Is your ax sharp?

A farmer hired a man to chop down some trees on his property. On the first day, the woodchopper chopped down five trees, and the farmer was pleased. the next day, the woodchopper chopped only four trees. And on the following day, just three trees were chopped down. The farmer approached the woodchopper and said, “The first day you chopped five trees, now you are only chopping three. What has happened?” The woodchopper replied, “I could still chop down five trees a day, but my ax has become dull and I’m so busy that I don’t have time to sharpen it.”

Make sure you take the time to keep your ax sharp!

It’s up to you…

Elephant

It happens in life that we sometimes find ourselves trapped. From our own perspective the situation seems set, definitive, unmovable. However, from an outside viewpoint, it may appear that we have actually created our own prison and have learned to be helpless.

Circus elephants often come from Thailand. They are captured in the wild and tied to a big banyan tree by one leg. In captivity, the elephant tries time and again to get away and eventually gives up. At this point, the elephant is sold to the circus and is tied to a small stake in the ground. The elephant does not try to get away, thinking that it has already tried and failed.

If you are thinking small, think bigger. If you feel trapped, find a way out. If you can’t go down one path, find another. If you failed before, try again. Don’t give up. Don’t assume the present is like the past.

It’s up to you…

Are you self actualized?

Maslow

Maslow studied motivation. What makes us tick? It starts with our basic needs for survival and then moves along a continuum towards what he referred to as self-actualization. Once a lower level of needs are met, we tend to move along to meeting the next higher set of needs. We tend not to focus on meeting higher level needs unless lower level needs are met.

Here are the 5 levels:

1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.

2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.

3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.

4. Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.

5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Assuming you feel good about levels 1 and 2, you can use levels 3 through 5 to self evaluate your life and where you may need some improvement. To be fulfilled and happy, we all need to feel that we belong and that we are loved. We also need to feel a sense of value as a person. If levels 1 through 4 are being met, then we find ourselves in the realm of level 5. But what does level 5 look like?

Maslow studied people. He specifically noticed two professors who stood out. So, he studied them to understand what made them successful. The following are characteristics Maslow noted as being self-actualized qualities:

  • A clear sense of what is right and just
  • Dedication to some work, mission or value larger than self
  • Confidence and self-respect; absence of severe self-condemnation
  • The ability to be decisive
  • A relative absence of inner conflict; not at war with self; personality is integrated
  • A sense of humility, combined with a willingness to listen to others and learn
  • High creativity, along with spontaneity, a willingness to make mistakes, openness and flexibility
  • More concerned with the task or outcome than with image or ego
  • The ability to maintain composure under pressure
  • The ability and commitment to work very hard, yet has balance of work and play
  • A sense of control over events and reactions to events
  • The ability to develop long-lasting, stable, supportive, intimate relationships and friendships
  • Taking pleasure in seeing others experience pleasure
  • The ability to see people for who they are and to see through those who are fake and phony
  • The ability to thrive alone or with others
  • Tolerance of others’ shortcomings
  • The ability to see reality as it is
  • Having a perception and understanding that is undistorted by desires, anxieties, fears, hopes, false optimism or pessimism
  • The capacity to be expressive, natural and simple
  • The ability to ignore criticism, ridicule, and cultural constraints with resulting “psychological freedom”

Now, if you are like me, you are not feeling self-actualized after looking at that list! However, the truth is we all fall short of perfection. The important thing is to be working towards improvement. The self-actualized list is a great tool for us to use in evaluating ourselves and setting goals. It is important for all of us to take a periodic look at ourselves to see where we need some work. As you look back at the list, what 2 or 3 items stand out for you as needing improvement? Focus on those items and take at least one step toward your self-actualized future! And just for fun…when you see others not displaying specific items on the list, tell them to self-actualize!

How much should I help my Neighbor?

Many times, I’ve had conversations with other Christians who experienced frustration when reaching out with help to another church member, friend, co-worker, or a family in the neighborhood. The frustration is usually expressed something like this, “I helped them out and now they keep asking for more help!” I have also experienced this circumstance personally. It can be a challenge to know what to do and how to respond. I think the following article sorts it out well and gives us a great framework to go by. No, it’s not easy to figure out how much to help and where to draw the line, but these are some good words on how to approach the topic.

https://bible.org/question/i-know-we-are-help-our-neighbors-and-when-we-lend-were-are-give-those-need-what-they-need-a

Am I Loving Enough?

“So now faith, hope, and love abide; but the greatest of these is love.” —1 Corinthians 13:13

My daughter, Becca, has a mantra – “Am I loving enough?” I think that expression is awesome and it really gets at the heart of what it means to love. Why? because true God-inspired love is not merely a feeling, it is action! Faith is belief in our creator and hope is a positive looking forward to all the God has in store for those who have faith. But… love (real agape God love) is the living out and demonstration of our faith and hope as we shine a light into a dark world – the light of Christ. This kind of love is shown by how we treat others, by how we respond to others, by how we reach out to others, by how we defend others…by how we help those in need or show grace to those who do not deserve it. All the verbs connected with real God sized love are action words – words that describe what we do, not how we feel. Paul made it clear when he challenged the church to show our love by our deeds – “faith without works is dead”. God can see our faith and hope by looking right into our hearts. The rest of the world sees our faith and hope by looking at our demonstrations of love.

