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Excellence Part II

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Excellence Part II

Technical excellence – Need for foundation in all of life
Heart and soul excellence – Need for enthusiasm in all of life
The Holy Spirit of God excellence – Need for worship in all of life

Schools have rules, no food in class –does that apply to you?
Bible and wisdom – do what is right – does that apply to you?
Manners and etiquette – no hats inside for men – does that apply to you?
Health – diet, behaviors, etc. – does that apply to you?
Student – grade inflation – is your work excellent or just getting by?
Man hauling hay – best price when he hauled, he was careful and particular
And the buyers knew that – is that true of you?

Excellent products
Requires an enormous amount of diligence
One little problem can shut down the entire production
Excellent School – diligence, application, teach and love students
Moral excellence – discipline, self control
Relationships – boundaries, respect, care
Excellence in recreation
No moral compromise
No sinful language
Building behaviors
Excellence in business
Diligence in all areas
Reliability
Character
Worship God in what you do

Summary
We can have Technical excellence and Heart excellence and Spirit and soul excellence and keep them all together to the glory of God
We should strive to accomplish that in all and every area of life

If you try to be a Bible preacher without knowing the doctrines of the bible
If you try to be a musician without knowing notes and key signatures
If you try to be a husband/wife without a total “I will” commitment
If you try to be a missionary without dedication to details, language, and culture
If you try to be in business without complete dedication to responsibility
You will fail –

People have differing abilities and they will be rewarded as they use what God has given them – Matt. 25 – “Kingdom currency”
Some 1 have talent, some 2, some 5 or many more –
How are you using your talents? Those talents are “Kingdom Currency” – they are the currency of the Kingdom of God and need to be invested.
There is a strong move today to have more heart and soul and enthusiasm in religious experience – How can that happen?
The Emerging movement is trying very hard to produce that – and that is not wrong
It is a reaction to the long-term emphasis on proposition and doctrine and fundamentals that did not produce heart and soul experience – but
The weakness of the emerging church today is that it is weak on doctrine and fundamental truths and obedience.
Emerging church is striving for the performance without the technical/doctrinal excellence – it will not work long-term.

Menno wrote Das Fundament Buch – Mennonite preachers today think they can preach without knowing it.
Menno and Psalm 25 – Menno internalized the technical/Word in his life and heart
He went on to develop a fellowship of heart and soul believers based on those fundamental beliefs and practices and experiences.

Munsterites and other groups tried to be the Kingdom of God with spirit but without the Bible – it did not work

We need an external referent – as we paddled our canoe upstream we looked over at the bank– a stone on the bank was not moving. We thought we were moving because we were paddling very diligently. But we were going nowhere.
For Menno, the Bible (not the Catholic church) became the reference point –

Plateau – any farm, school, church, business, or life can plateau
It takes more energy to change a state of being – for instance: from liquid to gas than it does to allow the liquid to stay liquid.
Water refrigerates your body in the warm summer – evaporation requires energy
To keep warm in the cold weather – you change the state of a fuel and it gives off energy
Same is true with your Spiritual life – need outside energy to change the state –
Bible, Holy Spirit and Church are the energies that impact our lives to bring change to us.
Do not be a consumer – be a producer – when you go to fast food places you are a consumer. When you produce a service or product, you are a producer.

Need for foundation in all of life – the technical excellence
Need for enthusiasm in all of life – the heart and soul
Need for worship in all of life – the Holy Spirit of God

Living In Excellence

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Living in excellence

Are excellent performance and Spiritual worship mutually exclusive?
Living in Excellence I Cor. 13 – the more excellent way
The word “Excellent” or similar words are in the Bible more than 60 times.
Meaning – beyond or above the norm or usual manner of life.

Can we strive to be technically excellent and proficient and still put body and heart and soul and Spirit in what we are doing and do it to the glory of God? We can.

