Open Hands, Open Heart

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Retail store checkout lines are dangerous for me. Yes, I’m one of those people who succumb to “last minute” purchases on items that are so conveniently located near the cash register. Case in point, recently I ran into Hobby Lobby to grab a few party decorations, and I came out with three new books – which of course, I didn’t really need.

Well actually, maybe I did need one of them.  It was a book by the owner of Hobby Lobby, David Green called Giving It All Away…And Getting It All Back Again, The Way of Living Generously. It is the powerful story of how he started Hobby Lobby, but more importantly, it is about living with open hands and an open heart.

As I read his story, I began to think about the many things that I tend to hold a little too tightly to in my life. Things like my time, my plans, my money, my stuff, my opinions, my resentments.  Just like Jennifer Garner so eloquently says on the Capital One commercials,  “What’s in your wallet?” I suppose we could all ask ourselves, “What’s in my clenched fists?”

The interesting thing is, if we are going to reflect God’s attributes in our lives, we are compelled to be generous because He is generous. He is generous in love, in wisdom, in grace and in mercy. He is generous in giving us good gifts and blessings every day. Most important He is generous in salvation, giving His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Oh what a generous God we serve!

Here’s what’s truly beautiful – God is generous with His Spirit who enables us to live generously. Admittedly, I’m not so great at loving and giving in my own strength and will power, but God is! We can ask Him to open our hearts and our hands to living in a giving way.

Three practical and positive action points to ponder:

Realize: God is a generous God. His Spirit helps us to be generous. Realize that everything belongs to Him anyway.

Repent: Let’s begin to identify the things that we are holding with clenched fists (time, talent, treasures, unforgiveness, anger, opinions, plans, etc…). Confessing these things to God helps our heart begin to change.

Release: Finally, let’s open our hands and release those things. Let’s ask God to fill our hearts with generosity and  also ask Him to show us where to love, serve and give.

Make it a generous week this week!

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Engage Note:  There are many opportunities to give of your time, treasures and talents. If you would like to give to Engage Positive Parenting Initiative, reaching families in adverse circumstances with discussion-based parenting classes, you can click here to donate. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit our website at www.EngageParenting.com

 

Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash

Living Your Purpose

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Could the word scattered define your life? Most of us feel as though we are pulled a gazillion different directions without a meaningful focus or a purposeful plan. How can we regroup and get back on the a road that leads us toward living out our purpose?  Let’s examine a few simple questions to help you develop a personal mission statement. Prayerfully ponder the following:

  • What gifts and talents has God given me? What fills my heart with joy?
  • Who are the people who can benefit or be blessed from my gifts?
  • How can I use my gifts to influence or affect the people around me?

Take some time to answer these questions and then begin to use the answers to create a mission statement.

The What – As you look at your gifts, talents and passions choose one or two verbs that describe what you do best. Think about the spiritual gifts God has given you (reflect on Romans 12) and consider what unique ways God has made you. You could use verbs such as: teach, inspire, help, serve, give, build, restore, share. For me, my verb is “encourage.” So my mission statement starts with:

My mission is to encourage…

The Who  –  Think about who you want to reach with your “What.” Could it be women across the nation? Could it be people who are caregivers? Or perhaps your desire is to help the hurting or the lost. Do you want to reach tens of thousands of people or do you want to touch a significant few? Examine your heart’s desire and add your descriptive “Who” phrase to the statement. For me, I wrote:

My mission is to encourage men and women around the world…

The How – Now it is time to consider the effect that you want to have on the people you reach. This may develop or change over time, but you can also paint a picture with some broad brush strokes of how you want to influence or help others. Maybe your How is: to strengthen people’s lives physically, to help people emotionally, to develop programs, to give financially, to encourage spiritual growth. Add this final piece to your mission statement. Here’s mine:

My mission is to encourage men and women around the world

to pursue their God-given passion

and use their gifts and talents in a positive and productive way.

 

Now take a moment to write your statement:

 

When we ponder our purpose, we live with a clearer direction of what to are able to do, as well as what we probably should not do. Without a focus, we tend to be distracted by every opportunity or activity that comes along our path. Ultimately, each of our greater purpose on this earth is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. My hope is that you will find your true joy and fulfillment in relationship with Him and following the direction He leads you.

Photo by José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash

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!