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I’m not too crazy about fruitcake, either.

By Patrick G Howard

Tis the season.

You know what I mean. The Halloween candy has all been eaten. (How did that happen so quickly?) That first little bit of cold air has descended on Houston. (And it didn’t come from your air conditioner.) Pumpkin spice is in the air. (Do we have to pumpkin spice our coffee?) The person you voted for lost, and your weird brother’s guy won. You wonder how your favorite team will win enough games to become bowl eligible. All these things can mean only one thing.

It’s time for Thanksgiving!

That’s right. Thanksgiving is that day when it’s OK to stuff yourself senseless, so you can take a two-hour nap in front of the TV while the Cowboys lose. That day when you get to listen to your crazy brother tell you why the country is going to be so much better because his guy won the election. That day when you re-discover why you despise pumpkin spice anything.

Thanksgiving and its associated traditions are uniquely American. We have so much to be thankful for, yet we take so much for granted. Before we dive head first into our Thanksgiving routine, let’s take a moment to focus on the words of King David.

1 Chronicles 16:34 – Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.

We serve an amazing God. Not only has He given us the gift of eternal salvation, but he provides for all our mortal needs as well. When we say the Lord’s prayer, we ask Him to provide for our needs (our daily bread); and He is always faithful in providing for us.

If you don’t believe me, let me ask. Did you wake up this morning? Did you sleep in a bed under a roof last night? When was the last time you went hungry? Do you have clothes in your closet? Do you have people in your life that love you?

We are truly rich with God’s blessings, but it’s never enough. Think about the answers to your questions above.  (If you’re like me, your answers may be something like this.)

  • Did you wake up this morning? Yes, but it was too early.
  • Did you sleep in a bed under a roof last night? Yes, but my mattress isn’t very comfortable.
  • When was the last time you went hungry? Never, but I would like to eat at Steamboat House instead of McDonalds.
  • Do you have clothes in your closet? Yes, but some of them don’t fit me anymore.
  • Do you have people in your life that love you? Yes, but my brother never votes for the right guy.

God has given us everything we need, and most of what we want, but it still isn’t enough. Why do we complain? Why can’t we just be thankful for the blessings that God gives us? Why can’t we accept that God has a plan for us and be thankful that He will faithfully provide for all our needs? Why do we complain that we hate brussel sprouts, when there are many who will be hungry tonight?

I have heard this said many ways, but this is my favorite:

Being happy doesn’t mean you have it all; it simply means you are thankful for all you have.

My challenge to you this month is to make this your mindset. Whenever you start to complain about something, turn it around and find a reason to be thankful for it instead.

Instead of complaining about getting up too early, be thankful that you were healthy enough to wake up.

Instead of complaining about your lumpy mattress, be thankful that you slept in your own home last night.

Instead of complaining that your brother voted for the wrong guy, be thankful that you live in a country where you are allowed to vote for the wrong guy.

Instead of complaining about eating at McDonalds, be thankful that Whataburger is just down the street.

Instead of turning your nose up at the bowl of brussel sprouts in the middle of your Thanksgiving buffet, move over and grab some mashed potatoes instead. Let those brussel sprouts be a blessing for your weird brother. Then be thankful that you have so much food available to you that you can stuff yourself senseless and take a two-hour nap in front of the TV while the Cowboys lose. There are a lot of people who can’t.

This Thanksgiving, focus on the words of King David and give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

How about you?

By Patrick G Howard

Jesus loved to teach in parables.  One of my favorites is The Parable of the Talents, also known as the Parable of the Three Servants.  I like this parable, because it teaches us multiple lessons with one simple story.

In this parable, the master was about to depart on a long trip.  We don’t really know how long, but that’s not important.  What is important is that the master entrusted his wealth to three of his servants.  Based on their abilities, the master divided eight bags of silver among the servants – one receiving five bags, another receiving two and the last receiving one.

When the master returned, the servant who received five bags had invested it wisely and doubled the master’s wealth into ten bags.  Likewise, the servant who received two bags worked hard and doubled the silver that he was entrusted with, returning four bags to the master.  But the servant who was given one bag of silver was lazy.  He merely dug a hole and buried his silver, and on his master’s return, only had the original bag.

The master’s reaction to the lazy servant is our focus this month.

