A meeting of Peter and Cornelius

I’ve been reading through Acts and today I came across a great passage that brought about some thoughts I wanted to share. 

Peter was a Jew. He grew up being taught it was against the law to associate with Gentiles. 

“He (Peter) said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/act.10.28.niv

Jesus came to the world to save the world but who’s “world” was it? Up to this point the apostles believed it was to save them. Their people. But God had a much bigger plan in mind. 

God arranged a meeting between Peter, a Jew, and Cornelius, a Centurion. This was a gateway to Jesus for the rest of the world! It must have felt awkward at first for Peter to be disobeying the Jewish law and at the same time obeying God. He had to make a choice to talk to a stranger from another “world” than his. Probably one that he knew little about. He probably didn’t understand Cornelius’ customs, what his day-to-day “world” was about. It didn’t matter though. The Holy Spirit told him to go, so he went.

This was a very vital step of faith for Peter and affected the future of Christians greatly. 

How thankful I am sitting here today in 2016 in the United States, a follower of Jesus that God did not show favoritism in His plan but accepted ANY person into His family. 

What does He require to be accepted?

 He accepts anyone who fears Him and does what is right. 

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:34-35‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/act.10.34-35.niv

We don’t have a choice where we are born, what race we will be, if our parents will be rich or poor, city or country folk, educated or not. The good news is that none of that matters. We do get a choice who to follow and what to believe. 

Had God’s plan only included Jews, the vast majority of Christians today would still be lost. We would have no choice otherwise. 

I wonder how Peter would feel today seeing how this meeting with Cornelius affected the future for all humanity.  Pretty awesome. 

Thanks for reading!

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Leading a Horse to Water

Today I want to talk about what I know about helping others.

For those of you who know me, you probably know that one of my biggest passions in life is helping people. I love helping people. Giving an encouraging word, believing in somebody, teaching them something new and relevant, just listening (huge!), these are all things that bring me a personal joy that is indescribable. It’s making a difference for someone even just for a moment, turning a frown upside down. It has a lot of worth, a lot of value to me.

I think part of it is the feeling I get when I see “where a person was” versus “where they are now”. It’s the “making a difference” that really energizes me and gets me pumped up! I feel called to make a difference each and every day. When I wake up in the morning and have that purpose, I feel so good. I can’t wait to face the day and see what it will bring.

I’ll be honest, though. There are spans of days, weeks, maybe even months where I let myself become selfish, self-absorbed, self—whatever for whatever reason and things can go downhill quickly. I sometimes feel like maybe I have nothing to offer OR I have such little energy at the time that I only have enough to help myself. Either way, that doesn’t make me very happy. Truth is, sometimes I have something to offer, sometimes I don’t. It doesn’t change how I feel about people and it shouldn’t change how they feel about me.

People know (at least I hope they do) that they can rely on me if they need something and if I can help them, I will. I’ve had to learn over the years that it’s also ok if I can’t help them, for whatever reason, too. Maybe I don’t have an extra $20 or maybe I have previous commitments, maybe I don’t have the expertise or wisdom they need to deal with their situation. That’s ok. I still want the best for them and I hope they can find help.

So that’s my side of it but…

There’s an old saying, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

“What’s the deal, man? I got what you need right here. Why won’t you take it?”

It used to baffle me sometimes when someone refused help but I think I have come to the conclusion as to why people refuse help. There are a few reasons it could be.

1. Pride – “I don’t need your help. I got it. If I let you help me, that means I don’t have what it takes to help myself. There must be something wrong with me if I need your help and what’s worse is you see me as less of a person if I can’t do it myself.” Sound familiar at all? I think we’re all guilty of this from time to time. One thing we forget to realize is we steal the joy of others when we refuse help. Maybe helping you also helps them. They say that if you want to become an expert at something, teach it. If you can teach someone something, it also helps you get better at it yourself.

