Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Looking at Marriage and Singleness with Forever Eyes

Whether single or married, your challenge is to look with Forever Eyes at your situation. Neither marriage nor singleness will give any advantage in heaven.  Yet, how we handle our single or married status here on earth will matter, because it will demonstrate our trust - or lack of trust - in God.

Choose Your Mate Well

Marriage is a God-ordained covenant, and should be highly honored and respected here on earth. God told us that it was good for us to have mates and companions, to meet our need for earthly intimacy and support. God takes the marriage vows very seriously and expects us to as well. Looking at marriage with Forever Eyes should cause us to be far more careful in choosing a life mate. You need to consider the consequences of that choice in ten years, twenty years, fifty years. You will want to make sure that the partner you choose is God's choice for your life.

Singleness Through Earthly Eyes

If it's your natural desire to be married and have a family, singleness can sometimes seem like a prison or a punishment. It can be very difficult to look at singleness with Forever Eyes.
When you look at your singleness with earthly eyes, it can lead you to desperateness, to anger with God, to despair, to wrong choices, to sinful lifestyles, and to settling for less than God's best. This, then, becomes self-inflicted suffering. When you choose to see your singleness as a burden, you have chosen a life of dissatisfaction, restlessness and misery.

Singleness Through Forever Eyes

Marriage takes a lot of effort to make it work but brings many wonderful benefits. Yet, the grass on that side of the fence is not always green.

In speaking to some single women recently, the question came up about the role of women in a godly relationship and what God expects. Does the "submission" issue begin in the dating relationship, or only after the marriage vows are taken?

I reminded the young women that relationships are never easy. A good relationship - especially with someone as close as a mate - requires lots of dying to self. It is a never-ending challenge to put the other person first, to adjust to that person, and that means there will be lots of give and take.

Marriage Through Forever Eyes

When you look at your marriage with God's Forever Eyes, you are taking very seriously those vows, "til death do you part." Through Forever Eyes, marriage vows are of great importance, and preserving the marriage if at all possible should be the earnest goal.

We won't have a married or single status in heaven. However, we will recognize each other in heaven, so you will know your marriage partner on the other side of eternity. Paul said, "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 12:12b). It must be of great comfort to those whose mates have preceded them into eternity. We will know each other and enjoy renewed fellowship and companionship in eternity.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Looking at Money and Possessions with Forever Eyes

Do you know that the Bible has more than two thousand verses about money? There is more ink in the Bible about money and possessions than there is about heaven. This tells me that God considers money and the things it can buy very important.

Money's Bid for Control
Jesus fully understood the power of money and its ability to quickly and easily make its way to the throne of our hearts. He said, "No on can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money". Matthew 6:24

Love-of-Money Griefs
Paul wrote to young Timothy, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

The Smell of Money's Control
Here are some of the telltale signs that money has burned a hole in your heart:
  • Money causes you a great deal of fear and anxiety.
  • You find yourself dreaming about somehow coming into a lot of money, and the things you would do with it.
  • You envy people who seem to have all the money they need.
  • You think of money as the solution to all your problems.
  • You look to money for security.
  • You evaluate people by their financial success.
 What if for some horrible reason you were left devoid of all financial security? Would you feel that life was over?  It's a telling exercise because we can see how much we treasure our possessions, and where our treasure is.

Rejecting the Lordship of Money
Jesus make it clear that in order to be His disciple, we must knowingly and consciously reject money as a god in our lives.

Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal".  Matthew 6:19-20

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Looking at Time with Forever Eyes

The Bible clearly teaches that there are two places where people will spend their hereafter lives--heaven and hell. Those are the only options we have, and before we leave this life, our decision about Jesus Christ determines whether we will transition from this life into heaven or into hell.

Numbered Days
The days here on earth are numbered for each of us, and each of us has a different number. We just don't know what that number is.

David wrote:

You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.   Psalm 39:5

It's not that earthly days are unimportant, but eternity is far greater. David saw his days on this earth as inconsequential because he compared earthly days to eternal numberless days. He looked at his time with Forever Eyes.

Messages From the Person You Will Be

I heard this great question from a television commercial a while back but it really made me think. The question was "If the woman you will be in twenty years could talk to the woman you are now, what would she say to you?"

The woman I will be in twenty years will be older and wiser. She will have a perspective that I do not now have. Would she have some of these messages for me?
  • You're wasting valuable time on many things that do not matter.
  • You're missing opportunities for service to God that will never come your way again.
  • You're throwing away energy and resources on things that will burn up.
  • You're living as though your days are numberless; they are not.
Recognizing that we don't know how many days we have left, we live every day as though it could be the last.

Living now in the light of eternity brings freedom, joy, and contentment that we'll never know otherwise. It is the gateway to a meaningful, intentional lifestyle.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Looking at Difficulties with Forever Eyes

How do you live with a sickness or infirmity that is unexplainable? How do you come to a place of acceptance, understanding, or peace when you or someone you love is caught in the web of a disabled or diseased body or an infirm mind?

It can be a real struggle to see these tough conditions through Forever Eyes, but with much effort, look beyond the here and now. The suffering is nothing compared to an eternity with the Lord.

Transformed Suffering

There are so many examples throughout the history of the church of people who have been dealt a terrible physical blow, and yet that very condition has given them a voice for God that they would never have had otherwise.

The apostle Paul left us the ultimate example of looking at suffering through Forever Eyes when he faced a debilitating disability. He called it a "thorn in my flesh" and referred to it as a "messenger of Satan, to torment me" (2 Cor 12:7).  Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away from him.

God responded to his threefold plea:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.      2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Paul was able to arrive at a place of acceptance because he could look beyond the current suffering to see the eternal purpose. He saw his suffering through Forever Eyes.

Let your life be a testimony to God. He is our Savior, Healer, and Lord. He is all around you. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Looking at Success with Forever Eyes

Fighting the Performance Mentality

Are your driven by performance?  From birth on we discover that much of our success and our value is based on our performance.  We quickly learn that our performance determines whether we have or have not; whether we win or lose; whether we succeed or fail. Before babies can talk we're telling them they're good or bad based on their behavior.

Living in a performance-driven world leads us to lots of comparisons. If my performance is better than yours is, I feel I am better than you are. If I am better than lots of other people at something, I really feel good about myself and think I'm something special. If, on the other hand, you outperform me, I'm in trouble, because I base my worth on how I perform, compared to you or to someone else.
So, we judge success by performance and achievement, position and power, riches and possessions. God doesn't. Looking at success with Forever Eyes is a shocking revelation to our performance-driven minds.

Success in Eternity

How will success be judged in eternity?  One of the greatest truths in Scripture is that salvation is by grace alone through faith, not by works. We secure a place in God's eternal heaven through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Our entry into that place of bliss is determined by our relationship to the One who died to redeem us.

