Living Like a 4-Year-Old at 40

Good afternoon from Westminster, MD!

Well, I am officially 40-years-old as of yesterday. When I was 20, this felt like a far away milestone I could barely see in the distance. Now, standing at the post, looking back to what has past and forward to what is to come, I realize it was really just around the corner. Life truly is like a mist. This is why we often fear these milestones–they remind us of how finite we truly are. However, we do not have to let this define us.

As I thought about how I want to live my 40th year, a thought popped in my head–I should live like my 4-year-old. I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. While there are many good elements to growing up and maturing, there is one attribute we often “grow out of” to our detriment. We lose our sense of wonder and sense of “anything is possible” in this life. We trade dreaming in for being pragmatic. It is not to say being pragmatic is bad, it is a necessary trait. The problem is we tend to let it push out our ability to see beyond our current reality.

This is why I want to be more like my kids. They constantly dream and see the possibility in life. They are not discouraged by the obstacles in front of them. In fact, they don’t even see them. This is the beauty of being a kid. At 40 years old, it is impossible for me to ignore the obstacles, but it does not mean I cannot see beyond them. It does not mean I cannot dream and believe, against all odds, they can be overcome. Does this make me naïve and ridiculously optimistic? Maybe, but I would rather live there than wonder what could have been.

So, here is to the next 40 years of living a little more like a – year-old. Living with ridiculous optimism, believing what seems impossible today could become reality tomorrow. Dreaming with a sense of wonder for what is ahead. I am sure I will be disappointed along the way, but I have a feeling the journey will be a lot of fun!

James Belt

Making My 14,611 Days Count a Little More

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

When I started traveling to Nicaragua in 2007 on mission trips with my church, Crossroads Church in Westminster, MD, I had no idea how much Nicaragua would impact my life. Now fourteen years later, I have an amazing adopted sister from Nicaragua, I lived in Nicaragua for three years to work in small business and community development, built more friendships with people in Nicaragua then I can count, and continue to travel and volunteer there today. Nicaragua, and its people, are both literally and figuratively a part of my family.

As my 40th birthday drew closer, I began to consider how I could make this milestone count even more. I wondered, “how could I make my dash count?” This birthed an idea inside of me: what if I raised a dollar for Nicaragua for every day I have been alive, and ran a triathlon, a long-time goal of mine, on my birthday to celebrate.

So, I set out to figure out on how days there have been exactly in the past 40 years. How, you ask? I “Googled It” or course! It turns out, according to our friend Google, there are exactly 14,611 days between September 30th, 1981 and September 30th, 2021. That’s a lot of days!

My days now counted, I have officially kicked off my trek to raise $14,611 for Nicaragua for my 40th birthday! Donated funds will go to NicaWorks!, the organization I work with in Nicaragua. NicaWorks! is committed to bringing real hope to hard places through community-led change. With no paid staff in the United States, 100% of donations to NicaWorks! are used to make an impact in Nicaragua. This has always been the heart of Tim and Katie Adams, the founders of NicaWorks!. More information about NicaWorks! can be found at nica.works.

In addition to raising funds, I will be completing a self-created triathlon of 14.611 miles on my birthday, September 30th. I decided 14,611 miles was a few too many!

Why raise a dollar for Nicaragua for every day I have been alive? As I have considered my past 40 years, I have realized how incredibly blessed my days have been. Yes, they have been full of ups and downs, but I have always had what I needed to live out my God-given potential. This has not been the case for many people living in Nicaragua. This has been made even more clear as they have suffered the impact of a COVID-19 outbreak over the past month. It has been heartbreaking to watch friends get sick, and lose friends and family members because of a lack of access to resources we take for granted. I see this as an opportunity to “redeem my days” on behalf of the people who have not received the opportunities I have simply because of where they were born. I dream of a world in which that is no longer the case. On a side note, please be praying for Nicaragua.

Why complete a triathlon? I do not have a profound explanation for that one. It’s just something I decided I should do…I might be a little crazy.

If you would like to find our more about my fundraiser and follow my journey, please check out my fundraiser page on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/donate/346966440461961/.

Thank you for helping me Make My Dash Count!

