Thoughts and Beliefs

Disciple Now Speaker – We Are All One

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This past weekend, I got to serve as a Disciple Now speaker for Heritage Baptist Church in Texarkana, TX.  We had a fantastic weekend, and being a Christian youth speaker is such an amazing opportunity.  I loved watching the teens worship and praise God with all of their hearts, and was reminded why our worship as adults needs to be as free as theirs was.

Now, I must tell that I am painfully aware of the dissidence between the Churches of Christ and the Baptist Church.  While there are areas of tradition that I treasure, I contend that if you believe in Jesus, then we are in the same wonderful family.  I do not share feelings of animosity, and feel strongly that if we all learned how to stop the arguing and start realizing that we have more in common as believers in Jesus than we have to argue you about, God’s family would be a much happier place.  I love my brothers and sisters that I met with this weekend, and am honored to have been called the same from their perspective.

I tell you all of that to say that their outpouring of love by the church throwing a birthday party for Hannah simply blew me away.  They had a cute cupcake-cake that was formed in the shape of a dog.  (Hannah kept asking me what happened to the dog’s nose…and it felt strange to tell her that she had eaten it!)  We sang the familiar birthday song, helped Hannah blow out the candles, and had a wonderful celebration.  The church members even bought her a baby and stroller set to go along with her collection.  She couldn’t have been happier.

I know all churches have differences, and I am not advocating that we agree on everything.  However, with both myself and the youth pastor at Heritage Baptist being each raised in a denomination that has historically called the other’s denomination a heresy, I can’t help but feel that the kind of love we experienced is exactly what Jesus was praying for in John 17: 20-21:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

I continue to be amazed each and every day with the love shown in the family of God.

So I Had to Call the IRS…

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A few days ago, I received a letter from the IRS saying that I had not filed a certain form for my travel agency that specializes in Disney Vacations.  While they were correct in what they claimed, I had understood from my own research and from consulting with a CPA that I was not required to file that form due to being in a community property state.  So, as the letter requested, I picked up the phone, dreading the next several minutes as I figured I would have to be on the defensive because, let’s face it, who WANTS to call the IRS?

Then…it hit me.  How many people call the IRS upset or incensed about the fact that they received an accusatory letter like I was about to do?  I took a breath, realized that the person who was about to answer my call likely had nothing to do with sending me the nasty letter, and dialed the number.

When the voice answered, I simply explained that I had received this letter, and that I believed it was an error.  She (the IRS rep) looked up my case, and guess what?  I had received the letter because of an incorrect marking in my profile.  She placed me on hold and in less than a minute, she returned to tell me that the error had been corrected and to throw away the letter.  I would not be receiving any other inquiries about this.  I thanked her, and we wished each other a pleasant evening.

Could that have gone differently?  You bet!  If I had gone in blazing mad over receiving the letter, I would not only have ruined her day, but I might have even met a negative response when inquiring about fixing the issue.  The easy way in which the situation was handled was all in my attitude.  Because I chose to treat the situation with a smile, I not only had the problem fixed, but I even got the IRS agent to laugh about how ridiculous computers can be.  We both had a pleasant call because of a choice about how to approach the situation.

Make 2010 the year that you commit to a happy life and a positive attitude.  Without one, you might wind up having to call the IRS a second time!

Can You Spare a Minute?

    Posted in Churches, Thoughts and Beliefs    |    2 Comments

My family and I were driving down to San Antonio, TX last weekend when I saw a banner on a church building near Waco, TX that quickly got my attention. The banner read: “30 Minute Worship.” I went to the website listed on the banner (which I won’t display here as I do not wish to dignify them with a link) which confirmed my outrage. They proudly state:

This innovative service is for anybody who is tired of the way traditional church has been done, has limited time, or has to work Sundays. The high energy, focused package will creatively engage you to personally connect with God.

The site goes to explain that 8-10 minutes will be spent in worship, 12-15 minutes of lesson time, and 5 minutes of response.

Before I begin, please hear me say that I do believe this COULD help those who work on Sundays.  But for the statement, “tired of the way traditional church has been done,” I am outraged.

