops.  He says, “Who touched me?”  Now in a crowd like this, it’s a ridiculous question.  Probably Jairus and the disciples were like, “Yo master, there’s an almost dead-girl, we gotta go.”  The bleeding lady is on the ground gripping Jesus’s robe and she’s been healed.  For the first time in twelve years, she doesn’t feel the life draining out of her.  She tells Jesus it was her, she had grabbed him.  He tells her, so tenderly, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  By the way, I teared up again just reading this passage.

When Jesus and the J-posse get to Jairus’s crib, his daughter is already dead.  But Jesus says, “Nah son, she sleeping.”  All the professional mourners (real historical thing) start to laugh, like “Lol wut.”  Jesus is angry and he only takes in Jairus, his wife, and the disciples.  He tells this dead young girl, “Talitha koum,” which literally means, “Baby girl, wake up.”  And she does.  She wakes up.  They rejoice.  Someone sings Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.  I’m tearing up again.

Here’s the kicker.  Why did Jesus make Jairus wait?  The bleeding lady in the crowd had been bleeding for twelve years and she was still alive.  Jairus’s daughter was near death, and then dead.  But Jairus had to wait.

An important thing there is that Jairus was a synagogue leader.  He had clout, esteem, a rep, an image.  This bleeding lady couldn’t go to the market, get a job, or get married, because she was considered “legally unclean.”  So in a sense, Jesus went to the disadvantaged person first.  The privileged person had to wait.  Jesus was throwing human values upside-down.

Not only that, but the bleeding lady had the more urgent need.  She had a superstitious half-formed faith; she thought simply “touching a healer” would heal her, but she needed a true encounter with the savior.  So Jesus stopped to really meet her, not just as a miracle worker, but as the Son of God.  That’s remarkable.  Jesus knew what he was doing.

Now I’m not saying Jesus thinks that every waiting person is over-privileged or entitled.  I’m not saying that someone else’s needs are more important than your own.  But this account demonstrates that God knows exactly what He’s doing, within His timing, by His grace, and He doesn’t leave us without resources in our time of wait.  All of us in a way are the bleeding woman; we think God isn’t paying attention, but He’s orchestrating all this to prioritize our wants and our needs.

Think of what waiting really means.  It means the delay of what we really want. If God were to give me everything I wanted at this exact moment, it could ruin me.  Ten years ago, if I were to become a lead pastor and famous preacher like I really wanted, it would’ve turned me into an egotistical arrogant jerk.  God puts us through various seasons of training so that we might become the kind of person who can handle what He will eventually give us.  If you think of every person who prematurely gets what they want (think celebrities), it always ruins them.

Of course, there are some things we sincerely need right now.  I know it’s tough.  Waiting sucks.  I don’t think that suffering is always meant to teach a lesson; I don’t mean to over-spiritualize our pain.  Yet we can still choose who we want to be on the other side of this suffering.  This hurt is more reason to trust God and cling to His wisdom, and not less.  We can still crawl our way to him, badly bleeding and desperate and raggedy as we are.  Even if you feel dead: Jesus can work with that.  Trust Him in the waiting, because the pay-off in the end will always be a greater closeness with Him.

— J.S.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone & Push Your Boundaries

“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” ~ Pema Chodron

cz14Comfort is easy. We fear uncertainty, loss, pain, and so we seek to cushion ourselves against the rawness of life by spending our lives in artificial, climate-controlled boxes safe from unwanted intrusion. Powerful forces conspire to keep you in your comfort zone, penned by fear. The Matrix wants you to be compliant, following the rules of the group, being an accepter rather than a creator. Through the two-part strategy of making the comfort zone comfortable and everywhere else uncomfortable, we are pressured to remain within our comfort zones: cozy, content, cloistered. This is unfortunate. Personal discovery and personal development happen only outside your comfort zone.

