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

 

7 Positive Habits for the New Year

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The start of a new year allows us to reset and rethink our actions and attitudes. It’s a great time to stop and consider our hopes and dreams, as well as what we may want to change or do differently in the coming year. Resolutions or setting goals may not be your thing, but a few positive habits added to your daily routine can potentially last a lifetime. Here are seven doable daily habits that will help your attitude and your overall well-being in 2018.

Focus – It’s easy to focus on the negatives in life, but it takes a deliberate effort to look at what is good, true and right. We can change our focus by creating new habits such as writing in a gratitude journal every morning as we enjoy our first cup of coffee. Another way to turn our thoughts toward the positive is to read and memorize scriptures from the Bible. Choose one Bible verse to memorize as your focal point for 2018 and review it every day.

Fuel – Consider the types of foods you are putting into your body – is it life-giving fuel or will it have a negative effect on your health? Food not only affects us physically, but it also has an impact on our mind and emotions.  Start a habit of a healthy breakfast to set your day in motion. Instead of strict diets plans that rarely work, think in terms of more and less. Determine this year that you will eat less of the unhealthy foods, like sugar, white flour or processed foods, and you will fuel your body with more of the healthy goods, like greens, whole grains or berries. Make your motto, “Eat clean in 2018.”

Fitness – Exercise is a stress reliever. A brisk walk or work-out can do wonders for you both physically and emotionally. Discover ways you can add exercise to you daily routine five to six days a week. Begin small with something that you enjoy and gradually increase your time and intensity. As your find a time and place each day that you can exercise, commit to it for at least 21 days to form the habit of fitness. Have an accountability partner to help you stay on target.

Faith – There is great comfort in knowing that we are not alone – that the Lord loves us and is with us. As we grow in our faith through prayer and reading the Bible, we begin to sense that there is a bigger picture, a more eternal one. Our faith gives us hope through trials and gives us strength through difficulties. Set aside some quiet time each day to spend alone with God, seeking His guidance and wisdom as well as giving Him your cares and worries.

Fun – All work and no play makes Jack or Jill a little dull and boring. Create opportunities for laughter in your life. Whether it is getting together with friends and laughing about old times or watching a funny video or doing something that generates a good chuckle. Every day you have the invitation to look for the sunny side of life and enjoy a bit of fun despite the challenges. Never laugh at the expense of another person, and also remember to not take yourself too seriously either. Certainly there is a time to laugh and a time to cry, but I think we miss a whole lot of opportunities for laughter. Allow it to be a part of your daily routine.

Forward – Pay it forward and look for ways to invest in the lives of other. Every morning, ask yourself a simple question, who can I bless today? When you turn your heart and thoughts to serving the people in your community, you move your focus off of your own challenges and begin to experience the joy that comes from contributing to something bigger than yourself. Serve one another through your kind actions and loving deeds and make the world a better place one day at a time.

Forgive – If you want to live a happier and healthier life, learn to let things go. Keep short accounts, do not hold grudges and learn to forgive those whom you feel have wronged you. Forgiveness is not an invitation for someone to hurt you again. You must set wise boundaries. Forgiveness is choosing to let go of the right to hold something over another person. Most likely, every day you will encounter situations that call for grace and forgiveness on your part. Make it a habit to continually live with forgiveness.

As you practice these seven simple daily habits , you will discover a fresh new joy and vitality for the year ahead. Make it a great 2018!

 

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Forgive

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The greatest gift we can give another person is the gift of forgiveness. Let it go. Release the right to hold something over another person, and place the issue into God’s just and loving hands. Forgiveness doesn’t mean it’s okay for someone to hurt you. Set wise boundaries if necessary. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but it eases you of the burden of bitterness, anger and disappointment. As we celebrate the One who came to offer us forgiveness for all our sins, let us honor Him by living with a forgiving heart.

Never Underestimate Your Influence

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Henrietta Mears saw the best in the people God placed in her life. Although at an early age her physical eyesight began to deteriorate leading to eventual blindness, her insight into God’s word and talent of seeing the potential in others grew in strength throughout her life.  Born in 1890, Henrietta loved God’s word from an early age.  She constantly begged her parents to let her go to the adult Sunday School classes at her church, so she could learn deeper truths about the Bible. She taught her first Sunday school class at eleven years old.  When Henrietta graduated from high school her eye doctor warned her that she should not seek further education as it would strain what little eyesight she had left.

