5 Top OFI’s for 2021

Opportunities for Improvement

With the New Year, some of us reflect on what changes we’d like to make in our lives. Perhaps a resolution or two are made. Annual professional and personal goals are developed and written down with the intention that this action may strengthen our commitment to achieve the objectives. 

Unfortunately, the goals and resolutions made in January can leave us with guilt by February if we have failed to take the actions we had initially planned. Instead of being aspirational and motivating, thinking about our goals just brings us down as the weeks fly by without progress being made. Let’s “think small”, doing little things to move us in the right direction. Define your OFIs, Opportunities for Improvements. Here’s a top five list that I am sure will help you make the most of the year ahead.

  1. Lose Weight—Don’t carry around heavy burdens that drag you down spiritually. Put the load you are carrying on to God to handle. If you are carrying guilt, let it go knowing you are forgiven and loved. Be thankful that you don’t need to deal with that extra weight as you face your future as a lighter, brighter you.
  2. Be More Active—sometimes we hear a small voice that tells us to take an action. Help someone in need. Encourage someone who is down. You are busy. They don’t want me to bother them. I don’t know them. No excuses, follow the voice and act with kindness, it may be God telling you what you should do. Pray and act out your faith, you will be amazed at what can happen.
  3. Stop Smoking— When something happens that has you fuming, stop and breathe. Don’t fan the flames of your anger thinking about how it is unfair or how wrong someone or something is. Getting mad and exploding never helps a situation and more often than not people can get hurt.
  4. Eat Healthy—Seek out God’s word and other sources that feeds your soul and nourishes your spirit. Making healthy choices of what you are taking into your body and mind will make you stronger, more resilient and allow you to reflect the best version of who you were meant to be.
  5. Get Organized—Each of our lives is full of stuff, stuff we own, stuff we have to work on, stuff we enjoy and love, and stuff we don’t like and want to avoid. Too much stuff can be a problem whether it is too many thoughts circling around our brains or too many items cluttering up our lives leaving us stressed out. It helps to get organized and prioritize what is most important. Ask God to help clear up your thinking and to follow His will for what matters most. Purge out the stuff that isn’t good. Focus on the positive stuff, the things and people that build you up and give you peace. Look for small steps to take or problems that you can solve so that the life you are living has meaning and purpose. You are worth it!

Will We Be Ready in the End?

Our world – in a mess,

Civilizations acting uncivilized,

Super rich, living in excess,

Extreme poverty, with people living on the edge,

Brutality and abusive behaviors occurring,

Some dismissing the value of young innocent lives,

Spreading disease forcing people to be separated from their communities,

Battle lines are drawn, with fighting between politicians and leaders,

Natural disasters wreaking havoc on cities and in the countryside,

People feeling hopeless and depressed,

No one is in direct control of their circumstances,

Humanity is overwhelmed by what is happening.

This is the world that Jesus was born into. Or is it 2020?

Back then, Jesus came as a babe to grow and teach us all a better way of living. He came to us weak and unprotected. He came, not to create a religion, but to demonstrate love and compassion.

He left us with the Holy Spirit and our sins forgiven. He left us with the keys to God’s Kingdom and the path to life everlasting with Him.

When Jesus returns, He will come showing His power and authority over all. He will return quickly and His reward will be with Him.[1] He will return when least expected and will reward the servants who are ready.[2]

Are we going to be ready for the end? What are we all waiting for?  God is alive today.  No one needs to wait until the return of Jesus in the flesh in order to experience a new life.  He is here with us, everywhere.  God has invited us to come to Him and if we only ask, He will come into our lives.  Let anyone come who desires to drink freely from the water of life.[3]  We plead with you, encourage you, and urge you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy.  For He calls you to share in His Kingdom and Glory.[4]

In the past, present or future, we are told we must be ready.  It could be your individual life which can end unexpectedly, or an end may come at a more global level.  Be ready at all times.  God has given us time to bear good fruit.  We may be given more chances, but why wait another moment?  Be ready in case the end is now.  Give your life over to God today.  Live with love and kindness.  Show compassion to your neighbors, your family, friends and those who treat you as their enemy.  That way, when it is the end, we will be ready, ready to celebrate and relocate to our true home, eternally with God.


