Fifteen months have passed under the wheels since I lasted scribbled, and I thought it was high time I made the effort to write to you again and share my thoughts and experiences, whatever value they may possess. I hope you continue to find my writings interesting and relevant, and that they help you in some small way.

I also changed the name of the blog. As you can see, it’s now entitled “The Shunpiker’s Guide.” It’s an odd title, especially the ‘S’ word used. There’s a back story to it, and it’s personally relevant for me.

I read a few blogs here and there. One that I follow devotedly is written by Neil Peart, the drummer/percussionist for the seminal rock group RUSH. Despite the fact that he is engaged in a profession known for its pretension and narcissism, his writings are a breath of fresh air. Musicians aren’t usually reputed for being an especially deep and thoughtful lot. Neil’s blog pleasantly defies all stereotypes, especially for a guy who hits things with sticks for a living. While I disagree with many things that he writes about because our worldviews are so vastly different, I find his narrative style and his honesty extremely appealing and rare, and he keeps me coming back for more every time he posts something.

So, why the word ‘shunpikers’ in the title? Several months ago I read a post by Neil that heavily referenced said word. It caught not only my eye, but my imagination as well.  I have a love of words, especially words I’ve never seen or heard before. This particular word, ‘shunpiker,’ spun my head around very quickly.

‘Shunpiking’ comes from the word ‘shunpiker,’ a combination word that’s actually been around for a few hundred years.  The first half of the word, ‘shun,’ literally means, ‘to avoid.’ ‘Pike‘ is a shortened form of the word ‘turnpike,’ which is a road that one can travel on for a price, or a toll. Today you would call these byways ‘tollroads‘ unless you lived in New Jersey or Kansas or a few other states, where they are still called turnpikes.

All that being said, the strict definition of shunpiker is a person who shuns pikes, or avoids turnpikes so he/she doesn’t have to pay a fee. In olden times it meant that the shunpiker took less-traveled, less-convenient roads to reach their destination because they were cheap and wanted to save money.

In modern parlance, being a shunpiker takes on a much different meaning.

In America, we live in a culture where ground travel is dominated by the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. These long ribbons of concrete crisscross the landscape, providing a convenient method of motor travel. They will get you where you want to go fast.

Yet, you miss so much traveling so fast to get where you are going.

In 2013, my wife and I took a couple of days and ‘motored west’ as the old song says. Our destination, Scottsbluff, Nebraska and Scottsbluff National Monument. Instead of dropping south along I-29 to Omaha and then west to North Platte along I-80, as would have been our standard course, we decided to head west along U.S. 20. Most people don’t remember now, but back in the days before the interstates, U.S. 20 was one of the few transcontinental roads. You could get on ’20’ and drive coast-to-coast. The road was headed where we were going (at least in that general direction), and both of us were in a mood to see something different, so off we went.

I can’t speak for my wife, but I not only rediscovered a part of America that is largely forgotten nowadays, I discovered something about myself.

When you leave Sioux City and head west along ’20,’ the landscape doesn’t vary much until you reach O’Neill, Nebraska. Once you move west of there, you notice a subtle change in the topography. You feel the elevation of the land rising slowly, almost imperceptibly. You approach a part of Nebraska called The Sand Hills. It’s ranch country, as the soil is not fit for much agriculture beyond hay harvesting, due to the lack of rainfall. Valentine, Nebraska marks the eastern edge of The Sand Hills. That’s where our journey really began.

After Valentine, there were large stretches of road where there were no towns, no settlements, no evidence of what you could call ‘civilization’ except for the occasional ranch gate, the odd historical marker, telephone/power lines and poles, and the road itself. We often drove for 30 minutes or more without meeting another vehicle. We realized that if the car broke down, we might be waiting for help for a while. There was no fear for me in that thought. There was only freedom and and sense of being on your own.

There were few trees. There were only rolling vistas allowing one to see for up to 40 miles in every direction when you topped the many rises on the road.

We watched a thunderstorm make its lazy yet intense way across the Sand Hills. We saw what I imagined the Native Americans and the first white settlers saw when they came to the area; the endless, open sky. Sky that was such a deep, clear power blue, the clouds with their many colors (clouds are actually very colorful), the green grass undulating in the at times gentle, and other times forceful breeze. The occasional cold, insistent rain from the thunderstorm, the coolness of the breeze. And the road.

And the road.

That day, I realized moving west on U.S. 20 was a metaphor.

That’s the day I realized I was and am a shunpiker.

