Emotional Health

Lessons Learned This Past Year

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As we approach the end of another year I can’t help but reflect on this past year.  It was filled with good times, bad times, positive emotions and negative emotions.  I cried and I laughed.  I opened up and I shut down.  I made some good decisions and I made some bad decisions.  I got angry and had a negative attitude and I was filled with joy and had a positive attitude.  I also learned a lot this past year about leadership, my relationship with God and the baggage that I still tend to carry.

If you’re like me this can describe almost every year.  However every year I like to ask myself if I have grown in my faith, character and leadership in this past year.  For me it’s a big yes this year.  Probably more than many other years because of the amount of change I experienced at work.  Here are some of the lessons I learned or went deeper in understanding.

  1. God opposed the proud but supports the humble – Every time I allow pride to creep into my life I get knocked down a few notches.  This often happens to me when things are going well and I start comparing myself to others.  It can happen when I’m meeting with someone that is going through a hardship and I think I can fix it with three simple steps.  Or when I don’t think a certain strategy or decision is the best and my way is better.  Or if I don’t pay attention to my wife and just do what I want.  I keep learning and understanding more deeply to humble myself and in due time the Lord will lift me up, but it’s his decision not mine.  I need to remain faithful, work hard and focus on doing what is right and good and submit to God and other people.
  2. Value your relationships because life can change in an instant – I was reminded through several tragic events that life is precious and things can change very quickly.  I was reminded to spend time with the people I love and to work on those relationship by practicing forgiveness, communicating clearly and often and by loving well.  The Bible says to love extravagantly and that we are bankrupt without love.  Learning to love or how to express love is one of the best things we can do to improve our lives and value the people around us.
  3. Having the hard conversations is a game changer – Conflict is not fun and many people tend to avoid it.  However if you want to grow, make progress, change for the better or have less stress, then you must deal directly with conflict.  Learning to admit when your wrong and confronting issues quickly when they come up does not allow things to fester and get infected.  I had many hard conversations this past year and most of them ended well and improved the relationship or the situation.  Resolving conflict is hard but it leads to relational, emotional and physical health.
  4. Vulnerability and openness are strengths not weakness – I studied and read a lot about vulnerability, shame and courage this past year.  It takes great courage to be vulnerable and be honest, but when you do it, you experience great freedom, creativity and strength.  I became more vulnerable in some of my relationships and took some risks by sharing more of me with others.  I grew in confidence and courage by facing the junk in my life head on and sharing that with some trusted people in my life.  Everyone knows your not perfect so stop trying to be, take off the mask and be real, that’s when things start to change.
  5. Emotional health is one of the most import things a leader can have – Being healthy emotionally allows you to lead at a high level and take on enormous responsibility.  However staying healthy emotionally takes constant work just like staying physically healthy takes constant work.  Caring for your soul and understanding your emotions is a sign of maturity and leadership.  Sometimes you have to go to a professional counselor in order to break through some of the emotional walls that come up in your life.  It’s always worth the time and energy and money to get healthy emotionally.
  6. When you keep God first and submit to Him other things fall into place – My relationship with God has grown and deepened over the years, but this did not just happen, I had to be intentional.  I have found that the more time I spend with God the more I can accomplish, the healthier I am and and the lower my stress tends to be.  Having a spiritual rhythm in life is vital.  What I mean by rhythm is having a thriving prayer life, feeding on God’s word regularly, being silent and being with God and living a life of worship.  That is staying focused on the most important thing in life, your relationship with Jesus Christ.  When that is growing the rest of life tends to be healthier as well.

Keep growing in Faith, Character and Leadership.

Six Guideposts for an Emotionally Healthy Life

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Living an emotionally healthy life is incredibly freeing.  Yet it is very difficult to do because we all grow up learning unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy emotions.  Think of it like pieces of armor that we put on growing up, defense mechanisms, ways of handling conflict, how to treat other people, what we think about ourselves, others and God.

In order to get healthy here are a six guideposts that can help us all get healthier emotionally and live with freedom and joy.  Many of these guideposts come from researcher, author and speaker Brene’ Brown.