We will face a judgment in heaven called the Judgment Seat of Christ, and it is a judgment for believers, not believers and it will be on the other side of eternity.

We will stand individually before Christ for our works to be judged. What we have done that has no eternal significance or benefit will be burned up in fire. Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.  We will finally see our lives from an eternal perspective.

A Model of True Success 

In 2 Chronicles 32:30b, it talks about a man named Hazekiah. He had great success. Let's look at what he did:
  • He cleaned the land of everything that was defiling it.
  • He gave worship and praise a very high priority in his life and in his land.
  • He was totally obedient to God in every area.
  • He encouraged people, and motivated them to do their work with excellence.
  • He sought God in everything he did, not trying to do it on his own strength.
  • He worked very hard and did everything really well.
  • He didn't fold under attack from the enemy, but reaffirmed his faith in God
Forever eyes change our idea of success, and this sets us free from the driving ambitions of this world and the need to achieve some earthly plateau in order to prove our worth. For some of us, it is difficult to let go of those success dreams, but to do so is to find life abundant in the good work that the Lord Jesus has planned for us.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Looking at Desires with Forever Eyes

Esau is a good lesson for us in the importance of looking with Forever Eyes.
He was consumed with the here and now, with having what he wanted when he wanted it. With his twin brother, Jacob, he grew up and became a skillful hunter and a man of the outdoors. Here is the familiar story of his downfall:
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!"
Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright."
"Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?"
But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some break and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.
Genesis 25:29-34

Esau sold the eternal for the temporary. He knew the importance of that birthright, but in a moment of hunger, he could see only his temporary need.  Do you sometimes settle for temporary satisfaction at the cost of eternal pleasures?

View Your Needs Through Forever Eyes
Our continual challenge is to see our legitimate needs and desires from God's perspective. When we do, we can endure unmet needs without selling our birthrights. We can look forward to the day when God will supply al of our needs and meet our deepest heart's desires. We can learn to find our desires and needs met in ways we never thought possible, healthy and holy ways.

David was a man after God's own heart, for in spite of his many failings, he understood this truth. He writes:
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.   Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Looking at People with Forever Eyes

What if you could change every person in your life so that each one was just the way you wanted him or her to be. Does it not cause your heart to miss a beat to even imagine such a scenario? We all know that we cannot change people, but what if we choose to look at people with Forever Eyes?

Looking at Difficult People with Forever Eyes

It's easy to see the good people in our lives with Forever Eyes...you know...the ones that bring great joy to us.  But, what about the difficult people? The ones who are not easy to get along with or are complaining all the time or goofing off at work or gossiping about everyone. Do you know that you can have an entirely new attitude toward them?  What if you decide to intentionally look at them through Forever Eyes? What would you see? You might see a broken heart and much pain. What if you reached out and took this person to lunch and just let them talk?  You might see them in a whole new light. Remember, God loves that person just as much as he loves you.

Looking Through the Eyes of Love

Paul tell us to operate out of love all the time, because love will never fail.
1 Corinthians 13:8 "Love never fails" and 1 Corinthians 16:14 "Do everything in love".
When we relate to others out of love, our efforts will never fail.  They will never fail to heal, to calm, to transform relationships. Love never fails. Name any other relationship tactic that is guaranteed never to fail.

Remember, God looks at people differently than we do. He sees beyond the outward appearance and looks at the heart. As Samuel was informed, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at" (v. 7).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Looking at Myself and My Past with Forever Eyes

If seeing yourself as others see you is challenging, seeing yourself as God sees you is more so. It definitely requires Forever Eyes. You must first know how God sees you and then you must intentionally set your mind on that knowledge.
So, how does God see us?

We Are God's Intentional Creation

For by him, all things were crated: things in  heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. ( Col 1:16)

Since you are earth and you are visible, you can be certain that you, too, were created by Him. Yet consider the last two words in that verse: you were created for Him! Not just by Him, but for Him! To create is to cause something unique to come into being. A creation is something that comes from a person's own thoughts or imagination, like a work of art or an invention. When you create something like that, it belongs to you. The depth of this truth is life changing. The Almighty God created you and me, and we were created for Him—for His purposes, for His reason. That knowledge alone brings significance into our lives. 

Worthy Because We Are Loves 
In his book Reaching for the Invisible God, Philip Yancey quotes from a sermon he heard by Ian Pitt-Watson: "Some things are loved because they are worthy; some things are worthy because they are loved." We are worthy because we are loved by the eternal God. When we can see ourselves through Forever Eyes and not only acknowledge in our heads but rejoice in our hearts that God loves us just because He loves us, it begins to change the way we see ourselves.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Looking at God with Forever Eyes

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!  (Job 19:25-27)

We all share his yearning to see God. Can you imagine seeing God? One glimpse would take your breath away. It would be more than your earthly eyes could handle. Yet how many time shave you thought that if you could see God a little better, see some evidence of His existence, some proof of His love, some confirmation of His protection, then you could have faith? Then you could face the unknown. Then you could handle life. If only you could see God. 

Look at Jesus 
We often miss seeing the Father because we're not looking at the Son. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that " The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Heb 1:3a) The One at the Father's side is Jesus, and we can see God because we can see Jesus. Someday we'll see Jesus face to face in His glorified body. Someday our faith will turn to sight and we shall behold Him. Yet for the here and now, we see Jesus by looking with Forever Eyes.  

Get to Know Jesus
Jesus said, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, who you have sent" (Jn 17:3). How do we get to know someone? By spending time that person; by sharing our life with that person; by making that person a high priority in our life. The same is true in getting to know Jesus. We must get to know Jesus through the Bible, specifically through the four Gospels. Read about Jesus with Forever Eyes and with a prayer that God will open your eyes to understanding and help you to truly get to know Jesus.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What Are Forever Eyes?

Here are some valuable lessons that God has taught me about polishing my personality so that it would become more Christlike. You don't need to change your personality, you just need the Holy Spirit to smooth off the rough edges. I then thought of a sentence that I had read about that made a huge difference:
What difference will this make in twenty-four hours?

This helped me establish a rule for myself: I am not allowed to expend any energy or emotion on anything that won't matter in twenty-four hours. The secret to this trick is to force myself to have a longer perspective. As soon as I can get my eyes off the here and now and look ahead even a short twenty-four hours, my coping ability increases immensely. And all because I look at it from a long-term rather than a short-term perspective. 

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is see, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Much of the Christian walk doesn't come naturally, I've discovered. Living by biblical principles has to be a God thing, something that He does in me. It's more than just being disciplined or hardworking or persistent. It has to begin with a motivation and a will on your part that is God-inspired and God-empowered. 

