What are we dependent on these days?  Maybe the bigger question is, what are we dependent on that is truly not necessary? 

I work in the IT field and as such, I’m very dependent on a connection to the internet to do my job to the best of my ability.  Today our office’s internet was out.  It was amazing how little I thought I could really accomplish without it.  Couldn’t check my email, read my blogs, listen to my music streams, catch up on the latest news during lunch.  So many things that I think I’m dependent on, that when it’s not there, I feel lost.

What are we as a society dependent on?  Electricity!  We’ve all had times when the power has been out for a few minutes, no big deal (other than having to reset some clocks and things like that).  What about for a few hours?  We start to get a little antsy.  How about a day?  Well, now we’ve moved into a mode where we start wondering what to do with ourselves.  A few days or more?  No we’ve kicked into survival mode.  We worry about food spoiling, we worry about fresh water, we worry about heat and the list goes on.  Most people in America, would struggle to survive for a week or more without electricity (in my scenario, we can’t just hop in a car and travel a few miles to where power is and camp out in a hotel or at a relatives house). 

What if there was no supermarkets?  Could we grow or hunt our own food?  I suspect many couldn’t.  What if fresh water was difficult to come by?  Could we survive?   What if we had to live like our ancestors did not so many generations ago?  Could we build our own shelter?  Could we grow our own food and store up enough to last the winter?  That’s a question that I think many of us would fear the true answer to.

I don’t suspect that we’ll have to live through any of these scenarios anytime soon.  I sure hope not for all of our sakes.  But would it hurt to prepare just a little?  Maybe stock up on some canned and other non-perishable foods.  Keep some fresh water available for drinking.  Have the ability to have alternative heat (keep some wood chopped and handy in case you need to build a fire for heat and cooking).  Learn some survival basics.

Also try to remember that all we have, all those material things we are so “dependent” on can be gone in a moment.  It’s good practice to sit down and realize that most of those things we so depend on our just conveniences that we are able to enjoy.  Do we need them?  No, but they are nice. 

I’m gonna strive to be less dependent on these conveniences.  Will I ever go off the grid?  No.  I’m not giving up my internet anytime soon, I still plan on shopping at the local supermarket, and I’ll enjoy my heat and air conditioning.  But I will try to take small steps so that if those things every disappeared, I could survive and in the mean time I can live more independently and probably a lot cheaper.  I think this exercise will help me see the priorities that are important;  God and family.  Those are things I can and need to depend on!

The Power of Positive Thoughts

This is my first post, other than the introduction, in my series reviewing and discussing the book Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyers

The power of positive thoughts really is the main point of this entire book.  The power that positive thoughts releases in your life is truly incredible and can be seen even in small portions.  Even practicing a few of the concepts presented throughout this book has resulted in an amazing turnaround not only in my own attitude, but indeed in how circumstances occur around me.  Positive thoughts breeds positive results.

Joyce gives us five rules to make an attitude adjustment that allows us to think positive thoughts and in fact make it habit forming.

