A Father

In Isaiah 64:8 the prophet says, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” This scripture describes God as our father and our potter and us as the clay to be molded and shaped by Him. A potter is someone who takes a piece of clay and shapes it by applying water and pressure in certain areas, creating something useful. The piece of clay cannot change without being touched by the hands of the potter, but when touched by the potter the clay is transformed into something beautiful, with meaning and purpose. That is God’s objective and desire: He molds you if you let Him; He creates in you beauty, meaning, emotional stability, and spiritual strength.
The influence of an earthly father is significant in shaping us spiritually, physically, and emotionally. A father’s love and care is, in ideal circumstances, unconditionally, patient, and kind. Again using the analogy of an earthly father, God wants a significant role in our lives. He is our friend but does not want to be “just” our friend; friends after all, come and go, while a true father stands by our side forever.
God wants to be a part of our spiritual life, to commune with us… with you… through prayer, to be worshipped and hallowed by you. He wants to communicate with you about your needs, where you live, what you do in your career, how you feel, the state of your health, and the success of your marriage. Your finances and how you manage them are of great interest to God, not for His benefit but yours. Your joy and happiness? God places them at the top of his priorities. When you’re sad, confused, and unhappy, God reaches out to give comfort and soothe your pain. As your Heavenly Father, He loves you from the time you’re conceived through your entire life on earth and into eternity. His love is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and forever beyond!

Refresh – Spiritual Guide for Depression

Proverbs 11:25 (TLB) tells us, “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will be refreshed.” Take a moment to think about this proverb and what it means. Does “the generous will prosper” mean prosper financially? spiritually? emotionally? physically? Supply your own meaning and, as you do, have faith in God, yourself, and others and witness a miracle!
“Refreshing others” could encompass many meanings, too. To some, it could mean simply a nap or a good night’s sleep; to others, a swim in a cool stream, lake, or pool on a hot summer’s day; for yet others it could be kind words from a friend, family member, or even a stranger. The word “refresh” is subjective and varies in meaning, as each day takes on its own shape. Again, the Bible allows us to fill in the blanks with a simple message: those who refresh others, in whatever circumstances, will themselves be refreshed. How do we refresh others? you might ask. If you have twenty different friends, my guess is there are twenty different needs, thus twenty different ways to refresh your twenty friends.
Where does a person start to refresh others? By removing the focus from oneself and placing it on others. Stop taking and start giving; give a lot and don’t stop! Pray for other people, call them, send them notes of encouragement. Refresh coworkers or subordinates by going out of your way to assist them with their tasks. Help them succeed without any recognition for yourself. Do good, then disappear.
Change your outlook. It’s easier said than done, I know, but we can definitely change some things in our lives just by changing our habits. For example, you can lose weight by burning more calories than you take in, so eat less and exercise more. Though it sounds simple, we all know it takes effort, discipline, persistence, and often help. Your outlook today is the sum of all your life experiences buried deep within, so deep they’re extremely difficult to change on your own and often require help, just as the effort to lose weight does.
On the other hand, change can sometimes be quite simple, although even simple change often takes determination. Start by reading the well-known Bible verse John 3:16 (TLB): “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” Why is this verse so well known? Because it summarizes the love of God through the gift of His Son, because by having faith in Jesus we find salvation and the promise of eternal life.
Life definitely has its challenges, twist, and turns ; some we like, and some we don’t. There are really hard times and really good times. With a relationship with Jesus Christ, the good times are great, and the hard times are bearable because, remember, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28, TLB).
So look for opportunities to say thank you. Upon waking, thank God for the bed you slept in, the roof over your head, the rest you received, for running water, heat, and air conditioning, the breakfast you’re about to eat, and, most of all, for your family. Don’t take any of these for granted if you’re blessed with them.
My point is to be thankful for the seemingly simple things in life. Always start your day with thanks—thank God, thank your spouse, thank your children, thank your neighbors, thank your coworkers—and you’ll develop a heart of gratefulness and an attitude of optimism. Find the good. If you search deep enough you can find the good in everyone and everything. I know this may sound foolish—even naïve—and impossible, but try it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It is an abundant joy to share and spread the love of God wherever possible throughout your day. Your life will become better as you make an effort to make the lives of others better.

