Glory Days by Max Lucado

After the death of Moses, the Lord spoke to Joshua and gave him one monumental task:  Arise, go over the Jordan, and lead the people of Israel into the land that I have promised them.  Really?  Joshua had already scouted out the land some 40 years earlier.  He had seen the abundance of the land, but he had also seen the inhabitants.  He knew the battles that lay ahead.  Although he and Caleb wanted to trust God and take the land, it was the bad report by the other spies that had led to the people wandering in the wilderness all those years. Nevertheless, here was Joshua, preparing to lead this people into the land that God has promised.  And as you know, Joshua proved to be capable and God kept his promise.
That is the bottom line of this book.  As stated in Joshua 21:43, God gave them all land that he had promised.  And Joshua, as he learned to trust and rely on God, was capable of the task set before him.
In his new book, Glory Days:  Living Your Promised Land Life Now, best-selling author and pastor Max Lucado  walks with us through the book of Joshua, and along the way, he reveals to us how God used the obedience of Joshua and his men to lead to promised-land living for many.  At it’s core, the message of this book is simply this:  believe God and live your whole life rooted in that belief.  Yes, it will be hard.  Yes, you will struggle.  But, Yes, God is trust-worthy and he intends to do great things through your life of obedience.
Written in typical Max Lucado style, this book reads more like a conversation than a sermon.  Max provides great insights into the lives of the Israelites and practical applications in our everyday lives.  The book is divided into 16 easily read chapters, and includes a study guide for each chapter.
The big takeaway for me was “possess the land”.  God has already made abundant promises to us.  He has saved us and empowered us with his Holy Spirit.  But we have to “possess the land”.  We have to live out the promises of God now.  Too many of us are waiting for some breakthrough in life or our physical death to begin to be the person that God says we are now.  Living our promised land life begins with believing who God says that he is and who we are, and then living that out in our lives every day.
I would highly recommend this book.  If you are one of the 90% of Christians who feel that you are languishing in the wilderness, then this book will help you to begin to overcome your doubts and fears.
I received a complimentary copy of this book and agreed to give a full and impartial review.

Let Me Give You This Book

I just finished reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  While the subtitle of the book is Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, in my opinion, the book goes far beyond this.  It actually helped me to understand many things about myself that have frustrated me over the years.  And it helped to view many of those frustrations in a new light, so that I can now see them as opportunities to build on.

Using herself as a guinea pig, Mrs. Rubin explores the ways in which we approach habits and the methods that work best for some, but not for others.  I was surprised to see the variety of ways that varying types of people reinforce habits in their lives.  We truly are unique creatures and what works well for one, may in fact ruin the chances of another being successful.

Through the reading of this book, I discovered that I am an Obliger, Lark, Procrastinator, Underbuyer, Finisher, Simplicity Lover, Familiarity Lover, Prevention-Focused, and a Taker of Small Steps.

Utilizing all of this information, I can now see why I am able to do some things (like train for a marathon on my own), but struggle to do other things (like put a box away in the attic).  So much of my behavior is tied to my tendencies and foundational beliefs.  Where this book have aided me the most is in recognizing my need to work within my core to accomplish things, rather than spending all of my energy on trying to change who I am before I do the things that I need to do.

I can’t tell you how highly I recommend this book.  It has been eye-opening to say the least, and is a book that I will refer back to for years to come.

Throughout the book, Gretchen shares how she allows reminds herself to just “BE GRETCHEN”.  I am realizing that while I may not be able to be a very good “Gretchen”, or anyone else for that matter, I can be an amazing “Doug”.

The book has just been released in trade paperback.  And I would love to give you a copy. In face, I am giving away a free copy of the trade paperback.  All that you have to do to enter the drawing is:

-Click the follow button on the left hand side of this page, AND

-Leave a comment below sharing the habit that you would most like to change or add.

I will randomly select a winner on March 25th.

Good Luck!

Avoiding Distractions

I have a folder on the home screen of my phone that is called Social Media.  Sometimes, I think a better label might be “Time Wasters”, “Pointless Distractions”, or “Anger Inducers”.  This harmless little folder holds my access points to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I am doing my best to not open this folder for a while.

It’s already been almost 48 hours since I last allowed myself to get sucked in to the great black-hole that is commonly referred to as social media.  While I am not exactly on a fast, I have decided that the cons far out-weigh the pros for the time being when it comes to accessing these little apps.

I came to the realization a couple of days ago that I spend way too much time scrolling through every one else’s lives…seeing what you are doing while I am doing nothing but wasting time.  And I also discovered that many times I am at best frustrated or annoyed, and oftentimes actually angry when I close it down, usually over some post, or meme, or comment.

I think that we as a society have become very passive-aggressive.  It is rare that I walk away from an actual face-to-face conversation with a real live human and feel anger towards them.  I can’t remember the last time that I “unfriended” someone after a face-to-face conversation, probably because we weren’t really friends to begin with, and we both knew it.  However on social media, we find the courage to scream things that most of us never say to another person.  And we then walk away from our “friends” who disagree with our rants.

