Category Archives: Principles of Success

The Waymaker

“Way” is an old-fashioned term for “road.” It’s where we get the adages “show me the way,” as in asking directions or “I’m on the way,” meaning “I’m on the road.” These days though, “way” refers more to the method of doing something, as in “show me how to do that thing.” However, when Jesus used the word “way,” he was talking about finding the right path; he said, “’I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” meaning “I am the road to take you where you need to go”—both now and for eternity.

Our Compass

Jesus as “the Way” signifies that he’s our compass, our direction in terms of where we’re headed in this life, especially as we chase our destiny and seek guidance regarding our assignments in fulfilling it. The twists, the turns, the roads not taken—he points the way through the maze, around the wreckage, and through the wastelands, guiding us safely to our destination. And that’s just one dimension of direction he gives…

There are other times in life when we’re at a crossroads, seeking direction for new, major-life decisions, including which career to choose, how to prep for it and then where to work. Later we need to decide whether to get married, whom to marry, whether and when to have children, and eventually, when to retire. But that’s still not the end of the choice-making.

There are even more decisions to make—those in between the major milestones, other choices which may seem less significant but are really just as impactful. We have to decide where to go to church (a bigger deal than you might think), how to spend and/or save our money, where to live or move to, whether to rent or buy a house, and what kind of vehicle to get—all decisions which affect how we live.

Finally (and unfortunately), there are also those decisions that we have to make because life has reared up, aimed its treacherous arrow and hit us right between the eyes. Perhaps there’s a health crisis and a quick decision needs to be made about treatment options or maybe a child has gone off the rails and we, as parents, need to decide how to handle it. Perhaps we have to give up a long-held dream and the thought of letting go is paralyzing because now we have to choose another path forward.

And then fear hoists its ugly head because we know, just as meds come with side-effects, choices come with consequences—for better or worse.

The good news is that there’s no decision that we face alone, whether it’s one of the joyful decisions in life—where to make our new home or which job offer to accept—or it’s a painful decision such as whether it’s time to cut our losses and move on. The fact is that Jesus is always ready and willing to show us which path to choose, which road to travel—which “way” is the right way. We don’t have to make those decisions by ourselves because there is one who knows the future and sees exactly what lies along every road and at the end of every road.

The Dead End

But sometimes there seems to be no road—we have no choices—the landscape in front of us is simply one behemoth mountain or treacherous, sinking bog or endless, blazing desert. There are no options open and we’re “stuck” in a situation that needs to change but there is no path forward. Perhaps we’ve failed in such a way that we’ve burned all our bridges—an addiction or criminal record or grimy character issue. Maybe we’ve been fired from a job or shipwrecked a relationship or earned an unfortunate reputation that can never be redeemed.

Perhaps no one is willing to give us a second chance.

Or, there might be no options available at all due to no fault of our own. It might be that we’ve experienced some sort of prejudice which has limited our opportunities: sexism, racism, age-discrimination, religious or political intolerance. Or maybe the roadblock is that we don’t seem to have the innate abilities we need to accomplish what needs to be done—we have a learning disability that makes school or college seem impossible or we don’t have the patience to make it through one more day with that difficult child or spouse. It may be that we simply don’t have the money or resources to make ends meet, no matter how hard we try.

Perhaps there is absolutely, positively, no conceivable way to make that impossible dream happen. It’s a dead end.

The Waymaker

I remember many years ago, back in the day after my husband and I had had our second son, we were still living in an apartment—after ten long years. I longed for a house of our own but we didn’t have the resources to get one; there were too many obstacles in our way. And I’m not talking about just one problem—there were three major reasons why no bank would even consider us for a mortgage. First, we had no savings for a down payment or closing costs. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Every time I managed to save some cash, some unexpected expense would pop up: once our car died, never to be revived, and then there were the medical bills after our second son was born. In addition, because of some of unresolved issues with our credit, our scores were less than stellar. Then, on top of it all, my husband was self-employed and the business wasn’t yet showing a consistent profit, so we couldn’t prove that we had the income to repay a loan. In short, we were a “credit risk” and no bank would touch us.

It was a “Red Sea” season in our lives. No way forward—just stuck.

Then one day at the ad agency where I worked, I found myself talked into going to see a house for sale, strongly urged to do so by a client who had no idea of our financial limitations. And being that I was too mortified to explain the impossibility of our situation, I went, more to be polite than anything.

It turned out that the house would have been ideal for us. The two bedrooms that my young sons would’ve used had already been decorated for young boys; the one for my three-year-old was painted blue with Sesame Street characters on the walls and the other for my six-month old was painted light green with teddy-bear border paper. The yard was fenced in and there was also a deck and a pool, not to mention a family room and a new roof. It was perfect, exactly what I’d been hoping for—and I was heartbroken. We could never get a house like that. But the real estate agent who was showing the house didn’t know that and she chattered incessantly about having my husband come and look at it and down payments and closing dates… Finally, I had to stop her. With a red face, I confessed our financial woes with cash flow and credit and banks—and that’s when the impossible happened. She said, “I can help you with that.”

Long story short, she did. I worked on getting our credit issues cleaned up and she worked with a real estate lawyer who rolled over the up-front costs into the loan at a bank they knew of which would work with us. Three months later, on a hot September day, we moved into our beautiful new home.

Sometimes in life there is simply no way—until God blazes that trail—through the starless, black midnight; through the endless, crashing waves; through the smothering, gray fog of life—pointing the way to the shining road of purpose and destiny. As Churchill like to say, “Never, never give up.”

There is a Way.

The Psyche Shift

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In the contest for which principle of success is the most crucial, it would have to be that having—or not having—the psychological advantage is the key to determining success or failure.