You see, all of my life I have been fascinated with roads. Pictures of roads, stories of roads, songs about roads. When I see a road, especially one I’ve never been down before, I often have to resist the urge to make turn and go that way, just to see what’s on it, and perhaps what lies at the end of it. The more forlorn, less-traveled and forgotten the road, the more I want to go down it it.

Roads tells stories. They talk to me. They tell me about what has been down them, the lives lived on or near them.

Shunpiking isn’t about just getting on the road and traveling in out-of-the-way places. For me, shunpiking has a deeper meaning.

I realized last summer that all of my life I’ve been a shunpiker. I’ve always chosen the less convenient way. The road less traveled. If the group is going one way, I will often take a different route. Once you get off the fast road, the interstate, there’s so much more to see and experience. So much beauty, So many stories.

And the road.

Shunpiking is about living a life where you take time to see things and experience things and most of all, ENJOY things. It’s not about living a busy life, but a meaningful life. For me, it’s about following my Lord God and living the way He tells me to live. The Christian life is the life lived on the road less traveled. It’s a shunpiker’s life. It’s the narrow, straight road, not the wide, winding road. It’s about the people around you, not you.

It’s about the road.





This blog entry is a repost from Debi Pearl.  She and her husband, Rev. Michael Pearl, are founders of ‘No Greater Joy’ Ministries, an organization dedicated to teaching parents how to raise Godly children, and become better parents in the process.  This article, originally published on Facebook on February 2, 2013, was so hard-hitting and timely I wanted it to be my latest blog entry.  Please read with soberness of mind and humility of heart, and repent if you need to.  Brenda and I did…with tears.

Over the last 40-plus years, we have watched couples fall in—and out—of love. In many cases, the ones we were certain would make it did not, and those we thought would surely end in divorce thrived in love. So what’s the secret? There are many dynamics in marriage that make it fail or flourish, but over the years there is one underlying element that has proven to be the deal maker or breaker. I don’t know if it is the cause or the symptom, but it is a certain marker…sitting in the seat of the scornful.
A family full of scorn is a family headed for ruin, for scorn is the soul in decay. It is finding fault and deriding the failures of others while believing oneself to be somewhat better.  The family piles into the family van to head home from church, and within seconds Mom speaks. “God help us, Mrs. Don’s makeup is so brazen it’s embarrassing.” The children register their mom’s remark while their minds take them back two minutes to when Mom stood by the van laughing and talking with Mrs. Don as if they were best friends. Mrs. Don has often entertained the children and done other nice things for their family, but…Dad interrupts, “That d@# preacher needs to learn to tell time. The deacons have warned him several times, but he doesn’t know when to shut up.” The kids see their mother’s instant disapproval for Daddy using the D-word. They know that mama reeeeally likes the preacher because she calls him every time Daddy does something bad. Something uglier than damn has taken hold of the children—it is called disrespect. And the disrespect in the children’s souls is not confined to the preacher or Mrs. Don; it is becoming a part of their worldview, and it will be directed toward the parents soon enough. Mom thinks her glance of condemnation will clear the air, but instead it further tears down the family. The next time she seeks the preacher’s advice, the children will sneer.  Teenage sister is giggling with brother, “Did you see those geeky shoes Sara had on? Man, I would die before I would walk around looking like that. She is such a dork.” Sara is sister’s best friend, or at least she used to be.
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). Note the digression from walking to standing to sitting. The practice of scorning quickly becomes a permanent post.  As a general rule, the disease of scorning is most prominent in Christians who deem themselves most separate in doctrine and righteousness. Just as none are so obnoxious about diet as the health-food nuts, none are so obnoxious about lifestyle as fundamentalist Bible-believers and elitist homeschoolers who deem themselves above common practitioners. This is bad because being scornful has a huge negative impact throughout life. All that church-going homeschooling parents try to pour into their children will be cancelled out with this one bad habit of scorning.  Children who grow up in a family where scorning is common will be molded into a worldview that will shape their choice of spouse, the way they relate in marriage, and the way they raise their children. A young girl who grows up hearing scorning will become a scorning wife. The first time her husband is a jerk—and he will be—she will resort to the lower instincts she has learned and scorn instead of pray and forgive. Her new husband will experience scorn instead of biblically mandated reverence. The equation reads like this: Her scorn = his lack of love. When they come for counsel, she will demand that he love her as Christ loved the church, and he will sheepishly tell us it is hard to love her, and we will know why. How can a man truly love a woman who treats him with disdain and disapproval? The recipe for a good marriage doesn’t include a pinch of scorn.
But the husband may have come from a scorning family, so he will have scorned her family before they were married, which makes her feel justified in her contempt toward her husband. This equation reads like this: disrespect breeds disrespect, or scorn brings on deeper scorn. And like Thanksgiving turkey, it becomes a family tradition.
One reason scorn, and thus divorce, has skyrocketed is the diminishing of community. People once lived and died around the same group of friends and family. People had to learn to treat their lifetime neighbors with some degree of respect. When you knew a girl might grow up and bear your grandkids, you learned to hold your ridicule if she appeared to be a little dumb. If you thought a boy could grow up and marry your daughter, you didn’t want him labeled too poorly. In that era, self-preservation depended upon the advancement of everyone within the circle. Everybody in the community was important to the community as a whole, and faults were better tolerated for the well-being of all.
As a child, I knew of a family that had six daughters. The only thing I can remember about this highly intelligent, correctly religious, successful pastor’s family was the constant run of ridicule that prevailed in his household, usually directed toward a church member for being stupid, ugly, or messy. The pretty girls all married, divorced, remarried, and divorced again. Pastor Dad finally got involved in an affair, bringing his marriage to an end as well. Blessed is the family…that sitteth not in the seat of the scornful.
Many of you reading this were raised around a table of scorn. You will most likely marry spouses from families that nit-picked their church members as they drove away from church each week. Or perhaps it was the previous church that they carefully dismembered. The infectious disease of mockery takes its toll. Usually the ridicule will not be harsh and is not meant to be cruel; it takes the form of offhanded remarks said in order to disparage the other. Perhaps the most damaging type of denigration for a child is when he thinks that his parents truly like and respect someone, and then as soon as they get in the car he hears the parents’ disdain for that person.
Raining down dishonor on the teacher or preacher who is teaching the child the Bible will cause the child to lose his reverence for God and will surely lead to the child’s rejection of God. It doesn’t matter if the preacher deserves the reviling; is the venting worth the damage done in the heart of your child who heard you give your “spiritual” opinion? This two-faced diet breeds more of the same. Critical spirits don’t have just one home; they migrate and multiply like seed ticks. Wife against husband, husband against wife, and then children against parents; and when sin is conceived, it will keep your teenager from ever developing a healthy fear of God. Without fear of God there will be no wisdom. Fools—that’s what you will be raising. “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22). So in the end, you might save your marriage if you happen to have married someone who doesn’t equal you in sneering, but unless someone else intervenes, your children will bear your sin and pass it on to your grandchildren.