WHAT???????

You mean to tell me that you think anyone can have a personally engaging worship time in 30 minutes?  Have we lost all ability to spend actual time with God?  Here I was thinking how crazy it is when people complain about worship going a few minutes longer than an hour.  Are we so busy that we give God the “leftovers” of our time?  It is as if we are approaching God saying, “Listen, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but I’m pretty busy down here so I don’t have much time to worship you.  How about I squeeze you in on Sunday mornings…will 30 minutes do the trick?  Will I have worshipped you enough in 30 minutes to last for the week?  Cause, God, you don’t know how busy I am.”

The Hebrews in the Old Testament would have known the answer to these questions.  They were commanded to bring the “first-fruits” of their labor as an offering to God.  I contend that God deserves the “first-fruits” or ‘first and best cut” of my money, my work, and my TIME.  Our weekly worship time should not be a time to squeeze God into our week, but rather a time to relish in the presence of God in the gathering of his people to worship.  God deserves our very best, and let’s also acknowledge please that worship is not about us.

Sure, worship uplifts us and draws us closer to God, but God is the object of our worship.  Our worship is for Him and to Him, and I refuse to short-change God by limiting my time or my spirit in worship.

30 Minute Worship, eh?  I’m sure glad that God doesn’t have anything on His schedule that prevents Him from hearing us when we cry out.  I’m glad Jesus didn’t have a prior commitment that would have prevented him dying for my sins.  God deserves the best we can give…and I commit to not allowing this world and its busy nature to ruin what I can give to my God.

(I was going to apologize for the rant…but some things in life deserve it!)

Dealing With a Cell Phone Addicted Society

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Stop Cell Phone AddictionMy wife, daughter and I were on our way out of a fast-food restaurant a few days ago when a car pulled up in front of us.  Out the of the car emerged a husband and wife who were both totally engrossed not in each other, but each in their own cell phone conversations.  They didn’t speak a word to each other…totally devoting their attention to the person they were speaking to on the phone.  Neither spoke to us even though I smiled and said, “Hello.”  He didn’t hold the door for her, and while I didn’t see them once they were inside the restaurant, I would imagine they didn’t stop their conversations before ordering their food.

What kind of society do we live in?  One that has a cell phone addiction.  Seriously…I dare you to go into a public place and find ONE person that doesn’t have a cell phone.  It’s crazy…when did we get to the point that we had to be connected to everyone, all the time?

My wife has teased me ever since we got married about my lack of cell phone usage. I hate cell phones. I think they might as well be shown as the ball & chain that they are.  Think about it for a second.  Why do you need to be reached 24/7?  Some might say for an emergency, and for that reason, I would agree. 

But, does your office have your cell phone number?  Why do they need to reach you outside of office hours?  Do they own you?  Up until recently, I never had my cell phone on.  As I viewed it, the purpose of my cell phone was in case I needed to call someone in an emergency.  Recently, I’ve been using it for speaking contacts, so it is on, but I don’t always answer it.  If you call me after office hours, and I don’t recognize the number as a family member or a friend, I won’t answer…for ANY reason. 

The way I see it, my priorities are set, and no one can change them but me.  I don’t mean that to say that you aren’t important to me, but rather, you are not as important as my down-time with my family.  We have to put limits on outside interruptions when we are with people that matter to us the most.  

So…try turning your cell phone OFF next time you are with your family.  Not to the vibrate/silent mode…I mean OFF.  Put a limit on how often you can be interrupted.  I promise the world won’t fall apart without you.  Learn to enjoy not being needed all the time.  

You’re Not that Important – The Self-Important Driver

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Have you ever run into this situation?

You are driving home from work one day and approach a traffic light.  You are going the speed limit, and as the light changes to yellow, you make that all important, flash decision. 

“Can I beat the red light?”

Don’t say you haven’t tried it or at least thought it. 🙂

Red-light running is on the rise nationwide. In a six-year study, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that deadly crashes at red lights increased at more than three times the rate of all other types of fatal auto accidents.

