Russ Ray

Trying to become more like Jesus

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HAPPY new year

Saturday night, my Facebook feed was filled with people who were glad that 2016 was finally over and 2017 would be a fresh new start.

I understand why people would lament some of the events that occurred in the year that was. Terror attacks, violence against and from police, celebrity deaths, and a contentious election have all played across social media.

But really, whose fault is it that the perception of 2016 is so bad?

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.—Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)

This verse implies that we have an illness, a heart that lacks joy, which requires medicine or some type of cure. A heart that lacks joy is one that wallows in negativity, anger, deception and hatred. It leads to a crushed, broken, withered, dried-up spirit, lacking in any strength.

If there’s anything that’s not lacking in the world, it’s negativity, anger, deception, and hatred. What’s worse, our sin nature encourages us to wallow in it, like a pig in the mire. It feeds our fallen and sinful selves, and the more we’ve dwelled on and surrounded ourselves with outrage over the sound bite of the day, the more it demands to be satisfied with more negativity.

Maybe I’m naive, but I found 2016 to be a huge year of blessing. God taught me so much in both the highs and lows, and I’ve watched my family grow spiritually, especially my kids. But then, again, maybe that’s just me. I understand logically why people might want to be done with 2016, but I don’t sympathize.

The world is full of hate and lies, and look what it achieved in 2016. As followers of Christ, we should be beacons of God’s grace and truth to the world. I guess if there is any lesson that should be learned to carry over into the new year, it’s that people need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ now more than ever. All of us should strive to make 2017 joyous.


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What are you waiting for?

We may make a lot of plans, but the Lord will do what he has decided.—Proverbs 19:21 (CEV)

I didn’t think we would become one of THOSE kinds of families, but we did… it’s tough not to be when you have two girls and a third dropping soon.

We’re a Disney family.

It took a while to come to terms with it, but there it is… I’ve said it.

Two years ago, my only Walt Disney World experiences were a trip to the Magic Kingdom the Christmas after my mom passed away (hey, you know what won’t cheer you up?) and an ill-fated trip to Epcot while Erika was pregnant with Maddie where she was stuck in a wheelchair all day from doctor’s orders. She was high-risk, and we couldn’t ride anything that would jostle her (in other words, nothing fun).

We took the kids to Disney for a couple of days in May 2009 to see how we all could handle it. Maddie was 3 and Sydney was 1, so obviously there will be a memory curve later on in life for them. They had a great time, and with the suspension of belief they have at that age, it was great to see how they interacted with all the characters, princesses, Jungle Cruise captains, etc.

Translation: we oohed and aahed and bawled our eyes out and swore we would go back every year.

So, we did it again last year after Thanksgiving, and I started a countdown 180 days out (the earliest that you can make restaurant reservations) and got kind of really obsessive and annoying about it. I guess I was really excited to take the kids back and expand our experience to the other parks as well.

It wasn’t just us… the kids were also excited to head back. For example, when we went to go see The Princess and the Frog, they recognized this trailer for the first time:

In the theater, Maddie yelled out, “Disney World!” and then when the camera pulled away from the fireworks, “I can see all the hotels!”

So… yeah.

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The red group

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.—Proverbs 18:24 (NASB)

The word “friend” gets overused these days, and it’s all Facebook’s fault. Everybody I’m connected to on Facebook is considered a “friend”, but here is a handy-dandy pie chart that describes most of my interactions with the 146 Facebook friends that I have.

That question is a joke. I know who those 77 people are. I just don’t care to “know” them. And for that 32% that I interact with only on Facebook, it is debatable whether they are friends or not. Most of the time I wonder if they are actually interested in the things I say there or if they simply tolerate it like they did in high school.

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Plan to fail

Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs. Suddenly, everything is gone, as though it had been taken by an armed robber.—Proverbs 6:10-11 (CEV)

Most of the United States is suffering through the WINTER OF ARCTIC DEATH WILL DESTROY YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES 2010 (I like coming up with names for natural disasters). We are no exception. Since we got home from vacation on Sunday, we’ve been working the furnace non-stop trying to keep the house warm. This will be great for our gas bill, especially since I didn’t plan ahead this fall and try to winterize the house. There are plenty of windows around here where there are cracks in the caulk, and we usually also put clear plastic over the windows to insulate them (since our builder decided to use windows as thin as cardboard).

In October, the company that does our HVAC service at home called me to say that our service plan was up and would I like to renew? I said no, partly because I was annoyed that they called me on the last day to tell me, and partly because I figured I would do what I always do–wait until the furnace got sick, make the call, and then ask for the service plan. What’s going on at home right now? You guessed it… the furnace is getting sick while it’s 5 degrees outside.

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What I learned on my winter vacation

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.—Proverbs 1:5 (NASB)

I mentioned last week that me and the family went to Walt Disney World last week. Here are a few tidbits of information that I thought I would share about what I learned on the trip:

  • A 10-day trip was fabulous 8 years ago on our honeymoon. Two kids later, that is an abysmally long time to be trapped in the car with 3 other people.
  • Bring the laptop on vacation. ALWAYS.
  • It’s not realistic to drag your kids from one end of Florida to the other over 4 days and then expect them to be perky and happy the next day when you go to the Magic Kingdom. Then again, it seems that every other parent there had the same unrealistic expectation.

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