  1. Maintain the right attitude when the going gets rough.  This is very difficult for me and I imagine it so with others as well.  You have to make a conscious effort to maintain positive attitudes throughout your trials and tribulations.  The trick I found is to begin positive at the onset.  As soon as a negative pops into your head, stop them.  Stop them right in their tracks.  Determine right from the start that you will not agree with the negative thoughts and that you will not listen to them anymore.  Stand strong with your positive thoughts in all circumstances.  It’s not difficult to recognize that negative thoughts have entered your mind, but it is difficult to keep them from taking over your thought process.
  2. Realize the rough times won’t last forever.  Again this is a difficult one to work through.  When you are in your deepest, darkest seasons in life, it’s tough to remember that all seasons pass.  Winter becomes spring, spring becomes summer.  God uses trials to produce good results in our lives.  He always wants to bless us.  Remember as you go through your tough times that this probably isn’t your first challenge in life.  You survived the last one, probably learned some valuable lessons and you will survive this one too.
  3. Don’t make major decisions during a storm.  This can be tough to do because often the storms in life bring life changing decisions that need to be made.  But try to stay as still as possible.  Our thoughts often run wild in the midst of chaos, but we need to be still and know that He is God.  We need to trust God that He will do what we cannot.
  4. Stay in touch with the “control tower”.  The analogy that Joyce uses here is the air traffic control tower.  The air traffic controllers are the only people who can see the whole picture of what is going on in the sky and who have the knowledge to tell planes where to go and how to fly.  They see the storms and can tell you how to fly around them or take alternate routes.  Just as airplane pilots maintain contact with the air traffic controllers, we must stay in touch with God.  He sees the big picture and can help direct our lives around and through the storms of life.
  5. Try to keep things in perspective.  We tend to look at our situation as the worse possible situation we could be in.  We tend to view minor crisis as major events (and in fact often do the opposite as well).  It helps to keep a proper perspective.  Try to make a habit of looking at the whole of life instead of centering on the one problem we are dwelling on at the moment.  Try to remember all the good that has come in your life and thinking about the good that will come.  Doing this makes problems seem so much smaller.

A positive attitude enables you to make the best of every situation and keeps circumstances from having power of your life.

Count your blessings!

As I enter this new year, as I do every year, I like to reflect on the past year and of course look forward to the new.  It is so easy to look back on the year and see only the negatives.  Maybe your health wasn’t as it should be, your finances are in a mess, or perhaps you’re lonely and depressed.  Who knows what it might be, perhaps it was worse, maybe a death in the family or bankruptcy or loss of a job.  Any number of things can make us dwell on the negatives and not see any of the blessings God has provided.

Going back to my previous post, We are what we think, dwelling on the negative does you no good.  In fact it accentuates the negatives and brings what might just be a minor setback and carries it throughout your life.

Take for example a job loss.  Not only does that bring financial difficulties, but it can also bring about feelings of lack of self worth and depression.  This can affect you not only mentally, but physically by raising your blood pressure, causing headaches, or worse.  Look up the effects of stress on your body and you can see the damage it can do to your health. 

I personally struggle with stress and view it as the cause of most of my health issues from my bad back, high blood pressure and other issues.  Half the battle is realizing it, but it is still a major roadblock in my personal life.

What I tend to forget however, is how truly blessed I am.  Paul writes in Ephesians 1:3 about our spiritual blessings.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Also in Matthew 14:13-21 we read how Jesus provided for the needs of over five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish.

These and many other places in the Bible let us know how much God cares for us and how he will provide for all our needs (not necessarily our wants though).

Counting my Blessings

Let me reflect on this past year and not focus on the negatives of the past and not even on the negatives to come in 2011, but instead let me count my blessings and see how much God has given me.  I think if you sit back and spend the time to do the same, you’ll be amazed at how greatly you truly were blessed in 2010.

  • My Family – God has provided me with four awesome children.  My children are truly my pride and joy, I love them more and more each day and while they can try my patience at times, as we all did with your parents (sorry Mom and Dad), I can’t fathom the joy the bring me as I watch them learn and grow.  I watch my oldest turning into a young man, my daughter into a beautiful young lady and my two younger boys loving life and becoming best friends with each other.

    My wife, who is the love of my life, my best friend, my girl friend and my life time partner in this crazy world.  She puts up with my crap and still loves me.  She provides me stability in my chaos.  She is the strength in my weakness.  I love her more and more each day.

  • My health – Sure as I get older, I notice things about my body that I think, “Oh crap, I’m getting old.”  I look in the mirror and see my hair disappearing, but I look at that as a bonus as my hair cuts are shorter and I use less shampoo.  I had some major back issues this summer which had me laid up for almost a month, yet it provided me with plenty of time I needed to slow down and reflect on my life and the direction it was heading.  I also was able to catch up on my reading! Smile 

    Despite my problems, minor compared to others, I wake up each morning, which is a blessing in itself, am able to get out and live life to it’s fullest!

