Reinforcing the Heart


So often we concern ourselves with strengthening our home security, our job security, and our financial security.  All of which are great endeavors.  Less often, we spend time reinforcing the security of our hearts.  It’s something we all struggle with.  Ironically, what happens in our heart will affect everything else in our life.  If we keep that safe and strong, the rest will come together on it’s own. 

The heart I’m referring to is our spirit, or soul if you will.  It’s an easy thing to neglect, frankly.  The heart is something we sense and know is there, but all too often, our minds and bodies rule the day.  Our mind is consumed with the cares of the world, the tasks of the day, and the ever-growing stresses of life.   Our bodies, for most of us, just go along for the ride and provide the escape from the mind’s pressures when consuming that beloved coffee or chocolate on the sly. 

It’s the soul that is so difficult to define.  I see it as the knowing of truth vs lies.  It’s the love that comes from within us for our fellow man.  It’s the questioning of our existence and why we’re here.   It’s the belief system that tells us there is a higher power and that He loves us.  It’s the part of us that lives beyond this life for eternity; our spiritual body.  So, how do we protect it?  How do we make it strong?

Unlike the safety zones around our military bases surrounded by walls, our hearts are the opposite. If we build walls around them, we will shut out others and, possibly, even God.  The healthier our heart is to be, the more open it needs to be. 

Like our physical bodies which become strong through exercise, weight training, and a healthy diet, our soul becomes strong through feeding it God’s word, exercising our faith, and carrying the burdens of others.  It’s when we put aside the mind and body’s demands and allow our hearts to take center stage that the soul becomes stronger. 

Tonight, I want to encourage you that, if you feel weak at heart (‘soul’), you can get stronger.  God says that it’s in our weakness (our soul’s weakness), that we become strong through Him.  He will give you the strength of heart when you feel like giving up.  He will guide through His word and make it alive in you.  He will fill you with His power to stand up against the weight of this world.  In Him, you can do all things.  And, in Him, your heart can be reinforced and you will become strong…

Love always my friends,


Brad

I Can See Clearly Now

Over the years between glasses, contacts, Lasik, crossed eyes, and multiple eye surgeries to fix them, I’ve grown accustomed to not seeing clearly at times.  In fact, I’ve grown so used to ‘tweaking’ my vision that I’m now a bit OCD about it.  At the slightest hint of fogginess in my contacts or allergy gook, I whip out the eye lotion and begin the cleansing process.  I’m sure people often wonder what the deal is when I randomly stare at the ceiling spraying my eyes with that little bottle I pulled out of nowhere.

Being so attune to the difference between seeing clearly and not has been a benefit with my photography and has forced me to keep my focus more at work too.  There truly is a large of amount of detail that we miss in life when we can’t see clearly.  Yes, age is also taking a toll on the ability to see clearly but, thankfully, because of the way my Lasik went, I don’t have to wear the ‘reading glasses’ that hang from the neck like most at my age do. 

So often in our lives the ability to see things clearly is hindered as well.  Whether we’re blinded by the glare caused from the illusion of grandeur, the fogginess of uncertainty, or the darkness of depression, we all struggle at times to see the path ahead of us clearly.  Poor choices of our own or the effects of those made by others all pull us in different directions.  How do we gain clearer vision in this life?  What can we do to wash away the fogginess that hinders our ability to see?

People often look for clarity by using another person’s life lens and sometimes that helps and, sometimes, it can lead us down a wrong path.  If we can glean wisdom from others without having to learn the hard way, we can save ourselves a lot of pain.  Unfortunately, most of us choose to find out on our own or those we trust simple can’t see well enough for both of us.  

One sure way (the only guaranteed way I know of) is to look through the lens of God’s word and prayer.  Sure, it may seem ‘cliché’, but over the course of my lifetime, every decision that I’ve made without His guidance has brought nothing but disappointment and even hardship.  Those I’ve made with the guidance of His hand have resulted in blessings I couldn’t have dreamed of.  I wish all my choices were made with His help, believe me!  The truth is that we’re all traveling through this life on our own path and His light can guide us through to the end.   Without it, we are destined to run off the path and into roadblocks as I have many times.   With it, we will make it through those rough patches, over the daunting hills, and arrive safely in the final valley of peace where He will be waiting for us.

