Finding Balance in 2011

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

There’s something exciting about a new year and a new start. Each year during the final week of December, I take stock of what I accomplished that year. I begin to think about all the possibilities for the coming year, the new opportunities to grow. I imagine the wonderful adventures ahead: new friends, new books to read, new roads to travel, new things to learn, and a new grandbaby!

For the last few years I’ve chosen a theme for the year. One year I focused on happiness; last year I focused on positive thinking. I read books and articles, taught classes about the themes, and tried to incorporate new theme-based practices into my everyday living. This year I’ve chosen to be intentional about balance – balance of mind, body, and spirit.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. Philippians 4:5a

This definition of balance helps explain my goal: “an imagined device for assessing events, actions, and motives in relation to each other” (Word Dictionary). This year I’ll be assessing the “events, actions, and motives” of my mind and body in relation to my spiritual life.

Mind, body, and spirit are so interconnected that if any one of the three is out of balance, the other two suffer. When we are balanced in all three areas, we find wholeness and wellness that Christ desires for us. In the center of balance is peace.

It is through our body that we function in the world. "The human body is the best picture of the human soul" (Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosophical Investigations). Our bodies need rest, movement, and nutrition in order to function properly.
Am I taking care of my body with good nutrition, daily exercise, and adequate rest?
What changes do I need to make in order to live at an optimal level?
Balance: Rest Movement Nutrition

It is our soul (mind) that gives us our personality and helps us to live in relationship with God, other people, and ourselves. Our soul likely has three components: our mind, our will, and our emotions. Since the mind and body communicate constantly, it’s important to keep them both healthy. Our minds are always busy and ready to learn new things.
Am I keeping my mind battery charged with positive thoughts? Am I overcoming stress, beating boredom, and achieving creativity?
In the coming year what can I do to make my thoughts, attitudes, and actions more Christ-like?
Balance: Mind Will Emotions

It is in our spirit that we find meaning and purpose. Our spirit enables us to love ourselves, one another, and God. By incorporating spiritual practices such as prayer, Bible study, worship, discipleship, and fellowship, into our lives, we can develop a healthy spirit.
Am I devoting significant time each day to spiritual practices?
Is there balance in my worship (hands up) and ministry (hands out)?
Do I dwell in love and harmony with God, others, and self?
What changes do I need to make in order to allow the Holy Spirit to guide my spirit?
Balance: Spiritual Practices Ministry Relationships

A balanced mind, body, and spirit is essential to healthy living. Some people are in good physical shape but are malnourished in their soul because their minds are filled with negativity or hate. Some people have healthy minds but are depraved in their spirit for lack of prayer, Bible study, or worship. We need to stay balanced in all areas in order to experience wholeness and peace that Christ desires for us.
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. I Thessalonians 5:23

Let’s make a commitment to live a balanced life in 2011 so that we can be sanctified by the God of peace!

2011 Mission Statement: To glorify God and edify others through intentional and balanced living.

Wholly Holiday Eating

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Practice Wholly Holiday Eating and Have a Merry Fitness!

'Tis the season for over-indulgence! Fa-la-la-la folly! You can still enjoy your favorite guilty pleasures but follow these healthy tips to bring some balance to the season!

Boost your metabolism
A healthy breakfast and lots of water will give you more energy throughout the day and prevent you from bingeing on the party buffet in the evening.
Green tea is great for the body as it flushes out toxins and keeps the kidneys working properly. I use a dropper full of Herbasway “The Original” HerbaGreen Tea with 15 times the antioxidants of regular brewed tea.

Cinnamon balances blood sugar and reduces ill effects of sweet foods. Stir a little into tea or coffee. I add it to my oatmeal.

Take the stairs. Park away from the entrance and walk instead of driving around trying to find a closer parking space.

Work out
At this time of year it is difficult to fit in a two hour gym session as well as work and fulfill social obligations. Find ways to raise your heart rate with short workouts several times a week.

Fill up
Don't arrive at a party hungry. Eat a small meal of complex carbs so you don't over indulge on the buffet. A sandwich with cheese or tuna on whole wheat bread, a bowl of cereal, brown pasta, of even just a banana will ensure you don't overindulge.

Use the Plate Model
Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruit. In the remaining half fill the plate with a healthy protein, quality carbs and a healthy fat-rich food.

Plan of Attack for the Christmas Buffet
A festive buffet might look wonderful, but it is full of hidden fats. Try this plan of attack.
1. Fly-by without a plate to survey the options.
2. Reconnaissance Mission 1: Load up on raw vegetables and fruit.
3. Reconnaissance Mission 2: Fill the plate with salads, meat, and small helpings of sides.
4. Reconnaissance Mission 3: Try samples of a few desserts.
5. Don't stand at the buffet table - you'll end up constantly picking and nibbling. Get what you want and move away.

Say no to seconds
Practice discipline!

Drink at least a glass of water before a Christmas party and alternate water with other beverages during it.
5 olives (any kind) (45 calories); 1/4 cup hummus and 3 carrot sticks (80 calories)
1 Laughing Cow Light Swiss Original wedge, 3 pieces Kavli Crispy Thin (85 calories)
2 cups popcorn (air-popped, 62 calories; oil-popped, 110 calories)
Celery keeps blood pressure low, and helps lower cholesterol too.
Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which improves mood and reduces anxiety. Eat just 3 a day.

Vitamin C
Colds are common during this season so don’t forget to boost your immune system with some Vitamin C.

Watch portion sizes like a hawk. Enjoy everything, say no to nothing – but do it all in moderation.

Spiritual Christmas Gift List

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gift giving is a Christmas tradition ever since the Wise Men went bearing gifts to the baby Jesus. While we’ll all continue to give these earthly presents, there’s an even more important blessing to give those in our world.

We also need to make a Spiritual Christmas Gift List. Who are the people that you need to show the love of Jesus to during this season? To help us get an idea of the kinds of people to put on our list, let’s look at the biblical account of Jesus’ birth. The Bible records God’s Christmas list.

These accounts show the various people who witnessed Jesus’ birth. We’ll see how God used ordinary and extraordinary people to share in the good news.

Mary and Joseph
Joseph was a carpenter and an upright man. When he learned of Mary’s pregnancy, maybe he thought of putting her away instead of dealing with public humiliation, but he listened to the angel and took Mary as his wife. He was a devout Jew who showed integrity and obedience to God’s direction.
Mary was a young teenager, an ordinary Jewish girl probably looking forward to marriage, when the angel Gabriel came to her. Mary was fearful and troubled in the presence of the angel and could not imagine that she would have a child, the Messiah. However, she responded to God with belief and obedience and kept a humble and quiet spirit.
Joseph and Mary were obedient followers of God and provided Jesus an earthly home. They were his earthly family. Who are the family members on your Christmas list? How can you show the love of Jesus to them?

Shepherds were busy in their fields tending their flock when a host of angels appeared to them. Eager to see the miracle the angels described, they left their fields and headed for Bethlehem. They searched everywhere in the village until they found Mary and Joseph. These laborers were obedient to their call. They represent the everyday workers, the people in our lives who work to make our lives easier. They may also reflect the people we work alongside every day.
Who are the everyday workers or co-workers you can “show” Jesus to?