[1] Based on Revelations 22:12

[2] Based on Luke 12:38-40

[3] Revelations 22:17

[4] Based on 1 Thessalonians 2:12

Prayer for Open Doors & Windows-

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Dear God— I am very grateful that You made Your Presence known to me. From that day I have known in my heart and mind that You are REAL and that has changed my life, my thoughts and my priorities. Thank You for all that You do everyday and the love You give whether I am at my best or at my worst. You are by my side. You can be trusted. You prepare a place in Heaven for me when life on Earth is over. Nothing can ever harm me because You are my protector. You give me strength and carry my burdens when I need a rest. I praise and thank you Lord.

Now I am asking for help. How do I do my part to lead people to see that You are real? There are so many people hurting, Lord. They think that this broken, messed up world is all there is. They think it is foolish to put their trust in anything they cannot see and prove. I pray that they can know You. Pushing words about Your Peace falls on deaf ears. Doors may close that I am trying to open with words of Your Love for them. Lord God, teach me, guide me to say the right things when I am given the window of opportunity. Please, Lord, reach them, touch them, show the nonbelievers that You are there. Make it personal in ways only You, Our God, can do. Whether they are seeking You or not, open the doors and windows and let Your Light flow into their lives.

Once they feel Your presence and see that You are REAL, their lives can be filled, their hurts can be healed, You can comfort them in their troubles. They can receive Your Love and have hope for their future. Don’t wait God, they need You now. We all need You now and always. Sending praise and thanksgiving for open doors and windows for You to enter into the lives of those who don’t yet know You.  Bring about the changes for good that come from a personal relationship with You, our amazing God. 

Amen 🙏

Ageless Wisdom

These days it seems like true wisdom is in short supply.  People often accuse one another of being ignorant and having poor judgement.  Our society idolizes youth and beauty, with actors, musicians and athletes in their 20’s getting a lot of attention and “air-time”.  These “kids” may have notoriety, but have they gone through enough life experiences to be able to share wisdom with the world?

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The dictionary says that wisdom is…

  • Experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them
  • Prudence, common sense
  • Wise sayings

To say someone has wisdom is a superb compliment.  When people apply that wisdom to problems and propose solutions, it is a great benefit to others. 

In the Bible, Solomon, son of David, became a king at the tender age of twenty years old.  God came to Solomon in a dream (1 Kings 3:5-14).  God asks “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”  Solomon replies that even though he is king, he is like “a little child who doesn’t know his way around.”  “Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.”  The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.  God gave Solomon what he asked for and more.  (1 Kings 3:28) …the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given Solomon for rendering justice.  (It is too bad that Solomon didn’t exercise that wisdom when it came to women later in his life.)

Today, where can we find wisdom and how can we ourselves become wise?  Many have gone before us and they have learned much that can serve as a foundation of understanding as we face questions and look for answers, whether it is in the written word or by consulting elders. (Proverbs 19:20) Get all the advice you can, so you can be wise the rest of your life.  Looking to those who have lived their lives with integrity, we can gain valuable insights of what is right, just and fair.  (Proverbs 2) Tune your ears to wisdom and ask God to grant “a treasure of common sense.”  God will lead you to pearls of wisdom, if you search for them like hidden treasures.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who have chosen to avoid evil and find joy in doing what is right, have a wealth of knowledge to share. (Proverbs 1:8-9) My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.  Just leaders and godly educators teach and show the way to those who follow and stay on the path of the righteous.  The understanding that you gain from listening to their wisdom and the discipline you build by exercising good choices will keep you protected and safe. (Proverbs 2:7) God is a shield to those who walk with integrity.  This is what God wants for you.  Have respect and awe for our God who holds immense power over everything and all wisdom of the ultimate truth.  He is willing to lead us to wisdom as we listen and follow His instruction and great consul.  In these ways, we can have ageless wisdom as our guide so that we find more peace and joy in living.

Let God bless you and keep you. Amen.

Through the Fire

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What image comes to mind when you think of fire and flames?

  • A campfire with friends and family all around?
  • Sitting by a fireplace warming up on a winter night?
  • A candle burning while eating a romantic dinner or enjoying a peaceful moment of contemplation watching the flame flicker?

Or is it an image that is just the opposite of peaceful?

  • A forest fire destroying trees, wildlife and homes in its wake?
  • A fiery, explosive emergency where people are at risk of getting hurt?
  • Hell and damnation, the fire and brimstone images of death without freedom and forgiveness from sin?

The images of fire and flames are used in many ways within our culture.  The invention of the wheel and the discovery of how to make fire are great innovations of our prehistoric ancestors.  Being “fired up” or having “fire” can refer to a person’s passion, energy, desire and drive.  Whereas “being fired” means the loss of a job.  Fire is often used in connection with purification.  Forging metal with fire changes the characteristics of the material, getting rid of impurities and allowing for molding into new shapes.  Baptism by fire references a personal ordeal someone goes through.  God’s holy fire can be descriptive of the transformative power of God’s love.