I. Technical –Be excellent by doing what you do with all your might
A. Excellence eliminates error, be precise
Associate with leaders and people who are good at what they do
Seek excellence
Music – practice until you know each measure well.
Better leaders – bring the ‘music’ out of the people.
Business – learn details about your business and do it well.
May need a change of paradigm – you can plateau and stagnate
Not just articulate words but articulate life
B. Eliminate from your life all extraneous activity – consider it “dung”
C. Excellence makes you free – because excellence is the truth – with no need to be ashamed – II Tim. 2:15
Do everything you do with love…

II. Heart – Be excellent by doing what you do with passionate love
A. When technical excellence is in place we can relax when playing piano, working on the job, keeping house, etc.
Put all of self into what you are doing and have a playful attitude about work
Awareness of surroundings – most people do not see what is around them
The administrators, leaders, pastors – they notice and are aware
Walk circumspectly – noticing what and who is around you
Excellence Comes from deep within you
When you allow God to use you for this project
Messiah – one tenor sang with the book under his arm
Sing your heart out
Know your business, your work and then you can be the person God made you to be
B. Excellence in execution becomes second nature
Heart and soul are the performance – but we need to move on from there to…

III. Spirit – (worship) – Be excellent by doing what you do as fervent worship
A. The Holy Spirit is in control
B. Do what you do in the energy of the Holy Spirit as worship
C. Burn yourself out for God
If you burn yourself out – The self will be burned out of you
And the Spirit will take over in your life- Romans 12:1-2 – Spirit is the fire on the altar
Pride? – worship conquers pride and allows no room for pride
Sees how much room there is to grow and reach for excellence

IV. The Power of the Spirit produces excellence
The Enkratos – the self-control – with power
The power of the Spirit is the power of the Word – Jn. 6:63
People are failing – they need to power of the Spirit to give them victory.
People are starving – they need the Word with the Spirit. We all need it.
Power is there waiting for us to claim and access that power –Romans 8:11.

When a picture of a 110 pound girl with her clothes off can control a 240 pound ‘Christian’ man and turn him into a fool – I ask you, where is the power? The creature is more powerful in our lives than the Creator. Why? Because we have given the power to a creature and not to the Creator.

The Dunimis – the dynamic – you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you – witness to and with that power.
The emerging Church is bringing the concept of the Spirit back into vogue. But, they have abandoned the critical propositions of the Truth of the Bible in the process.
We, as Anabaptists, have what the world needs. We have the Bible. We have a Biblical culture. We need the Spirit working in our lives and decisions every day.

V. Application – seeking for excellence in every area
We can lust – Flesh, money, power – all things of this world and life
Or – we can seek excellence in the worship of God,
Who He is, not what He has made – (people, lands, business, money, etc.)
Anabaptists are in an anti-intellectual slump – fear of pride – false pride. Excellence is not pride and does not produce pride.
Martyrdom gone and was replaced by humility –it was called demut
Humility was defined objectively and became codified as specifics in dress and behaviors. That is compliance. That is not excellence. We need to return to excellence.

If you get tired enough you will not be proud.
Say “I will…” be a disciple and then pay the price.
The price of excellence.

Love for The New Year

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Love or Performance

Families and churches are based either on love or on performance. These two options can be mutually exclusive. Some things in life are both/and and some are either/or.

The orientation for many families and churches is performance. That is the pattern. Love is a foreign concept. To be loved because someone cares enough to invest in your life makes no sense to people who live in a performance based environment.
Love is something to be feared.
Love is a ploy to get something instead of unconditional care from a pure heart.
Life becomes fear-based and guarded self-protection instead of
Love based on the unconditional love of God and God’s children.

What makes someone lovable?
It is difficult for people in this situation to accept and believe that God loves them unconditionally.
These people do not love themselves.
They do not respect or honor themselves in healthy ways.
They tend to self-depreciate and self-harm.
They may be quite impressive in material areas but neglectful in emotional and Spiritual matters – the ultimate and eventually eternal in self-harm.

If you do not love yourself, you will not believe that anyone else would want to love you. You feel unworthy because of how you were treated or because of how you responded to how you were treated – maybe because you were not valued for who you were and are. Hurting people are easy prey for wrong counsel and wrong thinking about themselves and about God.

