All posts by Cindi Noble

FAIR? Maybe Not.

Nick

   If you’ve never heard of Nick Vujicic, here’s the quick version: He was born without arms and legs—not even part of any limbs except one small malformed foot attached to his torso. Is that fair? Absolutely not. But he doesn’t let it stop him—at all. In fact, he’s an amazing motivational speaker. When Nick proclaims that quitting is simply not an option, no one can argue the point. And why isn’t he angry or bitter? Certainly no one would fault him.

Life Should Be Fair!!

   Many people think so. But it isn’t. Life is hard. Hal Urban makes these points in his great book Life’s Greatest Lessons. The fact is, expecting life to be fair is a very dangerous proposition. But then—why do we have to be told this?

   The reality is that even though we “know,” in general, that life isn’t fair, when it comes to us personally, we often expect it to be. And because we don’t really accept that life is not fair, then we can become angry when life slaps us upside the head and proves the point. Job loss, financial crisis, relationship problems, and health issues are some major “not fairs” in life. Eventually, when we’re angry about life’s unfairness long enough and we can’t “make” it fair (according to our standards), then we can lose hope that anything will ever change. If we go there, depression sets in.

   Is it “fair” that we’re not billionaires like Bill Gates? Some would say a resounding “NO!” But is it fair that we weren’t born in a third-world country where mothers can’t feed their children? No. Is it fair that ever since I broke my leg when I was fourteen, I can’t bend it quite as far as I once could? I didn’t used to think so—until I saw a video of Nick Vujicic who doesn’t have any legs .

   It’s funny how seeing someone suffering through circumstances worse than our own can adjust our perspective.

Chicken? Again??

   Back in the day when I had very little money, I was on a tight grocery budget. Very tight. Chicken, ground beef and pasta in some form or another were common. Then one day, my sister visited and she needed “a few” things so we went grocery shopping where she proceeded to fill her cart with all kinds of things I considered “extras” – salsa and chips, steak, baked goods, and fresh fruits, to mention just a few. I had the usual: chicken legs, eggs, bread, milk and bologna. Once she left, I was in tears. God and I had a little “chat” during which I explained to Him (rather loudly) how “unfair” it was that she could afford steak and all I could afford was chicken. I was sick of chicken. But to this day, I still remember exactly where I was when God responded to my little tirade; I was literally mid-step between my living room and kitchen.

   “Have you ever gone hungry?”

   Suddenly I was in tears for another reason. “No, Lord,” I whispered, “I haven’t.”

   How unfair is that when millions of people in the world are hungry every day?

The fact is that our expectations shape our perspectives all the time. If we “expect” things to be one way or the other and they’re not, we’ll live our lives in disappointment and bitterness.

Unrealistic Expectations Can Ruin Lives

   My mother died of cancer 23 years ago. My father died four years ago. However, one of the things I’ll always remember about the two of them is that they had the kind of marriage that everyone dreams of. They were best friends, treated each other with respect and never failed to show love and appreciation to the other. As a consequence, they virtually never fought; in all the years they were married, they only had two fights. So what did I expect when I got married? Exactly. I thought it was the end of the marriage if a couple had an argument; I’d rarely seen it happen. Why is that important? Because since my expectations for a good marriage were so unrealistic, I was very disappointed. That meant that any “intense fellowship” my husband and I had was, to my mind, a major crisis.

   It was all so unfair!

   But was it unfair? Or were my expectations just unrealistic? No and yes. The point is that if we have unrealistic expectations in life, then we’re going to label lots of things “unfair!”. And when we go through life thinking we’ve gotten the short end of the stick, we can become literally heart sick.

Things We Just Expect…

   So what are some of these heart-breaking expectations? How about the big media lie that every woman should look like a twenty-year-old model and if we don’t, well, then we need to be “fixed”. Take Marie Osmond and her NutriSystem campaign, for example. She’s 60ish (by my estimation) and looks like she’s 30. The implication is that spending big bucks for NutriSystem every month is going to make any 60-year-old look 30.

   Now there’s an expectation looking for a disappointment.

   I’d love to be the copywriter for that NutriSystem TV ad. The fine print would read: “Personal trainer, plastic surgeon, private cosmetologist, hair and make-up designer, wardrobe specialist, and video/photo editor are not included with this offer.”

   Is it “fair” that Marie can afford to look like that and the rest of us—not so much? Personally, I don’t think it is fair, but then, I would be wrong.

Not Happening

   The larger point is that unrealistic expectations about what’s “fair” and “unfair” can have us wasting valuable time chasing things in life that are never going to happen. When Jesus said, “’In this world you will have tribulation,’” he said it for a reason. To expect that we won’t have trials, tribulations, losses, crises, and heartaches is just plain – well, let’s say “naive”—it sounds better.

   The next time you feel disappointed, ask yourself, “What was I really expecting?” After you identify your expectations in that situation, ask yourself whether those expectations are realistic or not. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for things that were never possible to begin with. Once we realize that, we can cut ourselves a break for not being able to achieve those impossible goals.