James Belt

Don’t Call It a Waste

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

The situation in Afghanistan is incredibly heartbreaking. I feel a sense of heaviness in my heart when I think about it and all of the people impacted by it. When you listen to the news or scan headlines, it is easy to come away feeling hopeless about it. In fact, there have been quite a few people who have referred to it as a “waste”. However, is it truly hopeless and has nothing really come from the sacrifices made over the past twenty years? I think it might be time for a closer, more careful look.

Before I write another word, let me first say I do not truly understand the situation in Afghanistan. I have not been there, I have no inside knowledge of the complexity of it, I do not have the understanding to dissect the military strategies employed, and I have not given my sweat, tears, and blood on behalf of the people of Afghanistan. As someone who lived in Nicaragua for three years, I understand that there is more than meets the eye. However, even as an untrained, unqualified observer, I can identify something incredible that has sprung out of the sacrifices made by both the people of Afghanistan and those like the Members of the U.S. Military who have served alongside them–hope.

What hope, you say? You can see it in the faces of the women who have been interviewed as they express their concern about losing the rights they have gained over the past twenty years. Yes, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned, but their concern is actually a byproduct of the hope they have gained. Their freedoms may be able to be taken away, which would be tragic, but the internal hope they have built up cannot so easily be stolen.

Increased literacy rates, improved educational opportunities, the chance to participate in the political process, and many more gains are evidence of the changes that have taken place in Afghanistan over the past twenty years. These all add up to a greater sense of real hope. While it is a fair argument that many of these positive steps could be erased or minimized, the hope gained by the people of Afghanistan because of them is not so easily eliminated.

This is why I believe calling the sacrifice made by so many a “waste” is incredibly short-sighted and completely false. The sacrifices of so many created opportunities and hope for so many more. While this may not have been “the ending” we would have chosen for the war in Afghanistan, the fruits produced by the sacrifices of so many live on. This gives me hope that we have not seen the end of the story in Afghanistan. It is a much different country than it was twenty years ago.

Thank you to all who have served and sacrificed for the people of Afghanistan. What you have done matters and still makes a difference today. I believe the future of Afghanistan will be different and more hope-filled because of your efforts. I believe the hope that lives on in the hearts of the Afghani people will aid them in rising up and writing a new story for their country in time. You have been a part of overcoming hopelessness, and there is nothing wasteful about that.

James Belt

Emerging as New

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Last week I had the chance to spend time in Nicaragua for the first time in almost two years. It was truly a gift to be able to spend time with friends and see all that God is doing through NicaWorks! in Nicaragua. In addition vocational training, agriculture projects, the school uniform project, and more going on in Nicaragua, they have been experiencing a ton of spiritual renewal. It was an encouragement to experience this in person. It was also a great reminder of an important reality–finding new life in Christ is not just to save us from an eternity without God, it is an opportunity to live fully today.

In his Gospel recording, John wrote down these words of Jesus: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV) In the Evangelical church, we often fixate on the eternal consequences of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which is certainly of great importance. However, we sometimes sell Jesus’ work short by not focusing on Jesus’ promise for today of a “full life” as it says in John. Jesus offers us new life that starts immediately–we do not have to wait until we go to heaven. Certainly, life will still be full of challenges. We live in a sinful world. At the same time, finding spiritual hope in Jesus, and his promise of the Holy Spirit, can provide us with a renewed perspective as we approach the brokenness we encounter on a daily basis. Instead of finding ourselves trapped in hopelessness, we can find hope in the truth that God’s desire is for us to live fully.

A beautiful picture of this is the act of baptism. I have been baptized twice, once as a baby and once as an adult. However, I have been growing in my appreciation for the power of baptism in a person’s life from the experiences of my friends in Nicaragua. While I have always believed baptism is important and an outward expression of my faith, I do not know that I fully grasped it’s significance. Instead of just a symbol, the act of baptism is burying your old self (who you were before trusting in Jesus) in the water, and emerging as your new self (who you are in Christ) as you come out of the water. While I knew this intellectually, I am not sure I understood its full implications at a heat level.

Do you see how this relates to the opportunity to live a full life today? Instead of waiting until “God takes us home”, we have been born new to begin living a new life today. The act of baptism gives us a marker to look back on when we begin to lose site of this new life. We can remember we buried our old self and no longer have to live as if life is hopeless or meaningless. We now have an opportunity to live fully into the life for which God has created us.

