Welcome 2017 – Making it a year of Prayer

Happy New Year to everyone! 2017 is here and 2016 is finished. Some will be happy and hopeful and some will be sad and fearful, but one thing for certain, 2017 is here to stay.

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from posting on here for any number of reasons, but I wanted to do my annual reflection and looking forward post. During the break from writing, which corresponded to a big life change that I will get into in a moment, has been allowed me to rejuvenate my writing desires and I now have the urge to write again. So 2017 may be the year of increased writing as well as prayer (perhaps as an answer to my prayer!)

These reflection posts tend to be long, so if you can’t hang with me until the end…Happy New Year and I wish you all continued blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ in 2017.

Looking back

So let’s look back on 2016. I won’t get into the world news, the people whom have died (at least not the nationally known ones) or politics as there will be plenty of posts about all those and to be honest, I think what people fail to do so often is look back on their own personal lives and reflect on how THEY have changed personally throughout the year for better or worse.

2016 started off for me no different than 2015 was progressing. I was still working my stressful job and not really loving life. I honestly felt trapped and going nowhere. In fact I felt I was progressing backwards in my career to the point of wanting to give up on it entirely. But it is what I do and I had no where to go where I could support my family to the level that we desired. I prayed and prayed and the word I kept getting back from God was this…

Trust me Jason, just trust me.

Well that was easy to hear, but hard to process. I am not a patient person and like to take action right away, so to have God tell me to just trust him (meaning wait on Him) was very hard to take.

Fast forward to middle of summer. I’m on vacation trying to relax, but in fact vacation was more stressful than work, because I knew it was going to end and I would have to return soon enough. At that point, I had a bit of a breaking point. And God put in front of me a few different circumstances and coincidences that led me to put my application into a new company. These events all happened on one Saturday and by the end of the day I said to my wife as we headed to church,

God just put it about as clearly as he could what I was supposed to do without appearing in bodily form and smacking me upside the head.

It was clear that I was to send my application in and on that following Monday, I cleaned up my resume and sent it in. From that point everything moved quickly and only two weeks passed from that moment to the stressful Monday morning I gave my notice at my old job. Things moved smoothly and I started in my new position at the end of August. Fast forward from then until today, I couldn’t be happier at my new job. Is everything perfect, no, nothing is. But I felt God had called me to make the move and while I don’t know his complete reasoning, I’m there for a purpose and I intend to fulfill his purpose in me while I’m there.

Just as note, my unhappiness at my last job was not a reflection on the people (whom I still call friends), the work or the customers. It was me, being in a spot where God did not need me anymore. I spent 5+ years at that position and I made some relationships that will last me throughout my life. God had a purpose for me there, but when that was complete, he put me elsewhere.

That alone, knowing that I truly heard from God and had the courage to act upon it, made my 2016. I now feel that God responds to prayer, not always in my timing, but He does respond. We have to be willing to act, even though it may be uncomfortable, we have to be ready to answer his call.

Moving forward

So what is 2017 bringing and what are some of the initiatives that I am planning to move forward with?

2017 will be my year of prayer. I really want to learn prayer. I’m not talking about special prayer formulas, techniques or patterns, but really learning how to listen, talk and respond to God. I felt a taste of it last year and I want to grow further in that.

I believe that because of what Jesus did for us, we can now have a personal relationship with God. We can talk with him as if I’m talking to a close friend. I can tell Him when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m angry or glad. I can thank Him for all things that He’s done for me, but can also share my disappointments when things don’t turn out how I had planned.

While prayer is not the only way for God to communicate with us, it is probably the easiest to do and the most common, but yet we don’t make a priority to pray. It is said that Martin Luther used to say, he had so much work to do each day that he was going to spend the first 2-3 hours in prayer. I for one find myself so busy that I’m lucky to get in a quick “thank you” at the end of the day. But those days when I do start my day off with substantial prayer (no I’m not doing 2-3 hours, but even 5 to 10 minutes is a much bigger improvement than what I’m used to doing), my day goes so much smoother, or at least when the rough spots hit during the day, I can feel the presence of God with me because I included him and made my relationship with Him a priority.

