Make the choice yourself…

November 29, 2022

I got this graphic in a daily inspirational email…

One of the first thoughts that came to mind as I look at this is how many people decide to be victims. I’m sure that you know some people like that. These are the people whom “the world is out to get.” Their misfortunes are never their fault. They are just the victims of circumstances or of conspiracies against them. They are people for whom the mantra “Poor Me” was invented.

But, as Emerson pointed out, it was never pre-ordained that become victims…they willed that upon themselves. We all have choices in life, and we all make those choices. For some the easiest choice is just to decide that success was not to be for them. They settle into the comfort of being the victim. For others the choice to quit, to give up and give in is a non-starter. They chose to endure the pain of setbacks or failures in a never-ending pursuit of their goals.

It is hard to imagine that one can become satisfied in seeing themselves as a loser – a victim. Emerson tells us that the decision is ours to make.  Winners in life have decided not to be victims. They have decided to be a winner, no matter what. They may finish 2nd or third in the race and still feel good if they’ve achieved a personal best or at least know in their hearts that they gave it their best shot – for this time.  They will be back to compete again and again in pursuit of the goal of winning. For them, it is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Life is not all about winning races or achieving goals. Oft times it is about how you play the game, how you live your life. At the end of each day, ask yourself if you are happy about how you lived that day, the decisions that you made and the trajectory that you are on. If you are not happy, then remember Emerson’s advice and decide to make changes that will get you back onto the path that you want for your life.

Make your life what you want it to be. It really is up to you. I often use this line in my prayers – “help me make good decisions today”. I find that combining that with the prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”, puts me in the frame of mind to accept the responsibility for my life and puts me back in control of who I want to become. Try it, maybe you’ll find that it helps you, too.

Become the person that you want to be.

Be brave, scare yourself…

November 27, 2022

A saw this quote in a daily inspirational quotes email that I get – “A big part of being confident is being brave, and you can’t be brave unless you’re scared.” (Bo Burnham)

I’ve posted here a number of times about taking chances in life and that normally involves being brave enough to try something new or to meet someone new – to put yourself “out there” somehow and open yourself up to the possible pain of failure (See Be brave and dare to love someone)

Oft times, the feared pain is not physical so much as emotional when you open yourself up to share with others. It can be scary; but you must risk the pain of failure if you are to pursue the rewards of success.

The order of the words in todays post title is important. I could have said scare yourself and be brave, but I think it is important to be brave enough to scare yourself first, and then let bravery kicking in to deal with the situation that you have created.  That might be trying something new that scares you or meeting someone new who you have been afraid to try to meet.

Many times, being brave enough to try something that you were afraid to do turns out to be no big deal. The imagined bad things that were holding you back don’t occur and the great new thing that you end up doing turns out not to be all that great anyway. That’s life. You should at least feel good about having overcome those false fears that were holding you back. Learn from that.

Successful people often report feeling an adrenaline rush that accompanies the decision to be brave and take the risk. One does not get such a rush from doing nothing or from taking the safe way out of a situation. It is that rush of adrenaline that pushed them over the top of the mental or physical barriers that were holding them back and allows them to be successful. We often call that final push bravery or confidence; but most times it is just not being timid and not stopping ourselves that allows our success.

So, today, and this coming week, resolve to be brave enough to scare yourself. Try that thing that you’ve been afraid to try. Introduce yourself to the person that you’ve been afraid to meet. Don’t hide in a shell of fear. Put yourself out there.

Dare to try. Dare to love. Dare to fail. Feel the rush of daring to be brave.

Scare yourself.

Be thankful and be at peace…

November 22, 2022

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this quote that I got in an email recently makes great sense and sets a wonderful tone for the holiday.

I have known some families who make it a practice on Thanksgiving Day to have family members voice their gratitude for something or someone in their life during the year. I suspect that we all pause to reflect on things that we are thankful for at some point during the day of Thanksgiving. Perhaps we should make that a daily habit, rather than just a once-a-year occurrence.

 It is relatively easy to see how being grateful can bring closure and peace about events in the past. It is also not hard to understand that being grateful allows us to pause and be at peace with the present. It is a bit harder to see how being grateful for something or someone in your past provides a vision for the future; however, the thought process that starts with that gratitude quickly morphs into thoughts about how that event or person changed the trajectory of your life.