   So much for looking like Marie… 

 

 

 

 

Free College: What “Free” Really Means

Money Sign Burning FREE

   The average person, in the course of a 20-30 year career, will pay anywhere from $24,000 to $87,000 more in taxes after receiving a “free” college education. And that’s not even the worst of it.

   Recently, I asked students if they would vote for someone who promised them free college and a resounding yes reverberated through the realm. Then I asked them a question they evidently hadn’t considered: Would you vote for free college if it cost you more in taxes than the actual student loans? The answer? “Who cares?? It’s free now!”

The “Younger Gen” Mindset

   Many students are not known for their fondness for planning ahead—nor, to be fair, are most people in their teens and twenties. So it’s not too terribly surprising that they really don’t know or care what “free” college will inevitably cost them. Many will say “nothing;” they don’t actually believe that candidates will really raise taxes to pay for free stuff. But when Bernie Saunders was specifically asked whether he would raise taxes, not just on the rich, but on the middle class to pay for free college and healthcare, his answer was a straightforward, “Yes, I will.” So, we know it’s going to happen. But just how much will that increase be and what does that mean in terms of costs for young folks who just want to get an education? Let’s break it down.

Current Tax Rates

   The first thing we need to realize is that tax rates are calculated in income steps. For example, after all deductions, your taxable income is currently calculated at the following rates:

  • your first $9700 is taxed at 10%;
  • your next $9701 to $38k is taxed at 12%;
  • your next $38,001 to $51k is taxed at 22%;
  • your remaining income above $51,000 is taxed at 24%.

   Now then, let’s take Jake, who has $40,000 in taxable income after all deductions have been calculated; Jake will owe $4606 in federal taxes at the current tax rates. Now, let’s say someone comes along and raises Jake’s middle class tax rates, even a little, perhaps at the following rates:

  • $9700 is taxed at 12%;
  • $9701 to $38k is taxed at 15%;
  • $38,001 to $51k is taxed at 25%;
  • remaining income above $51,000 is taxed at 28%.

   This is a conservative tax hike; real tax-increase rates could be higher. However, even at this small raise in rates, Jake will owe an additional $1103.00 per year in federal taxes. (Of course, when he gets a raise, he’ll owe more.) Furthermore, over the course of a 20-year career, Jake will pay $22,060 in extra taxes! If he works 30 years, he’ll pay an additional $30,090.

   And here’s the kicker: It doesn’t matter whether Jake ever went to college himself or not—he’ll still be paying for everyone else to go.

Get Real

   Many students take out loans to pay for college. And while no one particularly likes to have to do that, it’s better to do that and be debt-free in ten years than to get “free” college and pay twice what it costs in higher taxes. And that’s not all. No one should have to pay back their own student loans and pay back everyone else’s because higher tax rates kicked in after they graduated.

I hope that’s clear: If you’ve already graduated, you’re not only paying for your own college education, but every day of your 30-year working life, you’ll be paying for someone else’s “free” college education.

   Not convinced? Here are more numbers based on taxable income (after deductions), indicating how much of your hard-earned money will be going to pay for other people’s college education:

  • Making $50,000? You’ll pay $1403 more in federal taxes per year; $28,060 over 20 years; and $42,090 in the course of a 30-year career.
  • $60,000? $1703 more per year in taxes; $34,060 in 20 years; and $51,090 in 30 years.
  • $100,000? $2916 more per year in taxes; $58,320 in 20 years; and $87,480 in 30 years.

   The amount you’ll pay in additional taxes in the course of your working life will be enough to provide “free” college for two, three or even four students—far, far more than you would have paid for your one college education. And here’s more good news—if you’re married and your spouse is working, you’ll be paying for the “free” college education of five, six or seven other people.

The End Game

   Whether you’re still young enough to get “free” college or you’ve already graduated from school, you’ll still end up paying a great deal more in taxes during your working life than if you had simply paid for your own education, even if you had to take out student loans.

  The bottom line is this: At the end of your career when that extra money you forked out in higher taxes is not there for your retirement, you’ll realize that your “free” education cost far more than you’d ever imagined—and not just in terms of money—but in quality of life, security, and peace of mind.

   And there’s no freedom in that.

 

 

 

To Forge A Heart

I love you. Heart shape gemstone

   “Who could refrain that had a heart to love and in that heart, courage to make love known?” (Shakespeare)

   Hearts. This  week has been all about them: red hearts, pink hearts, gold and silver hearts, candy hearts, balloon hearts, card hearts, flower hearts, chocolate cake hearts. Hearts as far as the eye can see.

But What Makes A Heart?

   Is it the red paper, the white lace, the scissors and glue? Is it the once-a-year words written with ink that fades as the months go by? Is it the glitter, the sparkle, the shine?

   Or—is it more?

   Is it the heart leap you feel the day he says, “Will you?” or the day she says, “Yes!”? Is it the chest-racking sobs the night your door slams shut for the last time and taillights disappear down the road and fade to black?

   Is it the single tear trickling down your cheek when you stand helplessly by as the quiet beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor withers to silence? Is it the choking loss for words that comes when the doctor looks you in the eye and says, “benign”?