Apples of Gold – Spiritual Guide for Depression

Just think what would happen if every day we woke up with the desire to look for opportunities to speak words of encouragement to the right person at the right moment. I believe with all my heart that when we look for such opportunities, God helps us find that specific person with that specific need.
In Proverbs 25:11 (NIV), the Bible says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” This scripture is one of my favorites because it gives a visual depiction of the benefits of speaking the right words to a person at the right time and the positive results those words produce.
You might ask how I can be so sure and so passionate about this divine appointment. I’m sure and passionate about it because I’ve been on the receiving end of those encouraging words. I remember a friend of mine not too long ago who said, as we discussed one of my prayers, “It’s not a matter of if God is going to answer your prayer, it’s a matter of when He is going to answer it. His timing is perfect.” My friend and I agreed that we thought the “when” was God’s will. My friend gave me a reassuring hug, and I can tell you his words of encouragement definitely were “fitly spoken like apples of gold in pictures of silver” I went on my way with a renewed confidence that my travails were only a bump in the road and that everything was going to work out.
Why make such an effort to boost someone else’s self-esteem? Studies show that one reason people are so unhappy is that they live a self-serving life, always asking what’s in it for them. When we look for ways to help others, our focus changes, spreading outward, and so in being a blessing to others, we will also be blessed, and our own problems become smaller as we help and care for those in need. Reaching out can be as simple as saying, “It’s not a matter of if God is going to show up – it’s a matter of when He is going to show up.”
It’s amazing how words spoken to the right person at the right time are similar to the stars aligning just so, as in those once-in-a-millennium times when a planet that is normally not visible to us presents itself because the heavens themselves are in the right place at the right time. It’s a special moment or opportunity that, if missed, may never come again, as special as the difference you can make in a person’s life by acting at the right moment – also a moment that, if missed, may never come again. When you really think about how unique the moment is and how it will forever be lost to you and the other person if missed, you begin to truly appreciate how “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” You see?
YOU REALLY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Olympian

Life is definitely not always easy. It’s full of challenges, heartache, turmoil and difficulties, but it’s also full of happiness, fulfillment, peace and enjoyment. A person must live through some of the not-so-good or bad times to fully appreciate the good times. Have you ever felt overwhelmed or anxiety ridden or been haunted by sleepless nights? Conversely, have you ever felt peaceful, relaxed and rested? We’ve all lived and felt both. Usually, the quality of our life is directly related to the decisions we’ve made and the results or ramifications of those decisions.
I’ve personally lived through several poor decisions and the results they produced, asking myself how and why? Life is full of such poor decisions, and believe it not, we are all very much alike. It’s just that some folks make better decisions than others, some are more aggressive or conservative than others and sometimes we’re flat out in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time. I’m sure you can relate to it all. I remember several years ago I had just bought a new Chevy SUV. It was nice and pretty, electric everything. I was in my third week of ownership when someone ran a red light and broadsided me, knocking me into a fire hydrant. So my brand-new SUV was all dented up on the passenger side from being hit and the front was all bashed in from hitting the fire hydrant. It was so damaged, it required towing. The car in front of me wasn’t hit or the car behind me—just me, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was banged up, bruised and frustrated. To add to my problems, the person who hit me didn’t have insurance. You talk about a bad day! It could have been a whole lot worse, though: what if pedestrians had been on the sidewalk when I jumped the curb and hit the hydrant? That could have been catastrophic, for them and for me. I asked myself, why me? One minute later, and I would have been spared this very painful, aggravating and expensive ordeal. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t my fault or the result of a poor decision—sometimes bad things just happen. Success, and sometimes survival, requires determination, dedication and perseverance.
As the 2016 Olympics came to conclusion and after spending many hours enjoying the many different events, I realized that out of 11,000 contestants only three athletes won medals in each event. However, all 11,000 contestants went through a weeding-out process in their individual country to qualify. They spent hours, days, months and years training. They traveled to compete with other athletes and were chosen based on their performance to represent their home country. It required physical and mental determination, dedication and perseverance year after year. They excelled in their field ahead of many competitors until they came out at the top, the best and the cream of the crop. They made it to the 2016 Olympics, which in my opinion makes them all winners!
Which reminds me of two Bible scriptures:
• John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
• Romans 10:9: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Regardless of your age, ethnicity, gender, failures or successes, if you read, say and believe these two scriptures, you are a winner! Where you will spend eternity can be determined in the next few moments based on your decision to either accept or reject Jesus Christ as your personal savior.
Anything and everything in life that has value, is good and has positive eternal consequences will take determination, dedication and perseverance.

