Category Archives: Principles of Success

FAIR? Maybe Not.

Nick

   If you’ve never heard of Nick Vujicic, here’s the quick version: He was born without arms and legs—not even part of any limbs except one small malformed foot attached to his torso. Is that fair? Absolutely not. But he doesn’t let it stop him—at all. In fact, he’s an amazing motivational speaker. When Nick proclaims that quitting is simply not an option, no one can argue the point. And why isn’t he angry or bitter? Certainly no one would fault him.

Life Should Be Fair!!

   Many people think so. But it isn’t. Life is hard. Hal Urban makes these points in his great book Life’s Greatest Lessons. The fact is, expecting life to be fair is a very dangerous proposition. But then—why do we have to be told this?

   The reality is that even though we “know,” in general, that life isn’t fair, when it comes to us personally, we often expect it to be. And because we don’t really accept that life is not fair, then we can become angry when life slaps us upside the head and proves the point. Job loss, financial crisis, relationship problems, and health issues are some major “not fairs” in life. Eventually, when we’re angry about life’s unfairness long enough and we can’t “make” it fair (according to our standards), then we can lose hope that anything will ever change. If we go there, depression sets in.

   Is it “fair” that we’re not billionaires like Bill Gates? Some would say a resounding “NO!” But is it fair that we weren’t born in a third-world country where mothers can’t feed their children? No. Is it fair that ever since I broke my leg when I was fourteen, I can’t bend it quite as far as I once could? I didn’t used to think so—until I saw a video of Nick Vujicic who doesn’t have any legs .

   It’s funny how seeing someone suffering through circumstances worse than our own can adjust our perspective.

Chicken? Again??

   Back in the day when I had very little money, I was on a tight grocery budget. Very tight. Chicken, ground beef and pasta in some form or another were common. Then one day, my sister visited and she needed “a few” things so we went grocery shopping where she proceeded to fill her cart with all kinds of things I considered “extras” – salsa and chips, steak, baked goods, and fresh fruits, to mention just a few. I had the usual: chicken legs, eggs, bread, milk and bologna. Once she left, I was in tears. God and I had a little “chat” during which I explained to Him (rather loudly) how “unfair” it was that she could afford steak and all I could afford was chicken. I was sick of chicken. But to this day, I still remember exactly where I was when God responded to my little tirade; I was literally mid-step between my living room and kitchen.

   “Have you ever gone hungry?”

   Suddenly I was in tears for another reason. “No, Lord,” I whispered, “I haven’t.”

   How unfair is that when millions of people in the world are hungry every day?

The fact is that our expectations shape our perspectives all the time. If we “expect” things to be one way or the other and they’re not, we’ll live our lives in disappointment and bitterness.

Unrealistic Expectations Can Ruin Lives

   My mother died of cancer 23 years ago. My father died four years ago. However, one of the things I’ll always remember about the two of them is that they had the kind of marriage that everyone dreams of. They were best friends, treated each other with respect and never failed to show love and appreciation to the other. As a consequence, they virtually never fought; in all the years they were married, they only had two fights. So what did I expect when I got married? Exactly. I thought it was the end of the marriage if a couple had an argument; I’d rarely seen it happen. Why is that important? Because since my expectations for a good marriage were so unrealistic, I was very disappointed. That meant that any “intense fellowship” my husband and I had was, to my mind, a major crisis.

   It was all so unfair!

   But was it unfair? Or were my expectations just unrealistic? No and yes. The point is that if we have unrealistic expectations in life, then we’re going to label lots of things “unfair!”. And when we go through life thinking we’ve gotten the short end of the stick, we can become literally heart sick.

Things We Just Expect…

   So what are some of these heart-breaking expectations? How about the big media lie that every woman should look like a twenty-year-old model and if we don’t, well, then we need to be “fixed”. Take Marie Osmond and her NutriSystem campaign, for example. She’s 60ish (by my estimation) and looks like she’s 30. The implication is that spending big bucks for NutriSystem every month is going to make any 60-year-old look 30.

   Now there’s an expectation looking for a disappointment.

   I’d love to be the copywriter for that NutriSystem TV ad. The fine print would read: “Personal trainer, plastic surgeon, private cosmetologist, hair and make-up designer, wardrobe specialist, and video/photo editor are not included with this offer.”

   Is it “fair” that Marie can afford to look like that and the rest of us—not so much? Personally, I don’t think it is fair, but then, I would be wrong.

Not Happening

   The larger point is that unrealistic expectations about what’s “fair” and “unfair” can have us wasting valuable time chasing things in life that are never going to happen. When Jesus said, “’In this world you will have tribulation,’” he said it for a reason. To expect that we won’t have trials, tribulations, losses, crises, and heartaches is just plain – well, let’s say “naive”—it sounds better.

   The next time you feel disappointed, ask yourself, “What was I really expecting?” After you identify your expectations in that situation, ask yourself whether those expectations are realistic or not. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for things that were never possible to begin with. Once we realize that, we can cut ourselves a break for not being able to achieve those impossible goals.

   So much for looking like Marie… 

 

 

 

 

You Can’t Not Be A Royal

FREE PIX - CrownRecently, the news folks on at least five continents have been waxing apocalyptic about Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and their decision to “quit” the royal family. Apparently, their plan is to move to the British province of Canada where they can live like “normal people”. The whole fiasco is called “Megxit” after Meghan, who is being blamed for enticing her royal husband to leave Windsor Palace for more modest room-and-board.

