Don’t @ Me!

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

If you spend any time on Twitter (or other social media outlets), you’ve probably seen the phrase “Don’t @ me.” It’s a message that accompanies somebody’s opinion requesting that the people reading the post would not feel compelled to respond to debate what was originally shared. The word “at” or “@” is in reference to Twitter’s use of the @ symbol as a heading for your Twitter handle. For example, I might say something like…

Dachshunds make the best pets ever. Don’t @ me!

I know this isn’t exactly a contentious statement, but for those of you who own a bulldog, a cat, a lizard or a chinchilla, you might be tempted to reply to me and set the record straight. Of course, it’s nothing more than an opinion on my part, but social media is designed to encourage others to share and when necessary debate. So, if a statement regarding a favorite pet can lead to a discussion, imagine what a strong comment on a more controversial topic might produce. In attempting to avoid an unwanted debate (or the list of countless people explaining why they disagree) people will disinvite others to respond.

On one side, I understand the point of this. Sometimes you just want to share what you think without opening yourself up to criticism or a lengthy discussion. However, by denying other people the opportunity to share their thoughts, it makes the person who posted it seem self-important or disinterested in what others might think.

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We live in a world where many people want to be heard rather than hear; to speak and not to listen. Our social media driven society is fueled by the desire to tell others what we have to say, to show others what we’re doing, and to promote our own personal brand. This is who I am. This is what I do. Disagree? Don’t @ me!

Thankfully, this is not God’s approach to us. God welcomes us into His presence with open arms. He wants us to come to Him with our praises and our worries, our thoughts and our frustrations. He reveals Himself to us through His inerrant word – a concept that doesn’t sit well in a world that values individual truth and personal ethics. But even in the face of our world’s selfishness, God’s love has been vitally important to us. From the moment He created us, God’s love for us exceeded anything we have ever experienced. Our sinfulness drove a wedge between us, but in love God shows us the way back to Him. The blood Jesus shed on the cross paid the price of our sinfulness. God sent to us His Holy Spirit to bring us to and keep us rooted in our faith.

Maybe that’s why God had millions of followers long before Twitter!

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Work in Progress

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:3-6

Do you ever struggle with things in life that are frustratingly contradictory? The term for such occurrences is oxymoron. At first glance, you may think this term would describe a dim-witted person with an acne problem, but thanks to our friends at dictionary.com we learn that definition of an oxymoron is actually…

“a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect…”

Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? I guess that’s why most people define oxymorons by giving examples of them. Things like “jumbo shrimp,” “deafening silence,” or the one I demonstrate most often; “clearly confused.” You can add your own favorite oxymoron to the list, but I think most of us would agree the most frustrating oxymoron we encounter is found on the side of the road. It’s written on a bright yellow, diamond shaped sign, placed at the beginning of a construction zone proudly declaring: Work in Progress!

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Road construction is a necessary evil. We despise driving on roads that resemble the surface of the moon, but we share an equal disdain for having to wait or be rerouted by the road closures caused by repair work. But what I think irritates us most as drivers is when we come upon a construction zone on the highway that lasts for several miles, creating traffic backups and slowdowns, only to find that nobody is doing any actual work.

Before I go any further, let me say clearly that my intent is not to criticize construction workers. These people work hard in lousy conditions and get little credit for the work they do. The real issue goes back to our human nature of wanting a perfect road that allows us to have a perfect trip without any hint of trouble. When we must wait, merge, slow down, or let people into our lane, we tend to give a response that varies between mild irritation and irrational rage. Makes you wonder if the “work in progress” is referring to the condition of the road or the attitudes of the people driving on it!

We are all works in progress. God created us with unique interests and abilities. We also have been created with unique levels of patience and triggers. Some people can effectively manage minor day-to-day issues but panic when facing a major crisis, while others are at their best in an emergency, only to lose their cool when simple things go wrong. This is only one example of the many struggles people have when it comes to managing their emotions, controlling their impulses, and generally being on their best behavior. Add fatigue, frustration, failure or fear and our reactions become even less predictable.