One can’t help but allow that process to project them into the future and a quick vision of where one is headed. The thought process of, “I’m so grateful for this event/person in the past that go me to where I am today”, just careens on into “and where I hope to be tomorrow.”

So, this Thanksgiving, either out loud or just in your thoughts, pause and let yourself be grateful for the things that have happened and people that you have encountered over the past year. It’s all good. These things and people helped get you where you are today and they have changed and directed your life’s trajectory into tomorrow. If you happen to be celebrating the holiday with some of the people in your thoughts, be sure to thank them for their impact on your life.

Be grateful. Be at peace.

Be brave and dare to love someone…

November 17, 2022

A couple of quotes in my saved quote file just seemed to fit together this morning –

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” (Anaïs Nin)

“Love comes… when you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.” (Joyce Brothers)

There is little else that expands one’s life as much as sharing love with another person. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to share that love takes the courage to dare that you could be hurt, especially if your love is not returned. Yet, even unrequited love expands your life, since you become more aware of your ability to love someone else.

Loving someone else does not have to be restricted to romantic love. When you form strong bonds with friends it’s often because you have allowed yourself to be vulnerable with them, perhaps sharing secrets or dreams or fears. By opening yourself up and sharing personal things with them your life has expanded to take them into your personal space. Sometimes that may prove to be a mistake, but most times they reciprocate by also sharing parts of their life with you that are their secretes. Think of your BFF’s and the things that you each shared with the other. That took courage.

Being brave enough to keep trying for friendship or love means being able to overcome the disappointments of past attempts that did not work out. In almost all cases it means being able to forgive and move on. I’ve posted here many times about forgiveness – forgiving others who might have hurt you by betraying the thrust that you placed in them; as well as forgiving yourself for misreading the situation and placing trust in someone who was not ready to honor or return that trust.

The bruise that is left by a betrayed trust or an unrequited love can be deep, but it will heal if you let it. Sometimes it is important to forgive yourself first and then move on to forgive the others. That is why Jesus included in the prayer that he taught the disciples in the Lord’s Prayer that they needed to forgive nor only their own transgressions but those who transgressed against them. I chose that version of the wording of the prayer because the word “transgressions” seems to have wider and more inclusive meaning that the word “sins”.

Don’t let your life shrink into loneliness. Put yourself out there and life will become expansive for you. Have the courage to keep being vulnerable, to keep making new friends or searching for love. 

Dare to love and you will find love in return.

Think about it, but then act upon it…

November 14, 2022

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” (Rick Warren) This quote is from pastor and author Rick Warren’s 2002 book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Thinking of yourself or about what something will mean to you is quite natural. How we perceive and react to the world around us is pretty much driven by the thought, “What does this mean for me?” That was certainly not what Rick Warren had in mind and I doubt that Warren had apathy in mind when he penned today’s quote.

Perhaps empathy is a good starting point to what Warren was pointing towards in his remark. However, given the focus on purpose that Warren took in his writings and his ministry, I suspect that there was implied action in Warren’s advice and not just empathy.

Thinking to yourself as you walk by a street beggar, “Oh that poor man. There, but for the grace of God, go I”, is one thing; but, stopping to help or perhaps just giving him/her a little something to help is completely different. Watching the news coverage of a natural disaster somewhere else and feeling bad for the people that you see in the story is most of the time accompanied by feelings of thankfulness that it did not happen where you live. Donating to help those people or donating your time to some relief effort is based upon thinking more of them and less about yourself.

We cannot turn off the natural instinct to think about ourselves and the impact that things might have on us; however, we can make a conscious effort to think more about others and the impact that our actions might have on them. We can turn our thoughts from “How do I get through this” (whatever it is) to thoughts of “How can I help others get through this” and turn those thoughts into actions.

We often see on the news shows stories about people who have been through some personal tragedy, such as the loss of a child to gun violence or drugs, starting a movement to stop or lessen the cause of their loss. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was one such movement. Those are movements and organizations started when someone thought more about others and how they might help others than about themselves.

Maybe the next time that you catch yourself being thankful that something didn’t happen to you, instead of just praying, “Thank you Lord for watching over me and protecting me from that bad thing”, you can go on to ask, “How can I help keep it from happening to someone else or help someone to whom it has already happened?”

Just getting yourself in the frame of mind to think less about yourself and more about others will often lead you to a course of action that will be helpful to others. You will be acting out of humility and acting out humility.

