All men are our neighbors, and we are to love them as ourselves. We are to do this on the basis of creation, even if they are not redeemed, for all men have value because they are made in the image of God. Therefore they are to be loved even at great cost.                              – Francis Schaeffer

 

 

Choose to Engage

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As the conversation continues concerning racism in our culture, I want to offer a few simple solutions. I know that the problem of racial division is deeply complex, but I do think that there are steps each of us can take to work toward harmony and unity.

It’s not just the government’s responsibility to ease racial tensions, it is also every individual’s responsibility. It begins in our own heart. It begins with a new focus of love and understanding within each one of us. How can you and I make a difference? Here are a few thoughts:

Mindset. Let’s ask God to put a love in our heart for all people, not just those who look like us and think like us. Psalms 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to all. He has compassion on all He has made.”  If the Lord has compassion on all that He has made, shouldn’t we do the same? Let’s ask God to open our eyes to see each person as a creation of God, to see their value and worth, rather than seeing their outward appearance. As we pray, let’s ask God to open our eyes to new friendships and seek His direction in connecting with people different than ourselves.

Action. We must be deliberate if we want to get to know people of other cultures and communities. It takes stepping out of our comfortable little world and intentionally reaching into the lives of others. How do we do that? Getting involved or volunteering in our own city is a good place to start. Let’s look for ways, not simply to give a handout (making ourselves feel good), but rather give a hand up by building relationships and connecting with people. Let’s be aware of the opportunities to develop friendships with people of other cultures at work, at church or at places we tend to visit on a regular basis.

Love. The word “love” is used in such a flippant manner in today’s culture it seems to have lost its depth and meaning. When we love someone, we sincerely want the best for them. We see the potential in them and encourage them in their journey. We listen. We care. We persevere. We lift up. Love requires time and commitment. Love breaks down the barriers of us/them and simply says, “We are all in this together.”

Racial reconciliation begins with us. It begins as each of us takes a step outside our comfort zone and into community, engaging with people whose lives may be very different than our own.

Will you take the first step?

 

If you are looking for a way to serve in your community, prayerfully consider joining the Engage Positive Parenting Initiative team of volunteers. Click here for more information.

Three Ways to De-stress Rather Than Distress

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It’s summer and life is carefree and blissful – right? Well, unless you live in a cave or under a rock, I’m guessing that you have a fair amount of stress in your life. We all feel stretched at times, but the key is not to move to a desert island to get away from it all, rather our goal should be to deal with these challenges in a healthy way. Here are three tips to help you de-stress rather than distress.

  1. Create a Positive Plan. What are the biggest sources of stress in your life right now? Is it your overloaded schedule or never ending email inbox or perhaps its taking care of the kids non-stop during the summer. It is important to identify where your tension is coming from in order to begin to deal with it in a manageable way. Perhaps you need to rethink your schedule or daily routine and set some boundaries at work or with people in your life. Maybe you can create a time each day where kids are having quiet play to give you some rest. Could it be that you need to change the way you deal with emails and social media, only checking them several times a day instead of being constantly distracted by them. Make a deliberate plan of action to help you feel less stretched and more in control.
  2. Be Intentional About Relaxing. Consider activities that genuinely rejuvenate you, not only physically, but also emotionally. Each of us have our own ways that we tend to unwind. Maybe it is reading a book or taking a walk or watching a movie or playing with your dog at the park. Interestingly, studies show that spending time in nature actually has a positive effect on our attitudes, so consider getting outdoors each morning before it gets too hot. Make a list of the top five things that you find relaxing and schedule a time each week (or each day if you can) to do at least one activity on your list.
  3. Allow Stress to Work for you. Can stress be a good thing in your life? Possibly. As we walk through stressful situations, our confidence grows, and we become wiser as we learn from each experience. Just as stress on our muscles makes them stronger, so stress in our lives can make us stronger. Difficulties and challenges allow us to learn new skills, grow in empathy towards others and become better as a result. So as you face obstacles or stressful situations, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this situation and how can I grow?” Look for ways to help others in similar situations which also helps you take your focus off of your own challenges.

Most important, stress leads us to seek God’s help and direction. The apostle Paul did not experience a stress-free life by any means, yet he was able to remind all believers to “not be anxious about anything.” Instead, he wrote that we should, “Pray about everything with thanksgiving.” The result is not a stress-free life, but rather a peaceful heart and mind, which surpasses all understanding.

Check out my book, A Positive Plan for More Calm and Less Stress, for more ideas on overcoming your challenges.

We Can Make Our Plans, But…

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Breaking his foot on the first day of our Italian vacation was not exactly what my husband had planned for our trip. We spent our first day in Florence in the hospital ER.  Fun! Normally on a trip like this, we would be walking around the city, taking pictures of Renaissance chapels and sculptures, but instead we were waiting for hours for a picture of my husband’s foot.