I know I’m being metaphorical; intentionally so.  Our life journey is full of challenges, errant paths, and potholes.  With His help, we can make it through them and, in the process, perhaps help others along the way on their journey too.  Ultimately, when we arrive at the end, He will look to see whether we believed in Him to get us through it all and the only answer I want to have for Him when He asks is, ‘Yes, Lord!… Not my will, but Yours be done’…

Love Always,

Brad

Seeing Beyond The Natural


Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like everything is fine but, for some reason, something is going on somewhere that you know isn’t right?  I have this happen often (today in fact).  Everything will seem fine, but inside my ‘Gut’ I have a sense that I need to pray.   I know, that may sound a bit far-fetched to some people if they’ve never experienced that kind of thing, but it can be a real, tangible feeling.

Earlier tonight I was watching a video interview with a man who was part of a secret team funded and directed by the CIA to do remote viewing.  If you’re not familiar with what that means, it’s basically using people who have a heightened ability to see beyond the natural; what they used to call ‘ESP’ or ‘Extrasensory Perception’.  

The show was quite interesting as it gave multiple examples of people who had worked for the government and helped to discover Soviet bases, ships, and spies.  They were able to find people who had been held hostage and had premonitions of the future.  Whether one believes in that sort of thing or not, the evidence was convincing, and the government kept the program going for over twenty years.

I find it interesting because of the many times I’ve either dreamed something that has happened, been wakened in the middle of the night with a sense to pray for someone, or had a sense to make a turn in the car where we found our first home around the corner.   Only with me, I know it’s not just a natural ability. It’s more than that; it’s a God-given ability that we all have.

Because God is a Spirit and we are made in His image, He has given us more than just a body and mind.  He has given us a soul and the ability to sense His Spirit (if we want to).   He wants to speak to us and guide us but how does He do that?  It only makes sense that, if God is a Spirit, He would need to speak to our spirit too.  Not to say He can’t speak through an animal if He wants to (which He did in the Bible), but I would think His preference is for us to hear Him in our soul. 

Whether one calls it ESP or a fine-tuned soul enabled to hear God’s voice, it’s something we have been given to help us through this life.  I’m thankful for His leading and His still, small voice in my heart as it’s saved me from death on numerous occasions.  It’s led me to find the Mrs who is my best friend, and it’s opened doors I never imagined would be opened.  It’s also comforted in times of pain and even made me laugh many times (God has a great sense of humor). 

If you’ve never experienced that sense, I want to encourage you that it’s possible.  It may take time and practice, but the first step is asking God to speak to you and the next is just to listen.  You may just have a strong feeling or a single word may pop into your head.  You may have an image of someone and a feeling of burden for them, or you may even have an image of a place where you need to be or to go.  It could be anything. 

The key is being open to His voice and then trusting Him to lead you when you hear Him.  It may feel like you’re being led around with a blindfold covering your eyes, but over time, you will get used to His nudges and recognize them when they come.  He wants to have that type of relationship with you because He loves you.  It’s exciting and can even be a bit frightening too, but it’s worth it.  Trust me, it will change your life forever…

Love always,

Brad

Facing the Unknown


Why is the unknown so frightening for us?  Fear of it is something that keeps so many people bound by self-imposed restrictions preventing them from stepping out in new directions.  Of course, if any of us could predict the future we’d be God.  Still, the thought of what could happen is enough to keep us from choices that may make a significant difference in our lives and in those around us.

Truth be told, the unknown isn’t as bad it seems.  Once we get past the stigma of fear and uncertainty, there lies a road full of potential just waiting for us to explore and discover.  Finding what’s behind the self-imposed blinders we hide behind may very well be an exciting journey. 

The Mrs. and I enjoy watching sci-fi shows; make no qualms about that.  Probably one of the most popular themes today is the thought of time travel.  So many programs are focused on what would happen if we could cross between dimensions and see ourselves as a child or during those pivotal moments that changed the direction of our lives.  What would we do?  How would we react today verses how we did then?  Would we try to change those choices or leave them where they are because we now see how, though some of them were painful, they made us who we are today?