2. Hopelessness – “What’s the point? I don’t want you to waste your time on me. Nothing will ever change. I’ve already tried…so many times. Why should your attempt be any different? Don’t even bother. If I let you try, I will just be disappointed again.” This is a hard one. If someone doesn’t have hope that things will get better, it is really hard to convince them otherwise or motivate them to do different. I heard this yesterday. When Thomas Edison was inventing the light bulb he said, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I just know now 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If you have tried something and it doesn’t work, see that as a positive because you’re crossing that possibility off the list. When you cross it off the list, you are that much closer to the answer. It’s like when you are taking a multiple choice test and you know it’s not “A”. Cross it off, now you have one less answer to choose from. Great! I know I make it sound easy and it’s not that easy. Finding hope is hard. It really is but I challenge you to keep going and hold on to hope when you feel hopeless.

3. Discomfort/fear – “That would be awkward if I let you help me. I don’t know you well enough to let you in. I let _________ in and he/she hurt me. I don’t let people in anymore.” You have to build trust in order to help some people. Not everyone is so easily trusting. They have to know you really truly care and that you’re not going to take advantage of them. It can be scary to open up to someone and be vulnerable. If they know your secret, they can use it against you. People gossip. It happens. It sucks. When you build trust with someone, they are way more willing to accept help from you, advice from you, whatever it is. It doesn’t take a lot. Listening is huge, like I said earlier. If you repeat back to them what they just told you, it shows them you took the time to listen and you want to get to know them.

I think we’re hardwired to help others and need help. A training in Dallas I attended three years ago taught me many things about relationships and emotions. One of the things they would say is that “we are in the tribe of needing people, not needy people.” There’s a difference between really, truly needing help and asking for a hand out and being needy, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic! We need people. No man is an island. We all need family, friends, and others around us. All too often, especially here in the U.S., we try and try to be 100% self-sufficient and it simply does not work.

Until next time…thanks for reading! I’ll leave you with a couple questions to think about.

Are there other reasons I missed that you or someone you know refuses help?

Do you like helping people for the same reasons I do? Why or why not?

horse

The Ways We Were Raised

The Ways We Were Raised

It’s been a while since I posted a blog but I had a thought is morning that was a little longer than 140 characters and let’s be honest no one ever reads the 8 inch long paragraphs people post to their facebook page. We’re not mentally prepared to read something that long when we login to facebook.

Anyway, March 16th I celebrated my first year of marriage! Yeah! I made it through what most people say is the hardest year. I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t easy breezy. There’s a learning curve but hey! We made it and our marriage continues to grow and strengthen. Marriage is awesome!

This brings me to what I was going to post about. Our upbringings. No two childhoods are the same, you know? There are just too many factors. I’ll list just a few off the top of my head. I’m not even going to list the big ones, religion, politics, etc.

1. What neighborhood you lived in
2. What birth order you were in
3. Your personality
4. Your parents’ personalities
5. Your parents’ upbringing
6. Your families’ financial status
7. Size of your school

I’m sure I could name 100 if I took the time..you put all these together and it’s part of what makes you unique from birth to death. These are all things that have an effect on the way you behave and think. You could even go as far to say as the way you feel about things and yourself.

I had dinner with my family last night without my wife. (She had gone out with a girlfriend of hers.) It’s been longer than I can remember that I had spent any time with them without Karissa actually. Anyway, it got me thinking about how different our families are. Something I said last night, I don’t even remember what it was, but what struck me was the reaction I got from my brother and dad. It was a strong positive reinforcement to my comment. I think I was taking what someone else had said and explaining another avenue to that thought. Well, in my family, we all kind of did that. We would explore caveat after caveat and on down the road to the conversation and that’s how we communicated. In my wife’s family, they stick to the topic, and don’t veer off. Both ways are completely acceptable, but what happens is when I veer off with my wife in conversation, I get blank stares sometimes instead of a positive reinforcer and it’s like, “oh, wait, huh?”

I can remember one time being at my in-laws house and I asked Karissa’s mom what was in something and she told me, then a second later, Karissa explained to her mom that I was just a curious person and I had no real reason for asking. This is true. Ha. In my family, we might have spent the next 15 minutes talking about foods and recipes and all this other stuff for no real purpose but to just say it.

This is just a minute example of what I’m talking about. I’m sure you can think of dozens more probably with way bigger impacts than my example here.

