Fillings and Feelings

positive-thinkingWhen I was a kid, the most important meal of the day was supper.  Mom was an excellent cook, and she worked hard to prepare the evening meal for our large family. Mom and Pop worked even harder at trying to steer their eight children in the right direction.

Each evening the family gathered around the dinner table to eat and to discuss the days events.  One evening,  Mom and Pop spoke about an incident at school in which I had hurt the feelings of a classmate. As we discussed the situation, my youngest brother said:  I have feelings too, see!  Then, he opened his mouth and pointed to the fillings in his teeth.

The truth is, fillings and feelings go hand in hand. How you feel about life is determined in a large part by how you fill your life. If you don’t fill your mind with what is right, what is left?

Your life is like your car, if you fill the tank with the cheapest fuel available, your engine may not perform at an optimal level; likewise, if you fill your mind with two-bit thinking, you’ll never live a grand life.

To fill your tank with some high octane thoughts, heed the advice of the Apostle Paul and think on whatever is just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

Are You Happy or Glad?

smirkThat people expend a great deal of energy in the quest for happiness should come as no surprise.  After all, the Declaration of Independence states:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

I think it is important to note that while a person may pursue happiness, the founding fathers did not guarantee it; and, the right to pursue it has been endowed by our Creator.

Some people have wasted their life in pursuit of that which can be fleeting and once attained is found to be of little substance.  Harvey Weinstein is a case in point; his life has been an endless pursuit of sexual gratification at the expense of those he has abused.  Weinstein may have not realized it yet, but the flesh has an insatiable desire for more.

A person might find momentary happiness in the things of this world; however, gladness is the fruit of a fulfilling relationship.  In the Old Testament Nehemiah spoke of this when he said, the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Gladness is not found in some sleazy get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it some cheap gimmick; it comes from a relationship of the heart.  The love of God for man and man’s love for the Christ who died for him. Jesus said He came so we could have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

 

Psalm 70:4

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified!”

Buds and Blossoms

SONY DSCA first glance the white flowers in the picture to the left add beauty to the shrubbery; however, the white flowers are actually part of a nuisance vine that clings to the host plant and drains it of its strength.

A similar process can subtly take root in our lives.  Something that seems harmless will attach itself to our daily routine.  Eventually it will blossom into a habit that saps us of our strength and robs us of our vitality.

Because thoughts can become habits and habits can control our lives, we need to be aware of their presence.  A simple and effective way to do this is to follow the 4 Star Process:

1.  Self-awareness:  Become aware of what you are thinking by recording your thoughts.

2.  Think about the thought.  Is it catastrophic thinking?  This type of thinking is characterized by words such as:  always, never, should, and must.

3.  Action:  Many of our thoughts are part of an unconscious process in which we act without consciously thinking, we need to practice disciplined thinking: Eliminate thoughts of Grudges and Gossip, and embrace thoughts of Goodness and Grace.

4.  Rehearse:  Successful public events are often preceded by hours of private rehearsal.  Benjamin Franklin said that, By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Rehearse and prepare by examining your  brain drainers and brain boosters. These come in the form of the thoughts and habits that Paul speaks of in the verses that follow:

  • Brain Drainers:  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.   But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice,  slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:5-10).
  • Brain Boosters:  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,  whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever  things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8)

Here’s a question to keep you thinking:  What buds are about to blossom in your life?

Not By Bread Alone

wonder-bread-sign-garry-gaySome people look at nature and see the beauty in the flowers.  I walk through the baking section of the grocery store and see beauty in a bag of flour. I like bread, and I’ve eaten more than my share of Wonder in hope that its enriching ingredients will build me a strong body in eight ways.

Even though bread is a tasty treat, Jesus said: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Luke 4:4). To be enriched, a person will consider both the physical and spiritual dimensions of life. While bread benefits one, God’s Word enhances the other.

When you read the Psalms, you can see that God’s Word is beneficial for several reasons:

  • Illumination: The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:30).
  • Guidance: Direct my steps by Your word.  (Psalm 119:133).
  • Comfort:  Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights (Psalm 119:143).