But what’s a “psychological advantage”? It’s that feeling you get when you know you’re winning and you feel better, smarter, and more capable than any obstacle you may face. It is, in short, when you simply have no doubt that you’re going to win at anything you might attempt.

That Psych Momentum

We all know the principle of psych advantage. In sports it’s often known as “momentum”. The moment momentum shifts in a game, you know it, the team gaining it knows it, and the team losing it knows it—and they know the other team knows it. For example, the other night during a college basketball game, one team was significantly ahead; they had the momentum. However, at one point the other team went on a scoring run. After about three unimpeded field goals—during which the winning team scored nothing—everyone could feel the momentum shift. Granted, the winning team was still ahead, but the losing team was gaining. And here’s the key: the winning team was no longer certain they were going to win the game and, at that point, the losing team suddenly felt that they could win it.

That’s the psych advantage.

You may have heard it expressed this way:

  • “You can if you think you can, and you can’t if you think you can’t.”—Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
  • “’As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.’”—God (Prov. 23:7)
  • “Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success”—Dr. Joyce Brothers
  • “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”—Winston Churchill
  • “As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big”—Donald Trump

I’ve even heard this one: “In every relationship, there is the alpha dog and the beta dog. I’m the alpha dog.” (from the comedy What To Expect When You’re Expecting)

There are many other adages illustrating the need for the psych advantage in order to win. The point is that that advantage is the one thing, without which, we won’t succeed. We may not initially have the opportunity or money or education or support of others or any other thing that we might need to succeed, but if we believe that we will have them, then we have the psychological advantage.

So—how do we get that psych advantage?

Identity

Knowing our identity might be, by far, the most essential thing needed to attain the advantage because this is the one thing no one can take from you. In other words, know who you are. You have to believe in your own identity which includes your capability to achieve your goal—no matter how impossible that goal may look or how many times you might have failed. You have to believe that, because of what’s in you, you have the talent or the resources to succeed.

Here’s the challenge: you may not feel like you have what it takes and if you let those feelings dictate who you are and what you do, then you’ve lost the psych advantage.

As American citizens, for example, we have an identity backed by the irrefutable authority of the United States Constitution. This means that because of our citizenship—our identity—we have certain “inalienable rights” that no one can take away from us. The right to life (meaning we can’t be executed on someone’s whim), the right to free speech, and the right to “due process” are just a few. And, as American citizens, we can never lose these rights—regardless of the current chatter to the contrary.

In the Christian context, the Word of God says that “God seated Jesus in the highest position in the universe, at His Own right hand, and made Him head over all things” (Eph. 1:22) and that God has “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. . . .” (Eph. 2:6). Interpretation: Christ defeated death and the powers of darkness and then sat down, meaning “work done.” Moreover, He’s chosen to seat us with him—above the enemy and all of his minions.

As Christians, we’ve already won.

The problem is that many Christians don’t believe this because they don’t feel like they’re winning. But if we were to focus on our identity rather than on our feelings, we would feel the shift to that psych advantage—and it would never leave us.

Persistence

Another critical thing that we need to give us the psych advantage is the mindset that we won’t quit. You know the drill:  “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” It’s all true. But why would we quit? Lack of preparation, lack of resources, and lack of personal support as well as a mountain of emotional cement shoes: discouragement, fear, insecurity, fatigue, boredom. Any of these can shipwreck our psychological advantage—if we let them.

So how do we fight those? First, if we’re lacking resources, we continue working on getting that prep or money or support until we have them, and if we can’t bring ourselves to keep going until we get them, it’s because we’re being tripped up by our emotions. If so, we need to deal with those first. And that goes back to identity: Who do you believe you are? If you’re talented and passionate about doing “that thing,” then just keep doing it. Period.

 Think about it. What would you do if you quit? I’ll tell you: you’d be miserable.

Success

Odd as it might sound, the only other thing that can nuke our psych advantage is achieving success—and then thinking that we can never lose it. If we quit being hard-working and diligent, and quit giving it our best, then our momentum might shift to the person who is giving it all they have. We’ve all seen sports’ teams who get sloppy, believing they can’t be beat and then they are. Avoid that.

The bottom line is that if you don’t have the psych advantage going into your challenge, then stop what you’re doing and think about where you lost it. Thing number one: make your momentum shift happen.

No one succeeds without the psych advantage.

The Ends Justifies the Means—Or Not?

The word “compromise” is one of the great paradoxes of life. At the very least, compromise is an insidious little devil, often appearing to be one thing in theory but, in practice, turning out to be quite another. However, it’s proven to be quite the popular pastime and, through the ages, has starred as the topic of many hours of covert discussion and/or toasty debate. In its various forms, the concept of compromise has turned up in fortune cookies, as themes in many great pieces of literature, and behind the closed doors of our illustrious halls of Congress. Moreover, depending upon whom you ask, compromise often functions under several other aliases, including cooperation, collaboration, and their more subtle and sinister associate, collusion. At any time, any of these, compromise included, can be found…

  • “working across the aisle.”
  • dishing a little “give and take.”
  • proposing to “meet halfway.”
  • back scratching—as in, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
  • “going along to get along.”
  • settling for the “lesser of two evils.”
  • “agreeing to disagree…”
  • deciding to “look the other way.”

Now all of these proposals, on the surface, can present as civilized, mature, and even sophisticated means of interactions with others—and some are. But some are not—even though they’re pitched, sold, and marketed to be.

The End Justifies the Means?

So is compromise right or is it wrong? That depends. Is compromise being used to cooperate or to manipulate? Is it being used honestly or passive-aggressively?  Is it being used to truly resolve an issue or simply to avoid conflict?

Is it being used to advance one’s own self-interests?

