I Choose Gratitude

Sometimes the topic of being thankful comes up when we’re talking about lives that are cut short by tragedies or from people who are facing terminal illnesses. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s great to finish out your days being thankful rather than being bitter about the wrench life has thrown at you. But for the rest of us who are fortunate enough not to know that our lives are ending soon, we sometimes forget to be thankful more than on Thanksgiving Day. So I thought I would share a bit of wisdom on the topic of being thankful for today, and encourage you to take just a few moments to read it slowly and really take in all that is being said.  Maybe Scott’s words will encourage you to be more thankful on a daily basis in your life.

“Today, I choose not to take my life for granted.

I choose not to look upon the fact that I am healthy, have food in my refrigerator and have clean water to drink as givens. They are not givens for so many people in our world. The fact that I am safe and (relatively) sane are not givens. That I was born into a family who loves me and into a country not ravaged by war are not givens. It is impossible to name all of the circumstances in my life I’ve taken for granted. All of the basic needs I’ve had met, all of the friendships and job opportunities and financial blessings and the list, truly, is endless. The fact that I am breathing is a miracle, one I too rarely stop to appreciate.

I’m stopping, right now, to be grateful for everything I am and everything I’ve been given. I’m stopping, right now, to be grateful for every pleasure and every pain that has contributed to the me who sits here and writes these words.

I am thankful for my life. This moment is a blessing. Each breath a gift. That I’ve been able to take so much for granted is a gift, too. But it’s not how I want to live—not when gratitude is an option, not when wonder and awe are choices.

I choose gratitude. I choose wonder. I choose awe. I choose everything that suggests I’m opening myself to the miraculous reality of simply being alive for one moment more.”
Scott Stabile

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Can You Have Too Much Help?

I firmly believe that we rarely achieve success without at least one other person being involved and helping us along the way. Maybe that person is the stranger who built the website technology you used to create your website for your business. Maybe that person is your partner who encourages you to get up and exercise every day. Maybe it’s the truck driver who delivers the supplies to your store after hours. I think it’s great when we’re brave enough to ask for help, but can it go too far? Can we get too much help?

I think that in order to really achieve success personally we have to be involved in the success process. I don’t think you can really hand it all of to your people or your team and call it a win for you personally when you didn’t do anything (this would be an example of a team win). And you can’t call it a win at all when all you do is hand stuff off to others so you don’t have to deal with it and don’t take up the responsibilities that you should be handling instead.

What we’re talking about here is delegating vs abdicating.  The difference between delegating and abdicating or abandoning is that when you delegate you do so with the express purpose of giving a task to someone better equipped to do it or because your time and effort are much better spent doing other things.  Abdicating and abandoning means that you’re either giving up, paralyzed with fear or so overwhelmed you can’t do what you should or could be doing, and so you do nothing.

I’m all for delegating when it comes to success, I don’t know that anyone is truly capable of doing everything for themselves all the time, especially if you want to live in the world that we do (and not be a farmer who lives off the grid and doesn’t really interact with society). But delegating becomes an issue when you’re using the delegation to avoid doing anything. Then not only are you not having successes, the people in your life are probably also not having successes, and they’re possibly getting frustrated with you.

As you finish off this week I encourage you to take a moment and think about the responsibilities in your life and whether you’re living up to them or not.  Victory may be just a few commitments and actions away.

Giving Thanks For Today’s Victories

As we think about Thanksgiving less than 2 weeks away I was reflecting on a Thanksgiving devotional I’m receiving and it reminded me that sometimes we give thanks even when the battle isn’t over yet. Take a look at a passage from Genesis about Miriam and Moses and the Israelites from right after the Red Sea crossing.