Following the Jewish tradition, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple when he was 40 days old. A man of great holiness, Simeon, had been seeking the Messiah. God had revealed to him that he would not die before seeing the Savior. Simeon blessed the child and spoke of those who would someday speak out against Jesus and reject them. Then he forewarned Mary that a “sword would pierce her soul” one day. Simeon’s prophecy represents those who are seeking the truth.
Do you know someone who is seeking the truth but has not accepted the gift of Jesus? Has your soul been pierced with hurt for someone else’s salvation?

The prophetess Anna was a faithful elderly widow who never left the temple. She worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. At the temple the day Simeon blessed Jesus, Anna was full of thanksgiving and became the first witness to tell others about the child. She might be among the “invisible people” or the “forgotten ones” as she quietly worked in the temple.
Who are the people around you who would be considered “forgotten?” Do you need to be the hands and feet of Jesus to widow or orphans or the poor this year?

The Magi were men of power and influence in Jesus’ day and were instrumental in selecting Parthian Kings. They knew the Messiah was expected and connected the appearance of an unknown star with his birth. They followed the star to Bethlehem where they bowed down and worshiped the baby Jesus and gave him treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh.
Who are the key people of influence in your life? Are there leaders who need to feel the love of Jesus in a special way this year?

These witnesses remind us that God chose all kinds of people to be a part of the birth story. He chose family members, laborers, seekers, a widow of the forgotten class, and men of power to share the good news. Today he wants all of us to be a part of continuing to spread the gospel.

Let us pray that God will show us the individuals in our world who still need the gift of Jesus. Let’s add them to our spiritual Christmas List.

Every good and perfect gift is from above. James 1:17

Family Blessings

Monday, December 6, 2010

My favorite memories of Christmas center around family. We’re a very close clan and very traditional as well. We’ve had the same Christmas Day schedule for as long as I can remember. We all arrive at my parent’s house early Christmas morning and enjoy a citrus punch called LeConte Sunrise while we wait for everyone to arrive. Then we gather in the den and Dad reads the Christmas story from Luke 2. After a time of sharing our blessings of the year and prayer we enjoy a scrumptious breakfast: egg strata, ham, sausage balls, muffins, fruit, and an assortment of jellies and jams.

Next it’s time to process, in order of age, to the basement for the giving of gifts. We attempt some semblance of order as we open our gifts and some years it works better than others. We always stop to watch my parents open their gifts. We all “ooh” and “aah” over the sentimental treasures that unfold.

Then we all go to our homes or to other relatives for the afternoon and re-gather at my home in the evening for our traditional Christmas Dinner of turkey and dressing with all the trimmings. It’s usually my responsibility to have a game, word puzzle, or trivia for us all to play around the table. It seems we end up closing every family meal, whether it’s a holiday dinner or Sunday lunch, the same way. We share humorous stories of days gone by. Believe me, when you’ve shared as many family vacations, worship services, meals, movie nights, school experiences, and holidays as we have, there are endless stories to tell. Our family has lived through many tragedies and triumphs together. We have a deep and abiding love for our Savior and for each other. This Christmas we’ll enjoy another season of shared blessings and probably create a few more stories to tell.

I would love to hear about your family traditions. Please click on the title of this blog, “Family Blessings.” Then if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll see a place to make your comment.
Enjoy these ideas for celebrating with your friends and family this Christmas.

Christmas Blessings Mix
This year count your blessings with Christmas Blessings Mix. Small bags are filled with a snack mix. Each ingredient reminds us of a holiday blessing.
Bugles: Bring us the joyful message of the Heavenly Host, announcing peace on earth, good will to men.
Pretzels: Symbol of a mother's loving arms; as Mary wrapped her Son in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.
Red Hots: Red berries that decorate the holly plant, a reminder of eternal life and Christ's redemption.
Nuts or seeds: Promise of a a future harvest, one we will reap only if seeds are planted and tended with diligence.
Dried fruits: Remind us of the rich gifts brought by the Wise Men.
M&Ms: Memories of those who came before us to guide us to a blessed future.
Hershey's Kiss: The love of family and friends that sweetens our lives.

Christmas Blessing Mix Recipe
2 cups Bugles brand corn snacks
2 cups small pretzels
1 cup cinnamon imperials candy ("red hots")
1 cup dried fruit bits or raisins
1 cup peanuts or sunflower seeds
1 cup M&Ms-brand chocolate candy
16 Hershey's-brand chocolate kisses
4 copies free printable bag toppers

In a large bowl, gently mix all ingredients except Hershey's Kisses.
Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup Christmas Blessing Mix in small cellophane treat bags or zipper food storage bags. Add one Hershey's Kiss to each bag. Seal bag or fold down top to seal.
Print 4 copies of the Christmas Blessing Mix bag toppers

Cut out tags, and attach one to each bag.
Makes 16 Christmas Blessing Mix gift bags.

Sharing Jar

The holidays are always great times to share special memories with friends and family. In order to stimulate ideas, consider using a “Sharing Jar.” Write questions on slips and paper, fold them, and place them in a jar. Pass the jar around the table and ask each person to select one to answer. Consider using these questions.

When you were a child, what games did you play in your house or neighborhood?
What is your full name? Who were you named for? How do you feel about your name?
What activities do you enjoy doing today that you also enjoyed as a child? Describe them.
What special skills did you learn as a child? Who taught you?
What were you best and worst subjects in elementary school? In middle school? In high school?
Do you have special childhood memories of playing with cousins? Talk about them.
How did you first meet your in-laws?
What is your favorite thing to do at home?
What is the one invention you could not live without and why?
What is your favorite animal? Tell why.
Who was a special teacher when you were in school?
How did you first meet your in-laws?
Who are some of your favorite people? Why?
What were the favorite places to go with your family when you were young?

Precious Name

Monday, November 29, 2010

This is a very special Advent season for our family. As we rejoice in the birth of Jesus, we look forward with much excitement to the birth of my first grandchild. My older son, Josh and his sweet wife Meredith will become parents in May. While we still don’t know if we’ll welcome a precious baby boy or girl, the entire clan is buzzing about possible names. Should it be a traditional name? An unusual name? How long should it be? What are the meanings of the potential names? And, of course, I’m all in a dither about what I, the grandmother, will be named. “Nanny” and “Grandma” were the names for my grandmothers. For me? I don’t think so. My own mother is “Gran,” so that one’s taken. My friend Peggy, with half-Greek grandchildren, is “Ya-Ya.” We’re not Greek, so that won’t work. Family and friends are weighing in on possible names. I shudder at the name my younger son is encouraging: “Big Maw!” Do I dare wait and let the child name me? Isn’t that a big risk? What if the little one comes out with something awkward or a little goofy like “Ging-Ging” or such? This is all in fun and whatever I’m named I’ll just rejoice to hold a precious child of God.

Mary and Joseph received the name for their baby through Gabriel, a messenger Archangel from God.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end
.” Luke 2:26-33 (NIV)

Joseph and Mary must also have recalled the words found in Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." (NIV) This does not mean, however, that the Messiah’s name would actually be Immanuel. Jesus was the meaning of Immanuel, "God with us." Immanuel is one of the many titles for Jesus.

In both the Old and New Testaments there are many names given to Jesus using the phrase “He shall be called.” This was a common way of saying that people would refer to Him in many different ways. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). These were descriptors of Jesus. Luke tells us Jesus “shall be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32) and “son of God” (1:35) and “the prophet of the Highest” (1:76), but none of these was His actual name. We also know that God, the Father, is named Jehovah, but Jesus was never actually called Jehovah. The title "Christ," which means "messiah," "deliverer," or "savior," was given to him by his followers.

