Do You Hear What I Hear?

My wife and I had the exciting privilege in July of 2015 to visit the House of the Virgin Mary in Izmir, better known to us as ancient Ephesus, Turkey.

Folklore has this house as the place where the Apostle John, following Jesus’ last words on the cross, took Jesus’ mother Mary to escape persecution. Legend places Mary there where she with John lived out their final days.

Outside the house, on the path back to the parking lot, was this wall with a place to place your prayer slip of paper. Many hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions over the years, took this opportunity to leave a request in hopes of receiving an answer, a blessing to their innermost prayer.

A couple of thousand years earlier, when Jesus was teaching, in one of his controversial moments, a woman called out of the crowd, “Your mom is so blessed to have you!” (Loosely paraphrased) In the cadence of the moment, Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” (Luke 11:28 NLT)

I think we’ve all had them, you know, the idea in our head that we can almost hear. It may have come in the voice of our parents, a teacher, a loved mentor. You may have caught yourself saying, “It was almost audible.”

What if God wants to use that medium to bless you?

Do you hear what I hear?

“But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”

House of the Virgin Mary in Izmir, Turkey
Looking for Answered Prayer

Step Up

So much of my life has had to do with the retrofit, examining and reflecting. This pondering and taking stalk has proven to be invaluable; but, once you have figured out how you ‘roll’ then you have to begin the action of rolling.

What is the plan? What are the steps? How do I break it down into the bite-size pieces? Who do I need to partner with to make it happen? What do I need to avoid? When am I going to start? When will I accomplish my goals? What will the accomplishment of these goals look like?

This ‘getting it done’ is where I need to live. These are the next steps for me.

Not just a vision, though imperative; not just a dream, though essential, just a well laid-out, step-by-step, growing plan that has been initiated and is what I follow.

These are my steps.

What are yours?

Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Everyone Else Is

What do you do when everyone else is doing it?

There is ample opportunity to cut corners, to cheat, to ‘score,’ to sell the flawed dressed up as the perfect, after all, everyone else is doing it, or are they?

I can hear my dad in my ears, “Well if everyone else was jumping off a bridge would you do it?”

The answer is supposed to be ‘no,’ but I’ve grown up in a culture that actually jumps off bridges and pays someone for the opportunity. So the point gets clouded and indistinct. I see a culture today where there is a lot of ‘fuzz’ and not enough clarity.

Where are the Daniel’s of our day, the three Hebrew children? Where are the uncompromising, the integral, the honest if you will?

When it seems not to matter when no one appears to be looking, where are the men and women who play it straight?

Do you know anyone like that?

Do your friends?

Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Christian = ?

I know that I live in a day and age where I am judged by the word “Christian”, but the problem with “Christian” is that there is no singular definition that suffices.
Is it “Christian” by my standard or yours, because they are probably not the same?

“Christian” has taken so many meanings from so many corners of the world for so many different eras. For some, “Christian” gets its definition from the Crusades. For others, it is the standard by which my wife wears her hair. And, I agree with you those two are not even close to being on the same playing field, but that is how diverse and how polar the word “Christian” has become. It has taken on its definition from the actions or lack thereof of those who are supposed to be learners of Jesus.

So, you can have “Christian” I don’t want it. I don’t want to have my life governed by a sliding scale of judgment, innuendo or manipulation. You can try and put the term on me, but I’ve decided not to wear it.

I’ve decided that I would rather get lost in the identity of Jesus. I want to live, love and look like him. Oh, he had his accusers. He had those who wanted him silenced. They were more interested in their name, their pedigree, and their protocol. The accuser’s religious pride could not handle someone who just did not care about his religious appearance or his family name.

Yes, I’ve decided that I want my life to be on a trajectory of Christ. If I can stay on that trajectory, then my life will have meaning. I’ll agree with you again; I’m still a long way off, but that is where I am heading.

By the way, I love the way my wife does her hair.

Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Wooden Shoes

IMG_3403 (1)

Today I was made aware that there has been conversation about me. How many? How often? I’m not sure. But, one of my colleagues was relaying to me a conversation she had with another former colleague that I do not immediately remember. She was trying to describe me to him.

“Oh, the Dutch guy with the wooden shoes,” he exclaimed.

I’m not Dutch, or not mostly, but I do wear wooden shoes quite often. I had to laugh that people ‘wood’ talk about my shoes.

Just as an aside, wooden shoes are excellent for posture and foot support, and, they are very comfortable. Just saying.

But this comment got me thinking. How much of my path, my walk, my life is observed? Some of these answers may never become evident or communicated, but I would venture, most, if not all of my life is under observation or even scrutiny by someone somewhere and at various times.

Then the next question that presents itself to me is, “What am I communicating with my life?”

I think it was Chip Ingram who asked, “If I follow you will I get to Christ, or will I get somewhere else?”

That’s a great question. I’m trying to answer it with my life, not just my shoes, but also my entire walk.


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You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Is Today One Day?

“One day I will be ready!” Have you ever heard yourself say this?

“One day …when…” seems to be a formula for “I don’t think so today. “

Don’t get me wrong. There are very legitimate times when this kind of self-talk is appropriate but, probably not as often as I would like to use it as an excuse.

It’s just easier, let me try that again, it just feels easier to delay, excuse, or procrastinate. Take it from me; it’s only in the feeling arena because the spin-off challenges only get greater as we delay.

Hello, my name is Phil Sovdi, and I am a Procrastinator. There I said it. Now that I am exposed, how about you? Do you delay when you should act?

Part of my problem/challenge is that I want to complete the whole thing right away. If I cannot complete, I don’t want to start. What I am learning and have learned is that a little bit of intentional activity moves me toward the final goal. So, if I do a little today, then a little the next day and so on it’s not long before I have a completed project before me.

Let’s talk spiritual.

What is causing the delay in your spiritual life today? Possibly, “I’m not as good as…, I’m not as smart as…, I don’t have a degree like…, I’m just new at this…” We can probably come up with a myriad of excuses of why we are not qualified to act or move on God’s behalf.

The more skilled don’t live in your shoes, you do. That makes you qualified in that moment. The more competent don’t have access to the information that you have. That makes you qualified at the moment.

Here’s a question, “What can you do for and with God today with what you know?” There will always be stuff that you don’t know, but if you wait until you do you probably won’t do anything.

Take it from me; I’m a recovering procrastinator, I know.

Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Change Priority

What is it that causes me to have a can-do attitude? Why can I work at something and make it work while another doesn’t seem to have the heart or motivation? Why, conversely, can they see phenomenal success in an area that is entirely foreign to me?

Could it be simply that the area in question has not made it to the top of the list as a priority for them or myself?

Priorities are created in the privacy of our thoughts, the deep down places of the inner person. They receive the energy that others can observe as they get fleshed out and become visible.

It occurred to me today that the reason a person is not willing to make a change is because the need for change hasn’t yet tripped their priority list.

I am aware that some people don’t believe that other people can change. These same people assume that once you reach adulthood, you are what you are.

I once heard it said, “You will be the same next year except for the people you meet and the books that you have read.” There might be some merit to that. I also think that there may be one more ingredient to add to the change mix; the pressure you were put under to make a change.

We change when we get convinced in our inner thoughts; when the people we respect are modeling the attribute; and when life’s pressure reorients us to what is imperative.

What is the difference between a good idea and something that makes it to your priority list? A good idea is just that, a conversation piece, an elevated thought that receives attention.

A Priority means that you are choosing one over another; one thought, one action, one person, a set of values or lack thereof.

What are your priorities? What is your number one priority? What is it that holds value at the innermost core of your being? Is that a value worth keeping? If not, what is your strategy for real change?

Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Religiously Lost

Oh my ‘I’s’ were dotted and my ‘T’s’ were crossed, and I was doing everything right according to my religious protocol, but, I was missing the critical focus or component.