My second initiative will be to more diligently follow the “motto” our church has had for years,

We are blessed to be a blessing

However God blesses us, whether financially, spiritually, time or just through compassion, we are called to use a portion of what he blesses us with to further bless others.

More often than not, those blessings, if even small, multiply when we do it out of love. That small smile you may share with a stranger, could pay huge dividends down the road when that stranger shares smiles with everyone he meets, because of your kindness.

To see your blessings grow, you must sow them. So this year, I plan to do more blessing. God has blessed me immensely in 2016, I want to see that multiply. What I won’t do on this blog or anywhere else really, is brag about how I’ve blessed people. That would make it about me, where I want the glory to be on God. I want to do most of it perhaps even in secret.

We recently went to a restaurant for dinner, where my wife and I felt God was calling us to leave a larger than normal tip for the waitress. I don’t know what her need was, but we both felt the calling. So we responded, added the large tip to the bill and left. This isn’t a restaurant we frequent too often so the chances of anyone remembering us is very slim and while my curiosity is such that I would love to know why God led us to do so, I just trust in Him that he used it to fulfill and immediate need and that the dividends will be paid from that. God is faithful in that.

So to help us with that, at least in the area of financial blessings, we’ve started what I call a blessing jar. We have a jar in our home where all of us will throw in some money each week or month or paycheck. This will grow throughout the year so that whenever any of us feel the calling to bless someone in someway financially we can. God has provided us with much, so we are going to set a bit above and beyond our normal giving to help those random people.

The amount of money we set aside is not really important and I’ve told my kids if they feel like throwing in $20 dollars or just $1 at a given time, that is OK. The jar will act as a reminder to us of what God has provided and that we need to be sure we are giving back. Yes the Bible talks about giving a tithe to our church and we strive to do so, but those random acts of kindness are so important that I want to emphasize that in 2017 for us.

Wrap up – finally you may be saying

So I wrap up this reflection post. Usually I like to give a listing of my favorite posts of the year, but this year I won’t. This year, I want to end my post with one of my favorite Bible verses and a wish for everyone to dive into God’s word more. If anything I post does nothing more than lead you to his Word, then I feel I’ve done my job and the rest of the writing is just fluff. So God bless you all and wishing you all a blessed and Happy New Year!

You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
That my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.
-Psalm 30: 11-12

Welcome 2016

I’m not always a consistent blogger, but one thing I have been regular on has been my New Years post.  As many bloggers do, I like to take this post to reflect briefly on the year behind us and then look ahead to the new year.

2015

Last year, always feels weird to say that at first, was an interesting year to say the least as there were many highs and some lows, but I do feel I learned a lot about myself, my relationship with God and how that effects my daily life.

Looking back on my New Years post from 2015 is always interesting as I like to see what I was expecting and hoping I would do and then see how well I accomplished that.  Last year I wanted to focus on figuring out where God is leading me, I wanted to pursue God, not sit there waiting to see what happens.   The focus from last year was to see how to change myself.  There were three aspects I talked about, being more humble, reading more and to be still.  I really want to reflect more on the first one…being humble:

Being more humble.  I think I’ve always been somewhat humble, but I wanted to focus on thinking of OTHERS instead of myself.  I may not have truly discovered that until the end of last year, but in some ways I’ve succeeded.   But before I could do that, I had to learn one other thing…something I’ve always struggled with.  I had to learn to LOVE myself.  That was something I really hadn’t thought of, but if I thought less of me, that I wasn’t worthy of God’s love it actually made me dwell on myself…I couldn’t think of others, when all I thought of was how much I really didn’t like myself.  Well I learned, that God loves me no matter what.  And it’s not that he is just sitting on the sidelines thinking how much he loves me as I continue heading over the cliff…no he actively pursues us.  In a post that I’ve been writing, but have yet to post, I highlight a few verses that have taught me much.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever – Psalm 23:6

God’s love follows us wherever we go, he loves us unconditionally even when we continually reject his overtures of love towards us.  He continues to let us know, ‘I’ll be here when you are ready‘ and in fact, he goes one step more and reminds us constantly, sometimes forcefully, ‘Hey, I’m here and I still love you.