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. (Luke 9:24)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Looking with Forever Eyes Blog Series

Starting this coming Tuesday we're going to begin a new blog series based off of Mary's book Looking with Forever Eyes. This book is available in our bookstore, which you can access by clicking this link. Looking with Forever Eyes explains that as Christians, once we are born again, we have the ability that we rarely use to see things with the fresh insight and perspective of the kingdom of God—our forever eyes.

Throughout the book Mary explains that anyone who has been reborn has the gift! This gift allows us to see things that are both invisible and eternal. With this perspective shift we change to be more like Jesus. These forever eyes help us gain a unique take on everything around us:

  • Your friends, family, and other people in your life
  • Your success and failures
  • Your money and possessions
  • The way you spend your time 
  • Your marriage or singleness
  • and more 
Keep reading over the next few weeks to learn more about your forever eyes and how to use them!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Get Over Your Fear of Trusting God

3. God's Plans Are Always Best
Once you have accepted the previous basic truths, they have to lead us to this third and most important conclusion: God's plans for us are always superior to any other plans. If you believe God is God and He cares for you, then you cannot logically deny this truth: God is smarter than you are at running your life. Therefore, you can trust Him. Not only can you trust Him, but it is the logical thing to do. Nothing else makes any sense.
  Just look at what the Scriptures tell us about God's intentions toward us:

        "No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless." (Ps. 84:11b)

        "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his            power that is at work within us." (Eph. 3:20)

        "Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak             and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." (Ps. 34:9-10)

       "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,  "plans to prosper you and not to harm          you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11)

The irrefutable, logical conclusion is clear. There simply can be no middle ground. If we believe with our hearts, not just our heads, that God is God, eternal, all-powerful, holy and perfect, and that this very God cares for us more than any earthly being could ever care, and that His plans for our lives are far better than anything we could maneuver on our own, we have to get over our fear of trusting Him. He can be nothing but trustworthy. He will lead us into the best paths. To fail to relinquish the control of our lives to Him would be foolhardy and disastrous.

It is arrogance on our part if we refuse to trust God. To fail to trust Him at every turn in your life is a grave and serious sin. It is pride at its very worst.

Whatever the fear that is keeping you from trusting God, it is unfounded and unreasonable, and it is a trick of Satan to keep you from the joy and peace of a trusting, yielding life. Let go of those fears today, confess your sin of unbelief, get into God's Word daily and get to know God better, and you, too, can get over your fear of trusting God.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Get Over Your Fear of Trusting God

So many of us hang on to the controls of our lives, afraid to trust God, as if to say that we know more of what's better for us than God does, and we are more trustworthy than He is. Of course we don't think those thoughts; we just live our lives that way.

Your fear of God may be revealed in symptoms such as these: You're afraid of not having enough money to support your lifestyle or retirement. You're afraid of not achieving your career goals. You're afraid of being rejected. You're afraid of losing the approval of someone or some ones. Whatever your fear of the future is—and it is always a fear of what might or might  not happen—its root cause is that you really area afraid to let go of the controls of your life and simply trust God's plan to be a good plan.     

Believing the Basics 

 1. Learning to trust God begins by reminding ourselves of His character and power, and then asking ourselves if we really believe God is who He says He is.

Here are some verses that describe the nature of God:  God is the only God

"This is what the Lord says—Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6)

2. Knowing God's Personal Care
Assuming we have assimilated the previous basic truth, the next important issue is to understand how this same God feels about us. After all, we are but specks in a great mass of humanity and in a vast universe. Do we make any difference to God. Again scripture gives the answer:

God does not lose track of you!

"Why do you say O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, my cause is disregarded by my God?" Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:27-28)

God knows you intimately

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely." (Psalm 139:1-4)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Get Over Your Discontent with Singleness

God designed and instituted marriage; He is the author of sexual relationships and desire. And within His design, marriage and all that goes with it are to be honored and held in high esteem. It's no wonder that most people—especially in their young adult lives—deeply desire to be married, have children, and establish a good family.

This extreme discontent with singleness is like a black cloud that spoils every other thing in your life. It diminishes the joy of success in careers or other friendships or even ministry involvement. The enemy of our soul, Satan, loves to find ways to keep us discontented, because then our effectiveness in Kingdom work is decreased. I know that we have a choice as to whether our discontent with being single will continue to rule our lives or not. Once again, this is a choice we make as to what we think about singleness, how much we think about it, and how well we learn to bring those obsessive thoughts into captivity and make them obedient to Christ. It is just so true that the problem here lives in our thought lives.

What the Bible Says About Singleness 
 First Corinthians 7 is seldom used for sermon material. It doesn't fit too well with this common idea that God intended marriage for everyone and anything else is second best. Here's an excerpt from verses 32-35. "An unmarried woman is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit... I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."

What singles tend to forget is that there are pluses and minuses, assets and liabilities, to being single and to being married. The key thing we need to understand is that God has not advocated one lifestyle—marriage—as the number-one, normal way to live, and the other lifestyle—singleness—as second best, leftovers for those who missed the marriage boat for some reason or another.

Let me remind you of some of the people in Scripture who were either certainly or most likely single: Jesus, the apostle Paul, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Lydia, Mary Magdalene, Dorcas, Many others have no reference to marriage and have lifestyles that would lead you to think they were probably single, including some of the disciples and many in the early church.

There are some dangers in allowing ourselves to think that marriage is the only normal lifestyle and it will solve all our problems.

  1. You place an unduly heavy responsibility and expectation on marriage.
  2. You're asking too much of that other person who will be your mate if and when you do marry. 
  3. When a person is consumed with the desire to be married, they usually become less and less attractive because they are unconsciously transmitting that message through body language, facial expressions and conversation.
  4. When we think that marriage is essential we begin to make an idol out of it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Get Over False Guilt Part II

Determining the Source of Our Guilt

Much of our false guilt is from people who indicate their lack of satisfaction with us in some way. It is natural to feel guilty, but we need to check it our mentally every time it happens. When someone says, "Why weren't you..." or "Why didn't you..." and you immediately start to feel guilty, remind yourself that you may be dealing with false guilt.

Learning to Manage False Guilt 

The first and most important step in learning to manage false guilt is to recognize it. We must develop the practice of examining our guilty feelings and determining if they are true or not. That will do more than anything else to rid your mind of false guilt, because once you know the guilt is not deserved, it's much easier to put it our of your mind.

The second step is to replace wrong thinking with right thinking. When you're dealing with false guilt, you must by choice, or by a set of your will, push that wrong thinking out of your mind. I emphasize "by a set of your will" because your feelings will take you in another direction. This is done by faith and in obedience to Scripture.