Think about it, and then act upon it…

That’s life…

November 11, 2022

This quote was at the top of an email that I got this morning which was probably advertising something. I like it because it takes an active view of making life better, rather than a passive view.

One could spend (waste) a lot of time in the passive mode of hoping and dreaming about how life could be, but those who actually achieve those dreams are the ones that take action to make their dream happen. It is through the doing that we turn “I wish I was” into “I am.”

So instead of spending more time this morning hoping and wishing for a better life, maybe take a few moments to ask for God’s help doing the things that you need to do to become that better person. A simple prayer like, “God help me make better decisions today and help me become a better person” can set the stage for the successes that you desire.  

At the end of the day, if you can look back and feel good about the decisions that you made and the way that you comported yourself you will feel a sense of accomplishment that surpasses the achievement of greater wealth or power. You may also notice that the things that make you feel the best about yourself were things that you did to make someone else’s life better – a kind gesture or effort to help someone else, to complement them, or otherwise engage them.

Life is not lived in the vacuum of self, which is the lonely realm of hoping and dreaming; life is lived within the context of society in which “we” is more important than “me”. We are told in the Bible –

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4)

It is not enough to wish that the other person has a better day or to hope that someone would open that door for them; it is up to you to do thigs to make the day better for them and in so doing to have a better day and become a better person yourself.

That’s life.

What will move you to take that chance?

November 2, 2022

As happens many times, a post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog this morning provides the inspiration for this post –

You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Pastor Freed often uses quotes from Ziglar in his blog. This quote seemed to go nicely together with the headline from an article that I saved –

Which is Stronger – Outside Pressure to Change? Or your Internal Drive to Transform? (Headline on an article I saw recently)

Outside pressure to make changes in our lives is a very strong motivator, whether that change is something like how we act, some bad habit that we have, or maybe even how we look. Most people have a desire (some might even say a “need”) to be accepted by their peers. If we become conscious of disapproval from those around us, we are forced to at least look at what it is that they don’t like about what they see.

The recognition of that disapproval from those around us can provoke our “fight or flight” reaction mechanism – sometimes both at the same time. I suspect that the whole Goth movement in youth is both a rebellion against main-stream peer pressure to conform to peer group standards for body image and appearance style and a flight into the acceptance of an alternative lifestyle group.

What Ziglar was pointing out is that we all must make choices about things in our lives that represent inflection points – points at which change will redirect the course of our lives. Most of these decision points have both external and internal forces at play. If there is no external reason to change, no peer pressure or societal law or standard to consider, it is totally up to our internal desire for change. Career changes come immediately to mind, although some “careers” such as being a drug dealer have strong societal disapproval as external factors.

One’s internal drive to transform is usually strongly influenced by what we call our “good conscious”, our ability to distinguish between right and wrong and our desire to be on the “right side”. Most of those decisions aren’t given a lot of thought because we just “know” what the right thing to do is and do it automatically.

Some things, like quitting smoking, have both components in the decision process. Society took a dim view of smoking some time back and there was certainly enough proof of it bad effects on us to give pause to any smoker for self-reflection and the need for change. We continue to see external factors at work today in on-gong ads that now are also influencing decision on things like Vaping and alcohol and drug use.

A good time for self-reflection and to consider taking the chance to change is every morning while you are getting ready for the day ahead. If you start your day with morning prayers, maybe add this to those prayers. Take a moment to consider that you have yet to commit (or submit) to your normal routine today, which may contain some bad habits or pre-dispositions that you’d really like to change. Resolve to change something about yourself today that will make you a better person. Ask God for His help if you are praying (I usually just ask God to help me make petter decisions during the day). Then set out to make a conscious effort to effect those changes.

You may not (in most cases will not) be completely successful in changing your life in one day, but you can be successful in nudging it off the path that you were on and heading it in a slightly different direction – celebrate even that slight change and increase your resolve (your internal drive) for tomorrow.

Take the chance to change today. You are on the way to a new you. You will find more acceptance in society, and you will feel better about yourself. It’s a win-win.

Let your light shine in the darkness…

November 1, 2022

A couple of quotes in my collection just seemed to fit together this morning –

“Fear has a very concrete power of keeping us from doing and saying the things that are our purpose.” (Luvvie Ajayi)

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”  (Brené Brown)

Darkness and fear go hand in hand. We fear what we cannot see in the darkness – maybe an upcoming event or a place that we’ve neve been before. We let our imaginations replace the unknown with all sorts of improbable but none the less seemingly possible negative outcomes. We talk (think) ourselves out of even trying. Only through overcoming those fears and exploring the things that we kept ourselves from doing can we really discover our own power and purpose (our real destiny).

