There seems to be an interesting correlation between how formal a conversation is and how impactful it is. Sometimes, formalities are necessary. But, most of the time, something that comes "straight from the heart" communicates in ways beyond the scope of even the most well-chosen words.
I preached a sermon this morning that, as far as planning goes, was the one which I have spent the least amount of time preparing for, simply because I did not have enough time this week. And yet, after service this morning, I got far more immediate feedback than with any other sermon I have preached. This correlation between formality and effectiveness seems to hold true not only in public speaking, but in every day conversation.
When you're talking to someone, speaking from the heart will almost always mean more than well rehearsed words. Be genuine. Be transparent. Be vulnerable. It will mean more to people and stick with them so much longer.
Remember that everything is a blessing. The world owes you nothing and you are entitled to nothing by virtue of your existence. Take every single thing in life, without exception, as a gift and a blessing from God.
Not only will you be so much happier and more content in life, but it will highlight the truth of Scripture when it says that every good and perfect gift comes from God. That is not to say everything that I recognize as a gift, but rather, everything is a gift from God.
This morning the hotel we stayed at ran out of milk during breakfast. There were people whose entire day was ruined because of milk! Rather than being overjoyed at the fact that they had waffles, French toast, hash browns, bagels, coffee, and the list goes on, they complained because they felt they were owed milk. How tragic that a new day - which is itself a tremendous gift and blessing from our Father – was ruined because of a sense of entitlement over something as silly as milk.
Everything is a blessing. Be thankful.
I want my mind to be absolutely exhausted and expended at the end of each day. I'm trying to make it a daily habit and goal to think; to think hard, to think deeply, to think exhaustively.
I seem to be day by day growing more keenly aware of my own mortality. I could easily die in a car accident this afternoon, this week, or before the end of the month. It seems such a waste to go a day without exhausting the recesses of your mind.
While physical exertion is wholly good and beneficial to the person, an exertion of the mind on a daily basis is developing, for me, as a more important daily goal than caring for my physical body. Of course, the two are very closely intertwined, but with limited time and energy I would rather exert my mind than my biceps.
The news lately has been absolutely dreadful to follow, especially if you watch it on television. Take the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia as a perfect example: everyone is going crazy and blaming everyone else for the chaos in the world.
The words of Christ always ring true in every circumstance, but in some they are so applicable! Remove the log out of your eye, Justin, before you examine the speck in someone else's.
Personal spiritual examination is often painful, but it is necessary and often yields the sweetest fruit. The Lord directed me today, in this thought, to Psalm 51. The personal pronouns of King David are central to his self-examination and repentance.
"Create in ME a clean heart…renew a right spirit within ME…cast ME not away from your presence…do not take your Holy Spirit from ME…restore to ME the joy of your salvation…and sustain ME with a willing spirit."
May it be true in my life that I am a man who does not shy away from hard self-examination and personal repentance.
People are the greatest resource and best investment of your time in this world. Sometimes, things get so busy, and demands get so high, that people feel like interruptions. Many times, people can feel like "hurdles to progress", but this is never the case.
People are not only necessary for progress to occur, but true progress will never happen without people. All the things that seem so urgent can really wait; and, many times, all the people who feel like interruptions in your day are worthy of and deserve your present attention. When people are themselves the investment of our energy, focus, and time, we will discover that not only is progress being made, but life is being lived in the midst of the progress. Relationships are being developed, and as these bonds deepen and strengthen, more people come together and true progress takes place in every sense of the word.
Last night, I discovered my grandfather's dissertation he wrote in 1965 while studying Animal Breeding at Texas A&M. I am eager to read it, and, in doing so, learn a bit more about this man whom I admire so much.
I was reflecting on the tragedy that children and young people lack an appreciation for things which are extraordinary. Granddad died six years ago, and I am just now discovering this dissertation that he, no doubt, spent hours and hours of his life and energy upon.
I wish that I could have appreciated it when I was younger, and when he was still alive. I feel as though I have a unique connection to him as I myself am in the early stages of a doctoral program, and could understand more and appreciate more the significance of what he accomplished in that paper.