Of course, none of this is going over very well. Headlines gleefully announce that Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, is having fits in private, although in public, she “supports” their decision. Papers also speculate that this whole circus is a deliberate plot to take the press’s focus off of Prince Andrew and his alleged ties to certain people of very dubious character who, for our purposes here, need not be named.

Royalty Is Not A Conditional Proposition

Despite the fact that a lot of people care about the accusations against Prince Andrew as well as Prince Harry’s decision to abandon his royal roots, the point is this: Neither Andrew’s behavior nor Harry’s decision to “quit” the royal family makes them “not royal”.

   You can’t undo royalty.  

Royalty is a position one is born into and as such, it’s a bloodline identity, not a sought-after or bought-into or earned position. No one can go to college with the goal of becoming a royal entity. Royalty is not a job, it’s an identity. Royalty is not what one does, it’s who one is—that’s the difference. Harry will always be a prince by virtue of his bloodline, despite his desire to leave it all behind, and Andrew will always be a prince, despite his sins. While the purpose of this piece is not to berate Andrew, the lesson is that the magnitude of his alleged fall from grace still does not negate his identity as a royal.

The Bride of Christ

By virtue of our relationship with Christ, we are also royalty; we have a new identity because we are now the bride of Christ. In just the same way that Meghan is now a royal by virtue of her marriage Prince Harry, we, who are the bride of Christ, have been grafted into the bloodline and thereby the royal family. As such, we are enthroned at the right hand of Christ—as is fitting for a bride and queen.

We reign with Christ—and we can only do that from a position of bloodline royalty.

Moreover, we can’t “lose” our new identity in Christ; our “new creation-ship” is an established fact which cannot be altered, regardless of how we “feel” about ourselves or our behavior. The prodigal son was still his father’s son, despite his leaving and despite his sin. And if he had never chosen to return to his father, he would still have been his father’s son—albeit in a pigpen.

Speaking of the Pigpen…

We often disqualify ourselves from our royalty, not by our actions, but by our mindsets about ourselves. Granted, it’s much easier to appropriate and accept one’s identity as a royal if one is born into it and raised knowing it from the first breath. But what if we were born into a situation seemingly anything but royal? Maybe we grew up in poverty or a broken home or had less-than-royal-behaving parents or are even a convicted felon. Even if—none of those situations is now your identity in Christ.

“But what if I’m still in one of those situations?” If you are, and you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are still royalty.

   Your situation does not determine your identity.

We’ve all heard the story of the “Prince and the Pauper” in which a prince and a poor boy (who happen to look alike) exchange places and thereby end up taking on one another’s daily lives. Even so, their new circumstances don’t change who they are; the real prince is still royalty and the pauper is still not.

Royals Have A Duty to their Kingdoms

You are a royal entity. And that will never change. What needs to change is your acceptance of that truth because when it does, everything else will change. Your view of yourself and what you’re allowed to do will change—after all, royals accept that they have the right, authority, and privilege to do whatever must be done. This means that your view of your purpose and destiny will change as well: You will understand that you have the right and authority to pursue your purpose in life. And one more thing: You have a duty to pursue your purpose. Royals understand that their duty is to lead and to do the work required to benefit their kingdoms.

We have a kingdom which requires us to fulfill our purpose. It’s our duty. And we can only fulfill that duty and purpose when we truly accept and move in our royal identity in Christ.

So, Your Royal Highness—it’s time.

 

The Mountains of Our Destiny

Mountain Purple - FREETHE MOUNTAINS OF OUR DESTINY

   Today I worked with a student who needed practice on a section of the New York State English Regents exam. In the course of the hour that we sat together, he told me how, while he can identify themes and main ideas in his head, he can’t get them onto the page. The words, “I can’t write” exited his mouth at least six times. Finally, I stopped him.

   “What’s your definition of writing? Grammar, punctuation, spelling?”

   “Yep.”

   “That’s not writing, that’s editing. That’s why they pay me the big bucks. Writing is conveying your ideas about the messages and lessons buried somewhere in a piece of literature. It’s expressing your opinions and backing them with evidence from the text. Can you do that?”

   “I think so.”

   “Good, then you can write. Stop saying you can’t.”

Solomon and the Temple

   As David was handing off the baton to Solomon to take the reins of the kingdom and to build the long-awaited temple, he admonished him, “’Do not fear the work…’”

   “’Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work… is finished correctly’” (I Chron. 28:20).

   I suspect that, once Solomon got a glimpse of the mountains of supplies and blueprints, the words “I can’t” might have slipped off his tongue a time or two. Or two hundred. The size of the chore was massive—the temple would take years to build—and Solomon was flat intimidated. Dad to tell him more than once, “’Be strong, and do the work’” (vs. 10). We should probably take that advice as well. And why?

   Because it’s our assignment.

The Goliath of Tasks

   How many times have we been intimidated by the size of the job the Lord has given us to do? Some days, we look at the Philistine that it is and want to run away in terror. It might be parenting that child. You might feel like my three-year-old did once upon a time after his newborn brother had been home from the hospital about two weeks and he looked at the baby and said, “When are we taking him back?” Or your Goliath might be working in that ministry or maybe it’s your actual job. Or it might be writing that book. I wish I had just one share of Google stock for every time I’ve heard someone say, “I know God wants me to write a book but I can’t write!” (Yes. You. Can. Maybe you can’t edit but you can write.) At any rate, I’d never have to work again.

Our Own Mount Everest

   We all have at least one monumental task that God has called us to do and we look at that mountain in front of us and say, “Not me, not today.” But what did Jesus say about that?

