Who, me walk on water?

August 27th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

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Today’s guest poster is my very favorite writer, Lois Farra Watkins.

During our trip to Israel, we found ourselves boarding a replica of a first-century fishing boat for a trip on the Sea of Galilee. While at sea, a CD of Christian praise choruses played. Hearing songs, such as “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” “Shout to the Lord” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord,” was one of my highlights. It was as if I could see Jesus and sense his presence. Perhaps Jesus and the disciples sang praises as they went from one side to the other.

A fun-loving, fatherly-type man teased, “Are you going to get out of the boat and walk on water?” I replied, “I do not see Jesus telling me to come.” He came back with, “But you have the Holy Spirit in you.” So to end the banter, I assured him, “If the Holy Spirit prompts me to get out of the boat, I will. What about you?”

There were no Spirit promptings to get out of the boat, and we had a calm sea to our destination. Yet, I couldn’t help but think of Peter’s adventure on the stormy sea. What do we remember most about Peter walking on the water to Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33)? Do we remember that Peter took the initiative to get out of the boat? That he walked on water? Or that he sank only to be rescued by Jesus? Or that Jesus scolded him for doubting? Most seem to focus his failure.

The challenge is to hear the voice of God—and take the risk. There are two kinds of people:

Risk-taking minority

Peter was assertive, impulsive, didn’t consider the risks and didn’t have a Plan B. We may momentarily honor him for trying. Perhaps we even secretly envy his adventurous experience. But we quickly criticize him for looking at the wind, being fearful, doubting, faltering and facing disgrace among the other eleven.

Play-it-safe majority

Then, there are the eleven disciples who never even considered the possibility of walking on water in a raging storm, much less risking an attempt. The eleven, who from the safety of the boat, could emphatically proclaim Jesus as the Son of God after he calmed the storm. But the eleven didn’t have enough faith in the Son of God to risk getting their feet wet. Yet, Jesus does not scold them for not trying. They played it safe with no ill-effects. No doubt they felt pretty smug as a soaking-wet Peter dragged himself back into the boat.

Any risk-taker needs to be prepared for one of two scenarios. 1. Success will lead to being immortalized as a progressive hero. 2. Trying and failing will lead to infamy: a reputation of disgrace and dishonor. The majority will murmur: “Who do they think they are?” “Why weren’t all the risks considered first?” “If they would have only listened to me!”

Is it any wonder so few risks are taken? If success was guaranteed, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. But the essence of trial and error is the risk of error. And some of the most successful people faced failure and humiliation:

Beethoven’s music teacher once told him that as a composer, he was hopeless. Walt Disney was fired by an editor of a newspaper because he, Disney, had no creative ideas. When Thomas Edison was a boy, his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. Henry Ford’s first two automobile businesses failed. Michael Jordon was cut from his high school basketball team. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 (but he also hit 714 home runs).

Here are some words of wisdom from Thomas Alva Edison:

      Results! Why man, I have lots of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.

B.F. Skinner wrote, “A failure is not always a mistake; it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” Or to quote John Piper’s book title: If You’re Going to Walk on Water, You Have to Get out of the Boat.

So, this week go out there and feel free to get soaking wet! Learn and rise again to again risk greatly! And to the smug eleven, please withhold the label of failure. Today’s failure may simply be one step closer to success.

Copyright © 2006 Lois Farra Watkins

Lois Farra Watkins is a licensed life coach who can help you navigate life’s rough waters.

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I have in my right hand, direct from a layover at O’Hell International Airport in Chicago, “Top five silly things flight attendants say.” (It’s summer, and I’m too lazy to write ten!)

5. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to make your flight more enjoyable.

How ’bout giving me the whole can of soft drink? How ’bout an in-flight magazine that doesn’t have the crossword puzzle half done? How ’bout spraying some air-freshener in the lavatory? How about . . . Oh, wait, it’s just part of the script, isn’t it?

4. To fasten your seat belt, insert the flat metal tab into the buckle, then. . . .

If a passenger doesn’t know how to use a seat belt, he or she probably shouldn’t be out in public unattended.

3. In case of the loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the overhead panel. Put the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.

I’m sorry, but if a gaping hole opens in the cabin, I don’t think I’m going to be breathing “normally.”

2. Please return your seat to the upright position.

But I’m so enjoying the relaxing half-inch of “reclining.”

1. In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device.

If I’m hurtling toward the ocean at 500 mph, I’m afraid I’m going to use my seat cushion for something other than a floatation device.

Okay, I say my share of silly—and downright stupid—things, but I try to follow these five sayings from St. Paul. (And they’re much more practical than “Anyone caught tampering with or disabling the lavatory smoke detector will be asked to deplane immediately.”)