I really want to instill in my kids, as much as is possible, to fully appreciate people and accomplishments that are unique, remarkable, and outstanding; I want them to appreciate people, especially, before they are gone from this earth forever.
I frequently will have these moments when seemingly out of nowhere someone will pop into my mind. I'll think through certain memories I have of them, and often wonder where they are and what they're doing now, if I don't already know.
Sometimes I wonder if the Lord puts people on my heart and mind just to pray for them. Perhaps, he places them on my heart and mind to pray for them even when I have no idea what I'm praying for. Then, I think that it would be nice if they knew that someone was thinking of them and praying for them.
It does seem significantly special to someone when they know that someone else is thinking about them, and especially praying for them. It seems that, perhaps more than anything else, to make someone feel special is just to let them know that you're thinking of them. I have found that to do this requires me to not worry about their potential reaction to me telling them I'm thinking about them.
So, when the Lord brings someone to my heart and mind, I'm going to try to make it a point to let them know. Even if all I say is, "I'm thinking about you and praying for you", it has the potential to make their day, week, or even year. What an easy way to cheer someone up! And, perhaps, in praying for them, the Lord uses it in some ultra-significant way to alter the course of their lives.
Emotions sure are a funny thing. Just now, I was driving down the road as happy and content as could be. The weather is absolutely glorious, and I was thinking about how good weather positively affects people's emotions.
Then, suddenly, I remembered an event that happened with a fellow Officer months ago. Instantaneously, I found myself getting angry. Just like that, in a split second, I went from utter happiness and contentment to anger. Why is this? Have I no more control over my emotions than this?
The last fruit of the Spirit listed in Scripture is that of self-control. Perhaps I need to beg the Lord for more of that in the area of my emotions.
Are all human beings like this? Or, is it just me? I think I will spend the rest of my drive singing and talking with Jesus, trying to enjoy this blessed weather He's given me today.
Here is my thought for today: the one thing I really lack in this life is deep, meaningful companionship. There are plenty of people who wish to simply talk. They will fill the void of time and space with empty words. However, there are very few who are actually willing to truly dialogue; dialogue for lengthy periods of time and, in doing so, travel to great depths together
This is something I long for and I crave. I read about it in men like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Where are these men of today? I don't want to waste my time and waste my life talking aimlessly. I want to think. I want to think deeply. I want to converse deeply. I want to, for whatever short time the Lord gives me on this planet, think as deeply as any man who has ever lived. I want to verbalize those thoughts with other men who want the same things. But, where are they?
As I was sending a friend a lengthy e-mail tonight, the Lord gave me an epiphany of sorts. He said, "Justin: you have two major issues. Self-doubt and pride."
I would have never considered those as two of my major issues, but I do believe it was the voice of the Lord speaking to my heart. Not only are those my two major issues, but they are very closely related.
I struggle, as I suspect most men do, with self-doubt. I see the accomplishments of others, and, the more I think about it, the more I believe that I will never accomplish such things in my life. How could I? And yet, perhaps as an internal protective measure against my self-doubt, I then struggle with pride. Why can't I? If he can do it, so can I. Not only that, but I'll do it even bigger and better!
For example, even as I write these words, I think that someday someone may read them and believe that I was such a deep-thinker. Why do I have these thoughts? Why can't I just sit and write out my feelings and emotions without constantly wanting to convey myself as intellectual or something. Self-doubt and pride, I think, both play a major role in that.
I often have a desire to quantify everything. Why? Who am I measuring myself to? Myself? Am I only in a race against myself? I measure how long I have been pastoring my church in a list against others. I measure how well-behaved my kids are against others. I measure my physique against others. I measure my intellect against others. I measure my career against others? Why? Why must I do this? What is it in me (self-doubt and pride, of course) that cause me to do this? I want to quantify how many people I have lead to Jesus. For what? For myself? For others to be impressed with me? I don't think so; I think it is much more for me than anyone else. But, why? I hate this about myself. I loathe this behavior and yet I embody it.
Ah! Another thing to give to Jesus. Take me, Lord, and all my sinfulness and transform me, please. I hate what I am, and I want you to change me. Make me, content, please. You know it is my greatest struggle. Take me and rid me of myself. I love you.