Choose Not to Overcommit

Barbara | August 20, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Remember the old adage that if we want something done, give it to a busy person. This sounds great, unless we happen to be the busy people getting all that “to do” stuff dumped on us. Let’s talk a little about overcommitting – a subject I happen to know a lot about from personal experience.

Some of us think we can do everything. We think we can fix every situation. We think no one can do it (whatever “it” is) better than us. We overcommit to our jobs, our church, our families, our friends, various organizations, our children’s school, and so on. While these are all worthy causes, they can add hours of work and stress to our already busy lives. In addition to these worthy causes, we still have to do our daily responsibilities such as grocery shop, cook meals, wash and dry laundry, build relationships with our spouse and children, visit ailing parents, pay the bills, walk the dog, and feed the cat.

Did you know that overcommitting can lead to health problems, stress, depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness? Because we can only do so much, we get overwhelmed. We are in danger of a “crash and burn” scenario. Then we are no good to anyone, especially ourselves.

Whose fault is it when we overcommit? Ours! We are not victims; we are the product of our poor choices. We have to make hard decisions about how we use our time and energy. Sometimes it’s difficult to know the difference between a need and a want. If we place needs before wants, we can sometimes weed out a lot of unnecessary commitments.

Some of us overcommit because we don’t know how to say no. We are people pleasers and afraid of disappointing others. Believe it or not, saying no won’t kill us. We can say something like, “No thank you. I’m very flattered that you asked me, but I’m already overcommitted at this time. However, I’ll be sure to pray that you find the right person to do this.” Or if we think we might be able to do it, don’t say yes too quickly. Say, “Can I pray about his, check my calendar, and get back to you?”

Some of us think only we do certain things. Believe it or not, others can do it, too. It may not be done as well as we could do it, but it will get done. And guess what? Not every project needs to be done.

Consider this example in Exodus 18… After Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, they still had lots of hardships and problems. Many days all Moses had time to do was sit, listen to people, and make judgments about their situations – from morning to night. When Moses’ father-in-law Jethro saw this, he said, “What are you doing and why are you doing it all alone?”

Moses answered, “When the people have difficulties, they come to me, and I judge between one and another, and make known the statutes of God.”

Jethro basically replied, “Well, this is good, but it’s too much for you. You’re killing yourself, son! Teach these people the statutes, choose men of truth who fear God and place them to be rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Then only problems they can’t solve will come to you.”

WOW! What a concept! It was a light bulb moment for Moses and he followed Jethro’s advice. So even Moses, God’s chosen and anointed one, had to learn a lesson about overcommitment.

We can’t do everything we would like to do, so we shouldn’t try. It’s better to do a few things well, than a lot of things mediocre. There is only so much time in a day. We must learn to balance our time and energy. Remember that when we say yes to some things, we have to say no to others.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

We all have projects we have a heart for. It’s not wrong to concentrate on what we feel called to do. Pray about it and try picking only one thing in this area, not a lot.

Learn to set limits. Eliminate some activities and concentrate on others. Create boundaries and margins.

When asked to take on a responsibility, like chairing a committee or being a ministry leader, ask what the job entails. What would you be expected to do? Whatever they say, plan on it involving at least four times more things than what they are telling you. Consider all this before you say yes.

Prioritize what you become involved in. Make a list of your top priorities. For example: God, spouse, children, grandchildren, church, charity work, relatives, job-related activities, and so on. BTW… don’t confuse church involvement with having a relationship with God. They are two distinctly, different things. When opportunities come up, evaluate where they fit in your list of priorities. This will help you make a decision on whether to say yes or no.

Jesus had something to say about priorities in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God.” The point of this whole passage is not to ignore our responsibilities, but learn to put first things first. (Matthew 6:25-33)

 


Choose Not to Be Lonely

Barbara | August 13, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

We were created to be relational. That’s why solitary confinement in prison is one of the worst punishments. Even when we are antisocial, we will subconsciously respond to others with our “mirror neurons.” This is why smiles, frowns, and yawns are contagious. So our brain may be social, even when we aren’t.

Yet, as relational as we long to be, loneliness prevails. We have more methods of instant communication available than ever before, such as computers, e-mail, the Internet, cell phones, and text messaging – which might be part of the problem. Social media users spend less time socializing one-on-one with others. Conversations might take place on phones, but reading another’s body language through airwaves is impossible. And text messaging has created an abbreviated language lacking in written and verbal nuances once needed to interact with others. Exactly how many BFFs can one have in a lifetime?

To complicate matters, some people often impose loneliness on themselves. They can be their own worst enemies. They retreat from contact with others and have unrealistic expectations. They suffer from distorted logic, thinking that since they are alone, no one wants to be with them. When they, actually, might reject others before even giving them a chance.

Connecting with others takes a concerted effort on our part. Those who are friendly and attract others can’t understand how difficult it can be for some to connect with people. The lonely person feels vulnerable and fears rejection. However, it’s worth taking a risk because loneliness can lead to depression manifesting itself under the mask of withdrawal, anxiety, lack of motivation, and sadness.

So the benefits of connecting with others far outweigh our inner feelings. We may need to enlarge our sphere of contacts. And we definitely will need to focus a little more on others and little less on ourselves. If we can’t learn to do that, we will always be lonely – even in a crowd.

Consider this… God is more about community than individualism. He models this in the Trinitarian relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is further exemplified in the grace-filled gesture of making salvation available for all mankind so we, too, can enter into that relationship.

Whether we like it or not, people are interconnected. We are interconnected with God and with each other. If we don’t want to be lonely, we need to look for ways to connect with others. Not doing so is definitely detrimental to our well-being.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. Feelings can be deceiving.

Join something! Take a class! Go to the fitness club! Adopt a pet! Become a “big brother or sister.” Send a care package to a soldier.

Volunteer. Help in a homeless shelter. Visit those in a veteran’s facility, hospital or nursing home. Find people who are worse off than you and give, give, give. Believe it or not, there are people lonelier than you.

If you are invited to somebody’s home, why not accept instead of making an excuse not to go? You could always go for a while and leave early. Bring a bottle of wine or sparkling cider. Sometimes it’s easier to refuse an invitation than stepping out of our comfort zone.

Take a big leap of faith and invite others who are lonely to your home for a potluck.

 


Choose Not to Forget What God Has Done

Barbara | August 6, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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By Barbara Dahlgren

One More Year of Choices

People are forgetful. Maybe that’s why God was continually exhorting them to remember things He had done, or setting up little monuments to help them remember.

In Joshua 4, God told Joshua to choose 12 men, one from each tribe of Israel. They were to take 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan River and place them where the priests who had carried the ark of the covenant had stood. After this was done, Joshua said to the Israelites: In the future, when your descendants ask their fathers, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” God did the same miracle at the Jordan River as He had done at the Red Sea. (Joshua 4:21-24)

God had them set up a monument so all people would know that the hand of the Lord is powerful. For generations to come, people passed that pile of stones and knew it represented something God had done. God knew people are forgetful, so He had a reminder in place – a reminder of what He did for them.

When we are in crisis, we forget all that God has done for us in the past. Our only concern is what’s happening immediately. Not only do we have a hard time remembering what God has done, we have a hard time remembering it accurately. We are greatly influenced by time, bias, and suggestion.

Such was the case when the Israelites came out of Egypt. For years they groaned for deliverance because of their unbearable hardships (Exodus 1:8- 22; 2:23; 5:7). However, when God delivered them, they grumbled about how much better off they had been in Egypt. They had already forgotten how miserable they had been.

When they didn’t like how God provided for them, they’d recall their distorted view of the good old days. “Remember the fish we ate in Egypt…” (Deuteronomy 11:5) or “It would have been better if the Lord had just killed us in the land of Egypt! At least there we had plenty to eat.” (Exodus 16:3 ERV) Yes, they may have had fish, but they also had oppressive slavery under cruel task masters, to the point that even their baby boys were killed at birth.