  1. Cultivate authenticity and let go of what other people think –   Authenticity is a choice and must be practiced every day.  It’s letting ourselves been seen for who we really are and also setting healthy boundaries in our lives.  It’s being able to say no in a kind way yet stay firm when pressured.  It’s choosing to have a hard conversation instead of stuffing it and letting resentment fill us up.  It’s paying attention to what we are feeling and why and dealing with the truth.  It’s speaking up instead of holding it in.  It’s taking our mask off and being our true self, imperfections and all.
  2. Cultivate self-compassion and let go of perfectionism – Perfectionism leads to frustration, anger and a host of other unhealthy emotions.  It also leads to negative self-talk and keeps you from moving forward in relationships and projects.  It can feed fear and keep us paralyzed.  To let go of perfectionism we need to be able to practice self-compassion or being kind to ourselves.  It’s allowing ourselves to deeply feel what we are currently going through and understanding that we are not alone in our struggles.  Others have gone through similar things and survived.  We must be able to love ourselves before we can love others.  It’s giving ourselves a break from having to be perfect and always doing the right thing.
  3. Cultivate a resilient spirit and let go of numbing behaviors – This involves knowing who we are and how we are wired.  It is the self-awareness to know what our numbing behaviors are and a willingness to get help to avoid going there.  It’s understanding our purpose in life and God’s plan for our lives.  When we grow spiritually it strengthens our spirit and allows us to bounce back much faster when troubles come.  It’s having a healthy outlet for venting frustrations and pain.  Allowing people close to us to know us and be vulnerable with them about what is happening.  numbing behaviors include things like spending hours on Facebook or social media, watching TV, video games, working.  It can be drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking or watching porn.  It can also be focusing on our phone and not being fully present with the people around us.
  4. Cultivate gratitude & joy and let go of scarcity & fear – It’s not just having an attitude of gratitude, but actually practicing gratitude.  Keeping a gratitude journal and actually telling others how grateful we are for them and the things we are grateful for.  It’s living with an eternal perspective and knowing we have a higher purpose in life.  It’s noticing the little things in life and being able to live in the moment and just be.  It is being comfortable in our own skin and not trying to be somebody we are not.  It’s having an abundance mentality, and not a scarcity mentality.  It’s being generous with our time, our money and possessions and our abilities by helping and serving others.
  5. Cultivate intuition and trusting faith and let go of the need for certainty – Certainty is not real but uncertainty is.  Our intuition comes from the experiences we have had in life.  To cultivate intuition we need to think about and learn from our experiences.  It’s also important to grow in our faith and keep searching for answers to life’s questions.  Yet it’s also being OK with not having all the answers.  Many people would rather be miserable and certain than emotionally healthy and uncertain.  One way to cultivate intuition and trusting faith to create time for silence and solitude.  Building time into our schedules to connect with God, feed our soul and nourish our minds.
  6. Cultivate creativity and let go of comparison – Every human being is creative, some people practice using it more than others.  Unused creativity turns into unhealthy emotions like anger, judgement, rage and depression.  When we start comparing ourselves to others our creativity goes down because of fear.  Often because of something someone said or did to us as a child we avoid being creative because we fear not being good enough.  When children get to be in the 4th and 5th grade their level of creativity goes way down because that is when their art begins to get graded and compared to others.  To cultivate creativity we need to start doing something we gave up or thought we were no good at.  Start drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, taking pictures, making videos.  Finding our creative side and exercising it will bring joy, freedom and energy into our lives.  Do something creative today.

Start pursuing an emotionally healthy life by cultivating the good and letting go of the bad.

A Key to Stronger Relationships

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I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships.   Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic.  Much of this post is based on her research.

One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame.  Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement.  However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow.  So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others.  Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.

In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it.  This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own.  It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them.  It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up.  It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.

Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental.   Most of us are  judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame.  We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves.  We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.

Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally.  Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.

When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation.  It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole.  Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened.  When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  There is a big difference.

When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage.  To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions.  It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.

However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable.  When we are vulnerable we are our true self.  We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy.  The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all  of that and the person loves you even more.