One way to do this is through praise to the Lord. Start counting your blessings. Begin thanking God for the good things in your life. Refuse to allow the thoughts of false guilt to have a place in your life.

There is No Condemnation!

I love this passage from Romans 8:33-34, from Phillips' The New Testament in Modern English
Who would dare to accuse us, whom God has chosen? The judge himself has declared us free from sin. Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us!

Only Christ is qualified to accuse us of wrong, and after we become Christians, He doesn't! Do we have a right to condemn ourselves if Jesus doesn't condemn us? Can anyone else truly condemn you if Jesus doesn't?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Get Over False Guilt Part I

Feeling guilty is so common to most of us that I believe it is a universal emotion. Something that everyone will experience at one point in time or another during their lifetime. False guilt is such a heavy, unnecessary burden and if you're carrying around all that false guilt, I really want to help you get over it. You will be amazed at the freedom you will know when you can learn to put false guilt behind you.

What is false guilt?
False guilt is a guilt we impose upon ourselves. We allow it to take root in our minds, to start causing all kinds of bad feelings, to feed us all kinds of lies, which we begin to believe. Here are some examples of false guilt. It is:

  • What we feel when we keep remembering what God has forgiven and forgotten
  • What we feel when someone appears to be disappointed in us 
  • What we feel when we have to say "no"
  • What we feel when we live with unrealistic expectations of ourselves 
  • What we feel when we allow others to dictate what and who we should be 
Notice that each one begins with "what we feel." It's a feeling, not grounded in truth, but nonetheless strong and real. Guilt feelings are very similar, whether true or false, and our challenge is to learn how to discern the difference. We must learn to quickly analyze any guilt that comes our way: Is this true or false guilt? 

One of the first signs that you are dealing with false guilt is that you just can't pinpoint why you feel guilty. It is a strong feeling that engulfs you and discourages you, but if you had to state why you feel guilty, you'd say things like, "Well, I just never seem to get it right," or "I don't know, I just should have known better." Notice how general these statements are. When you cannot pinpoint a specific reason for your guilt you are probably dealing with false guilt.

Perhaps the false guilt we suffer from the most is guilt over our past. We all tend to go back and remember the sins of the past, and even though they are forgiven and God remembers them no longer, we don't seem to be able to purge our memory.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Get Over Putting Yourself in a Box

What do you want to be when you grow up?

That's a familiar question that most young children are asked at various stages and ages, and you'll hear answers like a doctor, a fireman, a teacher, an astronaut. I just wonder how many people actually fulfill those childhood dreams when they grow up. Children are far more likely to "think outside of the box" than we grown-ups are, don't you agree?

Today you would be hard pressed to find any job or occupation where women are not involved and in most cases flourishing. Ask yourself what box or boxes you have put yourself in. Here are some common ones:

  • I'm too old to do that—or too young
  • I don't have the right education
  • I don't have enough money
  • That's not my gift
The list is virtually endless. Think about it: what have you been telling yourself you cannot do for some reason? It's time to get over it!

Ephesians 2:10 says : "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." I'm convinced that many of us are missing out on the good works God prepared for us to do because we've allowed others to put us in a box, and we can't believe that God wants us out of the box and will equip us to do what He intended from the beginning of time for us to do.

Proverbs 29:18 says: "Where there is no vision, the people perish." If you've never had a vision of what you could do, if you've never aspired to something so big that it sacred you, then you may be perishing on the vine. In the parable of the talents, Jesus taught us the principle that if we don't use what He gives us, not only will He not give us more, we will lose what we have! (See Matt. 25:14-30) Without a vision , we begin to shrivel up and settle for mediocrity. That inward deterioration occurs subtly and could go unnoticed, even by yourself, but eventually it catches up with you when you begin to see your life as humdrum or boring or meaningless. What is the vision that Christ has given you, and how can you begin to utilize your God given gifts.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Get Over Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic Expectations of People

Undoubtedly our most common unrealistic expectations are the ones we have of other people. Most relationship struggles are created by our expectations not being met, and when those expectations are unrealistic, it puts a strain on that relationship that can be deadly.

All too often women think that husbands are going to make them happy all the time. They believe that a husband will speak their "love language," whether that be daily showers of words of love, gifts, and celebrations, acts of service without being asked—or whatever. Then they discover that their expectations irritated him. And the tugs of war begin , leading to nagging, tears, angry words, etc. In a word, disappointment. Of course, it works the other way too. Men are prone to think their wives should always look lovely, cook great meals, maintain a spotless home, be supportive of them—whatever their idea of what a perfect wife should be. And before long they discover that their expectations are not met.

People disappoint us—from parents and relatives to husbands and children, co-workers and managers, friends and family. We expect more than they deliver, and therefore our happiness is affected because they don't live up to our expectations.

There is no person on earth who can deliver on every promise and be everything we want him or her to be. People will always disappoint us; that's because we're all sinners and the best of us fail miserably at times.

If you've never experienced the pain of unrealistic expectations or comparison, it's either because you don't truly know God as your Lord and Savior or you're looking to other things and people to meet you needs, and not spending time getting to know Jesus.

I encourage you today to get over your unrealistic expectations by fixing your desires on Jesus Christ. As He fills you up, the other things that don't live up to your expectations will not affect your joy and your contentment nearly as much, because Jesus promises, "Never will I leave you; nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5b), and He can and will keep that promise. There's no disappointment in Jesus, and the more you make that truth a reality in your life, the better you will be able to get over your unrealistic expectations.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Get Over Worrying

The most useless and unproductive thing that most of us do very often is to worry, and unfortunately, we can do that anywhere and anytime, employed or unemployed, in school or retired, young or old, single or married—it is universal. It just seems to be the place where our thoughts go when we experience any level of uncertainty or fear or lack of control.

All of us are aware of how worthless and harmful it is to worry, but the challenge is—how do we get over it? Is it really possible to come to a place where we truly don't waste time worrying?

Jesus fully understood our propensity to worry and He addressed it strongly in His Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes. 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt 6:25-29, 31-34)

Since Jesus devoted this much of His Sermon on the Mount to the topic of worrying, we know that it is a common mental trap, and we know that He wants us to get over it.

Surely the knowledge of how much God loves us, how deeply He cares for us should cause us to stop worrying. After all, our Heavenly Father is sovereign over everything and everyone in our lives; He is always in control, and because we are His children, He had pledged to take care of our needs. He will never leave us or forsake us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Get Over Petty Fears

How many times has someone—usually a woman—told me what she can't do because of some fear? From fear of flying, to fear of the dark, to fear of speaking in front of a group, to fear of not knowing how to dress for an occasion, I've encountered so many who have missed out on many good things because of what I term "petty fear."