   Is it the moment you meet your newborn, ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, a vulnerable heartbeat ticking against your pounding chest? Is it the swelling in your throat as you walk your baby down the aisle and place her hand into the hand of her future happiness?

   Is it the squish of wet sand between your toes on a solitary beach or the giggling swish of arms and legs in the fresh, cold white at the birth of a snow angel? Is it the deep crimson roses delivered to your door on your birthday, your anniversary? Or that you send…

Is it the day you collapse hard onto your knees with no words, slow tears pleading for someone to hear your heart splintering? Or is it the slow, red dawn that speaks that the bleak winter of your wandering has finally come to an end?

What Makes A Heart?   

Is it the day you cut the bright ribbon and open the doors of your dream? Is it a piece of paper saying “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Class of 2020” or “I was thinking of you.”?

   Is it the pink rage on your cheeks the day your child gets off the bus, head bowed low, and whispers a word you prayed he’d never have to hear? Is it the green haze that clouds your eyes and pollutes your soul when she walks by, holding his hand instead of you?

   Is it the smile you give to a stranger, the last dollars in your pocket  you give to a penniless man, or the time you give to read that same storybook, out loud, over and over,  for the forty-third time?

   Is it the extra job you work at night so you’ll see those shining eyes on Christmas morning, or so you’ll finally climb high into the clouds of that mountain you’ve dreamed of conquering since you were ten, or so you’ll watch that one walk across the stage who could never have walked there alone?

What Makes A Heart?

   Not shiny black cars or shimmering diamonds or crisp hundred dollar bills but loud laughter and quiet tears, hidden sorrows and public joys, endless mornings of hope-filled prayers and as many nights of sleepless fears. It’s gratitude too deep ever to repay and forever friendship—pinky sworn; it’s empty caverns of the soul carved by loss, and it’s mama-bear love.

   Life makes a heart. And life breaks a heart. But without all of life, there can never truly be a heart.

 

 

You Can’t Not Be A Royal

FREE PIX - CrownRecently, the news folks on at least five continents have been waxing apocalyptic about Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and their decision to “quit” the royal family. Apparently, their plan is to move to the British province of Canada where they can live like “normal people”. The whole fiasco is called “Megxit” after Meghan, who is being blamed for enticing her royal husband to leave Windsor Palace for more modest room-and-board.

Of course, none of this is going over very well. Headlines gleefully announce that Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, is having fits in private, although in public, she “supports” their decision. Papers also speculate that this whole circus is a deliberate plot to take the press’s focus off of Prince Andrew and his alleged ties to certain people of very dubious character who, for our purposes here, need not be named.

Royalty Is Not A Conditional Proposition

Despite the fact that a lot of people care about the accusations against Prince Andrew as well as Prince Harry’s decision to abandon his royal roots, the point is this: Neither Andrew’s behavior nor Harry’s decision to “quit” the royal family makes them “not royal”.

   You can’t undo royalty.  

Royalty is a position one is born into and as such, it’s a bloodline identity, not a sought-after or bought-into or earned position. No one can go to college with the goal of becoming a royal entity. Royalty is not a job, it’s an identity. Royalty is not what one does, it’s who one is—that’s the difference. Harry will always be a prince by virtue of his bloodline, despite his desire to leave it all behind, and Andrew will always be a prince, despite his sins. While the purpose of this piece is not to berate Andrew, the lesson is that the magnitude of his alleged fall from grace still does not negate his identity as a royal.

The Bride of Christ

By virtue of our relationship with Christ, we are also royalty; we have a new identity because we are now the bride of Christ. In just the same way that Meghan is now a royal by virtue of her marriage Prince Harry, we, who are the bride of Christ, have been grafted into the bloodline and thereby the royal family. As such, we are enthroned at the right hand of Christ—as is fitting for a bride and queen.

We reign with Christ—and we can only do that from a position of bloodline royalty.

Moreover, we can’t “lose” our new identity in Christ; our “new creation-ship” is an established fact which cannot be altered, regardless of how we “feel” about ourselves or our behavior. The prodigal son was still his father’s son, despite his leaving and despite his sin. And if he had never chosen to return to his father, he would still have been his father’s son—albeit in a pigpen.

Speaking of the Pigpen…

We often disqualify ourselves from our royalty, not by our actions, but by our mindsets about ourselves. Granted, it’s much easier to appropriate and accept one’s identity as a royal if one is born into it and raised knowing it from the first breath. But what if we were born into a situation seemingly anything but royal? Maybe we grew up in poverty or a broken home or had less-than-royal-behaving parents or are even a convicted felon. Even if—none of those situations is now your identity in Christ.

“But what if I’m still in one of those situations?” If you are, and you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are still royalty.

   Your situation does not determine your identity.

We’ve all heard the story of the “Prince and the Pauper” in which a prince and a poor boy (who happen to look alike) exchange places and thereby end up taking on one another’s daily lives. Even so, their new circumstances don’t change who they are; the real prince is still royalty and the pauper is still not.

