My Hope

It’s easy to talk about the problems in our society, but it’s not as easy to discover positive solutions. When I think about journeying down the road to recovery, here are a few things for which I pray:

  • Love, instead of hatred
  • Conversations, instead of angry discourse
  • Listening, instead of demanding
  • Prayer, instead of ignoring God
  • Humility, instead of pride
  • Hope, instead of fear
  • Nuclear families strengthened, instead of dismantled
  • Wisdom, instead of foolishness
  • Biblical values, instead of cultural ideologies
  • Loving God, instead loving the world
  • Compassion, instead of self-centeredness

What would you add to the list? It may seem like pie-in-the-sky thinking, but I believe we can each take steps toward healing and hope. Will you join with me in praying for our nation? And as we pray, let’s seek God’s heart on what we can do to make a positive difference in our own communities.

If you are looking for a way to be proactive, I invite you to join the volunteer team with Engage Positive Parenting Initiative. Our desire is to strengthen and restore families through parenting discussion groups. The Engage program not only encourages fruitful conversation and stimulating ideas, but it also builds relationships across the racial divide.

Currently we are holding classes online. Our next Volunteer Training will be Wednesday, August 12,  10:00 – 1:00 CT via zoom. You can find out more information about Engage and sign up for training at www.EngageParenting.com

Thriving Through Difficulties

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How is it that some people end up thriving after a dramatic difficulty or even trauma? That is the question researchers are asking as they study Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). We are all familiar with the term PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but few are aware of what some call Super Survivors – those people who actually get better and move in an improved positive direction after a trauma.

Here are a few of the principles that have been observed in PTGers.

They grieve well. Studies show that those who eventually show improvement after a trauma, have first grieved their loss deeply. They don’t ignore the pain or put on rose colored glasses. They recognize the hurt or loss and don’t dismiss their sadness.

They ask hopeful questions. As they grieve, they also begin looking for glimmers of hope in the form of questions. They may ask, “Given my new set of circumstances, how can I make the best of this?” Or, “How can I grow and learn from this?” Or, “Is their a way I can use this experience to improve someone else’s life?”

They use their pain to help others. Often a PTGer will take pro-active steps to start an organization or interest group to benefit and strengthen others as a result of their experience. This not only gives them new vigor in life, but it helps them heal and feel purposeful.

They are thankful. Although they are not thankful for the pain, they are able to find reasons to be grateful for what they have experienced. They may be thankful that they grew stronger or that they were able to find meaning in life or discover a new life purpose as a result of their trauma.

Whether we are going through a life-jolting trauma or simply a heavy disappointment, we can learn from these principles to help us discover an element of positive in our pain. Some have said that PTG should stand for “Put Trust in God.” Interestingly, studies show that many PTGers rely on their faith or find their faith strengthened through the difficulties. In Psalms we read David’s words, “God is our refuge and our strength. A very present help in time of need.” May each of us be strengthened by the comfort and hope He brings.

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You can read stories of PTGers in my book, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive.

3 Effective Ways to Encourage Others

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Everyone needs a good word now and then. Like sunshine breaking through the clouds on a dreary day, so a bright ray of encouragement can bring hope to someone’s darkness. Certainly we must be sensitive to those who are going through deep sadness. Sometimes the best way to be an encouragement is to “weep with those who weep.” But there are many opportunities in our daily routine to provide a glimpse of joy for the people around us.

Here are three effective ways to offer a healthy dose of encouragement to family, friends, co-workers and even strangers.

Be Sincere: No one likes insincere flattery. If you are going to offer a kind acknowledgement, be truthful. You may need to look a little deeper to find a way to sincerely speak an honest word of encouragement. For example, if your child’s piano recital was a bit rough around the edges, instead of insincerely telling them that they did a fantastic job, consider the factors you can compliment. “It takes a lot of courage to get up there and preform. You were able to hit some tough notes under pressure. I’m proud of you.”

Be Specific: When we offer specific accolades we are not only offering a gift to the other person, but we are tying it up with a bow and putting a note on it that says, “This gift is just for you.” For instance, simply saying “Great job!” is nice. But saying, “Great work on the Simons account today. I liked your creative presentation and the way you spoke directly to the client’s needs,” is better! Look for specific words and phrases you can offer others to help them know you paid attention and focused on what they did well.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Smile: A smile speaks a thousand words. It says, “I see you. I believe in you. I know you can do it. I care.” Just as words of encouragement are a precious gift we give to others, so a smile can lift up those around us and help them along their way. Think about when someone takes the opportunity to smile at you – it makes you feel a little stronger. A smile is that non-verbal expression that gives you the sense that you are noticed and appreciated. Offering an encouraging glance seems simple, but it may be a day-brightner to someone who desperately needs to know you care.

The word encourage actually means “to give strength.” The root word cour comes from the Latin word heart. Sincere, specific encouragement with the added blessing of a smile can literally strengthen another person’s heart and turn their mediocre day into a monumental one. May our words and actions be used to build up, rather than tear down. Let’s bring glimpses of sunshine to the people God puts in our path each day.

Getting Along During the Holidays

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The holidays are a time of cheer and joy as we gather around the table and enjoy festive food and delightful fellowship – right? At least that’s the way it looks on Instagram, but the reality is that sometimes the holidays can be hard. There may be strained relationships and different ways of viewing life, politics and God. So how do you make it through both Thanksgiving and Christmas with more love and less tension?

Recently, I read the following passage from the apostle Peter. Although written many years ago, these words seem to be a wonderful antidote to some of the rough spots in relationships. Think about how you can apply these words.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Just think if we followed these few positive principles penned by Peter. Simply put:

  • Love deeply
  • Offer hospitality without grumbling
  • Use your gifts to serve others

I love how Peter calls us “faithful stewards of God’s grace.” That’s what we should be! We ought to be conduits of His love and grace with every person we encounter, whether it is the person next to us in line or the person sitting next to us at the dinner table. Since we have received God’s grace, then by the power of His Spirit within us, we can freely reflect His grace toward others.

God is glorified when we practice these things. Ultimately isn’t that what the holidays are about anyway?  It’s not about us, rather it’s about celebrating the goodness of God and glorifying Him. Our fervent love for one another shines the light on Him and the powerful, grace-filled work He has done in our lives. May this season be filled with forgiveness, grace and love as we honor Him in what we say and do!

 

Want to share a holiday gift that focuses on God and His glorious attributes? Check out this month’s $5 special, Pursuing God in the Quiet Places. Limit 10 per household.  Click Here for more info.

 

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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.