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; He has hurled both horse and rider into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise Him— my father’s God, and I will exalt Him!”” Exodus 15: 1-2

For Moses, Miriam and the Israelites their journey was just beginning. They just left Egypt after the 10 plagues (and being slaves for many years), and got away from Pharaoh’s army who drowned thanks to God in the Red Sea, both of which are excellent reasons to celebrate. But what many weren’t thinking about in that moment was exactly what would come next: where do they go? What do they do? Now that they’re free, what next? This was just the beginning of their journey, and yes, they had reason to celebrate, but there’s so much more to go.

The thing about victories is that very rarely do they happen in one fell swoop and that’s it. In most cases victories are earned step by step, for example you lose weight by not buying the cookies at the store this month, cutting down on the ice cream next month, and buying more fruits and vegetables each month. There’s no rule book that says victories have to be earned all at once, in fact, it’s better to earn them a little at a time, and to celebrate them as you go along. Yes, you should celebrate when you lose a lot of weight, but you should also celebrate when you lose those first 10 pounds and keep them off.  If you’ve been struggling with your relationship, yes, you should celebrate when you really resolve years of issues with your partner, but you should also celebrate when you get through a week without yelling at each other.

Giving thanks isn’t just something we do on Thanksgiving or when we reach the Promised Land, it should be something we do each and every day. Giving thanks and celebrating the little victories help the challenges we each face become a little more manageable. They make it a little easier to get up each day, knowing that yesterday had at least one redeeming quality to it (whatever thing you found to be thankful about that day, even if it was just that the bread wasn’t moldy and you could make lunch for the kids).

So what step in your journey are you thankful for today?

Thankful for Christmas

I have to admit that I’ve been thinking about Christmas and am eagerly looking forward to Thanksgiving and the coming deluge of all things Christmas. And while I know it’s a little early what I’m thankful for today is Christmas, of both the religious and secular persuasions.

Christmas for Christians is the hope that many generations longed for, and the hope that reminds us each year that this life is not the end. Christmas, and the birth of Jesus, are a reminder each year that God hasn’t forgotten us, hasn’t given up on us and believes our lives have value. And just like baby Jesus came here with a purpose, each of us have a purpose too. We may not be born knowing that purpose like Jesus was, but we have a purpose all the same. In a world that has so many problems and challenges, to be reminded of the hope of Christmas each year, and be given the opportunity to celebrate life and birth each year is something I’m thankful for.

Christmas from a secular perspective is one of good will to all man kind. Whether you know him as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Santa or something else, he’s the the man who visits every house around the world and leaves presents for good boys and girls. It doesn’t matter to him whether you’re rich or poor or the color of your skin or what culture you belong to, just that you’re good. He is a reminder of how important it is to care for others, for everyone else that we share this world with. His actions are a reminder to each of us to share and care just like he does. Yes, the idea is to leave cookies and milk (and maybe some reindeer treats) for him, and that’s our way of letting him know he’s appreciated.

Just like Christmas is about giving to each other and forgiveness is a two way street, so is being thankful. Yes, you can be thankful for somewhat indistinct things like being alive, but more often than not we’re thankful for people, things and actions, all of which involve someone else, whether it’s a person or God. Your giving thanks means that someone else is recognized, and everyone wants to be recognized for the good things they do and ways they help others or make a positive impact on the world. This week I would encourage you to do a little early Christmas gift giving and give someone the gift of your thanks.

The Discipline of Success

There are so many different sides and aspects to success, and what you may see as success today may not be what I see as success. Maybe success for you is getting out of bed, maybe it’s getting to work on time, maybe it’s cooking a dinner that tastes good and wasn’t from a box or the freezer, maybe it’s crossing a lot off your to-do list, or maybe it’s making time to spend with your partner and/or kids without constantly looking at your phone.

One of the things that can help you get to success is discipline. I know, it sounds like the big scary word you remember as a kid that always meant you did something wrong and were about to be punished. But in this case it’s not about doing something wrong or even about punishment, but about being proactive and intentional about the decisions you make and how you spend your time.