   “’…For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matt. 17:20).

   Turns out Solomon did move that mountain of wood, stone and precious metal and built the very house of God.

   What is God calling you to build? It won’t be the first—or the last—“impossible” task you’re called to do. But that’s just it—you’re called.

   Do not fear the work.

 

The End Game.

Rose Pink

   Somewhere in the history of this great, green earth, someone coined the maxim, “Stop and smell the roses.” I thought that was such an adorable sentiment. Let’s all go find a garden and take a nice, long whiff. After all, we have all the time in the world.

   I was rather missing the point.

   Of course, the saying is a metaphor admonishing us to slow the hamster wheel long enough to relish the “unimportant” things in life, those precious moments which, without warning, poke their heads from mucky oblivion like an unexpected crocus from a cold patch of snow.

   A bit of perfume and color in a damp and murky world.

   But why do we need to be reminded of this?  

This Spinning Rock

   Life is like some great cosmic dynamo of endless motion where nothing ever stops—stars wheeling through the heavens, the earth spinning on its axis, and clouds forming and reforming and forming again. And people. From the time we’re born, we’re continuously moving—squirming, crawling, skipping, climbing, running—in one form or another, always in motion. And why? Because we have a plan. And often that plan doesn’t include slowing, pausing or—heaven forbid—stopping altogether. And that’s because…

   “Time is a precious commodity.”

   “You snooze, you lose.”

   “The early bird gets the worm.” (yuch)

   “There’s no time to lose.”

   “Life is a jungle… the survival of the fittest” and all that.

   And again—why?

   Just—because.

The End Game.

   But what’s the purpose? In the end, what have we accomplished with all of the movement?

   The answer we often get probably goes something like this: We cram to compete for the top grades to win the great scholarship to attain the four+ year degree to snag the high-paying job to buy the nice house. (Insert spouse and kidlets somewhere in here.) Then we’ll get the bigger paycheck to buy the much bigger house with the two-car garage (one car would be lonely) and the annual vacation (requiring a plane trip over water). Not to mention the savings, the college tuition accounts, the IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs, stocks, bonds, minted-gold bars, and vintage baseball cards. And why?

   So we can retire.

   And when we retire, then we’ll smell the roses—if the market doesn’t crash, the price of gold doesn’t tank, medical bills don’t steal the home equity and the IRA/401/403, and the baseball cards don’t grow moldy.

But What If…?

   No doubt time is a precious commodity, very precious—one much more valuable than gold or money or houses or degrees or retirement accounts. Of course, we do need those things—not saying we don’t. But what if we really used that precious gift of time to give life to our life—and to the lives of others? What could be more valuable than that? We can still buy the house and take the vacation, sure, but those things aren’t ends in themselves. They’re things.

   So—what is the point?

Your Roses

   What are your roses? What are the experiences that bring meaning to your life and to the lives of others?

Jesus wasn’t playing when he said we can’t take our money and stuff with us.

   He mentioned a couple of different parables in which people had died leaving barns full of grain and palaces full of treasure, and what did he say about that?

   “’Store up your treasure in heaven…’”

   So what’s that look like? Invest. Share your talents, gifts, money and resources with others. There is simply no end to how we can share what we have. And the most important of all your resources is your time. Money, talent, time—spend them wisely.

   Invest in people.

   When it’s all been said and done, people will remember what they did in life, the experiences they had, and whom they shared them with rather than what stuff they bought. So—is it someone’s birthday? Instead of another phone accessory, give them a party, take them to a movie, or on a spontaneous day trip. Valentine’s Day? Instead of bringing them chocolate, take them somewhere to choose their own dessert. Can’t afford a present? Offer to help in some way; it will mean the world to both of you. In the end, those are the bonding moments you’ll remember. And that’s the point.

   Stop and smell the ocean breeze.

 

 

 

Colluding With God

Angel - FREE

   I once heard a tale about a very successful businessman who made his company decisions in a very unique way. He would go into a tiny, closet-like room, close the door, ask the Lord what to do—and wait. He wouldn’t come out of that room until he heard the Lord give him very specific directions.

   Did I mention he was very successful?

He Did What?

   There are many different words for what this businessman did: collaborating with God (root word “laboring”) or cooperating with God (root word “operating”), but I like the word “colluding” better. Granted, while the word is sometimes used to suggest that some illegal activity is brewing, I don’t, of course, mean it that way.

Instead, “collusion” has the sense of conspiring in secret to accomplish some great mission that the rest of the world does not yet know about. You know—the stuff of thrillers and spies and secret ops (minus the brandy and cigars).

   The kind of thing that often happens in a prayer closet.

Assignments of Destiny

   Our destinies are like that. A custom-made plan and purpose that only we and God together can concoct to impact the earth in a huge way—much like a meteor, steered by God, collides with the planet, leaving a huge crater in its wake. Only in a good way.

   We, being sons of God, the body of Christ, carrying the resurrection power of the Almighty, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of glory for the whole world—why shouldn’t we be powers to be reckoned with? Why shouldn’t we be the ones to impact the earth, influence billions of people, and shake the heavens?

   Why shouldn’t we rock the world?

That Secret Place

   I’ve learned the secret of colluding with God the less-than-easy way. (I’ve learned a lot that way.) After many years (decades?) of colluding with myself to “reason” the best move to make or enterprise to undertake in any life or business decision, I’ve come to the conclusion that “doing what makes sense” hasn’t always proved to be the smart thing. In fact, in learning to collude with God, I have to admit that he often comes up with ways of doing things that I never, in a million years, would ever have dreamed up.