Fear is a very common enemy for all of us. The Bible is full of admonitions to "fear not," " do not be afraid." " do not be anxious," etc. You can hardly turn a page in Scripture without some reference to fear. Obviously, fear has plagued mankind from the beginning of time. So it's no surprise that fear is something all of us need to "get over."

Fear comes in many shapes and sizes. Some fears are good for us; they prevent us from sticking our hands in a flame, or walking out into traffic, or driving carelessly on icy roads. Of course, the Bible teaches us to fear God, with a reverential awe that should keep us from wandering away from biblical principles.

There are big fears that keep us in bondage and smaller ones that eat around the edges of our happiness and enjoyment of life. Often those larger fears are the result of traumatic experiences or childhood memories that need some special attention and counsel in order for us to be free of them.

In many cases, the petty fears don't rise to the level of phobias or fixations, but they interfere with our everyday life, they limit where we go and what we do, they keep us from experiences that are often enriching and delightful.

You may think that petty fears aren't a big deal but they actually can indicate that you aren't trusting God enough in that area. Fear is a red flag that indicates a lack of faith, a lack of trust. And without faith, it's impossible to please God. Fear and faith cannot coexist. Petty fears are symptoms of our refusal to learn to trust a trustworthy God.

I'll leave you with this quote as you try and navigate through your petty fears.

"The will of God will not take you where the grace of God cannot keep you."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Get Over Wrong Attitudes

My online dictionary says it is "A settled way of thinking or feeling, typically reflected in a person's behavior." Another one says it is "An organized predisposition to respond in a favorable or unfavorable manner toward a specified class of objects."

We all have attitudes toward life, toward certain people and circumstances, toward work, and health and truth and these have been shaped by our personalities, our life experiences, our education, and by people who have influenced our attitudes, and that includes the words we speak, the looks on our faces, our body language, how we spend our time and money. Our attitudes have a profound effect on every area of our lives.

Yet I dare say that many Christians, and people in general, are like the way I was: totally oblivious to their attitudes, rarely, if ever, thinking about the condition or state of them. I'm convinced most of us see ourselves as having positive attitudes in general because we've just never taken a measure of our own attitudes.

In order to help us get over some wrong attitudes that are keeping us mired down, we need to take an evaluating look at our general attitude, our attitude towards our lot in life, our attitude toward our work, and our prejudicial attitudes. The truth is we can have good attitudes in some areas and not-so-good attitudes in others. However, with a little focus on our attitudes, and some intentional steps to make you a more positive, upbeat person, you should see some pretty dramatic improvements in your stress levels, energy levels, and productivity.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Get Over Needing the Approval of Others

Let me ask you a question. How do you respond to criticism? Do you take it in stride and learn from it? Or do you wither under any criticism? If your response is more like the second option that's a sign that you might have an approval addiction. We need to seek to replace our approval addiction with something much better; a desire to stand before Jesus at the Judgement Seat for believers and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Why do we need the approval of others?

We all need approval, but how do we become addicted to this need? It often begins in our early years. If your parents withheld approval from you, if they were more focused on punishment and correction than affirmation and approval, this could be a major cause of your approval addiction. Likewise, if you never received recognition from other authority figures in your life, such as teachers and bosses, that could also fuel your intense desire and addiction to approval. It's always helpful to understand the source of our struggles, but using them as excuses does nothing but keep us powerless, in bondage to them. We're adults now; it's time to get over it and live free from needing other people to validate us.

How do we get over our need for the approval of others?

You don't! It's a basic need that's born in us. Some of us have a greater approval need than others, but we all need approval in order to survive, to thrive, tp be motivated and affirmed. Instead of asking other people to meet our need, and finding that it is never completely satisfactory or never quite enough, we need to live our lives for the approval of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This requires us to have a clear assurance of our personal relationship with the living God. And that begins when we become His child through faith in Jesus Christ. Once that is firmly established, then we become more and more confident of God's approval, and of our assurance in how He sees us as we delve into the Word of God, learn it, love it, study it, teach it, read it, memorize it, and obey it. If you wanted a quick fix, sorry, I don't have one because there aren't any.
Jesus said, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3).
 All that we need for life, including approval, is ours through the pursuit of knowing God and His Son, Jesus. It is a by-product of seeking first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Get Over Comparing Yourself to Others

How many of us spend several minutes each day comparing ourselves to other people? How many of us have fallen into the trap of trying to twist our personality into being something that we're not? Did you know that not only is the "disease" of comparison foolish it is also sinful?

The symptoms that accompany this disease are an uneasiness in your spirit, feeling guilty about something but you're not sure what, knots in your stomach, discontent, and a general sense of despair. Maybe these feelings hit you only occasionally, or you may indeed find yourself continually consumed with comparing yourself to others and then not being satisfied with who you are.

David's Encouraging Example

There is a man in the Bible who knew that he had to be himself and not try to be someone else. I find his story a wonderful source of encouragement to me, and it helps to pull me out of that wrong thinking of comparing myself to others or trying to be like others. You'll find the story in 1 Samuel 17.

It's the story of David, the shepherd boy, who volunteered to go up against the giant, Goliath. Nobody else in the entire Israelite army had been willing to face this giant, even tthe most experienced fighters. They took one look at Goliath and the comparison convicned them it would be foolhardy to try to defeat such a large enemy.

David heard that Goliath was making threats against the Israelite army and he couldn't understand why no one had taken up Goliath's challenge. Now his brother Eliab became very angry with David's questions and he belittled and insulted him. David did not let his brother bother him- instead he volunteered to fight Goliath himself!

When King Saul heard about David's willingness to fight Goliath he tried to give David his own tunic, armor, and bronze helmet. David tried walking around with all the armor on, but because he wasn't used to them he could not do it. Instead  he said "'I cannot go in these', he said to Saul, 'because I am not used to them.' So he took them off." (1 Samuel 17:38-40) Instead, David used his own shepherd bag, five smooth stones and his own sling to defeat Goliath.

How did he do it? How did David defeat Goliath? By using his own slingshot. That's what he was good at; that's the gift God had given him and taught him to use. David was smart enough to relize that he would make a huge mistake to try to do what God wanted him to do in someone else's armor.

 How are you using your own unique gifts that God had given you? 

