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Archive for November, 2011

Perseverance

 “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”  2 Chronicles 15:7

Anyone with school-aged children knows that at some point, they will find themselves trying to instill perseverance into their children’s lives.  From finishing their school assignments on time to consistently keeping their rooms clean to maybe even volunteering to clean up the kitchen after you have just cooked a big meal (or maybe that last one is initiative which is another good characteristic trait).  J 

There are many different ways to go about trying to instill this in others; or even, if I am going to be honest, making it stick in my own life.  Yes, there is going to be hard work involved to reach the final goal, but nowhere does perseverance talk about me having it all together.  Perseverance is not about perfection; instead, it is about the ability to keep going, keep trying, keep pushing myself to “take it to the next level” (sound familiar?) to reach my personal best, to finish strong.  

So what does that look like on a daily basis?  And how do I attempt to teach that to my children so that they can internalize this important character trait?

I think perseverance looks something like this: Getting up on a Thursday, after having failed at my latest diet that was started Monday and starting over today instead of waiting for next Monday.  It means even though I failed to exercise four days this week, making sure I finish the week strong by exercising the last three.  It means taking five extra minutes to straighten up the house before going to bed, laying out my clothes the night before, or packing as much of the school lunches ahead of time so that our morning goes better. 

It also means, though, taking a break once in a while.  It means rewarding myself (or someone else) for a job well done.  It means stopping sometimes to evaluate all that has been accomplished and seeing what works well, what needs to be changed, and what can be done more efficiently.  It means not working so hard I am driven to the point of frustration and exhaustion, but not settling for my own sloppy seconds.  It means going to bed every night, confident that I did my personal best today in God’s strength, listening to Him whisper in my ear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  And, if I did not meet my own personal goal, figuring out what I can do better for tomorrow, letting go of the failures of today, confident that I have another chance to try again. 

I challenge you to look at your life and rejoice in how far you have come with a specific goal you have set for yourself.  If you have not set one, I then challenge you to do just that, working toward your personal best. 

Then, maybe we can rejoice with someone else about one of their achievements or better yet, offer some encouragement to someone who is struggling trying to persevere over a hurdle in his life.

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Do You See Your Blessings?

It is so easy to focus on what we do not have.  “Keeping up with the Jones’s” may be a joke passed around among friends, but to some it hits harder than others.   Other families cannot even begin to imagine trying to keep up with the Jones’s – they are just trying to make their monthly mortgage, keep food on their table, and clothes on their children’s backs. 

Times are tough, lately, for all of us.  However, especially with the holidays right around the corner, I would like to pose a question to everyone…Are you able to see your blessings?  Everyone has them.  Some have more than others, they are all packaged up differently, but we all have them, if we look close enough. 

To some, it may be a household full of loud, enthusiastic, rambunctious children and not many extra things.  To others, it may be lots of friends, community support, and fun activities to participate in.  Others may have a job they absolutely love and feel blessed to have.  While others still may have wonderful physical health. 

I just want to give you a chance to think for yourself about the many blessings that you personally and/or your family enjoy. 

Once having done that, I then issue a challenge for you as the upcoming holiday season begins.  We all have friends, some struggling more than others this year, that could use a little extra blessing this year.  Challenge yourself to think outside the box.  Is there one specific blessing that you could pass along to someone close to you to give them hope, encouragement, or just to show love, asking nothing in return?  

Be as creative as you can be.  After having done that, if you would like, it would be great to hear in the comment section what you did to bless someone else and what their response was.

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Hatred Only Hurts Yourself

ROMANS 12:19 NLT
19 Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God.  For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.

I always thought God put this passage in the Bible to help me learn a principle such as self control or forgiveness or something; like a parent giving a lecture to their child, “Stop teasing your friend or you will be sent to your room” kind of thing.  I always felt disciplined and judged.

However, the more I read this verse, and the more I learn about God, the more I realize that not just this passage, but most of the rules that God wants me to obey serve a purpose to protect me.  He is not just randomly handing out a list of do’s and don’ts. 

Research shows that unresolved anger can build up toxins in a person’s body over time, eventually manifesting itself through actual physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and eventually possibly stroke, heart attack, depression, to name but a few.  Any of these symptoms, if left untreated, can affect a person’s ability to live a happy, healthy lifestyle (taken from The Women’s and Children’s Health Network). 

How many of us have unresolved anger in our lives over family conflicts, work situations, road rage, or an injustice done to a loved one (perceived or real)?  How many of us justify our anger which turns into hatred when left to grow?  I need to remember that when I harbor anger toward a situation, a specific person, or an event in my life that the main person I am hurting is myself. 

Now I am able to see the bigger picture.  Not only does unresolved anger further alienate me from people, situations, and events, but most importantly, it destroys me from the inside out.  When viewed that way, why would anyone choose to destroy themselves?  To choose to forgive is not the same thing as choosing to forget (a topic for another day), but it is obeying God’s Word and that is something that I want to actively pursue.  I love knowing that the rules God puts in the Bible for me to follow have reason behind them.  They are not random but instead serve a purpose.  Even if they didn’t, I trust Him enough to obey, but it sure is nice knowing that I serve a God who loves me so much that he does not want me to destroy myself. 

I am reminded of that simple act of love every time I instill a rule with my children that helps to protect them.

 

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Mistake…or Opportunity?