Jesus is the name and there is no greater name. During this Advent season let’s remember to worship the name that is above every name – JESUS!

Precious Name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of Heav’n.
Precious Name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of Heav’n

Glad Game

Monday, November 22, 2010

Do you know anyone who could be described as a “Pollyanna?” The name is often used to poke fun at someone who is “excessively positive” or “blindly optimistic.” However, the original Pollyanna demonstrated traits that most of us would want to emulate.

In Eleanor Porter’s 1913 best-selling book Pollyanna the title character’s name became associated with someone who had an optimistic outlook. When Pollyanna was orphaned at a young age, she went to live with her stern Aunt Polly. Demonstrating an optimistic attitude learned from her preacher father, Pollyanna ended up bringing joy to Aunt Polly’s household. Little Polly’s life philosophy was centered on what she called the “Glad Game.” The game originated by her missionary parents one Christmas. Pollyanna had hoped for a doll to arrive in the gift shipment but found only a pair of crutches inside. On the spur of the moment, her dad created the Glad Game. He encouraged her to find something to be glad about in every situation. In the case of the crutches, he urged her to be glad because “we don’t need ‘em!”

The young girl learned to find the good in all situations. Pollyanna used her sunny disposition to make her aunt’s house and New England town a pleasant place to live.

Having a “Pollyanna” outlook doesn’t mean that we should ignore sadness or tragedy, but that we have faith that God will work all things for good to those who love him. Pollyanna demonstrated an attitude of gratitude. She chose to look for ways to be thankful.

We can play the Glad Game this Thanksgiving. We can choose to focus on the blessings God has provided us during the past year.

Consider creating your own way to express gratitude by using these activities for your Thanksgiving celebration this year.

Family Thanksgiving Journal
Use a blank journal or notebook and ask each family member to record a note of gratitude. Small children could draw pictures or paste pictures from magazines to show what they are thankful for. Remember to date each entry and add to it all year. Read the entries each Thanksgiving as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Thankful box
Use a small decorative box or decorate your own with butcher paper and leaves or wrapping paper. Provide a notepad and pens. Assign each family member or guest with the name of someone else. Ask them to write a note of praise about that person. At the end of the Thanksgiving dinner, read the notes aloud.

Gratitude Tree
Fill a vase with twigs. Collect beautiful fall leaves or cut leaves out of construction paper and place them in a basket next to the little tree you’ve created. Provide slips of paper and pens and ask your family members and guests to write down what they are thankful for. Then tape each slips to a leaf and tie it or tape it on a twig. Read the slips during your Thanksgiving dinner.

Thankful Tablecloth
Use a large solid color table cloth. On Thanksgiving trace each person's hand on the table cloth. Ask each person to write in the middle of the hand something they are thankful for and the year. Each year, on the same cloth, repeat the ritual. Enjoy looking back each year and reading the messages of gratitude.

Grateful Space
Create a "grateful space" on a poster, refrigerator, or cork board. Ask family members to post comments or pictures of anything they are thankful for. This display could be used throughout the year as a reminder of blessings.

Let us remember to praise God from whom all blessings flow!

"Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart" (Psalm 32:11).

Depressed Thinking

Monday, November 15, 2010

Have you ever “thought” yourself out of a problem? Ever “thought” yourself into a problem? You can do both.

There’s the story of an old man who ran a lunch counter during the Depression. He was a little blind and deaf, so he didn’t read all about the horrors of the Depression and didn’t hear all the negative talk. He had a very successful business when most businesses were failing. He even painted his lunch stand, put up bright advertising signs, and made food so delicious that people who didn’t have much money bought his food. The man worked hard and sent his son to college where the boy studied economics and learned about how bad things really were. When the son went home for Christmas, he told his father something was really wrong in the world. He told his pop that he shouldn’t be so successful. There was a Depression on. The father began to think it over and he began to listen to the talk around him. Then he started to think negative thoughts. He decided to re-think painting his stand that year. Instead of investing in his business, he made up his mind to save his money. He cut down on the amount of hamburger he put in his sandwiches. The result: his business suffered. When his son came home for Easter, the father thanked him. He said the information you gave me about the Depression is true. “I feel it in my business. A college education is a wonderful thing.”

What affected the man’s business? The Depression or his thinking about the Depression? This was a case of Depressed Thinking!

Every action is preceded by a thought. Let’s make sure we don’t think ourselves into a problem!

Even in bleak economic times, it’s important to focus on encouraging and positive messages. I enjoy listening to positive Christian radio and playing inspirational book CDs in my car. Audio books, sermons and inspirational talks are fairly inexpensive, and I enjoy exchanging them with my friends.

Check out these free Christian resources!
Each month Christian Audio gives away one premium audio book download for free. At this site you can also find hundreds of free lectures, sermons, interviews, and podcasts. provides links to 3rd party websites that contain a wonderful collection of FREE, high-quality, Christian materials.

Let’s find ways to encourage and not discourage each up during hard times! Positive biblical messages are meant to encourage us. Let’s share them with others.

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4 (NLT)

Clean Engine

Monday, November 8, 2010

A billboard slogan read, “A clean engine always delivers power.” This slogan registered with me because my “check engine” light had appeared on my dashboard, and I knew I needed to schedule an oil change. The oil is the lifeblood of the engine and the quality of the oil is important to make it run efficiently. In the previous oil change, I had used an expensive synthetic oil. However, this time I decided to go back to the mineral oil. The technician warned me about going back and forth between the two kinds too often. In essence, he explained that it was confusing to the engine to make it fluctuate between the two. He basically said, if you've been using synthetic and change down to a mineral-based oil, your engine might not be able to cope with the degradation. Whoa! Degradation! That sounds pretty awful! Filth and ruin in my cute white convertible! I don’t think so!

Do we ever downgrade our minds? We go to church or Bible study each week and fill our minds with positive biblical messages. But what happens during the rest of the week? Are we filling our minds with impure, negative, mean-spirited, or ugly thoughts? Are we guilty of gossip, criticism, or sarcasm? When we downgrade the input of our minds, we too have trouble coping with the degradation. Our minds need an oil change too. We need to put in a high quality of positive, faith-based thoughts and flush out the negative thoughts.

A mind free of negatives will produce positives. A clean mind will deliver power, so we need to flush out our negative thoughts in order to have a clean mind.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16 & 17 (NIV)

Power of Appreciation

Monday, November 1, 2010

Who doesn’t like to be liked? We all seek acceptance from those around us. It’s part of human nature to yearn for a place in the heart of others. Ask anyone in your workplace what treatment they most want at work. They will likely top their list with the desire to be treated with dignity and respect. As Aretha Franklin says, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T - find out what it means to me.”

When Sally Field received her second Oscar for her starring role in the 1984 drama Places in the Heart, she offered a memorable acceptance speech. She said, "I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" She wanted the acceptance and respect of her peers.

According to Maslow, man has a hierarchy of needs. After our basic physical needs are met and we feel safe and secure, we have a need for love, friendship, and belonging. John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and education reformer, said a person’s deepest urge is his “desire to be important.”

One of the first Americans to be paid a salary over a million dollars a year was Charles Schwab, who became president of United States Steel Company in 1921. When asked why he was chosen for this position and was paid such a high salary when there were many others who knew more about the steel industry, Schwab said it was largely because of his ability to deal with people. In his own words, “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm in my people, the greatest asset I posses, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.”

