Take the First Step

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A number of years ago we added a new dog to our home, but she was no small pup. She was a nine-month-old English mastiff named Bentley. Sweet, gentle, and loveable – Bentley was also extremely fearful. One day, she courageously followed me upstairs to the second floor of our house. That was all well and good except for the simple fact that she was too frightened to come down the stairs. She couldn’t seem to figure out how to navigate the first step.

Of course I wasn’t going to allow her to live the rest of her doggy life on the second floor of our house, so I tried to gently help her down. She wasn’t budging. All she wanted to do was sit and bark at the steps. After forty-five minutes of bribing, pulling and coaxing, she finally decided to take the first step down. (Where is the Dog Whisperer when you need him?) Once Bentley accomplished the first step, the second wasn’t too bad. Then the next and the next and finally she was running free on the first floor again! What a relief for both her and us! She obviously had the ability to go down the stairs safely; she just didn’t have the courage to take that first step.

Bentley’s situation made me think how often I nestle safely in my situation or resist moving forward because I just don’t know how to make the initial move. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, and sometimes out of fear of the unknown I prefer to just stay put. Instead of taking steps in a positive direction, it is sometimes easier just to sit and bark  – or in human terms, whine, complain or make excuses.

Maybe you are thinking of a new career direction or a book you want to write. Or you could be considering a volunteer opportunity or learning a new skill. Or maybe you need to break a bad habit or reorganize the house. For most of us, the first step is typically the hardest one, as well as the most significant.

Stop for a moment and consider the direction God is leading you, and think about what may be keeping you from moving in a positive direction. Are there fears you need to confront? Are you blaming others? Do you need to make changes in your schedule? Are there new skills you need to learn or a class you need to take?

Ask God to give you the courage to take that first step.

 Continue to take little steps day by day, and don’t let discouragement or fear get in your way.

 Like a precious toddler, there will be those times you are walking along and you begin to stumble. But just as a parent kindly reaches down and helps the toddler up to his feet, so the Lord is there with you, strengthening you and holding your hand. David put it perfectly when he wrote:

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
 He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
 for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23,24

My friend, do you see the picture of the Lord’s graceful hand helping you up? Keep it in mind as you continue to journey step by step. You may not feel as though you have what it takes, but God can give you the feet you need for the journey ahead. He is strong where you are weak. He is sufficient and able to carry you. Take the first step toward positive growth and change, looking to Him for strength and guidance.

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This is an excerpt from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive.

Blog Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

 

Positive Focus for 2019

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As the New Year approaches it offers us a great opportunity to readjust, refocus and reconsider our priorities and goals. I encourage you to take some alone time to mediate and pray about how you want to approach 2019. Here are some points to ponder as you prepare for the coming year.

Word for the Year – Choose one word to focus on throughout the year. It will help you stay grounded and observant as you consider all that God wants to teach you in relation to that word.

This year my word is Truth. I want to seek the truth, speak the truth, live the truth. I also ask the Lord to lead me to a verse that goes with my word for the year. My verse comes from Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 This year I plan to dwell on both the word and the verse and consider all it means in my life and my community.

Three Priorities – Consider three priorities for the coming year. Write them down and every month revisit these three priorities and consider how they are playing out in your life.

My three priorities for 2019 are:

FamilyEngage Positive Parenting Initiative and Writing

What are your three? Share them with several other people, so that they can ask you about them and keep you accountable.

Seven Questions to ask yourself – As you transition from one year to the next, it is healthy to take an honest look at yourself and consider what needs to change in order to move forward. Here are seven questions to contemplate:

  1. What are the important lessons I learned from last year?
  2. What areas or habits do I need to change from last year?
  3. What new habits do I want to start this year?
  4. What are some of my dreams for 2019? What is it that I want to accomplish?
  5. What positive changes will I need to make in order to reach my goals?
  6. Who are some people I want to invest in or mentor this year?
  7. Who are some people I want to get to know better this year?

 

My dad often shared this simple phrase, “Everyday in every way you’re getting better and better.” Yes, we should all be bent on improvement! Let’s move forward, not backward, as we start the new year. I hope it is a great 2019 for you as you focus on the potential of what God can do through you to be a positive influence in this world.

Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

What’s Growing in The Garden of Your Mind

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Every spring, my husband Curt creates a beautiful arrangement of flowers for our table on the back deck. He always chooses a lovely variety of plants that simply make me smile when I look at them. Isn’t it amazing how colorful flowers can lift your spirits?  I can’t help but draw a simple analogy for us personally – just as Curt has a choice of what he will plant in the garden, so each of us has a choice of the thoughts we will allow to grow in the garden of our minds.

Neuroscience now tells us that the brain is able to think new thought patterns and shift from old destructive thinking. That’s good news!  We don’t have to stay in the rut of thinking thoughts of despair or anger or bitterness. We can choose to shift our thinking and plant new healthy, hope-filled, life-giving thoughts instead.

This may be a new discovery for science, but the apostle Paul wrote about these same concepts thousands of years ago. In Philippians we read, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Obviously, Paul seemed to understand the power of the mind. He wrote to the Romans, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds! So let’s get rid of the weeds of fear, doubt, bitterness, unforgiveness, anger and despair, and replace them with faith, hope, love, grace, joy and strength.

Gardening is not easy. It takes hard work and constant care, but the end result is a beautiful bouquet which is a blessing to others and brings glory to the Father. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can change our thinking. Just as it takes 21 Days to form a new habit, it takes about 21 days for neurons to form new pathways.

Let’s begin our gardening by recognizing the negative thought patterns that need to go, and begin the process of asking the Lord to give us faith-filled thoughts, through the power of His Spirit and the reading of His word. This is another reason why I believe scripture memory is so powerful, because it fills our mind with what is true and good. (Click here for a short video on Scripture memory).

Let’s each ask the question personally, “What am I allowing to grow in the garden of my mind?”

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Romans 15:13