God has a plan for our lives and He will go to great lengths to complete his plan in us…in fact, nothing will stop him.

And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.  -Philippians 1:6

Life’s Journey

So in 2015, I went on a journey to find out what my purpose in life was, what I was meant to do and how God was going to use me.  I wrote a whole series of posts focused on this (and read them in reverse order to get the gist of my journey) and it was really quite illuminating, but it didn’t take me long until I actually believe I found what my purpose is, and it applies to all of us I believe.  I wrote about it in my post entitled, Come and See.

This was truly enlightening and I can say that it changed my life.  I learned that God has me where he wants me…and when he’s ready to move me, he will.  I was struggling to find out where I was going so I could prepare or perhaps try and talk God out of it…but I found that I’m serving God each and every day right where I am.  There is no need for me to do something “great” at least how humans define greatness.  God has me doing “great” things right where I am.  Someday he may call me to the human definition of “greatness”, but right now I’m exactly where he needs me.

Look at these lyrics from a song by the Newsboys song, How to Change the World.  This really epitomizes my journey in 2015.  It was the culmination of a year of learning, about myself, about God.  I learned that I’m serving him in every moment of my life.  When I’m at work, I’m serving him.  When I’m coaching my son’s baseball team, I’m serving him.  When I am grocery shopping, I’m serving him.  As I’m typing this post, I’m serving him.

It’s the prayer in an empty room
Little things we do when nobody’s around
A hand reaching out to a heart in doubt
It’s the smallest spark that can light the dark

That’s how you change the world!

2016

So what do I think 2016 will bring?  I’m not entirely sure.  I’m sure it will have it’s high points and low points.  I’m sure I’ll reflect back in a year from now and see things that I had hoped to accomplish, still sitting  undone…but as usual, I suspect that I’ll learn something completely unexpected, but it will be exactly what God had in mind for me all along.

God bless and Happy New Year!

 

Looking forward to 2015

2015Well I can’t believe it’s this time of year already.  2015, where has the time gone, it seems like just yesterday we were worrying about all the 2k issues and I couldn’t believe then that we were leaving the 1900s for good….  Well it seems like in just a blink of an eye, we are 15 years into the 2000s already.  Crazy how time flies.  I do these posts yearly on or as close to Jan 1 as possible.  This year I decided to something a little different, I had the recap post from yesterday which focused on reflecting on 2014 and sharing some of my favorite posts of the year.  In this post, I want to focus more on looking ahead, now that the year is done, we can look at it to reminisce and to learn from, but I want to always be looking forward to see where God is leading me.

Where is God Leading Me?

That was a large, but unintentional focus of 2014.   But it seemed to be a failed focus.  I spent much of the year not really knowing where I was going, how I was getting there or even if God wanted me there.  I really was just going through the motions in 2014.

This year, I want that to be my main focus.  I want to see where God is leading me, where God is working and I want to be there.  I don’t want to sit waiting to see what happens, I want to be actively pursuing God.

I love all you love me.  Those who search for me will surely find me.  -Proverbs 8:17

I want to be where He is.  I want to go where He goes.  Where is that?  Well I’m not sure yet.  I have my thoughts on where I would like it to be, but what I’ve found over the years, is that often my plan for the new year is not always His plan.

So instead of writing a post that talks about my plans for the new year of advancing my career, or working out more, or writing more on this blog or any of the typical resolutions people may have.  Instead, I want to talk about how I intend to change myself, so that I can readily see where God is, so I can see where He is leading me and so I can be prepared for what He wants me to do.  So what are these things I feel God needs me to change about myself.