1. If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).

2. We will speak the truth in love . . . (Ephesians 4:15).

3. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29).

4. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:31-32).

5. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone (Colossians 4:6).

We know you have a choice when you’re online, so when you need encouragement and entertainment, we hope you choose Hope & Humor.

“Buh-bye!”

Copyright © 2011, 2014 James N. Watkins

What are other silly things you’ve heard during pre-flight instructions? Please comment below.

Related post
Airline survival guide
Putting the “social” back into social networking
Speaking with truth . . . and grace
Top ten lists

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Living in the ‘gap’

August 20th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

As a teen, our daughter would have loved to live in the Gap, the trendy clothing store at the mall. Many of us live in the gap, but it’s a gaping hole between jobs or perhaps relationships. There are gaps in our health (I had three surgeries at three hospitals in two months for one stubborn kidney stone). And the most frightening gap of all: when God seems completely silent and absent in our lives. No one wants to live in those gaps, but they are inevitable.

There are two major gaps in the life of Jesus. The gospels provide no details between his infancy and his trip to the Temple as a twelve-year old. Then at least an eighteen-year gap between twelve-years old and the beginning of his ministry at “about thirty years old” (Luke 3:23).

But Luke 2 fills in those gaps with two short—but extremely important—verses. Between infancy and pre-teen:

      There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him (2:40).

And between twelve and about thirty:

      And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people (2:52).

We rarely think of Jesus, the Son of God, needing to grow in wisdom and maturity, but that is exactly what Luke records.

As gaps open up in my life, my first reaction is to panic or get depressed. But the gap is also a time that God, in His grace, can help us to mature and grow through the experience.

Are you living in the gap? I pray that God’s grace and the blessing of the people who love you, will make this a time of spiritual growth. And I pray that it won’t last twelve or eighteen years!

[Originally posted June 15, 2008, while I was in the gap undergoing radiation treatments for cancer. I’ve been cancer-free since October 2008!]

Some additional thoughts on gaps:
Some thoughts on life’s tough questions
God is never late—but He sure is slow
Squeezing Good Out of Bad

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Have you ever noticed that the harder you pray, the worse things get? It seems to be a biblical pattern! For instance, take the story of Jairus’ daughter. Here’s how it seems to play out:

1. Problem looks bad

Jairus, a synagogue leader comes to Jesus with an urgent request. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live”
(Mark 5:23). But what happens?

2. Someone else’s prayer is answered before ours

Jesus is delayed in going with this very important religious leader to address an anonymous, poor woman. “A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse” (Mark 5:25-26).

So, while Jesus is healing this insignificant nobody, Jairus is tapping his sandal and glaring at a nearby sundial. And then . . .

3. The problem gets worse

Really worse! Ten whole verses later we read, “While [Jesus] was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now” (Mark 5:35).

Do you find things worse place after making your request known. I put a friend. who is far from God, on my prayer list on a Monday and Tuesday he started drinking—after a lifetime of not touching a drop of alcohol!

4. The Lord promises a solution

“But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just have faith'” (Mark 5:36).

The exact phrase, “Do not fear” is used 51 times from Genesis to Revelation. (One inspirational Facebook post—not the most theologically reliable source—is going “viral” claiming it’s commanded 365 times: one for each day of the year. I could find only around 80 in context, but I digress!)

The bottom line, the Bible says “Do not fear” . . . a lot! It’s too easy to break into a cold sweat, restock your bunker and clean your weapons after watching the evening news. But the biblical command concerning fear is don’t!

5. Belief in promise ridiculed by unbelievers

When Jesus arrives on the scene, the professional mourners and flute players had already been hired and were creating quite a cacophony. According to tradition—and the Jerusalem Musicians Union 777—the family of the dead were required to hire this troupe for a proper period of mourning. So, when Jesus announces the girls is not dead, but merely sleeping, the unbelievers have a field day mocking Christian faith. Hmmm? Sound familiar?

6. Unbelievers are shut out, only those who believe invited in

Here’s where today’s “faith healers” and “miracle workers” diverge from Jesus’ approach. Instead of inviting in the media for Brother Bob Blessing‘s Miracle Crusade, the Lord doesn’t allow the unbelievers and skeptic in for a “show.” This is a private, sacred moment.

God seems to work in anonymity, behind the scenes. “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

7. A far greater miracle occurs than the original request sought

God has a flare for the dramatic! The Israelites don’t simply stroll out of Egypt. They’re trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea—so God simply blows a dry path through the sea and then as a final dramatic flair, drowns the pursuing army. The three Hebrew young men don’t talk their way out of the fiery furnace—they simply enjoy a bracing sauna with a heavenly being. And King Jehoshaphat doesn’t confront an enemy army with weapons, but the worship team. They “kill” the musical set—and every one of the enemy soldiers.

