Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Homemade Happiness

Here are a dozen ways to have a happier home life:

 1. Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire, or someone is hard of hearing.

 2. Use the 7:1 ratio -- It takes seven positives to counteract the force of one negative -- It could even be more like 10:1. Make sure you speak at least seven affirmations and encouragements for every criticism.

 3. Make up your mind not to allow petty annoyances to become barriers.  Always ask, "Is it worth it" before you react.

 4. Accept those in your home for who they are, and not what you assume they should be.

 5. Determine to brighten up your home whenever you walk in the door.  Some people bring joy wherever they go -- and others bring joy when they go!

 6. Express your appreciation and love often. "Please" and "Thank you" are more precious than gold.

 7. Hug a lot. Meaningful touch provides a sense of security and belonging (If course, if someone doesn't want to be hugged, it's best to be sensitive and resort back to #4)

 8. Be honest and keep your promises.

 9. Delete whining, complaining and negative criticism from your daily vocabulary. If you must say something negative, then refer to #2 (7:1 ratio.) Praise is the language of heaven.

 10. Be kind and live by the Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

 11. Don't allow too much time to go by before you resolve conflicts. Of course, we all have negative emotions and reactions -- but it's best to keep short accounts with those we love.

 12. Focus on what you can do for others instead of what others should be doing for you.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Someone is Praying for Me

When the sad news of Shirley's unexpected death arrived, I immediately called her husband Dannie.  Before their move to Missouri a couple of years prior, Dannie and Shirley were pillars of our church, and we missed them dearly.  Now, Shirley was gone.

" I'm so sorry to hear about Shirley."

Dannie was glad to hear from me.

I continued, "All of your friends up here in the Northwoods are praying for you."

"I can tell," he replied, "I've been amazed at the peace and strength I've felt all the way through this terrible ordeal. It has been just unbelievable. How could I possibly have such peace at a time like this? Then I thought, 'I know why! Someone is praying for me.'"

Dannie continued, "You know, Pastor Mark, light travels at 186,282.397 miles per second. But I've discovered something that travels even faster than that -- the prayers of God's people!"

"Losing Shirley is the hardest thing I've ever experienced, but with good Lord's help, I'm going to make it. Actually, when you think about it, I didn't really lose her, because I know right where she is. She's rejoicing in heaven. Someday, I'll get to see her again."

Tears filled my eyes as we finished this amazing conversation. How ironic;  I had called to encourage Dannie, but this dear man turned it around and encouraged me.

Three "take-home" points from this conversation:

1) Faith in God brings peace in the face of life's most bitter circumstances.
2) Praying is the most important thing you can do. It covers the distance and expresses our deepest love.
3) Since this is the case, I encourage you to stop right now, and whisper a prayer for somebody.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

You Can't Do Everything

You can't do everything
 You can't have everything
 You can't know everything
 You can't fix everything
 You can't change everything.
 You can't be everything

 But. . .

You can do something
 You can have something
 You can know something
 You can fix something
 You can change something
 You can be something

 So. . .

 Do what you can
 Have what you can
 Know what you can
 Fix what you can
 Change what you can
 Be what you can. . .

 Without complaining or comparing. . .then leave the rest to God.

Prayer Lays the Track

"Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails." -- Watchman Nee

Monday, May 23, 2016

His Bite is Worse Than His Bark

A man was bitten by a rabid dog and ended up in bed seriously ill.  He mustered up enough strength to request a pen and a pad of paper.  Then, he began to write furiously -- page after page.  "Honey, are you writing your last will and testament?" his wife asked.  "No," he replied, "I'm making a list of people I'm going to bite!"

 "His bark is worse than his bite" has been said both of dogs and grumps.  Unfortunately, there are some people who can pack a pretty vicious bite.

 Perhaps, you have been "bitten" by someone.  Maybe you felt the sting of gossip or the barbs of unjust criticism.  Such encounters leave us wounded and in need of emotional first aid.

 How do you handle "attack dog people"  -- the ones who snarl and snap at you, and will take a hunk out of your behind if you turn your back?

 1.  Remember, hurting people hurt people.  When they lash out, it reveals their deep inner pain.  It is almost as if they are announcing their pain to the world.  "I'm hurting right now, and so you need to hurt right along with me!"

 2.  Receive the kernel of truth.  Most criticisms contain at least a sliver of truth.  Think of criticisms as walnuts.  You don't need to swallow the hole nut.  Just find the helpful kernel.