Thankfully, we have a reliably predictable God. The love that He has for His creation has no bounds (Jeremiah 31:3). This can be confirmed in many ways, but none more clearly than in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from our sinfulness (Romans 5:8). This undeserved gift brings us back into a right relationship with God, who sends His Holy Spirit to sustain and strengthen our faith. This action allows us the ability to share the word of God and to model our faith to others who may not know Christ and whose interactions with us may be the catalyst to seeking His love and grace.

My prayer for all of us mirrors that of Paul in his words to the Philippians. May God, who began this good work in us, bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

And if He can do all that, He can probably help us to tolerate road work with more patience too!

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Allegedly

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’” – Luke 2:10-11

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Since the stroke of midnight on November 1, it seems as though the world has gone into a Christmas frame of mind. The pumpkin-spice was replaced by peppermint sticks, and except for that turkey eating Thursday known as Black Friday Eve, we’ve been told that we’re simply having a wonderful Christmastime!

This is evident as you drive around town seeing people pay homage to Clark Griswold by stringing more lights on their houses than most airport runways. It’s evident when you hear people feeling bold enough to admit that they enjoy watching the Hallmark Christmas movies in public. But perhaps it is most evident when you scroll down the radio dial to that one station which has for nearly two months played nothing but Christmas songs.

NOTHING.

It’s not to say that I am opposed to Christmas music. I tend to prefer choral or instrumental Christmas carols. What I do not like is popular music artists and their attempts to ensure royalties for the rest of their lives from the playing of their renditions of classic carols, or worse, an original Christmas song. There simply aren’t any original songs worth a darn. NONE! You can argue with me on this point for the rest of time, just know that I am right. Think about it, if someone gave you their heart last Christmas and the very next day you gave it away, you wouldn’t care to whom he gave it to this year!

And why are you letting him waste your time singing this to you anyway?

But despite my logical and indisputable opinion on the matter, Christmas music continues to be played repeatedly on stations for weeks and weeks on end. I guess people must like it or they wouldn’t do it. I think it’s a conspiracy to convince people that despite the cold, snow, ice, low humidity, lack of sunshine, limited daylight, and hyperactive children losing their minds over Santa, it really is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

Because for some people, it isn’t.

Many people love this time of year, but some people don’t, and with good reason. The holiday season can be difficult for people who are separated from loved ones, estranged from their families, or forced to spend time socially with people they don’t like or who don’t like them. Some people must spend their holiday dealing with illness or disease. Some people are preparing for the first (or next) holiday without a beloved family member. So while some people love the season and other (like me) love to poke fun at it, many people struggle with the festivities and long for January to come and return life (and the radio stations) back to normal.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the schedule and traditions we place onto Christmas. But in love for those of us who dread the holiday with the most understandable of reasons, allow me to quote the angels message to the shepherds:

 “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Christ has come into a world filled with pain, suffering, and the very worst consequences of sin. Why did He do this? Here’s how it was explained to Joseph in Matthew 1:20-21:

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Pray for those people who are struggling this year as Christmas draws near. Remember that the pain that we feel, the hurt and disappointment that comes from life, and the anxiety and despair that feels like it could consume us are swept away by the love and peace that can only come from the Savior of the world coming into His creation to save it. Jesus began this work in the manger and completed it in Easter’s empty tomb. Seek His comfort. Know His peace. Feel the joy that can only come from heaven above as we join in the chorus!

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

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Happily Ever After

If you’re like most of the majority of the 7.2 billion people living on planet earth today, you will never have a biography written about you. For some of you, this may come across as mean or rude, but for most people, that is understood and frankly appreciated. There are only a few people whose contribution to society deserve a writer taking the time to study them and share their story for public consumption. But what if I told you that each and everyone of us have been writing our own autobiography for most of our adult life? Would you believe me? Well, you should because it’s true.

