Sometimes I Miss the Obvious

Sometimes I Miss the Obvious

There is an annoying advertisement on television for hotels.com which features a character called “Captain Obvious”

He has been around since 2014 and is becoming fairly famous through his somewhat obvious comments in ads for his company

Thus his name Captain Obvious

Makes you wonder about comments you hear and signs that you see when travelling…

      • You know its cold outside when you go outside and it’s cold
      • Please make sure the elevator is there before stepping in
      • Wet paint unless it dried
      • Caution: water on road during rain
      • Open the door before entering. Thank you.
      • Do not breathe under water
      • Caution: Fire is hot
      • Library is closed until opening time
      • On a bin of peanuts: This product contains peanuts
      • On a milk freezer in the grocery store: This is not an exit

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  Sometimes I Just Need Silence

Sometimes I Just Need Silence

Silence belongs to an earlier age

Ours is an age of noise

With the advent of digital social media has come the white noise of everyone “expressing themselves”

Silence is now a precious commodity, a scarce resource that is hard to come by

    • Go to a coffee shop and the music is blaring so that it is difficult to even think
    • Go food shopping and music – often terrible music
    • Everywhere you go people are talking
      • Talking for the sake of talking 
      • Saying little to nothing of any depth or benefit
      • With few to no one really listening
    • Morning shows on local television and radio
    • People in constant motion – one activity after another with no pause
    • Insecure people talking non-stop and not really listening to anything you say

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A Snowy Friday

It has been a good morning as I have been writing blogs and teachings. I enjoy writing as much as I enjoy reading (see “A Snowy Thursday” blog for November 11, 2021). There is not a day goes by that I am not writing something. I am constantly gathering and writing down my thoughts and noting what I am learning as I read. 

It started with daily journaling which I have been doing fairly faithfully for almost four decades. But it is more than that. I take notes from what I am reading. I develop ideas the old fashion way – using a pen and paper. Everything I write starts in my head, goes to paper, and then, most times, is computerized in a formal piece that ends up as a future resource, a blog, an article for the web, a teaching for an upcoming engagement, or simply a personal record of what I have been thinking and working through. 

I like playing with words. I enjoy expressing thoughts and feelings on paper. Every new idea or thought gets jotted down on a note pad, a legal pad, a stickum, or a napkin if I am in a restaurant. And, because I have been doing this for decades there is a non-ending flow of creative thoughts and ideas moving from gut to brain to paper to computer. I collect ideas and quotes from what I am reading. And I always have a book with me (along with a pen, note pad, and highlighters) no matter where I am. You never know when you may have a spare ten or fifteen minute to read and write. 

A number of years ago I had a prophetic word spoken over my life and ministry that commented on the fact that I was to write a book. Several years after that another prophetic word said the same thing except ‘book’ had become’ books.’ I always remember those words – not always fondly but definitely remembered. And I have been jotting down ideas and collecting material over the years as I knew almost immediately upon receiving the words what it was I was to write about. It has been a long season of other ministries and involvements with book writing always taking second or third place – or sitting on the sidelines altogether – but always within view.

On one flight home from Kazakhstan a few years ago I was arguing with the Lord that I really didn’t have time to write a book or books. That I was busy with ministry and my plate was full. I distinctly heard Him say that writing books was also a ministry. I know, not earth-shattering. But for me it was a new thought on an old prophetic word. I would not be taking away from my ministry but simply changing the focus of the ministry slightly to focus more on book writing and a little less on travelling. Maybe you can see where this is going. 

On my last flight before Covid grounded me I felt the Lord telling me that now was the time to write and publish. And, of course, shortly after that along comes Covid and with not being able to travel and minister outside of a small radius around my own city, He was right. Covid-19 has freed up a fair amount of time – time I use to spend in airports, on planes, and ministering in churches. 