Performance cultures do not perceive love as an acceptable way to share God with others. Only performance makes them valuable to parents, church and God. Only total subscription to prescription makes them acceptable and so they perform on cue.

Their self-concept is that they do not have intrinsic value so why would anyone love them and why would their love be desired by another person or by God. They reject love that is available to them because they do not feel worthy of someone’s time and attention.

The value of Trust
They have been hurt.
They do not trust anything or anyone because every action is suspect.
They do not trust love.
They need to trust the perfect love of God and the imperfect love of Godly people.
They need to be shown truth from Scripture and from healthy experiences.
They need to overcome unfortunate experiences of false love.
They need to forgive those who have hurt them.
They will not know love and will not accept counsel until trust is established.
They need to experience an atmosphere of safety and trust.

The Damage of Fear
The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is fear.
That is why it takes perfect love to cast out fear.
Fear makes control easy. Perform or else.
Fear produces unhealthy attachments.
People are bonded – not by love but by fear.
Fear of rejection keeps the system intact.
Measurable expectations are required.

What to do?
We can attempt to help performers to overcome their lack of self-worth by loving them and showing them how much we value them for who they are and for how God made them.
They need huge amounts of reinforcement. We need to absolutely love them and love them absolutely unconditionally and express that to them in ways that are appropriate and safe and we need to do that over a long period of time until they actually begin to believe that such love and care might be possible or even exist. This, of course, is ‘only for those who have failed in the performance culture and perceive their need.

Healing for the performers
Breaking or even breaking into a performance system is nearly impossible.
Performance is a perfect system.
It produces what society demands – ‘the trains run on time.’
Life is predictable and shallow and sterile.
It removes unproductive, dead wood.
Performance produces a marketable product – security –
Self-produced security that ironically does not eventually prove to be true.
Only real love can heal the people in the system.

Real love
God loves even when His love is not returned.
God loves even when his love is spurned or rejected.
His love is the constant.
Our love for Him and for each other is founded and grounded in His love for us.

The role of security
Performance systems are based on insecurity.
Performance produces insecurity.
Leaders are insecure.
They establish their leadership by reinforcing the expected parameters.
Insecurity produces performance.
And the circle goes around and around.
Only love produces security.
Only security fosters love.

Can we have it both ways?

Must it be either/or or can it be both/and?
Performance is not wrong but it is wrong as a motivation and as the basis for a culture.
Can we not have love and performance? Both/and?
Of course we can but, it is more than more widgets out the door –
And more than more ca-ching in the register.
It is more than rows of clones.
It is performance derived from love.
It is life sourced in love.
There are ‘two kinds of obedience – law and love.’
Law or love – we must decide.
Law loves performance.
Love loves love’s performance.

The wonder

Love will produce a Godly performance devoid of individualism.
Afluenzaism and capitalism are performance systems.
They dominate the Western landscape.
Anabaptists have been captivated and captured. We bought a bill of goods.
That is now who we are. We have rewarded the wrong motivation.
Our Spiritual energies have been sublimated into performances.
We are diligent and busy making system disciples.
No wonder we are plagued with church problems.
No wonder we have a ‘rebelution’
No wonder we have an over-grown and over-taxed counseling system.
No wonder.
We are hungry.
We are hungry for love.
Love is the answer.-
No matter the question –
Love is the answer.
Don’t miss the wonder –
Open your heart to the wonder-
The wonder of love.

A Major Change in My Lifetime

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Reflections on a Snowy Day

A major change in my lifetime

“As Cultural norms, practices and forms of belonging are eviscerated, informal codes must be replaced by legal systems and state enforcement of legalized directives.” Patrick Deneen

This switch has impacted every area of our lives. The boy-next-door, girl-down-the-street dating with its useful and generalized proscriptions has been replaced with do-it-right, make-no-mistakes, prescriptions for courtship and purity culture.