   So where is this “secret place”? Not that it’s a secret—but I don’t have one tiny closet that I habitually lock into but rather a couple of special places that are conducive to listening. One is in my living room. Now, that won’t work for everyone but since I don’t have a dozen kidlets running around, it works for me. Directly across from the couch I sit on when in listening mode is another sofa and there are times, I swear, when I’m sitting in silence, listening, and I almost see him sitting there, just across from me. Other times, during my planning period at school (when the planning’s all been done, of course), I’ll turn off the bright lights and just wait, and I can feel the presence of God right there in the classroom. The room vibrates with stillness.

The HARD Wait…

   Have you ever prayed and prayed and prayed about something, sometimes for years and decades—and you just get tired? The thought of seeking heaven even one more time seems comparable to scaling Mount Everest with an ice pick, and the idea that that one more prayer is going to make one iota of difference in the vast recesses of the universe seems about as likely as your cat bringing your slippers.

   I have to confess: I have.

   Prayer and intercession can be draining—in body, soul and spirit. The energy to “keep on” praying in the midst of long waits for answers sometimes vanishes and—let’s be brutally honest— you almost dread having to pray because it’s the same thing, over and over a-gain.

   But what if you didn’t have to pray for the same thing, all the time? What if, when you got into your secret place with God, like the businessman, you and God colluded together to accomplish your destiny, to fulfill the purpose for which you were born? And—here’s the exciting part—to seek those wildly creative ideas that God has for you to fulfill those assignments?

   This past summer when I was working on my novel, I reached a couple of places where I just didn’t know where to go next. I simply couldn’t, on my own, think of the next plot twist that wouldn’t be boring, cliché-ish, or already written by someone else. So, I decided I was going to do something differently. Instead of praying and then assuming that whatever I came up with next would be the big plot revelation sent from God, it occurred to me that, after praying, I should just sit and wait until I heard God tell me what was going to happen next. And I have to say, I waited—for two weeks. But waiting paid off; what he gave me is based on a real-life bit of history that I didn’t even know had ever happened—which meant I couldn’t have dreamed it up if I’d tried. And it was so much better than anything I could have concocted that I can’t wait to get started listening for the next novel he has in mind.

End Game

   Waiting on God for the specific choices, decisions and steps to accomplish our destinies makes their fulfillment so much sweeter for having colluded with God to achieve them. That “colluding” is the true meaning of “co-laboring with Christ”. The fact is, God doesn’t want to do the work for us; he wants to do it with us. And here’s a mind-bender: Doing it that way is as exciting for him as it is for us. When we get with God, we’ll discover that what’s possible is far more than we can even ask or think.

   That’s the power of colluding with God.

The 2020 Revelation: BLESS.

glitter lights grunge background, gold glitter defocused abstract Twinkly Lights Background.

   This year, 2020, is a new year, a new decade, a new opportunity. I’m taking it; I’ve been away from DestinyHighway for a few months to complete my novel—and it is finished!—now onto the whole pitch routine. And back to the blog. So—what better way to get back on the Highway than with the word the Lord is releasing for this year for all of us:

   “BLESS!”

   When you plant a seed, you wouldn’t expect it to grow if you didn’t water it. (I hope.) Nor would you expect a child to grow if he or she were not fed. But what if kidlets are fed only occasionally—would they grow? Maybe. But if they’re fed only cookies and potato chips, maybe not so much. As with any human entity, kids need nutritional foods and they need them pretty regularly. If not, a child won’t grow and thrive.

   The point?

   Our dreams are our babies, and if they’re not fed frequently and with the right stuff, they won’t thrive either. Moreover, they may not even survive. But what do you feed a dream?

The proper diet for any dream, vision or destiny is words—words of blessing.

   The very real tragedy—even in the church—is that we’ve completely ceased to recognize the reality of spoken blessings and consequently, these commands of favor languish, so to speak, in the spiritual realm, gathering dust. However, the Bible tells us that blessings are very, very real.

BLESSING = MULTIPLICATION.

   In the beginning of creation, the very first thing God did after he created plants, fish, birds, animals and people is that he blessed them. He told them, “‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” And lo and behold—it worked! They vastly multiplied after their “own kind”. So, for example, when we bless our finances, they will multiply—and after their own kind. The blessing will result in increased finances and/or provision.

   Fast forward: God called Abraham to travel to the Promised Land and said to him, “‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’” (Gen. 12:1-3). And that has happened. The people of Israel, throughout thousands of years, have never failed to thrive, despite severe persecution and countless attempts to annihilate them completely. That’s no coincidence. It’s the result of the blessing that God spoke over the nation of Israel before it even existed.

   And then there was Jacob. When he stole his brother’s blessing from their father Isaac, Esau cried out to his father, “‘Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.’ And he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me…? Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept.…” (Gen. 27:36-38). What’s evident in this passage is the fact that the blessing is a very tangible and specific “thing” that brings multiplication to whomever it is given. Isaac, Jacob and Esau all recognized that—which is why Jacob stole the blessing and why Esau grieved when he lost it.

   Finally, on the two recorded occasions that Jesus hosted a picnic for thousands, he first took the few available loaves and fishes and the Bible says that he “blessed them.” And what happened? They multiplied—so much so that after feeding 5000 men plus their families, a dozen baskets of leftovers were gathered.

WORDS WILL CREATE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING.

   What this means for our destinies and of those of our loved ones is that we need to be implementing the very real power of the spoken blessing. Words have creative power and we know this because God created everything with the spoken word. In addition, words are eternal in the spirit realm. (The post “IF” explains this principle in detail.) That means that every word ever spoken over anyone or anything is still alive in the spirit realm and still bearing fruit. If the word was a blessing, then there will be success and multiplication. If the word was a curse, then the fruit is failure and barrenness. Blessing is the will of God to bring about that which is good, which is why Jesus commands us to bless even our enemies.

THE TIME FOR BLESSING IS NOW.

   The fact is that our words have power and it’s time to loose that power through blessing. Bless your dreams, visions, endeavors, and destiny. Bless your families—your spouses, children, parents, relatives, and friends. Bless your businesses, investments, and finances. Bless your health, strength, energy, and peace of mind. Bless the work of your hands and creativity: your writing, music, artwork, schoolwork, employment and certainly your employers because if they prosper, so do you. Bless your church, pastors,  ministries, government, and schools. Blessing your destiny is like watering a plant or feeding a child; it’s not just a “nice” thing to do, it’s a necessity.

   “Bless” is the revelation for 2020. What will you be blessing this year?

 

The Myth of “Self-Esteem”

Self-Esteem

THE MYTH OF “SELF-ESTEEM”

     Without self-esteem, we cannot have the kind of authentic self-confidence needed to drive our dreams and visions. But for all the talk about it, what really is “self-esteem” anyway? The dictionary defines it as “a liking and respect for oneself”. The problem is that achieving self-esteem seems to have been so over-emphasized in recent decades that, for many, it now qualifies as an end in itself. However, the fact is that self-esteem is a consequence of other actions, not a goal which can be realized independently.

Self-Esteem Is Owed—Or Not?

     Self-esteem is not something that anyone can provide for another person. And yet that’s what our society has been trying to do for a long time. Trophies for participation, grades no lower than a B, promotions based on criteria other than performance, and “freebies” doled out right and left are all giving many people a sense of superiority for accomplishing very little, if anything. Unfortunately, the consequence of this mentality has not fostered success for people, but rather a sense of being entitled to success simply because one exists.

     The tragedy is that when people take no opportunity to earn success, then they likewise have no opportunity to respect or esteem themselves.

     While it’s true that self-esteem is necessary to possess the self-confidence we need to pursue our goals and visions, that only happens when a person has three things which, together, are the true recipe for self-esteem.

Thing One: Accountability

     First of all, before any other thing, people need to learn that they are accountable for their own actions, and then they need to understand that if they are not, consequences will follow. Unfortunately, many in our society seem to feel that it’s “mean” to hold folks accountable for their behavior.

     I remember years ago when I was a know-nothing student teacher covering a study hall one day with a very large group of students who set out to take advantage of the know-nothing student teacher. (Talk about being thrown to the lions.) Two girls in particular went out of their way to be disruptive and rude and the more they were asked to stop, the more they laughed and cranked up the behavior. They didn’t think I could or would do anything about it. Unfortunately for them, I had been told by another teacher that if I had any problems with students, I could assign them a Saturday detention. Knowing this, I was nice enough even to warn the girls what their next Saturday might look like. Evidently, they didn’t believe me and pretty much dared me to go there. So I went there.

     It turns out that these two particular young ladies were members of the school’s ski club. And on Saturday that particular ski club was going skiing. None of my business. Until the school principal came to me with the girls in tow, explaining how sorry they were and that they would like very much to go on the ski trip. They even cried to prove the point.

     Now if their behavior hadn’t been so deliberately in-your-face, I’m sure I would’ve said some version of no harm, no foul; have a good time. However, that not being the case – at all – I said no, that they needed to serve their time. I was looking down the road at what they would learn if they were sent merrily up the ski slope: that their atrocious behavior held no consequence and that they would never be held accountable for it. Future consequences for bad behavior could, after all, be far more serious. Unfortunately for me, the principal did not see it my way. To the best of my recollection, he was not happy with me. He believed that it was more important that these girls have fun than that they learn accountability. The girls did serve their time and I’m pretty certain that, to this day, they have not forgotten the experience. I like to think that once they had children of their own (it happened that long ago), they would’ve seen the situation in a different light. At least I hope.

Thing Two: Responsibility 

     In order to foster a sense of self-esteem, a person needs sole responsibility for a job, a chore or an assignment of some kind. It is this kind of responsibility which gives a person a chance to earn success through hard work, problem-solving, right choices, overcoming challenges to motivation, and perseverance.

     It is that success that fosters self-esteem.  

     But what if a person is not able to achieve success? What if she fails? The fact is that sometimes – especially if a person is not particularly trying to succeed – she needs to be allowed to fail. Sometimes the success lies in the dusting off and beginning again. It’s these situations which teach us that we have what it takes to persevere, and it’s that discovery which breeds self-respect. However, if a person has someone continually rescuing them from failure or even from having to work hard, that discovery is never made.  A person who has no responsibility for anything cannot truly earn success, and it is that earned success which actually gives a person a sense of self-esteem.

Thing Three: Acceptance

     A person certainly needs the acceptance of others in order to have self-esteem; making him responsible for his own actions or for a job of some kind does not mean that he doesn’t need support. The challenge to others is for that support not to become enabling. But for a person to know that he is accepted for who he is and supported as he “tries his wings” is essential to a sense of self-esteem. If a person works his tail off and yet cannot find acceptance and support, he may come to believe that working longer and harder is the only path to acceptance. In the meantime, his developing sense of self-esteem becomes based on performance: he is only valuable for what he does and not for who he is. The good news to anyone suffering from a lack of acceptance and support is that we have a Father in heaven who is happy to provide those for us.

