About Me

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Circumstances for Clapping Hands is a blog about reasons to give praise to God, despite my circumstances. As Henry David Thoreau once addressed, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” The challenges: 1) Find value in everything you do and 2) Find joy in doing it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The "Service Challenge"

Recently I’ve decided to take on the challenge of practically serving others, with the key word being “practically.”  With this in mind, here's how I plan to embrace the challenge.  By using these five basic steps, I hope to practice the act of service, simply and effectively. 
Just Listen
More often than not, we feel the need to be heard and we cringe when forced to listen, yet how awesome would it be if we truly took the time to listen to someone else?  Whether someone is sharing about their day, what’s on their heart, or a simple story, I plan to take more time to just listen.
Just be Polite
Imagine a world where everyone was publicly polite.  Could that even be possible?  By complementing someone, by holding the door for someone, by buying a coffee or meal for someone, or by helping someone change their tire or buy gas, you will have made someone’s day just a bit better.  I will try to be more polite wherever I am. 
Just be Hospitable
Want to build community or establish a relationship?  My wife and I will make time to open our home to guests and to just be hospitable.

Just Give It Away
After my wife and I moved into our smaller, new home we realized that we had a lot of stuff.  Stuff that we didn’t need.  Truth is, most of us have a lot more than we need.  Think about all those people who don’t have stuff.  Imagine what their lives would be like if they did.  Try putting some stuff in your car and give it to those you see that may be in need.  You could even make a pile and choose people in your life who could specifically use your lesser needed items.  I will try to give away what I don’t need to those who do.

Just Show Those Teeth
My wife and I have recently investigated the power of smile and laughter and have found that it can be very rewarding.  By simply smiling at someone, or laughing with them, your action and attitude could drastically improve their day.   I will try to smile at and laugh with those around me more.

So that’s the challenge that I’ve chosen to embrace.  By truly interacting with people, my hope is to make my day, their day, and possibly your day a bit better.  These are five simple steps I’ve decided to practice. I challenge you to do the same.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Christian's Perspective on Stress

Stress is a disease.  It infects the mind, deteriorates the body, and harms the soul.  It’s an instigator of worry that forces one to ask “What if?” with a dreadful tone, rather than “What’s next?” with pure joy.  Stress is a preventer and a manipulator.  Its presence has left wounds unhealed and noticeable scars on all of us.  Stress dictates many of our actions and thoughts.  Stress is a poison, with fear as its primary ingredient. 

Everyone has struggled with stress.  Few have gone as far to take their own lives.  Most have settled for a worry-filled existence, refusing to reach their full potential, afraid of what could happen.  We’ve granted stress the ultimate authority.

Undoubtedly, stress is a daily hazard that we all face.  No matter the size or the direction from which it comes, stress consistently rears its ugly face into our lives.  It bombards us with worry after worry and even when we think it can’t get worse; our stress multiplies.  Truth is, stress, as a by-product of sin will forever be a part of this fallen world, however its hold over us does not have to continue.  What if we had the power to control our stress?  Even better, what if we had the ability to hand our stress off to another to shoulder?

For those who face stress repeatedly, let’s examine together the greatest example of stress control, Jesus Christ.  Remember, Jesus himself endured stress at a magnified level.

Having been fully aware of His purpose as a man, Jesus endured more than any other could bear and yet He still served.  Jesus was tempted not once, nor twice, but in all, three times by the greatest tempter (Satan) and He still served.  Knowing full well that He would be betrayed by one of His closest friends, Jesus still served.  Understanding that He would be brutalized, mocked and left to die, Jesus still served.

In light of these stressful situations, the point remains clear in that Jesus served.  And herein lies an important lesson I would ask you to consider.  What if we took on Jesus’ example of servanthood?  Now before you ignore this idea, let me be the first to say that as a Christian, I’m well aware that the discussion of service has become cliché.  From Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, we are constantly reminded of his service.  We’ve heard repeated sermons on his ministry and how we should serve others.  From his feeding of the 5000, to speaking with the women at the well, it is abundantly clear that Jesus remained focused on others.  But if you can, stop and think about what I’m saying.  He did all of these in the face of stress.