Royals Have A Duty to their Kingdoms

You are a royal entity. And that will never change. What needs to change is your acceptance of that truth because when it does, everything else will change. Your view of yourself and what you’re allowed to do will change—after all, royals accept that they have the right, authority, and privilege to do whatever must be done. This means that your view of your purpose and destiny will change as well: You will understand that you have the right and authority to pursue your purpose in life. And one more thing: You have a duty to pursue your purpose. Royals understand that their duty is to lead and to do the work required to benefit their kingdoms.

We have a kingdom which requires us to fulfill our purpose. It’s our duty. And we can only fulfill that duty and purpose when we truly accept and move in our royal identity in Christ.

So, Your Royal Highness—it’s time.

 

The Mountains of Our Destiny

Mountain Purple - FREETHE MOUNTAINS OF OUR DESTINY

   Today I worked with a student who needed practice on a section of the New York State English Regents exam. In the course of the hour that we sat together, he told me how, while he can identify themes and main ideas in his head, he can’t get them onto the page. The words, “I can’t write” exited his mouth at least six times. Finally, I stopped him.

   “What’s your definition of writing? Grammar, punctuation, spelling?”

   “Yep.”

   “That’s not writing, that’s editing. That’s why they pay me the big bucks. Writing is conveying your ideas about the messages and lessons buried somewhere in a piece of literature. It’s expressing your opinions and backing them with evidence from the text. Can you do that?”

   “I think so.”

   “Good, then you can write. Stop saying you can’t.”

Solomon and the Temple

   As David was handing off the baton to Solomon to take the reins of the kingdom and to build the long-awaited temple, he admonished him, “’Do not fear the work…’”

   “’Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work… is finished correctly’” (I Chron. 28:20).

   I suspect that, once Solomon got a glimpse of the mountains of supplies and blueprints, the words “I can’t” might have slipped off his tongue a time or two. Or two hundred. The size of the chore was massive—the temple would take years to build—and Solomon was flat intimidated. Dad to tell him more than once, “’Be strong, and do the work’” (vs. 10). We should probably take that advice as well. And why?

   Because it’s our assignment.

The Goliath of Tasks

   How many times have we been intimidated by the size of the job the Lord has given us to do? Some days, we look at the Philistine that it is and want to run away in terror. It might be parenting that child. You might feel like my three-year-old did once upon a time after his newborn brother had been home from the hospital about two weeks and he looked at the baby and said, “When are we taking him back?” Or your Goliath might be working in that ministry or maybe it’s your actual job. Or it might be writing that book. I wish I had just one share of Google stock for every time I’ve heard someone say, “I know God wants me to write a book but I can’t write!” (Yes. You. Can. Maybe you can’t edit but you can write.) At any rate, I’d never have to work again.

Our Own Mount Everest

   We all have at least one monumental task that God has called us to do and we look at that mountain in front of us and say, “Not me, not today.” But what did Jesus say about that?

   “’…For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matt. 17:20).

   Turns out Solomon did move that mountain of wood, stone and precious metal and built the very house of God.

   What is God calling you to build? It won’t be the first—or the last—“impossible” task you’re called to do. But that’s just it—you’re called.

   Do not fear the work.

 

The End Game.

Rose Pink

   Somewhere in the history of this great, green earth, someone coined the maxim, “Stop and smell the roses.” I thought that was such an adorable sentiment. Let’s all go find a garden and take a nice, long whiff. After all, we have all the time in the world.

   I was rather missing the point.

   Of course, the saying is a metaphor admonishing us to slow the hamster wheel long enough to relish the “unimportant” things in life, those precious moments which, without warning, poke their heads from mucky oblivion like an unexpected crocus from a cold patch of snow.

   A bit of perfume and color in a damp and murky world.

   But why do we need to be reminded of this?  

This Spinning Rock

   Life is like some great cosmic dynamo of endless motion where nothing ever stops—stars wheeling through the heavens, the earth spinning on its axis, and clouds forming and reforming and forming again. And people. From the time we’re born, we’re continuously moving—squirming, crawling, skipping, climbing, running—in one form or another, always in motion. And why? Because we have a plan. And often that plan doesn’t include slowing, pausing or—heaven forbid—stopping altogether. And that’s because…

   “Time is a precious commodity.”

   “You snooze, you lose.”

   “The early bird gets the worm.” (yuch)

   “There’s no time to lose.”

   “Life is a jungle… the survival of the fittest” and all that.

   And again—why?

   Just—because.

The End Game.

   But what’s the purpose? In the end, what have we accomplished with all of the movement?

   The answer we often get probably goes something like this: We cram to compete for the top grades to win the great scholarship to attain the four+ year degree to snag the high-paying job to buy the nice house. (Insert spouse and kidlets somewhere in here.) Then we’ll get the bigger paycheck to buy the much bigger house with the two-car garage (one car would be lonely) and the annual vacation (requiring a plane trip over water). Not to mention the savings, the college tuition accounts, the IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs, stocks, bonds, minted-gold bars, and vintage baseball cards. And why?