  • My job – I’ve been self employed for almost 10 years now and while it’s had it’s peaks and valleys and there is a whole separate level of stress that someone who has never worked for themselves as their main income will never understand, I feel blessed that I’ve been able to continue to do what I love for this long. 

    Business has been slow this year, in fact so slow that it has caused some troubles and issues that are not that pleasant, yet my family has yet to go hungry and I am thankful for that.  The slowness of the economy and the effects on my business has also been a blessing in disguise as it’s forced me to reevaluate how I market my business and services and has pushed me to be more aggressive and proactive in gaining new work.

  • My finances – Well let’s just say this is really my lack of finances.  The slow economy has hurt my income and cash flow enough that while we are still eating, there is little left for anything else.  Again this has been a blessing in disguise.  My wife and I have learned to do with less, we’ve learned to shop smarter, handle our finances better,  and have learned to focus on priorities and rid ourselves of some of the dead weight that is a drain on our finances.  While we still have a way to go, we are blessed by having to make these changes.
  • My friends – I’m blessed beyond belief with great friends.  I won’t name any personally as I’m sure I’ll forget some, but I’ve met new friends this year that have become a great blessing to my wife and I and indeed to my children as well.  Thank you for all you do and I look forward to our continued friendship into the new year and of course the  business opportunities we’re always thinking up. 

    Also to my old friends that have been there through thick and thin, through bountiful times and thin times, those friends that bless our lives each and every day.  God has put all of you into our lives for a reason.

I could go on and on about the many blessings that I have in my life, but the one thing that I want to remember through all this (and the one thing I hope my readers take away from this), is that God has blessed us all beyond belief, even though these blessings may not be obvious, step back from your troubles and look at how they can positively impact your life and the lives of those around you. 

I look forward to 2011, the many things I’ll learn and my growth while writing this blog, and to the many friends I hope to meet on here.

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on the direction of this blog as well as how God has blessed you this year!

Build something small

By day I’m a software developer, website builder, and general computer consultant.  Just the other day I read an article on a software blog I follow called Stop Giving Lousy Excuses And Start Working On A Small But Genuine Story.  This article, while it talks from a perspective of software development, leaves us with a message I think we all can relate to in life.

If we look at the world around us and see the struggles and troubles that we or our neighbors and friends are going through, we may think it’s just too large for us individuals to fix or even make a difference.  In fact the prevailing thought of many around the country is that “only the government can fix it.” 

We sit around in our homes, happily (or not so happily) paying our taxes and say “What can I do, I’m only one person?”,  “I’m just too busy to work on it.” or “I’m really not smart enough to do anything about it.”  

Well I say, drop the excuses, do something small.  None of those excuses work when you do something small.  They don’t take a lot of time, nor a lot of money.  They don’t take a lot of brain power and you can keep your day job.  You just have to take a little initiative, do something to make a difference and then do it consistently.

What type of things am I talking about?  Nothing real complicated.

  • Pay for a stranger’s coffee in a coffee shop.
  • Give a young mother a coupon for free milk if you see her in line in front of you at the grocery store.
  • Tell a soldier “Thank you!”
  • Hold the door for the person coming out of the store behind you.
  • Send $20 to a family in need anonymously.
  • Invite an elderly person over for dinner if they’re alone for the holidays.

Little things that we all can do (and things I need to improve on myself), that would make such a huge difference in people’s lives.  Each taking as individual act of kindness really is nothing big, takes so little time, effort or money, but can pay such dividends to the everyone involved.  And if everyone would do something small each day, think what a difference it would make on a large scale when you consider them all together.

It doesn’t take the government to spread kindness and charity.  In fact, forced charity is not charity at all.  We all, no matter how rich or poor we may be, can spare some small piece of ourselves to give to another.  That small seed of kindness will take root and grow if nourished.  I’m going to strive in this new year to make small sacrifices each day to help make someone else’s life just a tad bit brighter.

Go do something small and celebrate!  I dare you!

We are what we think.