The moral of the story: Go, and sneer no more.

This blog entry is NOT authored by me.  It was written by Pastor Chace Gordon, Associate Pastor at Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, Iowa.  It is probably one of the most concise statements on why “Cheap Grace” is a doctrine so popular in so many American churches today.  This is a very sobering and straightforward expose’.  I offer it for your perusal and consideration.  It is time things like this were said in the American Church.

1-They Want a License to Sin.

This is the most obvious and repugnant reason. I won’t elaborate too much on this point since everyone knows this is a crooked motive.

But before I move on to the next point, let me tell you how to BIBLICALLY evangelize people who love sin and don’t desire real change: The LAW.

God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. The law brings conviction of sin by revealing a standard of righteousness. The law cultivates humility in the most hardened of hearts, thus positioning them to receive grace. The soil of the heart must be cultivated properly before the seeds of grace can take root to produce fruits of repentance.

2-Despair & Guilt.

They WANT to be free of sin; they ask God for forgiveness but possess no real faith that their confession will “take”. They expect to fail and they carry deep sorrow for their inability to escape sin.

Along comes “cheap grace.” At last! Their despair at their own hypocrisy can be alleviated because they are so weary at trying to live right that they are now told they can stop “doing” or “caring”, and they can rest in their dependency for God to accept them in their unregenerate state, and eventually, they will sin less and less by developing a passive conscience that no longer reminds them of their sin and failure. Hallelujah!

But alas, they only enjoy”pseudo-deliverance”; they are not free from their master, sin, but they’re highly trained to ignore his presence. This helps a little bit; but in the end it leads to bitter disappointment because though it presents hope, the hope is false.

What about all the people who WANT to be free from sin but can’t get there and “repentance” doesn’t seem to work while the “cheap grace” message seems more effective at soothing their sorry state?

The answer that many turn to cheap grace to find, can be found through a true understanding of repentance.

Look at the man who is living a double-life. I’ve met several, and chances are so have you whether you knew it or not. They go to church; but they are different people in secret: alcoholics, drug addicts, adulterers, homosexuals, child abusers, etc.

