Steep Challenge: Are You In?

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“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and the way He works. STEEP yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Luke 12:29-31 The Message Bible

I find it interesting that the word steep is used in this passage. My daughter has a small hollow rubber man that hangs over the side of her mug to steep her tea. It amuses me. Anyway, steeping is the soaking process for teas and other foods in water or other liquid to draw out flavor. It involves time, just soaking in the water, becoming saturated and thus steeped.

Ahhh, just soak and relax...
Ahhh, just soak and relax…

Ever relax in a hot bath? Just soaking and clearing your mind? All your muscles smile as they begin to loosen up in the warm water. If you weren’t relaxed before the bath, you should feel less tense afterward. Makes for good sleeping too, just sayin. 🙂

Soaking in God is the same as “Seeking First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.” Soak Him into your mind by reading about Him. Become familiar with His ways. Study Him in Old Testament stories of His interactions with people like:

Abraham–God counted him righteous, Genesis 15:6
Read Genesis 15-25

Joseph–God was with him, Genesis 39:21
Read Genesis 37-50

Moses– Friend of God, Exodus 33:11
Read the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy

David–A man after God’s own heart, I Samuel 13:14
Read 1 Samuel 16-31, 11 Samuel

And continue to learn about God as He comes to earth in flesh and blood:

Jesus—God’s beloved Son, Gospel of John

HERE’S THE CHALLENGE:

If we desire to FLURISH, we need to seriously put and keep God and His kingdom first in our lives. Have our souls become dried out tea bags and lost their flavor? We may need a fresh steeping.  If you don’t know where to begin, make a 5 month committment to God. Set aside some time each day and study these stories. One month for each man’s relationship. (That should give you enough of a time cushion to complete this) Find a quiet spot without interruption. Have some tea or coffee and just hang with God. Maybe even in a tub, altho it can be a challenge to keep your Bible dry. 🙁

Write down the realities of God that you read. How was HE real to the men in the story?
Write down God’s initiatives. How did HE initiate contact with the men?
Write down His provisions for these men who loved Him. How did HE take care of them?

After you finish this five month journey with God, you should have a better handle on who God is and what His Kingdom is about so you can personally promote them in your daily life. Put into practice what you learned about our great God moment by moment of every new day. You will FLURISH and SHINE simultaneously! Total awesome sauce!

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Who’s in? Comment about taking the challenge. Share what you learn along the way to encourage others. Happy steeping!

Shine on . . .
karan k

Bump, Stump or Jump?

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“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” I Corinthians 10:13 New Living translation

I like to walk in the woods during spring and early autumn, sometimes stepping it up to a hike during these lovely seasons. Every forest is a green adventure sheltering more life than I can imagine. My footsteps break the silence along with an occasional bird calling to its mate or something rustling under cover of the myriad of leaves. What a delight when a bird swoops down from the treetops or  I catch a glimpse of some furry creature darting across my path. Life abounds and surrounds me.

Walking or hiking in a forest is sheer pleasure until that one nasty stump or root catches your foot off guard and you plummet to the ground, bumping your head on a rock or log. Somewhat dazed and confused those gorgeous trees look different from the forest floor. Same trees, new vantage point.

Our walk with God can be like a walk in the woods. Traveling through a time of cool shade and enjoying our surroundings, truly FLURISHING. Then out of nowhere something knocks us to the ground spiritually. Perhaps a family member or someone you love received a bad medical report? Or you or your spouse lose your job when you were just starting to get ahead of your bills? Or a trusted friend betrays you? There are hundreds of thorny scenarios that can pop up in our lives. All these things are like the nasty roots in our  fallen world forest. Do we look up from our new vantage point and see our gorgeous God differently?

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We may  be bumped and banged, maybe even bleeding. Sometimes we are tempted to sit like a BUMP on a log and feel sorry for ourselves. I’ve sat on that log a time or two. Not a pleasant experience. Sometimes we are simply numb from the trial and unable to move off the log. Paralyzed in fear of the future. Questioning how are we going to handle this situation? Are we STUMPED as to what to do? Do we JUMP to wrong conclusions like; God let us down? or God doesn’t care?

BONUS WARNING: Be careful not to allow bitterness into your heart prompting the temptation to wander off into the deep dark forest alone taking your own path.

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” I Peter 4:12 The Message Bible
When trials cross our paths remember God is faithful and loves us. Ask Him to show you the way of escape as in I Corinthians 10:13. He already knew you would face this particular difficulty at this time in your life. He has a plan for you to FLURISH even through the difficult times if you choose to move closer than ever to Him. Ask For His help, His grace, His wisdom, His strength. Whatever it is specifically that you need not only to get through but be refined and become more like your Lord.