   So we can retire.

   And when we retire, then we’ll smell the roses—if the market doesn’t crash, the price of gold doesn’t tank, medical bills don’t steal the home equity and the IRA/401/403, and the baseball cards don’t grow moldy.

But What If…?

   No doubt time is a precious commodity, very precious—one much more valuable than gold or money or houses or degrees or retirement accounts. Of course, we do need those things—not saying we don’t. But what if we really used that precious gift of time to give life to our life—and to the lives of others? What could be more valuable than that? We can still buy the house and take the vacation, sure, but those things aren’t ends in themselves. They’re things.

   So—what is the point?

Your Roses

   What are your roses? What are the experiences that bring meaning to your life and to the lives of others?

Jesus wasn’t playing when he said we can’t take our money and stuff with us.

   He mentioned a couple of different parables in which people had died leaving barns full of grain and palaces full of treasure, and what did he say about that?

   “’Store up your treasure in heaven…’”

   So what’s that look like? Invest. Share your talents, gifts, money and resources with others. There is simply no end to how we can share what we have. And the most important of all your resources is your time. Money, talent, time—spend them wisely.

   Invest in people.

   When it’s all been said and done, people will remember what they did in life, the experiences they had, and whom they shared them with rather than what stuff they bought. So—is it someone’s birthday? Instead of another phone accessory, give them a party, take them to a movie, or on a spontaneous day trip. Valentine’s Day? Instead of bringing them chocolate, take them somewhere to choose their own dessert. Can’t afford a present? Offer to help in some way; it will mean the world to both of you. In the end, those are the bonding moments you’ll remember. And that’s the point.

   Stop and smell the ocean breeze.

 

 

 

Colluding With God

Angel - FREE

   I once heard a tale about a very successful businessman who made his company decisions in a very unique way. He would go into a tiny, closet-like room, close the door, ask the Lord what to do—and wait. He wouldn’t come out of that room until he heard the Lord give him very specific directions.

   Did I mention he was very successful?

He Did What?

   There are many different words for what this businessman did: collaborating with God (root word “laboring”) or cooperating with God (root word “operating”), but I like the word “colluding” better. Granted, while the word is sometimes used to suggest that some illegal activity is brewing, I don’t, of course, mean it that way.

Instead, “collusion” has the sense of conspiring in secret to accomplish some great mission that the rest of the world does not yet know about. You know—the stuff of thrillers and spies and secret ops (minus the brandy and cigars).

   The kind of thing that often happens in a prayer closet.

Assignments of Destiny

   Our destinies are like that. A custom-made plan and purpose that only we and God together can concoct to impact the earth in a huge way—much like a meteor, steered by God, collides with the planet, leaving a huge crater in its wake. Only in a good way.

   We, being sons of God, the body of Christ, carrying the resurrection power of the Almighty, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of glory for the whole world—why shouldn’t we be powers to be reckoned with? Why shouldn’t we be the ones to impact the earth, influence billions of people, and shake the heavens?

   Why shouldn’t we rock the world?

That Secret Place

   I’ve learned the secret of colluding with God the less-than-easy way. (I’ve learned a lot that way.) After many years (decades?) of colluding with myself to “reason” the best move to make or enterprise to undertake in any life or business decision, I’ve come to the conclusion that “doing what makes sense” hasn’t always proved to be the smart thing. In fact, in learning to collude with God, I have to admit that he often comes up with ways of doing things that I never, in a million years, would ever have dreamed up.

   So where is this “secret place”? Not that it’s a secret—but I don’t have one tiny closet that I habitually lock into but rather a couple of special places that are conducive to listening. One is in my living room. Now, that won’t work for everyone but since I don’t have a dozen kidlets running around, it works for me. Directly across from the couch I sit on when in listening mode is another sofa and there are times, I swear, when I’m sitting in silence, listening, and I almost see him sitting there, just across from me. Other times, during my planning period at school (when the planning’s all been done, of course), I’ll turn off the bright lights and just wait, and I can feel the presence of God right there in the classroom. The room vibrates with stillness.

The HARD Wait…

   Have you ever prayed and prayed and prayed about something, sometimes for years and decades—and you just get tired? The thought of seeking heaven even one more time seems comparable to scaling Mount Everest with an ice pick, and the idea that that one more prayer is going to make one iota of difference in the vast recesses of the universe seems about as likely as your cat bringing your slippers.

   I have to confess: I have.

   Prayer and intercession can be draining—in body, soul and spirit. The energy to “keep on” praying in the midst of long waits for answers sometimes vanishes and—let’s be brutally honest— you almost dread having to pray because it’s the same thing, over and over a-gain.

   But what if you didn’t have to pray for the same thing, all the time? What if, when you got into your secret place with God, like the businessman, you and God colluded together to accomplish your destiny, to fulfill the purpose for which you were born? And—here’s the exciting part—to seek those wildly creative ideas that God has for you to fulfill those assignments?