So, what is the name of this book that will reveal these details about you? It’s called…

Your checkbook.

It is often said that you can learn a lot about a person if you learn how and on what they spend their money. This should come as no surprise. People buy products they believe in, support causes that are important to them, and invest in things that will produce the results they most desire to see in the world. The simple truth of it all is this – people won’t want to pay for something that they don’t value.  If you truly value something, money is no object.  How many stories have been told about parents who will stop at nothing, who will spare no expense to save the lives of their children?  They do so because the love they have for their children, far exceeds their personal wealth. Students pursuing a career will pay for the bachelors, masters, or even the doctoral degree without flinching at the cost.  Why?  Because if it is needed for a person to pursue their dream, they will value it.

What is the most valuable thing in your life? If you look at this from a materialistic view you would probably list things like your house and car. Of course, you knew to stay away from that trap and thought of things that money can’t buy. After all, most people would give away their fortunes for the safety and well-being of their spouse, children and grandchildren. To that I would say that you’re getting warmer, but you’re still not quite there. After all, if my family spent every last penny to save me from a life-threatening disease, our whole family would celebrate. We would treasure every moment we had from that time forward as a gift. That is, until I eventually died anyway. I know this sounds terrible, but the truth of the matter is this; the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23) and eventually, death comes to us all. Therefore, the most valuable thing in our lives would have to be something that doesn’t only delay death but takes it away.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus paid the price for our victory by taking our sin to Calvary’s cross. What’s more, this gift is freely given to any man, woman or child by grace, through faith. No hidden costs. No fine print.

Now, because we know what Christ has done for us, what is stopping us from doing all that we can to share this great gift with our 7.2 billion brothers and sisters who need to hear it? God has blessed us with so many great gifts. How wonderful it is for us to follow His example and give our time, our talents, our treasures, and our knowledge of the one true faith that gives to us the greatest gift imaginable: eternal life in Heaven with our loving Father.

So as the chapters of your biography are written, may the story be filled with the love of God being shared with those who long to hear it that we all may live happily ever after for eternity.

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Here We Go Again

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

At the conclusion of every school year many teachers find themselves balancing a competing set of emotions:

  • A sense of pride after having accomplished a great deal over the past 40 weeks
  • A tinge of sadness that this class will be moving on
  • The anticipation of new growth opportunities
  • And last, but not least…
  • SUMMER VACATION!!!!!!!! (feel free to add exclamation points as you’d like)

Some teachers feel the need to bury that last bullet because others outside of education might criticize them for getting so much “time off.” I say teachers shouldn’t apologize for the time off they’ve earned. Education is hard work and a break that allows teachers the chance to relax, renew, regroup and recharge is critical to maintaining success year after year.

But then it happens. It’s imperceptible at first, but little by little it builds until finally it becomes this powerfully undeniable reality. From the people who brought you “Sunday Night Dread,” here comes the summer blockbuster you’ve been ignoring…

BACK TO SCHOOL TIME IS HERE!!!!!!!! (feel free to remove exclamation points as you’d like)

One minute you were sipping your favorite beverage in an inflatable unicorn on a lake, the next you were cutting out laminated name cards and sticking them on desks. Summer reading turns to content reading and girls’ night at the winery relocates to the Starbucks drive-thru which needs to move a little faster or I’m going to be late for my “Back-to-School Faculty Meeting.”