Be more humble.

What does it mean to be humble?  Many think, being humble means to think of yourself as worth less.  Many trying to be humble will put themselves down in an effort to be less prideful.  But what I’ve learned is that humility is really just thinking of others INSTEAD of yourself.  Thinking of yourself, even thinking lesser of yourself is still pride.  Lifting everyone up, first others then yourself, is true humility.

But this one I need to be careful with, for I don’t believe that the truly humble person doesn’t know it and really doesn’t care.  To strive for humility and believe you have reached it is to arrive at pride. To strive for humility and not reach it is to wallow in self-pity and condemnation, which is just another expression of pride.

So in this, perhaps I won’t talk about it anymore, but my goal is to stop wallowing in condemnation and focus on lifting everyone up (including myself).

Read more.

What do I mean by reading more?  Well first off, while I’ve gotten much better at reading the Bible, I want to continue to make it even more of a habit for me.  Getting into the word.  I find that even reading a few verses each day often help me.  It’s amazing how God will put just the right verse in front of me exactly when I need it.

I also want to read more Christian authors.  Read some of the classic sermons, some of the church fathers.  Some historical texts as well as apologetics.  I think it will help to see how others are experiencing God which will help me see how I can experience God.

Be still.

Probably one of my biggest problems.  God lives in each of us already through the Holy Spirit.  He wants a personal relationship with us.  He may already be closer than we think, but our lives are too filled with noise to hear him.  In Psalm 46, it says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  If our lives are so busy and filled with activities we tend to squeeze God into our “free time” instead of making Him the primary focus.

This may mean some hard decisions for me.  It may mean that I have to give up some extracurricular activities and hobbies that I enjoy, but are causing too much noise in my life.   God provides a fun-filled life if we just let him.  We want to fill our lives up with things that we often neglect what is important, God, family, health.  This year, I want to weed out those things that are just extra noise in my life.

Welcome 2015

I welcome in the New Year with renewed hope.  I won’t ‘magically’ be able to remove all my stresses, bad habits and anxieties.  But I  hope to improve in these small areas which I believe will help me find the presence of God, whom I know is very near to all of us already.

I wanted to share this devotional that talks about one more very important step into truly entering into a relationship with God.  You can find it at http://www.blackaby.org/devarchive.asp, the January 1st, 2015 devotional.

—————-

Jan 1, 2015 devotional from http://www.blackaby.org/devarchive.asp

 

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15)

Jesus has a wonderful way of restoring us when we fail Him! He does not humiliate us. He does not criticize us. He does not ask us to make a resolution to try harder. Rather, He takes us aside and asks us to reaffirm our love for Him.

Peter miserably failed his Lord when he fled with the other disciples from the Garden of Gethsemane. Later, he publicly denied that he even knew Jesus. Peter must have wondered if he had been capable of being Jesus’ disciple when he was unfaithful to Jesus in His most crucial hour.

As you begin a new year, you may be painfully aware that you have failed your Lord in many ways. Perhaps you were not faithful. Perhaps you disobeyed His word to you. Perhaps you denied Him by the way you lived. Jesus will take you aside, as He did Peter. He will not berate you. He will not humiliate you. He will ask you to examine your love for Him. He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” If your answer, like Peter’s, is “Yes, Lord,” He will reaffirm His will for you. If you truly love Him, you will obey Him (John 14:15). Jesus does not need your resolutions, your recommitments, or your promises to try harder this year. If your resolve to obey God last year did not help you to be faithful, it will not make you successful this year. Jesus asks for your love. If you truly love Him, your service for Him in the new year will be of the quality that He desires.

God bless all of you in 2015 and I hope you have a very Happy New Year!