   This past summer when I was working on my novel, I reached a couple of places where I just didn’t know where to go next. I simply couldn’t, on my own, think of the next plot twist that wouldn’t be boring, cliché-ish, or already written by someone else. So, I decided I was going to do something differently. Instead of praying and then assuming that whatever I came up with next would be the big plot revelation sent from God, it occurred to me that, after praying, I should just sit and wait until I heard God tell me what was going to happen next. And I have to say, I waited—for two weeks. But waiting paid off; what he gave me is based on a real-life bit of history that I didn’t even know had ever happened—which meant I couldn’t have dreamed it up if I’d tried. And it was so much better than anything I could have concocted that I can’t wait to get started listening for the next novel he has in mind.

End Game

   Waiting on God for the specific choices, decisions and steps to accomplish our destinies makes their fulfillment so much sweeter for having colluded with God to achieve them. That “colluding” is the true meaning of “co-laboring with Christ”. The fact is, God doesn’t want to do the work for us; he wants to do it with us. And here’s a mind-bender: Doing it that way is as exciting for him as it is for us. When we get with God, we’ll discover that what’s possible is far more than we can even ask or think.

   That’s the power of colluding with God.

The 2020 Revelation: BLESS.

glitter lights grunge background, gold glitter defocused abstract Twinkly Lights Background.

   This year, 2020, is a new year, a new decade, a new opportunity. I’m taking it; I’ve been away from DestinyHighway for a few months to complete my novel—and it is finished!—now onto the whole pitch routine. And back to the blog. So—what better way to get back on the Highway than with the word the Lord is releasing for this year for all of us:

   “BLESS!”

   When you plant a seed, you wouldn’t expect it to grow if you didn’t water it. (I hope.) Nor would you expect a child to grow if he or she were not fed. But what if kidlets are fed only occasionally—would they grow? Maybe. But if they’re fed only cookies and potato chips, maybe not so much. As with any human entity, kids need nutritional foods and they need them pretty regularly. If not, a child won’t grow and thrive.

   The point?

   Our dreams are our babies, and if they’re not fed frequently and with the right stuff, they won’t thrive either. Moreover, they may not even survive. But what do you feed a dream?

The proper diet for any dream, vision or destiny is words—words of blessing.

   The very real tragedy—even in the church—is that we’ve completely ceased to recognize the reality of spoken blessings and consequently, these commands of favor languish, so to speak, in the spiritual realm, gathering dust. However, the Bible tells us that blessings are very, very real.

BLESSING = MULTIPLICATION.

   In the beginning of creation, the very first thing God did after he created plants, fish, birds, animals and people is that he blessed them. He told them, “‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” And lo and behold—it worked! They vastly multiplied after their “own kind”. So, for example, when we bless our finances, they will multiply—and after their own kind. The blessing will result in increased finances and/or provision.

   Fast forward: God called Abraham to travel to the Promised Land and said to him, “‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’” (Gen. 12:1-3). And that has happened. The people of Israel, throughout thousands of years, have never failed to thrive, despite severe persecution and countless attempts to annihilate them completely. That’s no coincidence. It’s the result of the blessing that God spoke over the nation of Israel before it even existed.

   And then there was Jacob. When he stole his brother’s blessing from their father Isaac, Esau cried out to his father, “‘Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.’ And he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me…? Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept.…” (Gen. 27:36-38). What’s evident in this passage is the fact that the blessing is a very tangible and specific “thing” that brings multiplication to whomever it is given. Isaac, Jacob and Esau all recognized that—which is why Jacob stole the blessing and why Esau grieved when he lost it.

   Finally, on the two recorded occasions that Jesus hosted a picnic for thousands, he first took the few available loaves and fishes and the Bible says that he “blessed them.” And what happened? They multiplied—so much so that after feeding 5000 men plus their families, a dozen baskets of leftovers were gathered.

WORDS WILL CREATE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING.

   What this means for our destinies and of those of our loved ones is that we need to be implementing the very real power of the spoken blessing. Words have creative power and we know this because God created everything with the spoken word. In addition, words are eternal in the spirit realm. (The post “IF” explains this principle in detail.) That means that every word ever spoken over anyone or anything is still alive in the spirit realm and still bearing fruit. If the word was a blessing, then there will be success and multiplication. If the word was a curse, then the fruit is failure and barrenness. Blessing is the will of God to bring about that which is good, which is why Jesus commands us to bless even our enemies.

THE TIME FOR BLESSING IS NOW.

   The fact is that our words have power and it’s time to loose that power through blessing. Bless your dreams, visions, endeavors, and destiny. Bless your families—your spouses, children, parents, relatives, and friends. Bless your businesses, investments, and finances. Bless your health, strength, energy, and peace of mind. Bless the work of your hands and creativity: your writing, music, artwork, schoolwork, employment and certainly your employers because if they prosper, so do you. Bless your church, pastors,  ministries, government, and schools. Blessing your destiny is like watering a plant or feeding a child; it’s not just a “nice” thing to do, it’s a necessity.

   “Bless” is the revelation for 2020. What will you be blessing this year?

 

Some Things You’re Just Not Supposed to Talk About.