This is having an incredible impact in Nicaragua. In a place where hopelessness is easier to see due to the poverty that exists, people are finding hope for today. However, the message is not just for Nicaragua. My prayer is that I can begin to view my life through this lens more regularly. If I have been given a new life, why would I not live fully into it?

What about you? Do you want to live a full life? Maybe it is time to take a new look at new life offered through Jesus.

James Belt

Why Life Is Like a Relay Race

Good morning!

I have always loved the Summer Olympics. There is something inspiring about watching people who have committed four years (and really many more) of their lives to maximize a single opportunity to prove they are the best in the world at something.

While I rarely get the opportunity to watch The Games these days (two kids under 5 will do that to you), I still love to follow along with the events. There are two event in particular that I have always found compelling–team relays in swimming and running. The drama of each moment as one team member does their best to put their other team members, and the team as a whole, in the best position to win draws me in. I love when someone appears to be just far enough behind the leader that victory appears to be out of reach only to watch them overcome the odds to catch up and win. The moment is electric.

Question–if the team member running or swimming the last leg of the relay claimed they had won the race alone, how ridiculous would that appear? Would we not point to the other three team relay members, reminding their confused teammate that reaching the finish line would have been impossible without the entire team’s contribution? The results of each team member is interconnected to the results of the team as a whole, both individually and collectively. If we can so easily identify this in a race, why do we so often miss it in our lives?

People have asked me why poverty should matter to everyone. Beyond the obvious “every life matters” answer, the reality is our decision to either address or ignore it impacts all of us. Often, we live life as if poverty does not exist as it does not appear to make a difference in our every day lives. I am guilty of this. However, similar to the team relay member who mistakenly believes they won the race alone, we mistakenly miss the reality that we are all interconnected. The turmoil of the past year should teach us this. While those of us on the “outside” of poverty can try to ignore it, the realities it creates for those trapped in it eventually turns into a volcano, erupting far beyond its apparent crater.

Poverty also costs all of us. Just like an injured individual team member harms the performance of the team as a whole, allowing poverty to persist keeps our world from thriving. Imagine a world in which everyone who wanted to maximize their potential had the opportunity to do so? How much higher would this lift our world as a whole? The concept of zero sum is a myth. The more opportunity people have to use their God-given gifts, the more opportunities we will all have to live fully.

If you have a chance to watch a relay race during the Summer Olympics this year, I hope it reminds you of our interconnectedness and the opportunity we have to create an even better world. Through hope, both practical and spiritual, I believe we can continue to eradicate poverty and the lie of hopelessness that sustains it. Do you? It matters to all of us.

James Belt

Today Only Comes Once

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

As I worked out in my basement one morning last week, something in the periphery caught my eye. It was not out of place, but the bright pink and blue color snapped me out of my exercise routine for a second. Looking to my right, there they were, two small scooters–one blue, and one hot pink. The pink one slightly taller than the blue one, just like their riders, my daughter and son. With two kids below the age of five, toys in my basement are a normal sight. However, for some reason that morning it was as if I had never seen them before.

As I took in the sight of these two wheeled contraptions of plastic and metal, my mind suddenly jumped forward twenty years. Instead of a two and four year old riding the scooters, I pictured two adults standing next to them remembering what it was like to traverse around our unfinished basement. They were still my children, just no longer carefree kids, unencumbered by the realities of this world. I could feel the tears forming behind my eyes. I could not compartmentalize the weight of this picture. I knew my kids would one day grow up, but it was as if I truly came to terms with it for the first time that morning.

I often swing back and forth between the desire for my kids to grow up and the impossible urge to keep them little forever. Watching my children grow and learn, slowly becoming their own person, is an incredible blessing. At the same time, it is a reminder our of own mortality and inability to rewind time. The truth is my son and daughter will only be this age once. When they are screaming, unable to provide for themselves I am thankful for this reality. However, as I think back over the moments of joy each age has brought a sense of longing wells up in my heart. That moment has past–a memory only to be relived in our minds.

