Life is the School, Love is the Lesson

Speaking about learning lessons in life, funny how a bumper sticker can capture a whole philosophy in one simple phrase. Saw this one on the car in front of me at the gas station yesterday and I had to pause and reflect on it.

“That is exactly true”, I thought to myself while pumping gas.

I have always believed life is a school. I’ve been known to quip: “And some people are stuck in kindergarden”, “This is a test, this is only a test” and “If life is a school, why does it take me so long to learn the lesson?”

But this bumper sticker made it all so clear.  Love is the lesson. Life is all about learning to love, isn’t it? Learning to love ourselves, others, and God in a balanced and healthy way. It takes practice, doesn’t it? Most of us tip towards one direction or another and it’s only when problems arise, we realize we have been out of balance with our relationships. For example, take the workaholic who neglects his/her family and ends up dealing with an affair, a divorce, or a rebellious teen. The scales were tipped too heavily on the work facet of life, right? Or the mother who idolizes her kids but neglects her own well being. Who is she not loving?

So what to do? When problems arise, don’t just push through them or ignore them. Problems in my life are a sign that something is out of balance and needs to be tended to. I must take responsibility for my life. I cannot continually blame my parents, my boss, or other people. That’s what Adam and Eve did way back when and it still is not the answer.

The answer is to realize what part I have played in the dramas in my life. Ask myself these questions:  “How loving have I been – to others, to myself and ultimately, to God?” “Did I do the honorable thing?” Most of the time the honorable thing is the most difficult thing to do. But that’s where courage and integrity come in. Am I living according to my highest values or am I succumbing to the pressures of others, society, my past hurts?

If I want to move forward in my life, I must take responsibility for my actions. It is true, we do reap what we sow. Call it karma if you like, but you get the idea. Whenever we fail to do the loving thing – towards ourselves or others, it will always come back to us. Learning to love is a lifelong practice and the good news is we get plenty of opportunities.

Who can you be more loving towards today? Your spouse? Your coworker? Yourself? Love to hear your thoughts on this post so drop me a note when you can.

Until next time, keep looking up!

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Don’t Lose the Lesson

Life is full of ups and downs, isn’t it? Look at those poor people affected by the tornedos in Oklahoma and what they are going through. My trials pale in comparison. But I am only human.

Some days I’m on top of the world feeling carefree and light-hearted. Then there are those other days when the pressures and pain of living in this sinful world build to a crescendo and I almost feel like throwing in the towel. I simply cannot fathom how some people can claim there is no sin in this world, but that is not the point of this post.

This has been a particularly tough year on many fronts and I have lamented to my friends about one thing hitting me after another. Computer crashes and job problems are one thing, but the hardest things to bear are the painful actions of close friends and loved ones. When I cried out to God, asking why all these things were happening, he led me to the book of Job.

When Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die” because of all his afflications,  Job responded,  “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10). Well, there you have the answer. Who are we to question what hand God deals us on any given day? Is he not the sovereign ruler of the universe? Are we not clay in the potter’s hands?

But notice I said “almost throw in the towel”. As a follower of Christ, I have a hope. I know that there is a plan for my life and for the trials that I endure. Yes, there is suffering in this world and no, as Christians, we are not immune.

Some believe the goal of life is to eliminate all suffering, but Christ told us that in this life we will have trials “I have said these things to you, that <sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>in me you may have peace. <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”>In the world you will have <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>tribulation. But <sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”>take heart; <sup class="crossreference" value="(E)”>I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Suffering has a purpose. Romans 5:3 – 5 says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

The goal is not to avoid suffering, but to learn from it. What is it that you are going through today? What is causing you pain, anxiety, or stress? Whatever it is, consider these words from James.
Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials <sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”>of various kinds,  for you know that <sup class="crossreference" value="(G)”>the testing of your faith <sup class="crossreference" value="(H)”>produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be <sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”>perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).  Trust that there is a purpose in your suffering, although we may not understand it at the time and please, don’t lose the lesson.