Later, God would tell them to remember when they were slaves in Egypt. Remember that God delivered them to freedom. (Deuteronomy 5:15) Remember what God did to Pharaoh and to Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:18) Remember how God led them through the wilderness. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

This was more than exhorting them just to remember these things; it was telling them to remember accurately. “Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live!” (Deuteronomy 4:9 NLT)

Human memory is flawed. Life, even the Christian life, is not easy, so when times get rough we might imagine it was better before God revealed Himself to us. Not true. We forget how lonely, depressed, angry, hopeless, or void of purpose we felt without God. We forget all God has done for us.

Consider this: Even though we forget the many wonderful things God has done for us, God never forgets us. Fortunately, our salvation is not tied to our faulty memories. God remembers us even when we forget Him. (Isaiah 49:15-16)

“Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” That’s a scripture worth remembering.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

You may have some little token that reminds you of something special God did for you. Place it where you can see it often to remind you of God’s greatness. When you look at it, thank God for something. Let it remind you that God has done great things for you. (Psalm 126:3)

Continually ask God, “Please help me remember Your love, mercy, kindness, and faithfulness to me and my loved ones, plus all those little prayers You answered immediately and the ones where You wisely did not give me what I wanted because You had a better plan.”

Remember God all day long. When things go wrong say, “Lord, help me remember that You are with me all the time.”

Think about what God has done for you. If the situation arises for you to share it with someone else, then do so. We don’t want to force God on others, but we don’t want to shy away from giving Him the credit due Him either.

When a memory of something God has done for you pops in your head, thank Him. God always remembers us; we want to always remember Him.


Choose Not to Blame God

Barbara | July 30, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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By Barbara Dahlgren

One More Year of Choices

Some of us are willing to admit that every bad situation is not God’s fault. Sometimes we make poor choices. Sometimes we suffer because of the poor choices of others. And sometimes it’s just time and chance. (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

However, many still want to blame God for what He allows to happen. After all, can’t God control everything? Can’t He keep us from screwing up? Can’t He keep someone from screwing us over? Can’t He shield us from every trial of life? Sure He can – but He doesn’t.

Ironically, those people who want to blame God when things go wrong usually aren’t thanking Him when things go right. We like to take the credit, but we like to give God the blame.

Unfortunately, bad stuff happens. We have all experienced things like financial setbacks, the unexpected death of a loved one, severe health problems, a bad marriage, job loss, drug addiction, and so on. Sometimes God intervenes and sometimes He doesn’t. But just because God doesn’t intervene in every unfair circumstance doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us.

The Bible is full of examples of Christians suffering unfairly. Nowhere does the Bible say life is easy. Joseph was thrown in a pit and sold into slavery. Stephen was martyred. Saul repeatedly tried to kill David. Jeremiah was ignored and abused. Jesus was crucified. The list goes on and on.

Life is hard, but the Christian has something other people don’t have in their hardships – God! God never promised life would be easy, but He did promise to be with us every step of the way. He promised He’d never leave or forsake us. He promised we’d never be alone. He promised His peace, comfort, and strength.

Consider this: Instead of blaming God, perhaps we could take a different approach. What about trusting God? We can trust God to be with us. We can trust God to do what’s best overall – not just for us. (Romans 8:28) In fact, when those bad things happen is the time we need to hold our faith tightly. We need to trust even more.

The book of Job is a life lesson about bad things happening to good people. Righteous Job lost everything – his health, his family, his fortune. Job was afflicted. Job suffered. Job was trying to make sense out of all of it. So Job was questioning God about it. Why? Why? Why? Haven’t I done everything you wanted? Why are these things happening to me?

Guess what? God neither explains nor defends what was happening to Job. However, God does answer a more significant question Job failed to ask. Who??? Who laid the foundations of the earth? Who is the Creator? Who has divine wisdom? Who is omnipotent? The list goes on and on. (Job 38-41) Job never finds out why, but he does find out Who – and ends up with more faith, confidence, and trust in God!

Here’s the deal…. God is God. Either we have faith in Him, or we don’t. God does not need to explain His actions to us. God does not need to apologize for what He does. God does not need to cower in a corner for not intervening when we thought He should.

If the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, do we still bless the Lord? (Job 1:21) We should, because we need to remember who God is. God is love – and He loves us.