My wife recently purchased some books from Joyce Meyers.  One book caught my eye and as I sat down to flip through it, something about it grabbed me and I’ve been reading it ever since.  I struggle sometimes with the power of my own thoughts.  When some thought starts flitting through my mind, it tends to stick and I tend to roll it over and over in my head.  When these are good positive thoughts, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, however when the bad thoughts come to me as they do to all of us, then the never resting mind becomes a huge distraction to a healthy and happy life.

What Joyce is trying to show us through this book is summed up in the following quote.

Where the mind goes, the man follows.

Joyce moves through 12 of what she calls Power Thoughts.  Each is Biblically based and even without her commentary on each, are powerful scripture that we could all stand to pay attention to.

  1. I can do whatever I need to do in life through Christ.
  2. God loves me unconditionally!
  3. I will not live in fear.
  4. I am difficult to offend.
  5. I love people and I enjoy helping them.
  6. I trust God completely;  there is no need to worry!
  7. I am content and emotionally stable.
  8. God meets all my needs abundantly.
  9. I pursue peace with God, myself, and others.
  10. I live in the present and enjoy each moment.
  11. I am disciplined and self-controlled.
  12. I put God first in my life.

I’ve already read through the first four of these as I am reading and re-reading the sections as I find each applicable in some way in my life. I think what I’ll do here on this blog is over the next few weeks (or longer) I’ll go into deeper detail on each of these and a few other points that I’ve taken from the book. Purchase the book yourself as it something worth reading and I’ll come no where near covering things as broadly and as eloquently as Joyce can.

This should be fun and will help me take what I’ve learned in this book to heart and apply them to my life.

Other posts in series:

  1. The Power of Positive Thoughts
  2. Thoughts are Powerful

The Darkness is Receding.

I heard someone say not too long ago that "From deepest darkness, shines the brightest light."  I’ve heard it before in different variations and I’m not really sure where it originated.  But regardless, think about that for a moment.  I’ll wait……

…. So here we sit, in one of the darkest times, at least in my estimation, in the history of this nation (at least perhaps in my generation).  I won’t turn this into a political debate or commentary on one party or the other.  Anyone who knows me, knows my opinions on those matters.  But the last two years have been dark for many people.  So many have lost jobs and lost their businesses.  They are struggling to pay the bills. Struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head.  Yet between government taxes, school levy’s, and rising costs of just about everything (food and fuel most notably), it seems that the hole is getting deeper and the world is getting darker. 

Let’s look at some quotes from the Bible about darkness.

"Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High."  -Psalm 107:10,11

"But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"  -Matthew 6:23

"Wisdom will save you from the ways of the wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways"  -Proverbs 2:12-13

But in all things the best way to destroy the darkness is to create a light.  Again let’s look at some Bible verses on light.

"And God said, let there be light and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness."  -Genesis 1:3-4

"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."  -1 John 1:5

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" -Psalm 27:1

I could go on and on, but my point is…We all go through our dark times, some darker than others, some last longer than others and some seem so deep and dark that it appears hopeless that we can ever come out.  But, the best way to defeat the darkness is to find the light.  Create it if you have too.  Strike a match, build a huge fire.  No matter how small the light, darkness always runs away from it.

Look at the darkness that is in your life right now.  What are your struggles? 

Out of a job?  Take the opportunity to find a better job or learn a new skill.  Start your own business.  Create the light of hope that you will be better off in the near future.

In debt up to your ears?  Take the opportunity to learn to budget.  Learn to live within your means.  Find ways to increase your income to better your situation.

Health not what it should be?  Take the opportunity to start exercising, eat healthier.

About 10 years ago I went through a period of darkness.  I had a great job and then boom it was gone.  I once had plenty of money, now I had none.  I stressed and felt sorry for myself for a time…I lived in the darkness.  But then I created a light, I was determined to start my own business.  I created Malachi Computer.  I struggled for a time as any fledgling business will.  But it slowly grew and over a period of two years, I built it into something that I could support myself with.  Those two years were rough but we made it through it.  During that growing period, I created other business opportunities to supplement my main income.  Mainly I sold stuff on eBay.  I did ok with it, it got us through the lean times.  In fact that bit of light spread to others who started selling and helped to bring a little light to their darkness as well.