Well, I have not been wasting the last almost two years since Covid became a reality. I have been doing a fair amount of daily ministry on line – teaching leadership groups in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Mentoring young men one-on-one in a number of nations. And ministering locally. But that still frees up time to write. And I have been doing just that – more than usual due to extra free time. I have two books currently in the review and edit stages and material gathered and research accomplished for several others books (I like the sound of that word ‘books’ plural after so many years of waiting and watching, collecting and sorting). 

So, I believe I am entering a new season where I will be investing a good portion of each day continuing to write and research as more books bubble up from within. And with Covid-19 appearing to stick around for the coming winter and spring it will be a good time to truly focus on bringing several prophetic words to pass in my life. But, not to stop there but to continue publishing books as they are finished. Time to establish a daily discipline of writing books.

All books – like all material on my web page – will be published as e-books and will be free to download once published. 

A Snowy Thursday

I often joke that I am a bookaholic. I like books. I read books. I collect books. I admit it, I am addicted to books. There are many jokes or cute sayings about people like me.

    • “I’m a bookaholic on the road to recovery. JUST KIDDING. I’m on the road to the bookstore.”
    • “Bookaholic. I have no shelf control.”
    • “Warning — May spontaneously begin talking about books.”
    • “My name is Ralph and I’m a bookaholic.”

Yup! That’s me. I have a daily discipline of reading so that most weeks I can manage to start and finish several normal size books (200 pages). I read early in the morning before most people are up and starting their day. And, I read every late evening before heading to bed. If I have a slower day you will find me at my favourite coffee shop over in the corner reading a book. 

I read widely and not just in my chosen occupation of preacher – teacher. I read history — especially of the nations where I have worked and those I hope to visit. I read theology. I read Bible commentaries. I read biographies and autobiographies of both famous preachers and spiritual heroes as well as politicians, celebrities, Christian martyrs, and those who have or are having an impact and who might be called change agents – like Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Howard Schultz (Starbucks). I read in many areas working to be well-rounded as a person and decently informed in most areas of life. 

I am always on the lookout for a good book. I appreciate it when someone I know and trust recommends a book as I usually follow their recommendation and purchase it. I prefer paper copies to an e-Book but settle for an e-Book if a book I want is no longer in print. Monthly I buy a Starbucks Mocha and spend a few hours browsing through bookshelves at Chapters Indigo here in my city (they are connected to each other – neat eh!). Weekly I browse through new publications on line specifically looking for Canadian authors. And, I keep up with the latest publications in the fields of Bible research, church life, and theology. When it is a holiday season (summer camping, Christmas and New Years) I read novels and have several favourite authors that I actually collect and I always grab one of their most recent novels when opportunity arises.

You can travel the world without leaving the comfort of your own home. Just read books. You can learn so much about human nature. Just read biographies. You can learn from the experiences, mistakes, and failures of others. Just read books. You can be entertained without the mindless watching of endless television shows. Just read books. You can engage your imagination. Just read a book. You can grow, mature, and learn. Read a book. And, you can become an interesting person who always has something to share. Read a book. You want to be a leader – be a reader. If you fail to read regularly, you will fail to lead. 

Some books I just read and enjoy. Other books I mark up, underline, make notes in the margins, highlight. I want to mine all the knowledge and wealth of information and insights that I can. A novel I just read without a pen or highlighter in my hand. If a book will not be read again or is not part of a set or collection then I give it away finding a new home for it. The house is not big enough to store all the books I read. If I start a book and it does not engage me right away I put it down and find another book that will grab my attention. Years later I may pick up that book a second time and it will speak to me. If not, two strikes and its out. I give it away. 

In my study, which is covered in overflowing bookshelves, you will find several piles of books which are currently being read or some that are being stockpiled for future reading projects. In my office there are shelves overflowing with books. In the bedroom floor to ceiling bookshelves full and running over. In the basement meeting room floor to ceiling bookcases along one complete long wall which runs almost the full length of the basement – all full of books that have been read. Did I mention that I am a bookaholic. 