Suggestions for practicing this choice… 

Don’t be guilty of ruining your life and blaming it on God. (Proverbs 19:3) Accept responsibility for your actions.

Don’t blame others for your mistakes. When Adam was confronted by God in the Garden of Eden, he blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. Everyone wants to blame someone else.

Learn to praise God always – in the good times and bad. When Paul and Silas were in jail, they prayed and sang praises to God. (Acts 16:25-34) Habakkuk said he would praise God even if the crops failed, the cattle died, and there was no food. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Practice gratitude. Keep your mind focused on your blessings, not your problems. During difficult times, always thank God for being with you.

Instead of blaming God, try trusting Him. Let this be your whispered prayer throughout the day, “Lord, help me to trust You!”

 


Choose Not to Stress When You Feel God Is Not Fair

Barbara | July 23, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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By Barbara Dahlgren

One More Year of Choices

Is God fair? Probably not – at least not by human standards…

If I had a chocolate cake and eight children who wanted dessert, I would probably take great pains to make sure I cut eight pieces of cake precisely the same size so each kid would have the same portion. I know each child would be comparing his/her slice of cake with the others to be sure someone didn’t get a bigger piece. That’s human fairness, but God is not human.

God is God. If God had the cake, He might make all the slices different sizes. Maybe we would get the size we wanted, or maybe not. You see, God is not as interested in us getting the same portions as He is in giving us what He knows we need.

I’m reminded of the parable of the landowner in Matthew 20:1-16, which is not my favorite parable, since I have a keen sense of (human) fairness. This is the parable about the land owner who hires a group of workers for the day and pays them the going rate for a day’s work, which in those days was twelve hours. Because he needed to harvest his grapes that day, he kept hiring more workers throughout the day. He even hired some at the last hour of the day, the eleventh hour. However, he paid all the workers for a full day’s work. Well, naturally those who had worked for twelve hours were a little upset that those who only worked for one hour got the same pay. I must admit that from a human perspective I would probably be griping right along with those who felt underpaid.

Humans judge fairness by comparing with one another. We say things like, “He’s got more than me and that ain’t fair!” In this passage the workers who labored all day said, “We worked longer, harder, and in the heat of the day, yet these guys who came to work for only one hour late in the day got the same pay as us. That ain’t fair!” The problem came when they started comparing what they got paid with what the others got paid. The Bible says it’s not wise to compare. (2 Corinthians 10:12) All the laborers got exactly what they signed up for.

Of course, this is not a true story. It’s a parable, an illustration Jesus used to help the disciples understand a principle. It starts with “the kingdom of Heaven is like…” The landowner represents God and the workers represent us. At the end of the story, the landowner (God) basically says, “I did you no wrong. I paid you what you agreed to work for. It’s my land. It’s my money! I can do what I want with it.”

Consider this: God is God and we are not. His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8) God has reasons for what He does, but He doesn’t always share those reasons with us. Our values and God’s are not always the same. We may value the wages, the money. Perhaps God values the harvest, the fruits of our labor, and what we learn spiritually.

This parable illustrates the Christian journey. Some of us become Christians early in our lives and some become Christians later in life, during the last hour. Are we who’ve followed Christ longer upset because the eleventh hour Christian receives the same reward? By human standards it doesn’t seem fair. But God is not human. God is God. God will have mercy on whomever He will have mercy. (Romans 9:14-16) It’s not a matter of fairness. It’s a matter of trusting a God of love.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Keep your life in perspective and don’t compare it with the lives as others. As Erma Bombeck used to say, “The other guy’s grass may be greener because it’s growing over a septic tank.”

Ask God to help you trust and rely on Him, rather than circumstances.

If God gave us what we deserved, we’d be dead. All have sinned and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23) Always remember that God is a merciful God. Do we want a fair God or a merciful God????

Remember that everything belongs to God. Who are we to question how He uses His resources?

Repeat this often: God is God and I am not!

 


Choose Not to Stress When Life’s Not Fair

Barbara | July 16, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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By Barbara Dahlgren

One More Year of Choices

Here’s a news flash for you – and it’s not fake news: Life is NOT fair.