The Golden Rule – Recovery Guide for Depression

I seriously wonder how many people today know what the Golden Rule is, and how many actually live by it? For all of you who may have forgotten this rule or never heard of it, the Golden Rule originated in a scripture found in the Bible, Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (New International Version)
If this rule were actually practiced can you imagine the difference it would make? Growing up, my parents consistently taught us to treat others as we would want to be treated. They called it the Golden Rule, but I didn’t understand where it came from until I was a young adult. It’s a good rule to pass on to your children and it’s a great rule to live by. The beautiful thing about it is you can apply it to your entire day, week, month . . . or life!
The Golden Rule—Matt. 7:12: “So in everything . . . EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING! . . . do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and Prophets.”
Stop and take a moment to think about how you like to be treated, how you like others to talk to you, when driving how you like other drivers to treat you, on the job how you like your co-workers to treat you. The list goes on and on.
Just the other day I was taking a walk in my subdivision and thinking about this very subject as I was getting ready to cross the street. I stopped and looked because I heard a vehicle approaching on my right behind me. The man driving stopped, giving me plenty of space, wearing a smile and motioning for me to cross in front of him. He definitely had the right of way; however, he was living by the Golden Rule, yielding to me so I wouldn’t have to stop. We all like to be treated with kindness, smiles and appreciation. We all like other drivers to use their signals, give us space and let us merge in front of them. We all like our coworkers to be nice, kind and helpful. We all love to receive gifts, cards, flowers, an appropriate thank you and smiles!
No one likes to be condemned, hear complaints or criticism. No one enjoys hearing verbal abuses, fabricated lies or long drawn-out stories about how wonderful someone thinks he or she is. Who enjoys being lied to or cheated or having something stolen from them? No one!
Our current society has become so self-centered, rude, mean and dangerous that if I weren’t living in it I wouldn’t believe it. But I’m not giving up! I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God can affect one woman and one man at a time, removing bitterness, hate and discontentment and filling them with love and compassion. Please don’t misunderstand me: the mean, wicked, mentally disturbed men and women who want to hurt others need to be dealt with swiftly, and removed from society to protect the innocent.
The Golden Rule is an awesome rule to teach and live by regardless of your age, gender, religion, race, sexual orientation or political views. Can you image how happy, safe and secure a family would be if all fathers and mothers lived by the Golden Rule? How wonderful would going to work be if all your co-workers practiced the Golden Rule every day? What if our representatives in local, state and national government lived by the Golden Rule? Do you think they would be doing things a little differently?
It’s time for the Golden Rule to be resurrected, taught and lived!