Today we are in the midst of a two day snow event – the first good snowfall of the season – if there is really anything good about cold and snow. So, I have a new book to start this afternoon (after shovelling what snow has already fallen) with a warm blanket over my knees and feet and a small fire in the wood stove in my office. A few hours of doing one of my most favourite things. Reading a good book. 

So, if you will excuse me I hear a book calling my name. 

Tomorrow’s Challenges

I just celebrated the 45th anniversary of meeting Jesus and being born again. And, as I thought about al the changes and challenges of the past 45 years I am so thankful for the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives in me. There has been much that has changed over the last four and a half decades – changes in the culture, the church, the Kingdom, and especially in me. 

As a leader and a preacher / teacher of the Word I realized many years ago that today’s best will not meet tomorrow’s challenges. That as a believer and a leader I needed to understand that tomorrow’s challenges will not be won with today’s abilities. 

Here is my strategy for changes, growing, and getting better. I learned it from a mentor I had many years ago. My goal at the end of each day is to feel satisfied because I gave my very best, but my goal at the beginning of each day is to be dissatisfied enough to try to improve on yesterday. This interplay of dissatisfaction and satisfaction creates a tension that makes me want to improve.

As I approach a new day, I try to be my best. That will make tomorrow better. The best way to have good choices tomorrow is the make the right choices today. The best way to realize the changes we want tomorrow is tp make the needed changes today. The best way to meet the challenges of tomorrow is to do our best in the challenges of today. I can’t skip today and hope tomorrow is better. So every day I ask myself, “Is this the best I can do today?” In this way, I’m following the advice of my mentor. 

At the same time, I don’t rest on my best. You might have heard that good is the enemy of great, but best is the enemy of better. I have to cultivate the dissatisfaction required to get better. I purposely create that tension every day. The question: “Is this the best I can do today?” Helps me to make the most of today. The question, “Am I getting better?” Spurs me on to change. I want to grow into tomorrow’s challenges,, not just go into them. If I keep getting better, I can lead better tomorrow. Yesterday’s best is the foundation for tomorrow’s improvements.

If you want to keep getting better so that you can become a better person, believer, teacher, leader, then:

      • LEARN SOMETHING NEW – Ask yourself, “When’s the last time I learned something for the first time?”
      • TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT – Ask yourself, “When’s the last time I did something for the first time?”
      • FIND SOMETHING BETTER – Ask yourself “When’s the last time I found something better for the first time?”
      • SEE SOMETHING BIGGER – Ask yourself, “When’s the last time I saw something bigger for the first time?”

Keep in mind: everyone can improve and everything can be improved. Every day has improvement possibilities.

Now you understand the framework for changing and growing:

      • Continually learn, unlearn, and relearn
      • Value yesterday but live in today
      • Rely on speed but thrive on timing
      • See the big picture as the picture keeps getting bigger
      • Live in today but think about tomorrow
      • Move forward courageously in the midst of uncertainty
      • Realize today’s best will not meet tomorrow’s challenges

Remember, even a small shift or change can make a big difference in your life and in your ministry or chosen profession.

And note: the changes you need to make and the personal growth you need to accomplish will be unique to your journey with Jesus. 

Also note: Every advance you make as a leader will require a shift that changes the way you think, act, and lead. 

It is important to understand: If you try to learn and grow every day – making a small change in the way you think, work, relate – you can and will reach your potential and fulfill God’s destiny and plan for your life. 

Dogs Teach Us…

For centuries we’ve been teaching dogs to perform tasks for us, but more recently, we have come to find that the dog is capable of teaching children and adults in ways that people can not.

1. Don’t hold grudges
A grudge will weigh you down emotionally and stop you from moving forward in your life. Create your own personal freedom by learning from your dog: your dog doesn’t hold grudges.

2. Play every day
Your dog loves to run, jump and chase. This is a reminder to play, exercise and move your body every day. Don’t chew the furniture though.