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Trip You Won't Regret or Forget! - Israel 2016

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience the sights, sounds, and landscapes of the country where Jesus once walked? To walk in Jesus' footsteps throughout the Holy Land? Well wonder no more! You have the chance to join Mary and Rex Lowman along with their dear friends, Dámaris and Rod Carbaugh on Mary's 18th trip to Israel.
The trip promises to be be an unbelievable adventure. We will walk in the Land of Jesus while hearing and being blessed with Dámaris's musical ministry and Mary's teachings. Husbands are welcome to come this year as Mary's husband, Rex Lowman, and Dámaris's husband Rod Carbaugh are coming. This truly is the year to come!
You will be inspired and strengthened in your spiritual journey as you visit the sites on our itinerary. There is simply no other place in the world like Israel, and I believe it will be life-changing for you as it always is for me. Trust me—your Bible comes alive!
If you have any questions or concerns, call or email Mary personally and she'll be glad to answer your questions. Make your plans now and join me! You’ll never regret this investment in your spiritual life.
Be sure to check out Dámaris's website and her description of the Israel trip and visit The Christian Working Woman for more details and pricing.
Check out some of our photos from previous trips to Israel!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Get Over Hurt Feelings

Get over it!
These words aren't soft, gentle, warm or fuzzy. These words seem to lack compassion and mercy. Although they may sound abrupt and very simplistic often times these are the exact three words that we need to hear and heed quite often. If we don't heed those three words we may find ourselves falling increasingly into all kinds of joy-robbing thought patterns and unhealthy habits.

Like a pig to a mudhole, we keep going back to a place that gets us dirty, makes us unsightly and smelly, and keeps us from moving forward to the good things God has for us. Isaiah 43:18-19 is a passage of great hope:

                Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it                      springs up; do you not perceive it! I am making a way in the desert and streams in the                          wasteland.

How often we miss the new thing that springs up because we can't get over something from our past. It could be the distant past or what happened five minutes ago, but these things become the mudholes of our lives where we wallow on a daily basis and never find the way in the desert and the streams in the wasteland.

Why do we hang on to hurt feelings so long, thereby heaping unhappiness on our heads? We certainly don't get any revenge on our offenders by hanging on to hurt feelings? If you think that a pity party will relieve some of your hurt, think again! The more you feel sorry for yourself and harbor those hurt feelings, the more you will try to find comfort in your self-pity. It can be a vicious cycle, and, of course, only makes matters worse.

So this week try and let go of some of the hurt that you've been harboring. Make an effort to just
Get over it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Controlling the Controllable

Marsha is a Christian woman I admire who was faced with an uncontrollable situation–a workaholic husband.  She had tried through many years of marriage to Scott to get him to break his bad workaholic habits, but to no avail. Finally Marsha came to the conclusion that she could not control Scott; she could not force him to change; she could not make him listen to her.

At that point Marsha had a decision to make: Become a nag, or leave Scott and ruin both of their ministries, or control what she could control and find her fulfillment in legitimate ways apart from her husband, since he was rarely there for her and was completely occupied with his activities.  Marsha made a decision not to abandon her marriage or her family but to control what she could control–herself.

Eventually Scott became aware that Marsha was finding fulfillment in other activities. When he said to her, “You are no longer delighting in me, “ she was able to gently point out to him that it was true; she was finding fulfillment in areas where he was not involved, but only because she had not been able to convince him that his workaholism was a problem. With Marsha’s loving help, Scott was then able to see her point. He began a project to overcome his workaholic habits, and now he has dramatically changed that situation.

I was impressed and challenged with Marsha’s approach to her problem. She could have handled it in a very destructive way, but instead she chose to control that which was in her power to control–herself–and not waste any more time or energy trying to control what she could not control–her husband. But Marsha did it in such a loving, nonselfish way that eventually she was able to help Scott see his problem, and then he was willing to control what he could control–his workaholic tendencies.

I read something recently that really caught my attention: If you can control the controllable, you can cope with the uncontrollable. I started to think about that and realized how true it is.

Don’t you think we often spend a lot of time and energy fretting about things that are beyond our control? We try our best to control those uncontrollable people or things, manipulating here and there, discovering in frustration that our efforts are futile. Thriving, not just surviving depends in great measure on our ability to focus on the controllable and learn to let go of the uncontrollable. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Are You Working Hard or Smart?

She worked very hard, she stayed late every evening, she hardly ever took lunch breaks; she always seemed overwhelmed and overworked. She was working so hard that she generated a good deal of sympathy. “Poor Susie, I feel so bad for her. She has so much to do and never gets out of here on time.” Those were typical comments her coworkers made about her.

I was one of those coworkers, often feeling guilty myself for not working as hard or as long as Susie did. However, after getting to know the situation better, I began to see that Susie did indeed work long hours and expended a great deal of energy, but many of us were accomplishing the same amount of work in much less time because Susie did not use any discipline in planning her work, scheduling her time, or controlling her energy.

Sometimes I even got the idea that she was trying to solicit those expressions of sympathy. It made Susie feel good about herself to be able to say how late she worked last night, to remind us that she didn’t have time to go to lunch today, to be there at the office every morning before the rest of us. I concluded that Susie was doing this in part to convince herself that she was important and valuable.

Many times in my career I’ve worked with people who worked hard but not smart. People who really thrive on their jobs are ones who know how to use that eight- or nine-hour day really well, completing assignments and keeping up with the work in a fairly normal schedule, leaving time for the rest of their lives and achieving a balance in lifestyle.
Have you heard the slogan “Plan your work and work your plan”? I remember having that drilled into me early in my career, and there’s an awful lot of good advice wrapped up in those few words.

Time is our most valuable resource – the one we can never replace once we use it. God will hold us accountable for our use of time. We’ve each been given twenty-four hours each day, but some use those hours more wisely than others.

Time management is a topic that has been covered in depth by many other people, yet few of us really manage our time well. Certainly we cannot say it is from lack of information or help, because most any bookstore or library is a resource for good help in how to plan your work and work your plan. Mostly it’s a matter of just making up your mind to do it. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What is Your Telephone Image?

A Manager in a large company had hired me to train his department in better customer service skills. He was particularly concerned with improving his employees’ telephone skills. But when I called him, he answered his phone in a very abrupt tone giving only his last name.

After getting to know him, at lunch one day I ventured to suggest that it would be a good idea if he worked on improving his telephone greeting since we were strongly emphasizing the right way to answer the phone in the training sessions. He laughed and said, “Oh, Mary, I’ve answered the phone this way for years; I’m not going to change now.”

I’ve often wondered if the training I did for his employees really made any difference. If he was not willing to work on his own telephone skills, how could he expect those who worked for him to get serious about improving theirs?

What is your telephone image? Have you ever thought about it? You have one whether or not you realize it. Given the amount of time all of us spend on the telephone, you cannot overlook your telephone image if you really want to thrive on your job. A person who creates a consistently professional impression on the telephone is valuable to any organization and has a very marketable skill.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What are Your Nonverbal Skills Communicating?

“What’s bothering you, Mary?” “Is something wrong? Can I help you?” “If you need someone to talk to, I’ll be glad to listen.”