And so, rather than simply raising up a young girl from her sick bed, Jesus raises her from her funeral pyre! And the believers are “overwhelmed and totally amazed.” (The Greek word existemi, translated amazed, actually means to be “astonished out of one’s mind.”)

So continue to pray! Don’t let up! But be aware, that the situation may go from bad to worse. But do not fear, God will answer “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV). You will be astonished out of your mind!

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins. (Originally appeared in Presidential Prayer Team: Viewpoint February 2014)

Related posts
God is such a “drama king”!
Giving up fear for Lent
God is never late . . . but He sure is slow
Waiting is hard work!

Has God done something in your life that caused you to be “astonished out of your mind”? Add a comment of encouragement below. Thanks!

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It’s Saturday, so taking a day off from “Hope & Humor” to address “Heavy topics with a light touch.”

Today, another Christian music artist has “come out” saying she has had same-sex attraction since age 13. Vicky Beeching, best known for songs “The Wonder of the Cross,” “Above All Else” and “Glory to God Forever,” told The Independent, “When I think of myself at 13, sobbing into that carpet, I just want to help anyone in that situation to not have to go through what I did, to show that instead, you can be yourself—a person of integrity.”

Of course Christian websites, blogs, Facebook accounts, etc. etc. are reacting with holy hysteria!

I’ve addressed my struggles with sexual identity as a teen on my site (I’m straight) and recently attempted to present a comprehensive statement on Christianity and homosexuality. I’ve sought to be biblical and compassionate (and “biblical” requires that we be compassionate).

      Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself (Galatians 6:10, emphasis mine).

So, here’s a round up of my posts addressing these complicated and complex issues:

A “civil” debate on same-sex unions

Christian musician “comes out”

“Coming out” My sexual self-identity crisis

God hates godhatesfags.com

Speaking with truth . . . and grace

Why are some people so bent out of shape
about homosexuality?

What are your thoughts on these issues? Comment below: (Feel free to be passionate, but also compassionate.)

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When dreams die . . .

August 13th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (3 Comments)


God promises Joseph that he will become a great leader—and he ends up enslaved and imprisoned in Egypt.

The prophet Elisha promises an infertile woman that she will bear a son—and the boy dies in her arms.

Jesus promises to bring a heavenly kingdom to earth—and then he and the promise are crucified and buried.

Is this disturbing pattern playing out in your life? You sense that God gives you a dream job—and months later you’re laid off. (It happened to me—twice!) God miraculously fulfills your dream of a child—and now she’s clinging to life in neo-natal intensive care. It seems God has brought the man of your dreams into your life—and now he’s killed in a traffic accident.

When our dreams die, a part of us dies as well!

I mentioned in Keeping your dreams alive another biblical pattern: The dream is received, the dreamer is refined, the dream is resized and the dream is realized. But what happens when the dream dies?

In each of the biblical instances above, the dream is received, the dream dies, and the dream is miraculously resurrected!

For the Shunammite woman, it took three attempts for her son to be brought back to life (once by Elisha’s servant, twice by the prophet). In Jesus’ case, three days in a stone cold grave. But for Joseph—and this is not exactly encouraging—13 years of slavery and imprisonment.

Perhaps the miraculous resurrection of the dream is God’s way of assuring us, it was indeed his dream for us. (There’s no way we could have brought our dead dream back to life.) And, more importantly, the dream is now infused with God’s power—not our own—to be “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

If you’re facing the death of your dream, I’m right there with you waiting for my miraculous resurrection as well. I’m believing with you for a resurrection!

Copyright © James N. Watkins

How has God resurrected one of your dreams? Comment below.

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      (Reuters) Actor-comedian Robin Williams was found dead on Monday at his home in Northern California from an apparent suicide, Marin County Sheriff’s Office said. He was 63.

      His rep, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement, “He has been battling severe depression of late.”

I am so very sorry to hear of the death of the comic genius. I admired his lightning quick wit and wonderful characters from “Mork” to Aladin’s genie.

I am especially saddened to learn his death apparently came at his own hands following “severe depression.” Please, if you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, be assured that hope and help is available.

Hope and help for depression
Hope and help for suicidal thoughts

Meanwhile, my thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and fans of Robin Williams.

Related posts
If you’re thinking about suicide . . .
Do those who commit suicide go to heaven?
Charles Spurgeon’s struggle with depression
Are authors [and comics] in their “write” mind?

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My understanding of “holiness” began growing up in a conservative Methodist church with an active “temperance” program. Holiness simply meant no smoking or drinking. When I attended a Wesleyan college as a theology major, I learned the “doctrine” of holiness, which left me confused as to where I was in the process: “initial, progressive, or entire”?! I also learned I was actually rather “liberal” because I grew up watching TV, going to movies, and playing outside on Sunday afternoon.