Independence – Recovery Guide for Depression

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Each year on July 4th, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic occasion.
I’m one of those Americans who celebrate every year with family and friends, with barbecue, swimming, picnicking and fireworks. We live in a great country, and I appreciate the freedoms we have. I get frustrated with our representatives and their desire to take our freedoms away, but I continue to vote for representatives who protect the Constitution and align as closely as possible with my own views. I appreciate and like all the freedoms our country provides: of speech, religion and the pursuit of happiness, and our “freedoms” of career, travel, housing, food, education and free enterprise. The list goes on and on.
The feeling of being free is awesome; conversely, the feeling of being trapped or being forced to do something is terrible. I’ve had jobs where I felt forced to work because I needed a paycheck or I was trapped in a lifestyle of materialism to maintain a certain socio-economic status. I felt trapped because I was concerned about what someone thought of me or what they would say about me. Some of you may be trapped by drugs, alcohol or unsafe relationships or lifestyles. This feeling of being trapped can generate depression, hopelessness, despair and thoughts of suicide. Where does freedom come from? Can you shed these feelings that have such a strong grip on you? Yes, you can!
The freedom I’m discussing can only come from one source, which is Jesus Christ. In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
And in John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father but by me.”
Real freedom comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Reading the Bible helps you understand and give direction to your life. A friend of mine was trapped in a life of drug abuse and distribution until he was arrested and forced to make a decision between serving time in prison or going to Teen Challenge. He chose Teen Challenge and discovered the life-changing experience he could have by asking Jesus Christ to forgive him for his sins and asking Him into his heart. My friend was tired of his lifestyle and prayed, asking Jesus for forgiveness and the strength to change. He was not disappointed. Jesus entered his heart, eradicating his past feelings, desires and addictions. He was finally free of the addictions, guilt and life that had haunted him. That was over twenty years ago. My friend found true dependence as he started a new life of prayer and Bible reading and a desire to please and serve God.
I appreciate the independence and freedoms we have in our country, and I’m extremely grateful for my relationship with Jesus Christ and the freedom and peace I experience daily through Him. If you’ve experienced this yourself, AMEN! If you have not, you can experience it by praying to Jesus, asking Him for forgiveness and asking him into your life.
True independence is just a prayer away!

Roll the clouds away

dads montana pics 049

The evening weather forecast was promising the next day would be full of showers and thunderstorms. A cold front was marching through the area, slowly bringing waves of wind and rain smothered with clouds. It seemed there was absolutely no chance of sunshine in the near future, so as I left the house to spend the day at a festival in a nearby town, I planned accordingly. I lugged my lawn chair and trusty umbrella, giving no thought to sunscreen or sunglasses. Why should I? The weather forecasters were adamant that our area was destined to be cloudy with rain.

Does this sound a lot like our attitude sometimes? The circumstances we find ourselves in or the news we may hear about someone we care about can create an outlook that seems cloudy, promising rain and thunderstorms in our lives. Just this week I heard sad news about a man, 46 years of age, who passed away while mowing his yard, leaving a family without a father or husband. The same day a friend of ours found out he had cancer and began the process of determining the best medical approach with his doctors. This type of news can really be difficult to digest and keep a positive attitude. The amount of negative news we process daily can be depressing and overwhelming and can drag a person down,  obliterating any hope of sunshine. If all we hear about or dwell on is the gloomy forecast, it can seem that expecting the clouds, rain and thunderstorms is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The other day when I believed the forecasters and expected bad weather, never thinking that sunshine was even a remote possibility, I was pleasantly surprised at the clear skies even though I was not prepared. I sat in my chair visiting with friends, and the clouds rolled away, giving way to a bright, beautiful sun, while there I was, completely ill prepared. I asked myself, for example, why didn’t I bring my sunglasses. As I spent several hours squinting, the thought of sunshine and needing glasses never entered my mind. Isn’t that the way of our thought processes and attitude sometimes? We are so bogged down with the forecast of clouds and rain that we don’t even consider any chance of sunshine.

I have good news: the Bible gives us hope of days full of sunshine regardless of the cloud thickness or size of those life thunderstorms! There is one Bible verse I would like to focus on, and it’s found in Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

With the forecast of clouds and rain that day, I had heard, expected and anticipated what was coming,  so naturally I accepted what I thought the day would be and to my surprise the clouds rolled away. If you have clouds and storms in your day or life, the above scripture says ask, seek and knock—for those clouds to roll away or for the storms to be controlled or dismantled, and believe God will answer those requests. Expect and anticipate sunshiny days and watch the clouds vanish from your life. Don’t accept the cloudy forecast, but be prepared for the sunshine God is going to deliver as you ask, seek and knock. It’s amazing to watch the clouds during a thunderstorm start to break up and give way to clear, sunny skies. It’s no different when God breaks up the thunderstorms of life and fills us with his peace and rest.    