Goals and ideals for marriage are no longer even manageable – Focus on the Family, Every Man series and the burgeoning collection of ‘how tos’ are available for every aspect of life. Faithful practitioners with passion and purity have been replaced by experts with degrees and soap boxes.

Was the past perfect? No. But the present does not have to be tense either. Just because some bad actors and some guilty parents and some do-gooder idealists are trying to make a perfect system for us; that has not changed the Godly impulses that we were taught to guide and control and not to ignore. Now we are told that we should feel guilty if we feel passion for the God-given, normal longings of every human heart.

Clearly defined informal norms and practices have been destroyed – ripped from our Titus 2:11 innards. Once they were passed on by osmosis and observation and the character of the adults around us. Now they have to be foisted upon us by laws and dictums. Eventually, perceived disrespect has to be dealt with by the laws of the state.

What about the church? I remember many men who were of sterling character and reputation. No one in the community doubted their integrity. They did not always dress in prescribed ways or drive specific vehicles of the right color. No one thought they were going to hell or taking their children or congregations astray. They were not abusive and controlling. They were under-shepherds who took their calling and responsibility to heart. They did not prey. They lived and they prayed.

Those largely unspoken but well known cultural norms, practices and forms of belonging have been lost in the dust bin of history – all in my lifetime.

Can we force respect? Why should we have to? Why can we not model and require it of young men so they know how to treat ladies and animals and God’s earth without PC police and sensitivity sessions and tolerance training?

When I began dating at sixteen years of age my mother asked me two questions:
1. “When you are with ‘Suzie’ is she a lady?
2. “Are you a gentleman?”
I answered, “Yes.”
With that she left me go. She expected responsibility of both of us. We did not disappoint her. We were responsible. How terrible to be so imposed upon and limited by such restrictions? It clearly damaged us for life.

We teach-to-the-test instead of allowing our chickens the freedom to scratch for provender within the farmstead. Even the ‘all natural’ and ‘organic’ chicken houses reek of unnatural and not-organic. None of them look like anything I remember from our barnyard. Apparently we can keep the language without keeping the truth as long as we keep the enforced legalized directives that ostensibly assure quality.

We have advanced from ritalin to narcan and now some organizations want to sue big pharma for causing the problems. Irresponsibility is the order of the day. Maturity is somewhere in a forgotten universe. The universe from which, by the grace of God, I hail.

Maybe a bigger question is, where do we go from here? More formal control appears to be the direction. Who will be giving the directions? If we continue to eviscerate the obvious and informal codes of life, totalitarian control is the only option. God help us.

The Scripture is a book of principles, not a book of policies. Now I have to feel guilty for suggesting that just maybe the current systems, what ever you decide to call them, are not the answer. We lost the answer a long time ago. The answer is still there. It is “in the Book, our mothers read” and in the lives which that book produced.

Passion

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Passion – What you need to change the world

Here is a story to illustrate passion in my lifetime:

A good friend, my age (mid sixty’s) – had a young man come and ask him if he could date his daughter. The young man additionally explained that if the father does not give his consent, he will not ask the daughter and will not pursue her. That is standard fare for these times.

As the father explained the situation to me, he was basically flabbergasted.
“He wants to date my daughter but if I object, he will not ask her. What kind of man is that? He must not really want or love my daughter if he can walk away just like that.”
This father continued, “When I was his age I knew who I was going to marry. I was in love with ‘Susie’ and I was going to marry her no matter what! We got married young and have been married ever since and are still in passionate love even more that when we dated and married!”

That is how it was done then. Times are different now. Yes, they are different now. How different they are I cannot even imagine. Where is passion? Does it even exist? No wonder we are losing the Spiritual and moral battles of life.

Only passion can cure passion. Passion for what is good will cure passion for what is wrong. Passion is not a ‘take it or leave it’ concept.
Passion pursues and protects with purity and perfection.

Passion pursues and loves and focuses and respects and assures of love and care. Passion chooses and decides and promises and commits and stays the course.
Passion forgets self and makes the other the object of pure passion.
Passion persists and over comes problems and performs with alacrity the duties of Godly life.