3. Practice happiness
Dogs have a special way of showing happiness: they wag their tails. We don’t have tails to wag, but the more we practice showing that we’re happy, the better we’ll feel. Try it. Jump, wiggle and shake your whole body. Your brain will release endorphins and bring about a happier state.

4. Love unconditionally
And forgive instantly. Your dog loves you without expecting anything in return. Also, don’t be afraid to show how much you love somebody. Greet a loved one when they come home from work; show them how happy you are to see them.

5. Give everyone a chance
Approach each individual that you meet without prejudice or reservation, and always be willing to make a new friend. Don’t judge straight away, and give everyone a chance.

The Missing Ingredient Is Character – Part Three

4> Good character engenders trust

When a person lives a fragmented life (see previous blog), others never know what to expect from him or her. They don’t know how the person will act in any given situation. They are not consistent. In contrast, a person of good character who lives by the same consistent standard invites trust. People know what they are going to get. They know the person;’s words and actions will line up. They can rely on the person and what he or she says.

Whenever you make a commitment to another person, you create hope. When you keep that commitment, you create trust. Good character helps you to follow through on that commitment and develop trust. 

Why is that important? Because all relationships are built on trust. So by increasing character potential, you build the trust needed to increase people potential. You will have more influence and more of an impact than someone that has not taken the time to develop their character and thus earn the trust of others. Increased people potential not only improves the quality of your life but also improves the qualities of your relationships, including your ability as a leader. When trust is absent, leadership falters. 

5> Good character is tested in times of trouble

Adversity doesn’t build character: it reveals it. When you have good character, difficulty only makes you more determined. When your character is weak, difficulty makes you discouraged. Work on your character now. When the storm comes, it’s too late to prepare.

6> Good character always take the high road

Most people want to treat others the way they’ve been treated. It’s human nature. That’s not the way I want to live and should not be the way you want to live – especially if you are in a Christian leadership position. I don’t want to treat others worse than they treat me. I want to treat others better than they treat me. I want to always take the high road.

I hope you will take a similar path. It’s true that sometimes you will be hurt – even by believers in the Church; especially by church members. You will be treated unfairly. People will take advantage of you. But wouldn’t you rather make the world a better place and help other people?

7> Good character delivers on its promises

When you say you’ll do something, do you follow through? Are you known as someone who delivers? Or do others sometimes worry that you may give up or not show up. Booker T. Washington said, “Character is power.” Make the most of it.

Scientist Marie Curie observed, “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work on his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity.” 

If you want to build your character, your need to try to align four things:

      • Your values
      • Your thinking
      • Your feelings
      • Your actions

If your values are good and you make the other three things consistent with them, there’s almost nothing you can’t improve in your life.

Are you willing to do the mundane work of increasing your character capacity? It probably won’t receive any fanfare. In fact, you may be the only person who’ll ever know what steps you’ve taken to grow in this area. But I guarantee that you will see positive results and live a better life. 

The Missing Ingredient Is Character – Part Two

The older I become the more I am finding that my values are probably deeper and stronger than they have ever been in my life. I rely less and less on beliefs, which I seem to have fewer of as I age. What’s the difference? Values don’t change, but beliefs do — all the time. Every time you learn something new, your beliefs adjust. In my lifetime I have let go of dozens and dozens of beliefs that I once possessed just because I learned more or experienced more.

Today I am far less interested in certainty about many things (beliefs) and much more interested in clarity about the few things that matter. And though I am certain about fewer things, I have more clarity than I have ever had before in my life. A benefit of being older and having lived through many things in life and survived. The things that are crystal clear are my values. 

Why put so much emphasis on values? Because values create the foundation of character, and character provides the foundation for success in all aspects of life.

The idea of building character isn’t flashy or exciting. It’s not something we regularly add to our list of annual goals. But the results of developing character are life changing. It’s one of only two or three things I can think of that are most important in life.

Here is why character is so important and why you should make the choices needed to develop your character capacity….