     If a person is continually rescued from disappointment and failure or simply allowed to quit when things get tough, he will develop a belief that that rescue or that “freebie” is owed to him. Furthermore, if he is not given a responsibility to hone his character, he will never experience true success. Finally, if he does not have the healthy support of those he respects, he will conclude that his worth is only based on what he can produce.

     True “self-esteem” does not have to be propped up with trophies, compliments or the approval of others. It’s evidence of self-respect.

     And that’s a gift only you can give yourself.  

 

 

The Quest: to “Find Yourself”

Hippies

THE QUEST: TO “FIND YOURSELF”

Legend has it that during the renowned decades of the 60’s and 70’s, a cultural movement was birthed to “find” oneself. Now this being a noble quest, it was generally only embarked upon by those brave souls willing to cast aside the leaden anchors of “the establishment” for the vast poppy fields of some multi-dimensional utopia. And the fearless soldiers willing to pioneer this mission? They were known as “hippies”—those heroic spirits who faithfully preached the gospel of “free love,” mind-expanding substances, and marathon meditations at communes overseen by the latest guru-du-jour. Consequently, LSD provoked excursions into realms of “higher consciousness;” Jimi Hendrix supplied the psychedelic melodies to accompany those trips; and “love” and “peace” embraced all who engaged in the evolution of humankind to a higher spiritual dimension. And why again? All to answer the eons-old question: “Why am I here?” But—did it work?

No.

The Quest

This mission to find one’s purpose in life is nothing new. Since the dawn of time, cavemen have etched their artistic queries into the nearest rock wall while millions of years later, in a static-filled broadcast from the moon, astronauts would announce their solution to that intangible question: “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” But a giant leap toward what? Toward the answer to that galling mystery: “What is my purpose in life?”

The ironic thing is that despite our advances in technology, medicine, psychology, and philosophy, many millions world-wide still, like hysterical ants, run amok chasing the elusive answer to that burning question in all its universal forms:

  • Who am I?
  • Why was I born?
  • Where am I going?
  • How do I “find myself”?
  • What is my purpose in life?
The Answer  

The solution to this grand cosmic riddle is not so mysterious after all. In fact, the answers to these questions have been around longer even than all of the cathedrals, temples, and mosques built to answer them. Our purposes have been staring us in the face for over two thousand years. Here are just a few:

  • “’Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and soul… and love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37-39)
  • “’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight the paths for him’” (Luke 3:4)
  • Feed the hungry and thirsty, clothe the naked, include the stranger, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. (Matt. 25:35-40)
  • “’Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’” (Mark 16:15).
  • “…always stand for the truth” (II Cor. 13:8)

These are just a miniscule portion of the instructions given in the Word of God regarding what we’re supposed to be doing. Of course, the objection is usually some form of “Not everyone is called to do ministry.” Correct. However, everyone is called to do any or all of the above at any given time during any given day. We don’t have to be prophesied over, Bible-school educated, ordained, or “in ministry” to love God and people, to care for those who need our help, to share the Gospel or to stand for truth. Still, the ways we do this will be unique to the calling the Lord has given to each of us.

The War for the Culture

Years ago—I don’t know when—Lance Wallnau released a teaching on what he called the “Seven Mountains of Culture”. His premise is that every culture, past or present, is comprised of seven components of culture and that whoever “owns” these mountains, essentially rules the culture. (Since then, I’ve taken the liberty of adding an eighth mountain.) The eight mountains are the Church, the government, the family, the business/marketplace realm, education (PK-college), the media, the world of arts/entertainment and, I might add, the field of technology. With the rapid growth of industries like AI (Artificial Intelligence), robotics, and human engineering, we desperately need Christians in this industry as well as in every other one of the seven components of culture.

The point is that every one of us has been assigned by God to at least one of these mountains to fulfill, in some shape or form, the purposes listed above. If we teach or preach, it’s for the sake of sharing and standing in the truth of the Gospel. If we minister—whether in a church, a hospital, or a home—it’s for the sake of caring for people and meeting their needs. If we work in the business realm, it’s for the sake of helping to fund the kingdom of God.

There is no work that cannot benefit the Kingdom of God.

Your “Calling”

It doesn’t matter what you’re called to do, you have been specifically assigned by God to do that particular thing on the individual mountain he’s called you to. Moreover, your desire to do that thing is not an accident or a random occurrence but a God-ordained purpose for you to fulfill.

  • “’You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…’” (John 15:16).
  • “Lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God” (Eph. 4:1).
  • “’We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned to us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work’” (John 9:4).

These scriptures are just a few of many confirming our assignments. Moreover, each of us has a Book of Destiny in heaven which, according to King David, contains a page outlining God’s purpose for each day of our lives. “…all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be” (Ps. 139:16). Nevertheless, this does not mean that we have no free will in determining what happens in our lives; rather, the books of destiny indicate God’s intended will for our lives but we are free to reject those plans and purposes if we choose. However, the good news is that if we’re willing to ask him, God is more than happy to reveal our God-given destinies, including the culture mountains on which we are to accomplish those purposes.