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SOME THINGS YOU’RE JUST NOT SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT.

   Did you know that hell doesn’t exist? I didn’t either but it’s on the internet. And apparently some pastor is preaching it, so it must be true. And who am I to argue with a pastor? I think his premise is that God is not that “mean”—he would never create such a horrific place. But, having been to Baltimore, I’m not so sure.

   Rhetoric aside—there is a hell. Unfortunately, I wish I were joking about the existence of pastors preaching that hell isn’t real but, sadly, that’s no lie; they’re out there.  Furthermore, the concept of hell is not the only foundational principle in scripture that they’ve decided needs a little makeover—there are many more. So, just for the sake argument (because—why not?), let’s see how well those revisions stand up to a little truth and common sense.

Hell—Yes or No?

   The fact is that there are a growing number of churches where the concept of hell has been banished from doctrine altogether based on the flawed assertion that because God is love, then he would never be capable of creating a place designed for the sole purpose of torturing poor, unsuspecting humanoids. If I may say—that contention makes about as much sense as AOC on a good day. Here’s why:

  • If there’s no hell, then Christ died to save us from—what?
  • The existence of hell does not negate God’s love for mankind. In fact, if He didn’t love people, why would he have endured any death for mankind much less the unreservedly horrific crucifixion he bore on the Cross?
  • On a personal note, just because I don’t let you into my house with mud on your shoes, doesn’t mean I don’t love you; you just have to lose the mud on your shoes and you’re in. Likewise, just because God doesn’t let you into his throne room with sin on your soul, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It does mean He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon sin” (Hab. 1:13); it does not mean He could just tolerate sin if He felt like it. Moreover, He did die so that you could be cleansed from sin. So then, if He can have no intimacy with sin, and if He died so that you could be cleansed of it, what more do you want from Him? But regardless, bottom line—his house, his rules.
The Word of God—Is It or Isn’t It?

   Another little pet rationalization made by those who don’t like what’s in the Bible is that it isn’t really God’s Word anyway so why do we have to do anything it says? You don’t. It’s a free country. Just remember that freedom of choice does not equate to freedom from consequences.

   Some years ago, in the midst of a particularly long and painful season of life, I experienced a crisis of faith in which I realized that if I were going to walk the difficult path God was asking me to walk, I needed to know that He was truly real. However, I knew I couldn’t be certain of that unless I really believed, beyond a doubt, that His Word had actually been written by Him and not “coauthored” or altered or made up entirely. In short, I asked Him to prove to me that He actually wrote the Bible. (Yep, I did that.) And He did prove it. Within one week, I heard the same teaching from Josh McDowell and Charles Stanley on the impossible mathematical odds of prophecy in the Bible coming to pass through sheer coincidence. Break it down:

  • First, the Bible contains three types of prophecy: predictions concerning the nation of Israel and the Jewish people; Old Testament predictions identifying the coming Messiah; and End-Time prophecy.
  • There are over 300 Messianic prophecies in the Bible and the odds of just eight of those 300 happening randomly by chance are one in 1023 (that’s a 1 followed by 23 zeroes).
  • The odds of the whole 300 happening through sheer chance are literally impossible to calculate.
  • No other holy book from any other religion contains prophecy validating its divine authorship.

The bottom line is that a person has to have more faith to believe that many prophecies could possibly have come to pass through random coincidence than simply to believe that there is truly a God who predicted those events in the Bible, thereby proving that He wrote his Word.

The “Good Person” Myth

   I used to believe that there was some cosmic scale in heaven and when we die, somehow God manages to pile our good deeds on one side of the scale and our bad deeds on the other, and whichever way the scales tipped would determine where we’d spend eternity. And let’s face it—unless we grew up in bubble wrap, we all thought that at some point. Moreover, just about every other religion bows to some version of the “good person” dogma. Reincarnation, for example, is the same deal except that you have unlimited lifetimes to straighten out your karma. (But did you ever wonder: If you’re really bad in your last life and come back as, say, a cockroach in the next, how do you work your way up from there? By being the best cockroach you can be?)

Here’s the problem with the “good person” argument: If we could be “good enough,” then Christ died for nothing.

   Think about it: If any of us could possibly be good enough to get into heaven without any supernatural intervention, then wouldn’t God just let us do it? Why would He have sent His son to suffer and die? After all, what parent would even consider sending their child to die in the first place, much less for someone who didn’t need it?

   So that must mean we do need it.

And… So What?

   We may not think that this whole concept of people twisting the truth of the Word is really all that prevalent and so it’s not really that big a deal—right?

   So wrong.

   Altering the truth of the Word of God equates to one thing: deception. And this deception is wide-spread and becoming more so every day. And that makes it a very big deal.

   The real truth is that however we think about these three concepts in this life—the authenticity of the Bible, the reality of hell, and the method by which we are saved from hell—these will affect how we live and how we teach others to live. And it will affect something else as well: our eternal destinies. Can we afford to get that wrong?

   Maybe it’s time we talk about it.