Jesus endured, in human form, what we do everyday (Hebrews 4:15).  The negative influence of others, selfishness, arrogance, frustrations, isolationism, ridicule, suffering, threats, persecution and high expectations were all a part of his life.  Yet even with these nagging strains, Jesus persevered.

Noting Francis Chan, one of the great speakers of this generation, I have come to realize there’s more to this life than what we deem worthy of worry.  I’m reminded of one specific point Chan shares in his book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God.

“But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.”

Think about this:  How great would life be if lived unafraid of anything?  Seriously, can you begin to imagine a life without worry, fear, and stress?  Is this even possible?  Shouldn’t we at least investigate the possibility? 

I believe Hebrews 13:6 says it best:  “So we can confidently say,  “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

I think it would do the world a great service if we each asked ourselves the following:  How often do I actually take into account what Jesus says?  How often do I truthfully seek his guidance?  How adamant am I in my belief of this verse?  Do I really need God’s help?  After all, he is here to do just that.  Unfortunately, I believe you and I, as Christians, are more like the world than we care to believe, choosing to be sincere towards God’s plan only when it is in unison with our will and desires.

With this realization I’ve come to understand that trust in its purest form is the hardest thing for mankind to develop.  We don’t want to give up our control.  Our sinful nature, pride, and arrogance lead us to believe that we can handle anything.  Over time, we have allowed ourselves to believe that stress is inevitable.  Something that we need to accept.  But that’s just it!  We don’t have to.  We’ve needlessly worried, cried, kicked, scream, and yelled (among other things) all due to our inability to accept someone else’s help. 

Recently I’ve come to understand that even Christians forget this point.  Regardless of the numerous Bible studies we’ve participated in or the endless reminders we’ve been given, we still lose sight of our designed purpose.  We instead replace those ideals with idols and begin to grow ever frustrated and worried about things Jesus has already promised to take care of.

So, what if we changed our perspective?  What if our focus fell more inline with God’s?  What if we lived as we should, and did what we were designed to do? (Matthew 20:16)  What if we did our jobs and did them well? (Parable of the Talents-Matthew 25:14-30)  What if we cared for others as we care for ourselves? (Parable of the Good Samaritan-Luke 10:25-37)  What if we searched out community in place of isolation? (1 Peter 4:9)  What, if in the face of stress, we still served others? (Christ’s Crucifixion)  What if we gave our stresses over to Jesus? (1 Peter 5:7)

By changing our mindset, I believe we can change our perspective.  I know stress will always be present in our lives, but we don’t have to carry it alone or keep us from reaching the potential God has designed for us in advance.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Where's Your Focus?"

Luke 8:15 “… As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

As many friends and family are well aware, my wife Lindsey and I have been in the process (key word: process) of adopting a child for the past two years. During such time, kind phrases such as, though not limited to, have been shared:

"Don't worry, God has a plan."
"All in his time."
"You'll make great parents."
"It'll happen...just be patient."

It's that last comment, and even more specific, that last word that challenges every Christian on this earth, and it's that challenge specifically that has caused me to redirect my focus. I recently read Luke 8:15 and was struck by the simplicity of Jesus' words. These past two years have been treturous due to one simple truth. My focus, true focus hasn't been on God's plan, but rather my own. Without question I do believe that I would be a great parent, and in turn, my wife would be as well. But as my focus has shifted to that dream, it has become overly apparent that my due dillegence in serving God may have been skewed.

To be more direct, has my patience produced fruit? Have I grown personally and spiritually? In some ways, I feel I have...though possibly not to the extent God had planned. And so, here lies the challenge, or in this case, the test still remaining to be passed. Placing our focus fully toward God and his plan is what we have all been called to do. So the question I've had to ask, is one you might too:  Where's your focus today?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Is Your God a Jealous God?