These past few years, I’ve focused on my writing and getting published. I had my mind set on where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I didn’t realize the process (rewrite after rewrite) so my original concept that I had didn’t quite pan out, but I’m happy, because now it has a more focus and detailed structure. But this experience is going to be about more than just obtaining a finished book. For me this is a huge step. This truly is out of my comfort zone.cz1

Initially, I experienced a mix of emotions letting someone not just read but help edit my writing. I had feels including gross absorption and wonderment. My new point of views were gripping me, showing me something much bigger and brasher than myself. I stepped out of the myself; it was the culmination of a mentally pre-rehearsed experience. The journey felt a lot like autopilot, but I was finally there. Moving away from the old me  and into something I had been anticipating for months, maybe even years; but when it came around, it all just happened.

“The word ‘safe’ is an adjective meaning secure and a noun meaning an enclosed locked container. If you’re living the adjective then you’re living the noun.” ~ Steve Pavlina

The first lesson I learnrd from this move was not to go over things for months on end—that can drive you crazy. Its better just to immerse yourself in the moment and let things come around. This doesn’t mean neglect import things; it just means not to consume yourself with worry.

The important thing to remember is that new experiences present opportunity; it’s just whether or not you’re willing to take them up on it. It’s easy to sit back and only take in the things that are comfortable to you, but to get to where you aspire to be requires a little discomfort.

Often, those things which present worry also bring out your better qualities. They may even change you, give you a sense of clarity, a feeling of enlightenment, or maybe they just satisfy your thoughts and needs for that moment.

If you put yourself into a mind-set that deems its social barriers to be as wide as your room, you will find that reality will soon take the same shape. If you’re open to exploring and talking to new people, you will lose track of feeling lonely.

CZ3To put it simply, get out, do something and speak to somebody. Don’t procrastinate and wind yourself into pointless worry. Even if you don’t agree with someone else viewpoint, other sometyme can understand what your trying to say and can restructure it so the masses can also. I am quite a reserved person, but that doesn’t make me anti-social. I’m just a thinker rather than a shouter. This has its benefits and it has its downfalls. Yes, I can assess a situation quite effectively, but my reservation can mean I miss an opportunity because I’m too frightened to do anything about it.

I suspect I didn’t do as well as I could have on my initial draft because I wasn’t willing to go further than what I was told or expected. My mentality has since changed and I now find success from setting my own boundaries, or in my case, fewer boundaries.

I have found that meticulously defining goals and targets detracts from what you really set out to do. If you don’t set any guidelines, but have a rough idea in mind, the results have the potential to be outstanding. There are no limits to your potential achievements. So, to truly push the boundaries, start by not making any. Just put in your all and give it your best shot. Nobody can ever ask you of more than you’re capable. This will also help you to develop an inner sense of self satisfaction, which will intern boost your confidence and could help reduce self-reservation.

Secondly, mix with people who are better than you at what you’re trying to do, and don’t be intimidated by them. Learn from what they do and examine how you could enhance their methods to increase your chances of success.

What’s Next?

These were just few ideas and tips I have picked up. I wanted to share them so that other people could up their game and start living. It’s no fun sitting home alone. Go and do something out of your comfort zone. You won’t regret it. Comfort zones foster an attitude of learned helplessness, making progress harder. Learning, creating, growing happen only when you step outside your fortress and venture into the wilderness.

To get out of your comfort zone:

  • cz2Bring awareness to your comfort zone and your natural tendency to stay inside it.
  • Change your frame of mind. View your comfort zone not as a shelter but a prison. Embrace constructive discomfort. Don’t take the safe, known path. Choose challenge over comfort, and set goals that force you to get out of your comfort zone. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Gradually expand the perimeter of your comfort zone. Lean into the discomfort. Don’t sprint out of your comfort zone, take small but frequent steps. Push the walls out, don’t try to knock them down.
  • Periodically check your progress to confirm that you’re going further out over tyme.

As your life continues to improve it will become easier to expand your comfort zone, because when you’re happy, optimistic and confident, you’ll be more inclined to take risks and live adventurously.

* Resource(s) & Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco,Tom Murcko