Build something small

By day I’m a software developer, website builder, and general computer consultant.  Just the other day I read an article on a software blog I follow called Stop Giving Lousy Excuses And Start Working On A Small But Genuine Story.  This article, while it talks from a perspective of software development, leaves us with a message I think we all can relate to in life.

If we look at the world around us and see the struggles and troubles that we or our neighbors and friends are going through, we may think it’s just too large for us individuals to fix or even make a difference.  In fact the prevailing thought of many around the country is that “only the government can fix it.” 

We sit around in our homes, happily (or not so happily) paying our taxes and say “What can I do, I’m only one person?”,  “I’m just too busy to work on it.” or “I’m really not smart enough to do anything about it.”  

Well I say, drop the excuses, do something small.  None of those excuses work when you do something small.  They don’t take a lot of time, nor a lot of money.  They don’t take a lot of brain power and you can keep your day job.  You just have to take a little initiative, do something to make a difference and then do it consistently.

What type of things am I talking about?  Nothing real complicated.

  • Pay for a stranger’s coffee in a coffee shop.
  • Give a young mother a coupon for free milk if you see her in line in front of you at the grocery store.
  • Tell a soldier “Thank you!”
  • Hold the door for the person coming out of the store behind you.
  • Send $20 to a family in need anonymously.
  • Invite an elderly person over for dinner if they’re alone for the holidays.

Little things that we all can do (and things I need to improve on myself), that would make such a huge difference in people’s lives.  Each taking as individual act of kindness really is nothing big, takes so little time, effort or money, but can pay such dividends to the everyone involved.  And if everyone would do something small each day, think what a difference it would make on a large scale when you consider them all together.

It doesn’t take the government to spread kindness and charity.  In fact, forced charity is not charity at all.  We all, no matter how rich or poor we may be, can spare some small piece of ourselves to give to another.  That small seed of kindness will take root and grow if nourished.  I’m going to strive in this new year to make small sacrifices each day to help make someone else’s life just a tad bit brighter.

Go do something small and celebrate!  I dare you!

We are what we think.

My wife recently purchased some books from Joyce Meyers.  One book caught my eye and as I sat down to flip through it, something about it grabbed me and I’ve been reading it ever since.  I struggle sometimes with the power of my own thoughts.  When some thought starts flitting through my mind, it tends to stick and I tend to roll it over and over in my head.  When these are good positive thoughts, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, however when the bad thoughts come to me as they do to all of us, then the never resting mind becomes a huge distraction to a healthy and happy life.

What Joyce is trying to show us through this book is summed up in the following quote.

Where the mind goes, the man follows.

Joyce moves through 12 of what she calls Power Thoughts.  Each is Biblically based and even without her commentary on each, are powerful scripture that we could all stand to pay attention to.

  1. I can do whatever I need to do in life through Christ.
  2. God loves me unconditionally!
  3. I will not live in fear.
  4. I am difficult to offend.
  5. I love people and I enjoy helping them.
  6. I trust God completely;  there is no need to worry!
  7. I am content and emotionally stable.
  8. God meets all my needs abundantly.
  9. I pursue peace with God, myself, and others.
  10. I live in the present and enjoy each moment.
  11. I am disciplined and self-controlled.
  12. I put God first in my life.

I’ve already read through the first four of these as I am reading and re-reading the sections as I find each applicable in some way in my life. I think what I’ll do here on this blog is over the next few weeks (or longer) I’ll go into deeper detail on each of these and a few other points that I’ve taken from the book. Purchase the book yourself as it something worth reading and I’ll come no where near covering things as broadly and as eloquently as Joyce can.

This should be fun and will help me take what I’ve learned in this book to heart and apply them to my life.

Other posts in series:

  1. The Power of Positive Thoughts
  2. Thoughts are Powerful

The Darkness is Receding.

I heard someone say not too long ago that "From deepest darkness, shines the brightest light."  I’ve heard it before in different variations and I’m not really sure where it originated.  But regardless, think about that for a moment.  I’ll wait……

…. So here we sit, in one of the darkest times, at least in my estimation, in the history of this nation (at least perhaps in my generation).  I won’t turn this into a political debate or commentary on one party or the other.  Anyone who knows me, knows my opinions on those matters.  But the last two years have been dark for many people.  So many have lost jobs and lost their businesses.  They are struggling to pay the bills. Struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head.  Yet between government taxes, school levy’s, and rising costs of just about everything (food and fuel most notably), it seems that the hole is getting deeper and the world is getting darker. 

Let’s look at some quotes from the Bible about darkness.

"Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High."  -Psalm 107:10,11

"But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"  -Matthew 6:23

"Wisdom will save you from the ways of the wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways"  -Proverbs 2:12-13

But in all things the best way to destroy the darkness is to create a light.  Again let’s look at some Bible verses on light.