Why?  I know why.  The people that run those lights seem to think they are that important.  Wherever it is that they are headed, it is so important to not spend an extra minute or two at a red light that they are willing to risk not only their own lives, but the lives of everyone else at that intersection.  

Running a red light is only a symptom of a much larger problem.  Why do we feel the need to run through life as fast as we can?  Sometimes, at the end of the day I feel as if I haven’t stopped once.  Maybe the work of the day called for that kind of busy attitude…but I doubt it.  The real reason behind those kinds of days is that I ALLOW myself to feel like I can’t slow down.  It is all in my attitude in how I handle the day.

So, the lesson here? If we didn’t think so highly of ourselves, maybe we would be happy enough to slow down and spend an extra minute at a red light.  Slow down…enjoy life!  Life is too short for us to run through it.  Blink, and you’ll miss the most important moments.  Realize that your family and your God are much more important than you, and in that realization, find peace and happiness.

How to Be Whole – Maybe We’re Looking in the Wrong Places

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A recent TV ad I saw claimed that 20,000 people a DAY join the online dating service, Match.com.  20,000 people a day…is that not staggering?  Does the figure surprise you?  It sure blew me away.  20,000 people a day…starving for love so badly that would head towards online dating.  

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe there is anything fundamentally wrong with online dating.  And, if you found your spouse through the Internet, more power to you.  But, I would wager a guess that online dating isn’t the method of first attempt.  I mean, usually, we seek out partners through offline social interaction first before heading to the Internet.  So, 20,000 people a day have become frustrated enough to go online in search of love…despite the perils of online anonymity.

Could it be that our society seeks love in “all the wrong places?” (to quote an old country music song)  I would challenge that you first must love yourself before heading offline or online in search of love.  You must be a whole person before you can give part of yourself to another.  How do you get there?  It isn’t an overnight process, but I’m glad to be able to give out a couple of starting tips:

  1. Get Rid of Negative Influences – When I’ve spoken at schools before, I always make it a point to tell my student audiences that they must rid themselves of people who drag them down.  If you have friends, co-workers, parents, family, etc, who are constantly putting you down and telling you how worthless you are, you MUST get rid of that influence in your life.  I suggest confronting that person and explaining to them how much their words hurt.  If they don’t listen, you must find a way to diminish their influence on you.  If it is a friend, break off the friendship.  If it is a co-worker, go to the boss or HR and explain the situation.  I hope it isn’t a parent, but if it is, try and get other family members to confront the offender with you.  In order to feel better about yourself, you have to surround yourself with positive people.
     
  2. Smile, Constantly – What I’m suggesting here as a way to combat unhappiness is to smile for no reason.  Put aside ulterior motives of trying to get a favor from someone, or trying to get something for nothing and just smile.  Your smile can literally change someone’s day.  In the process of changing someone else’s day, you can easily change your own attitude.  Smile as if the world depends on it…because it does!

Start slow…begin to focus on changing, make little daily changes in your attitude, behavior, and your actions.  Pretty soon, you’ll realize that living a happy, fulfilled life is the only true way to live.  My new book goes into great detail on this subject, and I’ll be announcing, here, when it is ready to be ordered.  Watch this space in the next week or two for further details and remember, SMILE!

Happy New Year

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Happy New Year!  I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting me, and wish everyone a HAPPY 2009!  Remember, only you can choose a happy life!  Make 2009 your happiest year yet!

What Do You Say?

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From a young age, we teach children to say “thank you.”  In fact, the teaching is so prevalent that often times in public, you hear the phrase commonly spoken from parent to child, “What do you say?”  Usually, a meek or quick “thank you” is uttered and the parent is satisfied.  The practice is to be lauded as our children need to learn to be thankful.  Thankfulness is a very important lesson as gratitude is crucial to a happy life.

So, if gratitude is so important that we spend time teaching it to toddlers, why is it difficult for so many adults to accept a compliment?  I’ve heard and seen so many scenarios when something nice is said to someone else, and the receiver of the compliment immediately disclaims the remark.  Maybe the compliment receiver utters, “Oh, you don’t really mean that…” or maybe they simply give an eye-roll to make sure that the compliment giver knows that they don’t believe in the compliment.

WHY?