A Look Back on 2014

Note: For many years now, I’ve gotten up early on January 1st and posted a recap of the previous year and a look forward to the new year on my various blogs (I write two others as well if you want to check them out, LautzOfDotNet, my technology blog and LautzOfIF, my Interactive Fiction blog).  This year I thought I’d change it up a bit and do a reflection post today on New Year’s Eve and then do my normal looking forward post tomorrow.

ny2014

What did 2014 bring!

As far as this blog is concerned, 2014 may be remembered for the year I dove in and spent a lot more time studying the Bible (and writing about it).  Many of my posts focused on and explored a verse or two.  I really enjoyed seeing how God would send me a verse, right when I needed it and when He did, writing down my thoughts came naturally.  I struggled at times writing when I thought more of  “I need to write a post today”….I deleted a lot of posts those days, so I tried to focus more on following God’s promptings and writing when He has something for me to share.  I focused less on the politics and social aspects of my blog, which were highlighted more in years past and more on how God is moving in my life.

This year I wrote a total of 48 posts (including this one) with a high of 10 in February and a low of 0 in June.  The posts seem to ebb and flow with my moods and the weather (and of course family activities).

While not the main purpose of this blog, I gained quite a few readers and followers this year also.  I always enjoy when people comment or write me that they enjoy my blog, or they got some special meaning out of something I posted.  So please, feel free to let me know if you like something or not, I always enjoy talking to people.

Favorite posts of 2014

Well, every post like this needs to have a list of favorite posts.  So here are my top 10 favorite posts of the year (chronological order).

  1. Things to Do During Challenging Times – As we all will face difficult times throughout each year, this post I listed a few things to do during those time periods.  This is a post I’ve gone back to a few times throughout the year to remind myself
  2. God, the Ultimate Software Developer – This post was one of my favorites (and not just because of the cool photo I used).  It also appeared to be one of everyone’s favorites as it had the most traffic of any other post on my blog this year.  I’ve reflected on this post a few times to remind myself that God works in all aspects of my life and I should be thankful for my skills that He gives me to do his work in this world.
  3. Be a fearless Christian – Another of my favorites.  Focus around 2 Timothy 1:7.  Great reminder, that we should be fearless as Christians because God has given us the power and strength that we need.
  4. A Plan for Success – A simple plan for success in whatever you are doing, invite God to join you.
  5. Thanking God for One of the Greatest Gifts – A tribute and thanksgiving to my wife on our anniversary.  Love ya babe!
  6. A Significant Marriage – God calls us to not just have a good marriage, but to have a significant one, one that will get people to ask, ‘How do they have a such a great marriage?’
  7. You Can’t Take Prayer Out of School – A realization by me that no one can ever take prayer out of the schools.
  8. Live with Abandon – I made quite a few posts in November that made this hard to pick just a few out of that month, but this one epitomizes what I’m trying to do with my life in 2015.  I called it a Year of Thanksgiving and I am living my life with abandon.  (Yep 2 links for the price of 1)
  9. While we were sinners, Christ STILL died for us – This post was a great reminder for me that Christ didn’t wait until we all were believers to save us…no while we were still all sinners, he died for us.  Great reminder to us of how we can be more like Christ in our actions to those on the margins of society.
  10. Roaring like a lion – What a way to end the year, finishing the year helping those in need without worrying about their history.

I hope you can take the time to explore my blog posts from this year and before.  I’d love to hear what your favorite couple posts have been.   Tomorrow, we’ll look forward on 2015, but for now I hope you had a blessed 2014 and please, everyone be safe tonight.

 

 

Recap of 2013 – Faith, Family, Self

Usually I do my yearly recap early in the day, January 1; but for numerous reasons, I’ve been unable to up until now.  Each year, I like to recap my year, looking back on my triumphs and failures and look forward to the upcoming year.

So what did 2013 bring to us this year?   As is a common theme in life, change.  Life changes constantly, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but we can be guaranteed it will change.  So what change stands out to me this year?

