Blessed by God

In thinking about what to write today I decided what I need, and what many people need, is a little more inspiration in their lives. We’re a tired world: tired of money problems, tired of cranky kids, tired of bad food, tired of terrible drivers. So in my search for inspiration, I picked up The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson and the book of Job. I hope you’ll see the inspiration and begin your own journey for living a more inspired and blessed life.

The Prayer of Jabez:
The book the Prayer of Jabez is actually about a person who’s found in the Bible, Jabez. We read Jabez’s story in 1 Chronicles 4: “There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.”
The conclusion that Wilkinson reached when he studied the prayer was that sometimes we’re not asking the right question or praying the right prayer. The fact is that great men and women of God think differently than the rest of the people. Wilkinson writes “He [Jabez] left it entirely up to God to decide what the blessings would be and where, when, and how Jabez would receive them.”

I love this statement that Wilkinson makes as well: “Even though there is no limit to God’s goodness, if you didn’t ask Him for a blessing yesterday, you didn’t get all that you were supposed to have.” WOW. It’s so true: God never said he had a limit on the number or kind of blessings we could have. Take Wilkinson’s challenge and pray Jabez’s prayer at least once every day and see what amazing things show up in your life.

Job:
Job is a book of the Bible dedicated to telling the story of a God-fearing man who lost almost everything when he was tested by satan, but the story ends with God blessing Job with more than he started with. I’m probably simplifying things calling the experience told in the book of Job a “challenge”, but what resulted was an amazing display of who God is and who we are. Job 38-41 is a massive outpouring of words directly from God. God speaks to many people throughout the Bible, but nowhere else does God really let loose like he does here. Job’s reply to God in Job 42:3 shows the incredible humility of a man totally blessed by God, and totally amazed by the blessing of God’s words in his life: “You [God] asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I [Job]-and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.” Job learned a valuable lesson: in the midst of God’s blessings, there can be challenges, but God will never leave you hanging.

When was the last time that you took time to inhale and immerse yourself in God’s wonder in nature? Maybe you did this past weekend with some Earth Day activities. We’re such driven, busy people that taking the time to be one with God in nature seems almost frivolous. But maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what we need to feel like the people God created us to be again.

We’re truly blessed to be living in the time of transformation and learning that we’re living in. Although there are many broken pieces and challenges ahead, I believe that one of the biggest keys to successful transformation is each of us stepping up and being the leaders God has created us to be. I hope that this week you’ll take time to seek God’s blessing in your life, however He decides to bless you.

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Dealing with Difficult People

I’ve had conversations lately with some people about interpersonal relationships, especially with regards to dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you have to deal with these people because they’re coworkers or people in leadership at your job, others you can avoid or mostly avoid by not going to the same parties or events or just not being with them at the events. But before we get into dealing with these people I thought it would be important to talk about the ‘what if’ of what if you’re that difficult person?

For some people accepting or understanding that they’re the problem is difficult. Maybe they don’t realize how their words and behaviors affect others (which is usually easier to talk through) or maybe they believe they’re entitled and should be given special treatment and can treat people however they want (which means they may not care that you’re unhappy). It’s also never an easy conversation to have with someone, to tell them that they’re mean or disrespectful or inconsiderate. These types of conversations can go really poorly, they can go well and things can improve, and the conversation can go well but not lead to any real results or make any difference.

While I think everyone has room for improvement in their life, I don’t think we always have to point out to someone that there’s an issue. If it’s an issue that you can just vent to friends or family and you can just deal with it or you don’t really plan to stick around for long, you don’t really need to address it unless you really feel strongly about it.

Most people who deal with a difficult person can’t really lay down the law and be bluntly honest.  If you do it that way it’s a great way to get yourself in a lot of trouble or ruin a lot of relationships, unless that’s something you’re allowed to do, like a tough-love coach or consultant (think of Bar Rescue or some of the other TV shows with hosts who do company renovations).  In those cases they don’t have to be delicate about telling the difficult person how difficult they are. Sometimes they are completely aggressive about it, but typically they have the experience to be able to have a constructive but eye opening conversation with the difficult person about exactly how their behaviors are negatively impacting the people in their lives.

So for the rest of us, you want to address it, you’ve got a couple of options. If you think they’re receptive or they give you the opening (“I can’t understand why no one sticks around at this job?!”), you can start to bring it up and see how it goes. If you can’t wait for the potential opening and really feel that you have to say something, I would start with why you’re bothering to bring it up (for example that you’re really committed to the relationship you have with them or to the company you’re working for), tell them you’re not sure if they’re aware of it or not and politely explain how you feel, and then share some specific situations which have impacted you negatively, and what would be helpful to improving the situation.