Until next time, keep looking up!

The First Step to Transformation

Are you happy with your life? It is all you’ve dreamed of? Or, is there something about it you would like to change, some area you would like to grow in? Some would like to improve their appearance. Others would like to pursue a new hobby, career, or financial goal. Those who are more relationally-oriented would like to find inner peace or improve the relationships in their personal life. Contrary to what some say about old dogs and their tricks, I do believe most people are interested in growing, changing, and improving their lives, no matter how old they are. Could this be you?

But perhaps you don’t know how to go about it or where to start. As with any journey, the first step is always the most important. Now you may be thinking the first step involves some sort of action. But I want to challenge that perception. What you may or may not realize is this: the first step in any journey, change, or forward movement in life begins with a decision.

That’s right. A decision. What really determines whether you are going to succeed or fail in your endeavor, is the commitment to your decision. In other words, it is the strength of your resolve to your decision that energizes you to take action.

The key is commitment. So what do you have to have in order to commit to something? What is the one thing you absolutely have to have in order to follow through? I think you may know the answer to this question. The answer is this:

FAITH. 

You need to activate the power of faith in order to make a commitment to anything in this life. We must believe in ourselves, in others, and in the power of God to make things happen. Nothing, and I do mean absolutely nothing happens without faith. Faith is the key ingredient in any successful undertaking.

If you’ve tried before and failed, join the club, but don’t throw in the towel. Check out this video on famous people who have failed miserably in life and see how it makes you feel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Y6hz_s2XIAU

What is it that you would like to accomplish in your life? What change would you like to see?
If you want to transform your life, start by activating the power of faith. You’ll be amazed at the results! Until next time, keep looking up!


What Was I Thinking?

Ever get caught up in the heat of the moment, do something rash and then regret it later? Who hasn’t? Dierks Bentley, one of my favorite country singers, has a cute song that goes “I knew what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?”

Emotions and feelings cause us to do the most stupid things sometimes. One of the strongest emotions is anger, and we have recently seen what pent-up anger can provoke one to do as evidenced by the Newtown killings and the recent Boston Marathon bombing. Emotions and feelings, as I mentioned in last week’s post, need to be expressed, preferably in a positive and constructive way. Not unlike a volcanic eruption, unexpressed feelings can result in disastrous consequences and then after the fact we wonder “What was I thinking?”

The answer is we weren’t thinking at all. What happens is that the two sides of the brain compete for control. The left hemisphere controls logical, analytical, rational thinking. The right side controls our creativity, intuition, and expression of emotions. When our emotions take over, our rational logic thinking goes out the window. An example is when we fall in love, those gooey butterflies make us completely blind to the reality of the other person.

When our thoughts take over, our emotions are greatly affected.  As psychologist James Allen says in his book, “As a Man Thinketh”, our thoughts control our not only our destiny but our bodies and feelings as well.  If we start thinking negative thoughts, we will soon feel depressed, anxious and down. Try smiling, and see what it does to your mood. See what I mean?

So, there are a few things I’ve discovered I can do to maintain our equilibrium and stay in control of my actions and I thought I’d share them with you today.

1) Train up my thought life – refuse to dwell on negative or fearful thoughts
2) Feed my mind with healthy positive thoughts, books, music, etc.
3) Journal my thoughts and feelings on a daily basis
4) Practice speaking and listening to God, otherwise known as prayer and meditation.
5) Ask for God’s help – You can call him the Universe, the Creator, the Source or whatever, but I know his name is God and his power is called Faith.

The more we understand about the connection between our thoughts and our feelings, the better we will be able to control both and the stronger our spiritual muscle will become. What do you think about these ideas? Can you recall a situation where your emotions got the better of you? Feel free to comment on this post and share your thoughts.

 Until next time, look out for my next video, and remember, keep looking up!