Family

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProbably the biggest change is having my son Trey graduate high school.  I couldn’t have been prouder of what he had accomplished throughout his life and was excited to see him move on to the next phase of his life, but I was saddened as well, because my little boy was all grown up.  We all grow and change as much as we often want things to stay the same, they don’t.  I look at Trey now as a young man finding his way through life and I’m happy to be there for support when he needs some.

Every day I look at him and remember the young boy that used to climb up on my lap or ride on my shoulders, yet I see the man he has become.  Ready to start life with vigor and lead his own way.  I hope I did my job well, as my father did with me, and he remembers he always has a place with us.  2014 will be a great year for him.

 

Faith

Another change that I’ve made for myself, is a renewing of my vigor for God.  I realize that I am nothing without God.  I have become excited once more to learn more, grow more and share more.  Hence my renewal of this blog.  When I was active on this blog before, I actually stressed over posting articles.  I would stress over getting the article just right and worrying over how many people read it and if the message was right.  Thus the longer I wrote, the more stressful and less fun it became.  I didn’t want to write anymore because it was too much work.  And eventually, it faded away and the writing stopped.

When I renewed this blog, I still want to make sure the message is right and that as many people read it as possible, but my main goal has become to just put on “paper” so to speak, my feelings and thoughts.  I want to share my studies and what I’ve learned and even if no one else reads it, it has become therapeutic for me.  So my posts have become less predictable, less regular, but I hope they show the are more from the heart than they were before.

I have some ideas on ways to expand this blog in 2014 and have it reach more people, but everything I do is prefaced with the thought, is this coming from my heart and does it give glory to God and therapy for me.

Self

This is where perhaps the most change needs to take place and I’m hoping that 2014 will bring much needed change.  Of course I hope that my faith has been changed and continues to grow to be more like that faith Jesus talks about.  I pray that our family is healthy and happy throughout the year.

I need to stop stressing over small situations until I blow them up in my own mind into major issues.  I need to daily count my blessings and remember where they come from.  A favorite thought of mine has been “What if God only provided us with the blessings that we thanked him for?

I need to study my Bible more and read better commentary on scripture.  I need to make sure I make the Word of God a priority in my life, not just an afterthought after a busy day.  I hope hope that by sharing my studies on this blog, not only will it encourage me to do more and make them a priority (make me feel the guilt if I fall behind), but perhaps if even one person reads it and God speaks to them in some way through my post, then it was all worth it.

Favorite posts from the past

Many blogs will post the most popular or their favorite posts from the past year.  Well I don’t have many posts from 2013 since I just started it back up again in the late fall, so let me link to some of the posts over the history of this blog that even I like to return to and reread.

These are just some of my favorites, I hope you enjoy and perhaps can find some use in your own life.

2014 – Here we go

So off we go into 2014.  One of the things that is always consistent is that time moves forward.  2014 is here whether we want it to be or not.  I plan on making the most of the year and I hope you can resolve to as well.  I’m always happy to hear from any readers I may have and if something resonates with you that I’ve written please let me know.  God is great and he has great plans for us in 2014.

Year of Change

When I reflect back on 2011 (read my review from last year to see where I was at then), one thing that really jumps out at me is how much change we went through.  Life is always changing, for the better and worse as we grow older and wiser.  Change is inevitable, we as humans cannot escape change. Quickly, let me review some areas of my life and reflect on the change that 2011 has brought. 

  • Family – Yes as last year, I still have four awesome children that grow and change everyday.  I know have another driver in the family and that adds a whole other level of stress, but joy at the same time.  My daughter has blossomed into a young woman and becomes more beautiful each day.  My two younger boys are growing quickly, but they still are fun-loving, energetic and best of friends.  I thank God everyday for those kids!