As a Wesleyan minister, I toed the doctrinal line and obeyed the official rules, without having a clear understanding of how holiness actually “worked.” Then I came across an amazing, baffling and confusing Scripture: Hebrews 5:8:

      So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

What?! The very Son of God learned to be more like, well, the Son of God by the things He suffered. Was Jesus, as Isaiah writes, “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (53:3) because He obeyed His Father? Or did He obey His Father because he was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering”? That’s whole other article.

Here’s one thing I do know. The only way I have personally become more like the Lord I love is through hardship and heartaches. I have learned absolutely nothing from success, but I have learned much from suffering. That’s the message of Romans 8:29—although we much prefer the previous verse:

      And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And what is that purpose? The very next verse spells it out:

      . . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

God takes “all things” that cause hardships and heartaches and uses them to produce in us “the likeness of his Son.” (God does not cause these “things,” but He does redeem them for good.)

Often, we try to make living a holy life complicated by trying to explain it, turn it into three-point sermons, or divide it up into “initial, progressive and entire sanctification” so we may obtain this “second work of grace.”

I’ve become convinced that a) being conformed to the likeness to Christ is the essence of holiness and b) that holiness comes through allowing God’s Spirit to shape us into that likeness through hardships and heartaches.

And I’ve also become convinced the “good” God promises is holiness. Good is not happiness, pleasure, prosperity, a “God loves you and has a wonderful Porsche for your life” healthy and wealthy kind of good. The Greek word Paul chooses for good, agathos, can be translated “of a good nature, useful, helpful, excellent, upright, distinguished, or honorable.”

Second Corinthians 4:8-11 reinforces this concept:

      We are hardpressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal body (my emphasis).

God the Spirit takes all that hard-pressing, perplexity, persecution and striking down and empowers us “so that the life of Jesus may be revealed” in our lives. And that, in my simple little mind, is holiness.

Copyright © 2013 James N. Watkins

From Squeezing Good Out of Bad. Obviously, I’d love for you to buy a copy for yourself and all your friends. But if you’re currently unemployed, email me for a free ebook.

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With apologies to Robert All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten Fulghum, not everything I learned at Minges Brook Elementary School was true.

Some was simply bad science and medicine: Girls (or boys, depending on your gender) give you “cooties.” Toads give you warts. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Babies come from cabbage patches. Kill a spider and it will rain. Step on a crack and break your mother’s back. Someday your face is going to freeze like that!

Some was bad sociology and psychology: Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. Big boys don’t cry. You’ll poke your eye out! Be nice and people will be nice to you. Play fair and you’ll win. You can be whatever you want to be. And they lived happily ever after.

So, somewhere between Play-Doh and Preparation H, we make the disturbing discovery that words do hurt. Big boys do cry. People who don’t play fair often clobber those who do. We may not “achieve” all our “mind can conceive.” Life is not one long day at Disney World.

Nursery school naivete infuses children with energetic innocence and enthusiasm. And a life of broken dreams and promises often produces cynical senior citizens. But, perhaps there’s a balance between Fulghum’s positive perspective and the negativity of nay- sayers.

We do need to “clean up our own messes,” but in reality we often need to clean up after others. “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you,” but only if they are low in fat and cholesterol. “Take a nap every afternoon,” but only a very short one or you’ll be wide awake for those 3 a.m. TV infomercials. We do need to “flush,” but sometimes life’s plumbing gets clogged.

Perhaps maturity, then, is the ability to discern what is true and what is false. And to find that delicate balance between “and they lived happily ever after” and “the world’s going to hell in a hand basket.” You can’t learn that in kindergarten.

Copyright © 1988 James N. Watkins

What didn’t you learn in kindergarten? Please comment below.

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On August 3, 1974, Lois Farra and I were married at the Wesleyan church in Valton, Wisconsin.

So above is the “highlight” reel from our past forty years of the “better,” “richer” and “in health.” (Yes, there have been times of “worse,” “poorer” and “sickness,” but who wants to see that!)

We actually used 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as our vows to love one another “til death do us part.”

      Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him (TLB).

To paraphrase a song of the 70s, “His Love Will Keep Us Together.”

(The video also includes the song I wrote to propose to Lois, a song we sang while traveling with a college group and the song that accompanied Lois down the aisle. Enjoy!)

Related posts
40th Anniversary album (with captions)
Music from the video: Loving God and You (1973), Love in a Cruddy World (1972), Lois (1974)
Top ten reasons I’m not divorcing my wife (1996)
Top ten secrets to staying married 30 years (2004)

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