If it is being used to our own benefit, then the price of compromise often involves some willingness to concede a moral value or two. Downplaying the income a bit to avoid paying the taxes? Ignoring the kid skipping homework because it’s just too exhausting to make him do it? Rounding the bases on date night to keep the boyfriend around? 

Increasingly, in our God-parched society, “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable explanation for rationalizing a whole host of behaviors that grandma would never have approved.

In other words, as long as we achieve the desired outcome, it doesn’t matter what we have to do to reach our goal. And here’s the really sad part: many people don’t even try to “justify the means” anymore because much current thinking revolves around the idea that if you don’t do “whatever it takes” to get there, you’re just stupid. And you deserve to be told so.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students insist that it’s not wrong to cheat on homework or tests because “making the grade” is the only thing that matters. Then they laugh. My response (after the eye roll) is usually that people who cheat on their spouses or end up in prison for corporate embezzlement generally didn’t start there. They started out compromising on smaller issues—like cheating on quizzes—and then worked their way up. Most Class A felonies are preceded by years of practicing misdemeanor offenses or relatively minor moral violations of conscience. Ask someone who’s fallen. They’ll tell you.

Who Are We Kidding?

Maybe the better question is, “Who are we not kidding?” Maybe we’re kidding ourselves but we’re absolutely not fooling God. Yes, he understands our need to meet that goal or to resolve that problem, but doing anything that we think warrants a little self-deception really doesn’t justify compromising the truth of what’s right and what’s wrong.

When we come to that critical moment in life where we either have to sacrifice our values or pay a price for upholding those values, then that’s when we have one of two choices. Do we make the deal or do we trust God?

We probably don’t have to think too hard to figure it out.

Still, there’s always the possibility that we’re not kidding ourselves about whether that “thing” is right or wrong; maybe we do know that what we’re about to do is morally incorrect. If that’s the case and we choose to do it anyway, then we’re kidding ourselves about something else: that we’ll get away with it. As Christians, we should know better. We will, after all, “reap what we sow.”

In God’s economy, the final end never justifies the current means.

“I Would Never…!”

Maybe we would and maybe we wouldn’t. And maybe it depends on the situation. Certainly, in situations where co-workers, spouses, friends, or community members need to work together to get something done, compromise is a necessity. After all, if you and the honey are buying a car and one of you wants a blue one and the other wants a red one, then by all means—compromise—get a purple one. No one will die. Sometimes, when working together on a solution to reach a goal is not an issue of compromising morals nor is it a manipulation tactic, then it’s just good, common sense.

But what if you’re not sure whether you’re crossing a line in compromising? What if it’s a high-stakes’ game? For example, what if the boss is pressuring you to fudge the “bottom line” on accounts so the company makes a little more profit—then what? If you don’t, your job might be at stake so then is it “not wrong”? After all, “the boss made me do it.” That’s a toughie, right? Not really. Nobody can “make” us do anything.

Joyce Meyer was once in that exact situation: she was being pressured by her boss to falsify records in order that the company she worked for might make more money. She refused. And look at her now—she’s an internationally-known Bible teacher. And why? Because when challenged with a test of character, she passed the test.

God rewards integrity.

There’s a difference between knowing what’s right to do and choosing what’s right to do. The knowing is the easy part—if we’re honest. Choosing right is often the hard part—definitely not the fun part. But that’s when we have another choice: trusting the Lord rather than fearing man. Joyce Meyer wouldn’t be teaching Biblical principles today if she hadn’t chosen to walk them out yesterday.

Destiny means compromise is not an option.

The Myth of the Mid-Life Crisis

What happens when we finally get what we’ve been working for during our 20s, 30s and into our 40s: The college degree or training is earned, the career success is launched, the college loans paid off, we have the marriage, the kids, the house, the car—it’s all happened. And we’re happy, right? The kids may have moved on, the house has been upgraded, the career promotions have happened, and there might even be money in the bank.

   But then what?

   That’s the question that torments many people who’ve reached mid-life and beyond because, whether we consciously recognize it or not, the questions swirling through our minds are often filled with sadness and disappointment: What have I accomplished? What’s left to pursue? What other goals do I have? What’s left to do now except work the grind until retirement at 65-70—and then…?

   What’s the point of even getting up in the morning?

A Crisis by Any Other Name

    This particular phase of life goes by many different names—theMid-Life Crisis,” the “Empty Nest Syndrome,” and/or the “Great Depression.” And to ease the pain of it, people often turn to other pursuits—affairs, alcohol, divorce, aimless travel, reckless adventure, pursuit of youthfulness, spending sprees, or endless therapy. But none of these things really ease the pain of this season of life because it’s caused by one thing: emptiness.

   When we don’t have a goal or purpose to fulfill in life or a dream or destiny to chase, we often seek to fill that vast, fanged void with whatever it is we think will eliminate the emptiness and fulfill us: seeking a new relationship, ditching an old relationship, buying stuff, wandering the world, or even blotting out the pain with “just one” drink or pill—which becomes two or four or six… every day… as we waste away on some therapist’s couch rehashing our childhoods and blaming our mommies.

   But that’s not the answer.

The Fix

   So what is the solution to emptiness? It’s simple: purpose. We need a purpose to fulfill in order to give life meaning and without one, we often just wither away. But in order to find purpose, we need to understand the meaning of “seasons” our lives. The Word of God talks about these seasons, different times and ages to accomplish various tasks and goals.

   “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every activity under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted; A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up… I have seen the tasks which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves… He has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end…”  (Ecc. 3:1-3, 10-11)

   The Lord appoints our work and often, we understand what that is—in the early years; it’s to do what we all attempt to do: get started in life. We pursue a way to earn a living, find a spouse, raise children, get some stability—and then…? When we’ve accomplished that, we often think we’ve outlived our usefulness so we turn to other things. However, we have not outlived our influence nor our impact.