Speaking personally, I wouldn’t change them.  I would leave them just as they are; good, bad, and ugly.  Over the years, through God’s grace, I’ve come to accept the past for what it is.  I’ve learned to cherish the good and let go of the bad.  It has been a long journey that I’m just now at 50+ years old, finding peace in.  It may take the rest of my life to fully see things clearly, but as I move forward, accepting that there’s still the unknown is enough for me to stay hopeful that life will bring about even more good, along with the challenges.

Tonight, if you’re wrestling with fear of the unknown because of pains in your past, or even in your present, know that you have an all knowing, all loving God who knows what your unknown is.  He knows our past, present, and most importantly, He knows our future.  His plans for us have been in motion from the foundation of the Earth and those plans are for our good.  One of my favorite quotes from the president of the college where I attended says it all, ‘God is a good God and the Devil is a bad devil’.

Trusting in His goodness will help us to face the unknown with confidence knowing He will be there through whatever lies ahead.  His plans, though it may not seem like it at the time, are for our good and in that alone, we can walk into the unknown without fear…

Love always my friends,

Brad

Not the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer


There used to be a saying long ago to describe someone who may not be the most intelligent or perceptive.  People would say ‘They’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer are they?’.  Being the blonde that I am, I’ve been perceived to be one of those dull knives more than once in my life.  Probably, it was because I wasn’t paying attention, was preoccupied with something and not listening, or just not interested.   Still, the label stuck with me. 

Labels are that way, aren’t they?  Once that label is glued onto you it’s hard to get off.  I’ve tried to remove labels from cans before and, trust me, it’s a lot of work.  Once that glue hardens, it stays there even if you rip the paper off.  It’s like super glue!

Name calling can be the same way.  Every day we hear labels being thrown around in the toxic political environment we live in. So much so, it’s like we’re all living as adult children back in the 2nd grade playground. 

Now, it’s true, there are those who may not necessarily be as quick to perceive, understand, or ‘Get it’.  They may not even be aware of it either.  I often run into them while waiting at stop lights for them to realize the light turned green; 30 seconds ago.  Moments like that do make it difficult not to label that person in front of us (among other things). 

We all label ourselves in many ways too.  We go by the label of our job description, family role, marriage status, sexuality, income level, skin color, hair color, musical preference, and so on.  It’s as though everything in life has a label! 

The Mrs recently purchased labels to stick to our airtight plastic containers in the cabinet so I won’t get the sugar and the flour confused.   Granted, those labels are a good thing.  Not to mention the labels that direct us where to go, what to eat and not to eat, warn us of danger, and even encourage us with positive feedback.  So, all labels are not inherently bad.

The key is knowing when we are using labels to either limit, look down upon, degrade, demean, negatively influence, falsely accuse, and even destroy another person.  Those labels need to go.  Imagine taking a label we may want to put onto our political opponent like ‘…Blank…tard’ and replacing it with something we can find about them that’s positive?   It may just change our perspective about a lot of things.

Tonight, here’s to re-labeling those people in our lives who we’ve kept under a negative label by finding something good about them and focusing on that.   Here’s also to re-labeling ourselves by stopping the negative internal talk (i.e. ‘I’m such a dummy, etc.’) and replacing it with positive talk; maybe even reinforcing ourselves with words of what God says about us.  If we can begin to re-label others, and ourselves, with something positive, I guarantee that it will change our lives forever and for the better…

Love always,

Brad

Indecisiveness – Breaking Free from Fear


Decisions are a normal part of life.  From the moment we’re born we begin to make them and never stop.  Throughout our life we make good ones and bad ones not always knowing the difference until later.  Some decisions take more time and others are spontaneous; subconscious if you will.

Depending on the person, it may be a burden overshadowed by fear just to decide whether they want to have Chinese food or a Burger for dinner.  Not to make light of indecisive people because it really can be a challenge for some to make the smallest of everyday decisions like when to eat, what to wear, what television show to watch, or simply whether to call a friend when they need to talk.