In all honesty everyone has their difficult moments, but some people choose to make a lifestyle out of them, and some people fall into the bad habit of being difficult frequently.  I encourage you to take a moment this weekend and apologize to some people who you’re hurt recently when you were difficult, or consider if you’re one of those frequently difficult people who needs to make some changes.

Blessings for Today

Today I’m thinking about blessings. We’re a little over a week past Easter and the celebrations of Jesus rising again, certainly a huge blessing to all of us who believe. But there’s a lot more to life than just one day out of all of history. Yes, it’s a big day and certainly one worth celebrating each year, but Jesus lived for 30 some years (approximately 10,950 days) other than that one day, and most of us live for more than 30 years and more than 11,000 days. Those days contain a lot more blessings than can be summed up in just one day, not to mention all the challenges that are part of our human existence.

Challenges and blessings are interesting because if we look for them we can find them both, and sometimes we’re surprised by them as they happen to us. There are certainly things you can do with your life, heart, words and mind that can set you up for more blessings, but as long as we’re in this human experience we’ll experience challenges as well.

A phrase that I say is “this or something better.” It’s my way of accepting the reality I’m in, but always being open to something better, to a bigger blessing, a different blessing, a way to bless others or revelation God may have for me.

So if you’re in need of some blessings today, or need a little help turning the day around after some challenges met you this morning, open yourself to the good God has for you, look for the good around you and choose not to focus on the bad for longer than you have to. What blessings will you experience today?

“My cup overflows with blessings.” Psalm 23:5c

Do the Right Thing

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of possibilities, and as I was thinking about this topic I got an email about one person’s thoughts on decisions that some businesses have made that impact us, the users. I completely understand that a business is providing a service or product for a reason, usually to make money, and that they make decisions and changes based on what they think or believe will be helpful to their customers/users and don’t need any permission from customers to do that. However, when you get many complaints about something, there has to be a line of questioning taken regarding whether the right possibility was chosen or if the wrong one was.

One of the ways to analyze a potential decision is to consider whether it’s a win-win-win decision, meaning that everyone involved benefits in one way or another. No, everyone most likely won’t get everything they want, but if it’s a true win-win-win decision, everyone should win in a way that makes them happy.

More people are choosing to make win-win-win decisions, and are more open to negotiations than they have been in the past, which is great.

Another way to check the possible options and paths to travel is to consider if making that move would be the “right” thing to do. The “right” thing will likely be a little different for everyone, but most people can agree on the things that are wrong decisions.

Which brings us to the conclusion that with every crossroads in life or decision to be made, there’s a “right” thing to do and a wrong thing to do, or maybe even several possibilities along the right and wrong spectrum. If you can tell which is the wrong decision to make or wrong road to travel, then the only way you could fail or make a mistake is if you ignore what the “right” thing is to do and choose the wrong path.

I believe that there’s always more than one option available to pursue or choose, the question is what choice you make when presented with a bunch of options. Most of us don’t intentionally choose the “wrong” thing, most of us don’t have all the facts or details or make an innocent/honest mistake. The issue is when you know that you could be doing something better or in a way that would give people more of what they want, and choose not to. What will you choose?

Stay The Course

As we finish up our look at success today I want to share one more thought on it, one last challenge and encouragement with you. One of the things that is awesome about the world we live in as well as challenging is how fast things happen, change, grow and evolve. I think one of the reasons we struggle so much with the changes that happen is because most of us haven’t developed the ability to change this fast physically or mentally. Some of us have gotten good at adapting to the constant changes, and even thrive with them, and others of us have worked really hard at backing off the fast path and are enjoying life in the slow lane.

But for most of us we’re in between these two extremes, we’re dealing with all the changes, but not as well as we could or should and thus we get frustrated and overwhelmed. Then when we add success aspirations to the mix we sometimes have to make the choice to deal with the changes in our life or the changes in the success journey because we can’t manage both. I get it, I’ve been there. It’s not easy to make the choice of which to deal with. But what if you didn’t have to choose between life or success?