The reality is simply that we’ve completed one season in our lives and it’s time to explore the next season.

   The Lord has a purpose for us and a destiny for us to fulfill and here’s the kicker: We often don’t have time to pursue that destiny until we’re finished with the full-time task of raising a family and/or finishing a career.

The Wisdom of Age

   It’s interesting to note that many of the most famous movers and shakers in the Bible were people who got started pursuing their destinies later in life. And by later, I mean what our culture often considers “too late.” They also didn’t begin until they had a well-established relationship with God.

   Abraham and Sarah, for example, didn’t fulfill their destiny as the parents of many nations until well after Abraham was established financially—in other words, he was rich—and had come to know and trust his God. And they weren’t the only ones: Moses didn’t return to Israel to deliver the Israelites until he was 80 years old—and until after he came to know the real God. (Remember, he was raised as an Egyptian.) Noah didn’t start building the ark until he was 120 and by then, he was recognized as a man of God, and Paul the Apostle didn’t begin serving the Lord until after he’d studied the law for many years and then had a personal encounter with Jesus.

   The point is that age is not a factor, especially old age. Many cultures, particularly eastern cultures, revere their elderly much more so than western cultures. This is exceptionally smart since there’s a wisdom that comes with age which cannot be found in books. It’s called “experiential wisdom”. Sometimes, we really don’t know anything until we’ve walked through some things. And here’s the key: because of their wisdom, I believe this is why the Lord gives important tasks to people who are older; they have a greater understanding of how to fulfill their purposes and complete their assignments. Moreover—and this is the most significant thing—they’ve come to know and trust God through seasons of watching his faithfulness and learning his ways.

There’s a faith that’s built through years of walking with the Lord through good times and bad, learning that he never fails and that we can trust him—no matter what.

   That’s something that we often just don’t truly understand in the springtime of our lives. We know about God’s faithfulness but we haven’t been around long enough or through enough to really have tested it, to really know it.

Destiny

   It’s sometimes difficult to understand the eternal purpose for the work that we do for the Lord or for the assignments that he gives us, but then that’s why Ecclesiastes says that “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” When the going gets tough, or the job seems too big or too boring or not significant enough, we can sense that there’s something bigger at play, more important in the big scheme of things than what we can see in the natural. If we’re doing what God has assigned us to do, there’s nothing mundane or useless about it. It might be a part of something bigger, something that we might not be able to discern—yet—but will someday. We will understand our purpose as a cog in the eternal wheel of destiny and so we will, someday, hear those precious words, “’Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

   If you believe you’ve reached the end of the path and you feel empty and irrelevant, then you’ve reached a crossroads in life. You can take the road that leads to a futile search for significance, or you can embark on a new season in your destiny, a path full of new assignments and eternal purpose.

   Mid-life does not have to be a crisis.  

Bitterness vs. Destiny

When I was a kid, I had a habit of skinning my knees, after which the same routine ensued: I would cry, mom would wash the wound, smother it in mercurochrome and put a bandage on it. But then somehow the bandage would come off (I have no idea how). From there, you guessed it—I would get the wound dirty and it would get infected and fester.

   Did you know that can happen to our souls?

   If we become wounded and that gash is not properly dealt with, it can become infected and fester, leading to bitterness. And bitterness is a cancer that can lead to the destruction of our souls (mind, will and emotions). But hang on—there is a fix…

Causes of Wounds

   But before we can talk about the remedy for an infection in our souls, we need to define a couple of things. First, what would cause the kinds of wounds that can lead to bitterness? Unfortunately, because we live in a fallen world, there are many. The following is a list of the most common, but it is by no means comprehensive.

Abuse—mental, physical, and/or emotional. Abuse includes domestic situations, bullying in school or on social media, and chronic fear caused by any number of situations. Wounds caused by abuse of any kind can, of course, run the gamut from occasional and/or relatively mild to frequent and/or severe. Regardless, the primary wound abuse causes is shame, which is huge. Self-doubt/hatred, fear and chronic mistrust are also possible consequences.

Betrayal. To be betrayed means that someone we trusted has misused that trust or and consequently, relationship has been broken. And whether betrayal occurs between people in a marriage, a family, a friendship, a business, or a church (to name a few), it causes a deep and excruciating pain. This pain includes feelings of anger combined with despair and sadness. Betrayal is a tough pill to swallow because the injured party is often powerless to change the situation or to heal the relationship. That power is all in the hands of the betrayer.

Feelings of Inferiority. Notice I said “feelings” of inferiority. Our feelings of not “measuring up” are not the reality; rather they are caused by the expectations we or others impose upon us. If we compare ourselves to others in terms of looks, opportunity, social standing, income, family or any other thing, we’re always going to find those who have it better and that’s where the infection happens. Two of the ten commandments say not to covet your neighbor’s anything—spouse, house, job—you name it. That’s because jealousy, envy, and covetousness all cause feelings of inferiority. “What’s wrong with me that I don’t have that?” And you’d better bet that mindset portends bitterness.

Symptoms of Bitterness

   There are many symptoms of bitterness but these several are particularly destructive: chronic and/or explosive anger, resentment, chronic complaining, blaming others, refusal to forgive, and an attitude of entitlement. I could take a fair amount of words explaining these but…

Bitterness boils down to two core beliefs: Someone else is responsible for my pain, and I’m entitled to pay back for my pain.

In other words, whether or not you’re responsible for what caused the pain, you’re going to have to make amends, pay damages, make restitution for it. Bitterness very often expects, perhaps unconsciously, innocent people to compensate for their hard times and if they don’t, well then, something’s wrong with them.