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In fairness, not every teacher takes the start of the school year this hard, but most will admit that while they’re truly excited about the upcoming school year, they will miss the slower pace that summer brings. But some of us were called to be teachers, and we can only do that if we take the break we were given and put it to good use in our classroom this year. But as we head into the start of this new year, many teachers find themselves balancing another set of emotions:

  • A sense of purpose, knowing that they’re heading back to the job they love
  • A tinge of sadness that vacation is ending
  • The anticipation of creating a classroom community that will be exciting, safe, and filled with learning
  • And last, but not least…
  • A touch of anxiety over getting back into that grind of long days, endless grading, parent concerns, and the many unknown challenges to come

Many people would tell you that it’s okay; anxiety is normal. I guess that’s true, but I would also tell you that just because it’s common doesn’t mean that it’s necessary. Consider Paul’s words to the Philippians.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. As concerns weigh us down we know that we have an effective way to respond to them. Prayer is valuable because it allows us to take our troubles to the Creator of all things. We are no longer left to worry by ourselves. We aren’t merely venting to a friend who can’t understand and is powerless to help. God knows you intimately. God loves you deeply. Christ lived on earth and shared in the experience of being human. Think for a moment about Jesus’ own reaction to anxiety He felt about His coming crucifixion. He went to a quiet place and prayed, giving His anxiety to His own Father. That alone would be valuable, but God’s power isn’t limited to just listening.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” God Himself will give you peace and the sure knowledge that our hearts and minds will be guarded from anything that the world and Satan can bring our way. Jesus has paid the price. By His death and resurrection, we have forgiveness of sins and the assurance of spending eternity in Heaven as a fully redeemed child of God. So, as we face the anxieties of returning back to school, the dread of misbehaving students, upset parents, overzealous administrators, and unrelenting deadlines, may we always remember that God knows what we’re up against and wants to help us overcome it. Jesus reminds us of this in the words of Matthew 11:28-30.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

But if you’re able, feel free to sneak in one last trip to the beach!

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Change

Progress and Change

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

I recently came across a quote from George Bernard Shaw that held an impactful truth. “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Many people look to improve their lives. They may want to earn a promotion, have more time for family, look better in the mirror, write poetry, learn how to play an instrument, or volunteer in their community. While all of these and the countless other goals we can share are noble and worthwhile, they all have a common denominator. They all require us to change the things we’re currently doing to give ourselves the chance to do something else, to do it differently and to do it better than before.

As I read this quote, I was taken aback by the power of its simplicity and by how applicable it is to so many areas of our lives.

  • Want to become thinner and stronger?   Change your diet and exercise routine
  • Want to have more money?   Change your spending and saving habits
  • Want to have more time?   Change your schedule to be more accountable
  • Want to eliminate a bad habit?   Change your patterns and routines

Simple? Yes!

Easy? Ehhhh…..

In science we learn that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same can be said for our ability to change. For every salad and treadmill there is a bowl of ice cream and a couch. For every dollar in the bank there is a sale at the mall. For every spare minute we find there is social media, and for every vice we overcome there are hundreds more waiting to entice us.

We are creatures of habit and the notion of making substantial and sustained progress is often difficult because of our strong desire to avoid change in our lives. Most people like what is familiar. It may not be adventurous, but it is safe. For us to push ourselves out of this pattern we will need a level of strength and motivation that will propel us into starting, encourage us when we feel like stopping, and sustain us until we reach that point where the change becomes our norm and we have truly made progress.

As Christians we turn to God to help us with these things. To some, that may seem a bit surprising. Why would God care about these seemingly minor things? Because to God, they (and we) aren’t minor things! Christ’s words in Luke 12:6-7 demonstrate our value when He says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Our God is a God of details. He created the vastness of the universe and the intricacy of the smallest microorganism with a synergy that can only come from the most intelligent design. We can surely rely upon Him to help us with any concern that we have in our lives. And why are we able to turn to Him with our needs?

Because our great and loving God is UNchanging.

Psalm 102:25-27 describes God’s unchanging nature: “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but You are the same and Your years have no end.”

James 1:17 describes God’s unchanging love for us: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

And finally, Hebrews 13:8 shows us how God’s Son is also unchanging as it declares, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

It is in the consistent, unchanging strength of our loving God that we are able to change at all. Our sinful nature is so ingrained into the fabric of our DNA that it makes it difficult for us to have the power to change anything about ourselves. In our fallen world sin is normal, comfortable, and often desirable. It is by God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the sustaining work of the Holy Spirit that we are able to make the greatest change of all – from sinner to saint.