“Don’t miss the opportunities brought to light by your mistakes.”  (Dan Miller)

How many of us have a hard time remembering the above phrase when we make a mistake?  Are you quick to beat yourself up when you do something wrong, replaying it over and over in your head long after everyone else has forgotten, until it is a bigger deal than the original event ever was? 

Can you imagine a household where spilled milk, ground in Play-Doh on the living room carpet, or a new hairdo for the dog made with finger paint were considered opportunities instead of mistakes? 

Does calling it an “opportunity” automatically excuse the offender from restitution?  No, but it does release that person from unnecessary guilt, freeing his mind to think about how things can be done differently in the future to prevent the same “opportunity” from repeating itself instead of degrading himself for making a mistake in the first place.  And, sometimes, someone may need to create the same “opportunity” quite a few times before a different result will occur. 

 So, the next time frustration gets the best of me and I fall short of what I intended to accomplish, I am going to try to put into practice the perspective of “opportunity” instead of “mistake.”  If nothing else, maybe I will start to laugh and free myself up to figure out how I can prevent it from happening altogether the next time. 

And, maybe, just maybe, I will then carry that same guiltless experience over to my children the next time they create an “opportunity” of growth for themselves.  The more focus put on the learning experience, the better the outcome for everyone. 

 

 

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Even Jesus Asked For Help

Mark 14: 32-34 “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”

One of Jesus’ main purposes of coming to Earth was to be a human example, giving us encouragement and hope for our daily lives.  Reading the above passage, it was nice to know that even Jesus called on his dearest friends, the people closest to him in his ministry, for help right before the ultimate sacrifice he would make – dying on the cross for our sins, himself being without sin. 

Notice, though, the example he gave.  He did not go around telling everyone he met that he was upset, he did not try to get sympathy, or even try to have others handle his challenge for him.  No, he separated three of his closest companions from the rest of the disciples, a select group already, and then allowed himself to be vulnerable with a trusted few.  Even with them, though, he never asked them to take away his pain, only to help him keep watch, stay awake with him while he brought his concerns to his Heavenly Father, our real source of comfort.

I think that is a great example to follow.  I know I, for one, hate to ask others for help.  I never want to intrude on their busy lives and I am always afraid of bothering others with my petty concerns, but I am quick to live my life, showing my stressed-out self to anyone who will listen.

However, even though others cannot take my hard times away from me, or even do the work necessary to get through my personal challenges, Jesus’ example shows me that I do not have to be alone.  It is okay to ask for help, it is okay to share my inmost feelings, and it is okay to accept help – in fact, if Jesus did it, then it is more than okay; it is the best way. 

I throw out two challenges:  The next time you are facing a really tough spot, who are two or three dear friends that you can ask to help “keep watch?” 

And the final challenge is this: When you see a friend facing a really hard time in his or her life, are you willing to step up and say to that person:  “Here I am, how can I keep watch for you?”

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Attitude of Gratitude

Today is a day set aside to thank the many people in this Country who sacrifice their time, energy, and family life to allow us the freedoms we enjoy. 

 What would life look like if instead of only thanking people once or twice a year, on special occasions and holidays set aside to remember, we showed an attitude of gratitude everywhere we went? 

 What would the cashier at the grocery store say if you looked her in the eyes and thanked her for the friendly service?  What would the waitress at your favorite restaurant do if you left a 25% tip instead of the standard 10-15%?  What if you poured your co-worker a cup of coffee when you went to refill your own, or paid it forward by buying the person’s meal behind you in a fast food line? 

 What about if you started showing that same consideration to your own family; making your husband’s favorite dessert “just because” or volunteering to be in charge of baths and bedtime so your spouse could have some “me” time?  What about getting home from work early and raking the leaves or cleaning out the garage?  How would your kids react if you got off the couch and played their favorite game with them or volunteered to take over one of their weekly chores for the night? 

 What would the world look like if we all took the time to make life just a little happier for someone else instead of focusing only on our needs, our wants, or our busy schedule? 

 Today, while we celebrate the sacrifices our military, police, firefighters, and their families make for us every day, let us choose what action we are going to actively participate in to continue making this Country a better place, a little bit every day.  Who knows, maybe your attitude of gratitude will rub off on someone else and they will in turn keep the cycle going.

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Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.”

 Most people think that once they have their diploma in their hand, they are not only able to shed homework, teachers, and mandated gym classes, but the popularity contests that can make the school years unbearable.  However, it does not stop there.  Even though you are given the privilege of graduating into adulthood; with that responsibility comes cliques associated with the workplace, church volunteering, mom’s group…the list is endless.  I am sure if you looked hard enough, you would even find cliques in retirement facilities. 

 Thinking about this phenomenon and trying to determine which people are less affected by the whole cycle, my conclusion is this:  Usually the people who escape the popularity syndrome unscarred are the ones whose focus consistently remains outward instead of inward.  By focusing on others needs and asking God what He can do to show us how to be a blessing to others, we focus less on what we are and more on what we can do. 

 Another way to put it is this:  By continuing to keep our focus God-centered, caring only what He thinks of us, our focus stays off of ourselves and genuinely gravitates toward how we can bless others.  When doing this, people are not only naturally drawn to us but hopefully we become an example for others to follow, inspiring them in turn to focus on others instead of themselves. 

 So, if you feel at any time in your life you are losing the popularity contest, purposefully take your focus off yourself and instead focus on one way to bless someone else.  Not only will you feel happier, but more than likely, you wind up being the ultimate winner.

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