In Sunday School you might have learned a little song titled “This little light of mine”. That is a perfect song for children but as we grow up we accept things less and less and need to understand things more and more. Perhaps this Scottish hymn is more appropriate for adults.

Fear and self-doubt are both darkness’s that can creep over us and prevent us from doing and saying the things that we want to say and should say. They hold us back from our purposes in life. At the end of every dark tunnel of fear that we allow ourselves to enter is the same ultimate fear – the fear of death. It is only when we can conquer that fear that we can let our light shine. The only path to conquering that fear is the one that Jesus provided for us on the cross – through belief in Him, through faith. Bob Dylan said it in the lyrics for the song  Precious Angel: “Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.”

So, fear not, believe in Christ and be brave, and let the light of your faith shine in whatever darkness you face. The light of your faith will show you the way out of the darkness and it may help illuminate the path for others facing the same darkness. Let your light shine in the darkness.

Give yourself some credit…

October 15, 2022

In my church we take time at the beginning of each service to ask for forgiveness for “things that we have done and those things that we have left undone.” I have posted here in the past about the things left undone. The things that we have done that are wrong needs little definition, although sometimes we need help “seeing” those things as wrong.

But what about taking time to reflect and celebrate those things that we did right and the good things that we have accomplished in life. Why do we take so much time focusing upon the negative and not very much on the positives of our lives? There is little or no time set aside for that. I’m not talking about being modest about your accomplishments or not bragging about a success or win in life. Too many of the accomplishments that we have in life go unrecognized even by ourselves. Give yourself some credit.

The parents who successfully raised their children and sent them off in the world prepared to be responsible adults (and those still working on that) should stop and congratulate themselves for a job well done. That was hard work involving a great deal of self-sacrifice that you better than anyone else understand. Congratulate yourself and feel good about that accomplishment. Give yourself some credit.

Individuals who see injustice or prejudice being practiced in schools or in the workplace and who stand up to it need to stop and congratulate themselves for not passively remaining silent or for ignoring those practices. If nothing else, you have exposed those practices and you need to feel good about that. Those who try to ridicule you for being “woke” to those wrongs are a part of the problem. Congratulate yourself for not still being asleep to those wrongs. Give yourself some credit.

Those who volunteer at local non-profits organizations, at community food banks or for events in their communities like parades or festivals seldom expect or get the praise that they deserve, but those events and those community non-profit organizations would not be possible without them. Stop and feel good about yourself for being a volunteer in your community or church. Give yourself some credit.

Sometimes the accomplishment that needs to be celebrated it is just through living your life in such a way that others might be inspired to make changes in their lives by seeing what you are doing. Take time to congratulate yourself for that and to reinforce the resolve to continue down that path in life. Give yourself some credit.

There will be plenty of time to get done the things that you still want to do and perhaps change some things in your life to correct some wrongs; but, for now, take a moment to think about all that you have accomplished to get here and congratulate yourself. You deserve it. Give yourself some credit.

Who lost sight of who?

October 13, 2022

A September post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote-

“Thank you, Lord for seeing me.  It’s so easy to get lost these days in the shuffle and the noise.”    (George Beverly Shea song)

My immediate thought was, who really got lost? It wasn’t God who lost track of you; it was you who let the noises of the day distract you away from God. Thankfully God never loses track of us and is always there when we need Him.

This morning as I was scrolling through the daily news feed that shows up on my computer, I noticed a story about God being in our DNA, or at least the concept of God being inherent in humans. It went into a deep scientific explanation of the very universal human tendency to come to a conclusion that God exists. One has only to Google the question, “Does God exist” to see the vast library of articles and scientific papers that have been written on the topic.

Of course, the faster way to answer that question is to get down on your knees and ask God directly. Once you empty your mind of all other thoughts and block out the noise of the world, the whisper in the back of your mind that is God’s way of communicating with you becomes clear.

So, take some time each day to just stop the shuffle and block out the noise of the world and just talk to God. Let down your shields, turn off your ego, drop the pretense of being in charge of things and say the little prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”. God sees you. God hears you. Listen and you will also hear Him.

Have a great day. You’re in good hands and it’s not Allstate.