If they have a long habit of coming to a church that teaches the Word and haven’t yet left “offended”, chances are they have told God they are sorry over and over again, but they seem to sink further and further into despair that they will never truly change.

So they have a choice: they can keep coming and heap guilt and condemnation more and more on their own soul, acknowledging their guilt but never getting free from it, or they can turn to the popularly recycled “cheap grace” message (like an alcoholic who drinks more alcohol to escape the woes of being an alcoholic.)

Why can they seemingly not get free through repentance? Isn’t the cheap grace message good for these types of people? (No.)

They cannot get free because:

1-they have not been taught what true repentance is (there is an overabundance of false teachers in the church), or

2-they are trying to repent of sins committed in secret while covering them at the same time because they are ashamed and are afraid to come clean.

The missing realization needed to bring real deliverance is that everything the cheap grace message promises to deliver but cannot is delivered in truth through HUMILITY.

But because people are afraid of being humiliated, rejected, or simply fear the consequences of their own actions (all forms of pride), they hide in darkness instead of coming to the light. You are INCAPABLE of true repentance while maintaining a lie to keep from being discovered! You will inevitably become disappointed with telling God you are sorry, while sweeping your habitual sin under the rug at the same time! You cannot remove sin that you bury in your own backyard!

And lastly, the third general reason people love the “cheap grace” message:

3-Ignorance of the Word

To the degree that our worldview is not shaped with scripture and knowledge of God–pop culture, public opinion, false teachers, etc., will fill the vacuum.

I Timothy 6:2-10

2These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who above all things want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

In my previous blog post, I stated that in order to understand what discontentment is in the Christian life, we must first one understand what it means to be content. We learned that to be a content person is first of all to be one who has an active and intimate relationship with their Creator. We also learned that the content person is a self-controlled person… someone who understands their limitations, their strengths and weaknesses, and is able to operate comfortably within that knowledge. We also learned that the content person, regardless of circumstances and events of life, lives in a place of satisfaction, never inordinately desiring something more for the sake of desiring and acquiring, but reaching a place where the greatest value realized is in their relationship with their Creator and people in their lives rather than with the getting of things and in the constant striving and struggling to change undesirable circumstances.

This week we will look at discontentment itself and some of its major signs and symptoms. To suffer from this malady of soul and spirit is so truly damaging and dangerous but it must be eliminated from our lives if we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ as we are designed to do.

What then is discontentment? It is the outward manifestation of an inward condition. Placed in the modern vernacular, it is what I call “’The Grass Is Always Greener’ syndrome…” If you are discontent, it seems to you that nothing is ever perfect or good enough, whether it be income level, the type of house you live in, your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with your children, etc., Everything always looks better, and the picture more rosy, in another person’s life. Your life never seems to measure up; you don’t have the right car, you don’t have the best marriage, you don’t have the best kids, you don’t have the better job, you don’t make as much money, you don’t have as many nice things…and on and on and on and on.

This constant dissatisfaction with aspects of our lives has some very deep roots. As the character John Coffey in the movie ‘The Green Mile’ said, “you can’t hide what’s in your heart.” Discontentment shows – on your face, in your words, in your attitudes and in your actions. You may think you are being clever but everyone around you sees it. Trust me, that’s true.

So what lies at the root of this dissatisfaction, this turmoil and constant upset over the circumstances in the lives of some? It comes down to a few simple things:

1. Covetousness – That’s a word you don’t hear used much anymore.  In my estimation that’s a shame, because it’s so applicable to our modern times. What is covetousness? It comes from the word ‘covet.’ To covet, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is ‘to wish for enviously; to desire what belongs to another inordinately.’

Notice the word ‘enviously.’ Interesting that the definer’s of the word would also include a variation of the word envious, which has its root in the word ‘envy,’ in their definition.

2. Envy – What does envy mean? It means, ‘the painful or resentful awareness of perceived advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a malicious desire to possess the same advantage.’ That’s a rather strong definition but so appropriate. When you live in envy you not only jealously want to possess the perceived advantage another person seems to have over you, you are willing, to the point of malice towards that person, to take it away from them and enjoy for yourself.

Strong stuff. Yet if we truly have an understanding of the darkness of the dead human nature that lies within each the flesh of each Christian and that attempts to rear its ugly head constantly, and the battle that it presents us with on a daily basis (i.e. the reason why Jesus said to ‘take up our cross daily and follow him’), we are forced to acknowledge the existence of these things inside of us, each and every one of us.

