Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Choose Peace Not Stress

August 10, 2016

We live in a time of high stress according to many writers. I think that humans have always faced stressful circumstances. Think about living in houses or shelters ill-equipped for the winter with the constant threat of a near-by enemy who could come and kill you.

That’s stress.

But many of us live in a state of constant stress. A boss. A spouse. A job. Not having a job.

Dr. Henry Cloud spoke at Willow Creek last week. He’s a psychologist whose knowledge and wisdom has guided me through many of his books. His topic was stress. That started my thought process.

I’ve had periods of time over the last ten years or so where I was in chronic stress. I pride myself on knowing how to handle stress–meditation, Yoga, exercise, proper eating, sleep–you know the drill.

But some things just come back at you constantly. You have to find a way to deal with it to end the source.

Sometimes you are in a situation where you hold the key. In one of my cases, I could have solved the problem. But it involved work. Eventually I quit. In another case, the only solution was to leave the situation.

Today, I have the stresses that come from being at the end of a big project and struggling to finish the research and write the report. Then the annual stress of assigning referees to soccer  matches.

But these are manageable. You tackle one piece at a time and keep at it. The stress just keeps me sharp.

There is a difference in the stresses.

But Cloud pointed out that God will help.

I thought about Paul who wrote to the Galatians that peace is a fruit of the Spirit. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”

Or again when he wrote to the Philippians, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Interesting that Paul adds “with thanksgiving.” Taking time every morning or evening to remember all the things for which you are grateful is another great stress reliever.

Are You Optimistic or Is Everything Going to Hell?

July 26, 2016

How are you this morning, I innocently ask a guy in the locker room at the gym.

“My back hurts. The doctor screwed up my feet; now I have trouble walking. They can’t put in a lap lane in the swimming pool during that senior water work out class. The new shower heads are worse than the last ones.”

Gee, thanks for uplifting my day…

I had just read an article written by the guy who developed Nozbe, the productivity application that I use. The article was about optimism.

Michael Sliwinski has to be the most optimistic person I know. Seven or eight years ago I wrote about Getting Things Done, David Allen’s productivity method. Sliwinski had written an application and was now CEO of a small company selling the app. He wrote to me. Said he had a better productivity app.

I bought it a few months later. Been using it ever since.

He writes, “Optimism and the courage it fosters are the secret weapons of any entrepreneur. The ability to see the bright side in difficult situations and even the most miserable failures can provide important lessons for the future, and this differentiates successful people from others. Not huge successes, like piles of gold and fame, but also small victories that help develop what you’ve started without giving up.”

Continuing, he writes, “With a positive attitude it’s easier to get out of bed in the morning, it takes less effort to accept a few extra hours of work or unforeseen problems and it’s easier to plan future objectives and undertakings.”

I agree with his observation that a positive attitude comes from inside. It is our attitude. We choose how we’re going to approach life.

Sliwinski concludes with a list of some small things that can help you become an optimist:

  • gratitude ritual – every morning I express thanks for three things or events which made me feel happy – it works;
  • sport, rest and a good diet – in a healthy body there’s a healthy mind – what’s else is there to say 🙂
  • waking early without hitting snooze and delaying the alarm – this simple habit connected with the first thing you do every morning will give each subsequent day the proper, energetic direction;
  • vision of the future – every once in a while spend some time painting a glorious vision of the future – dreams are the first step of every plan or venture;
  • passion – find your passion – it will give you wings, strength and patience;
  • surround yourself with positive people – keep pessimists, moaners and fault-finders at a distance or try to infect them with your optimism 🙂

Couldn’t have said it better–so I just copied and passed along. Have a beautiful and optimistic day.

Know That You Need To Ask For Help

May 25, 2016

The Lord helps those who help themselves.

That is not in the Bible. Sorry. Grace is not dependent upon our works. It is dependent upon our attitude–the attitude of turning to God and asking for help.

Henry Cloud’s new book, The Power of the Other, is all about the power relationships–good, bad, indifferent–hold over our lives.

He was talking about his work as a consultant and coach. He has sufficient track record and fame, that boards of directors of companies, even large companies, send their failing CEOs to him to turn them around.

A man came to him one time who had failed terribly. It was a personal failure, but the results bled over into every aspect of his life–marriage, family, business, volunteering. Being a highly successful and driven person, he came with a list. He asked for help, but then he laid out the plan that he had devised to correct the situation.

Cloud said it was sad. Every point depended upon the man’s action. There was no place for relationship with another.

Cloud said that he’s reached the point of life that he really doesn’t want to waste time with people who are sent to him to be fixed but who think that it all depends on themselves.

I understand. In my consulting and coaching career, I have met several people who only wish for outside reinforcement. They don’t understand why nothing changes.

At some point, you must come to the realization that it’s not all dependent upon your own effort.