I think there will always be some adjusting when you combine two different people raised two different ways. The important thing is to love and accept each other. Respect each other. I actually LOVE figuring out and hearing from Karissa that “in my house, we did it this way” It’s so interesting to me. I know I’m not like everyone but after all, I am a curious person…

How have the differences in the ways you were raised affected your relationships? Please comment. Thanks! Until next time..

curious cat

A Real Man is…

These are some of the things that come to mind when I think about what a “real man” is to me. There are a lot of misconceptions out there on what it means to be a “man” in my opinion.

Some people might disagree and that’s OK. I’d actually love to hear some feedback, especially if you disagree.

Anyway, here it goes:

A real man makes an effort not to be selfish in his actions.

A real man is a servant to his family and puts them first.

A real man isn’t one who is hard as a rock and unapproachable.

A real man lets himself be vulnerable to his wife and kids and shows his heart to them.

A real man rejects passivity. Instead he steps into the role of making the tough decisions.

A real man asks for help when he needs it.

A real man takes care of business, no matter how big or small.

A real man listens.

A real man treats women with kindness and respect, honoring and cherishing them.

A real man doesn’t let his pride rule out the possibility of doing wrong or being wrong.

A real man values the opinions of those he cares about and weighs them carefully especially when faced with trials.

A real man has a relationship with God, the father, looking to Him for strength and wisdom.

A real man doesn’t let fear win but steps into it courageously to do what’s right anyway. (I believe you can be afraid and choose courage anyway)

A real man remains faithful.

A real man keeps his word. His word is his bond.

A real man follows the golden rule that says he treats others the way he wants to be treated.

A real man can be assertive but is never aggressive. He doesn’t use his power to get his way or to harm but sticks up for what’s right and protects others.

A real man is teachable. He allows himself to be humble enough to receive feedback openly.

What other characteristics does a real man have to you?

Can You Catch the Butterfly?

živjeti jednostavnim životom (living a simple life)

What does this picture make you feel? My eyes are drawn to the cloth hanging in the wind, airing out to dry. Not too long, we, the humans, lived a simpler life. Things were much slower then. This was before my birth. I can only speculate what life was really like based on what little knowledge has been imparted to me by my elders.

Today in 2012 humankind looks at technology as the best thing since sliced bread. Funny how that saying is so dated in itself. As we move forward in our innovations, inventions, interventions, and conventional methods always improving, evolving, involving communities seeming smaller and smaller as communication grows larger, speed becomes relatively slower at an inversely accelerated pace. What’s the next best thing? What’s the faster, smarter, better, hotter, nicer, you-name-it product we can have?

When does it stop? When is enough enough?

Is peace and quiet no longer valued? Surely not. Is simple accepted? I hope it still is. In America, we value these aforementioned ideas yet we miss out on the lesson God says. LIVE A SIMPLE LIFE

Fast food, cut-throat pressured deadlines at work, time crunches, soccer games, doctor appointments, fit it in, squeeze a little more out, keep up the pace, don’t stop, stop, stop, but when is it time to take a breather? We as Americans pay a person to relax us whether through some therapeutic spa session, massage, acupuncture, or you name it! Can you believe where we are today? Who said we had to get on this hamster wheel? Who said we had to run this rat race? What are we generating this energy for? Do you know why you are working your 9-5? I hope it’s for more than the house, two cars, wife, 2 kids, and surround sound stereo entertainment center.

Maybe we need to hang ourselves out to dry on the clothesline for a moment and feel the wind. The calm, serene tune of nature. Could be that it’s all for naught.

I read a quote coming back from Zagreb the day this picture was taken, just a few days ago. It’s by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He says the following:

“Happiness is a butterfly which when pursued is just out of grasp…But if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

We are most certainly closer than we think to getting what we want. Like before, let me leave you with a song, a recent favorite, by my favorite band OneRepublic. You might have heard their songs “Apologize” or “Good Life” or “Secrets” but this one is called “Passenger”….