After reading and seeing all this, then what is discontentedness but rebellion against God? When we allowed this extremely rebellious and ugly aspect of the flash to arise within us, what we are literally doing is looking at our holy God, slapping him in the face, and saying to him ‘I know you’ve given the ultimate sacrifice for me, and made every provision for my present and future happiness and prosperity by the death, burial and resurrection of your only begotten Son… But it’s just not good enough.” You may disagree with this, but in the end it’s reality is undeniable.

Discontentment is a thief. As I told a dearest friend this week, allowing discontentment into your life steals away from you the enjoyment of it, of all that God has given you. Disconnectedness is the doorway to the lusts and desires of the flesh, and they look for this opening order to cause you to proceed down the path that will lead you to destroy your own life by your bad decisions to satisfy yourself first.

What we fail to realize, it is thievery of our own making.

Here are three signs and symptoms of discontentment. If in reading this you identify with any of them, I strongly urge you to pray and most of all; REPENT for allowing these things into your life. Remember, ALL goodness comes from God, and there is so much goodness in your life if you will simply open your eyes and see it, then acknowledge it.

1. Lack of Thankfulness – if there is one telling sign of a discontented person it is their lack of thankfulness. This is manifested in complaining and griping and murmuring and in general negativity about most anything in their lives. Scripture commands us to give thanks in ALL things, not just those things which satisfy our lusts and desires of the flesh. The unthankful life is the discontented life. This is so obvious I should not have to stated, but the average person misses it if it’s not brought up to them. It is so easy to be thankful if we just look around at all the benefits and spiritual and material blessings we possess. We are clothed, we are fed, we live in a nice house or apartment or a trailer house, most of us have spouses or loved ones in our lives, or friends. We have income and material possessions that allow us to be comfortable. Most of all, we possess, whether we realize it or not, the Peace of God in our lives. What an insult to this Peace and to the Giver of this Peace to complain, murmur and gripe about something as silly as external circumstances. Instead, try being thankful for the things that you have an especially for the relationships that you have. The first way we bless God and ensure that our relationship with him stays healthy is to be thankful.

2. Lack of Peace – every discontented life I’ve ever seen suffers from lack of this key component. When you are around a discontented person it is like standing next to a tornado or a hurricane. There is chaos and was much uneasiness and unsettledness in this person. They are tossed about by the constant change of external circumstances. They may appear to be calm on the outside: but internally all is storm and all is tumult. Since you can’t hide what’s in your heart, this storm and tumult will manifest itself in many ways, some of which include addictions such as to drugs or alcohol or to overspending or to sex or to video games. These folks often give in to the flesh and can be contentious, angry and argumentative, or evasive and passive-aggressive. They can be sneaky underhanded while appearing to be honest.

The tragic fact is many Christians wouldn’t know the Peace of God if it came up and introduced itself to them. Or, if we have encountered the Peace of God, it is so foreign to us that we have trouble or difficulty accepting or adapting to it. Often a person like this doesn’t like the Peace of God because what God wants them to be satisfied with goes directly against their inordinate fleshly desires.

3. Lack of Faith – I’ve never known a discontented person to be one that I could go to for prayer or encouragement. They simply do not possess the ability to believe God. If you are a discontented person given to murmuring or complaining and giving into your flesh, you lack the ability to be led by God and to bless others by being apt to teach the Word and to give encouragement through the Word. Discontented person is so self-centered and selfish they lack the ability to contribute to the good of the body, instead focusing all their energy and attention to the relief of their inner pain and to exorcise the demons that drive them. How sad that a person who calls himself a follower of Christ becomes mired in the mud of self.

All of this is heavy and sobering. I hope you are not discouraged. I hope you look at your life after reading this, asking God to examine the deep places in you, the places you cannot reach, the places where motives and ambitions lie that are contrary to God and are beyond our own understanding. This is something I do every day because I’ve realized in the past year the reason I am a Christian is not just for me alone. I am a Christian in order that I might be a blessing to the body of believers and ultimately to the heathen. This is God’s plan and desire for all of us. Here’s a tip – it’s a constant, never-ending fight to deal with you.  Don’t be discouraged!  You have the Holy Spirit if you are a Christian. His grace, his empowerment to help you overcome YOU is always there for you if you will simply obey him, do what he says and make the necessary changes. He will then come alongside you to give you his grace to help, but only if you are willing to change and not stay where you are at.

Also remember this important fact – you are discontented because YOU CHOOSE TO BE. You can’t blame mommy or daddy friends or circumstances.

What you are and who you are and where you are in life is the sum result of the choices you made to bring you to this point. If you are completely honest, you will realize, admit and accept that the blame for the condition of your life lies solely with YOU.