In Psalm 19, David lists several advantages of including the God’s Word as a part of your daily regimen: The The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; and, the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:6-8).

I encourage you think of God’s Word as an essential vitamin, and remember to take your daily dose.

Let the word of Christ richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness. ~Colossians 3:16

Resolute Resolutions

ResolutionsChristmas is now past, and the sights and scents of the season have been crowded into the pages of history by the hopeful sounds of labor pains announcing the imminent birth of a new year.  Among these sounds are the voices of the optimistic and determined who announce their resolutions for the new year.

Some will achieve the goals they’ve set for 2017, while the not so resolute will bury theirs beneath the dust pile of defeat.  A few words from the wise might hint at the difference between the two:

  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday. ~Napoleon Hill
  • For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” ~Steve Jobs
  • Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, planned for success. Before he left his office at the end of the day, he would jot down the top three things he wanted to accomplish the next day.
  • The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tony Robbins has said that the key to directing your life, is to recognize and control your consistent actions: It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.

To reach your goals, I suggest you need to perceive to achieve:  Identify what you are already doing, and use it as a cue to prompt the appropriate action. Your daily routine is a good example:

  • After I pour my first cup of coffee, I will walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes.
  • Before I take my shower, I will do 10 pushups.
  • While I am eating breakfast, I will _____________.
  • When I take my coffee break, I will ____________.
  • Before I go to bed I will read ____ pages in a book.

If you are considering resolutions and goals to help you change and rearrange your life, I applaud your effort and leave you with two more quotes to serve as motivators:

  • Arthur Ashe: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
  • Thomas Edison: Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Let us search out and examine our ways,
and turn back to the Lord. ~Lamentations 3:40

Words of a Particular Kind

154451011How long would it take you to make a summary statement of your life?  How many words do you think it would take?

Robert Frost said he could sum up everything he had learned about life in three words: “It goes on.”  There’s a lot of truth to what Frost said, but it’s also true that what you say can determine how far you go in life and how your life “goes on.”

Mother Teresa was more concerned with the nature of your words than she was with the number of them: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  David, like Mother Teresa, was well aware of the power of the spoken word, and he prayed: “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”

When I think about David’s prayer, I’m left with a couple of questions:

  • Are my words and thoughts acceptable to God?
  • If not, what can I do to make them more acceptable?

Joshua gave the answer to these questions, when he said: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).”

When you think about your words and thoughts, I encourage you to contrast them to the principles of God’s Word in general, and these words of Paul in Particular: “Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29 ~The Voice).”

Pressing On

Pressing-OnLeeAdianez Rodriguez is a 12-year-old girl from New York, and her actions in a recent race are the epitome of “pressing on and going the extra mile.”  LeeAdianez was registered for a 5K race, but ended up running a half marathon.  About halfway through the course, she realized she was running with the wrong group. Instead of quitting, she decided to run the 10 extra miles and finish the race.

When I read this story, I wondered why this was the first time LeeAdianez had competed at this level:

  • Had her parents denied her permission?
  • Was it because her coach told her she was unprepared?
  • Did she doubt her ability?

A person can limit himself by doubting his ability and sometimes we limit God because of a lack of faith.  A little mind-shift in your cognitive approach to life is a step in the right direction, and it will help if you will:

 Recognize that doubting is normal:

  • There were times in the life of Abraham when this man of incredible faith doubted.  In each of these instances, he was focused more on his personal strength and ability than he was on the powerful promises of God.
  • When in doubt, zoom out.  Make God your point of focus:  “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6).”

Recognize the value of good friends and good principles:

  • Instead of doubting your faith, try doubting your doubts.
  • Assess your recent resources for news and information. Have you surrounded yourself with doubters and skeptics or people of faith?  “In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).”
  • Are you propping yourself up with false reasoning or trusting God?  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil ( Proverbs 3:5-7).”