   I was recently told by someone that what their partner had failed to provide in a previous marriage would be compensated for their next marriage. It left me with two questions: Will their new spouse be expected to make up for a wound from a previous marriage? And will the new spouse have a say in that demand? This is a dangerous attitude of entitlement: What I didn’t get before, someone else is going to give me now.

The Fix

   So is there a treatment for bitterness? Yes, but it’s probably not a quick fix and I’m not going to lie and say it’ll be easy. But if you’re fed up with the pain of bitterness, then you have two choices: Deal with the temporary pain of the healing process or continue to live with the excruciating pain to yourself and others of not dealing with your bitterness. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but the truth will set you free. So…

You must forgive. If you refuse, then you won’t be free of your festering wounds: anger, resentment, blame, entitlement, etc. As some wise soul once pointed out—refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Won’t happen.

Now don’t confuse forgiveness with trust. If a person is not trustworthy, you can disengage and forgive from a distance. Forgiveness does not mean you have to trust them again. It does mean you have to be willing to say to the Lord, “Please don’t punish them on my account.” If you can say that, you’ve forgiven them. Forgiveness is not an emotion, it’s an act of the will. Don’t wait for a gooey emotion as proof you’ve forgiven. Just mean what you say to God and you’ve forgiven.

Stop complaining. Maybe you did get the short end of the stick. Maybe others do have it better than you. However, two things are clear: complaining will never be rewarded by God and nor will it get you anything. Thanksgiving will. That’s why gratitude for what you have is so precious to the Lord—especially in the midst of hard times—because you’re focused on what He has already done, not what someone else has done to you. That’s why it’s called “a sacrifice of praise”—because it’s hard but God deserves our gratitude, no matter what.

Stop criticizing. Sometimes bitterness causes us to have a critical spirit. This means that we don’t see the good that people do but rather we are always critiquing them for their faults, errors, and misjudgments. We need to stop it. Look for the good in people and if you really can’t see any, pray for them. And pray for yourself, that you will be able to see it.

End Game.

   Everyone suffers wounds but sometimes we play the “my pain is worse than your pain” game. That’s bitterness. What difference does it make? And if we really think our pain is worse than that of others, do we really want other people to experience the suffering that we have? Here’s a fact: That won’t heal your wound.

   I said that being healed of a festering wound would not be easy but it’s well worth the work. Who wouldn’t want to be free of bitterness and pain? And once we are, nothing will be able to stand in the way of fulfilling the destiny to which we’ve been called.

   It’s time.

Grace—The Fire Power of God

There was a time in my life when I went to confession, having been told by the good nuns (and they were good), that I would receive “grace” for going and that the more I went to confession, the more grace I would get. That was all fine and good – except that I didn’t really have any idea what grace was.

For the most part, I reasoned that grace was synonymous with mercy. Makes sense, right? I mean, you confess your sins and you have to receive mercy in order to be forgiven. The only problem was, I couldn’t understand how you could get “more” mercy; either you had it or you didn’t have it; either your sins were forgiven—or they weren’t. How could they be more forgiven or less forgiven?

What??

Now while I didn’t lose a lot of sleep over the issue, it was certainly a mystery. But I filed it away in the back of my mind and figured that some far off day when I finally got to heaven, some angel or saint would no doubt explain it to me. (It would, I thought, probably be Apostle Paul since he was always declaring “grace and peace” to someone or other.) However, that day came sooner than I thought – and not from Paul. One day as I was sitting in church mostly listening, I heard a woman begin to teach on the difference between grace and mercy. My ears perked up.

Simply put, mercy is defined as not getting what we do deserve – for example, punishment for sin, while grace is defined as getting what we do not deserve –  in this case, the power and ability to accomplish whatever it is we need to do.

I took a moment and thought about that. Suddenly it all began to make sense: Mercy and grace are not the same thing. Mercy is the forgiveness of sin, and grace is the power to overcome sin.

Grace is not just some vague, wimpy, “nice” little Christian concept. Grace is the fire-power of God.

Think about that.

What Is Grace For?

Grace is the power of God to accomplish and achieve the extraordinary, the supernatural, even the impossible things we are called to do in order to fulfill our destinies.  

The fact is that grace, like faith, is an actual substance, a “thing” which we can receive from God in order to accomplish whatever it is He has called us to do. And although it’s probably an insufficient analogy, I like to think of grace as a tool without which we can’t get the job done. Can we split wood without an axe or saw? Can we drive without a vehicle? Can we communicate without language?      

Can we fulfill our destinies without the fire of God’s grace empowering our lives?

Possibly, but not well. But that’s all right because God says, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (Romans 12:9).

Have you ever been so frustrated trying to achieve your calling, your destiny, that you just can’t seem to do what you feel you’ve been called to do? Have you even doubted that calling?

Have you ever just wanted to quit?

There’s fire for that.

The Myth of the Weed-Eating Vegetable

Squash

THE MYTH OF THE WEED-EATING VEGETABLE

   Wouldn’t it be great if you could rub a little circle of wax on the hood of your car—and it spread to whole the rest of your car? Wouldn’t it be great if you could plant a few squash plants in the corner of your yard—and they choked out all the weeds on the whole rest of the property? Wouldn’t it be great if you never exercised ever—and your body just atrophied into rock-solid muscle?

   Not going to happen.

   Why? Because this world is wired for ruin, death, and decay. Now, I’m not trying to nuke your day, but it helps to note that we live in a fallen world and so one of the principles of success in any endeavor this side of the wormfest is that we have to stay on top of the wreck and ruin. Whether your goal is to achieve in the physical, spiritual or emotional realms, we have to “mind the farm,” so to speak. With the exception of Divine intervention, things don’t “just happen,” “fall into place,” or “work themselves out”.