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a special day set aside every year to acknowledge the men and women who gave their lives serving in the U.S. military.  To the best of my knowledge, my family has never felt the loss or experienced the tragedy of a family member losing their life while serving. Personally, I never served in the U.S. military; however, my oldest brother had a successful career of twenty-two years in the U.S. Marines, of which I’m very proud. Several times while he was in the Marines I was fortunate enough to visit him and the base where he was stationed, and it was always exhilarating. The respect and discipline displayed between the soldiers and officers, the neatness of the base and the condition of the equipment I saw made me feel safe and in good hands. Proud to be an American!

To take a moment and consider all the sacrifices the men and women in our military have made and continue to make is heartwarming and rewarding.  Granted, these men and women  are getting paid, but not enough as far as I’m concerned. They often put their lives on the line, they suffer physical and emotional scars, they deprive their families and themselves and they are sometimes criticized just for doing their jobs. They are shot at, bombed, live in conditions we would never consider, miss holidays, birthdays and anniversaries with family, suffer from higher than normal divorce rates and spend months away from those they love.

On Memorial Day we acknowledge those who lost their lives while serving. I say thank you to all the military men and women. I enjoy the safe feeling that no bombs will be dropped on my home or in my community because of their dedication and sacrifice. I slept last night in calmness and tranquility, I woke up to peace, I made my coffee and I watched the news in my cool and comfortable home because of them. They have successfully kept the terrorist out of my neighborhood, city, county and state. Today I can drive down the street, buy gas and groceries, shop at any mall, visit any park, enjoy a baseball game or spend the day with my family and friends and never worry about an explosion taking out those dear to me. Thank you!

I feel for the men and women who suffer from physical and emotional scars related to their time while in the military. I pray they get the necessary help and encourage you to vote for the representatives who hold our military in high esteem and who vote for bills to financially support them and their families. I pray for the men and women who suffer with depression and thoughts of suicide due to their experience while in the military. They’re burdened with this heaviness and desperately need relief. If this relates to you, I encourage you to seek professional help. Seek out and read the many excellent articles and self-help books written about thoughts of suicide and the spiritual guides on depression and how to overcome it.

The USA has always stepped up to the challenge, whether military, economic or other, and it’s time we step up and care for the men and women who’ve given so much. Thank God for the men and women who take their jobs seriously while serving in the U.S. military and giving 100 percent. Now it’s time for our representatives in Washington, D.C., to take their jobs seriously and make the necessary changes to improve the Veterans Administration so our veterans can have and get the best healthcare available. It’s time for you and me to stand up for our men and women in the military and demand our representatives make their wellbeing a priority.

We live in an awesome country with awesome men and women serving in our military, for which I’m grateful. Thank you for your dedication and service! May God protect and bless you and your families every day as you perform your duties safeguarding our great country.

FAMILY

DucksFamily . . . don’t we just love them? Well, most of the time, even if there are some times when they flat-out drive us crazy! That’s normal, because we are so close to them they know what buttons to push and when to push them. I don’t want to focus on what they do to drive us crazy but instead on why we love them so much.

Family . . . they know our history. Good or bad, they know all about us: when we were born, where we were born, our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and all the other details of our life. The schools, neighborhoods, sports we played, clubs we belonged to and, seemingly, everything else about us.

Family . . . they know our religious background, education level and political views. They know if we’re conservative, liberal or moderate and why.

Family . . . they know if we’ve been married and how many times, who we hang out with and many of the other choices we’ve made throughout our lives.