Next time I’ll discuss in greater detail the remedy for the sickness of discontentment and how we need to apply it constantly to our lives in order to be successful Christians in this life and by faith in Christ obtain the blessings of this life and the life to come.

Until next time,

Carpe Diem

I Timothy 6:2-10

2These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who above all things want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

I am not normally a person who is given to talking at great length or in even cursory detail about the day-to-day particulars of my spiritual life, or what many would call their “walk” with God. However I believe I was recently impressed with something that on the surface appears to be rather mundane, but once thought is given and Scripture is researched turns out to be a very profound symptom of dysfunction and dissatisfaction in the lives of many people in this day who call themselves ‘believers in Christ’.

Two mornings ago as is my custom, I arose early to seek God. I normally pray in my office on the second floor of my house. I had no more closed the door to my office that morning and had barely begun to offer worship and devotion to my Father when I believe I heard the Holy Spirit speak something very simple to me that shook me internally. I believe I heard Him say the following:

Discontentment is the great enemy of the Christian.”

I pondered that statement for the remainder of my normal hour of prayer and beyond. That simple utterance continues to stick with me even as I write this today.

Since that morning, I’ve devoted a great deal of thought and more than an average amount of time meditating on and studying this subject from a biblical point of view. The Scripture reference I keep returning to his listed above, at the beginning of this entry. In order to establish a proper foundation both intellectually and spiritually for what I am trying to communicate, it is necessary to first understand what it means to be content.

‘Content’ is a rather old word. It comes from Latin and means to hold one’s self in. The modern meaning of the word walks hand-in-hand with its ancient definition. In today’s English, to be content means to be satisfied, and to limit oneself self and one’s requirements, desires and actions.

What an interesting proposition! When you think about it, if one is truly content then one has learned to be satisfied where one is and with what one has, and has learned to place limits on him/herself in order to come to the place of being satisfied.  In the epistle of I Corinthians, the apostle Paul, in his discourse on the attributes of the Holy Spirit, calls this particular virtue the ‘fruit of self control.’ To be content, if one follows the logic of Scripture to its end, arrives at the conclusion that the content person is a self-controlled person.

This person has learned a great secret, implicit throughout the tome of Scripture.  That secret is:

The content person is one who is possessed of an intimate, intensely personal and active relationship with God.

The logic of Scripture also implies the following as well:

The content person, because of his or her active relationship with God, knows and understands his or her limits and how the power of self-control, given us by the Holy Spirit, is used continually to define the borders of our lives.

If this is what it means to be content, then it follows logically that to be discontent means the opposite of what I’ve been writing about. To be discontent then is to be unsatisfied. More importantly, to be discontent is to lack the ability and the understanding of the importance of relationship with God, and his empowering Grace to know your own limits and be satisfied with where you are at any given moment.

I have served God as a committed or active or converted Christian, whatever you want to title it, for almost 35 years. I can say with conviction that tragically, during this timeframe, I have known very few Christians whom I would be able to point to and say ‘there is a truly content person.’ It is a sad fact that the few contented Christians that I’ve known are usually treated as oddities by the vast majority of Christians around them who knew nothing of what it means to be content. What should this tell you? Most that call themselves followers of Christ don’t have the first idea of what it means to be truly satisfied with their lives. Most struggle and strain to find some measure of peace or happiness by pursuing courses not based on the Word of God but on their own emotions and more insidiously, on what the Bible calls their own lusts. As a dear woman of God, Pastor Barb Dean recently wrote on my Facebook page:

Discontentment causes people to make weird choices that mess up their lives.  I’ve seen it too many times.

This blog entry is what I hope to be the first of several dealing with this extremely critical subject. In the day we are living one who considers themselves a true follower of Christ cannot afford to allow themselves to come to a place of discontentment and dissatisfaction in ANY area of life. To do so is to put oneself in a place where one can be snared and trapped in error and selfishness to the point that they may lose their salvation in Jesus Christ. Identifying and eliminating discontentment from our lives is crucial to current and future growth in our relationship with God and with the people around us.

Until next time, carpe diem.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been too involved in other projects to sit down and write a post of my own.  This week’s post comes from the blog ‘Marc and Angel Hack Life.’  It caught my eye and expresses almost exactly how I feel about real friendships.  Enjoy!

As we grow, we realize it becomes less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones.

Remember, life is kind of like a party.  You invite a lot of people, some leave early, some stay all night, some laugh with you, some laugh at you, and some show up really late.  But in the end, after the fun, there are a few who stay to help you clean up the mess.  And most of the time, they aren’t even the ones who made the mess.  These people are your real friends in life.  They are the ones who matter most.

