Meanwhile, What We Don’t See…

God We Trust   Last year, on June 28th, my son in California broke his finger playing football (boys!). The problem was the health insurance at his new job didn’t kick in until July 1st, 60 days after he was hired. Given that, he had one of two bad choices: either pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket at the Urgent Care or tough it out and wait two days to get treatment—which is where he was leaning.

   The thing is, I’d taken him off of my insurance the previous year after he moved to California and got his first job, which provided insurance. Or, at least I thought I did. Turns out I hadn’t removed him from my insurance after all—but I didn’t realize that. It seems he’d been on my insurance for a whole extra year. Of course, we decided there was no reason to take him off until July 1st when his own insurance became official, although the odds of him getting sick or having some unfortunate accident were very slim… But still—there was the football. And we’re not stupid.

   Enter the broken finger.


   While some would say it was a lucky coincidence I’d forgotten to remove him from my health insurance, I’d say not. Moreover, the timing of the revelation of my mistake was no coincidence either: If I’d realized the error sooner when he still had coverage at his old job, I would’ve removed him. But if I’d never discovered it, he still would’ve paid for the Urgent Care since he wouldn’t have told them he had insurance—because he didn’t even know it. So what happened?

   God happened.

   Somehow—I don’t know how—Aaron remained on the insurance and his treatment was covered (which is a good thing because he might need surgery). But how many times, when we have absolutely zero idea, is God working invisibly behind the scenes to work out some situation or prevent some problem that isn’t even on our radar yet? Or that never even happens at all because he is working behind the scenes?

It’s Happened Before…

   Time after time, we see this scenario unfold in the Bible. Take, for example, the Old Testament story of Hannah who wanted so badly to have a child but couldn’t. Still, she never stopped praying for a son and, in her desperation, promised God that if he’d give her one, she’d dedicate the child to the Lord. As a result, she became pregnant with Samuel, raised him till he was weaned and then, when he was only three, took him to Jerusalem and left him with the priest Eli to raise. Three years old! I can’t even imagine the grief she suffered in fulfilling her vow.

   But—the story doesn’t end there. The Bible tells us that Eli’s sons, who were also priests, were very wicked. They took the best cuts of meat offered to God, “treating the Lord’s offerings with contempt,” and they seduced the young women assisting at the  Temple entrance. And Eli did nothing about it.

  Meanwhile, the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men” (I Sam. 2:26).

   Eventually, a prophet came to Eli with a word from the Lord that because of his sons’ sins and his own failure to correct or remove them, they would die on the same day. Furthermore, his family would never again serve as priests, and every member of his family would die a violent death before their time.

   The Bible says that in those days, the word of the Lord was rare and visions uncommon, but meanwhile, the boy Samuel was serving the Lord by assisting Eli” (3:1).

   “Meanwhile” indicates God’s silent work in Samuel behind the scenes to prepare a powerful prophet in the midst of an evil and godless culture. No one knew God was busy doing that but, for the first time in a very long time, a prophet was being raised up to bring the word of the Lord to a people who’d been in a spiritual drought for decades. In other words, when it looked like nothing was happening and God had abandoned his people, he was really quietly working the circumstances for their good.

The Prince of Egypt

   Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, is another example of God’s invisible hand. After being sold by his brothers, he ended up a slave in Potipher’s house where it looked as though he would spend the rest of his life in lonely servitude. But meanwhile, in the middle of that tragic situation, he was learning the Egyptian language, culture, politics, and the protocols of the Egyptian noble class—that is, until he was thrown into prison, accused of a crime he didn’t even commit. Once there, he was thrust into the midst of a dungeon full of Class A felons but what did he do? The same thing he’d done in Potipher’s house: operated in his administrative and leadership skills until he was eventually put in charge of all of those reprobate prisoners. And meanwhile, as he was busy organizing them, he was learning how the other half lived: the ways of the Egyptian commoners, their dialects, and their ideals as well as their problems and concerns—all things which were pretty handy to know once he was promoted to the second-in-command of all of Egypt

We Don’t Know It Until We Know It.

   The thing about the “meanwhiles” of life is that we don’t know they’re in motion behind the scenes until one day when suddenly something happens and it all becomes clear: God was always at work, even when we couldn’t see it.

   We never know…

   When it looks bleakest and it seems there’s nothing remotely on the horizon, what we don’t see is God all around us, doing what only he can do—working it all out. And he’s doing the same for you. Just believe.

   Your “meanwhile” is happening right now.