While we should all strive to be fair, life does not always reciprocate. It’s not fair when we study non-stop to maintain a B average, but the guy who plays video games all day long makes all A’s. It’s not fair when we work harder than the guy sitting next to us, but he gets the promotion. It’s not fair when we deliver a fantastic presentation, but someone else takes the credit. Life is not fair.

If life were fair, we would all have the same gifts and talents, but we don’t. If life were fair, we would all be rich, beautiful, and healthy, but we aren’t. While it’s true some people have worked hard for these things, others have just lucked out. Some people are born with tremendous advantages; some are born with overwhelming disadvantages. Is that fair?

No it’s not, but that’s the way it is. Solomon told us long ago that life is not fair. He explained that the fastest runner does not always win the race; the strongest soldier does not always win the battle; wise people don’t always get their bounty; smart people don’t always get the wealth; educated people don’t always get the praise they deserve. That’s just the way it is! (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Consider this: We like it when life is unfair in our favor. Is it fair when the other speeder gets the ticket and we don’t? Is it fair that we live in the United States while others live in third world countries? Unfortunately, instead of being grateful for these blessings, many feel entitled, which makes it all the more stressful for them when they don’t think life is treating them fairly.

Well, I have three words to help us cope with life not being fair: Get over it!

Life is not fair and we need to decide how we will let that affect us. When those bad things happen, do we grumble, blame others, become bitter, get depressed, and stay miserable? Those are viable options, but they won’t make a person’s situation any better.

Solomon also tells us in Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” This tells me that although life is not fair, we still have choices. We can put our energy into making the best of bad situations, trying to improve our circumstances, and striving to go forward. We can be better people, not bitter. We can have peace, not anger. Problems are a given in life, but misery is optional.

The only way to have this peace is to focus on Jesus. Was it fair for Paul to have all sorts of difficulties when he was doing God’s work? I don’t think so. Yet, he chose the higher ground. Instead of grumbling, he said, “We are hard pressed but not crushed. We are perplexed but not in despair. We are persecuted but not forsaken. We are struck down but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-12) He just picked himself up and went about his heavenly Father’s business.

Is life fair? No! Life is not fair, but how we deal with it can make a big difference in how we fare in life.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Don’t be a control freak. We can’t control every situation, so stop trying.

Ask God to help you discern when it’s time to let go and move on.

Learn to take deep breaths during stressful situations. Don’t give into anger and frustration.

Don’t allow yourself to become bitter. Bitterness is like a caustic acid which eats away at the container that holds it.

Repeat his serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr often: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Let’s say a big AMEN to that one!!!

 

 


Choose Not to Focus on Failure

Barbara | July 9, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren 

Guess what? Everyone fails from time to time. Failure is not fatal. Failure is not final. Failure is not the end of the world. We can’t afford for mistakes or set-backs to make us feel like failures. Failure, if not kept in proper perspective, can make us feel like giving up.

Here’s a little “Guess Who” game.” Can you guess the name of the person one might think is a failure?

 

Q: Who performed badly in almost all of his high school courses and flunked his college entrance exams?

A: Albert Einstein (theoretical physicist)

 

Q: Who struck out 1330 times during his baseball career?

A: Babe Ruth (professional baseball player)

 

Q: Who failed the sixth grade and lost every public office he ran for, except one?

A: Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of U.K.)

 

Q: Whose first three automobile companies failed?

A: Henry Ford (industrialist, founder of Ford Motor Company)

 

Q: Who was barely able to read or write at age ten, was yanked out of school, and taught by a tutor who quit in disgust?

A: Pablo Picasso (painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, poet, playwright)

 

Q: Who was fired from her television reporting job because she wasn’t “fit to be on screen?”

A: Oprah Winfrey (queen of television talk shows)

 

Q: Who was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas?”

A: Walt Disney (entrepreneur, animator)

 

Q: Whose teacher called him a “hopeless dunce?”

A: Beethoven (composer)

 

Q: Who made a screen test and the evaluator wrote that he “can’t sing, can’t act, slightly bald, can dance a little?”