So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective.  Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together.  Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life.  Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame.  When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.

 

Meditation

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Meditation has a different meaning to different people.  For some it’s emptying your mind and focusing on yourself, for others it is focusing on a higher power or something they think is good.  I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and so what I meditate on is God’s Word or the Bible.  For me this is one of the most powerful and helpful things I have ever done.    There is now a lot of scientific proof that meditating on good things like Scripture actually renews and changes our brains.  Brain science shows us the benefits of this focused thinking. The Bible talks about renewing your mind and taking your thoughts captive.  God designed our brains to be able to be changed depending on what it takes in.  The mind controls the brain and can make positive or negative changes.

To me meditation is considering and pondering a part of Scripture, a story in the Bible or a chapter or even sometimes a few words or one word.  What I try to do is pick something to focus on and then read through it 10-15 times in different ways.  I’ll read it silently several times, then out loud, then with a different emphasis on certain words and sometimes even adding my name.  Then I think about or ponder what I read.  I will then bring it back up a different times of the day for just a few moments.

The Bible talks about the power of meditation in Psalm 1:1-3 it says this: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither-whatever they do prospers.”

Did you catch that?  Biblical meditation is so powerful that God promises that everything you do will prosper if you meditate on His Word day and night.  That may sound a bit intimidating or too hard to do.  For me meditating day and night does not mean 24/7 it means that in those times where I’m idle, waiting, resting, driving or by myself I need to meditate on God’s Word.  Those are the times that I am most tempted or that my thoughts are most likely to be negative or sinful.  So in those moments if I’m able to chew on a Biblical idea or a story from the Bible I can renew my mind and gain incredible strength, encouragement and hope.

Meditation is similar to a cow chewing the cud or rumination, which means to chew, swallow then regurgitate and chew again.  A cow does this several times to get all the nutrition out of the food and to digest it in a healthy way.  Biblical meditation is similar, in that we take it into our minds ponder it and then keep bringing it back up and chewing some more.

I have started on a 21 day journey leading up to Christmas Eve of meditating daily on a Scripture and reading through a document of Biblical Truth Statements.  It will only be about 7-10 minutes a day, but I believe God will use that time to strengthen my mind and nourish my soul in a powerful life-changing way.  The Scripture I have chosen is one I memorized 15 years ago.  It’s 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and Yours it is to be exalted as Head over all.  Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all.  In your hands are power and might; in Your hands it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

I want to encourage you to pick a Scripture or two and meditate on it over the next 21 days.  Chew on it over and over again and pull out all the nourishment you can get.  Then pick another Scripture and do it again for another 21 days and then do it one more time.  If you can do that for 63 days in a row, it will be habit and you will be able to continue to meditate on God’s Word day and night for the rest of your life.

Spiritual Fitness

 

 

Race (12)Recently I ran races on back to back weekends.  First it was a race called Rough & Rugged which was a 5k cross country, trail, mud kind of race.  I finished but was exhausted and struggled along the way.  Then the next weekend I ran a 10k on a flat course.  Again I finished but struggled and had to reach deep to keep pushing myself. After I finished that second race I made the comment that these races are much harder when you don’t train properly.

You see I had been running once a twice a week in preparation for both of these races.  I also did nothing between the two races and I felt it on race day.  I know this because at one time I did train hard and went into similar races in much better physical condition.  I ran better times and felt better after the races.  The preparation I put in made a difference on race day.  I was both mentally and physically ready.  That was not the case with these last two races.

It is similar in our spiritual lives, when we are staying connected to God and feeding our minds the truth, it is much easier to recognize lies and deal with the difficulties of life.  It’s the things we do day in and day out that prepare us for those big moments in life and those small moments that make a big difference.  Those crucial conversations, the big decisions, the temptation that comes out of no where or the unexpected tragedy.  When we are not training spiritually those things can knock us down and take us out.

So here are some spiritual exercises we can all do to keep fit both spiritually and emotionally.