Exclamation symbol burning, fire

   How often have we thought maybe we’ve heard from God about moving in a particular direction but we’re just not really certain? Now that’s not really an issue if the question is what to have for dinner and you thought you heard “pulled pork”. However, if you’re minding your own business one day and you suddenly (think you) hear God say, “Go to Venezuela on a missions’ trip,” or “Open a café,” or “Give your vacation money to the single mom down the street,” then your response might be, “God is that really you??” And we probably should be asking that question. Even so, how do we really know whether we’re hearing from the Lord or there’s some other reason we might be thinking God is talking to us?

But is it okay to question God?

   You bet it’s okay—especially if the thing you feel perhaps God is directing you to do is at all risky.

Let me help you out: Most of the time, all God does is “risky.” In fact, much of what God directs us to do is downright impossible.

   So, we’d better make certain it really is him—especially since there isn’t much to eat in Venezuela these days, or there are already thirteen cafés in a two mile radius, or we’ve been looking forward to that vacation for a year. Or—and here’s the more probable truth—we just don’t want to.

   But, is the fact that we “don’t want to” an indicator that God really is speaking? Could be. Sometimes God has to speak to us to do the impossible because we’d never, in a million years, ever consider doing that thing on our own.

Testing God.

   Some people argue that questioning God is testing him and Jesus said not to do that. However, I don’t think God minds us questioning whether we’ve heard from him or not when he knows we’re doing that simply because we want to obey. Some pretty important people in the Bible have questioned whether it’s really God speaking to them or not.

   Take Peter for example. When he thought it was Jesus walking across the water to join him in the boat, he said, “’Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on the water’” (Matt. 14:28). Jesus’ response? “Come.” It wasn’t, “How dare you question me!”

   And then there’s Gideon. He not only asked the Lord prove himself once but three times. The first time, the Lord came and told him to go and save Israel from the Midianites. “’Am I not sending you?’”

   Gideon’s not so sure. After more protesting as to whether he was the right man for this impossible task, he asks for a sign and then goes off to get an offering for the Lord. After he returns, the Lord tells him to put the offering of bread and meat on a rock and pour broth over it. Then fire flares from the rock and consumes the offering.

   Fast forward some. Later, after the Spirit of the Lord falls upon Gideon, he calls his people to arms and they come. However, he begins to doubt again. He says to the Lord, “’If you’re really going to save Israel by my hand as you promised, prove it to me…’” He then makes his request that he place a fleece on the threshing floor and it be wet with dew in the morning but the rest of the ground dry. “’Then I will know that you are going to save Israel by my hand, as you have said.’” And that happened. However, Gideon still isn’t entirely certain that God will actually do this incomprehensibly impossible task through him, so he puts out another fleece, asking that it be dry in the morning and the ground wet. In the morning, that’s what he found. In other words, Gideon tested God.

   I could mention Abraham who questioned God after the Lord told Abraham that he would possess the Promised Land.

   “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”

   God then does the same thing he did for Gideon—tells Abraham to bring a sacrifice and does a miracle by causing a smoking firepot and torch to float over the sacrifice and burn it up (with no one touching them!). This convinces Abraham. It would convince me, too. However, I’m not likely to find a smoking torch floating around my living room. Nor has the angel Gabriel ever stopped by.

So—what then?

   Then how do we know whether it’s God telling us to do that impossible thing? I suggest we do a couple of things.

   Thing 1: Listen. Of course, your response might be “Who doesn’t know that??” You’d be surprised. That often is not the first thing we do. But how can we hear from God if we’re not listening for God? And I mean really listening; go somewhere quiet, make your request to hear, and then sit and listen. After all, we do have “the mind of Christ” and the Holy Spirit really does “search the deep things of God”—and then he tells us.

   Thing 2: Ask for a confirmation—that’s okay. It’s good to get the counsel of a wise friend who hears from the Lord. However, let that not be the first thing we do. When we’re colluding with God, he wants to speak to the person he’s working with first, not second or third. In fact, if we go to someone else first, God may not say anything through them because he wants us to learn to listen to him, not first run to another to hear for us.

   Thing 3: Wait. That’s what “waiting on God” means. And sometimes he’ll test us with this to see whether we’re really willing to wait on him or whether it’s all lip service. Remember, kings have ladies and gentlemen-in-waiting and it’s their job (our job) to wait on the king. Granted, they are his confidants and above other servants, but the king is still the king and the ladies and gentlemen still wait on his pleasure.