Now we face another period of darkness brought on by the poor economy.  Again, I wallowed in my darkness, forgetting those lessons of years ago.  But the light is brightening, the darkness is receding.  This bit of darkness has made me work that much harder to take my business to the next level.  Again, I’ve created other business opportunities with new found friends that are going to increase the light and spread it too others.  Exciting things are coming.  The darkness is receding.

Yes there will be tough times ahead, but God promises to never give us more than we can handle.

"… And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  – 1 Corinthians 10:13

There will be better times than these, you can make them happen with God’s help.  Strive to take the darkness that surrounds us, learn from it, grow from it and let that light of passion, innovation and excitement be that spark that ignites the blaze in your life that chases away your darkness.

The darkness is receding!!

Grocery Shopping

Today was grocery shopping day.  Not that we have a special day for that, but when you’re low on food or other essentials, then it’s grocery shopping day.  Since money is tight these days we try our best to shop smart.  While we are not the best (I know people that can get tons of items for practically nothing), we are learning.  Here are a few things we try to do to save money at the store.

  1. Don’t shop when you’re hungry. This one is pretty obvious actually and we are horrible at this.  It is so easy to fall into the trap of buying those “extras” when you’re hungry.  Everything looks tasty.
  2. Make a list. Again this is obvious and in any list of shopping tips you’ll find out there.  But I can’t express the importance of this.  Know what you want and need so that there is no question as you walk through.  Again without a list, you’ll just see what looks good and throw it in the cart.  You’ll do that even with a list at times, but the list will keep you more focused.
  3. Check the ads. Check those weekly ads that all store put out.  This goes in with making a list.  Stores will offer great prices on items just to get you in the store in the hopes that while you’re there you’ll buy something else.  Resist that temptation and you’ll get the best bang for your buck.
  4. Clip those coupons. Coupons are there also to get you into the store in hopes that you’ll buy more of that product or others.  But if you are able to combine coupons with sales and perhaps shop at stores that also will double coupons, then you can make those coupons really work for you.  It doesn’t take that long to clip and organize your coupons and you can find so many online to print out that it is almost foolish not to use them.  Check out as a good place to start to find those online coupons and great deals at many stores and for an important site for printable coupons.
  5. Don’t be afraid to shop multiple stores. We have 5-6 different major groceries within about a 15 mile radius of where we do most of our shopping.  We’ll take our shopping list, compare it to the sales going on and figure in any coupons we may have to get a list of items to purchase at each store.  While some stores (like Walmart) will price match if it’s the exact same brand and item, it is sometimes easier to go from store to store.  It will take a bit more time to do your shopping, but as long as you plan ahead you can save quite a bit of money.
  6. Make a menu. We used to better at this, but recently have fallen astray of doing this like we should.  We used to plan our meals out for a month.  Buy what we needed to create these meals for the month in one trip and not have to worry about it anymore other than some perishables we would purchase each week.  We found that when we buy for the month, we were less likely to buy those “extras” that we don’t need, than if you shopped more often.  If a month is too long to plan for, a two-week period or even weekly is better than not planning at all.
  7. Stock up if you are able. If there is an item on sale that you use a ton of then as long as it’s not perishable then go ahead and stock up.  We use a ton of condensed can soups for cooking.  When those go on sale or we have coupons, we’ll buy more than we need for the week or month of meals we’re buying for.  This way we can get the best price on the most items.
  8. Buy in bulk if you can. Along the same lines as above, buy in bulk whether through a warehouse store (Sam’s Club) or going to a bulk food store.  My wife makes a lot of homemade breads, so we’ll like to go to buy our flour and sugar in bulk at a local bulk food store.  You’ll typically get a better price per pound on these type of things if you buy in large volumes.  Just be sure you’re going to use it all before it spoils.  Doesn’t help to buy in bulk if you end up throwing half of it away.
  9. Have fun. How can you have fun grocery shopping do you say?  Well, sure it’s not something I look forward to doing, but since I’m out there at the store, I might as well enjoy myself.  My wife and I make a game of it to see how much money we can save.  Who can find the best deals, who can save the most.  We’ve made a chore fun.  Many other list of tips will suggest shopping alone, and that may make sense for a lot of people, but my wife and I actually enjoy grocery shopping together and I love spending time with her.  We are able to leave the kids at home most times so it does make it so much easier.
  10. Be happy. I see so many people at the store there are just plain grumpy.  They just don’t seem to be happy people.  Perhaps it’s just the grocery store bringing it out in them, but if you smile and say hi to people it’s amazing how much better you will feel while out and about.