  1. Pray – This is a very powerful way to train.  It has been proven to reduce stress and it’s a great way to express your heart to God.  How incredible to know that the God of this universe wants to listen to what is going on in your life right now.  Short prayers throughout the day or longer prayer times when you able are great ways to stay spiritually fit.  I like to use ACTS when I pray: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
  2. Reading the Bible – For some this is a challenge, because they tried it and didn’t understand what they were reading so they gave up.  Keep trying, try a different translation, try listening to it, but keep trying.  the translation I’ve been reading lately is the New Century Version.  I just read through the New Testament in 30 days and am now reading through Psalms in 30 days.  You might not be able to read that much so set a goal that works for you.  Find a time that you can read for 5-10 minutes and try to stay consistent  When you miss a day, just pick it up the next.  Pray before you read and ask God to help you understand and to pick something up that he wants to tell you or teach you.
  3. Go to Church – I know that sounds simple, but unless you make that a priority in your life you will only go when it suits your schedule.  Today many people only go to church once or twice a month.  That’s good but your missing a lot by not going every week.  I know life happens and I don’t expect people to be in church every time there is a service, but it should be high on your priority list if you want to be fit spiritually.  Find a church that challenges you to grow and get involved.  Don’t settle for comfortable, because it’s hard to grow and train and get better when your comfortable.
  4. Volunteer at your Church and in the Community – When you make a commitment to volunteer it gets you out of your comfort zone and into making a difference through the local church and through good local organizations.  This is one of the best ways you can grow spiritually.  It will help you to serve others and be part of something bigger than yourself.  Serving increases your responsibility and develops your character.  It also allows you to use your gifts and abilities to make a difference.
  5. Get involved in a group – When you meet with other people to build relationships, learn, and care for each other it stretches you and pushes you to grow spiritually, relationally and emotionally.  When you open your life to some other people it brings a new level of accountability and connection that often leads to growth.  Find some other men or women or couples that you can get to know better, have fun with, have spiritual conversations and pray with.
  6. Listen to Messages – There is incredible communicators out there.  Find someone you connect with and start listening to there messages.  Several that I like a lot are Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Jon Weese.
  7. Read – I already mentioned reading the Bible, here I’m talking about reading blogs, articles and books.  Some people avoid reading because they hated in in school. I’m not saying you have to read every day, but try to start reading because it’s a great way to get fit spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  There are great resources out there that can help you improve your marriage, parenting, finances, work life and build your faith, develop your character and grow your leadership.  Here are three books I’m currently reading.
  • The Top Ten Leadership Commandments by Hans Finzel
  • The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick
  • The Cure by John Lynch

I encourage you to pick one or two of the areas I mentioned and start incorporating it into your everyday life.  If you do all of those on a regular basis you will grow and become more fit spiritually.

Top Ten Relational Needs

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This week I taught a class entitled “The Top Ten Relational Needs”.  It is based on a workbook by that title from Great Commandment Network. 

God made us with needs, and God promised to meet those needs.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Paul is telling us that God is willing and able to meet all of our needs. It also acknowledges that we all have needs as human beings

Neediness is a characteristic of our God-given identities.

Physical needs:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Oxygen

Spiritual needs:

  • To experience God’s love
  • To experience God’s forgiveness
  • To experience God’s peace
  • Only God Moments

Here are the Top Ten Relational Needs:

  • Acceptance
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Approval
  • Attention
  • Comfort
  • Encouragement
  • Respect
  • Security
  • Support

These needs are the same for anyone, no matter where your from, no matter how young or old you are.

It’s OK to have needs, it doesn’t mean your weak.  When we understand our needs, it humbles us and builds our character.

Only God and other people can meet our needs.  Why did God create us this way?

  1. Our neediness Encourages us to depend on God and look to him to meet our needs
  2. Our neediness encourages interdependence – We are not robots, we have feelings and emotions and our neediness requires us to have healthy human relationships. We are here to serve one another.
  3. Accepting the reality of our needs helps us to develop a heart filled with compassion for others
  4. Admitting our needs frees us to receive and give care.
  5. Meeting the needs of others expresses care and produces unity in the body of Christ

My question for you is this.  Of the top ten relational needs listed above, which three are most important to you and which three are most important to your spouse or significant person in your life?  If you can figure that out and then communicate clearly to each other about it, your relationship will begin to improve.  You can control whether or not you are meeting these needs with others, you cannot control whether others will meet your needs.  However, if you are loving and serving the other person the likelihood of them meeting your needs goes way up.  If your too needy, that pushes everyone away from you.  You have to first meet the needs of others and show that you can do it in a healthy way.