Everyone experiences trials but for Christians our God turns them into teaching and strengthening tools for our good. Read Romans 8:28 & 29. Accepting and expecting this divine truth to play out in our lives will lead to continued growth and continued FLURISHING!

FLURISH in the forest of Life
FLURISH in the forest of Life

“. . . Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jesus in John 16:33 New Living translation

Shine on. . .

karan k

A Good Read

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Anyone ever see the R.I.F. Book Mobile in your town? 2016 marks the 50th Anniversary of Reading Is Fundamental or RIF (they’ve now dropped the abbreviation punctuation). RIF is a campaign started by former teacher, Margaret McNamara in Washington, DC. She saw a need among the impoverished children in her city and decided to provide books to those who couldn’t afford them. Through her vision and the help of countless volunteers over 412 million new books have been distributed free to children as of earlier this year. What a tremendous legacy to battle illiteracy.

Due to a convergence problem with my eyes, I avoided reading for a long time. My eyes do not focus together at close range so reading creates double vision and eye fatigue. Now as an older adult I realize the treasure and importance of reading and am endeavoring to push myself to read as much as possible. I have ALOT to catch up on.:)
“People who read are people who achieve. What are your life goals? It doesn’t matter if you’re ten or one hundred and ten: it’s never too late to attain those goals. Books help you get there.” Pat Williams, Read For Your Life, is a book I am currently reading.

I like self help books and learning how to grow and improve as a person. Also books to help with writing skills and communication, human behavior etc., For fun I reach for mystery novels. Any recommendations?

The first book I enjoyed reading cover to cover continues to amaze and astound me.: A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. What a wonderful story with such interwoven and intriguing characters. Set in France during the nation’s revolution in 1789 it becomes a dangerous back drop for a story of true love and sacrifice. A true classic.

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I find historical novels fascinating and a fun way to learn a bit of history and culture. “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden and “Madame Tussaud A Novel of the French Revolution” by Michelle Moran are two of my favorites.

Reading expands and exercises your mind. Good books can transport you to other places and times teaching you along the journey. Take advantage of the gift and ability to read. Challenge yourself to read more than ever before. Used books, new books, whatever is in your budget, just get you some good books and read.:)

Another favorite
Another favorite

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise , not to curse.” Philippians 4:8 The Message Bible

What’s your favorite book? Shoot me a comment.

Shine on while you read. . .

karan k

Tales from the Booth: If It Feels Good, Give It!

 

IXNAY on the EZPassAY!!!
IXNAY on the EZPassAY!!!

“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25 New Living translation

Every now and then a customer pulls up to the booth and tells me they are glad to see a person rather than a machine taking the tolls. They say they appreciate the human element and refuse to get EZPass. Some even tell me they are committed to the higher priced ticket system because they want to do their part to save jobs. I am amazed and find this attitude stunningly refreshing in a self-serving world. These people are willing to sacrifice their hard to come by cash so that I can continue working. It touches me deeply.

I wonder if roles were reversed, would I care as much about them and their job? Would I be willing to forego the convenience and economic benefit of EZPass for strangers to keep their jobs? Would I uphold such principles? Would I have such a generous spirit? I’m afraid to know the answer. Of course I am under no obligation but neither are they. Obligation would nullify true generosity.

“Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians  9:7 Common English Bible

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It’s one of the first things we are taught as children, to share. Most of us had to be forced into it. Especially with new toys. Who wanted to give up checking out all the functions of a new toy, like a Spirograph or Lite Brite? (By the way, both toys are still on the market) We wanted that pleasure for ourselves because we are self centered by nature. Somewhere along the line of our lives we had to learn to let go and share.

Each of us decides what we want to give and when and to whom. The key word is WANT. Otherwise it’s a compulsion of some sort. It’s not generosity. And what about WHY we give? What is our motivation? Is it pure? Do we give in secret and tell no one? Is it pride? Do we want to be seen? Do we tell others?

Jesus says, “When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—-blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!” Matthew 6:2 New Living translation

A synonym for generosity is liberality. There has to be freedom to forge generosity. Our giving must be chockfull of freedom. We give the contents of our hearts freely. We extend freedom to the receiver by expecting nothing in return. We are free with all our assets without hesitation, i.e., money, possessions, time, labor, talent, gifts etc., This of course is the ideal for which to aim. I am in much need of practicing more pure generosity. Self centeredness has to move out of my heart to make more room for giving.