    I thank God each day for my wife of almost 20 years.  We’ve been together longer than we’ve been apart in our 40 years and I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Sure we can argue and I’m sure I irritate my wife on a perhaps daily schedule but she stands by me through thick and thin.  One thing I’ve learned over the years (and my oldest son is learning the hard way unfortunately) is that in any relationship, there will be struggles.  There will be times when you want to run away, times when you just don’t like the other person much (I never feel that way towards my wife, but I’m sure there are times when she feels that towards me Smile)  However, as in any commitment, when the going gets tough, you just hunker down and work hard to solving the problem.

    One big change that occurred this year and it wasn’t pleasant at all, is the loss of my father-in-law.  My wife’s step-dad was a great father to my wife and great grand-dad to my kids.  He and I butted heads at times, mostly in politics and religion, but we were friends and he’d do anything for you.  He went in for surgery in August, seemed to be doing well but then developed an infection that is body just couldn’t fight off.  After many weeks in the hospital, he passed away.  The hardest thing I had to do this year, was comfort my 16 year old who broke down at his grandfather’s funeral.  We love you and miss you Roger!

  • Job – Well this is another area where change happened quickly and I didn’t see it coming.  If you read last years posts, you’ll see that business was slow and we were struggling to keep everything afloat, but I was energized and excited to make my business grow.  I had great plans and nothing was going to get in my way.  Well, just a few short weeks after I wrote that post, a job offer fell into my lap that I couldn’t refuse.  Needless to say, by the start of February, I had started down a new path in my career.  One that was not what I expected, but far more than I anticipated.  I’m now the Directory of Technology Services at Three30 Group.  I’m excited to see where this company is going and while there has been change there as well (some not the way it was planned I’m sorry to say) I’m looking forward to 2012 as a great year for us.
  • Finances – Well as you may remember from last year, times were tough and financially it was a struggle.  Well with the help of the above mentioned new position, we’ve got our finances back on track.  Things are still tight as we recover from the depths we were at, but things are on the positive upswing and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I can’t wait until we are at a position to start paying it forward.  When we have cash left over at the end of the month that we can donate to the local food cupboard, or pay for a random person’s tank of gas, or help to fix a vehicle for someone who needs it, but can’t afford to fix it.  This is our goal to be financially free, so we can use the gifts we have been given to help others.

I could go on, but these areas of change some good and some bad are a consistent pattern throughout life.  As soon as you think everything is settled, something comes along to change that.  Things must change it seems and I’m beginning to embrace that, enjoy it and in some cases look forward to it. 

However, we can be assured that one thing never changes.  There is something that we can always count on to be consistent.  That is God and his undying love for us.

The LORD is the eternal God, Creator of the earth. He never gets weary or tired; His wisdom cannot be measured. – Isaiah 40:28

Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?  – Numbers 23:19

There is just a few, but the entire Bible is filled with examples of how God is faithful and unchanging.  With that confidence we know that though our lives change by the hour and at times very unexpectedly, we always have an anchor that will keep us steady in the storms of life.  So in 2012, I look back and thank God that throughout all the changes we encountered, he has been there for us throughout.  And I now look forward to 2012 and though there may be a lot of change, some unpleasant, I know that He will be there watching over me always.

Hoping everyone has  a wonderful New Year and may God bless you!

Count your blessings!

As I enter this new year, as I do every year, I like to reflect on the past year and of course look forward to the new.  It is so easy to look back on the year and see only the negatives.  Maybe your health wasn’t as it should be, your finances are in a mess, or perhaps you’re lonely and depressed.  Who knows what it might be, perhaps it was worse, maybe a death in the family or bankruptcy or loss of a job.  Any number of things can make us dwell on the negatives and not see any of the blessings God has provided.

Going back to my previous post, We are what we think, dwelling on the negative does you no good.  In fact it accentuates the negatives and brings what might just be a minor setback and carries it throughout your life.

Take for example a job loss.  Not only does that bring financial difficulties, but it can also bring about feelings of lack of self worth and depression.  This can affect you not only mentally, but physically by raising your blood pressure, causing headaches, or worse.  Look up the effects of stress on your body and you can see the damage it can do to your health. 