Balance

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A Balanced Life

Are You Courting Burnout?

What do you do to keep your life balanced?

THREE STEPS TO BALANCE:

  1. Get Organized around your purpose.

When you know your purpose it brings better focus to your life.  It determines the patterns in your life and the disciplines you pursue. Finding your life purpose is a process that everyone should go through. It will take some time and effort but it’s worth the time and energy.  A great place to start is to answer this question: What would I want my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to say about me at my funeral?  Not what would they say now, but what would you want them to say.  Think about that and start writing down some things.

When we understand our purpose better, it helps to simplify our lives.  It allows us to eliminate the things that distract us and say yes to the things that further that purpose.  I my own life I’ve developed a purpose statement of Leading myself and others to grow in Faith, Character & Leadership.  That statement drives what I do at work, at home and in my spare time.  It’s what I write about in my posts, it’s what I talk about with the people around me.

Balance in life is possible if we practice life according to a single priority, and that single priority is our purpose.

  1. Define the dimensions of your life.

FOUR DIMENSIONS IN LIFE

  • Intellectual – This includes all activities that stimulate our ability to think.  It includes our work, what we read, what we research, what we study. Are we still learning and growing or are we stagnate and declining?
  • Physical – This includes how active we are, how much we exercise, the amount of rest we get and how we eat.  Basically how well we take care of ourselves physically.  Are we getting better or worse from a physical dimension?
  • Spiritual – This includes what we believe about God, about where we will spend forever, about the world around us, about why we are here and who put us here.  This includes our prayer life, going to church, serving other people, how well we love others.  Are we growing spiritually or declining spiritually?
  • Social – This is all about the relationships in our lives.  Immediate and extended family, close friends and casual friends, people you work with and people that work for you, current neighbors and previous neighbors, people you know from church, clubs, sports teams, people you went to school with, teachers, mentors, coaches and even the stranger you just met.  Are we developing and strengthening our relationships or are our relationships declining and dying?
  1. Build Capacity.

Balance is achieved when we establish, build, and maintain capacity in each of the four dimensions of life.  How much time and energy do we give to each of those areas of our lives?  That will only happen if we are intentional about focusing on each of those areas of our lives.

 

Reflect and rate yourself on the four dimensions in your life:

Play …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Work

Intellectual

Couch Potato ………………………………………………………………………………………………..Cross Fit Freak

Physical

Dead……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Alive

Spiritual

Poor …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Awesome

Relationships/Social

Take this quiz to gauge whether or not you’re headed for burnout. (Pay attention not only to your answers, but also the way you react to the statements.)

1)     Despite getting adequate sleep each night, I wake up tired.

True

False

2)    Lately, I’d define myself as moody.

True

False

3)    Increasingly, I see the negative, or what needs to be fixed, with my work and others’. Positive comments and thoughts are rare.

True

False

4)    My vision or purpose is becoming blurry, or harder to focus on, despite being clear in the past.

True

False

5)    If I were totally honest with myself, I’d say I’m going through the motions at work or home, rather than contributing everything I can.

True

False

6)    I shorten (or wish I could do so) my workday just to leave work or get away.

True

False

7)    I lengthen many workdays to get the job done, instead of delegating or managing my time or mindset more effectively.

True

False

8)    I cut down or stop other activities (such as hobbies or other rejuvenating activities) in order to keep up with work responsibilities.

True

False

9)    I don’t have time to reach out to connect with colleagues,mentors or friends on a regular basis.

True

False

10)  Relationships within and outside of my work are not as strong as they were.

True

False

Score Yourself:

1-4 “True” answers: You should be in the normal ebb and flow of business ownership, or work. Continue to find ways to improve.