Freely give. . .
Freely give. . .

Our motivations are important to God and they should be to us. HE already knows what is in our hearts but we need to look inside every now and then so we know what is driving our giving. If we embrace true generosity we will further our FLURISHING because we will be giving more like our Father.

 

What kind of giver are you?

 
“It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go.”
Nigerian saying

 
Shine on. . .
karan k

What’s in YOUR Library?

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The most tattered book in my possession is called “Hymns of Glorious Praise.” Its battered condition genuinely expresses years of my personal use. (to understand that statement you will need to read my post Ode to Esther)

“The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, HYMNS, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 Common English Bible

If you are not familiar with hymns may I introduce a wealth of encouraging expression from the past several hundred years? The language is sometimes archaic but the richness of the writers’ faith is incredibly uplifting. The words alone are worth reading even without the music. In fact, I can’t read music, one note is the same as another to me. So I read through the words of unfamiliar hymns. When I find one that especially moves me I google the title and VOILA, usually the hymn has been recorded on youtube. It’s like finding a new treasure! I listen and learn the tune teaching myself to sing it. Singing new hymns has been a fresh source of flurishing for me.

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One of my all time favorites has been around since 1923. It is based on Lamentations 3:22-24 “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness: his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!'” New Living translation

GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
Thomas Chisholm and William Runyan

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Refrain:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Refrain:

New mercies every morning! Just think of it for a moment. Unlimited do overs! Reminds me of a line from another favorite book; L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: “Isn’t it nice to know that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

But the sweetest line to me is in the last stanza “Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” What powerful encouragement for these difficult days in which we live. Our Lord Himself will cheer us up. He will be with us giving guidance, strength and hope everyday. His faithfulness is unfathomable to our finite minds but I know it has been real in my life for 46 years to date.

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Hymns bring me such comfort in times of stress and sorrow. When I can’t find the words to pray, hymns bring peace to my soul. When I want to praise Him deeply, I sing a hymn of praise. When I want to feel close to Him, I sing a hymn of assurance. These are just a few reasons to read, learn, sing and play hymns. If it’s been awhile for you or if you’re new to hymns, check out a local used book store or go online for used hymnals. The investment will be minimal but have maximum yield. They are a treasure trove of blessings for your soul in which to FLURISH.

Shine on. . .

karan k

Battle Scars

Dude....serious battle wound. Skate park casualty...

 

During the most scenic stretch of my morning commute I suddenly decelerated allowing a squirrel to scamper across the road. My intrinsic powers of deduction led to the conclusion that this was a very young squirrel. He was quite small. 🙂 What struck me was his tail. It was bent and lacked the usual amount of fluff. I wondered if a nasty squirrel fight was the cause?

Pain invades all our lives whether we are human or squirrel. 🙂 Unless a wound is minor it will rarely heal perfectly and most leave some sort of scar tissue which is inferior to the original flesh. Instances causing scars somehow seem meant to be remembered. I wonder why?

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Like a squirrel with a bent tail, we can go through life with visible reminders of pain we’ve experienced. I call them battle scars. There are some battle scars that are invisible to the public because the pain is so sharp and buried under the skin deep in our souls, the seat of our emotions. Some are physical, some are emotional or even mental. Often these injuries occur when we are young (like Mr. Squirrel) when we are forming our identity.

The word form means to shape and the word formative means capable of shaping or molding something or someone. Ages 1 through 8 are considered by most experts to be the first set of formative years of physical and psychological development. Ages 9 through adulthood, with the onset of puberty and hormones, is the second set of important development. Any injuries or traumas during these periods can shape us for life.

Physical and sexual abuses generate brutal wounds with deep scars. Psychological abuse can be harder to recognize and define even by professionals. It appears to be so widespread and concealed by victims that it can be difficult to study. Some examples are; bullying, neglect, abandonment, intimidation, control, shaming, verbal assault, humiliation, blaming and any act including confinement. They can affect our daily function for years to come in tremendously negative ways such as anxiety, resentment, chronic depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.

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If we ignore our wounds they can fester with infection into something ugly that we cannot bear to face. Sometimes we try to distract ourselves with unhealthy diversions such as alcohol, drugs, sex, overeating etc., As Christ followers desiring to FLURISH we need to be more responsible to care for ourselves.
All of us have something negative in our first twenty years but how we choose to handle those pains make the difference. If we want to FLURISH we have to take action:

First, we need to be willing to examine our memories for any of the unhealthy examples listed above. Be honest with yourself. If you are reading this, HE may be prompting you to face something you’ve ben avoiding?