There’s nothing more fulfilling than finding the will of God for our lives and then accomplishing that will. And it doesn’t take mind-altering drugs, a visit to the village psychic, or a trip up a mountain peak to confer with the Dalai Lama to figure out what we were born to do. Just open the book—the Word of God.  

That’s where you’ll “find yourself.”

 

 

 

Meanwhile—What We Don’t See…

God's Eye in Space 2
God’s Eye in Space (NASA)

   On June 29th, my son in California broke his finger playing football (boys!). The problem was the health insurance at his new job didn’t kick in until July 1st—sixty days after his date of hire. Given that, he had one of two bad choices: either pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket at the Urgent Care or tough it out and wait two days to get treatment—which is where he was leaning.

   My son moved to California in January 2018 after graduation from college and got his first job which provided health coverage. Then last summer, I removed him from my health insurance because he didn’t need it anymore. Or, at least I thought I did. Turns out I hadn’t taken him off my insurance but I didn’t realize that until a month ago—four weeks before his new insurance kicked in. Seems he’d been on my insurance all this time. Of course, we decided there was no reason to take him off until July 1st when his own insurance became official, although the odds of him getting sick or having some unfortunate accident were very slim… But still—there was the football. And we’re not stupid.

   Enter the broken finger.

Coincidence?

   While some would say it was a lucky coincidence I’d forgotten to remove him from my health insurance, I’d say not. Moreover, the timing of the revelation of my mistake was no coincidence either: If I’d realized the error sooner when he still had coverage at his old job, I would’ve removed him. But if I’d never discovered it, he still would’ve paid for the Urgent Care since he wouldn’t have told them he had insurance—because he didn’t even know it. So what happened?

   God happened.

   Somehow—I don’t know how—Aaron remained on the insurance and his treatment was covered (which is a good thing because he might need surgery). But how many times, when we have absolutely zero idea, is God working invisibly behind the scenes to work out some situation or prevent some problem that isn’t even on our radar yet? Or that never even happens at all because he is working behind the scenes?

It’s Happened Before…

   Time after time, we see this scenario unfold in the Bible. Take, for example, the Old Testament story of Hannah who wanted so badly to have a child but couldn’t. Still, she never stopped praying for a son and, in her desperation, promised God that if he’d give her one, she’d dedicate the child to the Lord. As a result, she became pregnant with Samuel, raised him till he was weaned and then, when he was only three, took him to Jerusalem and left him with the priest Eli to raise. Three years old! I can’t even imagine the grief she suffered in fulfilling her vow.

   But—the story doesn’t end there. The Bible tells us that Eli’s sons, who were also priests, were very wicked. They took the best cuts of meat offered to God, “treating the Lord’s offerings with contempt,” and they seduced the young women assisting at the  Temple entrance. And Eli did nothing about it.

  Meanwhile, the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men” (I Sam. 2:26).

   Eventually, a prophet came to Eli with a word from the Lord that because of his sons’ sins and his own failure to correct or remove them, they would die on the same day. Furthermore, his family would never again serve as priests, and every member of his family would die a violent death before their time.

   The Bible says that in those days, the word of the Lord was rare and visions uncommon, but meanwhile, the boy Samuel was serving the Lord by assisting Eli” (3:1).

   “Meanwhile” indicates God’s silent work in Samuel behind the scenes to prepare a powerful prophet in the midst of an evil and godless culture. No one knew God was busy doing that but, for the first time in a very long time, a prophet was being raised up to bring the word of the Lord to a people who’d been in a spiritual drought for decades. In other words, when it looked like nothing was happening and God had abandoned his people, he was really quietly working the circumstances for their good.

The Prince of Egypt

   Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, is another example of God’s invisible hand. After being sold by his brothers, he ended up a slave in Potipher’s house where it looked as though he would spend the rest of his life in lonely servitude. But meanwhile, in the middle of that tragic situation, he was learning the Egyptian language, culture, politics, and the protocols of the Egyptian noble class—that is, until he was thrown into prison, accused of a crime he didn’t even commit. Once there, he was thrust into the midst of a dungeon full of Class A felons but what did he do? The same thing he’d done in Potipher’s house: operated in his administrative and leadership skills until he was eventually put in charge of all of those reprobate prisoners. And meanwhile, as he was busy organizing them, he was learning how the other half lived: the ways of the Egyptian commoners, their dialects, and their ideals as well as their problems and concerns—all things which were pretty handy to know once he was promoted to the second-in-command of all of Egypt

We Don’t Know It Until We Know It.

   The thing about the “meanwhiles” of life is that we don’t know they’re in motion behind the scenes until one day when suddenly something happens and it all becomes clear: God was always at work, even when we couldn’t see it.

   I remember twenty years ago when, as a single mom, I began searching for a teaching job to support my two sons. I’d begun looking in February when it became clear that the private school I was at wouldn’t pay enough to support my kidlets, but summer came and still, nothing was happening. I had applied for positions and gone on interviews but it seemed there was always someone else with more experience or the job was temporary, et cetera. However, I didn’t have forever—time was running out; districts don’t usually hire year round so if you’re not snapped up by September, chances are you’ll wait another whole year. But I didn’t have another year and I was getting scared. How would I feed my children or keep the roof over their heads?

   One day in July, I cried out yet again to the Lord, desperately asking what the hold-up was. Suddenly, I saw a picture of a huge millstone turning, but very slowly. I wondered what on earth that meant and the Lord said to me, “The wheels are turning and the position you’re seeking is coming, but until then, I’m working on the other people involved.”

   Meanwhile.