A: Fred Astaire (famous dancer, singer, actor, choreographer)

 

Q: Who tried 200 unsuccessful vaccines for polio before finding the one that worked?

A: Jonas Salk (medical researcher, virologist)

 

Q: After a performance at the Grand Ole Opry, who was told he was better off driving a truck than singing?

A: Elvis Presley (singer, actor)

 

Q: Who started a lot of businesses which all failed and lost several elections for public office?

A: Abraham Lincoln (president of the United States)

 

Q: Who was rejected by the California School of Theater, Film, and Television three times?

A: Steven Spielberg (director)

 

Q: Who was cut from his high school basketball team?

A: Michael Jordan (professional basketball player)

 

Q: Who graduated 42 in a class of 43?

A: Napoleon Bonaparte (military and political leader)

 

Q: Who had 10,000 failed experiments before figuring out how to work the light bulb?

A: Thomas Edison (inventor)

 

Thomas Edison said he didn’t consider those experiments failures; he considered them education. “I know 10,000 things that don’t work.” There are some things that can only be learned by failure.

Yes, failure hurts, but everyone fails at something. Smart people learn from their failures and move on. That’s what makes the difference. We can’t afford to let other people’s opinions of us determine what we will become. After all, it’s God’s opinion of us that really matters and He thinks we’re pretty special. So we can’t let failures become excuses to give up and stop trying. Failures are setbacks. Setbacks are learning experiences.

Failure can actually make us work harder and become more determined to succeed. It can help us refocus our energies or change direction. A little failure in our lives helps us to be sympathetic towards others and not so judgmental. Failure helps us rely on God.

Consider this… God doesn’t just want us to be observers in the game of life. He wants us to get in there and give it our all, do it with all our might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10) God is all about participation and doing our best. When we stumble, God wants us to get up and finish the race.

Success isn’t always winning; failure isn’t always losing. There is no failure unless we decide not to try. It’s as simple as that!

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Everyone fails, but how we handle failure determines if we will be bitter or better. Determine to learn from your mistakes, not repeat them.

Don’t blame others for your mistakes. Accept responsibility. Make changes. Move on.

It’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing at all. Don’t let failure keep you from doing stuff.

When a certain process isn’t working for you then reframe, revise, and refocus. Make evaluations to determine how to proceed. That’s what Edison had to do every time his light bulb experiment didn’t work.

Always remember God is here for you. When we fall down, He can help us get back up. If we don’t have the strength to get up, He will lift us up if we ask Him for help.


Choose Not to Be a Pessimist

Barbara | July 2, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Last time, we explored the dangers of negative thinking. Those who entertain negative thoughts long enough become pessimists. Pessimists see the worst aspect of everything. They look on the dark side of life. Think of Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Eeyore. He’s an old, gray stuffed donkey who is always gloomy and depressed. A conversation with Eeyore could go something like this:

“Hi Eeyore! What a beautiful, glorious day! The sun is shining. The birds are singing! It’s great to be alive.”

Eeyore might respond with, “Well…I don’t know. The sun is shining now, but it will probably rain. I think the birds are out of tune. I’m alive now, but I’ll probably die later today.”

We’ve all known people like that. What a joy to be around! They light up a room by leaving it.

The opposite of being a pessimist is being an optimist. Optimists are hopeful and want to find the pony in the manure. They look on the bright side of life. Think of a young Pollyanna who used to play the “Glad Game.” No matter how bad things were, she always found something to be glad about. A conversation with her could go something like this:

“Hey Pollyanna! I just broke my leg. What do I have to be glad about?”

Cheerful Pollyanna might say, “Well…you can be glad you only broke one leg.”

To be honest, both extremes get on my nerves. But with that said, I’ll take the optimist ten to one over a pessimist.

To the pessimist, a fireplace is a source of smoke and ashes. To an optimist, it is a center of warmth and beauty. A pessimist curses the darkness. An optimist lights a candle. The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. When confronted with Goliath-sized problems, the pessimist says, “He’s too big to hit.” The optimist says, “He’s too big to miss.” How we think determines our outlook on life.