Henrietta didn’t let the doctor’s orders stop her as she was determined to use her eyesight until it went out. She did her best to listen in class in order to reduce her need for reading. When she graduated from college she went on to teach high school chemistry, but her first love was teaching the Bible at her church.  Her classes grew and grew in size as she taught God’s word with creativity and accuracy.  Eventually she was invited to be the Christian Education Director at a Presbyterian church in Hollywood, California. She accepted the position and immediately began to write new curriculum to replace the old dull lesson she was provided.  She wrote Sunday School lessons for first through twelfth grades which led her to eventually start a publishing company called Gospel Light Publishers.

College students were her first love and she faithfully taught their class every year. The students loved her because she taught such fun, quirky and creative lessons. Henrietta sincerely loved her students and helped them dream big dreams and catch the vision of what God could do in their lives. Hundreds of her students went on to full time Christian ministry including Bill Bright who founded Campus Crusade ministries. Henrietta planted many seeds which God watered and grew into great and fruitful trees. She started a youth camp in California which is now known as Forest Home Conference Center.

One year Henrietta invited a young evangelist to preach to the kids at Forest Home camp.  This young preacher was struggling with what he believed about the inerrancy of the Bible.  Henrietta talked with him and prayed with him. Most importantly she didn’t give up on him, recognizing that God was doing a great work in this young man’s life, knowing God would carry it out to completion. The preacher took a long walk in the forest and then got down on his knees declaring to God that he would stand on the Bible as God’s truth even if it didn’t all make sense to him. Young Billy came back that evening to preach one of the most powerful sermons Henrietta had ever heard.  Many kids came to trust Christ that very night. Billy Graham went on to preach his first crusade soon after his experience at Forest Home.

Billy Graham said that Henrietta Mears was one of the most influential women in his life besides his own mother and his wife.  Aren’t you glad that Henrietta saw her students as works in progress? She didn’t give up on them. She didn’t focus on their faults, rather she poured into them and nurtured them in the Lord.  She reminds me of Paul. Henrietta wasn’t imprisoned by being chained to a guard, but she was imprisoned by her physical blindness. Yet just like Paul, she didn’t let her challenges keep her from building up others and encouraging them to be all that God wanted them to be.  She looked for the potential and not the problems.

 

This is an excerpt from A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God.  Click Here for More Info.

Prayer Risk

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There are times when we may feel as thought the riskiest thing we can do is pray and leave the results up to God. Praying is risky in human terms, because it is stepping out in faith and leaning in on God to accomplish far more than we could simply try to accomplish on our own. Prayer is an everyday risk. A person who devotes the early morning hour(s) in prayer is taking a risk – a risk that the hour could have been spent sleeping, working, striving or trying to make things happen on their own. Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Now that’s a risk taker and a praise maker. Luther had such strong faith in a great God who desires to answer prayer, that he risked three hours of his busy day on his knees!

When we look at some of the women in the Old Testament, we find several women who prayed and listened to God’s direction. Take Deborah for instance. You can find her story in Judges 4 & 5. Deborah had an extraordinary faith and ability to lead. Her giftedness seemed to stem from a woman who had an intimate relationship with God. She heard Him. She recognized His voice. God told her to go into battle, and He told her how to do it. We don’t know exactly how God spoke to Deborah, but we do know that she listened to Him. Her risk was not based on her own crazy ideas. The risk she took was based on the very words of God. There’s a lot of crazy opportunities in our world to take big risks, but let us be wise and move on the foundation of God’s word as well as looking to Him for direction.

Recently, a friend of mine struggled with some family members and their unwise choices. She wanted to fix them and change them, but she also realized her limitations to do so. As she prayed about the issues, she began to realize she was powerless to make a difference in her family member’s lives. She also realized that although she was powerless, God was powerful and able to do what she could not do. Instead of trying to fix the broken parts of their lives, she took the risk of pulling her hands off the situation and instead putting her hands together in prayer. She prayed consistently and emphatically that God would do the work and fight the battle.

Where do you need to take the risk of listening to God and praying for His direction instead of trying to fix things on your own?

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This is an excerpt from Positive Leadership Principles for Women.

 

Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash