Think it … Act it … Believe it

Have you ever been through a major life change? Well – maybe not even major, but some change that prompt friends to ask, “How did it go?” I’ve been asked that by many of my friends. When a major change takes place in life, friends you’ve confided in want to know “How did it go?” and what else can we say except, “It’s different.” That’s a good place to start. I saw a book once titled, Change is Good.  You Go First. That about describes it.  Sometimes change is forced on us and in those times, change doesn’t seem all that great. Right? Other times we make a decision that changes the landscape of our lives and we think this change is good, we hope this change is good, then we wonder … it’s different.  No matter which description fits the situation, the one thing we can control is our attitude. Chuck Swindoll has a famous quote about attitude and in it he says, ´I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”  So how did it go? It’s different, but it’s good, the possibilities are ahead, as are the consequences. So right now our best choice is to have joy and remember – we are never on the path alone.  – God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5  

When change comes, we have to accept it, because it’s our new normal. It’s reality. We could fret over what we no longer have or we can begin the rebuilding process and start the remanufacture of our life from a different vantage point. When I was in my early twenties, someone wisely convinced me that change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different. It took awhile for that to sink in, but it’s become my survival mechanism. Here’s a little free advice. “Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you can’t.” I know it works.Psalm 30 11-12

Are you going through changes now that are exciting and you anticipate better days ahead? Or do you approach each day, tenuously out of dread or even fear for what lies ahead? Either way, when change comes, it means adjustment … day-by-day, moment-by-moment.  Ask yourself how can I get through these moments and come out the victor instead of the victim? You might not want t to hear this, but it starts with Attitude.  You might come to the starting line kicking and screaming, toting a long list of disadvantages and (gasp) even grievances. Acknowledgement is good. Bring that list along because this is where making adjustments begins. First in attitude, then in thoughts, then in actions, and finally in acceptance. Change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different.  ´I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

We might not be happy, but we can have joy. Happiness comes from the external; those situations that we perceive as good give us happiness. But happiness can be shattered in an instant, or it can fade when circumstances are less than optimistic. Joy on the other hand comes from the inside and is unaffected by the beating we take by those things that cause us despair.  I was having a bad spell in my life a while ago and on one of my ‘least optimistic days’  someone said to me that I was the happiest person she knew. Well huh! Mission accomplished then, because at that moment, I was anything but happy.  It must work then . . . We can fake happiness by choosing to be joyful. In that moment, when she said I was the happiest person, I prayed right then and thanked God for masking the unhappiness I was feeling at that time, so that happiness looked real.

What can we all do today, regardless of our circumstances, to make a big production of our joy? Think it, act it, believe it!

Psalm 30:5 [God’s] favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:11-12 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Ecclesiastes 8:15  So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

It’s just dirt!

Recently while talking to a friend who has been thinking of writing devotionals, I remembered studying through a devotional “Inspired for Greater Things” by Linda Pulley Freeman. In it she talked about our need for a balance of work, exercise and rest.Health Work Career Friends Signpost Showing Life And Lifestyle Balance  Funny how our minds work – that prompted a memory of  conversation with a friend at church about when God created the Earth, on the seventh day, he rested.  God rested. Interesting point #1.  From there our conversation wandered into the verses where he made man from dust, but created woman by taking one of his ribs.  “So,” my friend said. “That has to mean we are special because we weren’t made totally out of dust like men were.” Interesting point #2.  We were joking, but in retrospect those two interesting points made me consider the effects of the Genesis revelation.

Interesting point #1 – God rested. Have you ever thought about that? It’s significant because the Bible doesn’t say after God toiled and labored and exhausted himself with all that creation stuff, he finally plopped down in the recliner, kicked the footrest, and leaned back to watch a little TV and rest.  No, that’s not it.  God finished creating, looked around, totally satisfied with masterpiece and then, without complaining about being wiped out – He rested! Genesis 2:1-4 “Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. This is the story of how it all started, of Heaven and Earth when they were created. We get tired, we get weary, we need rest.  Rest is good – even if we aren’t drop-down-limp tired.

Interesting point #2 – God made everything out of dust.  Genesis 2 and 3 recounts the story of how God spoke and the Earth was separated from the heavens. God spoke and separated the daytime from the nighttime.  God spoke and things happened. But God used dirt to create the animals and the birds. He formed man and woman also out of dirt.  I know. That was a very long time ago. But here’s the point. God did all that with dirt and his omnipotent commanding voice. God spoke and the world became. God took his own hands and made living things that have continued to reproduce and populate the Earth.