 

 

(pic by AzDude)

 

 

 

The Myth of “Self-Esteem”

Self-Esteem

THE MYTH OF “SELF-ESTEEM”

     Without self-esteem, we cannot have the kind of authentic self-confidence needed to drive our dreams and visions. But for all the talk about it, what really is “self-esteem” anyway? The dictionary defines it as “a liking and respect for oneself”. The problem is that achieving self-esteem seems to have been so over-emphasized in recent decades that, for many, it now qualifies as an end in itself. However, the fact is that self-esteem is a consequence of other actions, not a goal which can be realized independently.

Self-Esteem Is Owed—Or Not?

     Self-esteem is not something that anyone can provide for another person. And yet that’s what our society has been trying to do for a long time. Trophies for participation, grades no lower than a B, promotions based on criteria other than performance, and “freebies” doled out right and left are all giving many people a sense of superiority for accomplishing very little, if anything. Unfortunately, the consequence of this mentality has not fostered success for people, but rather a sense of being entitled to success simply because one exists.

     The tragedy is that when people take no opportunity to earn success, then they likewise have no opportunity to respect or esteem themselves.

     While it’s true that self-esteem is necessary to possess the self-confidence we need to pursue our goals and visions, that only happens when a person has three things which, together, are the true recipe for self-esteem.

Thing One: Accountability

     First of all, before any other thing, people need to learn that they are accountable for their own actions, and then they need to understand that if they are not, consequences will follow. Unfortunately, many in our society seem to feel that it’s “mean” to hold folks accountable for their behavior.

     I remember years ago when I was a know-nothing student teacher covering a study hall one day with a very large group of students who set out to take advantage of the know-nothing student teacher. (Talk about being thrown to the lions.) Two girls in particular went out of their way to be disruptive and rude and the more they were asked to stop, the more they laughed and cranked up the behavior. They didn’t think I could or would do anything about it. Unfortunately for them, I had been told by another teacher that if I had any problems with students, I could assign them a Saturday detention. Knowing this, I was nice enough even to warn the girls what their next Saturday might look like. Evidently, they didn’t believe me and pretty much dared me to go there. So I went there.

     It turns out that these two particular young ladies were members of the school’s ski club. And on Saturday that particular ski club was going skiing. None of my business. Until the school principal came to me with the girls in tow, explaining how sorry they were and that they would like very much to go on the ski trip. They even cried to prove the point.

     Now if their behavior hadn’t been so deliberately in-your-face, I’m sure I would’ve said some version of no harm, no foul; have a good time. However, that not being the case – at all – I said no, that they needed to serve their time. I was looking down the road at what they would learn if they were sent merrily up the ski slope: that their atrocious behavior held no consequence and that they would never be held accountable for it. Future consequences for bad behavior could, after all, be far more serious. Unfortunately for me, the principal did not see it my way. To the best of my recollection, he was not happy with me. He believed that it was more important that these girls have fun than that they learn accountability. The girls did serve their time and I’m pretty certain that, to this day, they have not forgotten the experience. I like to think that once they had children of their own (it happened that long ago), they would’ve seen the situation in a different light. At least I hope.

Thing Two: Responsibility 

     In order to foster a sense of self-esteem, a person needs sole responsibility for a job, a chore or an assignment of some kind. It is this kind of responsibility which gives a person a chance to earn success through hard work, problem-solving, right choices, overcoming challenges to motivation, and perseverance.

     It is that success that fosters self-esteem.  

     But what if a person is not able to achieve success? What if she fails? The fact is that sometimes – especially if a person is not particularly trying to succeed – she needs to be allowed to fail. Sometimes the success lies in the dusting off and beginning again. It’s these situations which teach us that we have what it takes to persevere, and it’s that discovery which breeds self-respect. However, if a person has someone continually rescuing them from failure or even from having to work hard, that discovery is never made.  A person who has no responsibility for anything cannot truly earn success, and it is that earned success which actually gives a person a sense of self-esteem.

Thing Three: Acceptance

     A person certainly needs the acceptance of others in order to have self-esteem; making him responsible for his own actions or for a job of some kind does not mean that he doesn’t need support. The challenge to others is for that support not to become enabling. But for a person to know that he is accepted for who he is and supported as he “tries his wings” is essential to a sense of self-esteem. If a person works his tail off and yet cannot find acceptance and support, he may come to believe that working longer and harder is the only path to acceptance. In the meantime, his developing sense of self-esteem becomes based on performance: he is only valuable for what he does and not for who he is. The good news to anyone suffering from a lack of acceptance and support is that we have a Father in heaven who is happy to provide those for us.

     If a person is continually rescued from disappointment and failure or simply allowed to quit when things get tough, he will develop a belief that that rescue or that “freebie” is owed to him. Furthermore, if he is not given a responsibility to hone his character, he will never experience true success. Finally, if he does not have the healthy support of those he respects, he will conclude that his worth is only based on what he can produce.

     True “self-esteem” does not have to be propped up with trophies, compliments or the approval of others. It’s evidence of self-respect.

     And that’s a gift only you can give yourself.