Remember the story of the twelve spies who were sent to survey Canaan? (Numbers 13) God told Moses to send twelve men to spy out the land He had promised the Israelites. They were to survey the land and see what it was like. Was it fertile or barren, full of forests or open fields? Were the people strong or weak, few or many? Were the cities strongholds or camps?

So they went to do their duty. They even brought back some fruit of the land – figs, pomegranates, and grapes. When they returned, everyone gathered together to hear their report. Joshua and Caleb said the land flowed with milk and honey. There were a few problems but nothing they couldn’t handle with God’s help.

The other ten spies basically said, “Are you out of your mind? You are crazy. We can’t take these people. They are stronger and bigger than us. They are like giants and we are like grasshoppers.”

Now, all twelve had seen the same land and people. The difference had to be in their perspective. The ten spies with the pessimistic report could only see obstacles. They felt inadequate and didn’t want to tackle it. Joshua and Caleb looked at the task ahead and knew nothing was too difficult for their God to handle. After all, had God not brought them out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea?

Consider this… Those who don’t look to God will tend to be more pessimistic, dissatisfied, and feel lacking. Those who truly trust and believe God will tend to be more optimistic.

We all have obstacles and problems in our paths at times. They can come from our families, our workplace, our friends, and our own hearts. The pessimist will see trouble. The optimist will see God.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Remember this rhyme: Two men looked out of prison bars; one saw mud and the other saw stars.

During the day, think about the good qualities of your family, friends, and co-workers, not the things that drive you crazy.

Focus on solutions, not problems.

Ask God to change your outlook so you will be a more positive person. Not just for your sake, but for all those around you, too.

At the end of the day, be glad and thankful for what you got done, not sad and despondent about what you didn’t get done.

 


Choose Not to Entertain Negative Thoughts

Barbara | June 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

We live in a “put-down” society – one that is eager to point out our short comings. We are not thin enough, smart enough, or good enough – and probably never will be in the eyes of this world. This negative input gives us a flawed perspective of how we really are. The mind entertains these negative thoughts, plays tricks on us, and sabotages our happiness.

 

Negative thoughts can make us hide and retreat from life. Our lives become limited because we hesitate to build friendships, develop relationships, and try new adventures. We think people don’t like us. We think we are ugly. We think we aren’t good enough. We think we are unlovable.

What we think about ourselves can impact our lives. If we tell ourselves we have no friends long enough, we may end up friendless. If we tell ourselves we can’t do something, more than likely we won’t even try. Because “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7) People who feel they are fat and stupid will gladly soothe their sorrows with a super-sized burger meal while spending all their time watching reruns of Sponge Bob Square Pants.

And let’s face it – we are all prone to be influenced more by the negative than the positive. Ten positive comments can be quickly overshadowed by one negative. In fact, we will tend to forget the ten positive comments and obsess over the one negative. So we must work all the harder to maintain a positive frame of mind.

According to the Mayo Clinic, those who practice positive thinking decrease stress, improve overall health, and increase coping skills. I guess there is a reason people still read Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking, even though it was written in 1952. It has sold over 20 million copies in 41 languages. I’ve had my copy for over forty years and still reread parts of it every now and then. Although a bit outdated, the overall principles still ring true. Positive thinking enhances our lives.

Consider this… Why does God tell us to bring every thought into captivity? (2 Corinthians 10:5) God knew our thought process could get us into big trouble. Negative thoughts breed negative outcomes. It takes a conscious effort on our part to keep thinking positive thoughts.

Paul gave sound advice in Philippians 4:4-8: rejoice always, be thankful, guard your mind, pray, don’t be afraid, and think about what is true, noble, lovely, good, virtuous, and praiseworthy.

Therefore, we need to fill our minds with thoughts of God and Christ, thoughts about good and pleasant things. We need to stop putting ourselves down. God doesn’t put us down and we shouldn’t put ourselves down either. We need to fill our minds with God’s words.

If these things are done often enough, our minds will just naturally go to the positive instead of the negative.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Start each day with a positive thought. Take a few breaths and focus on something you are thankful for. You’re alive, aren’t you????

Remember this: A positive outlook may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.

Force yourself to smile whether you want to or not. It does wonders for your mental outlook.