Here’s something more significant about Genesis 1-3 – If God could do all that, think of what he can do in the lives of the people he started working with way back thousands of years ago.  When we’re faced with overwhelming circumstances and gripped by fear of the unknown, how often do we turn to Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  We are told not to worry because God will provide what we need. There are so many verses I could share with you on worry and fear and God’s provision. 2Timothy 1:7 “The Spirit God gave us does not give us fear, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Good workHere’s my thought though.  It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve been able to work outside my home. I could worry.  Since 1985 I have never been without work. I could worry. Our bills are not going to evaporate because I’m not working.  I could worry.  I prayed for my business to launch and bring an income stream, but God says, no. He has another plan.  I could worry.  Here’s why I refuse to worry. Because I know that the same God who made my ancestors out of dirt found on the ground, and made the animals, and the birds, and the fish, and orchestrated the beauty of nature in oceans, streams, mountains, valleys, trees, flowers and the moon, starts and glorious sun – He can take care of my minuscule need of fulfilling, satisfying work. That’s God. Give him a little dust and he will create!

Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

My Life is not in my hands or in the hands of an employer. My life is the hands of God who is power and controls the universe.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlmYxZAgrGI

From Crisis to Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions – Book Summary

As I sat down to write about this book, From Crisis to Calling: Finding your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions by Sasha Chanoff and David Chanoff, an online article in the Huff Post grabbed my attention proclaiming Afghan Refugee Crisis Worsens. It seems the news is dominated by more and more crises related to refugees who are suffering greatly in violence–torn regions. This book would have been much more uncomfortable to read had it not been for the authors’ presentation of the storyline through the moral compass of each person involved in the refugee evacuation. In the second half of the book, the five principles of moral decision making are conveyed through stories about corporate heroes of today.

Here are the 5-steps to moral decision making which are in the book called The Five Principles – building blocks to making moral decisions.

  1. Be prepared
  2. Open your eyes
  3. Confront yourself
  4. Know yourself
  5. Take courage

The subject of this book, From Crisis to Calling is about developing authentic leaders who make decisions based on deep personal values that positively affect their lives and the lives of their organizations. Leaders of this deep moral character will build cultures of trust, fairness, equitability, and ethical leadership. One final thought from the authors, “Empathy is the essential need of great leaders who are intentional about building their organizations and communities.” Whether leaders or lay people, life’s tough choices need to be infused with moral sense – empathy, compassion, altruism.

CSLews - Book Cover - From Crisis to Calling

 

 

Read the full book summary published on the BizCatalyst360 network.

http://bizcatalyst360.com/from-crisis-to-calling-finding-your-moral-center-in-the-toughest-decisions/

I want the fairy tale

Once upon a time … and so begins the story with the happily every after ending. I grew up in a black and white world, not a world of a solid line running between right and wrong, but a world before color television and a world on the bleeding edge of Technicolor cinematography. Storybooks were paper, every page imprinted with black ink with an artist’s watercolor illustration adorning a page just at the moment of waning interest. Every night before bed my mom would read The House at Pooh Corners, or a chapter from a book like Treasures in the Snow, or Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, or the Little House books. But my favorites were the stories that started out with the softness of “Once Upon A Time” and ended with “And they lived happily ever after”. I still want the fairy tale.

Can you guess what my favorite fairy tale is? What is yours? Is it the Cinderella story or maybe Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Maybe it’s Rapunzel or Robin Hood and His Mighty Band of Thieves.  My favorite fairy tale is the Shoemaker and the Elves. It’s not about conflict, not about victory over a wicked queen, it’s not about a battle between good and evil; there are no white hats versus black hats; no undercurrent of deception. The Shoemaker and the Elves is all about relationships, personal sacrifice, egoless achievement and support.

This is how I remember the story. Once upon a time there was an old shoemaker. Every day he faithfully went to work in his cobbler shop. Despite the snow, ice, and wind he was there, in his shop every day working hard to provide a warm home and food for his family. Whistling through his day, he stretched, pounded, glued and polished shoes and boots from demanding customers. Being meticulous about his work, and having high quality standards, it took extra time to complete the mounds of boots and shoes on his counter. Every night he assessed his work and every night he prayed that what he had completed was done well and that tomorrow he would make better progress on the tasks ahead.  Some days he was so overwhelmed all he could do was pray.  Sometimes I think he prayed as David did many times. In Psalm 22:19 he prayed “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.” Like David, this shoemaker knew where his strength came from. And in Psalm 143:8 he acknowledges his trust in God. “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life..”source of strength - Psalm 22-19

While the shoemaker was pleading with God to bring relief for his burden, his prayers were already being answered. Concealed from human observation were helpers prepared for this mission, elves whose source of joy was in serving. A team of friends who would come alongside him when the shoemaker’s resources were depleted and his reserves exhausted.  These excerpts from Romans 8:26-28 gives us an inside view. “The moment we get weary in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know what to pray, He does our praying for us. He knows us far better than we know ourselves and knows our condition. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives is being taken care of by compassionate God.”