We all have a need to be acknowledged, recognized, noticed, and appreciated.

How can we make others feel appreciated? The Golden Rule sums up the best method for treating others with respect –

Do to others what you would have them do to you. Matthew 7:12

How did Jesus teach us to treat others? Two of the beatitudes provide some insight into the way Christians are supposed to relate to their fellowmen. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). If we want others to show mercy to us, we need to show mercy to others. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9). This verse reminds us to promote peace in our relationships. Matthew described the "compassion" of Jesus. Matthew says: "Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitude, he was moved with compassion, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (Mt. 9:35-36).

Jesus taught us to love others and treat them with compassion, gentleness, generosity, kindness and forgiveness. When we follow his pattern, others will feel appreciated. The one who gives and the one who receives appreciation will be blessed!

Who in your world needs to feel appreciated today?

The Thinker

Monday, October 25, 2010

A few years ago I was able to see the bronze and marble sculpture The Thinker by Auguste Rodin in Paris. I remember puzzling over the replica of this sculpture in our home as a child. What was The Thinker thinking? I had also seen the 1960s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which began or ended with Dobie sitting on a park bench posing like the sculpture with a reproduction in the background. The statue depicts a man in sober meditation battling with a powerful internal struggle. I wonder if the thinker is weighed down by heavy thoughts. Has he let negativity creep in? Are his thoughts cluttered? Is he unable to get up and get moving? Has he let little negatives grow into big negatives? What would it take for him to move from a state of thinking to a state of action?

Have you ever stopped to consider the little negative expressions that might clutter your mind or your conversations? We hear hundreds of them throughout the day.

“I’m afraid I’m going to be late.”
“What if I fail?”
“I could never do that.”
“This day will never end.”
“Bad luck always finds its way to me.”
“There’s too much to get done.”
“I’ll never make it.”
“This is too hard.”
“It’s not worth it.”
“I’m a loser.”

To a degree we all struggle with leaping from trivial problems to unrealistic conclusions. If we’re not careful though, those little negatives will take over our thought process and prevent us from moving forward in a positive way. Thoughts can multiply and so can the damage of a negative thought. Some of these notions are called “automatic thoughts” that reflect core beliefs and are habitual responses to situations. Automatic thoughts often help us make good decisions in a hurry, but sometimes these thoughts aren’t accurate. Chronic negativity about self or others is an indication that our thoughts are inaccurate. Negative thoughts will clutter our mind and then one negative thought leads to another and another and another. This thought clutter leads to persistent brooding or rumination. From the Latin for “chewing cud,” the word rumination describes cattle that grind up, swallow, regurgitate and rechew their feed. Similarly, we grind up our disappointments, weaknesses, and issues and mull them over at length – ad nauseum!

We can overcome these little negative and ruminations.
1. Become conscious of them.
2. Remember: “What I think on expands!”
3. Replace a negative thought with a positive one.
4. Ask God to take every thought captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
5. Dwell on good things. Make a blessings list and post it!

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Emergency Powers

Monday, October 18, 2010

A few nights ago I had fallen into a deep sleep when suddenly the phone rang. I sat straight up in bed and my heart began to pound the way it does when my mind tells my body, “An alarm has sounded, get moving…now!” It turned out to be a wrong number but at that point my body was in overdrive and it took a couple of hours for the adrenaline flow to get back to normal.

The “emergency powers” of my brain had activated my body. We all have these emergency powers that lie dormant as we go through the routine of daily living. However, in extra ordinary circumstances, we are able to call up extra powers. The brain has powerful hormones that are intended for short-term duty in emergency situations. The emotional and physical responses we have to stress are set in motion by a series of chemical releases and reactions. When we deal with emotional stress, our bodies react in order to help us cope. The term stress is short for distress, a word evolved from Latin that means "to draw or pull apart." When we’re “stressed out”, most of us probably think we’re being pulled apart. In fact, our typical response to stress is “fight or flight.” When we’re under stress our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) turns on a fight or flight response. The SNS rapidly prepares us to deal with a perceived threat. Once this stress response has been activated, the system keeps us in a state of readiness so that we can deal with the problem at hand. Hormones are released that allow us to cope with a stressful situation. Our adrenal glands release adrenaline that increases our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. We then have more energy and our senses become keener and we are less sensitive to pain. This system is put in place to help us in an emergency situation only.

Unfortunately, some of us stay in this emergency state day after day, “living on the edge” or “wired.” If we continue to live in a high level of stress, our bodily functions will suffer. Our growth, reproduction, and immune systems go on hold, and we increase our chances of getting sick. When we have a continuous stress hormone release and daily compromised immunity system, we end up with what is sometimes called, “adrenal fatigue.”

It’s important to calm down this emergency system and let our body return to normal. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) promotes the relaxation response and is responsible for helping us to regain our metabolic balance. If our minds and bodies have been called on to deal with stress for a long period of time, we will need to make a conscious effort to relax. Our systems are typically slow to calm down. The job of the PNS is to help us “rest and digest.” The PNS works to save energy so that our blood pressure decreases, our heart beats slower, and digestion can start.

I’m thankful God designed our bodies so that we can cope with emergencies that come our way. The greatest source of emergency power though is found in a deep abiding faith in Jesus Christ. In his words,

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Popular 19th Century minister Charles Spurgeon put it this way -
“Come to Jesus by quitting every other hope, by thinking of Him, believing God’s testimony about Him, and trusting everything with Him. If you come to Him, the rest He gives you will be deep, safe, holy, and everlasting. He gives a rest which develops into heaven, and He gives it this day to all who come to Him.”

Real rest is in Him!

This One Thing

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Information Kiosk in the center of Grand Central Station in New York City must be one of the busiest, most tension-filled ten-square feet of real estate in the world. In line at the kiosk to ask a question Norman Vincent Peale observed the bespectacled clerk with fascination. There was a constant barrage of passengers in need of immediate answers to their burning questions. The clerk showed no signs of tension. Even though he was subjected to heavy pressures, he was one of the calmest people Peale had ever seen.

Peale recalls seeing in the front of the line a short, plumb woman with a shawl tied around her head and little whiskers growing from her chin. The clerk leaned toward her and politely asked, “Yes, madam?” He then focused clearly on her and asked, “Where was it you were going.”
A well-dressed man with a briefcase and expensive hat tried to interrupt, but the clerk kept focused on the woman. “Where was it you were going?”
“And that was Springfield, Ohio?”
With the timetable clearly memorized, the clerk responded, “That train leaves on Track 25 in just ten minutes. You don’t need to run; you have plenty of time.”
“Did you say Track 25?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
The woman turned to leave and the nicely dressed gentleman stepped to the front of the line as she asked once again, “Did you say it was Track 25?”
But this time the clerk was giving his full attention to his new passenger.
When there was a lull in the conversation, Peale took the opportunity to ask the information man a question. “I’ve been admiring the way you handle the public. Tell me, how can you do it and keep so calm?”
The man raised his head and looked at Peale through his bifocals. “I don’t deal with the public. I deal with one passenger. And then with another passenger. It’s just one person at a time right on through the day. Now where was it your were going?”

Isn’t that a good lesson for dealing with stress! When customer after customer, issue after issue, problem after problem creeps in their “petty pace from day to day,” we can remember, “One thing at a time.”