I don’t know how long this is going to last, but the last two days have been quite peaceful.  Scrolling through the internet isn’t quiet.  It isn’t relaxing.  It’s wave after wave of distractions.  Noise.  We think that we are just “vegging”, but that is the big con. We are being stimulated and influenced the whole time.  And real down-time that we are craving is not to be found online.

So if you need me, give me a call, or stop by the house.  I love company and will be happy to see you.

Now back to my book…

Abundant Life

John 10:10 is one of the most precious promises that Jesus made to Believers.  He said that He came to give us abundant life!  Oftentimes I look at my circumstances and the world around me and think that this must be a promise that He plans to fulfill in eternity, but that is not what the passage says.  Jesus said that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy (which he his obviously already doing) but that Christ came to give life (which he is already doing as well).

The ESV Study Bible says this in its notes on this verse:

Jesus calls his followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people.

This is my desire for my own life.

  1. To have it overflowing with meaningful activities.
  2. To live under the personal favor and blessing of God.
  3. To stay in continual fellowship with his people.

Where I struggle is in believing that I am already there.  I don’t have to strive to have this life at some future point.  What I have to do is have the mind of Christ, so that I walk daily in the awareness of his plans and purposes, so that I can see the meaning, favor, blessing, and fellowship that is already present in my everyday activities.  Even the ones that feel meaningless and without purpose.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that God has a higher purpose and calling on each of our lives.  He wants us to rise above our present commission, but the road that leads to that higher place is before us today.

We only have to take the first step down the path.

Nothing Changes Until Something Changes

I have been reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  It is a fantastic book about habits and our need to master them so that we can produce the kind of life that we desire.  It has been both hysterical and frightening to see the results of her research and see myself in it.  Yikes!

This morning at church, my pastor spoke on ruts and how difficult it can be to get out of them.  Most of the time, it requires such effort and focus to exit a rut that we just end up staying where we are.  It is amazing to me that we can enter a rut with little effort and thinking, but it requires herculean strength to get out.  If you are interested, you can listen to the message here.

One of his key points was this:

What you think is what you speak.  What you speak is what you do.

We end up becoming what we think.  There is great power in this…we can literally reshape our future by changing our thinking and aligning our thoughts with all that God says about us.  But there is also great danger in it as well.  We can sleep walk through life and never even crack the surface of our potential.  If we are truly honest, most of us go through the vast majority of every day never thinking about what we are doing…we are simply doing what we always do.

We get up. Have coffee. Shower. Eat. Brush teeth. Drive to work.  Work. Eat lunch.  Drive home.  Make dinner. Eat. Watch tv.  Go to bed. Repeat.  No thinking required.

A truth that I learned while attending an addiction recovery group a few years ago is this:  Nothing changes until something changes.  Ever.  If you are unhappy with where you are or where you are going, then something needs to change.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, but it has to be something. And it has to change.  Now.  Not tomorrow.

Now.

Stress Response

How do you respond when the everyday stresses of life reveal places of brokenness within you?  Let me give you an example…

I am currently in the process of training for the Publix Georgia Marathon.  I am right now about 3 weeks out from the race.  The first 10-12 weeks of my training were great.  I was getting in all of my runs; I was hitting or beating all of my paces…it was awesome.  But a couple of weeks ago, as my weekly mileage increased and my paces gradually worked down towards my goal pace, something unexpected happened:  Plantar Fasciitis.

I have dealt with it off and on in the past, but I had taken a few weeks off and thought that it was dealt with.  Sadly, I was wrong.  It was back, and while it’s not quite as bad as it has been, it definitely is there and is forcing me to rethink my strategy.

So I ask again, how do you respond when the everyday stresses of life reveal places of brokenness within you?

I see three possible responses:

  1.  You can avoid the thing that is causing the stress.  This is what I tried to do.  Since the running was causing the PF to hurt, I avoided running.  While this strategy did work to alleviate the pain that I was feeling, it did not strengthen the area and allow it to heal.  Pain avoidance is natural, but it doesn’t lead to healing.
  2. You can push through the pain.  Sure, keep running the longer and harder miles.  You might be ok, or you might make it worse.  And you may destroy much more than your foot in the process.  You might be able to reach your goal, but you will cause more damage and either delay healing, or make healing impossible in the process.
  3. You can spend some time dealing with the brokenness and actually allow the wounded place to heal.  This obviously means some things are going to change in the short-term (lowered expectations) but in the long-term, you can expect to gain these back and more.

In my case, I have decided that healing is necessary.  More clearly stated, healing isn’t a decision as much as it is simply agreeing with reality.  I have stopped running altogether and begun to do some no-impact cardio on my skier.  I am also spending some time everyday strength training and stretching to put small amounts of stress on the area.  Stressing the area just a little and then removing the stress is helping it to become stronger and heal, not just stop hurting for a moment.