Recognize that absolute certainty is an unreasonable expectation:

  • You will never have full and complete knowledge about everything. The quest to know more is the fuel that energizes honest research.
  • Just because you cannot know everything there is to know about God, doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself in seeking to know more about Him.

Recognize that not understanding is different than not believing.

  • While you may limit yourself because you don’t believe in your potential, don’t limit God by trying to constrain Him with a finite mind of rigid boundaries.
  • When the Israelites left Egypt, they thought the trip to the Promised Land was going to be an easy sprint; but, their doubt turned it into a 40 year marathon.

Doubt is to perseverance what krypton is to Superman.  Like LeeAdianez Rodriguez, you can press on when you recognize the correct message and listen to right voice—the voice of faith.

pressing-on (1)

 

The Power of a Good Book

readTwo of my childhood friends were Dick and Jane and their dog Spot.  From the moment I met them, I’ve had a love for reading.  Even when school recessed for the Summer, I rode my bicycle to the library two or three times a week to check out books.

An article in Quartz has identified a love for reading as the common trait that links the world’s most successful people.   According to the article, “Reading is the easiest way to continue the learning process, increase empathy, boost creativity, and even just unwind from a long day. But books can also change the way we think and live.”

Because he had experienced the transformational power of God’s Word, Paul emphasized its role in the life of the believer:

  • He instructed Timothy to, “give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (I Timothy 4:13).”
  • He reminded the church at Rome that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).”

Perhaps the one verse in the Bible that best defines its awesome power is Hebrews 4:12: “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.” ~The Message

I encourage you to consider your reading habits, and to use Psalm 119:14 as a prayer to guide you: “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

A Godly Celebration

god-is-goodYou’ve heard it before: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true.” When you read Zephaniah 3:17, you may think that it sounds too good to be true:

The Lord your God is with you. He is a warrior who saves you. He happily rejoices over you; renews you with his love; and, He celebrates over you with shouts of joy.

Before you pass judgment on the veracity of this verse, you may want to consider it from the perspective and testimony of some people from the pages of history:

  • Think about Daniel. He was thrown into a den of lions which was the sentence of death; however, God intervened; the lions were afflicted with a serious case of lockjaw; and, Daniel was saved.
  • What about David? This runt of the litter was fiercely courageous, and God used him as a warrior to slay Goliath.
  • Lazarus heard the shout of God, and he experienced a celebration and the joyful power of the resurrection.

Still think it sounds too good to be true?  Then you might want to read Psalm 121, the Pilgrim’s Psalm, from The Message:

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble; your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep. God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—Shielding you from sunstroke, and sheltering you from moonstroke. God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.

Believe it! God is with you, and He wants to happily rejoice over you.

The Ups and Downs of Life

rcWhen I was a freshman in college, one instructor required his students to memorize a motto of his.  I did, and I have never forgotten it:  It’s not what I can remember, but what I can never forget that constitutes knowledge; therefore, drill, drill, drill, and review, review, review.

Over the years I have been able to memorize many Bible verses, because I drilled and reviewed them until they were tucked away in my mind.  One of these is Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

When I meditate on a particular verse of Scripture, I focus on the individual words within the verse so I can understand the specific meaning of each one of them.  The word “through” caught my attention this morning, so I reflected on some verses that use this word:

  • God led Moses and the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:22).
  • The Israelites were led through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 29:5).
  • In Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd leads His flock through the valley of the shadow of death.

There are times when life seems like a roller coaster and you are tormented by a series of bone rattling, and hope shaking ups and downs.  These are the times that you need to kick the “I can’t” thoughts in the seat of the pants, and focus on the “I can” of Philippians 4:13.

 

The you should review its truth and drill its meaning:

  • Through Christ, I find the strength to face the obstacles of life.
  • Through Christ, God lavishes me with his strength to overcome (Ephesians 1:7-8).
  • Through Christ, you are blessed with God’s unwavering love and mercy (Psalm 103).

When you live your life through the strength of Christ, you will be thoroughly blessed:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

    and the flame shall not consume you.  ~Isaiah 43:2