St. Paul said, “This one thing I do.” (Philippians 3:13) All we have is one minute at a time. When life rushes in and begins to crowd us, let’s remember, “This one thing I do.” When others interrupt, let’s remember to politely say, “Just one minute, please.” Instead of fretting and fuming, let’s practice doing one thing at a time and doing it well. This habit will ease stress and give us calmness and peace of mind.

God's CPS

Sunday, October 3, 2010

When I was a high school English teacher, one of the classroom objectives was to teach Creative Problem Solving (CPS). This strategy is a mental process of solving a problem independently by using novel and innovative solutions. We all deal with challenges at home, at work, in school, and in community that require creative problem solving. Have you ever considered that one of the most important aspects of prayers is as stimulus to creative ideas? We have within us the ability to live creatively and constructively through the power of prayer. What better way to stimulate creativity than to go to the greatest creator of all! God IS creativity!

The Bible says we are made in his “image and likeness” so we have his creative attributes within us.

The New Testament tells us, “The Kingdom of God is within you,” (Luke 17:21) God’s creativity is within us.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we are his workmanship – his craft, his handiwork, his creation. God prepared us with his creativity to do good works.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Norman Vincent Peale told of a businessman who met periodically with other executives in “idea sessions” in order to tap into their creative ideas. The group spent 10 minutes in quiet prayer and meditation asking God to release proper ideas for the business. The next step was to pour out ideas, write them down on cards, and spread them on the table. No one criticized the others’ ideas, for the purpose of this initial session was to tap into creative ideas. The follow-up meeting provided an opportunity for them to develop their ideas. The men expressed that this process allowed them insight into challenges, gave them a feeling of confidence, and provided them fellowship.

Like these businessmen, we too can spend time in prayer and meditation asking God to release his creativity in us. Just think about the positive effect of God’s Creative Problem Solving – God’s CPS! We can have his creativity to solve our problems, to deal with our relationships, to share the Good News, to show love to the unlovely, and to repay evil with good. The possibilities are endless!

As we draw closer to Christ, we grow more Christ like. Let’s connect to Christ through prayer and meditation and draw from his Divine Creativity.


Monday, September 27, 2010

The operator of a health club used a clever strategy to promote a positive message to his clients. While he probed his patrons for physical flabbiness, he also probed them for spiritual flabbiness. He placed a sign on his wall with the following letters: A P R P B W P R A A. His goal was to attract the curious who would ask him the meaning. When questioned about the unusual group of letters, he would laugh and say, “They stand for ‘Affirmative Prayers Release Powers By Which Positive Results Are Accomplished.” He believed affirmative prayers always got results. He practiced praying positive prayers to God instead of whining to God.

Affirmative prayer is a prayer that focuses on a positive outcome rather than a negative situation. The prayer affirms that your desired intention has already happened.

Affirmative prayers are rooted in the New Thought Movement that developed in the United States during the late 19th century. This movement promoted the benefits of positive thinking and was the forerunner of our self-help books and positive thinking books we read today.

Jesus, our greatest teacher, guided us in the use of affirmative prayer when he said, "So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24).

Suggestions for Affirmative Prayer:

1. State the positive intent without mentioning the fear or the opposite of what is desired.

2. State the intent as if it has already occurred and/or as if it is presently occurring rather than stating it will happen in the future.

3. Express the prayer with gratitude and emotion.

God, in the uncertainty of daily living, I’m grateful that you are my rock, my anchor, my guide. As I turn over my thoughts, words, and actions to you today, I thank you for the peace and blessings I receive from you.

Vacuum Cleaner Method

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I read a story about a leader who uses the “vacuum-cleaner method” with his staff when they are discussing a work dilemma. Through a series of questions he “sucks the dust” out of his associates minds. He uses this strategy to draw out their negative attitudes. First he presents potential solutions to a problem, then he asks them to share all the possible ways that these resolutions will not work. One after one they have their say. While many of their comments would provide sound reasoning, I imagine some of their comments might sound like negative mind chatter familiar to all of us.

“That’s a crazy idea!”
“That would cost too much.”
“That will take way too much time.”
“We’ve never done it that way before.”
“We’ll never get finished at this rate.”

After hearing their remarks, the leader dismisses the meeting and asks them to return the next day to finish the dialogue. At the second conference, he tells them that no negative talk will be allowed. Then he quietly suggests positive ideas concerning the proposals. He asks them to participate in the discussion offering their own constructive suggestions. Eventually the team develops a new set of attitudes. They begin to explore the possibilities of the solutions instead of the improbabilities.

Maybe we need to use the “vacuum-cleaner method” on our own negative thinking. Sometimes we view our situations through a “dusty” lens. We focus on the depressing, gloomy aspects of our circumstances. Our negative mind chatter overtakes our thinking. We tend to build up obstacles in our imagination and these barriers often become reality. Difficulties must be studied and dealt with in order for us to eliminate them, but we must see them for worth they are worth. We should seek to minimize them and not inflate them.

Like the business leader, we too can acknowledge the challenges of our circumstances and then move forward to positive solutions. It’s often a daily challenge to clean out the dust of pessimistic thinking. When a negative thought enters your mind, try replacing it with a positive one. When life’s predicaments try to get the best of me, I recite the following personal affirmations based on scripture.

“If God be for me, who can be against me? (Romans 8:31)
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
“I am in God’s hands” and “The kingdom of God is within me.” (Luke 17:21)

Flash Prayers

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In his book, Prayer, the Mightiest Power in the World, Frank Lauback, wrote that he had a habit of “shooting” prayers at people as he passed them. He called them “flash prayers” and bombarded passers-by with prayers of love and good will. He proudly swished love and prayers all over the place. These flash prayers send out positive power and good will that passes between human beings.

Our brains have 2 billion little storage batteries providing us a huge capacity to send out good thoughts and prayers. Our bodies have thousands of little sending and receiving stations to handle all the prayers that are transmitted throughout the day.

Consider shooting these Flash Prayers by Norman Vincent Peale as you encounter people throughout the day.

When someone on the street looks tired or sorrowful:
God, put your hand on that person and lift their spirit. Comfort them in whatever makes them sad.

When unexpected bad news hits:
Lord, help me to take this. Help me to meet it with dignity and courage. Don’t let my faith sag. Lord, I need you now. Be with me.

When you’re feeling stressed:
God, don’t let me get too frazzled. Keep me calm and doing one thing at a time. I feel your presence. Thank you.

When you read about a family that has suffered a tragedy:
God, with your great love bring comfort and peace to that sad family.

When someone is frustrating you:
God, give me self-control. Don’t let me say anything I will regret later. Also, keep me from looking like I am fighting for control. Help me to say the right thing now.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Did you know that your thoughts affect us physically? If you mind tells your body that you’re tired, your body accepts the fact. However if your mind is intensely engaged in an activity, your body will continue indefinitely. This is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (chick-SENT-me-high-ee) calls flow.

In his work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi writes that people are most happy when they are in a state of flow— a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity they are involved in. It’s often called being in the zone or in the groove. In the flow state a person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing. We all have the feeling at times when we are fully absorbed and can ignore concerns such as time and food. In an interview with Wired magazine, Csíkszentmihályi described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one.”

Flow happens when one has an optimal experience. Flow and religion have been connected from earliest times. When we have a profound spiritual experience of fullness, we experience flow. Our religious activities are designed to connect us with God. When we worship God with all our heart with all our soul and with all our mind, we are connected to God. When we connect to God, we experience spiritual flow.

Let’s experience flow with God this week as we meditate on his Word and fellowship with him in prayer.