By going through the fire, we have felt the heat, we’ve been under the pressure of a difficult situation, we may have gotten burned, but we have made it to the other side.  The fire didn’t destroy us.  It may have transformed us, it may have molded us, it may have brought us to a place where we can appreciate that we’ve been refined.  We may gain confidence that God had a purpose for what we’ve gone through.   By going through the fire, let’s get fired up and share what we’ve learned and what we know about God’s Holy Fire. It may be just what someone else needs to hear to get them through the fire they are in the middle of.  Share the experience of God’s transforming love that lit a fire in you.  Encourage others to go through the fire.  Help them to reach the other side and be purified and transformed in ways that only God can do. 

Amen, God Almighty, we praise and thank you for refining us to do your works and to live in your image.

Keep It Simple & Breathe

Does life on earth seem to be getting more and more complex?

The pace of information coming at us doesn’t let up.  Everyday we hear more about the issues and problems our world is facing.  Listening to a constant flow of bad news often leads to anxiety and sleepless nights.  Protests, politics, power plays, and a pandemic…we’re dealing with stressors both old and new.  People are on opposite sides of the fence.  Each side takes its stand at a far distance away from the other, leaving a great divide in the middle. Often the fighting between the individualized extremes blurs the reasons behind the passion for the cause, creating a blindness for seeing possible solutions for the good of us all.  God stands ready to give us solutions to the challenges, peace in the storms, comfort when the world’s gone crazy. Are enough of us listening?

I get in my car, turning on my radio to SmileFM.  The lyrics of the songs remind me of what is important and of what God wants me to do.  Danny Gokey says it like this…

“Gotta keep it real simple”…

“We’re living in a world that keeps breakin’

But if we want to find a way to change it

It all comes down to this

Love God and love people

Next, Jonny Diaz sings…

“When the stress is on the rise in my heart

I feel you say just

Breathe, just breathe

Come and rest, at my feet

And be, just be

Chaos calls but all you really need is to just breathe.”

These are words I need to hear.  These are words to live by.  Keep it simple.  From the beginning to the end of each day, love God and never forget how much He loves you.  With people, you can’t go wrong in living by following the Golden Rule:  treat others how you’d like to be treated.  Then rest at God’s feet and just keep breathing.  God will carry us through.  Seek God’s word for the counsel and comfort you need.  Isaiah 26:3 promises that God will keep in perfect peace those who trust in Him, whose thoughts are fixed on Him.

My prayers are that we all listen to God’s voice each day, whether it is heard through the words of a song, from a friend or something you’ve read.  God uses many ways to be our guide.  He wants us to experience peace in our crazy lives.

God Bless

It’s OK to be a Weed

Weeds are a tough lot.  We pull them out but often their deep roots keep them grounded so that they can spring back up.  We chop them down, but sometimes this just encourages new, vigorous growth.  We smother them, we stomp on them, we poison them and still they keep on thriving and growing.  When there is barren land, the weeds come in and do the job of holding the soil in place to prevent erosion.  And weeds spread.  They know a thing or two about being fruitful and multiplying.  The weeds help improve the quality of the soil and provide an excellent environment for insects and microorganisms.  Think of the excellent role some weeds play for the beautiful butterflies.  Many weeds have blooms, bringing color and sweet smells and seeds, serving as food for birds and bees.  God knew that the Earth needed weeds to fulfill His purpose.

It just might be that we could learn a few things from the weeds.

  • Stay grounded and rooted to solid values, maintaining a firm foundation on God’s promises
  • When challenges and obstacles come your way, look for ways to experience growth and new opportunities.
  • If we’ve been hurt, and people and things are coming against us, rise above it, don’t let that keep you down, overcome the adversity and thrive despite the difficulties.
  • If you are in a barren place, bring life to it.  Spread your passion.  Prevent further erosion.  Bring color and sweetness to the emptiness.
  • Nourish those around you.  Build up the quality of the environment.  Be fruitful and multiply love, peace and mercy to expand the Kingdom of God.
  • Bloom. Show the beauty that comes from the spirit within.  You never know how much it could benefit those around you.

God knows the purpose He has in mind for you.  You may not be a sought after flower in the garden.  You may not be pampered and protected here on Earth.  But it’s OK to be a weed.  Be amazingly resilient.  Be tough and grow even when things are stacked against you.  …If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

What Have You Learned From Your Father?