One thing that I have found to be true in life is this:  What is true for the body, is also true for the soul.  We find inner healing as well, not from avoiding pain or pushing through and ignoring consequences, but by intentionally focusing on places of hurt and allowing them to heal.

donal(D) t(R)ump

I get it.  Really, I do.  I understand that a large portion of the citizenry of the United States is disgusted with the current state of politics and our country as a whole.  I get it.  I count myself among your number.

And I would consider myself at least a life-long conservative, if not even a Republican (don’t hate me).  It is enticing to consider giving Washington and all of those clowns the proverbial finger and sending an outsider to the big house.

But let me ask you a question:

What if Donald had decided to run as a Democrat?  Seriously.  He could have.  Reviewing his statements over the last decade, from wanting to impeach President Bush to supporting single-payer healthcare, to giving huge donations to progressive candidates and causes…he looks a lot more like a (D) than an (R) to me.

So as things stand, the “conservative”, “blue collar” voters are going to send a message to Washington by sending Jimmy Carter wearing a Ronald Reagan mask (plus the hair) who is the outsider equivalent of Ross Perot.  I don’t think that I’m exaggerating by much.

But you know what I don’t understand…evangelicals.  This is a group that I would call my people.  Why on earth are we as a group supporting Trump above any of the other candidates?  Don’t get me wrong; our choices aren’t very appealing.  But Trump?  I thought I understood conservatives.  Evangelicals need to read their bibles and use a little more prayer and discernment.

The sad reality is this.  Trump will most likely win the nomination.  And when he does, two things will happen:

  1.  The media will begin to systematically destroy him.  I am sure that they have an abundance of stories ready to launch as soon as he finishes his acceptance speech.  Up until now, they have been happy to sit back and watch the Republicans destroy themselves, but don’t you worry, dear ready, when the times comes, they will launch a full-scale assault on Trump.
  2. The true evangelical conservative will become disinterested altogether.  I have voted in every presidential election since 1988.  I mostly vote Republican, but I have voted Independent (Perot) and Democrat (Clinton, first term).  I can not see myself getting excited about standing in line in November to vote for Trump, or Hillary, or Bernie.  I fear that many others will probably join me is sitting back and watching the lemmings elect the next “president”.

Hopefully a divided congress will limit their ability to screw anything up to badly over the next 4 years.

 

 

 

(Un)Qualified

I had the opportunity to request an advanced readers copy of Steven Furtick’s latest book, (Un)Qualified:  How God Uses Broken People To Do Big Things.  All that I can say is, Wow!  I have been a long time fan of Mr. Furtick’s writings, but this is without a doubt his best work to date.

The basic premise of the book is that until we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, and we believe that we are who is says we are and that we can do what he says that we can do, then our lives will be shallow and basically a shadow of God’s intent.

I found his discussion of names (I Am ….) to be especially compelling and convicting.  What we think when we think of ourselves really does matter.  Our default beliefs about ourselves and our potential will always overcome our attempts to change, eventually.  We have to align our beliefs up with God and his Word before we can ever see lasting and hopefully permanent change.

I would absolutely recommend this book to others, particularly those who struggle with a lower sense of self-worth.  It is a fantastic book!

The Power of Surrender

I sincerely hoped that I would enjoy this book.  Really.  After reading the cover material and other online reviews, I thought that this might just be a piece of the puzzle in my own life.  Sadly, it was not.

I am a Christian and everything that I take in gets filtered through that unshakable paradigm.  Unfortunately, most of this book is encouraging you to surrender to your inner something and letting go.  I find it unnerving to surrender to something that the author herself seems to have trouble naming or describing.

As an example, from the chapter entitled The First Surrender:

“With any goal, first set your intention…second, listed to your intuition and see if this goal feels right.  If it does, do everything to make it happen.  The let go of the results as you let destiny and your angels work their magic.”

The problem that I have is that she can’t decide if its something we are doing (intuition), or something cosmic that is beyond our control (destiny) or something higher than us (angels).  She tries to thread the needle with techniques that will work not matter what your particular flavor of life or religion.

And it might work if you don’t really have a strong basis of belief or faith in something larger than yourself.  If you do, and particularly if you are a devout Christian, this book will not aid you.

Every Dude Needs This

This may have been the most enjoyable and practical book on marriage that I have ever read.  Darrin and Amie Patrick are very transparent and vulnerable as they share the ups and downs of their own marriage in an effort to help others with their own.

This book is very readable.  It reads as if the Patrick’s are sitting down in your living room sharing a coffee and talking through their week.  Any man can gain wisdom and insight from reading this book.

The chapters are short (for the most part, more on that later) and each ends with a few questions that are designed to get the dude talking and engaging with his dudette.  This isn’t a book to read and walk away from.  It is a book to read, underline, practice, and review.  I have many new tools in my marriage tool kit as a result of this book.

My only complaint with the book is that certain chapters seemed to be lacking in meat.  While most of the book was outstanding, the chapters on provide and rest seemed to be almost an afterthought.

Still, the book is a great read and will help you tremendously.  I must say that a favorite part was hearing from Amie’s “heart” as she shared from a women’s perspective about all of the issues.  The chapter that she wrote on Pursuit was a personal favorite.