The first thing you do is choose that you don’t have to be involved or check out or do every change. You don’t need to upgrade with every new phone on the market, you don’t need to join every social network, you don’t need to sell to everyone, you don’t need to try every product, you don’t need to do everything others want to do. You have to choose how much time you’re going to spend doing things, which people you’re going to spend your time with and what matters most to you. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t feel that you have to try everything new.

The second thing you need to do is be persistent and stay the course. Sometimes the solution is to just keep working on things. Yes, some days you’ll give a little more attention and effort to your success efforts, but other days you’ll put the extra effort and attention to the life things. But countless leaders and successful individuals will tell you that they’re successful because they put one foot in front of the other and kept going. Day after day, story after story, action after action, effort after effort, you keep going.

Don’t give up on your success or the challenges you’ve had because you’re overwhelmed with changes, make the changes work for you, and take your time to work through the changes.

“We try to flee what troubles us, whether literally or figuratively, and God invites staying present… remain and find God here.” Br. Luke Ditewig

Spreading Peace

Our verse this week is Psalm 29:11: “May the Lord make his people strong. May the Lord bless his people with peace.”

You can flip on any TV channel or open any newspaper or magazine and see that there’s a serious lack of peace in this world right now. If I asked you about work, your relationships and your family, at least one of those 3 topics would bring up a situation that lacks peace. I totally understand, after all there are some seriously messed up people in the world. It doesn’t really matter how they got to be that way, but they sure challenge those of us who normally are pretty decent people (no one is perfect, right?).

First, let’s talk about those difficult people. Some are totally oblivious to the damage they cause, others are fully aware of the destruction they leave in their wake. I don’t believe that they should have our sympathy or sorrow, somewhere along the line they chose to live and act the ways that they do. The best thing we can do is understand that just because they’re miserable people we don’t have to let them make our lives miserable too. Given the sheer number, it’s almost impossible to avoid them, which is why it’s important to understand them. But just because we understand that they are who they are, it doesn’t mean we should spend tons of time with them.

Second, let’s talk about spreading peace around the world. Peace spreads through peaceful people. If you want to spread peace, you can’t overreact to miserable people (including drivers). You have to remain calm and collected. You can impact people by being peaceful yourself. And, there will always be opportunities that pop up that will allow you to spread the message of hope and peace with others verbally and through actions, like going on missions trips or when friends ask about your positive attitude in the face of challenges.

Third, looking back at Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were people who didn’t like Him, and He was a really likable guy. You can’t make everyone happy nor can you know the right thing to do every time. Jesus set the example of spending time with people who wanted to spend time with Him and were good for Him. While Jesus couldn’t avoid the teachers of the law, He didn’t make a point of spending a lot of time where He wasn’t wanted.

This week I encourage you to spend time with people who lift you up and encourage you to be the best version of yourself (including Jesus). You’ll feel better about your relationships and be able to find peace and satisfaction with your life.

Reality Reflection: Helplessness

I think one of the reasons I don’t watch the news very much is because when I really think about what’s going on I feel helpless to really do anything. I’m not a cop, I can’t chase down bad guys; I’m not a medical doctor, I can’t cure crazy diseases; I’m not a politician, I can’t change or help a vote; I’m not a conservationist, I can’t save a forest from logging destruction; I’m not a political scientist or foreign emissary, I can’t help avoid WW3. But it’s not just about the big things, it’s about feeling helpless when there’s an accident near me or someone’s struggling to walk to their car or someone’s lost a dog.

Yes, we’ve talked and will continue to talk about how important and invaluable the little actions that each of us do throughout our lives. Yes I can call in a tip about a bad guy I saw from the news, I can donate to medical research facilities, I can vote in every election, I can plant trees, I can drive safer myself, or I can help someone cross the road. I can do something in each of the situations mentioned, but when they’re presented on the news or on a video and there’s nothing I can do in that moment, how can I not feel some amount of helplessness?

I think feeling that helplessness is healthy and normal. It’s a good indication that you’re still feeling and emotionally connected with the world. It means that you’ve got concern for your fellow humans and everything else that makes up this great world of ours. Unfortunately, for most of us though it also means that we have to accept being uncomfortable and unhappy with some things in life. Most of us simply can’t fix everything, no matter how much we rant, rave and feel bad.

Sometimes it helps to find what’s ‘glass half full’ in the situation, and even doing that little something like I mentioned earlier can help you feel a little less helpless. Unfortunately, until we all find that magical spider or the DNA to make us a superhero, we can’t be everything to everyone everywhere in the world. We have to stick to being superheros in our own part of the world.