What drives our inability to be decisive?  Without any doubt, fear of the unknown is one of the primary influences on a person when they are making a choice.  But, is that a bad thing?  I would contend it can be both good and not so good. 

All too often when we’re young the lack of fear allows us to make irrational and impulsive choices often leading us to a destructive end.  As we age and have the scars to show for those impulsive decisions, we tend to be overly cautious and may miss opportunities because of it.

So, yes, fear of not touching the hot stove or walking out into the middle of a busy street will keep us safe.  But when fear begins to bind us in knots leaving us crippled by it, is when we need to break free.  Every decision becomes a burden.  When making the smallest of decisions we hear that, ‘What if?’ ringing through our minds.  The larger decisions may even lead us into a panic attack rendering us helpless.

As parents the fear factor is something we must contend with every day.  On one hand we want to protect our children from every kind of harm and on the other we want them to learn from their mistakes like we did.  I cringe when I think about the things I did as a child while playing outside.  Parents today would NEVER allow their kids to do most of what we considered normal.  Kids today are in car seats until they’re in elementary school.  I don’t remember ever using a seat belt.  The back seat was our territory to fight over and use as a trampoline if we wanted (well, maybe not quite that bad, but you get the point). 

How do we know when fear is keeping us from making decisions or binding us so badly that we are ineffective?  For most of us it’s not whether we know it’s there because we live with it constantly. It’s knowing what to do about it.  So, how do we overcome fear so we can be free to take chances again and let go of the constant worry?

There really isn’t a quick solution, unfortunately.  Most of our fears are built from years of hurt, failure, mistakes, or being told by others to be afraid of one thing or another.  The first step is to recognize where fear has us bound in our life (easy one).  The second step is to realize that fear is not always reality because, if we can see it for what it is (usually a lie) then it will be easier to overcome.  The third, most important step, is to ask God to help us by giving us courage, wisdom, and faith. 

Having the wisdom to know truth from a lie also comes from experience and open-minded research.  Not believing everything we read on the Internet is a great start.  Then, having the courage and faith in God knowing that He is with us, to step out on what we know to be true, even if we fail, will begin to break the chains of fear in our life.  Every time we do that, whether we fail or succeed, we take one more step to freedom, and one day, we’ll look back and see how far the chains of fear have fallen behind us on our way to a brave new way of living our life…

Love always

Up in Flames


I sometimes think about driving home one day and finding out that our home had burned down.  All our life’s savings, memories, clothes, and furniture had gone up in flames.  It’s not a pleasant thought that’s for sure.   But, it’s one that many men may have as they comb through their minds trying to think of all the possible ways a fire could start in their home.  Even after all of the forethought and taking care, nature may still win out.

Several years ago, some friends of ours had a bolt of lightning hit their home and send electricity through the house shorting out all the wall units and starting a fire.  The fire quickly took hold.  They were fortunate enough to get of the burning house, along with their pet dog, only to watch their life’s work go up in flames.  Because the fire department arrived quickly, they were at least able to preserve the structure of their home, but the water and smoke still had done tremendous damage.  Since then, they have rebuilt their home into something even better than it was before.  The journey has been a long one and the cost has been very high.  Not everyone can say the same, however.  Many will lose their home and not have anything left but ashes and smoke.

Sometimes, relationships can end a lot like those homes burned down by ‘natural’ disasters.  We may be in what we think is a solid relationship only to see it go up in flames from an unexpected random event that brings destruction when we least expect it.  We may not lose the entire relationship, but what’s left, we may not feel is worth saving.

On the other hand, we may have very little left when a relationship falls apart but with hard work, lots of effort, sacrifice, and persistence, over time we may be able to rebuild it into something even better than it was before.  It may look the same on the outside to those who didn’t know what we had to do to repair it, but inside, we will know.

I know I’m speaking in what some may consider hyperbole, but the truth is that every relationship will come under fire.  That fire may wreak havoc on us.  It may even seem like there’s no way to repair it and that it’s better to just walk away.  Yet, with enough love, care, and time, nearly any broken relationship can be rebuilt.  