Matthew 25: 28-29 ~ (28) “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver.  (29) To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance.  But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.’”

The master was angry, to say the least, but have you ever really thought about what the lazy servant cost him?  To fully understand the parable, it is helpful to know what a talent is.

A talent was a unit of weight, approximately 80 pounds.  When used as currency, a talent was roughly equal to 6,000 denarii.  One denarius was the customary pay rate for a day’s work, so a talent would have been equal to 20 years of labor for the average person.  Putting that into 2018 dollars, at minimum wage, a talent would equal about $300,000.  Each of the bags of silver given to the servants weighed one talent.

This was a big deal.  The master was so disgusted by the inaction of the lazy servant, that he took the only talent from him and gave it to the one who already had ten.

Today we use talent to mean something completely different.  Today, it means something more akin to aptitude, or ability.  No matter how we use the word, the lessons we can learn from this parable are the same.

Here are seven lessons we can learn from The Parable of the Talents.

  1. God always provides everything we need to do His work here on earth.

Each of the servants had everything they needed to accomplish their master’s plan.  Two of the servants used their talents faithfully, but one hid his in fear.  It is not always easy to follow God’s plan for you, but if we allow fear to take over, we will be lulled into inaction like the lazy servant.

  1. We work to please our Master, not to satisfy our own selfish pleasure.

The parable shows that the money given to the servants was not theirs, but rather it belonged to their master.  Similarly, all our talents come from God, and we should use them for His glory and honor.

  1. We are not all created with the same skills and abilities.

In the parable, each servant was given talents according to their ability.  Such is life.  Our society has become conditioned to think that we all deserve to receive the same benefits regardless of our level of effort.  However, we are born with different talents; and our success is measured by how well we put our unique talents to use.

  1. Success only occurs when we act.

While each of the servants had the same opportunity to be wise with the master’s silver they were entrusted with, only two of them chose to do something with their talents.  They were rewarded for their efforts.  The one servant who did nothing was stripped of his talent, and it was given to the one with the most.

  1. When we are given a talent, we must use it.

Just as in the parable, when we choose to let our own talents go dormant, we lose them.  We are only given our gifts for a season.  If we don’t cultivate them and help them grow, our ability withers away and becomes unusable.

  1. Success begets more success.

We have all seen it happen, just as in the parable.  We have seen that guy that has everything – the great job, the corner office, the shiny car (or pickup), the one who consistently shoots below par with his custom Pings posting pictures from that golf course in Playa del Carmen while you’re at the office working – get the promotion.  Instead of coveting that person, become like them.  When you are successful, you attract even more success.

  1. We will be held accountable for our actions (or inactions).

There will be a day of reckoning.  When that day comes, do you want to explain why you have wasted your talent and have nothing to show?  Or would you prefer to show how you used your talent to achieve God’s plan for your life on earth?

Isn’t it amazing how many lessons we can learn from one simple parable?  It’s no wonder that they were one of Jesus’ favorite teaching tools.  I imagine that, if we tried, we could come up with even more lessons to learn from this one.  However, this feature is not called Lesson of the Month; it is called Focus of the Month.  So, let’s take these powerful lessons and work on this simple focus – Don’t bury your talents.

God has given you talents to be used for His glory.  These talents can be the monetary type, or they can be the aptitude type.  Either way, it is rare that we use all of our God given talents.  There is usually something buried, just waiting to be released.

My challenge to you, and our focus this month, is for you to identify one talent that you are not using right now, find a way to dig up God’s buried treasure and use it for His glory.  Maybe you don’t know what that talent is.  If that’s the case, try this.

If you’re like me, there are times when you see somebody displaying their talent and you wish you could do that.  Maybe it is somebody playing a musical instrument or singing, and you wished you could do that.  Perhaps you wish you could command a stage like that motivational speaker you saw last week.  It could be something as simple as wishing you knew how to use Microsoft Excel like the person in the next cubicle.  Whatever that thing you wished you could do is, that desire is God’s way of tapping you on the shoulder and telling you that you have a buried talent that needs to be developed.

Will you become a Microsoft Office whiz?  I don’t know.  Are you going to be the next Tony Robbins?  Somebody will.  Are you going to be featured on America’s Got Talent?  Maybe.