   Don’t believe me? Let the electricity bill, mortgage, and car payments go and see if those simply “fall into place”. Forget about that annoying rust on your undercarriage and see if that just “works itself out”. Forget about whether your supervisor thinks you’re doing a good job and see if your paycheck “just happens”.

No Toil = Trouble

Work is way over-hyped, anyway. I mean, who needs to study for a test? We all know “remembering” is a given. And why worry about cleaning houses, doing laundry or even showering? We all know people and things just morph from dirty to clean. And relationships? None of that “touchy-feely-emotional” stuff is really necessary; people “just know” they’re loved—unless you tell them they aren’t. Right?

   The assumption in all of these instances is that the job or the relationship or the possession won’t suffer if it’s neglected; it’ll at least maintain.

But that’s a bad assumption because in a fallen world, nothing maintains; things have to be maintained.

   And the word “maintain” doesn’t even imply “progress;” to maintain simply means to keep something from devolving or degenerating or dying. To make progress, we have to work even harder than we do simply to maintain the status quo. So—it all equates to work.

   But c’monwho doesn’t know that?

   Really? So why don’t we do the work? The bottom line is because we don’t want to do it; work, after all, takes work. So we procrastinate and we postpone and we neglect and we ignore our negligence—until it’s too late to fix that problem or take that opportunity or even to achieve that destiny.

Target #1: Relationships.

One thing we wreck through neglect is relationships, not just with people, but with God. Neglecting to read his Word or worship or pray are all things which will sever our personal lifeline to God; we kid ourselves that we’ll “get to it eventually” and so, sadly, we never really get to know him at all. Moreover, our neglect of time with him puts an end to receiving the direction, guidance and/or provision we need in order to fulfill our assigned purposes in life.

   Satisfying relationships with people don’t just happen, either. We’ve all heard of the book The Five Love Languages. If not, the premise is that everyone has one love language which, when spoken to him/her, makes them feel loved. These love languages include words of affirmation, acts of thoughtfulness, gifts, touch, and time spent together. Point? Neglecting to fill the “love language tank” of your loved one and then expecting the relationship to blossom is on par with filling your car’s gas tank once in New York and expecting to make it to L.A. without filling it ever again. Not happening.

Target #2: Finances.

Money is another thing that requires deliberate attention. If we neglect to budget, for example, bills won’t get paid and the savings account will be empty. Nor is there any magic fairy dust we can sprinkle on the credit cards to make the debt disappear. (Sorry.) Of course, this all sounds so elementary that it’s almost insulting to point out but… if it were so simple, then no one would be overspending, going into debt, and struggling. The reason? Things that were supposed to “work themselves out” in terms of money, didn’t.

Target #3: Success.

Did you know that if success is achieved, it can also be lost? Achieving that weight loss—and then neglecting to eat right once the goal has been achieved? So disheartening… Or one year sober? Five years? Ten years? Amazing accomplishment! But then to neglect the vigilance it took to maintain sobriety for all of those months and years is a tragic tale told the world over… Or the midnight oil burned for decades to build the business and the reputation and the financial success—all now casualties of health neglected in favor of fortune and fame…

   To neglect a thing is all that’s required for that thing to go downhill in a hurry—and the same is true of our destinies. I don’t know who said it but, “If we’re not moving forward, we’re falling behind.” If we’re not being proactive and taking ground, then we’re forced to be reactive, to try to clean up the mess we’ve allowed to accumulate and the ground we’ve lost through avoidance, carelessness, and negligence.

   The bottom line is this: If we’re trying to avoid work, the fact is that it takes a whole lot more work to have to go back and attempt to fix the rotten fruit of our laziness than it does simply to do the work the right way in the first place.

   Life is a garden. And while it would be nice if I didn’t have to weed my garden, until my squash starts doing it for me, that’s what’s on the agenda in this lifetime.

The Big, Bad Competition—and Other Scary Stuff

Wolf

THE BIG, BAD COMPETITION—AND OTHER SCARY STUFF 

I’ve always wanted to go into business for myself (although this discussion could apply to any dream). I’ve worked a couple of businesses through the years helping others and I’ve learned the business-end ropes, so to speak, but now I want to do my own thing. However, while I’m exploring my options in the direction I want to head, I’m finding one thing consistently: the competition is fierce. And honestly, that’s a little intimidating. Can I succeed in a market with businesses already up and established in my industry? How do I break in? Do I have enough money? What if I invest but can’t penetrate the market?

What if I fail?

 Now I can cite the standard “not trying is failing” philosophy and there’s some wisdom in that. Nevertheless, it doesn’t quench the fear we often have of the competition which, in a nutshell, boils down to one thing: What if I’m not good enough? The logic goes like this: If I were “good enough,” then certainly I would succeed. However, as I’m finding, “good enough” or not, there are other factors besides talent in the mix.

Thing #1: Do I have the stamina to succeed?

Breaking into anything—business, writing and publishing, the music industry, even climbing the ladder at work to attain that desired position—all of that takes really long-term persistence. Do I have that? For instance, I also write fiction and the struggle to reach agents and publishers can be disheartening, to say the least. To offset that, there have been times when I’ve had to work hard to restore vision by reminding myself that even the most famous authors, at one time, faced demoralizing obstacles. (The business, by the way, is intended to fund the writing dream.) So, knowing that the way to success is often fraught with discouragement, downturns and disappointments, will I have the endurance to be successful in business?

Thing #2: Do I want to do this thing long-term?