   Will these things take some time? Perhaps. Probably. But it’s the people who are the most faithful in seeking God and waiting for his answer that he uses to accomplish the most impossible tasks. It’s not about where we come from; it’s about whether we’re willing to listen to him and really hear his voice.

   If you were God, would you do it any other way?


Broken Hearts, Broken Toys

Old Broken Toy Doll Sitting on a Beach in Italy

   Ever felt like a broken toy? Parts missing? Batteries dead? Scratches or dents or bruises? Ever felt like you’d be better off just retreating to some distant corner and staying there—like a worn out doll relegated to a dusty shelf?

   Life Truth #23: It’s very difficult to get anything done with a broken heart.

   More destinies have been turned to ashes by broken hearts than perhaps even fears of failure. Why? Because brokenness affects our ability to function—and function we must in the dream-chasing biz. But how do we know if we’re broken-hearted? It might not be as easy to recognize as we think because a broken heart doesn’t always look the way we’ve been taught that a broken heart should look.

Diagnosing A Broken Heart   

   First of all, we tend to think of damaged hearts as resulting primarily from the loss of a relationship—a bad breakup, a divorce, or a death. And then we suppose that the main symptoms of a broken heart are grief and depression, characterized mainly by sadness and tears. Lots of tears. And while those causes and effects can often be telltale signs of a broken heart, the sad fact is that shattered hearts many times command a much wider realm of ruined sentiment.

   As with any other broken object, a heart, when damaged, doesn’t work properly—or even at all. And because the heart is recognized to be the seat of all emotion, that means that all feelings originating in the heart are crushed as well. Love turns to malice, trust to fear, hope to despair, and gladness to sorrow. But that’s not all of it. What about those emotions that we don’t associate with broken hearts—like cynicism? “Like that’ll ever happen!”

   Bitterness? “She gets all the breaks! And me? I got nothing!”

   Apathy? “Who cares, anyway? It’s not like it matters.”

   Procrastination? “Maybe tomorrow. Maybe…”

   Panic? “But what if…??” (Fill in the blank.)

   Inferiority? “I’m not good enough, and I’ll never be.”

   Anger? All of the above, only louder, with lots of slammed doors and shattered glass.

   If our emotions are crushed, then our heart is broken.

Acknowledging the Painful Truth   

   A long time ago, the Bee Gees had a song called “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?”  And that’s not the only song by far—it’s a hot topic. So what do we do with a broken heart? Will time mend it, as the old wives tell it? Do we go all stoic and harden our hearts, filling our days and minds with endless busyness so we don’t have time to feel the pain? Or do we simply readjust our expectations to reflect “reality”? After all, only fools dare to dream. We could. But I guarantee that if we do, the heart shrivels, the vision fades, and the destiny dies.

   So then—what?

   First, we need to recognize the scope of our heartbreak and that the non-traditional or uncharacteristic emotions we feel could be evidence that we were hurt far more than we may understand or acknowledge. We need to grasp that every one of the emotions listed above can be a symptom of grief; we don’t all have the same personalities and how one person grieves can be very different from how someone—or anyone—else expresses grief. Maybe you cry and maybe you don’t. Maybe you swear and punch walls. Maybe you sit and stare at the TV. Maybe you drink. Maybe you yell at the kids. Maybe you don’t do anything—and you used to.

   Moreover, all kinds of experiences can cause heartbreak, not just relationship issues. Perhaps a job loss has tanked, not just our bank account, but also our self-esteem. Maybe it’s unfair and we’re angry. Or maybe repeated rejections from coaches or agents or publishers or prospective employers or producers or even colleges has broken us down until we’ve lost all self-confidence or ability to try ever again. Maybe it’s inevitable that those ballerina slippers or that pen or that business proposal or that football simply end up where they’ve always belonged—in the trashcan.

The slow bleed of slashed expectations has slain more than one heart.

The Fix

   Here’s what you need to know: You are not incompetent if you failed. You are not stupid if you missed the mark. And you are not an idiot if you slip on those dancing shoes again or pick up that pen or revise that proposal or re-inflate that football—or even say “yes” to that unexpected invitation to a cup of coffee.

   You are not a fool if you dare to dream again.

   Maybe you need to revise your dream or even to find a new dream. That’s okay. More than one of us has chased the wrong dream sometime or another. (And some of us perhaps more than once…) The main thing is to get a vision to do something that makes life sweet again. A dream is a guaranteed cure for a broken heart. So get one—and then as the song says, “Tell your heart to beat again.”

   You are not a broken toy.





FAIR? Maybe Not.


   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


   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?”


   “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?


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.