Each night the shoemaker lined up his work for the next day, swept the floor, snuffed out the candles and went home, satisfied with his accomplishments, but always with an eye on his plan for tomorrow. As he entered his home, I can hear his memory recalling Romans 15:5-6 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the story there is no indication that the shoemaker abandoned his responsibilities to the ‘elves’ and expected them to work so he didn’t have to.  His attitude was one of gratefulness to his secret helpers, recognizing their efforts as important as his own. Romans 11:18 “Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

Once upon a time . . . I think God knew the heart of the shoemaker was centered on doing the right things despite his circumstances. He was diligent in using the skills God gave him, but he was not too proud to pray for relief and accept help when his situation became too challenging. I love the way the Message describes the relationship between need and fulfillment. The subject here is the Apostle Paul, but it could characterize any one of us if God is Lord and Master of our life.  Philippians 4:13-14 “I’ve found the recipe for being happy…Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.”

I still love the fairy tale, but those are just stories, wishful thinking, a dream of living happily ever after. Our happily ever after comes in eternity with God and his son Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-13 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And they lived happily ever after.

The original story of the Elves and the Shoemaker written by The Grimm Brothers.

Faith like a parachute

It’s Monday everyone. A new day. A new week. What will it bring? Every day is new, but isn’t there something about Monday that just seems different? Some of us love Monday and enthusiastically run into the day with the joyful anticipation of a sky diving adventure. Others plod toward it with resistance like wearing a parachute that’s all burden and no adventure. Most of the time, I’m in camp #1. I look forward to Monday, even though it means leaving the freedom of the weekend behind. Other times my anticipation gets a little tarnished and it takes a lot more effort to polish my attitude before I jump into the unknown. Why is that?file0001754310068

If today is one of those days for you and you enter tentatively, even fearfully, remember this word: faith. We don’t have to walk through this day alone and in the dark. I started preparing for this Monday on Saturday and Sunday. It’s like packing my parachute for adventure.  I took a faith walk through some of the Psalms and revisited some promises in Isaiah and gave my mind an overdose of positive thoughts in Philippians 4.  Today has arrived and I’m ready.

God told us not to worry about the future.  We can make the best choices, and do everything right, but still we are promised this moment and the future is out of our control. I’m not making that up. It’s all true. Anticipating the future can be exciting. Ask someone whose hobby is skydiving. They will tell you, you’re up there in a plane with nothing but you and your parachute. You know it will open on the way down; that’s the faith part.  But there’s still that leap into the unknown, the adrenaline rush, the experience. Whether we approach our day with excitement or dread, it’s faith coupled with hope that carries us.   That’s what we need to do with this day. Let our faith carry us into a day that becomes our joy because we have our faith on and our radar tuned to God’s best.

This morning I was reading a devotional and noticed how  many of the references were in Psalm 119. It’s a long Psalm so it shouldn’t surprise me that there is so much encouragement in there, but I chose these to share with you today – Monday – the day after a weekend – the day after a holiday. I hope you don’t mind if I don’t identify the verses. These are from the Voice translation:  I have pursued You with my whole heart; do not let me stray from Your commands. I will chase after Your commandments because You will expand my understanding. Deep within me I have hidden Your word so that I will never sin against You. Guide me to walk in the way You commanded because I take joy in it. The earth is filled with Your unfailing love, O Eternal One; teach me to observe what You require. Help me to learn good judgment and knowledge because I believe Your commandments. Before I had trouble, I strayed from the true path, the path of righteousness, but now I live according to Your word. You are truly good, and Your acts are too; teach me what You require. According to Your unfailing love, spare my life so that I can live according to the decrees of Your mouth. Your word is a lamp for my steps; it lights the path before me. I long for Your salvation, O Eternal One. Meanwhile, Your teaching brings me great joy. Let my soul live on so that I may praise You, and let Your precepts guide me.

No fear OK?  Eyes, ears, heart wide open like a parachute. Take the giant leap of faith – like Francesca Battistelli sings here in – I’m Letting Go.
Ready team? Let’s get out there! Treat yourself to joy every day!

What would your card say?

Many years ago I read the book by Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I can’t say the book changed my life, but if asked, I could probably still recite the list of habits. One, however was seared into my mind and frequently comes back to me.  You may have guessed it’s Begin With the End in Mind.  The deep meaning behind that thought consistently impacts my acts and reactions. If you don’t know the analogy, let me help you out.  In his book, Covey asks his readers to imagine being at their own funeral and observing what the guests say about them.  I know.  Morbid! But embedded in that statement is the reality that our lives are made up moments all strung together that make us who we are and what we become. Envision what you want to be remembered for and think about what you want people to say about you when you’re not here. Somewhere in those thoughts and visions is your purpose statement.