May we always strive to make the changes in our lives that are necessary for us to fulfill the destinies to which we have been called; sharing the word of God with others who are looking to change their lives through the hope found only in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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The 4 R’s

It’s May; the month where April’s showers pay off with those wonderful flowers (unless you live in the upper Midwest or on the East Coast where April showers were whiter than usual). But even with the lousy weather many of us have endured, the excitement of spring is finally in the air.

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This is most evident in any school you might visit. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the resounding sounds of happiness that can only come from the anticipation of summer vacation. The countdown has begun; their minds have wandered far beyond the boundaries of the schoolyard. Thoughts of vacations, trips to the cabin or the beach, the smell of freshly cut grass or blooming flowers, the sound of a baseball being whacked into the sky or a golf ball dropping into the cup have everybody in a tizzy that the end of the school year simply can’t come soon enough!

And when you leave the teacher’s lounge, you’ll see that the students feel the same way.

It’s an understandable feeling. Teachers and students have both worked very hard since the fall and they are all looking forward to a well-deserved break. It’s a chance for students to experience the four R’s of summer:

Rest

Rejuvenation

Recreation

and Regression!

Allow me to apologize for spoiling summer before it can even get going, but regression is a serious issue that can have a significant impact. If there is no attempt to maintain a minimal level of growth during the summer months, what was gained can be lost. How much are we losing? According to the Brookings Institution from Washington DC, researchers have learned the following:

“On average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning, declines were sharper for math than for reading, and the extent of loss was larger at higher grade levels. Importantly, they also concluded that income-based reading gaps grew over the summer, given that middle class students tended to show improvement in reading skills while lower-income students tended to experience loss.” [1]

As concerned parents and educators, we work to implement strategies that will help to minimize the impacts of summer academic regression. When both sides work together they can often come up with a plan that helps to reduce the loss of skills while not preventing the child (and parents) from enjoying the break from the normal school year routine. Imagine if every family took that type of approach to summer vacation. Students would be able to make greater academic gains each year because teachers could reduce time spent on review and get into new material sooner. Struggling students would progress farther and gifted students could explore topics of study without the boundaries of the daily school schedule. It’s easy to see the academic benefits that can occur with this year-round effort and emphasis on learning.

And when you expand this idea of growth beyond children in school, you’ll see how everyone can benefit from the growth opportunities in summer.

My experiences in schools have shown me the struggles of keeping students academically engaged over the summer. My experiences as a church worker have shown parallel struggles of keeping families actively engaged in worship during the summer months. It has never made sense to me how families who place so great an emphasis on raising their children in the knowledge of the love of Christ can so easily place its importance behind camping, roller coasters, baseball games and yard work. I don’t mean to sound judgmental and I don’t want to lecture anyone into feeling guilty about missing a week of church for a family trip. That said, it sends a damaging message to the entire family when church attendance is hinged upon convenience, obligation, or the minimal requirements to maintain a reduced level of school tuition. Spiritual growth and maturity are things that develop in us through time spent in worship and studying the word of God. To remove this from our lives for twelve weeks every summer stunts our spiritual growth and teaches our children that our relationship with God is secondary to the other things in life that make us happy. Remember, idols come in all shapes and sizes!

Proverbs 22:6 stresses the importance of fostering faith development in the lives of our children as it declares, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Reading, writing, and arithmetic are critically important skills that will serve us every day. Faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will not only serve us for the rest of our earthly lives, but for all eternity.

So as the school year ends, and summer break begins, find ways to use your time away to maintain what God has built up within you so that you can turn that fourth “R” from regression to renewal and ultimately receive God’s greatest “R’s”; Redemption and our eternal Reward in heaven.

