Last Sunday morning, I grumbled. Yes, on my way to church.

See, I drive my car to church and go street parking. I would hunt for an empty space that is as near to the church as possible. Many times, I parked at a good spot: just a few meters away from the church entrance.

But that morning, for some reason, the street was full of parked cars! I wound up parking at the far end of that street. As I trudged to church, I was fussing why there were so many parked cars, why I didn’t wake up an hour earlier, or how tiresome this trek on foot was.

As I settled myself in the pew, I realized that it could have been worse. In an alternative reality:

·        I have no car
·        I have a car but can’t afford the gas prices
·        I can’t drive
·        I lost my eyesight
·        I lost my motor skills
·        I have a car but ran over someone
·        I crashed against another car

Grumbling gave way to gratitude.

The insight is that if we are fixated on an ideal state and see how reality is less than ideal, we will grumble. My ideal state is to park just in front of the church. My reality is that I had to plod what seemed like a kilometer (I exaggerate) to church. So I wept and gnashed my teeth (sort of).

But if we were to compare reality with a worse state, we will be grateful.

I don’t mean a guilt trip as in “Stop whining about your work! At least you have a job! A lot of people would kill to be in your place!”

Rather, it is perspective. Things could have been worse. But we’ve gotten better than we deserve.

Psychologists have observed the gold, silver, and bronze medalists in a contest. The silver medalist was miserable but the bronze medalist was elated. That’s because the silver medalist compared his status with the ideal state, that of the gold medalist, which of course he failed to grasp.

But the bronze medalist was not comparing himself with the silver medalist, let alone the gold medalist. He was comparing himself with the fourth placer, who got no medal at all. That was his “it could have been worse.” He could have returned home empty-handed. Thus, he was beaming with gratitude.

So the next time you’re tempted to grumble, think how your circumstances can be worse. Me, I have gone through two painful years of joblessness. That’s why I cherish every day at the office even though there will be stress and headaches. I certainly don’t want to go through those two years again. And I certainly don’t want that on my worst enemy.

So be thankful with what you have. It’s the grace of God. And in that pew, I began to worship.


Never the Spectacular

February 26, 2023

Today’s Sunday message threw me way back in time (mentally, of course) when I was leading an office Bible study. It was the same text, Matthew 7:21-23:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

I still remember the forlorn look on a participant’s face at that Bible study. He said, “So I’m not doing the will of God. Does that mean I’m going to hell?”

I don’t recall how I responded and what happened to that young fellow. But today’s Sunday message by Pastor Chad put my thinking about this passage into perspective.

This passage can be misunderstood to mean that salvation is by works. That is, if you want to go to Heaven, do what God says.

But elsewhere it is clear that salvation if by faith, not works (e.g., John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9). So how can we reconcile this with the Matthew passage?

I used to worry that hey, I’m not doing the will of God all the time. I have my bouts of succumbing to temptation, said things I shouldn’t have, lost my temper when I should be gracious. Does that mean my salvation is dubious? That Jesus will tell me in my face, “I never knew you, Nelson!” ?

I am grateful that Pastor Chad put this passage to context. It is to be understood from the Kingdom paradigm of the Sermon on the Mount.

Briefly said, the Sermon does not tell us how to be “saved”, but outlines the values of the Kingdom and how someone already in the Kingdom (i.e., saved) is to live.

The point of Matthew 7:21-23 is that the evidence one is a Kingdom citizen is obedience, not the spectacular. One is obedient not in order to enter the Kingdom, but because one belongs in the Kingdom.

The chilling inference is that one can really do the spectacular – prophesy, cast out demons, perform miracles – and still be en route to hell!

The archetype is Judas Iscariot. From Matthew 10:1, we know that Jesus gave His his twelve disciples “the authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” Does that include Judas? Verse 4 says so and even specified him as “who betrayed [Jesus]”.