"For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you." - Deuteronomy 6:15

Often through time and culture, a word loses its original meaning and becomes tainted. The term "Jealousy" is one such term. Throughout today's society, this word has become both misrepresented and misunderstood, so much so that within the Christian environment it is considered more negative than not.

Jealousy at its core represents God at His truest form. How can I say such a thing? It's simple, just read the biblical text. We are created in His image, and even through the fall, He sacrificed greatly to save us. I've heard it said that, "Jealousy plays a key function in God's activities throughout our lives yet it is nearly disregarded on a daily basis." How is this possible?

Returning to the start, as Christians, we have forgotten the value of true jealousy, choosing instead to adopt society's misinformed definition. Is being jealous a sin? Simple answer: Not if God is! The truth is we should represent the most righteous form of jealousy possible. Not for us and not for others, but for God our Creator. Having been called to love one another by Christ himself, it should only seem natural that jealousy, in its righteous form should take hold in every one of our social relationships. In doing so, by exuding jealousy in such a manner, not only will our love for God overflow in such a way that the people around us know that we do want the very best for them, but we will also be upholding the second greatest commandment given by Christ in truly loving our neighbor.

By defining jealousy through love and protection, we as the Created will begin to emulate our Creator. Something that ultimately should be our goal.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Sigh of Relief...

I know it's been well over a month since I last added to my blog, but simply put, when one gets a new job, everything else slows down.

With that, this past month has been truly amazing. Making a return to teaching, at a school I once was employed at (years ago) has been a tremendous honor. Furthermore, re-connecting with former students and seeing both their maturity and faith grow to unbelievable heights has been uniquely special.

My very first class of seventh graders are now seniors, and I have never been prouder. Like a parent excited for their child, I find myself in a similar state of mind (however a sibling relationship may be a more appropriate comparison.)

Having the opportunity to see former students living close to Christ daily would always bring a huge smile to any Bible teacher's face. This is my experience everyday!!! God has blessed me with this experience...just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What It Means To Be Still...

I've always heard people say, "Just be still and let God work." What an absolutely amazing line, but how often do people really understand it, let alone do it?

For me, this line has been the essence of my Summer. Actually it can be traced way back to our most recent Spring. In such time I have seen God push, pull, stretch, press, and challenge me beyond imagination. Furthermore, my overall sense of Pride has been abandoned and replaced with a heavy load of Humility. Likewise, this summer has opened my eyes to the clearest of truths. Simply put, when God opens a door, who am I too shut it in refusal?

Not to say that walking through it would be an easy task, I believe it to be quite the contrary. In fact I have found each door to be uniquely different in weight and size, yet I have still managed to fit through safely, only to find a new challenge on the other side.

It's here where the lessons have been learned. What makes a person better is their ability to trust God through any process, no matter the difficulty. I've learned that the immediate will (most likely) be difficult during any type of change, perhaps even unbearable for the common man. But that's just it! I now know that with God, I am not like the common man.

Phil 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Perhaps undervalued due to its repeated use, but very true nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Down & Out?

"When mistakes are made, even serious ones, there is always another chance. What we call failure is not falling down but the staying down." - Mary Pickford

I don't often give much credence to verbiage shared by Hollywood, yet I think Ms. Pickford hits it on the nose. As I'm sure it happens much in an actor's life, so to does failure affect the Christian's walk daily.

But how does failure really influence us? It's simple, by discouraging us to try again. I know the feeling, I've experienced it daily. Whether it be by way of occupation, relationships, or other, we fail everyday.

Our biggest failure to date however, might be one we often overlook. A daily search for forgiveness from the only true provider of such.

I've realized lately that as Christians we do take for granted personal forgiveness. How often do we actually stop and ask for forgiveness after a sin, big or small? Truth is not very often, thus neglecting an important exercise in our daily relationship with God. In forgetting to do so, I believe we mis-out on some future blessings designed specifically for us?

Just a thought or two...