5-7 “True” answers: Burnout is rearing its ugly head. Within the next week, schedule two days away from work to reconnect and clarify your vision or purpose, and identify at least 5 action items that you can do to change the course and refuel your engines.

8-10 “True” answers: Stop, your in trouble. Stop everything and take a deep breath. In the next week get away for awhile to revisit your vision and purpose. Reconnect with colleagues and mentors. Write out your vision and an action agenda to get you back on track in doing what is important.

TEN TIPS FOR AVOIDING BURNOUT AND INVITING BALANCE:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Take a walk
  • Eat well
  • Drink water
  • Slow down
  • Team up
  • Sleep well
  • Loosen up
  • Have fun
  • Get away

Where do you need to focus more and be more balanced?

Life Verse

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NewPointe Community Church is currently in a series called “Life Verse”.  A life verse is a Scripture that someone keeps coming back to over and over again and that guides them in their life.  As I thought about that several passages of Scripture came to my mind.  As I thought about which one I should write about I realized that this Scripture is the one that I often quote and talk about.  I’ve used it at weddings and funerals and in mentoring sessions with individuals and couples.  This Scripture is challenging to me and a constant reminder of how I should live my life.

It’s often called the Love chapter because it gives us a very clear description of what love is.  It’s not just one verse, it’s actually 4 verses.  So here it is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.”

I’ve often put my name in place of love, which makes it personal and very humbling, because I realize that I have a ways to go in understanding and living out this idea of love.  So here are some points about this powerful passage of Scripture.

  • Love is a verb not a noun – This passage is all about the actions that we take not thoughts that we have.  It deals with what kinds of emotions direct our lives and what kind of behaviors come out of us.  Love is all about doing and showing the people around us that we love them.  To be patient, kind and trusting takes actions that show those traits.
  • Love is others focused – When it comes to understanding love it’s all about being focused on the people around us and not on ourselves.  It’s paying attention to the people in our lives and taking the time and energy to love them and serve them.
  • Love is powerful – If love is your base, it can overpower all the negative emotions we struggle with.  Love brings us back to the way God designed us.  It fights against the resistance that pushes us to be selfish, self-centered and negative.  Everyone wants to experience love whether they admit it or not. When we love it shows strength and character.
  • Love is long-term – When we love the way this Scripture says to love it keeps us focused on the big picture and the long-term health of all our relationships.  It looks beyond the current situation or pain and sees how things could and should be.  It allows us to be patient and to trust when the situation doesn’t feel like we should.  Love is what gets us through the dark times in our lives. Love is what picks us up and gets us through.
  • Love Works – We all want to be around people that love well. We are drawn to people that live out these actions.  Jesus was the perfect example of love.  When we put his name in place of love we can say yes that’s Jesus.  I think that is why people were so drawn to him and why so many people are still following him today.  Love really does work, love gets results and changes lives.

So here is the challenge.  We can all grow in this area of love because non of us are Jesus. Love is the key to life because when everything else is stripped away love remains.  Whether it’s loving other people or loving God, that is what changes lives.  When we allow God’s love to penetrate and take over our hearts, our behavior starts to change, our thoughts start to change and our perspective starts to change.

If your relationships are not working ask yourself how much love you have in your heart.  If there is not much there, then turn to God and ask Him to fill it up with that kind of love.

Verse 8 starts off with this – “Love never fails.”  God never fails, he never gives up on us and always believes the best about us even when he knows the worst about us.  Love Well!

Above the Line

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Being healthy emotionally is hard work.  It’s easy to fall into a victim mentality and feel like everyone is against you.  In their book The Oz Principle, Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman give some clues on when we are stuck in the victim cycle or living below the line.

  • You feel “held captive” by your circumstances
  • You feel you have no control over your present circumstances
  • You find yourself blaming others and pointing fingers
  • Your discussions of problems focus more on what you cannot do, rather than what you can
  • You fail to confront the toughest issues you face
  • You find yourself being “sought out” by others so they can tell you what someone else did to them this time
  • You find yourself unwilling to ask probing questions about your own accountability
  • You repeatedly find yourself in a defensive posture
  • You site your confusion as a reason for not taking action
  • You avoid people, the meetings, and the situations that require you to report on your responsibilities
  • You find yourself spending valuable time crafting a compelling story detailing why you were not at fault
  • You repeatedly tell the same old story about how someone took advantage of you
  • You view the world with a pessimistic attitude

So how do we avoid this victim mentality?  How do we get unstuck from these destructive patterns and habits.  The keys are taking responsibility for your own actions and bringing accountability into your life.