[1] – https://www.brookings.edu/research/summer-learning-loss-what-is-it-and-what-can-we-do-about-it/

Photo Credit: http://informingfamilies.org/good-bye-fourth-grade/

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Everything

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:11 ESV

The-Nativity

A simple statement proclaiming a miraculous event with an eternal impact.

I cannot begin to imagine what had to be going through the minds of those people who are there at the epicenter of the greatest birth in human history.

For Mary, this was the culmination of a pregnancy she didn’t expect and the birth of a child whose impact upon mankind she couldn’t begin to grasp.

For Joseph, this was the continuation of his commitment to be faithful to the word of God as it was shared to him in a dream.

For a group of shepherds, this was an opportunity to witness something inexplicable yet unforgettable.

For three wise men, this was the pursuit of a prophecy come true and a leap of faith directed by a star.

For our Father in Heaven, this was a promise kept.

For a baby lying in a manger, this was the first chapter of a love story that would bring light and salvation to a dark, dying world.

For us, this means everything!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…. for from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” – John 1:14,16 ESV

May your Christmas celebration be filled with joy and thanksgiving to God for this greatest of all gifts.

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Above-Average

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 11:30

On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rank yourself as a driver?

Go ahead. Say your answer out loud…

I’d be willing to bet your number was higher than a five. Why do I say that? Because most all of us look at those other people around us who are terrible drivers and believe wholeheartedly that we’re better drivers than they are. We don’t speed, tailgate, wander in our lanes, or drive in the lane that is closing ahead until the last moment before cutting into the long line of traffic. We always use our turn signal, yield the right of way to others at four way stops and have never, ever been distracted behind the wheel by our phones.

Care to revisit that number?

This isn’t designed to be a critique of your driving abilities. If you feel that you’re in the upper half, I say go for it. Or in the words of the band Journey, Don’t Stop Believin’. My point here has more to do with the data. By definition, the pool of people who are above-average drivers tops out at 49% of the population. So, for every driver on planet earth who claims to be above-average, there must also be one who is below-average.

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We’ll move on before you start stereotyping…

This is not uncommon. In fact, there have been studies exploring the question of why people always think of themselves above average at most things. Through surveys it has also been learned that:

  • Almost all drivers think they are better than the average driver
  • Ninety-four percent of college professors believe that their teaching skills are above average
  • A survey of high-school students found that seventy percent described themselves as above average leaders

You would think that with that much success our world would be teeming with excellence. The fact that it is not leads me to believe that something else is happening here. But what? Too much ego? An over-abundance of self-confidence developed over time because we won too many participation trophies? I don’t know about all of that. Maybe we just genuinely work hard at the things we do and feel that we have achieved a level of skill or value that others have not. Whatever the reason, I think we can all agree on two things:

  1. People like to consider themselves above-average on most things
  2. People waste lots of money funding frivolous studies

As I consider this topic I am led to ask the appropriate follow up question: At which things are we willing to admit to being below-average? Here’s five examples from my very extensive list:

  • Golf
  • Dancing
  • Folding fitted sheets
  • Dieting
  • Math

See anything on my list to which you can relate? Maybe a few. Truth is there are many people who have tremendous gifts and abilities in these things but lack in others. This is one of the beauties of God’s creation; the diversity with which He made us. What headlines my list of weaknesses may be one of your greatest strengths. In fact, there is only one thing that we all share on our below-average lists: our ability to perfectly follow the will of God.

God has given us His commandments and calls for us to follow them. However, our sinfulness prevents us from being able to do it, leaving us lost in our sin and separated from our Creator.

Thankfully, God understands this and out of His great love for us has provided a way to salvation. Through Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection we have been given a gift that lifts us back into a right relationship with the Father. This is in no way because we have earned it or deserve it. It is by God’s grace though our faith in Jesus that this happens.

Whatever our earthly gifts may be, we know that in all things our greatest gift is one that we received without merit from our perfect, loving God.