Ask someone for help–and then listen.

Ask someone close to you how they feel about the situation–and then listen.

Humble yourself (that means be willing to not be the person in charge) and realize that others will help if you ask.

Thank people for helping.

Remember God gives us grace. It’s there for the asking. Be open to receiving it.

You ultimately are not in charge; stop acting as if you are.

The Lord helps you, and so will others, if you ask and are willing to listen and absorb.

Oh What a Relief It Is

March 16, 2016

We voted in Ohio today. Probably the most important vote I had was for a school levy. There is always hope that we can educate the next generation to seek facts and be more rational than their elders.

Well, it was a good idea, anyway.

In the end, I decided to go with the young people and feel the bern, even though that assures he’ll lose. I seldom vote for winners.

We only had a week or so of the blitz. Since I seldom watch TV, I missed any political ads that might have aired. I’m not sorry.

I know from Facebook that I needed to vote for one candidate because I’m a Christian. No, wait, another candidate is really the Christian. Er, maybe the third one. It’s all so confusing. Heck, there were Christians voting for non-Christians in the name of voting for a Christian. How does anyone keep it all straight?

They have come and gone. I hope they left a lot of money behind to help our economy.

Maybe we can leave the hate and emotions and negativity behind and go back to being Jesus-followers again. The simple stuff that’s hard to do–love your “racist” neighbor, help those in need-even if they voted Democrat, soothe an injured soul emotionally beat up by a fervent politico.

You won’t read much about all this in the New Testament. Rome didn’t operate this way. We actually have seen some progress as humans in 2,000 years. But life is still difficult. Jesus tells us little. He was concerned with our heart. I fear that many of us injured our hearts in the campaign. Maybe it’s time to consult the Supreme Cardiologist.

Paul simply says that God put governments here to preserve order. And that’s a good thing. Ask anyone who comes from a country with no rule by law.

Let’s count our gratitude–and gird our loins for the coming general election hype. Remember that Jesus isn’t voting for one or the other. He’s hoping that we have our hearts in the right place no matter how we vote.


November 26, 2015

They set up camp in a new location not really knowing what to expect. The winter was unbelievably harsh. Many of the community did not live through it. Their neighbors showed them how to  plant crops and shared their bounty to help them. The people gathered for a celebration dinner to remember their blessings.


A time of commercial hype. “Black Friday” when the retailers begin to show a profit for the year resulting from early Christmas shopping. A time of overindulging in unhealthy foods. Sitting around. And not only in America. I just finished listening to a podcast featuring two Polish guys talking technology–and  Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

We can pause and check out how many things we can be grateful for. Mine:

  • Skills that can be used to educate and help people
  • A ministry that serves people
  • Friends who encourage
  • Family (well, most of them 😉  )
  • Living where I live, even if I don’t agree with the politics of those around me, we can differ without shooting each other as is happening in much of the world
  • Good health (well mostly)
  • Prosperity

Happy Thanksgiving. What are your blessings?

Disciplines For The Emotions

March 19, 2015

“She is a drama about to  explode.”

“Yes, and her friend is a walking drama.”

Talking about a couple of teenaged girls we know. And I thought, the mother of one is also a walking drama. Emotions worn on the outside. Voice always tinged with anxiety and, er, well, drama.

A friend recently wrote about fear being the source of anger. That is true. Especially fear born of insecurity.

On the other hand, Jesus showed anger. He made a mess of the Temple market. His anger came from a deep sense of what the Temple should be (a place of devout worship of the Father) versus what it had become (a sort of market system for selling animals to be sacrificed to pilgrims needing animals to sacrifice–probably with a comfortable profit margin).

We all have emotions. At least I hope we have not completely buried them. In that case, a trip to a shrink is in order. But the key is–how to we handle those feelings that seem to arise from our gut in a mature and helpful way?

I once had a lot of anger within. Mostly I dealt with it conquered it. The few times it bubbled up to the top over the past 20 years or more I remember with sorrow and repentance.

Remember, we are what we habitually do.

How can we change our habits to help put our emotions in their proper, healthy place?

One suggestion is to develop the habit of practicing gratitude.

I have now put it in my task manager software (I use Nozbe, you could use an outliner, or your calendar) to pop up once a week to sit in the morning and write those things for which I’m grateful.

This places things in perspective. One of my favorite sayings to remind me of perspective is, “In the scheme of life, just how important is this? Not so.” And then I’m reminded of the things in life that are worthy of my attention.

Thankful With An Undivided Heart

November 25, 2014

“11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”

–Psalm 86

Jesus was always concerned with the status of our heart. No wonder. That theme runs throughout his entire Scriptures.

Here, the Psalmist asks God to teach him the ways of God. Why? So he could have an undivided heart. Why have an undivided heart? So that he can give thanks to God.