This focus wasn’t a thing or a ritual; this component was a person. I was missing (not getting) Him.

Until he had a private conversation with me and nudged me in my thoughts with the question, I was willingly unaware of my lack.

“Phil do you like me?”

I responded to my thoughts, ” I love you, Lord.” My mind went to my life that I built around church and service. I showed up with unbridled devotion, most of the time. I led congregations in worship, and I had spent hours in preparation for teaching and imparting God’s Word.

He nudged again, “That’s not what I asked. Do you like me?”

That question changed my life. I was religiously numb and conveniently occupied. I had to answer honestly, and my honesty bothered me.

God, who came to earth to bring people to himself, was good, but I was extremely uncomfortable with a Christ who spent time with untouchables, who went into places and situations where a ‘good religious person’ shouldn’t go. He did things that had I been present, I would have blushed at or hidden from, my religion wouldn’t approve.

He lived at his pace, not swayed by anyone or anything. Ya, I didn’t like the way he rolled. He wouldn’t get into my religious box. Shame.

Great questions change lives.

This issue changed my life. Maybe it will change yours.

“Hey there nice religious person, do you like me?”

Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have to Live; You Get To!


I am quite concerned.

It would seem that Character has become just an ancient word. Its significance is at best diluted, and at worst, disregarded.

In a fast-paced world of apparent transparency, openness and tolerance we have missed the on-ramp to Character.

Our modern quick fix, throw-away culture has lost the baking soda of character, to use another metaphor.

It would appear that all the necessary ingredients are in place, but in fact, everything lies flat.

Like baking soda, Character doesn’t display itself in the mix until the heat is turned up. Baking soda at room temperature doesn’t even appear to be effective. Character when submersed in an “everything’s cool environment,” appears the same. It is there, but its real usefulness doesn’t yet show itself.

It’s when the option of compromise is present; when the explosion of anger presents; when the action of integrity wanes, in the quiet of privacy, that’s when it becomes evident.

Character, like baking soda, shows through the tough work of Process. We only get it by allowing the pressure, the heat of circumstances to change us on the inside. But then, that makes sense.

The chief baker knows how our lives should look. He knows what the finished product we’ll be, and he knows how real purpose should look. He’s the one who will finish what he has started.

Don’t disregard the pressure or the heat. It’s making something beautiful.

If the timer hasn’t gone off, you are still in process.

Let’s Talk

You don’t have to live; You get to!

Those That ‘Have to Say,’ Aren’t (re-print from Blue Collar Theology)

Those that Have to Say, Aren’t.

Over my life, I have had the opportunity on a few occasions to know some very wealthy people. These people probably were able to travel every day to Texas and back to get their Starbucks, and not even feel it in their bank accounts.

During my time with them it didn’t stand out, but later while observing and conversing with others all of a sudden it reminded me of something that was missing with these wealthy friends.

It showed up as people who didn’t have that kind of wealth but wanted me to think that they did. They would constantly drop hints about how much they were making and how often they were spending and where their illustrious buys were landing them.

The extremely wealthy didn’t do that.


Because, they didn’t have to. The difference was that they had the money and goods. They didn’t need to concern themselves that I would know that. It didn’t matter, and they were secure without anyone giving their support.

I developed through this example a little axiom that I use now and cross many lines with it in my thinking.

“Only those who don’t have it have to flaunt it.” I’ve seen it hold true.

How does that play out in the area of spiritual life?

People who connect with God don’t have to let everyone else know that they do. They don’t have to drop hints like “In my prayers at 4:00 am this morning the Lord told me…” “God told me this, God told me that…” you get the picture. They aren’t just explaining, they are posturing and flaunting.

People who are connected with God and walk in the Spirit indeed do it. They don’t have to posture, they don’t have to prove it, they just do it. They are who they are, authentic and true. They know God and radiate him through their life.

So how about you? Do you just have to say, or, are you?