These were the kind of comments I received as I was walking around my college campus – many years ago! It was my first introduction to the power of nonverbal communication. Gradually after receiving so many of these kinds of comments, I realized that when I was thinking or concentrating on something, I looked worried, bothered, upset, and troubled. I didn’t feel worried, bothered, upset, and troubled, but that was the message I was sending by the look on my face, the way I walked, and other body language.

All of us communicate very loudly without ever saying a word. Think about it: As soon as you see someone, you start to form a strong impression based on what you see before he or she ever says a word to you.

Often we don’t even realize that we have these nonverbal skills, but they can cause perceptions that are not complimentary. Nervous habits make you appear to lack confidence or be inattentive and take away from your professional image. It’s good to check yourself in these small areas because they become part of your overall image. As we know image equals perception, and perception equals reality. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Are Your Vocal Skills Hurting Your Sales?

“But Mary,” he said to me, “I’m the most enthusiastic salesperson in my office. I’m the first one here, the last to leave – I really like my job!” Allen was trying to convince me that he was truly an enthusiastic person even though he didn’t sound enthusiastic. In fact, he sounded like death warmed over because his voice had no inflection to it whatsoever; rather, it was a dull, droning monotone sound.

“I believe you, Allen,” I said, “but I’m not your prospect on the other end of the phone. Those people do not know you are enthusiastic, and when they hear your voice, they are going to jump to the conclusion that you are lifeless and unenthusiastic about your job. That means you start with a mark against you in a business that is competitive and tough at best. Can you afford to do that, especially since your income is based on your sales record?”

You see, Allen had made the same mistake many people make, and that was to assume that he sounded the way he felt. Furthermore, when he sat through my classroom training and I pointed out the need for more enthusiasm in his voice, I could sense that he failed to see the importance of it. However, when he heard a tape recording of his conversations with some of his prospects, his eyes got wider, his mouth dropped open, and that was when he tried to convince me of his enthusiasm.

Allen had never before heard himself the way others hear him. After being confronted with the reality that he had a very unenthusiastic tone of voice, he said to his father, “I couldn’t believe how I sounded in that recording. I really have a monotone voice.”

“You’ve talked like that all your life, Allen,” his father replied.  Allen was shocked.

Allen learned a good lesson that day: People hear the tone of your voice before they hear your words. You can say all the right words in the world, but the wrong voice, those words won’t get you very far. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Improving Your Verbal Skills by Choice of Words

I settled into my assigned seat on the airplane – a bulkhead seat, which meant I had no seat in front of me. The flight attendant advised me to put my attaché underneath my seat, which I did. Just as I was buckling up and getting ready for takeoff, a man took the seat behind me. Seeing my attaché, he stood over me, hands on hips, and said in a loud voice, “Move your attaché. It doesn’t belong there, and I don’t want it there. Move it right now!”

I moved my attaché. Actually I wanted to hit him with it, but somehow I resisted.  For the remainder of that flight, however, I sat there with smoke coming out of my ears because of the way this passenger had spoken to me.  Fifteen minutes later I was able to think of some wonderful retorts for him, but I had no opportunity to use them. (I can always think of good lines fifteen minutes late!)

The man’s choice of words had made me angry. I didn’t mind moving my attaché. All he needed to say was, “Would you mind moving your attaché so I can have more foot room” I would have done so gladly and never given tit a second thought. So, it wasn’t the message - “move your attaché” – that bugged me. It was the choice of words.

This kind of scene happens on a regular basis in each of our lives, and particularly in our working worlds. We throw messages around carelessly without thinking about the impact those words will have on the other person and, all too often, without caring about the impact.

Thriving on our jobs will require close attention to our choice of words. Proverbs 21:23 says, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” In other words, we save ourselves large amounts of trouble and grief as we get better at choosing words that go down easy and not works that cause others to be upset, defensive, or negative. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Communication: The Name of the Game

The President of a midsize company was fed up with the cost of miscommunication within his company.  “We’re wasting time and money because we don’t know how to communicate,” he told his management team. “Beginning immediately we’re starting a campaign called ‘Say it Back to Me.’ I want big banners made and posted all over the company. I want a memo sent to every person explaining this new campaign. I’m determined to improve our communication. “

Over the next few weeks, employees began to get used to their president’s new idea. In any business conversation, whether it was one-on-one, in a group meeting or on the telephone, each employee had to conclude his statements with, “Will you please say it back to me?” The other person had to paraphrase what he or she heard that person say.

Of course no one liked it at first. It was a change, and as we’ve already seen, we don’t take to change easily. But since it was the president’s campaign, they realized they had little choice. So day by day everyone got more comfortable with “Say It Back to Me,” which was a simple technique to make everyone aware of the importance of communicating clearly and unambiguously.

Twelve months later the company was able to identify a significant bottom-line, hard dollars savings to the company because of improved communication. The reduction in errors and mistakes, plus the increased productivity because of saving the time required to fix those mistakes, was easily identifiable as a result of this simple campaign to improve communication. “But,” the president said, “we received another benefit we hadn’t counted on. The improvement in communication eliminated many bad feelings between employees and greatly increased our team spirit and esprit de corps.  That has proven to be one of the best results of our campaign to communicate more effectively.”

How many times have you said, “Wow, I just didn’t communicate with that person very well”? Or, “We really miscommunicated, didn’t we?” I think communicating accurately and effectively is one of the best skills we can acquire and one of the toughest too. It simply is not easy to communicate, and in order to do it well, we have to learn the skills and work hard at improving and maintaining them in our own lives.  Thrivers are good communicators and people who work at improving all the time.

Remember that verse from 2 Corinthians 8:21: “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” Developing good communication skills requires some “pains,” but it is effort that pays off in enhanced performance, improved relationships, and reduced stress. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Change: What's So Hard About It?

Orva came to work for me after retiring.  She wasn’t ready to retire, so at seventy she worked part-time to help me promote my new radio program.  After being in the radio business for thirty-five years, she knew how to do it, and she had connections.  What a blessing to have Orva on my team.  She had the energy and drive of a forty-year-old.

But – there was this thing called a computer! She had never used one before, and I had computerized our operation from the beginning.  In order to work for me, she would have to learn to use a computer at age seventy.  Most people would have said, “I can’t learn a computer; I’m too old,” and never even tried.  But not Orva.

“I’m not going to let some machine get the best of me,” was her attitude.  So she tackled that computer. Only later did I learn how frightened she was of it; she never let on.  But little by little she learned how to use that computer. By rote, for the most part, but efficiently and effectively.

Orva was willing to take a risk, to stick her neck out, and to change the way she had done things all through her career.  She didn’t try to talk me out of using computers; she knew it was the way of the future. So she changed herself.