Are we embarrassed when something good is said about us?  Are we trying to show humility?  Maybe those who disclaim compliments are trying to communicate that they don’t believe the compliment could be true.  Is our collective self-esteem so poor that we don’t even like compliments?

I believe that accepting compliments is a crucial step towards believing in yourself.  Many times after a speaking engagement, I’ll hear things like, “You changed my life” or “You are amazing, and I loved your talk.”  One woman came out of a recent talk that my dad and I gave and said she had acknowledged that she had a bad attitude. She had decided to give her failing marriage another chance because of our presentation.  WOW!  Am I that good?  Is our message that powerful?  I can’t answer those questions. 

I can say that God uses us to spread the Good News to everyone who will hear, and He gets all the glory.  I can’t disclaim a compliment with an eye-roll because I know that if I do, what I am really saying is that I’m not good enough for God to make use of.  I can’t and won’t believe that.  As one person put it, “God don’t make no junk!”

So, when I am complimented, like the young child, I say “thank you” or if appropriate, “praise God.”  I dare you to try it.  If you are accustomed to shying away from compliments, try responding “thank you.”  Not only will you feel better, the compliment giver will also feel better as he/she will be validated, too.

And, remember, as children, most of us were taught to say “thank you.”  If a child can do it, so can you!

The Election is Over – Learn to Let Go

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The election is over.  America has decided on its next president.  Are you sad?  Are you happy?  Did your candidate win or lose?  These are all important questions, but here is the most important one:

Are you allowing it to ruin you day, week, month…or the next 4 years? 
LET IT GO!

I have already heard and seen many comments expressing concern for the nation, and I believe concern and a close watch on the future of our country are important.  But, I’ve also seen people who are mad about the election and are allowing the results to really affect their attitude today.  There are mad workers, mad drivers, mad customers, and mad clients today all over the nation.  And for what?  Can they go back in time and change the outcome of the election?  What is the point of being angry?

It is time that we, as a nation, learn to let go.  Let go of grudges, let go of anger, and let go of the “me, me, me” attitude that is plaguing our nation.  Both candidates spoke of unity in their speeches last night.  They both seek a unified nation, peace and harmony.  Now, it is time to follow our leaders and make our own effort to let go of the past.  It is time to live life to the fullest.  And, you can’t live a truly happy life without first letting go of the hurt and anger you may hold today.

Starting today, I will live life not by what happened yesterday, but by what can happen today!

I Don’t Have Arms…So What?

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I want to give you a sneak peek at my new book, entitled “I’m Not Broken.”  I hope to have the book out by the end of the year.  Here is an excerpt from the chapter entitled, “Change Your Perspective”:

The obvious thing here is to spend some time on what it means to be able to see the positive side of not having arms.  So many people, upon first glance, see me as unwhole, handicapped, and typically take pity on me.  Why?  Because they don’t know the awesome life I live.  I don’t have arms… 

…But I can drive a van that has special equipment.
…But I can type with my feet at over 35 words per minute
…But I can write with my feet
…But I can feed myself and brush my teeth with my feet
…But I can “hold hands” with my wife…with my feet
…But I can hold my daughter up in the air and play “Super Hannah” with my feet

Yes, there are elements to not having arms that genuinely “bite it.”  I have daily aches and pains that won’t ever go away because my body is not designed to do the things I do with it.  For instance, some doctors told my parents early on that I wouldn’t be able to walk.  I can walk just fine, though, long distances are a problem due to having no bone support structure in my hips.  I walk on sheer muscle mass and willpower.  I can’t do some things for myself that others take for granted.  There are problems in life.  But…you don’t need to be missing limbs to know that, right?

Instead, focusing on the positive has allowed me to develop a personality that my wife found attractive enough to want to marry me.  I have a great career spreading joy to as many people as I can through books and presentations.  I have a daughter, who just after learning to crawl, finds her favorite spot curled up in my lap.  (I know that won’t last forever, but I’m loving it while it does.)  All of these things in my life would have never happened had it not been for my passion and zest for a happy life. 

How did I get here?  You have to decide to see the positive lining in EVERY situation. 

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