 

Croatia: Getting Accustomed

It is Friday afternoon, May 18th.  We have now been here five days.  The jet lag has worn off and I feel great!  We have close to 30 readers now.  The three of us (Amerians) average about 5 readers a day.  We have about 8 each total.  Some have only come once and some come back daily.  They are both young and old, male and female.  It has been neat to see and hear the different perspectives of a native Croatian.  There are many similarities here and yet many differences.  Interesting all the same.  I am getting used to reading the language as well.  I have picking up a few words here and there ESPECIALLY the ones that are used in the book.  Like “glory” in Croatian is “slava”. And in Croatian, “j” makes a “yuh” sound instead of “juh” sound in English or the “huh” sound in Spanish.  I’ve caught myself speaking English in more simple terms, like with less parts of speech.  I think today I said to Billy or Mitchell something and I didn’t use any articles.  It wasn’t Tarzan-speak, but it was a step down.  It reminds me of an intro to an episode of “The Office” this season when Kevin decides he is going to start speaking….like Tarzan basically because it will save time.  It’s not until Jim is trying to ask him something and there is a double meaning issue and the miscommunication runs rampant.  It’s pretty funny! Read below:

Oscar: He’s making a statement. It’s an ironic comment on our expectations of him. A funhouse image of our model of Kevin.
Kevin: Why waste time say lot word when few word do trick?
Andy: Sometimes words you no need use, but need need for talk talk.
Kevin: Many small time make big time.
Jim: Kevin, are you saying see the world or Sea World?
Kevin: Oceans, fish, jump, China.
Kevin: When me president, they see… they see.

The world has gotten even smaller in my mind and today I spent a good while discussing all of Europe with Marijana, one of the workers here at the place we are staying.  Marijana has been very friendly to us and very helpful.  We decided today that tomorrow we will probably be renting a car (probably a VW) for only some where between 170-250 kunas which is only $40-50 US Dollars.

The easiest to way to think of the currency exchange is to divide the amount of kunas by 5.  Good thing I have had a lot of practice the last few years as a banker.  he he

I have really loved getting to know my readers and talking with them about anything and everything.  I would say at the beginning we would talk 95% about the material in the workbooks and now it is closer to 80-20%.  I suspect as the time moves along, it will be even less.  The way the program is designed is that of a two-edged sword.  You talk about God and Jesus, the gospel, as well as our own thoughts and experiences.  It really is just like sitting with someone and having a bible study.  I see no difference in the two.  There is way more opportunity to sit with a foreigner who just wants to practice English than your typical non-Christian from the states when it comes to evangelism.

This has been a growth spurt for me so far and it has only been a short while.  As I spend more time with these people, it gets easier and easier to open up to them and ask them some semi-personal questions.  To my surprise, almost always they are more than ok to share.  I think that’s true of most people.  Don’t we all want to be asked about things, even if they are personal?  Some people might feel offended to be asked a question that seems inappropriately too personal but still would feel a little bit flattered that you would want to know.  It also depends on motive though too.  We ask here, for curiosity’s sake and to build our friendship, not just to be nosy.  At least, I hope that is the impression.

What do you wish people knew about you but don’t because they’ve never thought to ask?

me..left-handed, allergic to shellfish, never broken a bone, used to skateboard, never been to DisneyWorld, but I’ve been to Okla-HOMA! Well the ladies are insane there, but I really don’t remem-BA.  Ok, if you just got totally lost, I am butchering a song from the a 70s Supergroup cassette tape we used to listen to in the car when I was a kid.  Yes, we were exposed to the classic Rock’n’Roll genre.  I’m thankful too!  There are some really great bands I think everyone should hear.  Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was my first CD I  actually ever bought.  Kinda strange I know for a young kid in the 90s to purchase but some of my older skater friends really liked them and I liked what I had heard too.  Plus it was like $3 at a pawn shop and I was basically broke as a young teen.  Add that to my list of things you should know.

Well, it’s almost time for my next reader so I must go…

Let me leave you with some great lyrics from this album and I actually would like to hear your responses about what it is people should know about you.

Time by Pink Floyd
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lieing in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
And racing arond to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but your older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the english way
The time is gone the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Time(zone) Travel, The Matrix, LST, Plitvice Lakes National Park, bank talks

As I sit here, it is now 5:15 PM in Zapresic, Croatia but my body and mind still feel as though it is about 10 AM or probably more accurately, somewhere in between as I adjust to the seven hour timezone difference. It’s been an interesting last 48 hours. As I’ve experienced my first timezone crossover, I would describe it as pulling an “all nighter” only this time it’s as if you are sleeping during the day and staying up at night every day and night for the next two weeks.

It’s all like a dream.