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:36-38

Remembering Names

Monday, August 30, 2010

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

Learning names is very important in developing personal relationships with other. Remembering names is often challenging. Try my “Clear” glue strategy for getting someone’s name to “stick” in your memory.

Commit – Commit to pay attention. Make a conscious decision to remember people's names.
When being introduced to a new person, we are often more concerned about saying our own name, or shaking hands, or what the other person looks like (or maybe even how we look). To have any chance of remembering names, you obviously must hear and understand the person's name when they say it. This takes conscious effort and may require some practice.

Look and Listen--Look at the person. Notice physical characteristics. Is the person tall, short, large, small? Are there unusual traits? Get a strong mental image of the person. Listen clearly to the name. Ask the person to repeat his/her name if you do not hear the name clearly.

Exaggerate -- Exaggerate the images. Make them funny.

Associate -- Associate the name with an image, sound, or feeling.
If you are visual, associate the person's name with a familiar image or famous person. Jack can be pictured climbing a beanstalk. Arnold can be pictured as the “Terminator.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt continually amazed his staff by remembering the names of nearly everyone he met. He used to imagine seeing the name written across the person's forehead.

Or create an image that links the person’s name to a physical characteristic of the person. Picture a dollar bill glued on Bill’s forehead.

If you are tuned in to sounds, make a rhyme or song using the person’s name.
Susan is a cruisin’. Larry isn’t hairy.

If you prefer to think of sensory feelings, try linking the name to the impression the person makes or to a reaction you have to the person.
Donna Pliner is a whiner.
Patty is pushy.

Repeat—Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
• Use the name immediately.
• Repeat it silently to yourself.
• Comment on the name, if possible.
• Use it occasionally in the conversation without overdoing it.
• Use it when leaving.
• Write it down afterwards.

I hope you have fun trying out these strategies!

Lincoln's Lesson

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Do you or someone you know suffer from a critical spirit? When he was a young man, Abraham Lincoln took up the habit of criticism. He wrote letters and poems ridiculing people and dropped them along country roads for others to find. Once Lincoln sent a letter to the town newspaper criticizing a politician and ended up with a life changing lesson. Lincoln had been elected to the Illinois state legislature as a Whig, and James Shields was a Democrat and the State Auditor of Illinois. When Lincoln disagreed with a proclamation Shields had issued, he put his sarcastic wit and talent together and sent a series of letters to the local newspaper. Soon others were weighing in and before long, Shields became a laughing stock in the community. Indignant at being publicly humiliated, Shields challenged Lincoln to a duel. Even though duels were illegal, the townspeople loved watching them. All politicians knew that to refuse a duel would show cowardice and would be a political dead-end, so Lincoln agreed. The young Lincoln chose his weapon, took sword fighting lessons from a West Point graduate, and on the appointed day, reported to the sandbar on the Mississippi River ready to fight to the death. The friends of the duelers sought desperately to resolve the issue peacefully. At the last minute, the 6’4” Lincoln demonstrated his obvious physical advantage by hacking away at some of the branches of a nearby tree. Finally, Shields agreed to settle their differences in a more peaceful way. After the unfortunate incident, the two became civil in their relationship and remained friends and political allies for the rest of their careers.

Embarrassed by the entire incident, Lincoln learned a valuable lesson in the art of dealing with people. Never again did he write the insulting letters. In fact, one of his favorite quotations became, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” During the Civil War when others spoke harshly of southerners, Lincoln replied, “Don’t criticize them, they are just what we would be under different circumstances.”

The next time we’re ready to criticize someone else, it would serve us well to consider how we might be under different circumstances. Or as the mid-sixteenth-century John Bradford uttered in reference to a group of prisoners being led to execution. “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

The next time we’re set on making someone else look bad or criticizing them, let’s pull out a five dollar bill, and ask, “What would Lincoln do?” Better yet, let’s ask, “What would Jesus do?”

Jesus taught the disciples how to treat others. Luke 6:26-31 tells us
27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Proverbs 15:13 – “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.”

An ancient Chinese proverb sums up the importance of a smile: “A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” A smile radiates warmth that draws people in. It sends a message of good will. The effect of a smile is so powerful that telephone companies used to train their employees to smile when they talked to customers. Your smile comes through your voice.


Have you ever studied your face? Do you look friendly? Approachable? Does your face automatically relax into a smile? Do your eyes smile? If not, practice smiling into a mirror. Raise your eyebrows to open your eyes. Then memorize the way it feels. Notice the muscles you are using. Consciously create a happy face and use it when you are around others.


Enjoy these “Smile” Quotes
• Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. Mark Twain
• Brighten the world with your smile. - Author Unknown
• Smiles are free: don’t save them. - Author Unknown
• Smile - it makes people wonder what you’ve been up to. Author Unknown
• A smile confuses an approaching frown. - Author Unknown
• A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. - Phyllis Diller
• Start every day with a smile and get it over with. - W.C. Fields
• A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks. - Charles Gordy
• If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it. - Andy Rooney
• If you smile at someone, they might smile back. - Author Unknown
• Everyone smiles in the same language. - Author Unknown
• A smile is the universal welcome. - Max Eastman
• You're never fully dressed without a smile. - Martin Charnin
• It takes seventeen muscles to smile and forty-three to frown. - Author Unknown
• If you would like to spoil the day for a grouch, give him a smile. - Author Unknown
• Peace begins with a smile. - Mother Teresa
• A smile is a powerful weapon; you can even break ice with it. - Author Unknown

In the Name

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dale Carnegie asserts, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” One of the simplest ways to make people feel appreciated is by remembering names. Our name sets us apart. It makes us unique. When I was a classroom teacher, I used to play the “name game” on the first day of school. I introduced myself to a student who introduced me to another student. Each student in turn introduced himself and all the previously named students. By the end of the game, I had heard each student’s name multiple times and was able to recite everyone’s name. This simple game was the first step in developing a relationship with my students.

Remembering and honoring the names of his friends and associates was one of the keys to Andrew Carnegie’s success as a leader. He could recall many of his factor workers by name and while he was personally in charge of the steel company, there were no workman strikes. FDR took time to remember and recall the names of his staff, even the mechanics for his car.

Napoleon the Third, Emperor of France, boasted that he could recall then name of every person he met. If he didn’t hear the name distinctly, he could ask the person to repeat it. He would often ask them to spell it. During the conversation he repeated the name several times and tried to associate the name with the person’s features, expressions, and general appearance. When he was alone, he wrote down the name, concentrated on it, and then tore the paper.

Jesus knew the importance of recognizing people by their names. In John 10:3 Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd who calls his own sheep by name. What Jesus was proclaiming was that he as our Shepherd knows us intimately. When Mary Magdalene stood sorrowfully outside the tomb after Jesus’ death, Jesus called her my name. Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” John 20:16. Her mourning was turned to dancing at the sound of her name. Because of his job as a tax collector, the local Jewish community would have hated Zacchaeus and yet Jesus did two things that welcomed him into the family of God: he called him by name and dined with him. Through Jesus’ example we see the importance of knowing names in order to develop relationships.