Here are 15 things real friends do differently:

1.  They face problems together. – A person who truly knows and loves you – a real friend – is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else still believes the smile on your face.  Don’t look for someone who will solve all your problems; look for someone who will face them with you.

2.  They give what they can because they truly care. – One of the biggest challenges in relationships comes from the fact that many of us enter a relationship in order to get something.  We try to find someone who’s going to make us feel good.  In reality, the only way a relationship will last, and give us joy in the long-term, is if we see our relationship as a place we go to give, and not just a place we go to take.  Yes, of course it is okay to take something from a relationship too.  But both sides should be giving.  It can only be a ‘give and take’ if BOTH SIDES are GIVING.  That’s the key.

3.  They make time for each other. – It’s obvious, but any relationship without any face time is going to have problems.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot in someone’s life.  Never force someone to make a space in their life for you, because if they truly care about you, they will create one for you.

4.  They offer each other freedom. – A healthy relationship keeps the doors and windows wide open.  Plenty of air is circulating and no one feelstrapped.  Relationships thrive in this environment.  Keep your doors and windows open.  If this person is meant to be in your life, all the open doors and windows in the world won’t make them leave.

5.  They communicate effectively. – It’s been said many times before, but it’s true: great communication is the cornerstone of a great relationship.  If you have resentment, you must talk it out rather than let the resentment grow.  If you are jealous, you must communicate in an open and honest manner to address your insecurities.  If you have expectations of your partner, you must communicate them.  If there are any problems whatsoever, you must communicate them and work them out.  And communicate more than just problems – communicate the good things too.

6.  They accept each other as is. – Trying to change a person never works. People know when they are not accepted in their entirety, and it hurts.  A real friend is someone who truly knows you, and loves you just the same.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.  If you feel like changing something about your friend, ask yourself what change you can make in yourself instead.

7.  They are genuine, and expect genuineness. – As Leo F. Buscaglia once said, “Never idealize others.  They will never live up to your expectations.  Don’t over-analyze your relationships.  Stop playing games.  A growing relationship can only be nurtured by genuineness.” Don’t play games with people’s heads and hearts.  Remember, love and friendship don’t hurt.  Lying, cheating and screwing with people’s feelings and emotions hurts.  Always be open, honest, and genuine.

8.  They compromise. – Real friends meet in the middle.  When there’s a disagreement, they work out a solution that works for both parties – a compromise, rather than a need for the other person to change or completely give in.

9.  They support each other’s growth changes. – Our needs change with time.  When someone says, “You’ve changed,” it’s not always a bad thing.  Sometimes it just means you grown.  Don’t apologize for it.  Instead, be open and sincere, explain how you feel, and keep doing what you know in your heart is right.

10.  They believe in each other. – Simply believing in another person, and showing it in your words and deeds, can make a huge difference in their life.  Studies of people who grew up in dysfunctional homes but who grew up to be happy and successful show that the one thing they had in common was someone who believed in them.  Do this for those you care about.  Support their dreams and passions and hobbies.  Participate with them.  Cheer for them.  Be nothing but encouraging.  Whether they actually accomplish these dreams or not, your belief is of infinite importance to them.

11.  They maintain realistic expectations of their relationship. – No one is happy all the time.  Friends must keep realistic expectations of each other.  Notice when you’re projecting something onto the other person that has nothing to do with them, like a fear from a past relationship, and then make an effort to let it go.  Recognize when you’re looking for that person to do something for you that you need to do for yourself, like making you feel lovable or take care of your needs, and then release those expectations and do it for yourself.

12.  They honor each other in small ways on a regular basis. – Honor your important relationships in some way every chance you get.  Every day you have the opportunity to make your relationship sweeter and deeper by making small gestures to show your appreciation and affection.  Remember, making one person smile can change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  Your kindness and gratitude matters.  Make an effort to really listen – not just wait to talk.  See the other person as if for the first time.  It’s all too easy to take someone for granted.  Really notice all the wonderful things they do, and let them know what you see.

13.  They listen, and they hear every word. – Giving a person a voice, and showing them that their words matter, will have a long-lasting impact on them.  Less advice is often the best advice.  People don’t need lots of advice, they need a listening ear and some positive reinforcement.  What they want to know is often already somewhere inside of them.  They just need time to think, be and breathe, and continue to explore the undirected journeys that will eventually help them find their direction.

14.  They keep their promises. – Your word means everything.  If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT!  If you say you’re going to be somewhere, BE THERE!  If you say you feel something, MEAN IT!  If you can’t, won’t, and don’t, then DON’T LIE.  Real friends keep promises and tell the truth upfront.