According to the authors you can improve your own ability to remain “above-the-line” by watching for the following clues that indicate accountable attitudes and behavior.

  • You invite candid feedback from everyone about your own performance
  • You never want anyone, including yourself, to hide the truth from you
  • You readily acknowledge reality, including all its problems and challenges
  • You don’t waste time or energy on things you cannot control or influence
  • You always commit yourself 100 percent to what you are doing, and if your commitment begins to wane, you strive to rekindle it
  • You “own” your circumstances and your results, even when they seem less than desirable
  • You recognize when you are dropping “below the line” and act quickly to avoid the traps of the victim cycle
  • You delight in the daily opportunity to make things happen
  • You constantly ask yourself the question, “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and get the results I want?”

Whether at work or at home staying above the the line of accountability is vital to emotional and relational health.  When we are below the line we ignore or deny reality, we say it’s not my fault or my job, we point fingers, we say we are confused, we cover our tails and we wait & see.  When we are above the line we see the issue, we own our part, we work on a solution and we take action on what we can control.

Make a commitment today to be more accountable and responsible in all your relationships.  Work at staying above the line and don’t focus on things that are out of your control.  Focus on your own thoughts and behaviors and own your part of the problem.  Get help and counsel from others to help keep you above the line.  If you do that you will grow in character and leadership and be much healthier all the way around.

 

Healing

wholeness

In 2 Chronicles chapter 7 God appears to Solomon.  Solomon has just finished building this magnificent temple of the Lord.  He has had tremendous success all along the way.  His father David had prepared the way for this to happen and now Solomon has accomplished this huge project for God.  They have been celebrating for 7 days and people are coming form all over the world to see this amazing temple and to worship God.  Solomon and others have been praying and preparing and then Solomon hears from God.

In verse 12 it says “The Lord appeared to him at night and said: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.”  God goes on to say “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people.”  This is interesting because God is saying that hardship has and will come our way.  He says when things go badly, when sickness strikes, when hard times come, I am going to tell you what to do.  This is verse 14: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

So no matter what happens to us, if we are in God’s family, whether success, failure, sickness, heart break, tragedy or loss.  If we humble ourselves, pray and seek God and turn from our wicked ways, God will hear us and forgive us and heal us.

So how does that translate for today.  Jesus came and was the final sacrifice for our sins, so we don’t need a temple to make sacrifices anymore.  Jesus paid for all our sins and gave us a clear path to heaven.  If we believe in Jesus Christ and follow him, we are now the temple that God can live in.  This verse in 2 Chronicles still applies today though for God’s people.  I believe this is about God being more concerned about our spiritual & emotional health than our happiness or even our physical well being.

So here is the principle:  If our daily focus is to remain humble and not be filled with pride and ego.  Thinking less about ourselves and more about God and others.  If our tendency or habit is to pray and seek God in any and every situation.  If we routinely repent or turn away from our sins, bad attitudes, negative thinking and the things that pollute our minds and hearts.  God promises to forgive us continually and immediately and take our burdens and worries from us.  And this leads to healing and wholeness.

The bottom line is that God wants us to trust him and depend on him for everything.  He wants us to turn away from the things that pull us down and turn to him who lifts us up.  It’s about becoming more like Jesus Christ who trusted God fully and completely and turned to him throughout his life here on earth.

So God is still in the healing business.  He wants us to be healthy and whole in every way and he wants to be the main focus in our lives, he wants us to worship him alone.  No matter what comes our way he is with us, for us and in us and he wants to forgive us and heal us.  God wants to free us from the hurts and damaging emotions that fill us up and tear us down.  He wants to free us from the lies and deception and fears that keep us locked up and in bondage.  He wants to heal our land, which is every part of us, not just our bodies.