Let’s also remember that the name of Jesus is actually the sweetest name of all. His name is above every name. Thanks be to God!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, Philippians 2:9 & 10


Monday, July 26, 2010

Living in overwhelm can mean having too much to do and not enough time to do it. Or it can mean having limited time and energy to get tasks done. Or it could mean living with the fear that you’re not capable of getting a job done. Overwhelm has emotional overtones of stress and anxiety, and it exhibits itself physically, as well. Chronic overwhelm is one of the major causes of anxiety and anxiety disorders. When you’re overwhelmed, your mind overloads with all that’s going on. When you’re overwhelmed, you feel as if you’re carrying a heavy load, a burden. Carrying around this weight takes a toll on your nervous, immune and hormonal systems, and left unattended, likely will produce cycles of anxiety, fatigue and temporary despair. People on this kind of overload are more susceptible to disease and they age faster. What can you do about overload?

My guilt overwhelms me— it is a burden too heavy to bear. Psalm 38:4

An ancient Greek myth holds that Zeus punished the Titans for waging war against him. As the leader of the Titans, Atlas received a harsh punishment. He was forced to hold up an extraordinarily heavy weight. The proverbial version has him holding the weight of the world on his shoulders. When we become overstressed and overwhelmed, we often feel we’re holding the weight of the world on our shoulders. Each year when I go to New York City, I walk past the GE Building and see a huge statue of Atlas, straining under the weight of the world. Then I walk across the street and down the block to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There I see the beautiful Pieta statue, a work of art that depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. I am reminded that when he died on the cross, Jesus took the weight of this world’s sin and sorrow off our shoulders and put it on His shoulders.

Are you letting him carry your weight?

Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the Godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:2


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let’s look at problems as opportunities. They are opportunities to grow our faith and often to grow relationships. They’re a lot like dumbbells. The word dumbbells originated in Tudor England when athletes used hand-held church bells to develop their upper body and arms. The bells ranged in weight from a few ounces to many pounds. Since the church bells would have made a great deal of noise, the athletes would take out the clappers so they could practice quietly; hence the name "dumb,” as in "no sound", and "bell" – dumbbell. I use them nearly every day. I don’t really like them. My arms get tired when I lift them over and over. When I put the dumbbell in my arms and then raise my arms above my head, I’m not really having fun, but the activity of lifting the dumbbells will eventually make me stronger. In the short term, I get tired. In the long term, I’ll grow stronger.

If we look at problems as opportunities to grow and learn, we can rest assured that we will be stronger in the long run. In the middle of a problem, it’s good to ask, “What can I learn from this? How is this making me stronger?” Remember, it’s not the final solution that makes us stronger; it’s the activity of solving the problem that makes us stronger.

Part of the activity of working out our problems is calling on God for guidance. The Bible teaches us that God is with us. When Jesus was born, he was called Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) He’s a friend that sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) We can talk to him and lean on him. We can run to him with our inmost thoughts. He is always available. He wants to help us sort out life’s smallest and greatest problems.

It’s in lifting the dumbbells that we develop our muscles. In sorting out the challenges of life, we exercise our faith and develop our spiritual muscles. Lifting weights is a physical workout; problem-solving is a mental and spiritual workout.

Like the English athletes who silenced the bells, let’s silence our complaints and use our problems as opportunities to grow stronger. Let’s exercise our faith.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. I Timothy 4:8

Staying Power

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pancho Gonzalez was the world’s number one professional tennis player for an unequalled eight years in the 1950s and early 1960s. He is still widely considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. A 1999 Sports Illustrated selected him number 15 in the magazine's 20 "favorite athletes" of the 20th century. In 1948 this virtually unknown player won the national tennis championship in a grueling battle. A sports writer commented that Gonzales had a marvelous serve and a skillful volley but said the factor that won the championship was his staying power. “He was never defeated by the discouraging vicissitudes of the game.” In other words, he didn’t let the constant changes or fluctuations get the best of him. When the game didn’t go his way, he didn’t let discouragement creep into his thoughts. The player was able to face his obstacles and run with endurance the race set before him.

More recently, two young men, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, vied in another Wimbledon tennis match, the longest game in the tournament’s history. Isner of Tampa, Florida, came out as winner after 11 hours and 5 minutes. Previously, neither Isner nor Mahut of France had made it past the first round in the tournament at Wimbledon.

It was a grueling three days. It has been estimated that during the course of the tournament each player sprinted 24 miles and sweated nearly 10 pounds of water. Their body temperatures probably vacillated between 95 and 105 degrees. Some say they could have burned 6,000 calories during the marathon event. Isner reportedly consumed 12 energy bars and gallons of water and energy drinks during the match. He attributed practice in Florida’s intense heat and humidity to his ability to endure. Isner told NBC's "Today" show that he'd gotten a mere "six hours" of sleep the night before the final match and had "no skin left on any of my toes.”

Sports psychologists have noted that players must also go through emotional conditioning in order to handle the stress. The men seemed equal in skill and determination. Both needed to be single-minded in their effort to endure a match of this length.

Both men had staying power. They did not become defeated by the vicissitudes of the game. How do we get that staying power? How can we never become defeated by the vicissitudes of the game?

How do we train so that we’ll last through the hard times? What can we learn from these young men about duration? About tasting victory? About never giving up?

We too can be strong when facing trials. We must train our minds, bodies, and spirit to go the distance. Scripture reminds us to throw away anything that entangles us and to run with perseverance to win the race. With God’s help we can win. We can last. We too can have staying power.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

The Slump

Monday, July 5, 2010

Josh O’Reilly, manager San Antonio Club in the middle of the last century, had a roster of great players but they were in a slump. They experienced loss after loss. O’Reilly knew he had a team of powerful and successful hitters, but they had lost confidence in themselves. He wanted to help them to regain belief in their ability to hit. O’Reilly asked each player to give him his two best bats. They were to stay in the clubhouse until he returned. He put the bats in a wheelbarrow and off he went with them. An hour later he returned and told them he’d gone to Schlater, a popular neighborhood preacher who claimed to be a faith healer. The manager told his players that the preacher had blessed the bats. He said the bats contained a power that could not be overcome. The players were delighted and enthusiastic about the news. The next day they overwhelmed Dallas. They won again and again. They even won their way to the championship that year.

Now what happened to the San Antonio team? What caused their amazing turnaround? Was there power in the bats? No, it was in their minds. They began thinking in terms of expectation, not doubt. They began to expect the best. A new thought pattern changed the men and they lived up to those new expectations.

What do you do when you’re in a slump? Do you complain that good fortune always passes you by? Do you eventually give up and settle for less than your best? Do you begin to expect the worst and then always get it? How do you get re-charged when you get it a slump? Consider going to the real source of power, the power we get through our faith. The New Testament provides powerful scripture to inspire us and encourage us to get out of a slump. Norman Vincent Peale compiled 40 scripture passages that he called 40 Thought Conditioning Verses and suggested we memorize them and let them fill our conscious with positive thoughts. Following these faith concepts will change us from skeptics to expecters and then achievers.

Enjoy these “thought conditioning verses” –

Thought Conditioner No. 1
The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27
Thought Conditioner No. 2
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
Thought Conditioner No. 3
Renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Thought Conditioner No. 4
Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Thought Conditioner No. 5
What things you desire, when ye pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them. Mark 11:24

Bird Waking

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In his book The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale told of a successful businessman who was always in a rush. Each morning he jumped out of bed and hit the ground running. He was in such a hurry to get the day started that he made soft-boiled eggs “because they slid down fast.” Then one morning as he looked outside his window, he noticed a bird waking from his night’s sleep. The bird slept with his head under his wing and his feathers pulled around his little body. As he awoke, he pulled his bill from under his feathers and stretched one leg. Next he wrapped his wing like a fan over the leg. Then he repeated the process with the other leg. Resting a bit more, he laid his head on his feathers for a quick nap and then poked out his head again. This time the bird threw his head back, stretched his wings and legs and sent up a thrilling, melodic song of praise to the day. After hopping down from the limb, he dunked his beak in the bird bath and then started looking for breakfast. The high-strung, tense businessman said to himself, “If that’s the way the birds get up, sort of slow and easy like, why wouldn’t it be a good method for me to start the day that way?”