Passion is presented as negative. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We do not have too much passion. We have too little. We do not have anywhere nearly enough passion to please God.

Passion for worldly pursuits is heralded as accomplishment.
Where is the passion to rescue the lost and wandering?
Where is the passion to bless the hurting?
Where is the passion to pursue and protect those who are on the wrong path?

Where is the passion to get in the way of evil?
Where is the passion to call the religious leaders to task like Jesus did?
Where is the passion to cleanse the temple like Jesus did –
The temple of your body and the temple of the Church?

Milquetoast is luke-warm. Weak men and women love it but God hates it. God hates it with a vengeance only found in God and God-followers. We are called to Jesus’ attitude and behavior.

Passion does not allow people to hurt ‘little ones.” Jesus most scalding judgment was reserved for those who do – better a millstone hanged around their neck and them drowned in the sea”

Passion also endures. Seven years to marry the girl you love and then seven more years that only seemed like a few days because of your love for the girl you love. What do we know about that today? We could use a lot of that today.

Another story –
A friend was going into service for two years. He asked his girlfriend, “Will you wait for me and then we will marry when I come home from service?”
She agreed.
He went.
She waited.
He came home.
They married.
They are still married fifty years later.

I related that story in my teaching to a group of youth. One prominent young man asked me in front of the class, “What if he would not love her two years later?”

I was beyond flabbergasted. My mind and my heart have no category for his question.

I told the class:
“If I loved a girl in 1966, I would love the same girl in 1968. No matter what. That is only two years; not seven or fourteen!”

How could the son of a Mennonite preacher ask a question like that? How did we get to this lack of passion and commitment?

The devil has sold us a bill of goods and we have bought it. We are paying an exorbitant price. Where is passion – pure, purposeful, protective passion that will see us through the tests and temptations of sinful passions and lead us to the passion of the Christ who gave all so He could be King of kings and Lord of lords?

Sweat drops of blood. Shed the blood of your life as a martyr. Put your body across the tracks. Invest your life in passion that will be the contagion of truth and love for coming generations. Stand with passion in the way of evil and for the cause of truth.

No matter what!

God The Holy Spirit – 48

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God The Holy Spirit – 48

The Holy Spirit in the Incarnation

Intro – The mystery and the miracle of the incarnation – How could it happen? Artists over the years have attempted to illustrate this event. Gabriel is sometimes shown whispering truth into the ear of Mary. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

1. The Holy Spirit of God was the power that placed the Holy Child Jesus inside of Mary. The Old Testament tells of times when the Spirit of God came upon people for special, supernatural power in ministry. This was an example of that power.
This supernatural overshadowing was the Holy Spirit that placed Jesus in the body of Mary. There was no human father from whom to receive the sin nature of humanity passed on from Adam.

2. The Holy Spirit was incarnated in Jesus Christ
Jesus was the Holy Spirit while He was here on earth because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus was God but He was not human nature. Human nature is something that He took upon Himself. He added human nature to His Godness. He, by the power of the Spirit, controlled that human nature. He was tested but did not sin.

That option is also available to His children today. They have to decide to be controlled by: either the indwelling Holy Spirit of God or their own flesh and ego.

Jesus was the ‘second man.’ He was the ‘last Adam. As innocent as Adam in his creation, Jesus faced the tests that Adam failed and He passed the tests and remained sinless. He resisted Satan and spoke the Word of God when tested and thus remained without sin.

3. The Holy Spirit is incarnated in His Body, the Church.
I Cor. 3 is explicit that “Ye (plural) are the Temple of God, indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God. Do not defile that Temple (Church). The Holy Spirit directs and controls the obedient Church; the Body of Christ here in this world.

4. The incarnation of the Holy Spirit of God is inestimable, super natural import in the Christian life. The power and the blessing are more than can be comprehended. As individual believers we also are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and controlled by that Spirit to the extent we chose to be directed. As Spirit filled and led believers we are examples and illustrations of the incarnation of the Holy Spirit in this world.