Family . . . they know what career paths we’ve chosen and how long we’ve been at each. The reasons we changed course and why. Basically, our family knows more about us collectively than anyone else, and they really care about us!

Recently, I went to a family reunion and visited with family I hadn’t seen for over ten years. The oldest was my uncle, who is eighty-eight, and the youngest was a third cousin, four months old. It was great to see them and catch up on what’s happened in their lives the last decade. I’m ashamed to say that for one of my cousins, who traveled in from Colorado, I didn’t even know the names of his children or that he had become a grandpa. Everyone shared pictures and events, reminiscing for hours and laughing to the point of tears. The day flew by in what seemed minutes, not hours, and after hugs and kisses we promised we would do better at staying in touch the next decade than the previous one, parted and went our separate ways. It was an awesome day, one I won’t forget for a long time.

Family . . . don’t take them for granted, because we all age and someday they’ll all be gone. You can pick your friends, careers and many other things in life, but you can’t pick your family, and that’s a good thing!

Don’t procrastinate till it’s too late to pick up the phone and call that uncle or aunt, brother or sister, mom or dad, or even that cousin. Remind them how much you care, and don’t wait for an event to stir you to show your love. All families have issues, special circumstances and conflicts, but “We are family”: we forgive, forget and have unconditional love!

Family . . . it’s your family; make it the best family!

The Best Present – Depression Recovery Guide

My best present? I’m in my fifties, so I’ve had many birthdays and Christmases where I received gifts, and I received some very nice ones, so this may be difficult. Was it the pellet gun? toolbox? clothes? vacation? ping-pong table? The more I think about it, there isn’t one that stands out as the best. Maybe because gifts are just stuff. Yes, they’re fun to dream about having and when you unwrap them and hold them. But after a few days or weeks the newness wears off and they become possessions. They blend in with all the other gifts or items you’ve collected over the years and fall into the category of just stuff. Then after time they move from your bedroom to the closet to the basement or garage till one summer day you decide it’s time to include them in your annual garage sale where you sell them for a dollar or two. The items go from having meaning because they were given to you by someone special to the graveyard of meaningless stuff to be sold for a pittance because they’ve outlived their purpose.

I definitely have special moments in my life that fall into the category of great blessings, and I would say that they were gifts, like my wife. I don’t possess her or anything like that; however, I still remember the day she walked down that aisle in a white dress, smiling and willing to say “I do” when the minister asked her about becoming my wife. Consider her a gift? I don’t want to minimize her value, but I do thank God for bringing her into my life, and since God created her, and I was fortunate enough to meet her, I believe she has been a gift from God and therefore most precious. The blessings continue with two additional gifts, my son and daughter, and I thank God often for both of them. So, several of the best presents I ever received don’t fall into the category of any “stuff” but instead the family that God has blessed me with, a wife and two children.

How does a guy like me deserve to be so blessed? First of all, I don’t deserve anything so special; second, I don’t believe in fate or luck. So how did I happen to be so fortunate? I’m this fortunate or blessed because of the best and greatest gift ever given or received by anyone: the gift of salvation. I received this gift way back in August of 1975 when I realized I was lost and needed salvation from my sins to receive eternal life. I was only eighteen years old, confused and hungering to learn the meaning of life. When I heard about the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ, a lightbulb went on in my head, my heart felt heavy from sin and I realized the solution to my confusion was repentance, acceptance and faith. I repented of my sins, asked Jesus Christ for forgiveness, accepted Him as my Savior and believed that God created the world and gave his son Jesus for the remission of sins and that He would give me eternal life. That day Jesus Christ came into my heart and changed my life. The best and greatest present I ever received was the gift of eternal life from God that August in 1975, the gift that continues to give every day, week, month and year! God is my Heavenly Father, Jesus is my Savior and Brother. And every day has value and is worth living because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.

My greatest gift can become your greatest gift if you will pray and ask Jesus into your life. Repent of your sins, accept Jesus as your personal Savior and believe! You will become a new creature in Christ, and old things, habits and bad stuff will pass away. You will have a fresh start!