So we can imagine Judas also going around casting out demons and such. But we all know what happened to him in the end.

Summary: The Kingdom values obedience, not what the world would consider as spectacular. The Jews at Jesus’ time looked for signs (John 4:48, 1 Corinthians 1:22) and sadly, so do many people today.

But the Kingdom way, the beautiful way, is to display the fruits of love, purity, humility, faith, and wisdom.

Now THAT would be truly spectacular!


Choice is Destiny

February 13, 2023

Why do we hang on to a habit or lifestyle that we know is unproductive? It may be as simple as scrolling through social media for hours on end. Or as serious as being sedentary and gorging on junk food.

Psychologists have a fancy term for it: temporal discounting. People tend to choose small, immediate rewards rather than larger, long-term ones.

Thus, the socmed addict prefers the dopamine kick of scrolling down his Facebook over using that time to develop marketable skills. The couch potato prefers smacking his lips on empty calories today over basking in vibrant health twenty years from now.

What I find helpful is this sobering principle: for every step you take, you are not just choosing a path. You are choosing a destination.

It’s my paraphrase of oft-cited wisdom: we are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of said actions. Our decision can spell the difference between success and failure, between peace and regret, between pleasure and pain.

Yes, I am aware of the (for example) chain-smoker who knows that he will die of lung cancer, but reaches out for the next stick anyway. It’s like momentary denial. He knows he will get lung cancer… but thinks that wheezing on his death bed is still decades later. Thus, he can get away with just one more puff today. He will cross the Grim Reaper’s bridge when he gets there.

I have observed that such people are indeed aware of the dire consequences, but do not pause and reflect. I imagine that as our chain-smoking friend is lighting up his cigarette, an image flashes in his mind’s eye, that of wheezing on his death bed. But it remains a flash because he did not hold his impulse for a minute and let that dire future dose cold reality on his craving.

1.      Will your next action be mindful or impulsive?
2.      What is the path you are taking?
3.      What does the destination look like?
4.      What do you feel about the destination?
5.      If you don’t like it, what will you do differently?

So, where are you going?

Note: inspired by the wide and narrow road of Matthew 7:13-14.

#choices #destiny #habits #decisions #strategicthinking #lifecoach


I was helping someone who needed more self-confidence in public speaking. If we were to meet a few years earlier, I would tell him the usual tips and tricks: do the power pose, practice regularly, use vocal variety and body gestures, and so on.

But as I grew to be a coach, I realized that rather than working on the external, it is far better to address the internal. What do I mean by that?

Let’s go back to Barry (not his real name), the aspiring speaker. My first question was “Where is the lack of self-confidence coming from?”

He looked to his upper right as he reflected, then said, “I am afraid that if I make a mistake in my speech, the audience will criticize me.”

I probed further, “What is it about an audience’s criticism that makes you fearful?”

“Well,” he sighed, “the audience may think they are not getting their money’s worth. They think I am not so knowledgeable after all.”

I challenged gently, “Is that necessarily true?”

Barry’s face lightened up. “You know, when I taught a module and asked the participants to fill out a feedback form, they kept telling me how much fun and learning they got from my module.”

I celebrated with him and asked, “So now you have objective proof. It is not necessarily true that the audience will criticize you. In fact, they love you for what you’ve done for them.”

Barry became even more animated, “Yes! Yes!”

“And what have you learned from this experience?”

In less than five minutes, Barry flipped his perceptions that fed his lack of self-confidence.  He excitedly wrote down this insight: the audience is your friend.

We fleshed out what Barry needed to do next. If he didn’t reframe his assumptions about his audience, it would be a hard climb. Instead, he looked forward to the next steps.

The next time you are to give a business presentation, an inspirational talk, or even a coaching conversation, remember: the people you are talking to want you to succeed.

What’s more, if you focus on blessing those people, you won’t be focusing on how you will suck.

So go ahead, step up to the stage… and tell your friends!


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