Positive Engagement

My heart is grieving over the events of this past week. My desire is to be more aware of the deep pain so many people feel in this country. If you are like me, you want to be part of the solution toward racial reconciliation, but it is hard to know what to do. I believe big change begins with small steps. How do we begin to turn toward unity and away from misunderstanding?

Here are a few things we ought to humbly admit:

We don’t know it all. We tend to form our opinions based on our own experiences and perspective which limits our understanding of others. It is wise for each of us to humbly admit that we don’t know exactly what another person’s life is like. We don’t have a clue about the pain they have felt or the biases they have experienced over the years. Let’s simply realize we have much to learn about each other.

We all need fixing. Instead of pointing the finger at someone else’s issues, we need to consider that we all have issues. No one is without sin. We all need growth, improvement, wisdom and understanding. Instead of focusing on the faults of others, let’s ask God to shine the light on our own hearts and help us see where we need to grow in our love and understanding.

We must reach out and engage. Let’s consider how many people in our little circle of friends are of different races or nationalities. Let’s be deliberate about reaching across the racial divide by engaging in conversations and developing relationships with people who don’t look like we do. Let’s be intentional about building new friendships and getting to know what someone else’s life is like.

We should pray. Are we actively seeking God’s help in the racial reconciliation of our land? Are we praying daily for the needs of those who are different than ourselves? Are we praying for healing? Let’s start today! Let’s start now! As we pray, God begins to open our hearts and minds to the opportunities to love, serve and build bridges.* God can do a healing work beyond  what we can ask or imagine.

These thoughts are just a start. One step at a time, one relationship at a time, we can build bridges and make a positive difference in this world. It begins by embracing those who do not look just like us, listening to their story and understanding their pain. May the anger subside, as love, growth and forgiveness take hold.  

Positive Mom notes: Moms, I encourage you to have conversations with your kids about how important it is to love all people, no matter what their skin color. Allow your kids to join you as you volunteer and serve with people of different races and nationalities.

*If you are looking for a place to serve and build relationships, consider volunteering with Engage Positive Parenting Initiative.

You Can Do Something Positive

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Perhaps you are feeling a little antsy right now. Perhaps that’s an understatement. You’ve watched all your favorite movies, cleaned out every junk drawer and taken your dog on three walks a day. Maybe you are wishing that you could do something – anything – meaningful. The good news is, each of us can find one positive thing to do to help others.

Selfless acts lift our spirits and help us fell as sense of purposefulness. We may not be able to solve all the world’s problems, but we can do small acts of kindness in our own sphere of influence. Here are some creative ideas gleaned from people around me that may spur you on to love and good deeds:

  • Several friends are using their sewing abilities to make face masks for health care workers and individuals.
  • Others are gathering groceries and leaving them on the doorstep of those who need help or have lost their jobs.
  • Some are making a deliberate effort to write at least one note a day to uplift the heart of another.
  • In my world, I help direct an organization calledEngage Positive Parenting Initiative. Since we serve parents in under-resourced areas, my team has joined together to assemble family fun packs filled with snacks and activities to encourage and help homebound parents.
  • One thing that all of us can and should do each day is fall to our knees and pray. There is a true sense of peace we experience when we sincerely go to the Lord on behalf of others. Ask God to comfort the hurting and bring hope to those in despair. Pray for our leaders and the healthcare workers and first responders. Pray for an effective vaccine to be developed quickly. Pray for those who are sick and dying here and around the world. Ask God to show you what you can do and who you should reach out to using the gifts He has given you.

Yes, everyone can do something positive! When we do these simple acts of love, we bring joy into our own environment as well as the world around us. Stay Calm. Stay Kind. Stay Strong.

Maintaining an Up Attitude During Down Times

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Here in Dallas we have been ordered to “Shelter in Place,” but that doesn’t mean we have to step away from joy and happiness. We can still open the curtains and let the sun shine into our lives. How do we stay upbeat when we feel downtrodden? Here a few ways to invite a little sunshine to brighten your days.

Give Thanks Every Morning. Things may seem gloomy, but you can always find reasons to be thankful – you just need to look a little bit harder. Thank the Lord that you can still go on a walk. You can still hear the birds chirping, and see the spring flowers blooming. Daily write down at least five blessings that you experienced in the last 24 hours.

Listen to Uplifting Music. Music can soothe the soul. The other day (before we were quarantined) I was at a friend’s house, and we sat down at the piano and sang hymns together. It was rejuvenating! Be deliberate about finding songs that strengthen, encourage and inspire you. Listen to them often and play them for your family. While doing the 20-second handwash thing, sing a praise song. “Oh How I Love Jesus” is my go-to handwashing song.

Play the Glad Game. When you feel like complaining, turn it around to consider what you can be glad about instead. You may feel frustrated about the fact that you can’t go out with friends, but you can be glad about the fact that we live in a day when you can facetime or conference call one another. Replace every complaint with something that makes you glad.

Take Time to Pray. I know we all talk about praying, but do we actually do it? I encourage you to find a quiet place and time that you can get on your knees and cast your cares to Almighty God. Seek His guidance and wisdom as you face these challenging times. Find your solace in this sweet time of prayer. Pray for those who are sick around the world and the healthcare workers who care for them. Be much with God in the quiet places as well as throughout your day.

Do Kind Acts for Others. We may be confined, but we can still show love. What about calling or texting those who are lonely? Write notes to neighbors, family and friends to let them know you are thinking about them. Drop off groceries (or toilet paper) to those who are in need. Be a source of kindness and encouragement on social media and in your neighborhood. Possibly the most important acts of kindness you can show during this time is letting go of resentment and anger toward others.

Guard your thought-life and do not let your mind ruminate on the worries and what-ifs. Live wisely and thoughtfully but not fearfully. This can be a positive time, but we make it a negative one if we live with selfishness and/or anxiety.  Let’s inhale God’s peace and exhale needless fear as we walk together though this time. May we each turn our minds upward to make the best of each day that we have here on earth.

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.

Three Positive Questions to Ask Yourself

 

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Life is filled with twists and turns. Each day brings with it a fair amount of joys and challenges and even some major disappointments. How do you navigate the rough waters of life and stay steady on your journey? Here are three important questions to ask yourself along the way as you chart your course and sail onward toward your goals.

How can I grow from this? Whether it is an unexpected derailment from your schedule for the day or a major life change, it is good to consider what you can learn and how you can grow through the experience. Certainly we must grieve the loss of our original plan, but we must also think about the glimmer of hope or the upside of our situation. How can you become stronger? What are you learning in the process?

In what ways can I serve? There are always opportunities to use what we have learned or experienced to reach out and help another person. Look for ways you can use your gifts, talents and interests to serve those in your community who could use a helping hand. Whenever we lift up others, we ourselves experience a unique satisfaction and joy in serving – which is always an added benefit.

What is my motivation? It’s a good idea to do a little introspection and consider why we are doing what we are doing. This gives us a chance to examine and perhaps rethink our “Why.” Why am I pushing forward in this direction? Why do I think I need to accomplish this? Why am I being so hard on this particular person? When we check our motives, it helps us consider if our goal is worth pursuing, and it helps us recognize our own selfish ambitions or conceit. Knowing our “Why” can push us forward or help us redirect our path.

Routinely ask yourself these three questions as you face the ups and downs of life. You may even want to write then on an index card and keep them in front of you as a reminder. Life may be unpredictable, but positive questions can help us clarify what we want and where we are going.

Photo by Sean O. on Unsplash