Many Christ-followers find themselves with divided hearts.

We are attracted to this thing, or that attitude. We watch TV and see the “good life”. People are attractive. Having fun. Drinking beer–all the time. Thanksgiving is all about eating turkey. Christmas, which we’ve already begun preparing for, is all about the joys of buying.

Behind the scenes of all that TV goodness are people with torn hearts. We don’t see the recovery groups, the torn relationships from self-centered indulgence, the wreck of our financial life.

We can ask God to teach us His ways so that we can enter this season with a whole heart. Thankful to God for healing us from all the wrecks we’ve had or keeping us from a certain train-wreck in the future that would result from our indulgent behaviour.

As we center on God through Jesus, by study, meditation, prayer, listening, celebrating with others, we heal the heart.

True thanksgiving comes from a healed, undivided heart.

Take Time To Be Grateful

November 21, 2014

This week I had a birthday while I was away at a conference. Some people knew and said something. I just said, well it’s just another day where I am thankful to be up and breathing.

Then I thought, well that is something to be grateful for. Maybe I should just pause right there and say a little prayer of gratitude for being alive, mobile, and alert.

Being grateful begins with that attention and reflection. Something good happened. I paused to recognize it and place my attention there–even if only for a few minutes. Then I reflect upon the thing for which I’m grateful.

I have a “to-do list” manager. Permanently on the task list is the note–practice being grateful. Every day when I scan my list of things to do, there it is. It forces me to stop in the midst of my hurry and think of something for which I’m grateful.

Sometimes it’s just for social interaction. Sometimes I wonder if I was born with some level of autism or Aspergers or something. I was pretty socially isolated as a youth and young adult. Studies show that being socially isolated is not good for your health.

Through business I know literally thousands of people (there are more than 6,000 people in my contact database, more than 1,000–I think–on LinkedIn. We’re not “friends” in a close way, but when I see them at conferences, it’s a good interaction. This week I saw more than 100 people I knew and could talk with for a while. It is energizing. I’m grateful to know so many interesting people.

If you have trouble with pausing from focusing on what you want or your cares and worries, maybe a permanent line item on your to-do list is the prescription. It reminds you several times a day to pause and think of something good.

Life With God Is Life Grounded In Gratitude

July 14, 2014

Gratitude, the attitude of being grateful for something, is a way of life. It’s also something to pause occasionally to focus on. It’s been on my mind lately.

I’ve had many life changes over my adult years. Three in the last 18 months. Well, maybe four.

People could look and say how bad it is. Twice I’ve walked away from jobs that paid a very good salary. I undertook a ministry that was far from my mind at the time.

Yet, I’m sitting here in the early morning on my patio with the birds and squirrels (well, yes, even the ants) and feel grateful for all the experiences I’ve had. They have all formed me, and they’ve afforded opportunities that still amaze me.

On occasion I’ll be so enthused that I’m sure someone else may think that I’m conceited or something. But I live in amazement that a country boy with less education than I should have had has the opportunities that I have.

And, I live in gratitude.

Searching my Bible this morning (isn’t digital great!) I found a passage discussing the solitary life of David revealed in the Psalms and how he was close to God and lived in gratitude for all he had.

I’m using the Life With God Study Bible from the Renovare Institute. In the discussion, the writer quotes Richard Foster and Thomas Merton. In this case, Merton said, “Gratitude is the heart of the solitary life as it is the heart of the Christian life.”

Jesus was always interested in the state of our hearts. Where is our heart? Lately for me, basking in gratitude.

Finding Energy Amidst Dysfunction

May 27, 2014

For reasons I fail to fathom, God has placed a number of dysfunctional people into my life over the past few years. I’m not sure what’s going on there. One thing is true–relating with dysfunctional people drain my energy.

The essence of our being is energy. We need to keep our energy up to function effectively.

What to do when our energy sags? For sure, our practice of Spiritual Disciplines is deeply affected by our energy level.

The first thing is to be aware of our energy level. Do you feel the ebb and flow of your energy level?

Notice what you eat. When I eat a heavy meal in the evening, my evening studies or work are shot. Too much fat in the morning breakfast can bog you down for the entire day. There is a saying in German that is a play on words that translates to English, “Man is what he eats.”

When you notice energy lagging during the day, get up. Take a short walk. Get outside. The best way to work if you do thought work is to work in 25-45 minute bursts of concentration followed by a short break.

Meditation is a good energy booster. Sit back, close your eyes, focus on breathing. It’s a great way to refocus.

Many famous people have sworn by afternoon naps. A few years ago the concept of “power napping” became popular.

Keeping the body fit and healthy is a foundation for generating energy.

Thinking about things we are grateful about refocuses our mind and generates energy.

Then watch our attitudes. As we think, so we become. Where are our thoughts? Change our thoughts and attitudes, change our energy level.