That’s a question I’m seriously contemplating. Even if I do manage to achieve some level of success in the business venture I’m considering, will I someday grow bored with it? To be perfectly honest, I get tired of the same old thing, year after year, so one thing I’m researching is whether this business has the potential for change, for evolution, for creative expansion. Since it’s a creative-type venture, I’m pretty certain it will but I have to ask the question. If the answer is “no,” the next question would be whether or not I could sell the business and make a reasonable profit. The bottom line is that the last thing I want to do is to create a potential grind or to lose my initial investment of time and money by simply closing up shop.

Thing #3: What type of economy am I located in?

This is a question which cannot be overlooked because it explores the economic conditions of a potential business market. For example, are a majority of potential customers economically struggling, just making ends meet or prosperous? And is the product or service for sale a necessity or a luxury? Will there be repeat business or is the product/service a one-time expenditure? If the product/service is a necessity and especially if it’s a consumable necessity, then it should work in any kind of economy. People need the product or service and they need it on a repeat basis. However, if it’s a luxury item or service, then perhaps the best place to set up shop would be in a prosperous market. Otherwise, it may not succeed. In terms of what I want to do (involving the wedding industry), I need to consider these questions. Are weddings big business? Yes, but even within the industry, some products and services—like wedding cakes and DJs—are standard across the board. Others, like high-end, expensive venues or event-planning services, might perhaps only be successful in more prosperous locations. We need to know the economic landscape of our potential market.

Thing #4: How much competition will the market bear?

Every industry has its competitors, whether one is selling a product or service, opening a restaurant, or trying to get a recording or publishing deal—whatever. Competition is just a fact of life. However, it’s something I need to consider in terms of where I set up shop: How much competition in my target business market is too much? If my competition is too prevalent and the market is already saturated with the type of business I’m considering, will the market bear another business just like it? In other words, will there be the customer base to support what I want to do?

Many years ago, I invested in a pyramid-type business with what I considered high-quality products—vitamins, nutritional supplements and the like. And while I had never quite trusted that type of business structure, I knew that the products were good and that, being consumable items, repeat business could be expected. What I didn’t realize was that the awesome money that the people above me were making was not because of the great product; it was because they had convinced so many people to sign on beneath them. Consequently, I found out—the hard way—that the market in my area was already so saturated with people selling this product that there was no more room in the market for that business. And since I’m not comfortable trying to make money off of the sales of other people, I had no interest in trying to sign people on beneath me. So, I learned that lesson, cut my losses, and moved on. Still, there is some good news in terms of competition…

There will always be a need for a new generation of up-and-coming people and businesses to replace those leaving the market.

Next Gen Rising

Whether you’re trying to break into a business industry or the arts, don’t be discouraged by the competition trying to make it the same fields. Writers, bands, artists, actors—they all eventually (how do I say this delicately?) exit the market, most through retirement, some because of health problems, and a new generation is needed to take their places (and that’s not an age thing). The same is true of businesses; each has its run, and the market needs to replace those which move or go out of business.

Go-Getters Usually Get

So what do you do in the meantime? While you’re waiting to “break in” to your field, VOLUNTEER!!! Go out and find that person or company already doing what you want to do, explain that you just want to learn the business, and ask if you can help. You might have to knock on a few doors but someone will take you up on free labor. That way you’ll gain some experience, find out what you didn’t know that you don’t know, and maybe even find a mentor who’s willing to help you to catch that dream. In other words, go out and find your own internship. (Hint: It doesn’t matter what age you are, either—from a corporate-business perspective, free labor is free labor!) And then, when an opportunity happens, guess who’s right there and ready? Volunteering in your industry is a great way to find out whether what you’ve been dreaming about doing is really your dream come true.

So—once you do a little research, evaluate your location and market, and tuck a little experience under your belt, that big, bad competition won’t seem so scary anymore.

Who knows—maybe one day soon, you’ll be the competition.

To Run With the Horses

Arthur and Knights

You’ve probably not given it much thought lately, but a warhorse is an amazing creature. They’re not just what the warrior rides on—they are the warrior. They have, of course, strength, they have incredible instincts, and they are fearless. Why am I rambling on about warhorses? Because they weren’t born that way.

Warhorses are made.

The Legendary King Arthur

I’m reminded of a scene in the best rendition of the King Arthur legend that I’ve ever seen called, not surprisingly, King Arthur (starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley). In a nutshell, Arthur is a Roman commander and all of his knights, before they were knights, were Sarmation boys who were forced into 15 years of brutal servitude in the Roman army. Essentially, because the Sarmations were known to be valiant warriors, the boys are easily taken from their homes and become slaves.

Nevertheless, they come to love Arthur because, unlike other Romans, he believes all men were born free “from their first breath”. These men fight alongside Arthur for 15 years until the day comes that they’ve all earned their freedom; they have the papers and everything. The problem is that the Saxons are invading Britain from the north and the Saxons are evil. Everything and everyone they don’t destroy, they burn.

Still, now that his knights are free, Arthur will not order them to fight the Saxons. They ride off to return to their homes, taking the townspeople to escape with them, and Arthur rides off to face the Saxons alone (with a little help from Merlin’s druids but how much good will that do?). But as the knights are riding merrily away from the battle, the sound of the Saxons’ war drums can be heard in the far distance. The Saxons are coming closer. Nevertheless, the knights ignore them and keep riding south.

Except that their warhorses don’t.

Warhorses hear the sound of the battle and run toward it.

Their warhorses hear the sound of the drums in the distance and begin to fight their riders to turn around. The knights have a hard time reining them in as horses paw and snort and try to gallop away. The horses are fearless.

The Heart of A Warrior

Horses don’t become warhorses the moment some warrior throws a saddle on them and rides off into battle; warhorses, like the warriors themselves, are trained. They’re taught to run to the battle and through the thick of it, never slowing down. They’re taught commands, battle maneuvers, and defensive strategies. They’re trained in battle skirmishes so that they get used to the sounds, sights and smells of the battle. And they’re taught to keep on fighting—even when they’re wounded.