 3.  Refuse to quarrel.  Nobody wins an argument, and if somebody jumps in the mud, you can't clean them up by jumping in the mud with them. In situations like that it is best to hold your tongue.  You won't regret the angry words you didn't say.

 4.  Refuel your emotional tank.  An encounter with a negative, critical person can poke a hole in your tank, leaving you spent and exhausted.  Be sure to take the time to replenish the depleted supply. Whatever it is that fills your tank -- do it!  I have found prayer to be the greatest tank filler available for the human heart.

 5.  Remain positive.  Keep doing the right thing, even if someone is taking pot shots at you.   As Teddy Roosevelt said,  “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

 6.  Reach out.  Our wounds come through relationship, and they are healed through relationship.  Those who strive for peace and understanding generally find them,.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Ministerial Association

Three pastors, attending their monthly ministerial association meeting,  shared what was happening in their congregations.

"Things are starting to look up for us," said the Baptist preacher, "we gained three new members last month."

"We did better than that!" said the Methodist, "I think revival may be coming! We gained six new people last month!"

"Well, we did even better than that!" exclaimed the Presbyterian, "Revival has come! We lost nine of our biggest troublemakers!"

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Take This Job and Love It!

According to Gallup, 71% of American workers hate their jobs (other polls even claim figures as high as 80%.) Now, with so much job hating going around, and it seems like something should be done about it.

If you hate your job, then you are the somebody who should do something about it. Things won’t get better if you just sit around wishing it would.

Now, I understand that some work environments are toxic and intolerable. In situations like that, the best thing you can do is seek an exit strategy. If you really hate your job that bad, then look for another one.

Often, however, job dissatisfaction has much more to do with the worker’s attitude, than a dysfunctional environment. It is with this basis of understanding that I propose the following suggestions for learning to love your job:

1.   Examine your attitude. Are you allowing negativity to poison your spirit towards those you work with? If so, the problem may be more about you than it is about them.

2.   Start your day with prayer. Ask God to guide you and guard your spirit. Try this prayer, “God, help me to receive the people you send to me as a gift.”

3.  Adjust your attitude. Try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.

4.   Make it your goal to make someone else’s day. Do something extra that makes someone smile. You’ll smile too.

5.   Speaking of smiling – if you’re feeling grumpy, then smile for 16 seconds straight. You will feel better.

6.   Keep a realistic “To Do List.” This will keep you from being overwhelmed, and you will feel good as you progress and mark things off the list.

7.   Do the most important things first. Trivial things have a way of gobbling up time, and adding unnecessary pressure.

8.   Plan ahead. When you fail to plan ahead, other people will dictate your agenda. Planning brings order to the day, week, and month.

9.  Get your schedule under control. To do this, you must think further down the road. Instead of asking, “What shall I do today?” it is far better to ask “What shall I do this week, month and year?” Start as far out as you can, and work backwards from there.

10.   Put breathing space in your schedule. Just as a campfire fizzles out when the logs are too close together, your life needs “breathing space” to burn brightly.

11.   Delegate. Are you doing things that someone else should be doing? How can you help them do it?

12.   Be flexible. If you’re rigid and uptight, you’ll always be upset. Just go with the flow when things don’t work out the way you expected. That’s just a part of life, and not worth expending the energy to fight. Just shrug your shoulders, smile and say, “Stuff Happens!”

13.   Put value into it. Regardless of your work, it is important, or you would not be paid to do it. Remember, your contribution is important – even if others don’t see it. Give it your best shot and add value to the organization

14.   Befriend your co-workers, while remembering you have a job to do.

15.   Share concerns but don’t get sucked into drama.

16.   Refuse to participate in gripe or gossip sessions. If you have a genuine concern, then bring it to the person who can do something about it, and don’t broadcast it. Shared negativity compounds and increases negativity. Your work environment won’t get any better through gripe sessions.

17.   Don’t over-react. When you’re emotions are taking over, step back, take a deep breath, and try to respond maturely.

18.  Say “please” and “thank you” often.

19.   Practice patience and be respectful of every co-worker and customer.

20.   At the end of the day – stop!  You don’t need to carry it all home with you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

There's No Excuse for Making Excuses

Excuses are a dime a dozen. You can come up with all kinds of them to explain why you haven't been your best.

