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?

A Cue 4 You

motivational-sticky-notes-subway-cartoon-cat-october-jones-thumb290To get to where you need to go, with what you need to have, so you can say or do what needs to be said or done, you most likely use a cue or two. These come in different forms, fashions, and shapes.  They can be as simple as an alarm clock to nudge you out of bed, a sticky note to budge your memory, or an inspirational quote to encourage your daily trudge on the treadmill.

Whether it’s a day planner, an app on your smart phone, or something as simple as a string tied around your finger, these reminders help you develop the habits that lead to a productive life. habitSome of these are as simple as ABCD, and they will help you grow in your relationship with Jesus:

  • A—Always pray. Instead of prayer being an after-thought, make it a priority. Paul instructed believers to “pray without ceasing,” and to not “worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”
  • B—Take time to read your Bible: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).”
  • C—Make the commitment to trust God: “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass; and, he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday (Psalm 37:4-6).”
  • D—Learn to discern: “For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith (Romans 12:3).”

The underlying principle of these steps is the need to trust God, and Solomon outlines the process:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

    he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Don’t assume that you know it all.

    Run to God! Run from evil!

Proverbs 3:5-7 ~The Message

The Insanity of Profanity

watch your languageLearning a new skill can be difficult, but it might be even harder to break a bad habit. Learning how to tame your tongue might be a new skill that also manages a bad habit.

James addressed untidy tongues when he said:  “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body (3:2).”

When James used “word” in the verse above, he chose “logos.” In classical Greek “logos” was more than just the spoken word; it also included the inner thought that gave birth to the spoken word.

We live in a time when too much of our language is mono-syllabic, four letters, and laced with profanity.  James said the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  He went on to say that it’s not logical to think that you can bless God in one breath and spit out a steamy tirade of cussing that belittles your fellow man in your next breath:

No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  Can a fig tree, bear olives? Can a grapevine bear a fig? No, and no spring yields both salt water and fresh (3:8-12).”

The first 6 words in the verses above hold the key to taming the tongue.  You can’t do it by focusing on what you say.  You need to concentrate on the thought that precedes the talk.

If you fail to focus on the thought your talk will continue to conform to the profanity of the world.  It’s when you begin to manage the mental component  of communication that you can begin to experience a transformation of your tongue.

When you read this section of James, the insanity of profanity includes more than just cussing.  The discussion also centers on any communication that’s vulgar, uncouth, and unrefined, and it includes gossip and lies.

Since “logos” takes into consideration both the spoken word and the thought behind the word, you can change your talk by changing your thought.  Here are some tongue-taming thoughts for your consideration:

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. . . and the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4:8

The words that spring out of your mouth will be less salty and more pristine if the thoughts that precede them are noble, just, and pure.  Take some time today to meditate on these things.

Learning to Whistle While You Work

whistlework1There is an old German saying that addresses the importance of self-discipline and your priorities: “Whoever does not respect the penny is not worthy of the dollar.” The essence of this quote seems to be: If you neglect or ignore the small things, you can’t be trusted with larger things.

Neglect in one area of your life might be inconsequential if it happens once; however, when there’s a pattern of neglect it becomes a habit, and habits are the routines and practices that either confine you or refine you.

Most of us are like a stringed instrument, and we need to be re-tuned from time to time.  The word tune has several meanings:

  • As a noun it means, “a succession of musical sounds forming an air or melody, with or without the harmony accompanying it; a musical setting in four-part harmony; the state of being in the proper pitch.”
  • As a verb it means, “to give forth a musical sound; to be in harmony or accord; become responsive.”

It only takes a small incremental turn of the peg to make a big change in the tightness of a string and a dramatic change in the sound of a violin or guitar.  The same is true with your life—small changes can make a big difference.

To make these changes, I suggest that you:

  • Learn from Santa Claus: Make a list and check it twice.  Which of your habits are being naughty or nice to you, and which one help you live in harmony with God?
  • Focus: When you tune a violin or guitar, you don’t turn all of the pegs and adjust all of the strings at once.  You focus on one at a time. Instead of trying to develop several new habits and make multiple changes, make them one at a time.
  • Be Discriminate: Eliminate the non-essentials and practice the essentials.  The one sucks the blood of life out of you while the other revitalizes you.
  • Learn from the 7 Dwarfs: Whistle while you work, and find some joy in what you’re doing.  Be Happy, not Grumpy!
  • Circle the Wagons: When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was Wagon Train.  At the end of the day, Ward Bond would instruct the westward bound settlers to “Circle the wagons.”  This provided a circle of safety for the pioneers.  If Ward Bond was speaking to you, he would tell you to “Circle yourself with good friends and people of character.”
  • Learn from David: In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch (Psalm 5:3).”  Meet with God daily to pray, and plan for success.

The power of small acts is found in the words of Samuel Smiles:

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;

Sow an act, and you reap a habit;

Sow a habit, and you reap a character;

Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

― Samuel Smiles

Facing The Sun

7036268-sunflower-field-sunsetThere are less than 3 million people who call Kansas home. If you’re among this number, you may know the sunflower was designated as the official state flower in 1903.  This long-stemmed flower with petals of golden yellow is classified as a turnsole plant, a word of French origin and one that means to “turn towards the sun.”

The sunflower, like all plants, is not self-sufficient—it depends upon the sun for essential nourishment. 

Health conscious individuals are learning what botanists have known for many years:  In proper amounts, there are some benefits associated with exposure to the sun.  There’s ample research that’s easily available, and it indicates the sun’s rays are beneficial both physically and mentally.

While the sun is important to you physically and mentally, the Son is even more vital to your needs spiritually: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).”

Cultivate the habit of rising in the morning, facing the Son, and following Him throughout the day.  When you practice this routine you develop a God-focused regimen of strength that recognizes that it’s, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).”

So, when you rise in the morning,  why not give the Son a chance to shine on you?

A Timely Commodity

timeTime is an interesting commodity of life.  While it doesn’t cost you anything, it’s still priceless. It’s something that you can use to your advantage, but you’ll never be able to own it.  Time has a unique life cycle:  As soon as it is born it dies, and once you lose it, you will never find it again.

Perhaps this is why Paul spoke to Christians at both Ephesus and Colossae about the importance of “redeeming the time” or as it says in The Voice: “Make the most of every living and breathing moment…”

Here are a couple of suggestions to help you make the most of life’s precious moments:

  • Before you ever get out of bed, pledge to walk in step with God; and, pray: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths (Psalm 25:4).”
  • When you find yourself waiting in a line, line up your thoughts; and, pray: “Guide my steps in the ways of Your word, and do not let any sin control me (Psalm 119:133.”
  • Whenever you check the time, take a second to check-in with God. Make Psalm 55:17 a habit:  “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.”

It was Henry van Dyke who said: “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”

I say: “Time is just right when it’s justly redeemed for God’s glory.”