Maybe You’re the Only One

Some time ago I was praying for someone I’ve known for many years, someone who’s going through a difficult phase these days.

His faith, if it exists, exists just barely. He hasn’t been involved in a church or Christian fellowship for years. He told me that he no longer sees the point in praying.

As I prayed for him on this day, the thought crossed my mind: I just might be the only one.

His family is not Christian; there are no prayers coming from that direction. Certainly no one in his current circle of friends would be inclined to pray for him, either.

Who else, then, is there? Maybe me, and no one else.

Needless to say, this gave my prayers a greater perspective, from a polite ritual to an urgent imperative.

Have you considered that there might be people in your life for whom no one else is praying?

If you’re not sure, here’s what you can do: Pray for each person on your list as if you’re the only one who is praying for them.

And urge those in your fellowship group to do the same.

Pray as if you’re the only person praying.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18 HCSB)

Moments of Grace

Moments of Grace

Joshua BellIn January 2007 the Washington Post conducted an experiment: What would happen if a world class musician performed elegant classical music on a priceless instrument in the Metro station of a major American city?

The city was Washington D.C.

The musician was Joshua Bell, who can earn upwards of $50,000 for an evening’s performance.

The instrument was a 300 year-old Stradivarius valued at $3.5 million.

The music included the works of Bach and other masters.

The experiment was captured on hidden camera.

So, what happened? How did people respond?

During Mr. Bell’s 45 minute performance, 1097 people passed by. 27 dropped spare change into his open violin case, for a total of $35. And seven of them stopped what they were doing to listen for at least one minute.

The other 1070 people hurried past, oblivious, uninterested, unmoved.

This experiment might offer hope to pastors and teachers who find themselves frustrated at the lack of response their timeless message too often receives.

But we must also ask ourselves: how many times a day does we do the same thing?

How many times do we encounter truth, beauty, and excellence, without giving it a second look? How many messages of hope do we ignore? How many demonstrations of grace do we disregard? How many divine appointments do we overlook?

Ezra wrote these words:

But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage. (Ezra 9:8)

Let’s make an effort to recognize — and fully experience — those brief moments of grace God sends our way.

There were be at least few today. Will you see it?

Working With a Net

Golden Gate Bridge netWhen the Golden Gate bridge was being built in San Francisco, a number of workers lost their lives by falling from precariously high positions.

As a result, the work proceeded slowly until someone hit on the idea of building a net under the construction area so that when a workman fell, he would not fall to his death but would be caught by the net.

A giant safety net was developed at a cost of $100,000 — big money back then. It was the first time something like this was used at a construction site.

With the security of the net below them, men were able to move about at a faster pace because they knew that if they fell their lives would be spared.

With the security of the net below them, they could work without the dread of uncertainty.

We may not be able to see the net below us, but it’s there.

Our security comes from a loving, all-powerful God who protects us every step of the way. David said…

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

The Top Story of the Day

The Monday Memo usually offers an idea about how to begin the day or begin the week. Today’s memo is a suggestion for the end of the day.

In The 360° Leader, John Maxwell talks about a strategy he uses for managing his life. Each day as he looks at his schedule, he asks himself, “What is the main event of the day?”

In other words, he asks what is the one thing planned for the day that he cannot afford to give less than his best. It’s certainly a good habit.

Here’s another good habit: Late each evening, before the sandman visits, take a few moments to evaluate the most significant events of the day.

BEN FRANKLIN’S QUESTIONS. Along these lines, it was Benjamin Franklin’s habit to ask himself two questions everyday.

In the morning he would ask: “What good shall I do today?”

In the evening he would ask: “What good have I done today?”

THE TOP STORY. Imagine this: If your life was a newspaper, which of today’s events would have made the front page? And what would be the headline?

Choosing the top story of the day isn’t as easy as it sounds, because our days can be a blur, spent scrambling from one non-newsworthy event to the next.

But if you know the story will be reported at the end of the day, it just might help you stay focused on what matters most during the daylight hours.

Some days, the headline might might be that you finished a long overdue project. Or that you spent time with your family. Or you served others in a meaningful capacity.

Planning your day is a crucial step to success. Evaluating your days — looking back at what God accomplished through you today — is another crucial step.

I encourage you: get in the habit of identifying the top story of the day, every day.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 92:12)

A Wandering Mind

An article in Science Magazine reports a study done several years ago regarding the mind’s tendency to wander. The article states:

Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and “to be here now.” These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Are they right?

Jumping to the article’s conclusion: Yes, the traditions are right.

This study revealed three facts:

1. People’s minds wander frequently.
2. People are less happy when their minds wander.
3. What people think about is a better predictor of happiness than what people do.

This is why the Bible places so much importance on our thought life. What we think about makes a difference.

Life is better — more fulfilling, more meaningful — when we remain fixed in the moment on that which really matters.

Now, if you’re like me, your mind might have wandered a bit while you read these few sentences. (Maybe because mine wandered a bit while I wrote them.) It does takes effort to stay on track. But the effort is always worth it.

So, the question is:

Which ideas deserve your undivided attention today?

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. (Proverbs 4:5)

Time to Remember

From an article in Psychology Today on dealing with discouragement.

One common way to help yourself is to think of times when you were in a good place.
When failure discourages you, think of when you’ve succeeded. When depression makes you despair, think of when you were happy.

Recall that these “up” times have followed the “down” ones.

Remember that you have gotten out of holes before — even if it doesn’t feel possible from the deep, hard dirt floor.