You can blame the boss.
You can blame the environment.
You can blame your family.
You can blame the clock (I just don't have time.)
You can blame the situation.

If you're looking for a way to weasel out of what you should be doing, you'll find it. The human mind has the uncanny ability to rationalize anything.

The bottom line, however, is that if you continue making excuses for mediocrity, you will never realize your true, God-given, potential. It does no good to dream about what you are going to accomplish tomorrow if you're unwilling to pay the price today.

Inspiration without commitment vanishes at the first hint of difficulty. A vision without careful planning is only a daydream. An idea isn't worth much unless it is accompanied by shoe leather.

Refuse to cave into "somewhere over the rainbow" thinking. Your "ship" isn’t coming in. Might as well quit standing on the shoreline waiting for the grand arrival.

Instead, why not start building your boat? Put down the binoculars and pick up the hammer! Sometimes people complain about "bad luck". They need to understand that "luck" is not nearly as important as attitude.

You can make the best of your "bad luck" or the worst of your "good fortune." It's not what life hands you - but what you make of it that counts.

Instead of focusing on your problems, how about moving to the solution side?

You will discover that your "luck" will improve tremendously when you stop making excuses and start making progress.

The Other Side of Nowhere is This Side of Somewhere

 "The other side of nowhere," said Charles Kingsley, "is very likely to be this side of somewhere!"

 Have you been passed over? Are you slighted, neglected and ignored? Do you find yourself overworked and under-appreciated?

 You're on this side of somewhere!

 If things are looking down -- look up! Help is on the way!  Discouragement is the fertile soil where new hope blossoms bright and grows.

 You're on this side of somewhere!

 The answer does not come before the question.
 The solution requires a problem.
 The victory is gained through struggle.
 The mountain top comes with a corresponding valley.
 The spring always follows winter's chill.

 You're on this side of somewhere!

 Have you been forsaken by loved ones? Are you feeling left behind and lonely?

 Take heart, my friend! You're on this side of somewhere!

 Is your mind bound up by anxious care? Are you burdened with tomorrow's fear? This is a good day to let it all go. Bid farewell to regret, resentment, and remorse. Shake their hands, then see them out the door.

 You're on this side of somewhere!

 God is everywhere -- even beside you right now as you read this. Wherever God is -- even the other side of nowhere -- it's somewhere! Yes, it's somewhere special!

 So, be your true self. Look up to heaven. Say a prayer. Stop wishing over the fence and plant a garden.

 You're on this side of somewhere!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Holiness is a Symphony of Love

God is love—love lived out through the power of the Holy Spirit in a community of gifted individuals playing one musical piece in different parts, a holy symphony. 

 Holiness is life lived by people in the fullness of the Holy Spirit who are empowered to offer a drastic alternative to the world around them. Love is the melody running through the community, underneath the community, and all around the community. 

 The Christian community is not a place of jarring instruments singing different songs, or a place of gossip, conflict, rejection, pain, strife, and hatred. It is a place where the Spirit’s fruit is present in abundance, so much so that the world around the Christian community can’t help but join the melody. It is a community that is so unified, so melodious, so beautiful that it stops others in their tracks. Those on the outside can’t help but peer in, and watch with awe and wonder, and notice the unity of the symphony. 

 Instead of the emphasis being on the solo Christian striving to live a holy life, it is on a holy people, a symphony. It is a collection of individuals all uniquely gifted, sometimes polarizing opposites, yet unified in the same symphony.  --  Tara Beth Leach  (The Holiness Tradition in the New Perspective in The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life )

How to Get it Done

 I discovered long ago, that a wish or desire is not enough to get something done. Every accomplishment starts with an idea, of course -- but the idea, alone, won't make it happen.

 Even a very strong "want to" won't bring the follow through. If you want to get something done, you have to do something about it ahead of time!

 1. What Gets Scheduled Gets Done.
 Not long ago, I shared a great vacation idea with my wife, Cathy. "Hey, we should go to Florida sometime!" (I think our long winter had something to do with that inspiration.)

 "When are you thinking we should do this?" Cathy wondered.

 "I dunno. Just sometime next January -- or maybe February . . ."

 Cathy replied, "Well, the only way that's going to happen is if it gets on the calendar."

 For years, I said I wanted to author a book, but never seemed to have the time to write it.  Then,  I actually did it.  Here's what made the difference.  I put" book writing" on my weekly calendar.  When I scheduled a definite time to write -- presto -- the book appeared!