   It turns out that someone who was eligible to retire had delayed turning in his paperwork but the Lord knew the position was going to open up in that district and that’s where he wanted me. However, the former teacher had needed a little nudging and God was behind the scenes doing it.  

   We never know…

   When it looks bleakest and it seems there’s nothing remotely on the horizon, what we don’t see is God all around us, doing what only he can do—working it all out. And he’s doing the same for you. Just believe.

   Your “meanwhile” is happening right now.

  

“No”—What A Concept!

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“NO”—WHAT A CONCEPT!

   When my kids were little (and even not so little), we played a little game. Not that it was all that fun but apparently they enjoyed it because they played it all the time. Evidently, the rules involved one or both of them—double-teaming is always an option—asking me for something to which I would say “no”. “No, you can’t stay up till midnight,” or “No, you can’t skip school to play video games,” or just plain “NO.” And that’s when the fun would happen. Basically, the object of the game was to get mom to say yes. And there were lots of strategies to win the game…

The Rules…

   There’d be the whining, as in, “C’MON, MOM! YOU PROMISED!” (I didn’t.) This tactic was often accompanied by puppy-dog eyes or followed up with, “I SWEAR I’LL NEVER ASK YOU FOR ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!” (If only…)

   There’d also be the begging. “PLEASE, CAN I, MOM?? CAN I, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEEEEEZE!”  “Maybe you can, but you may not.”

   There’d be the appeal to the Constitution. “THAT’S NOT FAIR—I HAVE RIGHTS!”  “Not until you’re 18. In the meantime, you’re suffering under the delusion that this is a democracy.”

   There’d be the guilt trip. “I’LL JUST DIE IF YOU DON’T BUY ME THE THOUSAND-DOLLAR SNEAKERS!”  “Problem solved. I guess you won’t need the sneakers.”

   There’d be the deal-making. “IF YOU LET ME GO WITH DAMIAN TO SHOOT BB’s AT OLD PEOPLE, I SWEAR I’LL TAKE OUT THE TRASH NEXT MONTH!”  “How about this for a compromise: You skip the devil’s spawn and take the trash out now.”

   There’d be the accusations. “YOU’RE THE WORST MOTHER ON EARTH!”  “And several planets.”

   There’d be the threats. “I’LL RUN AWAY FROM HOME!”  “And?”

   And as a last resort, there’d be the tantrum. This involved no real words (or none that I should publish)—although there would be yelling, much foot stomping, and even the occasional head bang on the wall (theirs, not mine). Ultimately, there’d be the evitable melt-into-a-puddle-on-the-floor scene. My response?

   “No means no.”

   It doesn’t mean “maybe,” it doesn’t mean “if we keep asking, she’ll cave,” and it certainly doesn’t mean mom didn’t really mean it.

   No means NO. Repeat as necessary.

There’s A Concept…

   Why is it so difficult for people to accept the concept of “NO”? And it’s not just children—although I see way too much of the above in school every single day. Rather, it’s also adults. And not only do adults not accept “no” from other human beings, but a “no” from God often also seems to be perceived as just another option in the salad bar of life.

   Still, while adults don’t throw tantrums per se over the word “no,” we do seem to have our own adult versions of rejecting a “NO” from God: Sure, we plead, we bargain, and we appeal to His “fairness,” but when that doesn’t work, some among us have even been known to try to lay a guilt trip on God by sobbing hysterically or punching a wall because, well—that’ll show Him. So, a tantrum is not entirely out of the question; it’ll just look a little differently than kids’ tantrums. Often an adult tantrum takes the form of the old-fashioned freeze-out: I just won’t talk to God for a while and that’ll show Him. And God’s response?

   “Sorry but—no.”

But What If We Don’t Like That?

   Too bad.

God’s Nature

   The Lord is unchangeable. That means that if we don’t like his “no,” it doesn’t matter; it’s not going to change. He doesn’t cave to the manipulation of deal-making, accusations, cold shoulders, tantrums or even the threats to quit him and go all atheist. Instead our choices are either that we adjust our attitudes and accept the “no” or—we don’t. There aren’t any other options. And if we reject his “no” and then plow on ahead to do or get that thing anyway, that means this: We will reap the consequences of rejecting his instructions. Why? Because he’s mean? No. We’ll reap the consequences because there are consequences to reap; God doesn’t say “no” just to amuse himself—he says “no” because there’s something bad lurking at the end of the shadowy tunnel. Deadly even.

It’s Hard

   We live in a culture where the word “no” doesn’t really mean “no.” Rather it’s a signal that it’s time to begin the negotiations—whatever manipulative form those might take. Nobody really means “no” anymore—so they say—which is why we now have the “Me Too” movement, the Anti-Bullying movement, and rioting in the streets: When we hear “no,” like spoiled children, we simply turn up the heat a couple hundred degrees to force the issue and get what we want. As a result, anarchy becomes the norm and—not to get too political—drug laws mean nothing, borders and boundaries mean nothing, and even crime convictions mean almost nothing.

   When we compromise the word “no,” chaos and lawlessness rule—in our families, in our schools, and certainly in our streets. Moreover, the refusal to accept a “no” will destroy us as well; we’ll morph to self-centered and selfish little people having maturity levels on par with a titsey fly. The result across the board? Wrecked and ruined lives. And all because we refuse to accept the word “no.”

   The word “no”—regardless of whether it’s decreed from God, mom or Uncle Sam—is often all that stands between us and abject misery.

   Perhaps it’s time we pay a little more homage to the word “NO”.