It is easy get stuck here–to truly try to keep your kids from growing up, or to keep some other relationship or moment in time from changing. However, this is not only unhealthy, it is an impossibility. As hard as we try, we cannot stop time–but we can slow it down.

As I pondered those scooters and the image in my mind, I remembered the importance of savoring each moment. It is so easy to go through life living for the days to come instead of the day we are in. It is as if we are standing in a time machine, willing the future to come as quickly as possible. The problem is we miss the joys of the moment we are in. A hard as they might be, these moments have something to offer us and it is only available once. By choosing to be present, we can slow down time, taking in everything today has to give us.

This is my hope–I want to experience my kids joy as they ride on their scooters. One day, probably sooner than I realize, they will outgrow them, but I will worry about that day when it comes. Today only comes once, I want to make the most of it. I hope you will choose to do the same.

James Belt

Change Starts with an Acorn

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek Proverb


Good morning from Westminster, MD!

The Greek Proverb above is something about which I have written in the past, but means more and more to me as time passes. As I consider the process of creating change, especially in areas as challenging as poverty and racial justice, the words of this simple statement ring incredibly true. It would be easy to dismiss them as a call to complacency or to “be patient” as some said to Martin Luther King, Jr. and others fighting for change over the years. However, I believe it is quite the opposite–it is a call to world-changing action.

Consider an Oak tree. How does it start? As an acorn, one to six centimeters in length. Does this seem significant? Unless you are a squirrel or a chipmunk the answer is probably no. You do not have to walk around an acorn, or worry about hitting it with your car. Unless you are looking for it, you will more than likely miss it. An acorn, on its surface, appears to be small and insignificant. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

It is not the acorn’s current reality that makes it what it is–it is it’s potential. What happens when you plant the acorn in fertile soil and invest in it, not for what is today but for what it could become in the future? The potential inside the acorn is released, sprouting a stem that goes from being almost unnoticeable to as grand as one-hundred feet tall and four feet in diameter. What once seemed small and insignificant becomes majestic and impactful to the world around it.

Was planting the acorn an act of complacency? No, of course not! It was an act of intention to change the environment in which is was sowed. This is what I believe the words of this Proverb are meant to teach us. Often, we gravitate to “solutions” that appear to make the biggest splash in the moment without considering the longevity of their impact. We treat the symptoms without rooting out the problem. It feels good in the moment, but leaves us searching for another “silver-bullet” when the symptoms return. In contrast, “planting trees” feels rather unsatisfying in the moment, but grows into generation-altering change in time.

If you find yourself “planting acorns” wondering if it will ever make a difference, take a walk and find an oak tree. Enjoy its shade and remember where it came from. Then, go back and keep “planting trees”, not for what they look like today but for the change they will make for generations to come. What may seem small to you may grow into something great for those who come behind you.

James Belt

Don’t Be Distracted by the Clutter

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Standing in my house, staring at my kitchen table, I could feel my blood pressure rising and my vision narrowing. Why was it so cluttered? With two kids under the age of 5, clutter is a part of our life. Regularly, my wife, Jen, will clean something up during the day only to have the “toddler tornado” leave a path of destruction in their wake. Honestly, I do not know how she does it and maintains her sanity. Still, the mess on the table had me particularly bothered. Never mind the fact that the mess was at least half mine, mail I had opened and left for “filing”. It wasn’t that I was frustrated at someone for the mess. It was the stress that is created from living in disorder. Except, that it wasn’t.

When I finally broke my stare, I looked around realized the house was actually quite clean and organized (thanks for the best wife on the planet!). The clutter on the table was not my problem. My issue was my inability to see the bigger picture. Had I zoomed out, I would have realized the mess on the table was only a tiny percentage of my overall house. My limited perspective had hijacked my brain, preventing me from appreciating the size of the problem in relation to my reality.

This can be a bit comical when it comes to messes on the a kitchen table, but it is not nearly as funny when it affects our actual lives. How often do I get stuck in one spot because I fail to see the opportunities around me? How often do I allow small issues in my life to keep me from enjoying abundance of blessings that far outweigh them? How many times have I allowed frustration to prevent me from making the most of my time with my wife and kids? Maybe you can relate.