I think that anything you do to make your money stretch it’s farthest is God honoring.  God wants us to be good stewards of what he has given us.  This list of shopping tips just scratches the surface, and I’m far from an expert, in fact most of these are things my wife does so I take no credit for coming up with any of it.  But if we can be good stewards with our money, be a light to others as they see us out shopping and portray a Christlike character while we’re out and about, I think God will bless us many times over.

And I must say hi again to those people I ran into at the store today.  It’s always fun to see who I’ll run into each time I’m out.  In fact, the trip doesn’t feel complete if I don’t see someone I know!



What is an Exceptional Christian?

What is an Exceptional Christian? It is not, in my mind, what many may think it is at first glance.  I have a feeling that many will see the title of my blog and think I’m talking about those Christians that are perfect in their faith, or who are the most compassionate, or those that go to church every Sunday and do all the “right” things.  That is no where near what I think of as an Exceptional Christian.  So how do I define an exceptional Christian?

  1. An exceptional Christian is one that loves Jesus.  Without Jesus we would not have the hope that we have in Christ.  We would live without hope that life has meaning and that the future, indeed eternity, is within our grasp.
    “And this is what he promised us — eternal life.”  – 1 John 2:25
  2. An exceptional Christian is one that is not perfect, yet strives to remember that God loves us, no matter what.  We will never be perfect. We are sinners and will continue to sin.  But God loves us just the same.
    “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, …” – Romans 3:23
  3. An exceptional Christian is one that despite the struggles they may be going through, whether it is financial struggles, health problems, marital issues, or some struggle against a sin, remembers that God is there for us.  He will never give us more than we can handle.
    “And God is faithful;  he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
  4. An exceptional Christian is one that realizes that God gives us enough.  He may not give us what we “want”, but he gives us all we need.  The exceptional Christian is one that despite the lack of our wants, he realizes he has all he needs.
    “… My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 

    “Look at the birds of the air;  they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:26

Can any one of us be Exceptional Christians?  I don’t think so completely.  I’m no where close.  However, I think we can strive to be one.  I think if we understand what God has done for us by sending his son, we can get better at it.

This world we live in today, here in America, here in 2010 provides many struggles.  Many of us are deep in the pit of troubles. If we strive to become exceptional Christians the troubles we find ourselves facing seem less troublesome and we can see hope where many do not.  I imagine we will find that when we work towards becoming exceptional Christians, our lives become more bearable, more joyful and more fullfilling despite our trials.

I hope that this blog can provide some insight on how I’m struggling to become an exceptional Christian and in some way can give others hope that they are not alone and that there is hope beyond our current struggles.

You won’t find this blog being overly “preachy” as that is not my intent.  Yes there will be Bible verses as I find them applicable, yes I may talk about some Christian theology as it strikes me as important, but mostly this will be a journal of my struggles as an average “Joe” (or Jason as the case may be) and how I strive to deal with my temptations, my trials and my triumphs.

But you may also find some practical advice on different topics, perhaps anything from politics, recipes, relationships, to computer skills, blogging topics, books to read and raising of children.  In other words expect anything.  However, one constant that I hope to keep in all of my posts will be the underlying theme of how a particular topic applies to becoming an exceptional Christian.

Come join this journey of mine or continue your own journey and lets become “exceptional Christians!”

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