  • Home – Does your family know that you love them through your actions or is it through words only? (some family members don’t even bother to show it with words!).
  • Church – Does the world outside the walls of the church know that you love? Corporate worship and Bible Study are very important, but if that’s all you do then it looks like you love corporate worship and Bible study – not people.
  • Work – Do people know you as that person who goes to church or do they know you as that person who cares about them and is available to help them?

Bottom line – “Are you loving enough?”

Beating the Holiday Blues

The holiday season is a wonderful time of joy? Really? For some, not so much. I love the holidays – the lights, the laughter, the people, the music, the meaning – all of it. However, there are some things I don’t like…

Such as the emphasis on purchasing gifts, the busyness, the commercialism, and the in-laws! (just kidding, I love my in-laws like a mouse likes a cat! [just kidding! I really do love them to pieces! {sometimes, I wish it was many pieces – just kidding!}])

The plain truth is that for many people, the holidays can be depressing. Dealing with family issues, memories of loved ones, the hustle and bustle, the pressure to spend more than one has, and other things can all add up to the blues. And, if someone is already a little down, seeing everyone in such a good mood, can actually make things worse.

So, I want to give everyone some permissions to help make the holidays brighter:

1) Decide not to spend more than you can spare. Definitely do not charge Christmas unless you already have the money and plan to pay the whole bill when it comes due. Make a list and check it twice. Remove all the naughty people – they get nothing (hey, it works for Santa, right?). Prioritize the rest. Then, assign an approximate dollar amount to each person, making sure the total is not more than you have allotted to spend. Then, stick to it!!! They will still love you and if they don’t, then who cares – they aren’t worth it if all they care about is how much you spend on them. (Tip: young kids usually like the box better than the gift, so just get them the box!)

2) Don’t put up with the family stuff that ruins the holiday cheer! People can’t just go around messing up everyone’s life. Say no to party poopers (and drugs)! Life is too short and will be even shorter if you keep putting up with the stress! But remember to do all things in love and be willing to forgive. (Disclaimer: don’t blame me for any fall out from this advice!) (Book recommendation: Boundaries by Henry Cloud)

3) If you already have the blues before the holidays ever get here – do something about it! Talk to someone – a friend or a pastor or someone you trust. Let others help. Don’t go it alone – It is amazing how much stronger a strand is when braided into a rope.

4) Don’t let your schedule ruin the holidays. This should be a time for cheer and fellowship, but don’t schedule so many things that you can’t enjoy any of them. Don’t automatically say yes to every invitation. Plan ahead and schedule the important things first, including family time. Leave some room for fun things and just sitting at home enjoying each other.

Don’t have a blue Thanksgiving and Christmas! Let it be a good time of great joy!

10 Tips to Build Resilience

Resiliency doesn’t just happen. While some people can naturally bear up under certain pressures better than others, for the most part it takes work. We can actually work on being more resilient.

Click on this link for some good tips on building resilience.

10 Tips to Build Resilience | Psych Central.

Unity, Liberty, and Charity

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”

I have always liked this statement. It is a great expression of what I believe scripture teaches on how we are supposed to relate to each other as the church. Although there is debate over who the quote came from, it has been around for at least several hundred years. Throughout history, Christians have struggled with how to function as one in the midst of diversity. Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Church at Corinth and Jesus prayed for unity among Christians as recorded in John chapter 17.

I like this summary statement in an article from Mark Ross:

“It calls for unity on the essential things, the core of truth in our union with Christ. In non-essentials (not the unimportant, but those things that if lacking do not prevent our union with Christ), it calls for liberty so that all might follow their consciences under the Word and Spirit. In all things, however, there must be love (“charity” from the Latin caritas, or “love”), “which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).

You can find the whole article at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/essentials-unity-non-essentials-liberty-all-things/

Is your “Church” small enough?

Gathering together as a congregation can be a wonderful experience in many ways – no doubt. However, it is important to understand that only experiencing the big crowd will not give you the fullness of being a part of your local church. To get it to the max you need to get smaller. Small groups. If you have never experienced small groups, then its hard to fully appreciate the significance. Small groups are powerful! Many people don’t feel like church has much to offer, and often it is because they have never chosen to become a part of the corporate body in a more participating way. Here are just a few reasons why you have to try a small group!

  1. Small groups offer the best environment for spiritual growth. The interactive nature of gathering together and studying together in a small group really helps the participants to grow. It’s leaps and bounds beyond sitting in the pew at big church – really! You can even ask questions! You might really freak your pastor out if you ask a question in big church (I started to write, “try it and see!” but decided not to. If you decide to try it anyway, I am not responsible for whatever happens next!)
  2. Small groups help people belong. It’s a lonely world out there without friends. Small church or big church – you don’t really get to know others until you are in a setting where you can interact. A handshake at the beginning or end of the worship service is not going to do the trick. An occasional potluck can be quite delicious, but its probably not going to wipe out the loneliness factor, especially if you bring green bean casserole! (Just kidding about the casserole…maybe not)
  3. Small Groups are the best venue for “loving one another.” As Christians get to know one another in small groups, they also learn about each other’s needs and also grow in a desire to care for and support one another – awesome! And…a small group is a built-in support group for you when emotionally or physically in need.

I have seen so many wonderful things happen in small groups – life change, spiritual growth, Christian education, reaching out to others, unity, love, fellowship, care, and so much more. Church is so much more than a building or a crowd gathered together – it is the body of Christ living life together, encouraging one another in the faith, loving one another, and serving together. Do yourself a big favor and seek out a small group to pour yourself into and start experiencing God in a whole new way – a much smaller way.