Change – It’s just a word. But when you try to change, you discover it’s more than just a word – it’s a challenge.  Few of us welcome change into our lives; most people go kicking and screaming into any kind of change. It’s risky; it’s unknown; it’s uncomfortable; it’s hard work. No wonder w run from it. But we can never improve or grow without changing.  Thriving from nine to five is directly related to your willingness to change. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Importance of First Impressions

I was hired to conduct a long-term customer service training program for a large Chicago hospital.  My first week’s assignment was to anonymously familiarize myself with the hospital and gather information on where improvement  was most needed to make it more user-friendly.

The nurse behind the counter scowled at me.  Well, she didn’t actually scowl at me, because she never gave me any eye contact.  She just had a scowl on her face and body language that was anything but friendly and inviting.

I thought, “I would never want her to be my nurse! I’d be intimidated to even talk to her.  Why would they put someone like that in such a high-profile job?”

Later I learned that this nurse had been with the hospital many years and was, according to her managers, one of the best they had.  She really cared about her patients and did her job with excellence.  But her management recognized that she made a very bad first impression and asked me to counsel with her one-on-one.  As I did, I realized this was an unusual woman who had survived many adversities and was truly outstanding in her job.  But she made a terrible first impression.  Did she do it on purpose? Of course not! She had no idea people were perceiving her initially in a negative way.  But the very negative first impression she gave to people was affecting her ability to really thrive on her job.  It was holding her back, and it was totally unnecessary.

Did you ever think about what kind of impression you make on people?  I’m sure you’ve heard it said that first impressions are the most important, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  That’s true, but it’s also true that last impressions are ones we remember, and all those in between are important too.

If you’re not making consistently good impressions on your job you’re going to find it difficult to thrive.  Making good impressions is not some phony, hypocritical façade we put on; it’s not polishing the apple or playing company politics.  It is simply being certain we’re putting our best foot forward and making the effort to improve our skills and eliminate bad habits so that people remember the positive things about us rather than the negative ones. 

Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” A prudent person is wise, judicious, and careful, and that person will give thought to his or her ways.  Are you a prudent person? When was the last time you gave serious thoughts to your ways – your habits, your skills, the impression you make on others?  Self-improvement is important and it’s healthy to think about how your ways help or distract, encourage or tear down, make you look bad or good. 

As Christians working in a world that needs to know Christ we should make the best impression we can.  We are, after all, ambassadors for Jesus Christ; we represent him to our world. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

An Attitude Checkup

Don't you think Christians should have positive outlooks and attitudes?  We have so much to be positive about; we have hope and a future.  And yet, sadly, many of us are just as negative as those who don't know Jesus.

Chuck Swindoll writes: "The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude to life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than the past, than education, than money...than what other people think or say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day.  We cannot change our past...we cannot change the inevitable.  The one thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.  I am convinced life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it." 

I agree with Chuck; life is not so much what cards we've been dealt, as it is how we handle and react to the circumstances of our lives.  How are you doing in the attitude department?  Staying positive or falling into negative territory too often. 

Positive people aren't just born that way; they work at it.  If you'd like your attitude to be more positive, I have a suggestion.  First, make a list of the things that happen to you which tend to destroy your positive attitude.  Mentally walk through a few of your days and ask yourself what are the things that get to you.

I call them "negative pulls."  You'll probably list things like a co-worker or a boss who drives you crazy; too much work to do; unrealistic expectations from other people; lack of cooperation; office politics, interruptions, etc.  Putting them in writing helps you realize just what is ruining your attitude.

Now, once you've done that, the next thing is to fight back.  Not with your own power, but with the power of God within you.  This is where Christians have a great advantage, because we can call on God to give us the strength to fight back.

I suggest you read your list to the Lord.  Say, "Lord, here are the things which happen to me that tend to ruin my attitude.  I'm asking you to help me fight back.  I know the fight is in my mind, and it must be done by faith.  If you will empower me, by your grace, I will work at being a positive person to bring glory to you."  That is a big first step in our attitude check-up. 

Paul wrote to the Ephesians in chapter 4: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”(4:22-24)

The old self is negative; let's put it off.  The new self, given to us when we are born from above, has a new attitude of mind, and like Jesus, it will be positive and encouraging.  By God's grace, let's determine to develop and maintain positive attitudes for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Balancing Our Energy Checkbooks Part II

In our previous blog post we looked at what gives us energy and now I’d like to look at the things which drain our energy.  First, there are the inescapable drains on our energy, such as getting up in the morning!  Children, mates, family, housework, jobs.  But many times we expend energy, even in these areas, unnecessarily.  Let's identify a few of the foolish things that often drain our strength:

1. Our strength is used up when we try to do more than we can do.
God has not called us to be all things to all people. 

Jesus was careful where He went to minister.  He didn't try to go to every city; He didn't heal every sick person; He didn't preach to everyone on the face of the earth.  Yet He could say at the end of a very short three year ministry that He had accomplished what His father had sent Him to do.

2. Our strength is used up when we have too much "stuff."
Did you know that the more you have, the more energy it takes out of you?  Cleaned your closet out lately?  Might be a good idea.  A home or apartment full of valued "treasures" is a real drainer of energy.  Now I'm not suggesting we can't have things that we enjoy, but the question is, do you enjoy them or are they just sapping your time and energy?

3. Our strength is used up when we have money problems.
When our finances are a constant problem, it unquestionably drains our strength.  Credit cards can be our downfall.  Maybe some of us need to get on a budget and stop this drain on our lives.

4. Our strength is used up when we fill our minds with junk.
What are you allowing into your mind?  If it's lots of junk, maybe not evil but just junk, then you need to put a screen on your mind.  That includes social media, television, music, reading material, conversations—any input into your mind.  The more you clean it up and get rid of the junk, the more emotional and spiritual energy you'll have for things that are important.

5. Our strength is used up when our lives are not disciplined.
Proverbs says that we die from lack of discipline, and I believe with all my heart that many of us are drained of energy because we refuse needed discipline in our lives.  When you get the discipline going the way the Lord wants you to, it's amazing how energized you start to feel.  The good feelings that come from accomplishment energize us for more accomplishments.

What I'd like to suggest is that you take a few minutes to list where your energy comes from and where it goes.  Make a balance sheet, if you will, showing the assets and liabilities.  Then take a look and see where you are out of balance.

You may well discover that you're out of balance.  And that could be because you don't put enough in, or you take too much out.  It could be you put the wrong things in and spend your energy in the wrong ways.

It may mean you have to disappoint some people, or make some changes in your life-style in order to use your energy more wisely.  We are called to be servants, but we can't serve very effectively if we're out of balance.