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After three hours of thumbing through old Italian magazines in the waiting room while Curt was waiting in another room for his X-rays, I finally decided to explore the hospital. I found a spot to sit outside and enjoy the Italian sunshine. As I soaked up some rays, I happened to notice a couple of tourists who looked like they were on a hunt for a hidden treasure.

I watched them walk through a small, inconspicuous wooden door behind me. Hmmm….where were they going? I just had to find out and see what they were up to.  So, like Alice chasing the white rabbit, I followed the tourist through the little door  – and to my surprise I walked into a magnificent 15th century chapel. Inside the hospital! Who knew? I was truly taken by the beauty and reverence of this sacred place. For me, it was a bright spot on our less-than-spectacular day.

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Although our trip didn’t start off on the right foot (no pun intended), we weathered the twists and turns and persevered. And we learned to discover the beauty along the way. Italian lesson number one: we can make our plans, but then we must be willing to adjust and find the simple joys in Plan B. And if you ever find yourself in the ER in the middle of Florence, check out the chapel behind the wooden door!

 

Bounce Back

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When C. S. Lewis was fifty years old he debated a British scholar, Elizabeth Anscombe. Lewis, the brilliant former-atheist-turned-Christian lost the debate and some say he felt like a failure. He was in low spirits and “deeply disturbed” by his loss, but it was this set back that set him in a new direction. He determined to communicate Christianity through faith rather than reason. Not long after the debate, Lewis penned his block-buster series The Chronicles of Narnia between ages 52 and 58. Lewis’s legacy continues today, as a powerful influence in our culture for Christ.  His frustration was the catalyst to his success. His loss was what God used to teach him, turn him and strengthen him.

 

How do you handle setbacks? Possibly the greatest lesson any of us can learn is discovered in the classroom of brokenness. It is there that we move from self-reliance to a God-reliance as we humbly seek His direction and help. Ultimately, we can learn to thank God for our flaws and failures, for through them He expands our understanding and teaches us new and marvelous truths. He forgives, redeems and resurrects. He never leaves us, even when we feel alone.

Whenever we face disappointments, we can choose to live in the defeat of our mistakes, continually beating ourselves up for what we could have done or should have done. Or we can choose to move forward, growing and learning from our mess ups. It’s a choice we choose and a perspective we pick. When we have a “Bounce Back” attitude, we can look beyond our mishaps and setbacks and realize that God can use them for good.

His grace is bigger than our mistakes. His love is greater than our failures. His plan is higher than our setbacks. Let’s not wallow in our mess-ups, rather let’s bounce back with determination. May our challenges strengthen us, teach us and turn us into better people.

 

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

 

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Learn From Your Mistakes

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When we walk in a room and switch on a light, we can be thankful for an unlikely genius named Thomas Edison. We can be grateful for moving pictures and audio recordings as a result of this one man’s perseverance. With very little formal schooling, and numerous mishaps and failures, few people expected young Thomas Alva Edison to amount to anything at all. As a curious boy, he burned down the family stable. As a young man, he lost his job as a newspaper salesman on a train because he nearly blew up one of the train cars with his experiments. As an ambitious entrepreneur and inventor, one of his first inventions turned out to be a colossal commercial failure. Yet he looked at each failure as an opportunity to learn and grow and discover new things.

Edison had a unique drive and perseverance that kept him learning and growing despite his failures and mistakes. He didn’t allow discouragements to linger, rather he pushed forward with curiosity and commitment. And aren’t we thankful? On the 50th anniversary of the electric light bulb, Henry Ford organized a celebration of his dear friend Edison. President Herbert Hoover spoke about the variety of ways that the electric light had made life better, “It enables our towns and cities to clothe themselves in gaiety by night, no matter how sad their appearance may be by day. And by all its multiple uses it has lengthened the hours of our active lives, decreased our fears, replaced the dark with good cheer, increased our safety, decreased our toil, and enabled us to read the type in the telephone book.”*

The light bulb represent countless hours in the laboratory filled with failed experiments and frustrations. When asked by a reporter with the New York Times about the seemingly incredible difficulties associated with developing the light bulb, Edison responded, “I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways how not to build a light bulb.” What an extraordinary perspective! Can we look at our mistakes as successes, or are we so caught up in the disappointments and frustrations that we can’t see the positive aspects of our failures? Let’s determine to look at life with and attitude that includes the joy of learning and the opportunity to discover the lesson behind each challenge and mistake.

*Herbert Hoover: “Address on the 50th Anniversary of Thomas Edison’s Invention of the Incandescent Electric Lamp.,” October 21, 1929.

This is an excerpt from my book, Positive Leadership Principles for Women

Lead Photo by Diz Play on Unsplash