I am now thankful for that clutter on the table. It reminded me to take a step back. To stop allowing the small frustrations of life to hold my hostage and instead to open my eyes to the opportunity I have to truly live. I hope you will choose to do the same. We only get the chance to live this moment once. Don’t be distracted by the clutter.

James Belt

Living to Honor Their Lives

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Over the past few years, I have tried to be more intentional about remembering the true significance of Memorial Day. While war can be a controversial topic, the willingness of a person to put their life in harm’s way on behalf of another is not. It is the ultimate form of love. In the words of Jesus, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” John 15:13 NIV. This is what we remember on Memorial Day–incredible acts of love on our behalf.

The significance of the these incredible sacrifices became even more real to me when I had the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery with my grandfather in 2016. Walking through the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery is sobering. To know each grave stone represents the life of someone who was willing to die on my behalf puts life in perspective. That two of the gravestones bear the names of two of my grandfather’s brothers, Claude and Edger, makes it personal. While I never had the opportunity to know Claude and Edger, I live because they were willing to die.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.” This is what I believe our response should be to the sacrifices of Claude, Edger, and the many others who died on our behalf. What is our responsibility? It is to live fully for those who could not, and to, like them, provide the same opportunity to others.

As I have thought about the best way to honor the life and sacrifices of someone who went before me, I have asked myself what their answer would be. How would they say I could best honor them? The conclusion I have come to is to live a full and meaningful life. Think about it. Their loss is a demonstration of how precious life really is. By choosing to live a full and meaningful life, we are recognizing the incredible opportunity we have been afforded. This is even more true when honoring the life of someone who sacrificed their life on behalf of our freedom. What better way to honor them than to fully enjoy the freedom for which they died?

Equally important, we get to provide this same opportunity–the opportunity to live fully–to others. This is what Edger and Claude did for me. Why wouldn’t I do the same for others? Honestly, I cannot think of a better way to live a full and meaningful life. This could take many different forms. For me, it is reminding others of their God-given potential through real opportunity and a reframed identity. It is believing the lie of hopelessness that perpetuates poverty can be overcome by the real power of practical and spiritual hope.

What does it look like for you? What would it mean to live fully? How could you provide the same opportunity to others? I hope you will give these questions some consideration this Memorial Day as we remember those laid down their life on our behalf.

James Belt

From Full of Problems to Full of Potential

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Do you believe you are full of potential? How do you know? How does your view of your own potential impact the way you live? I would say quite a bit. The amount of potential you ascribe to yourself will shape the way you see your future. As humans, we are masters of self-fulfilling prophesy. If we believe we are hopeless and destined for a life of “less than”, apart from divine intervention, there is a strong likelihood we will consciously or unconsciously make decisions make decisions that lead us to that end. Conversely, if we believe we are full of potential and made for something more, there is a good chance we will live a life of significance.

How about others? Do you believe other people are full of potential? As someone who is married to an amazing wife and father to two incredible kids, my answer to this question is very important. This is because, fortunately or unfortunately, we have the power to influence the way those closest to us see themselves. If I believe my wife and kids are created to live a life of meaning, I will treat them as such. The words I speak to them, the actions I take on their behalf, and the way I generally treat them will reinforce this perspective in their lives. This will aid them in turning their potential into a reality. The opposite is true as well–if I see them as lacking potential, I will knowingly or unknowingly treat them accordingly, potentially impeding their progress.

How about the man or woman holding a sign at your local intersection? What about the person living in an impoverished neighborhood in the nearby city? The person growing up in poverty in a developing nation? What do you believe about their potential? What judgements do you make about what they could make of their lives? I have certainly been guilty of assuming certain people in society and our world are hopeless at times. If we are honest, I think we have all had those moments. What if we changed our perspective?

What if we began to see the person living in the midst of hopelessness as full of hope and potential? Might it change the way we treat them? Might it open up opportunities for people to write a new story?

Beginning to see people living in poverty as equal creations of God, full of potential but needing a opportunity to exercise it, will change the way we treat them. It also has the potential to change the way they view themselves. Think about it, if someone else believes in you, how much more likely are you to believe in yourself?

It is time we go from seeing the world and the people in it as full of problems to full of potential. It could potentially change the world.

James Belt