1> Good character is a choice you can make every day

Every day you either grow your good character or shrink it. When you choose to do the right thing based on a positive value, your character expands. With each right choice, you develop the strength to make other right choices, and more-difficult right choices. In contrast, every time you choose to cut corners, compromise on your values, or turn your back on what you know to be right, it shrinks your character. The smaller and weaker it gets, the more difficult it is to make another right choice.

What are you focused on day to day? Making your work more lucrative? Making your company bigger? Rising up through the ranks in your organization? Building your ministry? Or making your character better, deeper, stronger? The choices you make every day make you!

2> Good character speaks louder than words

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are” (Coach John Wooden).

Who we are inside is much more important than how others see us. Character represents who you really are on the inside: the moral and mental qualities that make you, you. And that is what speaks to people. It speaks more loudly than your words or the words others say about you. Your character represents you to the world. 

3> Good character is consistent in all areas of life

When a person has good character, he or she has it in every area of life consistently, regardless of circumstances, regardless of setting, and regardless of context. There’s no such thing as business ethics – there’s only ethics. People try to use one set of ethics for their professional life, another for their spiritual life, and still another at home with their family. That gets them into trouble. Ethics are ethics. If you desire to be ethical, you live by one standard across the board. 

Good character uses the same standard in every situation. If something is right, it’s always right. If it’s wrong, it’s always wrong. People with good character are consistent. People who try to use multiple standards with different people and in different situations live fragmented lives.

The Missing Ingredient Is Character – Part One

As I get older – I am in my mid-seventies – I am finding that my values are probably deeper and stronger than they have ever been in my life. And I am valuing the area of my character more than many other yet still important areas of life. And I am taking note of character, or the lack of it, in other people’s lives. 

Character is a word that we don’t think about a lot. In fact, often we are not even sure what a look at character truly involves. What are we looking for in a person when we comment on their character or are working to know their character? 

In my study of character over the years I have created a list of what I believe constitutes “character” in a person. These are the qualities I look at and look for…

I invite you to look over this character traits list and pick at least one of these good qualities to begin working on:

1. Integrity

Integrity is a personal trait that has strong moral principles and core values and then conducting your life with those as your guide. When you have integrity you maintain your adherence to it whether or not other people are watching.

2. Honesty

Honesty is a good trait that is more than telling the truth. It’s living the truth. It is being straightforward and trustworthy in all of your interactions, relationships, and thoughts. Being honest requires self-honesty and authenticity.

Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny. 

3. Loyalty

Loyalty is an ethical trait of faithfulness and devotion to your loved ones, your friends, and anyone with whom you have a trusted relationship.

Loyalty is a good quality that can also extend to your employer, the organizations you belong to, the team you work or play with, your community, and your country.

4. Respectfulness

With this character attribute you treat yourself and others with courtesy, kindness, deference, dignity, and civility. You offer basic respect as a sign that you value the worth of all people and accept the person regardless of who they are. 

5. Responsibility

This exceptional quality accepts personal, relational, career, community, and societal obligations even when they are difficult or uncomfortable. This personal trait follows through on commitments and proactively create or accept accountability for your behaviour and choices.

6. Humility

You have a confident yet modest opinion of your own self-importance. You don’t see yourself as “too good” for other people or situations. With this honourable trait you have a learning and growth mindset and the desire to express and experience gratitude for what you have, rather than expecting you deserve more.

7. Compassion

This character trait feels deep sympathy and pity for the suffering and misfortune of others, and you have a desire to do something to alleviate their suffering.

8. Fairness

Using discernment, compassion, and integrity, this character trait strives to make decisions and take actions based on what you consider the ultimate best course or outcome for all involved.

9. Forgiveness

You make conscious, intentional decisions to let go of resentment and anger toward someone for an offense — whether or not forgiveness is sought by the offender.

Forgiveness may or may not include pardoning, restoration, or reconciliation. It extends both to others and to one’s self.

10. Authenticity

With this virtuous attribute you are able to be your real and true self, without pretension, posturing, or insincerity. You are capable of showing appropriate vulnerability and self-awareness.