5. Terms in the New Testament for the Holy Spirit
The Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7)
The Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9, I Peter 1:11)
The Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:9)
The Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20)
The Spirit of His Son (Galatians 4:5).

From Luke 1:26-38
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
37 “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Oh Father,
Hallow us with Your Holy Spirit as you did with Your Son. Fill us with desire to follow you instead of our own egotistical nature. Show us the joy of our salvation so amply provided by You. Thank you for Your power that lives in us to overcome all that is not of You.
Amen

Natural High

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Natural High

I just learned a new concept/term – ‘natural high’. How amazing, how wonderful. When we experience natural highs we do not need artificial highs. Artificial anything pales in the face of the real thing. My first thought was; that is how I grew up.

Growing up was constant excitement. I was never bored. The woods and the fields and creeks and friends were always calling and promising and producing a great time. Excitement pursued me. Fun found me. Each day was an adventure. Every season was great. Spring. Summer. School. Snow. Something exciting in every season of the year. It never occurred to me to chase artificial stimulations of any kind. The world was for exploring.

Calves were born – cats and kittens and dogs and puppies. Finding berries in the woods and fencerows: Raspberries. Blackberries. Wineberries. Squirrel nests. Climbing trees. Swinging on monkey vines. Fishing. Hunting. What am I forgetting? Abandon of early teen years and the joy of discovery of God’s creation was a huge part of my life.

My life had a different part also. I was an emotionally troubled boy. Looking back, the pleasures of the ‘natural highs’ of exploration of the created world were a huge part of God’s answer to my youthful hurts.

Sometimes I would come home from school and go out into the woods and sit and watch nature unfold around me. During hunting season I would take my gun. Other times, just me. Deer. Fox. Skunk. Possum. Snakes. Birds: hawks and owls and song birds. It was therapy par-excellence.

Seeing so many persons today who choose artificial highs and falling prey to finding their answer in the less-than-real is troubling to me. So glad I had the privilege of growing up in an earlier time where answers were sought and found in simpler joys. Where nature called and responded and provided with unimaginable ‘highs’ for healing a hurting heart.

Considering the behaviors that are thought to bring pleasure to people today, I am perplexed. None of them appeal to me. Why not? Not sure. Boredom still escapes me. Work, hobby, study; all of these keep me occupied. Something for any and every waking moment. Boredom – never. Artificial high – why?

Of course, my early unadorned life had no TV and no movies and no screens to entertain and distract. Organic simplicity was a huge part of those times. It is still an option, of course. All the modern trappings can be rejected and real experiences allowed to dominate life. The Siren call of the artificial and faux distractions impose their weight and force on the young and not so young lives in the modern and postmodern world. There is another option – Nature and the highs God provides.

Here is a hastily assembled list of ‘natural high’ experiences for you to ponder:

Enjoying family
Enjoying friendships
Smiling at people
Enjoying the joy of discovery
Making things
Studying the Bible
Sharing almost anything with almost someone
Blessing someone who can never repay you
Doing random acts of kindness
Falling in love
Respecting everyone
Rejecting sin and wrong
Getting in the way of evil
Doing what is right – right now
Flying a kite
Loving everyone
Loving someone special
Having a pet animal
Bonding with someone who needs you
Learning to know someone
Being heart friends with someone
Fixing your bed every morning
Finishing a job
Cleaning up the sink after meals
Folding the wash and putting it away
Enjoying the simple and basic disciplines of life
Trying a new type of food
Gardening
Eating food from your garden
Making home-made ice cream
Walking
Running
Resisting temptation
Making good decisions
Living a life of integrity
Working on and as a team
Learning a new language
Learning a new skill
Saving money
Sharing money
Loving with no demands
Music
Poetry
Laughing
Giving in to unrealistic demands
Sleeping
Taking risks
Displaying courage
Spending time in nature
Waking up thankful
Loving and blessing those who do not like you