If you’re old enough and nerdy enough (or should I say COOL enough ) to have seen The Matrix movies, it’s like what the guy at Neo’s door tells him about being on some drug. “You’re not fully asleep, but you’re not fully awake” OK, that’s not a direct quote, but you get the idea. This has been my face the last couple days. Anyway enough about that.

Today we had our first informational meeting. Only two showed up; one man and one woman, but we are having another meeting 90 minutes from now. This will hopefully draw in much more people as they will have been off work for the day. We expect to have around 20 or so. Hopefully even more than that.

I sat down with Anita today who is an endoscopic nurse in Zagreb. We went through lesson one of the book of Luke, the first and main book of the Let’s Start Talking program.

A quick rundown of LST: You sit with someone who wants to learn conversational English. You have them read a short excerpt of the bible, in this case Luke, and you talk with them about what they’ve read. It’s dually beneficial. They get to hear/read the gospel and learn English with a native speaker simultaneously. I sat with Anita today and was impressed with her understanding and knowledge. She said many people are taught English in grade school all the way up to college. It’s the primary foreign language taught here. Most people also know a little bit of German, few know Italian and Spanish as well. Marijana, one of the workers of the church, knows all four. Pretty impressive. Many Croatian words have a German root as well. I learned that this is because Croatia used to be a part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire about 100 years ago or something like that.

We will be getting a day or so to travel in this two week time frame. We were initially thinking about visiting Vienna but as we have found out the travel time would most likely be like traveling from Tulsa to Dallas (4-4.5 hours), we aren’t so sure we’re going to do that now. I think we’re leaning towards traveling to the Coastal region to the West. The beaches are supposed to be very beautiful and there is a national park that is ranked as one of the most beautiful areas in the world. It is called Plitvice Lakes National Park. You can see more about it here:
http://beautifulplacestovisit.com/lakes/plitvice-lakes-national-park-croatia/

I’m certainly not opposed, as you can see! I love the beach too. So yeah, that’s probably what we’ll do.

We went to Kaufland, a German grocery store this morning. I was pretty proud of us. For the most part we figured out what we needed to buy and although we couldn’t read most labels, most places have the staple foods: bread, lunch meat, milk, cereal, chips, pasta, juice, etc.

We didn’t really see too much out of the ordinary (or what Americans would call ordinary) We did noticed Paprika was the chip flavor of choice. We found some BBQ chips that were simple referred to as “Western Style” 🙂

I met a few kids yesterday and we played a little bball on the church’s bball court. Their names were Peter, Ian, and Luke. Probably not how they spell them, but I’m sure I’m close. Good kids. They did not want me to stop playing but dinner was ready and I was plagued with jet lag so I was very hungry and very tired. Maybe I should have pushed through a little longer, I don’t know.

Today we drove around to more of the area and registered ourselves with the police. It was kinda funny the way Ivan (the preacher) phrased it at first. He said he was going to have report us to the police. We were like, “did we do something wrong?” but we figured out what he meant pretty quickly. In Croatia, if you aren’t a citizen, you must report to the police within 24 hours if you plan on staying longer than a day. We are only here for two weeks so we are considered tourists and don’t have to get visas or anything like that. It was a fairly simple process. We just showed them our passports and filled out a little form.

Then we went around with Ivan to witness him do some of his business with banks. Billy and I were especially interested in this since we both work in the banking industry back home. It was interesting when you go into the branch because they have a machine there with different buttons. 1 would be Checking, 2 Savings, 3 Credit, etc. You would push a button and then get a receipt with a number on it. Then when they called your number, you could go up to the teller line. It was interesting, but not as much to you non-banker folks.

Then we drove around a few of the neighborhoods. We saw some duplexes Ivan said were about 1500-1800 sq ft. He said they went for $200-250k. Unbelievable. It’s like what you would pay on the coasts in America I guess. Oklahomans really are lucky in that the cost of living is so low.

It’s been fairly cold and dreary these last two days. I hope it warms up soon because I only have so many jeans! I brought many shorts and short -sleeve shirts and I plan on using them.

All in all, it has been a great experience here so far. Let’s see what these next few days bring. I’ll try and keep you updated as much as I can.

Until next time…check out this view!  We’ll see if I can see it in person.