Let’s get right to it…on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your father?

Was he there for you, teaching you right from wrong?  Was he hardworking, taking care of his family?  Was he a good example of what a man could be?  Or did he have problems, struggling in life and hurting others along the way?  Or did you have a father who wasn’t around at all?  Maybe your biological father did or didn’t meet the criteria used to call him a great dad.  It could be that someone else stepped up to be a father figure for you.  That’s good.  It’s important, especially for children, to have the right role models.  It shapes who we become or the partners we choose as we grow older.  What we see growing up can have a big impact on our lives as adults. 

There’s a country song by Rodney Adkins from 2006 called “Watching You”.  Part of the lyrics say…

Well, then my four year old said a four letter word That started with “s” and I was concerned. So I said, “Son, now where did you learn to talk like that?” He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?”

Later in the song it says…

He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands And spoke to God like he was talking to a friend. So I said, “Son, now where did you learn to talk like that?” He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?”

The song is a good reminder that children are apt to follow in their parents footsteps.  Genetics and behaviors are passed down to the next generation.  What is inherited could make the child strong, healthy, loving and whole.  This positions them well so that later they can pass on what they received.  Others have lineages with factors leading children to be broken, weak, confused, angry, addicted, abused or abusive.  Things can get ugly.  Many of us have been blessed with wonderful fathers (like I have).  But if you were not blessed in this way, don’t get stuck because of the negative influences of your earthly father.  That father was only human; you needed more than what he was able to give.  Each child, young or old, has a choice on who they follow and who they let define them.  Each child has a supreme role model, the best of the best, Our Heavenly Father. 

God as our creator, provider, protector, teacher, fulfills essential fatherly roles, doing everything in love, with mercy and compassion.  God sets the ultimate standard for how to be a great father.  His words, captured in Holy texts, guide us in the way to live.  Listening to His voice, heard from deep within, He instructs us or comforts us, meeting our needs and leading us in the paths of righteousness.  Seek God’s wisdom.  Ask for His Fatherly advice.  Through your relationship with God, you can set a pattern for living for yourself and those that follow you.  God can fill you with enough good so that you are able to give away what you have received.  You can halt harmful cycles.  By learning lessons from God, you will become who you were made to be—an image of your Heavenly Father.

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The Do’s & Don’ts of Losing Hope

anchor in the clouds

When the storms come, do you find it hard to hold on to hope, slipping into anxious, negative thinking?  Or do you put your whole heart into hoping things will get better, that your problems will quickly be solved or go away?  With all the uncertainty in our world these days, what could be wrong with hoping for the best?  My first thought has been that by knowing God, we never need to lose hope.  But it isn’t quite that simple and that’s not the whole picture.  Does being hopeful help us or could it also hurt us?

An anchor is often used as a symbol of hope.  In ancient times an anchor was associated with safety.  Being anchored could mean stability, security and being grounded.  Yet an anchor is designed to sink, it gets stuck.  The anchor’s function is to hold the boat in place.  It doesn’t allow freedom and progress in your travels.  The anchor could hold you back when it is time to move.  As a storm roars, the waves get choppy and the winds blow fiercely.  On a sailing website (https://sailingbritican.com/anchoring -in-a-storm/), it said “if things get really bad, our best bet is to up anchor and head out into sea away from other boats, land, etc.”  It also said, “To reduce fear and be able to sleep at night, you want to know that you have an anchor that will keep you safe.”  If you are looking for an anchor of hope, God is up for the job.  But He may not hold you tight in the way you expect and He may sometimes ask you to give up your hope for safety as He takes you head-long into the storm.  Even with God by your side, if you hope for smooth sailing, you are likely to be disappointed.  History tells us God loves adventure and surprises, so get ready for a bumpy, exhilarating ride, losing the hopes that are pulling you down and hanging on to the hopes that lift you up.