Second, we have to recognize what happened. Identify the pain, or abuse we encountered. Own the fact that this happened. Remember, you are not alone. We all have stuff that needs attention.

Third, pray for God to heal your mind, body and emotions in whatever way necessary. Pray for and expect direction. Trust me, HE wants you to be healed, to be whole.

Perhaps HE will lead you to share your pains with a TRUSTED friend? That simple act can be powerful. “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 New Living translation

Sometimes HE will guide us to professional help. Please do not be afraid of this. Fear is what the enemy wants to keep you immobilized in crippling dysfunction. But Jesus desires to heal you and set you free. But HE will never force you, only lovingly encourage you to start the healing process. HE will stay by your side. Hebrews 13:5.
Early traumas can have positive effects IF we choose to recognize the injury occurred and then receive help. We can use the healing process and our experience to help others who may be wounded in a similar way. That is very positive and very biblical;
“HE comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”
II Corinthians 1:4 New Living translation
Like it or not, battle scars show up on all of us. Seeing someone’s scars can be rather scary. Seeing our own can be frightening, especially the ones hidden under our skin. But remember Jesus’ words, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in ME. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, Because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 New Living translation

Take the first step toward healing.

No fear! Know faith! Now FLURISH!

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Shine on. . .
karan k

 

Static Interference

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Lately I find myself listening to a frenzy of sound. Noises, voices chattering without and demanding from within. Nothing clear but sort of a simultaneous clamour. Summer days are supposed to be lazy and carefree, aren’t they? Our world has increased in complication to the point of soul enslavement. Do you struggle to find inner freedom, peace in your soul?

The mundane beckons daily no matter the season: banking balances barking, errands engaging, cleaning crying, forever crying for attention. Laundry laughing and cooking calling, via hungry bellies for meals and lunches. When will they be quiet? The twelfth of never. This I accept, although reluctantly I confess. How do we juggle the necessities of life without overloading our spirits?

In addition there’s online communication craving to be noticed. Text alerts tempting prompt attention. Email can be ignored only so long before you need to spend gobs of time deleting unwanted messages. Face Book fascination and/or curiosity can be entertaining but at times out of control. I used to say ringing phones are an invitation not a command. Somehow lately my guard has dropped. I feel the compelling need to answer all the incoming invitations. We are deluged with more information, invitations and expectations than any other generation to date. I expect it will only escalate.

This is not to mention concerns on National and Global fronts which are certainly capable of interfering with our relaxation abilities.

As dedicated Jesus followers we can easily get caught in this trap:

“I was dominated by ‘shoulds,’ ‘ought to’s,’ and ‘musts.’ . . . I was exhausted trying to be a hope constantly rekindled for others, straining to live up to their images of me. I had worked hard to develop a reputation as one who was concerned, available and involved—- now I was being tyrannized by it. Often I was more at peace in the eyes of others than in my own.”

This is a quote from Tim Hansel’s book “When I Relax I Feel Guilty.” This particular book sat on my personal library shelf for years. I started it at least ten times but never got very far. It’s not even a very long book. Only 147 pages. I’d begin with enthusiasm and then I fell right back into False Guilt pressure and stop reading. My goal for this summer of 2016 is to read that book and share anything useful I may glean from it with anyone of you who may also be struggling. As August begins, time is running out. I must hurry up and read about relaxing! Hah!

 

Watching swans is relaxing
Watching swans is relaxing

You see, I can tell this inability to relax is interfering with my FLURISHING. This is not what God wants for me or you. His desire is for all of us to experience His love and forgiveness moment by moment and then FLURISH freely with Him in the world He created for us. We need the awe and wonder of His world restored in our hearts and minds despite what is happening around us.

Read I Kings 19:10-13 in your favorite version.

So for now be aware of your own relaxation quotient. Is your soul at peace? Are you able to hear HIS voice above the din?

Kayaking, fishing, etc.,
Kayaking, fishing, etc.,

Talk to God for direction to explore HIS world in some new fashion. When HE gives you an idea, try it out to see if it relaxes you.  Keep asking and trying whatever HE  suggests. You will find ways to relax and FLURISH quietly with HIM!

P.S. I was able to relax while listening to my nine year old great niece play a mini concert on her violin. She told me it would be relaxing and she was right.:)

Shine on. . .

karan k