The point is this.

We all have talent that is left buried.  Dig it up and find a way to develop it.  Then let God bless it.  You may be surprised at what you can accomplish with His help.

Until Elijah sings.

By Patrick G Howard

What is it about birthdays that end in zero?

I have a confession to make. I have one of those zero birthdays coming soon. As I was thinking about that, I took pause to reflect and take inventory of my life. And as I looked back, I had to ask, “Is that all I have done?” Maybe you have done the same.

If you’re like me, it goes something like this.

When you’re 10, you have all those grandiose plans for the things you’re going to do in life. You’re going to go out there and change the world. You just have to wait until you’re an adult to get started.

Then you turn 20. Now you’re an adult and you’re ready to get started changing the world. You just need to finish college first.

Now you’re 30 and you just spent the years since you graduated climbing the corporate ladder, starting a family and claiming your piece of the American dream. But you don’t worry, because there will be plenty of time to conquer the world.

Wow! That 40th birthday sure snuck up on you. You wonder how you got there so fast and decide that maybe the world doesn’t need conquering after all. You figure that you’ll tighten the buckle for the rest of the ride and get ready for retirement.

Guess what happens when you have your 50th birthday? You get invited to a very special club. That’s right. You get your invitation to AARP in the mail. You are officially middle aged. Talk about a slap in the face.

Now, I don’t know what happens on your 60th birthday, but I’m about to find out.  And that brings me to our focus this month.

I start every day by reading a devotional and the bible. Before I do, I pray that God will show me what he wants me to see. (If you have never done that, try it. You will be amazed at how often God will speak to you throughout the day.)

The other day, I had this nagging thought. It occurred to me that I can see a whole lot more birthdays in my rear-view mirror than through my windshield. I realized that I don’t have much more time to get things done, and I started feeling a little sorry for myself. Well, that was the day that God spoke to me (through my morning reading) and revealed our focus of the month to me.

1 Kings 19 (4) Then he [Elijah] went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” (5) Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat.”

How did Elijah get to this point?

After all, his life seemed to be trending upward. He had just confronted the prophets of Baal and proved whose god was supreme. Then God delivered the rain he promised, ending the three-year long drought. You would think that Elijah would be on top of the world, but he wasn’t. Instead of rejoicing in the confidence that he was solidly in favor with God almighty, he was afraid and discouraged because Queen Jezebel threatened to have him killed. But, what Elijah did next changed his whole outlook on life.

He prayed. He slept. He ate.

That is so simple, but so effective. How often have you been worried about a problem; prayed about it, slept on it, and figured out what you’re going to do about it over breakfast? That’s the way many of my problems are solved. (You get bonus points if an angel tapped you on the shoulder and talked to you while you were sleeping.)

And that brings me back to my story.

It’s true that I don’t have much more time to get things done, but here’s the thing; God doesn’t need much time. I still have plenty of time to accomplish what God wants me to do here on earth. And so, do you.

There is a real simple test to determine if you have done everything God wants you to do in life. Take a look at the grass and tell me what you see. If you see the green side, you’re not finished. If you see the roots …

I’m assuming that, since you’re reading this article you saw the green side this morning. That means your work is not finished. Now it might not be the work you wanted to do, but it is the work God planned for you to do.

Maybe there is a person that you need to encourage. Perhaps there is a child that you need to mentor. Who knows? Somebody may be waiting for you to share some little pearl of wisdom with them. You might have a disease to cure … or a song to write … or a speech to give.

So, the next time you think it’s over (or your problem’s too big) …

Do what Elijah did. Pray about it. Get a good night’s sleep. And eat a Whataburger breakfast burrito in the morning. You might be surprised at how often God will show you what he wants you to do next.

Brian Carr with Northwest Assistance Ministries
Sue Brannon with Welcome Wagon
Terry Carter with UD Photos
Jim Collier with Central Sercurity Group
Kristen Rocco with Roc-Co Consultants
Travis Jones with PCHAS – Mission 1:27
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Jeanette Maurer with Joe Joe Bear Foundation
Billy Graff with Realty Pros
Mary Bird with MEG Insurance Services
Jennifer Strich with Re:MIND
Bill Graff with Graff Realty Group
Bill Baumeyer with Reason 2 Race

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