"And God said, let there be light and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness."  -Genesis 1:3-4

"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."  -1 John 1:5

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" -Psalm 27:1

I could go on and on, but my point is…We all go through our dark times, some darker than others, some last longer than others and some seem so deep and dark that it appears hopeless that we can ever come out.  But, the best way to defeat the darkness is to find the light.  Create it if you have too.  Strike a match, build a huge fire.  No matter how small the light, darkness always runs away from it.

Look at the darkness that is in your life right now.  What are your struggles? 

Out of a job?  Take the opportunity to find a better job or learn a new skill.  Start your own business.  Create the light of hope that you will be better off in the near future.

In debt up to your ears?  Take the opportunity to learn to budget.  Learn to live within your means.  Find ways to increase your income to better your situation.

Health not what it should be?  Take the opportunity to start exercising, eat healthier.

About 10 years ago I went through a period of darkness.  I had a great job and then boom it was gone.  I once had plenty of money, now I had none.  I stressed and felt sorry for myself for a time…I lived in the darkness.  But then I created a light, I was determined to start my own business.  I created Malachi Computer.  I struggled for a time as any fledgling business will.  But it slowly grew and over a period of two years, I built it into something that I could support myself with.  Those two years were rough but we made it through it.  During that growing period, I created other business opportunities to supplement my main income.  Mainly I sold stuff on eBay.  I did ok with it, it got us through the lean times.  In fact that bit of light spread to others who started selling and helped to bring a little light to their darkness as well.

Now we face another period of darkness brought on by the poor economy.  Again, I wallowed in my darkness, forgetting those lessons of years ago.  But the light is brightening, the darkness is receding.  This bit of darkness has made me work that much harder to take my business to the next level.  Again, I’ve created other business opportunities with new found friends that are going to increase the light and spread it too others.  Exciting things are coming.  The darkness is receding.

Yes there will be tough times ahead, but God promises to never give us more than we can handle.

"… And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  – 1 Corinthians 10:13

There will be better times than these, you can make them happen with God’s help.  Strive to take the darkness that surrounds us, learn from it, grow from it and let that light of passion, innovation and excitement be that spark that ignites the blaze in your life that chases away your darkness.

The darkness is receding!!

Grocery Shopping

Today was grocery shopping day.  Not that we have a special day for that, but when you’re low on food or other essentials, then it’s grocery shopping day.  Since money is tight these days we try our best to shop smart.  While we are not the best (I know people that can get tons of items for practically nothing), we are learning.  Here are a few things we try to do to save money at the store.

  1. Don’t shop when you’re hungry. This one is pretty obvious actually and we are horrible at this.  It is so easy to fall into the trap of buying those “extras” when you’re hungry.  Everything looks tasty.
  2. Make a list. Again this is obvious and in any list of shopping tips you’ll find out there.  But I can’t express the importance of this.  Know what you want and need so that there is no question as you walk through.  Again without a list, you’ll just see what looks good and throw it in the cart.  You’ll do that even with a list at times, but the list will keep you more focused.
  3. Check the ads. Check those weekly ads that all store put out.  This goes in with making a list.  Stores will offer great prices on items just to get you in the store in the hopes that while you’re there you’ll buy something else.  Resist that temptation and you’ll get the best bang for your buck.
  4. Clip those coupons. Coupons are there also to get you into the store in hopes that you’ll buy more of that product or others.  But if you are able to combine coupons with sales and perhaps shop at stores that also will double coupons, then you can make those coupons really work for you.  It doesn’t take that long to clip and organize your coupons and you can find so many online to print out that it is almost foolish not to use them.  Check out http://www.hip2save.com/ as a good place to start to find those online coupons and great deals at many stores and http://www.coupons.com for an important site for printable coupons.
  5. Don’t be afraid to shop multiple stores. We have 5-6 different major groceries within about a 15 mile radius of where we do most of our shopping.  We’ll take our shopping list, compare it to the sales going on and figure in any coupons we may have to get a list of items to purchase at each store.  While some stores (like Walmart) will price match if it’s the exact same brand and item, it is sometimes easier to go from store to store.  It will take a bit more time to do your shopping, but as long as you plan ahead you can save quite a bit of money.
  6. Make a menu. We used to better at this, but recently have fallen astray of doing this like we should.  We used to plan our meals out for a month.  Buy what we needed to create these meals for the month in one trip and not have to worry about it anymore other than some perishables we would purchase each week.  We found that when we buy for the month, we were less likely to buy those “extras” that we don’t need, than if you shopped more often.  If a month is too long to plan for, a two-week period or even weekly is better than not planning at all.
  7. Stock up if you are able. If there is an item on sale that you use a ton of then as long as it’s not perishable then go ahead and stock up.  We use a ton of condensed can soups for cooking.  When those go on sale or we have coupons, we’ll buy more than we need for the week or month of meals we’re buying for.  This way we can get the best price on the most items.
  8. Buy in bulk if you can. Along the same lines as above, buy in bulk whether through a warehouse store (Sam’s Club) or going to a bulk food store.  My wife makes a lot of homemade breads, so we’ll like to go to buy our flour and sugar in bulk at a local bulk food store.  You’ll typically get a better price per pound on these type of things if you buy in large volumes.  Just be sure you’re going to use it all before it spoils.  Doesn’t help to buy in bulk if you end up throwing half of it away.
  9. Have fun. How can you have fun grocery shopping do you say?  Well, sure it’s not something I look forward to doing, but since I’m out there at the store, I might as well enjoy myself.  My wife and I make a game of it to see how much money we can save.  Who can find the best deals, who can save the most.  We’ve made a chore fun.  Many other list of tips will suggest shopping alone, and that may make sense for a lot of people, but my wife and I actually enjoy grocery shopping together and I love spending time with her.  We are able to leave the kids at home most times so it does make it so much easier.
  10. Be happy. I see so many people at the store there are just plain grumpy.  They just don’t seem to be happy people.  Perhaps it’s just the grocery store bringing it out in them, but if you smile and say hi to people it’s amazing how much better you will feel while out and about.