We see a good example of this in Psalm 42.

Written during a time of trouble and exile, the psalmist thinks back to better days.

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. (Psalm 42:4)

And he says again:

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you… (Psalm 42:6)

This intentional remembering leads to a breakthrough.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

When you’re downcast and discouraged, it’s time to remember: Remember God’s faithfulness in the past, and remember his promise for the future.

How Do You Sleep?

Patti Horoho is a retired US Army Lieutenant General who served as General of the US Army Medical Command. Her job was to oversee the health of army personnel and their families — about 4 million people worldwide.

During her command, she introduced a pilot program that she called The Performance Triad, which focused on maximizing diet, fitness and sleep.

Step One was to begin improving each soldier’s sleeping habits. She made this observation:

“If you have six hours of sleep or less for six days in a row, your cognitive performance is the same as .08 intoxication. We’ve never let a soldier in our formation intoxicated. Why would we allow soldiers to have cognitive impairment?”

She also notes that people who sleep less tend to eat more — on average 500 more calories per day than well-rested people. Horoho says the key to top-level productivity begins with a good night’s sleep.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, made a similar observation. In his research he noted that, while average Americans get slightly less than 7 hours of sleep each night, top performers get closer to 8.5 hours of sleep each night.

Horoho also says that we should look at sleep as ammunition for the brain.

“You need to go into battle with your brain having enough sleep, so that you can make the right decisions, because lives depend on it.”

This is exactly what Elijah needed to do in order to get his head on straight in the aftermath of his encounter with Jezebel.

Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (1 Kings 19:5)

Sometimes (as in every night of the week) the best thing you can do for yourself, for your family, and for your ministry is turn out the lights, turn off the tube, and catch some zzzzzs.

The Freedom to Dream

Albert Einstein said, “Once a day, allow yourself the freedom to dream.”

I don’t know what Einstein dreamed about; I guess his life’s work and the contributions he made to physics can give us a clue.

What about you? If you were devote time each day to the task of dreaming, what would your dream be? A better family life? A closer walk with Christ? A step up the ladder? Greater financial security?

When we dream, we challenge ourselves to see beyond the unsightly nature of now … to see instead what might be.

We know the words of Jesus. “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Mustard-seed faith, which is actually mountain moving faith, starts with a dream — an idea of what could be.

No one need remain in neutral forever. The first step to changing any life situation is to allow yourself to dream.

Try it. Once a day (that is, at least once a day), take some time to get alone with God, think about your life, your ministry, your family, your health, your happiness, and give yourself the freedom to imagine how things could be — not because we live in a lucky world, but because God is always good.

Today is a good day to give it a try.

Mastering the Mountain

There’s a story told about Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first person (along with Tenzing Norgay) to reach the top of Mount Everest.

It happened on his third try. On his previous attempt he not only failed to reach the summit, but his team also lost one of its members.

A few months after their failed effort, Hillary spoke to an audience about the experience.

Behind him on the platform was a huge photograph of Everest. Hillary turned toward the image and said, “Mount Everest, you have defeated us. But I will return. And I will defeat you. Because you cannot get any bigger … and I can.”

When it comes to facing mountains, how does one “get bigger“?

It begins with faith. Jesus said…

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Edmund Hillary became “bigger than Everest” through better planning, more detailed research, greater teamwork, and tenacious perseverance.

And the first step was faith — faith that this mountain could be conquered, after all.

No doubt you’re facing a mountain or two today: a mountain of problems, a mountain of fear, a mountain of uncertainty.

Mountains don’t move without determined effort, thoughtful planning, or courageous perseverance.

And these all begin with faith.

It is faith that gives you the substance to attempt something bigger than you. Not faith in ourselves, but faith in the God for whom nothing is impossible.

What might you say to the mountain you face today?

Your Brain on Gratitude

Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Brain Maker, makes that point that gratitude — mindful, intentional gratitude — has been shown in various studies to increase the function of the pre-fontal cortex.

These executive functions include the ability to focus, to control one’s impulses, to think in an organized manner, and to accurately anticipate certain outcomes, as in: If I do ‘A’ and ‘B’, it will likely result in ‘C’.

In short, gratitude tends to defog the mind, enabling one to think clearer, sharper, and better.

Another way to say it: Gratitude increases your ability to see the events of your life from God’s perspective.

We were created to be grateful.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-20)

The Most Important Day of Your Life

George Muller wrote in his autobiography that after serving Christ more than 40 years, “I saw more than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.”

Our effectiveness in ministry — and life — is related to this principle. Starting the day right is the best way to ensure that you spend it right, and you end it right.

David wrote…

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love.” (Psalm 143:8)

Before you check the news or check your email — even before the coffee is ready — take some time to wait silently for “word of God’s unfailing love.”

This day is the most important day of your life so far. Making the most of it begins with seeing to it that your soul is happy in him.

Bearing Our Burdens

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden. (Psalm 68:19)

It’s in the writings of Moses.

And the psalms of David.

And the promises of the prophets.

And the teachings of Jesus.

And the letters of Peter and Paul.

Again and again we’re reminded throughout Scripture that we don’t have to face the hardships of this life alone. When our burdens become too great to bear, too heavy to lift, God will do for you and me what we are unable to do for ourselves.

When worry is weighing you down, he promises to carry the weight.

And not just sometimes, David wants us to know. It’s all the time. It’s daily.

Our God is ready to bear your burden daily.

When you need him, turn to him. He will be there.