Now if only I could learn how to fold fitted sheets……

 

Statistics source: https://priceonomics.com/why-do-we-all-think-were-above-average/

Photo Source:

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Trolling

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18

Take a moment to think back to the history classes you took back in school. If your experience was like most of us, you were required to memorize specific dates that held historic significance. See if these stir up any memories…

AD 29 – The crucifixion of Jesus Christ

1066 – Battle of Hastings

1492 – Columbus discovers “America”

1588 – Defeat of the Spanish Armada

July 4, 1776 – Declaration of American Independence

December 7, 1941 – Bombing of Pearl Harbor

July 20, 1969 – Apollo 11 Lands on Moon

… and finally…

September 26, 2006 –

Struggling with that last one? Did it happen after you graduated from high school? Were you too busy going to work or raising kids or if you were like me, living in the disbelief that the Detroit Tigers might make the playoffs! But no matter what you were doing, my guess is that you didn’t realize that from this day forward the public launch of a website would forever change the way we live.

Facebook had already been around for over two years, but on 9/26/06 it became available to anyone over the age of 13 (insert eye roll) with an email address. Since that day, the number of people, businesses, and organizations who utilize the site has exploded. Today Facebook boasts over 1 billion daily users out of a world population of 7.5 billion. It goes without saying that a website with such a wide reach would create for itself a level of significance the likes of which the world has never seen. Consider the historic events that are now shared in real time on Facebook. Think about the connections people have made with friends and family members separated by miles and years. It’s a truly remarkable place filled with the most significant and impactful messages our society has to offer….

…or not…

For as many humorous and fascinating things you see on Facebook, there are ten times as many things that make you cringe and shake your head. People complaining about their lives and the daily problems they encounter. For clarity’s sake, I am NOT referring to those people who have used Facebook to share health issues, to seek support or aid for crises that threaten health and safety, or to be supported in times of loss. I have joined you numerous times and I pray for you continually. I am speaking about those people who use Facebook and other social media sites to complain about mundane things in a feeble attempt to garner sympathy from their followers over head colds, burnt muffins, and anonymous people who should have known better (and you KNOW who you are)!

As I look at it objectively, it all seems beneath us. After all, we don’t care if somebody’s coffee is cold, if their Wi-Fi isn’t working right, or if she dislikes what her elected leaders did today. But based on the numbers I guess we do. We may casually pop a “Like” on someone’s post, or a teary face when the news is sad. We will comment when we totally agree with someone who shares our opinion, and when a dissenting voice appears we may feel inclined to start a “debate.” Social media is filled with these people called trolls, truth-seekers who seek to inject truth into the incorrect truths the other online truthtellers have truthed. It’s just my opinion, but I find it a rather lofty goal to create enough online discord to be likened to a mythical cave-dwelling giant or dwarf with a very ugly appearance!

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So what are we to make of this global phenomenon? For many, the advice given is to focus on the good and to filter out the bad. But I must admit that I sometimes find it disheartening to spend my “downtime” reading about things that are divisive and filled with anger and complaints or even worse; adding my own drama to the mix. Is this helping me to grow as a person or to unwind in preparation of my next accomplishment?

Many years before the launch of Facebook, the apostle Paul wrote the following words of encouragement to the believers in Philippi: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” So while it seems that people have struggled with focusing upon the positive things in life long before Mark Zuckerberg made it more convenient, Paul’s advice is well taken by modern Christians who choose to navigate the murky waters of social media. Seek to find ways to bring peace and love to others online. Lift up in prayer those who are troubled, and avoid those who choose to stir up trouble or who wish to share their negativity with anyone willing to take a piece. May our message of love and comfort be evident in everything that others will seek out the real truth that lives in us through the Holy Spirit.

And if you found this blog on Facebook, know that I already get the irony!

Image from: http://www.coffeehousewall.co.uk/the-coal-cellar-beware-the-troll/

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