It could be your discipline to spend 30 minutes a day watching a cooking show so you can become a better cook. It could be your discipline to only answer emails at the beginning and end of your work day. It could be your discipline to take 10 minutes at the beginning and end of your day for yourself. It could be your discipline to work out every day. It could be your discipline to schedule your time during the work day so that you make time for your work and what everyone else needs from you.

The question today isn’t can you be successful, but do you have the discipline to get from where you are to where you want to be?  If you don’t have those disciplines set up in your life today I would encourage you to be proactive about getting them in place so that you can make the most of these last 2 months of 2017.

Ask, Seek, Knock: Success Steps

In thinking about one of our topics for the month, success, today I want to talk about a passage you’re probably familiar with, Matthew 7:7-8: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” This passage about asking, seeking and knocking establishes a great guideline for us to consider throughout our days and what goes on in our lives.

Ask:
“‘No one has ever seen, no one has ever heard, no one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.” I Corinthians 2:9-10
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:15

First, asking is important because it means we’re willing to admit that we don’t know everything and are willing to learn. However we’re not always great at asking questions. Too often we ask the wrong questions, questions that don’t give us the answers we need because they’re not the right questions. We can get too busy asking things like “why me” and “how could you” instead of asking questions that will help us get the necessary answers and find solutions and help for our questions. Second, James 1 makes a point of letting us know it’s good to ask questions. God doesn’t criticize us for asking questions, only for thinking we know more than He does.

Seek
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:35
“Your laws please me; they give me wise advice.” Psalm 119:24
“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Asking questions is important because they give us directions to learn and move in. If we don’t ask questions we’ll never be able to figure out what we don’t know and what God wants us to do with our lives. Once we’ve asked the questions we hopefully receive some wisdom and knowledge to use. We start our search with the knowledge that God will not be separated from us by the challenges we face and will give us the strength and peace to learn what we must.

Knock
“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4
My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live” Proverbs 4:4
“It is very sad that people leave the world just as they came. So what does a person gain from ‘trying to catch the wind’? They only get days that are filled with sadness and sorrow. In the end, they are troubled, sick, and angry.” Ecclesiastes 5:16-17

In the very action of knocking we’re going from learning to doing. You can’t knock without taking action. There’s not much good to asking the right questions and getting advice unless you do something with it. Throughout the Bible God encourages us to be wise and live lives that reflect the wisdom we’re given or find. Don’t waste your life, your lessons and your abilities, choose to make something of it all if not for you but because your lessons and your willingness to knock may be the difference between life and death for someone.

What questions will you ask, learning will you do and actions will you take this week?

It Feels Good to be Thankful

As I mentioned on Wednesday, Fridays this month we’ll be talking about the topic of being thankful. Have you ever thought about why it feels so good when we’re thankful? One reason I think is because we’re surrounded on all sides by the news, challenges, struggles and issues, and these things just seem to compile day after day. When we’re able to be thankful it’s a reprieve from the not-so-happy things we face in our lives and in our world, it’s like the moment the sun breaks through after days of clouds and rain.

So what if we were to work on being thankful more often? What if we started appreciating life more and started helping others more rather than complaining about things and feeling trapped by circumstances? I think our lives would be better and so would the lives of others, even if for no other reason than having a positive attitude, feeling good about ourselves or knowing that we’re not forgotten or ignored.

So how can you give more thanks in your life? There are some people who make it a daily activity to write in a journal the things they’re thankful for each day. Some people use thankful concepts in their mantras. Others work on being more aware of their surroundings and give thanks for things they see and experience in their day. But one of the simplest things I think anyone can do is remember to say “thank you” to others, and for those who are thanked to say “you’re welcome” or “thank you” rather than “no problem” or “yup.” Don’t brush off their thanks, accept it and let them know that you appreciate being recognized. And if you’re feeling the weight of the world when you lay down at night, instead of going over and over those issues, think about at least one thing you’re truly thankful for from the past 24 hours.

What are you thankful for today?