Wednesday was my birthday and I have crossed the threshold to senior citizen. I have the same choices today that I had 20 years ago. How will I use the moments I’ve been given? Someone said, nobody gets out of here alive. At any given point, until we are no longer here, we have opportunity to become what we might have been. We have strung out opportunities that are life defining. On a personal level, what are my beliefs, my values, and attitudes that characterize
me? I’m convicted of how many times I say “I want to . . .” or “I should do ….” I catch myself falling into the pattern of aimless wandering because I lose focus and forget what I want to be remembered for.

Let me clarify wandering because it’s more than distraction from things to accomplish in a day or a week. We all have lists of things to do. In fact, lists can keep us on track so we remember things that need to be done, but we are more than our to do lists. For a few moments think about your family and consider friends, including people you know only from online connections. If you asked them right this minute to describe you, what would they say? Are you satisfied with the answers? If you are, do more of that. What if your answers aren’t favorable? You still have time to change it. You can stop wandering and focus on becoming who you want to be.

When I consider all those moments that have become my life, what do I want to be remembered for? I’ve thought of a few.

  • Faith in God and complete trust in His sovereignty:  While this sounds simple, it’s a serious act of turning over my will to God’s will even when I don’t understand His ways.
  • My relationships – wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend:  My role is to be loving, attentive, empathetic, authentic, involved, thoughtful, encouraging, supportive, and spread infectious joy.
  • Employee, co-worker:  How to carry my fair share of the work, be a team player, be genuinely supportive no matter what, be loyal, practice gratitude, be complimentary, give recognition, project joy
  • Personally: Be discerning, live with integrity, be diligent, act with kindness, take care of my physical body, strengthen my mind, guard my heart and mind from deceit and wrong, be joyful

Admittedly, that list could be even longer, more intense and transparent. In the context of a full life though, not impossible.

Much of my list is comprised of attitudes which in reality are the foundation of how I’ve built my life. Proverbs 4:23  says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues [attitudes] of life.”  I’ve never met anyone who lives more than one moment at a time. In fact, I don’t know of anyone who has more than 60 seconds in a minute or 24 hours in a day.  In Ephesians 5, I read the instruction to make the most of every opportunity.  When I look down from heaven I hope people use these words when remembering me: unshakable faith, kind, compassionate, made others feel like they matter, involved, eternal cheerleader, supportive, encourager, attitude of gratitude, enthusiastic, positive, lover of life, infectious joy.

Most of all I want to be remembered for being who God intended me to be and that regardless of all the defective decisions I’ve made through my lifetime, He was able to take the broken and rebuild them for good.  I am His workmanship, created by Christ Jesus to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 And when I say good bye to this life I will leave singing 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Above my desk where I have my daily quiet time with God, I have this handwritten card. What would your card say?purpose card

The Standard for Extraordinary

I regularly receive email messages announcing events designed especially for women. There’s one that catches my attention every time. It isn’t that the organization is authentic and reputable, it’s the label. This label: Extraordinary Women represents ministries to women through conferences and Bible study resources.  The women of this network are extraordinary, gifted speakers, singers, and facilitators. I know a countless number of women whose gifts are in areas unlike those of notoriety, yet are truly extraordinary.

I attend a women’s Bible Study with Extraordinary Women from my home church. Together we have discovered what it means to live gracious, productive lives by practicing what we learn from God’s word. Have you ever heard of the fruits of the spirit? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22 Together we’ve also studied the audacious faith of Daniel, the practical faith of James, and recently, why Jesus is the One and Only. That’s just a few the many topics that served as the centerpieces of spiritual development for our small group of Extraordinary women.

One of the leaders is truly Extraordinary, and I’ve gotten to know her well over the past years of lessons. She lives her faith out loud through hospitality and mentoring. I think of her when I remember the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5. There’s a sequel to that chapter and right here it is in Galatians 6:10lord do good “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” This friend listens with her heart and acts on opportunity – extraordinary.  She asked me one day to pray for the snow to melt from her driveway because she had young women coming to her home for additional Bible study. She  embraces and uses her gifts of hospitality, mentoring, and teaching while being wife, mom, grandma, and holding down a job. Extraordinary Woman. I wonder if she’s read this passage in 3John 1:5 that says “Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.” Visible faith – extraordinary. 

I can’t count the number of Extraordinary Women I have come to know and love. God has been gracious and brought me friends of extraordinary character, extraordinary talent, extraordinary stamina, extraordinary spiritual insight, extraordinary discernment, and that barely penetrates the qualities of these women I am thankful to call friend – extraordinary.

What does it take to be extraordinary?  Well, I can think of a few things – but how about a few highlights from God’s word instead of mine?  Ephesians 2:10 “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  1Timothy 6:18 “Command them to use their money for good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” Hebrews 13:16 “Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to him.”

I don’t think God will mind if I steal this prayer from David. To all the Extraordinary Women in my life, this is for you today: Psalm 125:4 “Lord, do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.”