15.  They stick around. – The sad truth is that there are some people who will only be there for you as long as you have something they need.  When you no longer serve a purpose to them, they will leave.  The good news is, if you tough it out, you’ll eventually weed these people out of your life and be left with some great people you can count on.  We rarely lose friends and lovers, we just gradually figure out who our real ones are.

So, you think this is an odd subject for ‘Musings and A-Musings?’  Not really.  I’ve been in situations very recently where I’ve witnessed more than one person make one or more of these mistakes.  In light of this, I thought the following relevant enough that it needed to be shared.  Here is the latest from Dave Ramsey.  SELAH

Why are some people so clueless about money etiquette?

Really, you don’t have to have a lot of money to understand basic, common courtesy when it comes to finances. This isn’t difficult stuff.

So why do some people refuse to leave a decent tip, and why do other people feel like they must tell everyone in their church group how much they make?

These, dear readers, are financial faux pas—the worst of the worst etiquette mistakes people make with their money.

Don’t find yourself falling prey to one of these dubious mistakes. Here are six financial faux pas to avoid:

1.  Tipping poorly.

Dear Mr. Bad Tipper: Nothing says, “Thank you for taking my order, bringing my food, refilling my drinks, and providing good overall service,” like that $1.56 tip you left on your $20 order. Just think: If your server invests that $1.56 tip in a 12% growth stock mutual fund, they’ll have $17.20 in 20 years! How fancy! In all seriousness, here’s a tip about tipping: Unless your server cursed at you and threw grilled eggplant at your wife, tip him 15–20%. Is that really too much to ask for someone who helped you put food in your belly?

2.  Talking about how much money you make.

Unless you’re calling into The Dave Ramsey show to make your debt-free scream, your household income really isn’t relevant information in everyday conversation. Usually, people who freely share this type of personal information are high-earners, so it only comes across as bragging. Every conversation is a new opportunity to share their income: “Hey Jim. What about that storm last night? Thought a tree might fall on my house, but I make 250k a year, so we could’ve handled it. How’s your wife?”

3.  Talking about how much you give.

This one is just as bad as talking about how much you make. No doubt that building wealth and finding financial peace is all about giving to others and changing your family tree. But that doesn’t mean you should broadcast the amount you tithe and give to charity like it’s a tattoo on your forearm. Genuine givers are humble and even secretive when it’s called for. If you’re giving in hopes that one day you’ll have a county bridge named after you and a statue in town square, then you’re giving for the wrong reasons.

4.  Bumming off your friends all the time.

Every group of friends has one. The bum. The mooch. The guy who always realizes he’s “forgotten” his cash right when the check arrives. Don’t be that guy. Here’s the thing: You might save a couple of dollars here and there, but at what cost? Everyone in your group of friends knows what’s up. They aren’t stupid. You’ve been labeled as the “group mooch.” And, before long, you won’t get invited to dinner, and then you’ll become “the guy who invites himself to dinner,” in addition to being the group mooch. Then you’ll become a social pariah and never score another date—all because you weren’t willing to pay for a $3 taco.

5.  Making unreasonable offers when negotiating.

One of the quickest ways to end a negotiation is to make a ridiculous offer. It shows the seller that you aren’t serious about buying and you think they’re stupid. You’re saying, “Hey idiot. You obviously have no concept of the cost of physical objects that exist on this Earth. But, tell you what, I’ll humor you and offer you 40% of your asking price. You’re welcome. Dummy.” How do you know if you’re making an unreasonable offer? Put yourself in their shoes. Would you take $150,000 for a house that’s listed for $275,000? Would you take a quarter for a lamp that’s priced $10 at a garage sale?

6.  Putting business over friendships.

Dave says all the time that business partnerships are a bad idea. Why? Because business and friendships rarely mix. There are too many complications and emotions involved. But good friends part ways all the time because someone decided to throw business into the mix. It’s the guy who thinks his buddy with a nice office job is obligated to make a spot for him. It’s the guy who gets into a multi-level scheme and proceeds to badger all of his friends to “not miss this opportunity!” It’s the athlete who signs his first big contract and feels like all of his childhood friends deserve a cut. A business opportunity may improve, but a friendship will soon end. You can count on that.

So please, whatever you do, no matter how much or how little you make, don’t be a financial faux pas repeat offender.

Slip up once or twice? That’s okay. But don’t become the “group mooch” or the “poor tipper” or the “income bragger.” Those are well-earned labels you want no part of.

Don’t let a $3 taco ruin your friendships.