Each day concentrate on a specific, positive scripture. Put it on a 3×5 card and read it often during the day. Soon it will become of part of your thought pattern. Here are a few to get you started. I have just listed the concept; you can look up the scripture.

  • Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord and lean not to thine own understanding.
  • John 10:10 – God came so we could have an abundant life.
  • Luke 18: 27 – Things that are impossible with men are possible with God.
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 – God has not given us a spirit of fear.
  • Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength.
  • Philippians 3:13,14 -Forget the past and press forward.
  • Isaiah 26:3 – Perfect peace comes from God.
  • Philippians 4:4, 5 – Rejoice! Be thankful!
  • Philippians 4:8 – Think on positive things!

End the day with a positive thought. There must be at least one thing that happened during the day you can be thankful for. You’re still alive, aren’t you????


Choose Not to Forget Those Who’ve Touched Your Life

Barbara | June 18, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

A few years ago I read an interesting book titled Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things. I think about it from time to time, when the busyness of the world causes me to forget others.

The author Lee Kravitz was laid off from his job as editor of Parade magazine, so he decided to reassess his life. Although just fifty-four, this self-professed workaholic discovered he had become disconnected from people in his life that really mattered to him. These thoughts were triggered while looking through a box of mementos, reflecting on the things he should have done but didn’t. With his wife’s blessing, Kravitz decided to devote the next year to completing unfinished business, which resulted in his book.

Kravitz traveled the world seeking out those he felt he needed to see. He visited an old friend who was now a monk, repaid a $600 loan to another, forgave a high school bully, reconnected with a mentally ill aunt, fulfilled a promise to an underprivileged boy, said thank you to a teacher who mentored him, and the list goes on. Along the way he met some fascinating people who opened doors for more personal and spiritual growth. In a Reader’s Digest interview Kravitz said, “Every experience was just so much richer than I could have imagined. I rediscovered the parts of myself that were compassionate, sensitive, and adventurous.”

Kravitz must have had a hefty severance or an advance on his book in order to be able to afford to take a year for this mission. Most of us don’t have that kind of time or money, but this book is a reminder not to neglect those who are most important to us. We don’t need lots of money to make a phone call, write a note of appreciation, send a sympathy card, email a friend, repay a kindness, or just say the words “I’m sorry” or “thank you.” Those kindnesses mean a lot to others – and to us.

Consider this… The great apostle Paul was not above being appreciative. In a letter to the Romans, Paul took the time to openly thank those who held a special place in his heart. (Romans 16:1-16) This is not just a list of names. Paul takes the time to mention why these people are special to him. Phoebe had been a help to many people including him. Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for him. Andronicus and Junia were in prison with him. Rufus was like a mother to him.

Not only was he appreciative of what they had done for him, but also for what they had done for the church. Epaenetus, Urband, Stachys, and Apelles were fellow workers approved by Christ. And he was not above giving praise to women during a historical time when women were more to be seen than heard. Mary, Persius, Tryphena, Tryphosa (maybe they were twins?), and so on – all worked hard in the Lord.

How many of us have been touched by the lives of others, but neglected to let them know? We shouldn’t wait and wait before we do something. Soon years go by. We get busy. We forget. Maybe they will never know. We need to do it now!

Some ideas might be writing a note of appreciation, visiting a sick friend, sending a card of encouragement, repaying a debt, forgiving an oversight, making amends, reconnecting, or just telling someone you love them. We might not get a book deal out of it and make lots of money, but our lives and the lives of others will be richer for the effort.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

When a past memory of a dear friend pops into your mind, write a quick note. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. You can start by saying, “I was just thinking about you and how my life is better because you’ve been a part of it. Remember the time we…”

Don’t assume loved ones know you love them. Say, “I love you,” and say it often.

When someone close to you is suffering, send a note of encouragement. Something simple like, “I’m thinking about you and praying for you today” can mean a lot.

Do you have any elderly people who have influenced your life? Take them out for ice cream and listen to their stories. Let them know they are special to you.

Don’t forget to thank God all the time. How will He know you’re thankful if you don’t tell Him?