I personally struggle with stress and view it as the cause of most of my health issues from my bad back, high blood pressure and other issues.  Half the battle is realizing it, but it is still a major roadblock in my personal life.

What I tend to forget however, is how truly blessed I am.  Paul writes in Ephesians 1:3 about our spiritual blessings.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Also in Matthew 14:13-21 we read how Jesus provided for the needs of over five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish.

These and many other places in the Bible let us know how much God cares for us and how he will provide for all our needs (not necessarily our wants though).

Counting my Blessings

Let me reflect on this past year and not focus on the negatives of the past and not even on the negatives to come in 2011, but instead let me count my blessings and see how much God has given me.  I think if you sit back and spend the time to do the same, you’ll be amazed at how greatly you truly were blessed in 2010.

  • My Family – God has provided me with four awesome children.  My children are truly my pride and joy, I love them more and more each day and while they can try my patience at times, as we all did with your parents (sorry Mom and Dad), I can’t fathom the joy the bring me as I watch them learn and grow.  I watch my oldest turning into a young man, my daughter into a beautiful young lady and my two younger boys loving life and becoming best friends with each other.

    My wife, who is the love of my life, my best friend, my girl friend and my life time partner in this crazy world.  She puts up with my crap and still loves me.  She provides me stability in my chaos.  She is the strength in my weakness.  I love her more and more each day.

  • My health – Sure as I get older, I notice things about my body that I think, “Oh crap, I’m getting old.”  I look in the mirror and see my hair disappearing, but I look at that as a bonus as my hair cuts are shorter and I use less shampoo.  I had some major back issues this summer which had me laid up for almost a month, yet it provided me with plenty of time I needed to slow down and reflect on my life and the direction it was heading.  I also was able to catch up on my reading! Smile 

    Despite my problems, minor compared to others, I wake up each morning, which is a blessing in itself, am able to get out and live life to it’s fullest!

  • My job – I’ve been self employed for almost 10 years now and while it’s had it’s peaks and valleys and there is a whole separate level of stress that someone who has never worked for themselves as their main income will never understand, I feel blessed that I’ve been able to continue to do what I love for this long. 

    Business has been slow this year, in fact so slow that it has caused some troubles and issues that are not that pleasant, yet my family has yet to go hungry and I am thankful for that.  The slowness of the economy and the effects on my business has also been a blessing in disguise as it’s forced me to reevaluate how I market my business and services and has pushed me to be more aggressive and proactive in gaining new work.

  • My finances – Well let’s just say this is really my lack of finances.  The slow economy has hurt my income and cash flow enough that while we are still eating, there is little left for anything else.  Again this has been a blessing in disguise.  My wife and I have learned to do with less, we’ve learned to shop smarter, handle our finances better,  and have learned to focus on priorities and rid ourselves of some of the dead weight that is a drain on our finances.  While we still have a way to go, we are blessed by having to make these changes.
  • My friends – I’m blessed beyond belief with great friends.  I won’t name any personally as I’m sure I’ll forget some, but I’ve met new friends this year that have become a great blessing to my wife and I and indeed to my children as well.  Thank you for all you do and I look forward to our continued friendship into the new year and of course the  business opportunities we’re always thinking up. 

    Also to my old friends that have been there through thick and thin, through bountiful times and thin times, those friends that bless our lives each and every day.  God has put all of you into our lives for a reason.

I could go on and on about the many blessings that I have in my life, but the one thing that I want to remember through all this (and the one thing I hope my readers take away from this), is that God has blessed us all beyond belief, even though these blessings may not be obvious, step back from your troubles and look at how they can positively impact your life and the lives of those around you. 

I look forward to 2011, the many things I’ll learn and my growth while writing this blog, and to the many friends I hope to meet on here.

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on the direction of this blog as well as how God has blessed you this year!