I think that anything you do to make your money stretch it’s farthest is God honoring.  God wants us to be good stewards of what he has given us.  This list of shopping tips just scratches the surface, and I’m far from an expert, in fact most of these are things my wife does so I take no credit for coming up with any of it.  But if we can be good stewards with our money, be a light to others as they see us out shopping and portray a Christlike character while we’re out and about, I think God will bless us many times over.

And I must say hi again to those people I ran into at the store today.  It’s always fun to see who I’ll run into each time I’m out.  In fact, the trip doesn’t feel complete if I don’t see someone I know!

 

 

What is an Exceptional Christian?

What is an Exceptional Christian? It is not, in my mind, what many may think it is at first glance.  I have a feeling that many will see the title of my blog and think I’m talking about those Christians that are perfect in their faith, or who are the most compassionate, or those that go to church every Sunday and do all the “right” things.  That is no where near what I think of as an Exceptional Christian.  So how do I define an exceptional Christian?

  1. An exceptional Christian is one that loves Jesus.  Without Jesus we would not have the hope that we have in Christ.  We would live without hope that life has meaning and that the future, indeed eternity, is within our grasp.
    “And this is what he promised us — eternal life.”  – 1 John 2:25
  2. An exceptional Christian is one that is not perfect, yet strives to remember that God loves us, no matter what.  We will never be perfect. We are sinners and will continue to sin.  But God loves us just the same.
    “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, …” – Romans 3:23
  3. An exceptional Christian is one that despite the struggles they may be going through, whether it is financial struggles, health problems, marital issues, or some struggle against a sin, remembers that God is there for us.  He will never give us more than we can handle.
    “And God is faithful;  he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
  4. An exceptional Christian is one that realizes that God gives us enough.  He may not give us what we “want”, but he gives us all we need.  The exceptional Christian is one that despite the lack of our wants, he realizes he has all he needs.
    “… My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 

    “Look at the birds of the air;  they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:26

Can any one of us be Exceptional Christians?  I don’t think so completely.  I’m no where close.  However, I think we can strive to be one.  I think if we understand what God has done for us by sending his son, we can get better at it.

This world we live in today, here in America, here in 2010 provides many struggles.  Many of us are deep in the pit of troubles. If we strive to become exceptional Christians the troubles we find ourselves facing seem less troublesome and we can see hope where many do not.  I imagine we will find that when we work towards becoming exceptional Christians, our lives become more bearable, more joyful and more fullfilling despite our trials.

I hope that this blog can provide some insight on how I’m struggling to become an exceptional Christian and in some way can give others hope that they are not alone and that there is hope beyond our current struggles.

You won’t find this blog being overly “preachy” as that is not my intent.  Yes there will be Bible verses as I find them applicable, yes I may talk about some Christian theology as it strikes me as important, but mostly this will be a journal of my struggles as an average “Joe” (or Jason as the case may be) and how I strive to deal with my temptations, my trials and my triumphs.

But you may also find some practical advice on different topics, perhaps anything from politics, recipes, relationships, to computer skills, blogging topics, books to read and raising of children.  In other words expect anything.  However, one constant that I hope to keep in all of my posts will be the underlying theme of how a particular topic applies to becoming an exceptional Christian.

Come join this journey of mine or continue your own journey and lets become “exceptional Christians!”