Warhorses begin as wild horses – whether they’re captured in the wilderness or born in a stall. And yet it’s that wild spirit that’s not broken but honed, trained and refined. The warhorse learns who its master is and, when submitted to him, becomes his partner, and the two accomplish more together than either one could ever do alone. Submission to the training of its master does not beat the horse into a wimpy little nag; rather it makes the horse into a warhorse—more fearless, powerful and magnificent than it could ever hope to be in the wild.

The Transformation

You and I are like those wild horses. We may have some skills on our own, but submitted to the Master, we can become more than we’d ever have dreamed—fearless, powerful and valuable resources in the war for the Kingdom on earth.

There’s a reason Jesus will ride to victory in the final battle on a warhorse instead of in an F-22 fighter jet or an Apache helicopter. A warhorse is his partner, it fights with him and for him. And a warhorse never runs.

If we listen, we can hear the sound of the war drums.

Fearless

Lydia Darragh   Most Americans have never heard the name Lydia Darragh but if not for her, the American Revolution might have ended very differently, and we might be paying taxes to the British royal family to this day.

Liberty’s Spy

   During the Revolution, Lydia Darragh operated as a member of Washington’s spy network in Philadelphia where she owned a home. Her spying career began when the British took over her house as a meeting place, a move which inspired Lydia to begin hiding in a closet and eavesdropping on their conversations. Afterward, she’d send her son to relay the enemy’s secret plans and strategies to the colonists. One such intel interception is said to have saved the life of General George Washington himself.* Lydia Darragh knew she was risking her home, her freedom, and even her life to spy for the Americans, but she didn’t care; liberty was infinitely more precious than safety.

   There’s power in not caring.

The Most Hated President

   History has demonstrated that, throughout the ages, there’s absolutely no limit to what a person can accomplish if they simply don’t care what other people think. Take, for example, Abraham Lincoln. Here was a man who had lost election after election—over a dozen at least—and yet still ran for president. He didn’t care that there were many who mocked him, called him a “loser”, and made him a national laughing stock. Then later, once in office, President Lincoln was apparently not obsessed with amassing power or being voted “most lovable” because he pulled the plug on slavery, knowing full well that millions would despise him for doing it. Moreover, he had to know that he was putting his very life at risk. But he didn’t care. He only cared about doing what he knew was right.

The Shepherd King

   The same is true of King David in the Bible. David, scorned as a lowly shepherd boy, nevertheless faced down a giant because Goliath had dared to mock the living God. David was so horrified by Goliath’s blasphemy that he was willing to endure ridicule: the jeers of the whole Israeli army and the outrage of his own brothers who accused him of arrogance for having the audacity to believe he could do what seasoned warriors feared to do. Yet David didn’t care what they thought; he did what he had to do.

The Orphaned Queen   

   Then there was Queen Esther who breached protocol and approached the Persian king uninvited to plead for the lives of the Jewish people (Esther 4:11). And while such an emergency might seem to be an extenuating circumstance and so trump the royal protocol, it wasn’t—one simply did not appear before the court without a royal summons. In fact, such insolence often ended badly for the poor, misguided reprobates who’d attempted it in the past. Still, Esther’s attitude was, “‘If I perish, I perish.’” She didn’t care enough about the consequences of her “presumption” to compromise her mission. And because of that attitude, she saved the entire Jewish race.

   That’s the power of not caring.

The fear of man and his opinion is the death of many a destiny.

   Who is willing to face down ridicule, rejection, ruin and even death to accomplish that thing they were born to do? On the other hand, how many people have caved to the pressure of another man or woman’s opinion and abandoned their destinies?

   We’ll never know because their names have been lost in the dark void of compromise and fear.

Friend of Sinners

   Jesus never caved. Even when the Pharisees called him crazy, a fraud, a criminal, demon possessed—whatever they could conjure to destroy him—he never flinched. In fact, he struck back, exposing them as hypocrites, “white-washed tombs” and even murderers. Why? He simply didn’t care what they thought. As a result, he revealed corruption in the highest ranks of the Jewish leadership and shone a bright light for the poor, deceived people of Israel.

   But what if Jesus had cared about what people thought of him? He certainly would not have chosen to hang naked upon a cross or to be spit upon, mocked and humiliated before throngs of people. Moreover, he knew that scripture pronounced a curse upon anyone “hung from a tree” and that that curse included the family of the condemned; therefore, he would never have consented, by hanging upon that wooden cross (tree), to bring shame upon his family—that is, if he cared about what man thought of him.

   Not that that decision was easy for him. Just imagine what his notoriety did to the reputation of his mother, his brothers and his sisters. Did they live in shame forever after? Did his sisters have a difficult time finding men who would marry them—daughters of a cursed family? Possibly.

   Even so… Jesus could not afford to care about what people thought about him or even about his family; if he had, he would have quit. Thankfully, he did not.

Popular vs—Not…

   I daresay that behind every tale of success throughout history from the ancients to this very hour, there comes a moment when a person has to decide which he (or she) cares more about—his popularity or his destiny. If he fears the opinion of man and caves to the detriment of what is right, then destiny is lost. But if he moves forward past the “group think,” not caring about his critics or their speculations, then history is made. Fear of man has never inspired anyone to set a new trend or to blaze a new trail but instead, sadly, only to follow behind—even if it’s over the cliff he goes. 

   There’s great power in not caring what others think—and freedom. It’s the freedom to express yourself, to explore all opportunities, and to be who you were created to be.

   It’s the end of fear.

 

  • Kyla Cathey (“9 Women Who Helped Win the American Revolution”)