 If you want to get it done, get it on the schedule!

 2. What Gets Planned Gets Done.
 I have a lot of ideas, and most of them don't pan out. The primary reason most of my ideas end up on the scrap heap is because they are not accompanied by a good plan.

 An idea is like a semi trailer  The plan is the truck. If the trailer's not hitched to the truck, it's not going anywhere!

 My brother, Tim, bought a semi trailer a while back, and put it behind his house. It became his wonderful storage shed! You can find lots of fascinating treasures in there! Unhitched ideas are like that. Instead of taking the payload down the road, they become storage sheds for interesting and unused possibilities.

 If you want to achieve something, you have to make a plan! If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

 You'll end up like Sir John Harvey Jones who observed, "Planning is unnatural. It's much more fun to get on with it. The real benefit of not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by months of worry."

 3. What Gets Started Gets Done
 Well, maybe. I have a lot of unfinished projects sitting around my house. Getting started doesn't necessarily get it done but I can guarantee this -- You'll ever get it done if you don't get it started!

 A mountain of work won't disappear by staring at it, or wishing it away. You jut have to roll up your sleeves, jump in and take it on! My friend, Robyn Bjork, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro remarked, "The only way to reach the summit of a huge mountain is by taking one little step at a time."

 4 . What Gets our Attention Gets Done
  I've come to realize, over the years that in a family, classroom, business, church or community, we get more of what we recognize, applaud and celebrate.  What gets celebrated gets done.

 Recently our church started a wonderful program called Celebrate Recovery.  A key piece of the entire experience is summed up in the first word:  celebrate!  Too often, recovery groups are shuttled off to the basement or cloaked in secretive shame.  We are finding that the more we celebrate recovery, the more recovery we have to celebrate!

 Note, this works on the negative side as well. For instance, if a school teacher focuses on misbehavior in the classroom, she'll get much more of it. It would pay her better to pay attention and recognize the behaviors she wants to see displayed by her students. Then, she will get more of that!

 5. What Gets Appreciated Gets Done.
 People want to be wanted, need to be needed, and certainly appreciate being appreciated. A primary task for the effective leader is to involve people and then walk around saying, "Thank you!"

 6. What Gets Finished Gets Done.
 Although starting is half the job -- finishing is the other half. The job is not over until it's really been completed. It's time to finish with a flourish! Roll up your sleeves, and get it done!

Sunday, May 08, 2016

When You Thought I Wasn't Looking

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing, and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don't.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't feel good, and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

 When you thought I wasn't looking I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it's all right to cry.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

 When you thought I wasn't looking I learned most of life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up.

 When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, "Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking."

 -- By Mary Rita Schilke Korazan 

Friday, May 06, 2016

Healthy on the Inside

Sandy was visibly upset when she approached me after church one Sunday. “I have an urgent prayer request. My friend, Pam, was in a terrible car accident last night. She’s in intensive care at St. Mary’s with a broken neck. It’s uncertain whether she will ever walk again.” Then Sandy added, “Ironically, she was planning to come to church with me this morning, and now this happened.”

That afternoon, I made the long trek to Duluth to visit Sandy’s friend.

Pam, strapped and bolted in a Stryker frame, recognized me immediately as I entered her room: “I was going to visit your church this morning.”

“Well, I came to visit you instead.”

We had a deep, meaningful conversation and concluded with prayer. I could tell her heart was especially tender toward spiritual things.

As I headed toward the door, she said, “Don’t be surprised when I walk into your worship service some Sunday.”

Several months later, I was preaching, when the sanctuary door opened and Pam entered. After extensive therapy, she had learned to walk again. She hobbled down the center aisle and sat near the front. I stopped mid-sermon to explain the miracle we had just witnessed, and the congregation gave Pam a standing ovation. God’s message that morning was far better than the one I had prepared.

Pam attended regularly after that, discovering a rich and vibrant faith. It was exciting to see her grow. We baptized Pam on the one year anniversary of her accident. On the shore of Little Round Lake, before stepping into the water, Pam gave the following testimony: “A year and a day ago, I was healthy on the outside, but unhealthy on the inside. An accident left me not so healthy on the outside. But thank God, I’m healthy on the inside. I’d rather have this than that any day.”

Jesus brings beauty from brokenness. As Rumi, the Afghan poet observed, “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure."

(An excerpt adapted from my book, Purple Fish)