Tonight, I’m praying for one specific relationship in my own life that had burned up in flames long ago by a random flaming arrow that was shot into my life.  What’s left is but a shell of what it could have been.  I’m still holding out for it to be rebuilt into something better than ever.  I have the vision and desire for it to be rebuilt.  I also know that, with God’s help, it can be done.  It won’t be easy and there will be lots of painful moments in the process, but in the end, it will be worth it.

If you’re facing the loss of a relationship that went up in flames, be encouraged.  What seems to be lost can be rebuilt.  You may not even want it to be rebuilt, but over time as wounds heal and forgiveness is granted, you may find that openness to try again.  This time, it could work out into something even better than it was before.  With God’s help, all things are possible…

Love always

Persistence – Turning What’s Abandoned Into a Beautiful Home


This week has raced by while the Microsoft whirlwind continues to build into Q2.  For guys like me, that means high stress every day, millions on the line for our customers, and Microsoft pushing what they may not need right now.  You can imagine that Fridays look better all the time.

While working at my desk this week, I was able to watch the neighbor’s home across the street getting a major landscape upgrade.  It’s the final piece of the puzzle being added after nearly three years which has seen the house go from being a mediocre rental property, an abandoned construction project with no roof, to a fully refurbished home mostly done by a couple of local handymen.

Witnessing the transformation has been a way to take the focus off work for a few minutes at a time.  Somehow, seeing the framers, the roofers, the painters complete their projects, and now the landscapers have helped to keep things in perspective for me both at home and at work.  I know, it probably seems like I’m a nosy neighbor (well, maybe a little bit), but knowing the work someone else is doing across the street is making that abandoned project better along with helping our home’s value increase, sort of worms my heart a bit.

As crazy as life can be for a lot of us, there’s always someone out there who has it worse than we do.  To see other people’s lives, grow and change for the better after being abandoned for the worse, is something worth watching.   It’s inspiring to see the result of hard work, dedication, and persistence through the tough times result in something others will admire.

Tonight here’s to persisting even when it’s tough.  Here’s to not giving up when the pressure is on and realizing that, as hard as we have it, there’s always someone out there who has it worse than we do.  Here’s to keeping our focus when everything seems to be going in different directions.  Most of all here’s to taking joy in other people’s success after they’ve been thrown to the side of the road.   They deserve our appreciation, encouragement, and admiration because when they make their lives better, ours improves too.

Love always….

Still, The Stress Comes Back


Tonight, there was one thing on my heart.  Although it’s Spring Break for many of us, there is still plenty of stress happening in our lives, whether at work or at home.  Stress can destroy us emotionally and physically.  It’s one of the toughest things to deal with.

I try to channel my stress in ways that are constructive like focus at work, walking with the Mrs., enjoying a sunset (not many of those lately), or just spending time relaxing while sharing a good movie with the Mrs.  Still, the stress comes back. 

For those who know me, I’m really am not a worrier.  I don’t sit and mull over things again and again.  Over the years, I’ve learned to take challenges for what they are and not make them bigger in my mind than they are in real life.  Still, the stress comes back.

Sure, I have allowed myself the occasional non-productive ways to deal with stress like staying up too late binge-watching a good show on Netflix, eating too many of those York mints, or just acting like a total goof annoying the Mrs. to no end.  Still, the stress comes back. 

The reality is that we’ll always have stress.  Jesus didn’t promise us a life without it.  He said to us a long time ago, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble (stresses). But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  He didn’t promise us a rose garden, but He did promise us His peace. 

His peace is all we need.  Sure, some of the natural ways of dealing with stress help, but in the end, the only real way of dealing with it is through His peace that overcomes all the stress that keeps come back again and again and again.  Tonight, if you’re needing His peace in your life, take a moment to ask Him to fill and touch your heart with it.  He will give you His peace beyond anything we can do to deal with the stresses we face.  He will not only give you peace, but He will lift any of the burdens you’re carrying too.  We just need to ask…

Love always