What can we learn from our fair feathered friend about starting our day?

He woke up slowly.
He stretched.
He paused for a meditation.
He sang a song of praise.
He refreshed himself with water.
He went in search of food.

“This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Let’s remember to wake up slowly with a time for meditation and praise to our creator.

Hole in the Wall Prayer

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Norman Vincent Peale, in his book The Power of Positive Thinking, tells the story of a man who opened a small New York City business and described it as a “little hole in the wall.” In order to grow the business this man vowed to fill the “little hole in the wall” with prayers and optimistic thoughts. He used his own creative thinking and a curious formula that he credits for his very successful business operation. The formula for this three-point prayer method is...



The man practiced a daily system of creative prayer. When he encountered a problem, he talked it over with God by praying without ceasing. He conceived God as being present in his home, his office, and his car. God was as near as his closest friend. He discussed everything with God in a natural, normal tone of voice. God's presence dominated his conscious and unconscious thinking. Living by prayer, he "prayerized" his life. By prayerizing his mind, he was able to influence his actions.


The next step of the “curious formula” was to “picturize” the future. In psychological terms Peale called this type of visualization a “realizable wish.” The belief is that when success or failure is picturized, it tends to actualize.

This idea has been expressed throughout the ages:

  • Proverbs 23:7: “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
  • Psychologist-philosopher William James: "Belief (confidant thought) creates the actual fact".
  • Clergyman William Ellery Channing: "Secret study, silent thought, is the mightiest agent in, human affairs. What a man does outwardly is but the expression and completion of his inward Thought.”
  • Rev. Jonathan Edwards: "The ideas and images (thoughts) in men's mind are the invisible powers that constantly govern them
  • Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can or think you can't-you are right."

Today, psychologists refer to Peale’s picturizing as creative visualizing or imaging. With this strategy a person doesn’t just think about success, he or she sees success.

Peale was quick to point out the importance of praying about a matter and testing it according to God’s will before picturizing it happening. When considering this technique, it’s important to pray for God’s direction and will. Then, once you are convinced that you are moving in God’s will, imprint a picture in your mind as if it is happening. Surrender the picture to God’s will and follow his guidance in his timing at his pace. When picturizing, we must remember to do our part to achieve success in the matter.


If you have petitioned God’s help in the situation and visualized it getting resolved according to God’s plan, you will be amazed at how the picture is actualized. Peale’s belief was that what we prayerize and picturize will actualize when we invoke God’s power on it and give ourselves fully to its realization.

A realizable wish + God’s power + your power = actualization.

Is there something that God is asking you to do that you need to actualize? Why not try to prayerize and picturize it?

God's Tempo

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One of my favorite family vacations when I was a little girl was to Callaway Gardens. I experienced the thrill of life under the big top watching the “Flying High” Circus show. I was mesmerized by the skill of the swinging trapeze artists as they executed their dynamic tricks swinging from bar to bar. Their movements required precise timing and made me gasp and then “ooh” and “ahh!” These artists knew the art of synchronization.

What does it mean to be synchronized? Synchronization is a timekeeping mechanism that keeps a system in unison. The conductor of an orchestra serves to keep the orchestra in time. If the orchestra goes faster than the conductor, the two systems are not in sync. The orchestra will finish before the conductor if the two systems don’t work together on their pace.

In our spiritual life we need to practice synchronization too. We need to be in sync with God’s tempo. God is our conductor who serves to keep our body, mind, and spirit in time. Our lives function best when they’re lived in God’s rhythm. God’s rhythm is seen in his pattern of growth and rest. To create his masterpiece, God spent six days working and then had a day of rest. God’s rhythm often requires us to slow down in order to get in sync with him.

The big challenge is to get our rhythm in sync with God’s. Sometimes musicians use a metronome in order to establish a consistent tempo. A metronome is any device that produces regular, metrical beats. These ticks represent a fixed pulse; some metronomes also include synchronized visual motion like a pendulum or a swing. What can be use as our spiritual metronome? What can we do to understand and get in rhythm with God?

We can observe the tempo of God’s creation. Listen to the melodies of the birds, frogs, crickets, and cicadas. Take note of the steady rhythm of their songs. We see his rhythm in the consistent rise and fall of the ocean tide and in the dependable rising and setting of the sun. God created nature to move in these predictable and steady beats. He created us to follow his steady beat also.

God’s beat is found in his Word and through communication with him. Scripture tells us the pace we are to live.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19 & 20)

He orders our steps at his pace. He directs our paths at his pace. He leads us by the way we should go at his pace. He teaches us the way to go at his pace. He guides us continually at his pace.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord … ”(Psalm 37:23)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5)

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17)

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8)

“For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.” (Psalm 48:14)

“The Lord will guide you continually …” (Isaiah 58:11)

God makes everything beautiful in his time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Let's find his tempo.

Divine Energy

Sunday, June 6, 2010

He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Isaiah 42:29.

You could make a pretty good case that there are really just two kinds of energy: potential and kinetic. Potential energy is stored and ready to be used. It is energy available for work. There is water in the pipes in my house. The water in the pipe is available but not being used. As long as the water stays in the pipe, it is only potential energy. When the valve is released, the water flows and is in use. This is kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the application of energy. While potential energy is “energy-waiting-to-happen,” kinetic energy is “happening energy.”

My legs hold potential energy. When I take a step forward, they become kinetic energy. When a student holds a rubber band in his hand, he is holding potential energy (as well as the potential for a trip to the principal’s office!). When he releases the rubber band as a missile toward the teacher, he is demonstrating kinetic energy (and is also on his way to the principal’s office!).

I enjoy eating at The Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge. As I sit at the large picture window, I see the Old Mill and the beautiful rock filled stream. The water is potential energy. Once it goes into the water wheel at the mill, the wheel begins to turn producing work grinding corn into meal which eventually becomes corn meal. As long as the water is outside the wheel, it is potential energy. The water is beautiful to observe or wade into, but it is not being used in work. It is only when the water enters the wheel that it becomes kinetic. The water goes from a state of rest to a state of action.

God gives us this same type of energy flow. It’s Divine Energy. In fact, God created all the energy in the universe. The Creator is the source of all energy and can provide us all the energy sources we will ever need. The Holy Spirit is available to fill us with God’s power and energy.. We just need to have our heart and mind in tune with God in order to have our vessel filled. Simply by asking him to dwell within us, he will fill us with his power. As long as we keep the Spirit bottled up in us, we are not expending that potential energy. Once we choose to use that energy, it becomes kinetic, active.

In him we live (have vitality), and move (have dynamic energy) and have our being (attain completeness). Acts 17:28

The key is to stay connected to the energy source, for we will lose our spiritual energy if we don’t. Let’s choose to live and move in him this week!

Dear God, I get my vitality and energy from you. You make me complete. I ask the Holy Spirit to dwell within me. Fill me with Divine power and energy to do all things pleasing in thought, word, and actions today.

(Art work by Robyn Webber.)

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