Here are some things to Do when you are losing hope…

  1. Do let go of intense personal desires – those things that you are begging for.  You might think you cannot be happy without them.  Sometimes our hopes cause us to fight battles we can never win.  Remember that our ways are not God’s ways.  Insisting on having what we want is the behavior of a spoiled child, not a mature child of God. Psalm 62:5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.
  2. Do hold on to God’s Promises – God is good and He loves you.  Hebrews 10:23-24, Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promises.  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
  3. Do take actions which move you in the direction of your hope.  God designed us to have free will; we are not meant to sit idly as a storm hammers away at us.  If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen and you don’t do anything, it will not happen.  (idea from Dutch Philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, lived 1466-1536 AD). God gives signs when we are on the right path, keep stepping out in faith, knowing that God will show you the way.
  4. Do accept things that are outside of your control.  More effort doesn’t always bring greater results. If anxiety, fear, worry and depression pull on you, accept them, stop hoping they will go away and they will lose their power over you.  (idea from tinybuddha.com) Surrender your control to God, letting Him know that you are putting your trust in Him. Psalm 121:2 My help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.

Don’t do this when you are losing hope…

  1. Don’t let your hopes be out of touch with reality.  Wishful thinking that is extreme or fanciful will not help your state of mind or resolve your problems.  Gambling with the money you do have, hoping to hit a jackpot, will not move you toward reducing mounting debts. 
  2. Don’t be careless about protecting yourself from harm. You may hope for God’s protection but you have a responsibility to be safe and take care to avoid possible risks to life and limb.
  3. Don’t give God ultimatums.  When you are struggling, you may be tempted to test God.  “God, if you are real and you love me, you will give me the desires of my heart, otherwise I won’t believe.” You only hurt yourself.
  4. Don’t give up the fight against the darkness. God provided a physical world with beauty and challenges, and yet a big part of the journey we are on takes place at a spiritual level.  Battles and triumphs take place in our thinking.  Use your hope in God to resist the attacks that the enemy hopes will sink you.  If you’ve prayed and hoped and nothing is changing, know that God will provide you with the grace and strength to handle it.  Light always wins over darkness.

Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Socially Distant – Spiritually Close

March 2020:  The information is coming at us every day about how to slow or prevent the spread of the virus that is causing a world-wide pandemic.  Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds; do it often.  Sanitize hard surfaces and touch points frequently.  Do not gather in groups; maintain social distance of 6 feet or more.  Stay at home to avoid public places.  We are at war with an enemy too small to be seen.  No one knows where this attacker may be hiding.  Who might be carrying this virus, allowing it to multiply and expand its impacts, place to place, person to person?  Our global situation is quite a significant reminder of how vulnerable we are as physical beings. 

When we put all our trust in science, nature, medicine and the civilizations we have built, our foundations can be shaken in times like these.  Our weekly routines and habits give us a sense of stability and comfort, but now those things our lives revolve around have become uncertain.  If most of our days are spent well connected within our social circles, what happens when we are told to keep our distance?  Do we feel lost and lonely?  We don’t have to feel this way.  God gave us a powerful spirit which lives inside each of us; with that spirit, we are never alone.  God gave us a piece of Himself so that we can always have Him close by no matter where we are or what we are going through.  Do you have that spiritual connection with God that remains strong when everything is falling apart around you?  Does your faith and trust in God outshine your fear and worry in dark times?  God wants to be invited into our lives whether things are going well or going bad. He wants to be spiritually close to us no matter what.  God has taught that the spiritual overrides and outlasts the physical.  Believe this to be true at a time when a nearly invisible threat is wreaking havoc on our world.  Keeping spiritually close will allow us to persevere and give us hope.    

The best way to “power up” our spirit is through prayer.  Prayer is the process that opens the door to a close spiritual relationship with God.  Talk to God often and listen for His voice.  The time spent in prayer results in God’s consul, comfort, strength, peace, power, inspiration, hope, love, rest, courage and more.  God is listening to our prayers and He doesn’t stand back watching and waiting when the situation calls for action.  God is an active force working on your behalf.  Prayer is an important and effective weapon for any battle.  It strengthens us to face the challenges of the day.  As you pray, trust that God will provide you with what you need to get through the tough times.  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).  

If you are struggling with worries and anxiety, and it is hard to find the words to pray, now is a great time to tune into Christian music.  There are songs and lyrics for every mood and every problem.  Today I heard Jason Gray’s song “Remind Me You’re Here”.  The lyrics ask some tough questions of God…

”Are you cruel if You planned it, Or weak if You allowed it to be?”  

Then says “I won’t ask You for the reasons

‘Cause a reason can’t wipe away tears,

No, I don’t need all the answers

Just be here beside me

Father, remind me that You’re here.

I also listened to Love & the Outcome’s song…”Even today, You got this, I know that I know that I know that You got this.”  With all that our world is going through, God’s got this.  He can bring good things out of bad.  Stay spiritually close and trust God to see you and yours through these unprecedented times.

God Bless!

Take Care & Be Safe!