11. Courageousness

In spite of fear, danger, discomfort, or pain, this good human quality requires the mental fortitude to carry on with a commitment, plan, or decision, knowing it is the right or best course of action regardless of the opposition.

12. Generosity

This good quality is willing to offer time, energy, efforts, emotions, words, or assets without the expectation of something in return. This character trait offers these freely and often joyously.

13. Perseverance

Perseverance is a character trait seen as a steadfast persistence and determination to continue on with a course of action, belief, or purpose, even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable in order to reach a higher goal or outcome.

14. Politeness

This character trait is knowledgeable of basic good manners, common courtesies, and etiquette, and are willing to apply those to all people you encounter. You desire to learn the personal skills of politeness in order to enhance your relationships and self-esteem.

15. Kindness

Kindness is a positive attribute of being considerate, helpful, and benevolent to others.

This virtuous trait is motivated by a positive disposition and the desire for warm and pleasant interactions.

16. Loving

This character trait has the ability to be loving toward all people showing them through your words, actions, and expressions how deeply you care about them. It includes the willingness to be open and vulnerable.

17. Optimism

Optimism is having a sense of hopefulness and confidence about the future. It involves a positive mental attitude in which you interpret life events, people, and situations in a promising light.

18. Reliability

This character quality can be consistently depended upon to follow through on your commitments, actions, and decisions. You do what you say you will do.

19. Conscientious

This character attribute has the desire to do things well or to the best of your ability.

You are thorough, careful, efficient, organized, and vigilant in your efforts, based on your own principles or sense of what is right.

20. Self-disciplined

With this good character trait, you are able, through good habits or willpower, to overcome your desires or feelings in order to follow the best course of action or to rise to your commitments or principles. You have a strong sense of self-control in order to reach a desired goal.

21. Ambitious

When you are ambitious, you possess the keen desire to achieve your goals.

Whether you are seeking to move ahead in your life and leadership, your ambition gives you the motivation to make it happen.

This character trait is positive as long as your ambition doesn’t overshadow your values or force you to compromise other positive character traits.

22. Encouraging

When you are encouraging, you offer hope, strength, and positive reinforcement to others. You go out of your way to give someone support and confidence.

This is an excellent trait as it reveals your ability to understand and care for others in an emotionally intelligent way. Because of your encouraging nature, others are naturally attracted to you.

23. Forgiving

The ability to forgive yourself and others reveals that you have a balanced perspective of human nature and the flaws inherent in all of us. You are able to let go of grudges, hurts, offences, and resentment which in turn frees you and anyone who might have offended you. It is an advanced trait that is an act of courage and commitment.

24. Considerate

When you possess the trait of being considerate, you show an ability to think of other people as well as yourself. You show care to others and seek to understand how they might feel in certain situations and adjust your behaviour accordingly. To be considerate also means being polite and respectful — even of those at a different station in life from you.

25. Thoroughness

When you are thorough, you’re willing to put in the extra effort to ensure things are done completely, correctly and with excellence. Others can count on you to fulfill your commitments with great care and attention to detail.

Sometimes I Am Full of Envy

Sometimes I Am Full of Envy

In the Christian Church there is a standard list of deadly sins

The list was first compiled by Pope Gregory the first around the year 600

            • Lust – 2 Timothy 2:22
            • Gluttony – 1 Corinthians 10:31
            • Greed – Hebrews 13;15
            • Sloth – Proverbs 6:6 (excessive laziness)
            • Wrath – Romans 12:19
            • Pride – Jeremiah 9:23-24
            • Envy – Proverbs 14:30

Today we will be looking at the last one – “ENVY”

The Ten Commandments were given at Mt. Sinai around 1450 B.C. so these are still the Oldest foundational moral commandments that Christian hold to

However, the seven deadly sins are biblical but nowhere do they appear as a list in the Bible

There is a list of seven deadly sins in the Bible and they are found in Proverbs 6:16-19 where it states, “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him…” Read more