Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Before you read on, please take a moment to ponder these questions: Does giving the gift of wealth to the poor really make them wealthy? Does giving the gift of health to the sick really make them healthy? Does giving the gift of happiness to the depressed really make them happy?
The answer to all of these questions can be “yes”, but only for a moment. When only the outcomes of wealth, health, and happiness are given, the results are short term. For long-term results to be realized, the gifts must be accompanied by lessons and guidelines that will yield success. Gifts of wealth, health, and happiness are only beneficial to us if we learn how to use and maintain them.
Satisfying the desire for wealth
If someone is poor because of inadequate money management skills and he is given wealth, he will eventually return to a poor lifestyle due to careless spending and weak savings practices. Should he want to maintain his wealth that was given to him, he must modify his money management skills to reflect smart savings and investments and wise spending habits.
If, however, he was once wealthy because of his effective money management skills and is now poor due to a disaster beyond his control, then if he is given the gift of wealth he will have a greater chance of maintaining the wealth because he understands strategies that yield financial success.
Satisfying the desire for health
If a man is sick because of poor dieting and unhealthy lifestyle choices, then, if it was possible to give him health, the gift of health would need to be accompanied by lessons and guidelines to maintain health. The health, just as the wealth, would soon be lost, if he did not modify his diet and lifestyle to reflect healthy choices. Returning to an inactive lifestyle supplemented by an unhealthy diet will quickly deplete the gifted health just as careless spending and inadequate saving will deplete the gifted wealth.
If, however, he was once healthy because of good dieting and wise lifestyle choices and then is burdened by an unexpected illness, the gift of health would allow him a greater chance of maintaining the health because he has already accustomed himself to practices that yield positive results.
Satisfying the desire for happiness
If a man is unhappy because he continuously beats himself up for his decisions and behaviors and always wishes he had more, then the gift of happiness will not yield him long-term contentedness because he lacks the skills to know how to be happy. The happiness gifted to him must be accompanied by lessons and guidelines that will help him maintain his happiness. Giving someone a pill to make him happy is a short term fix if the pill is not accompanied by strategies that will allow him to continue happy living when the pill is no longer available. He must be taught strategies that will help him to be happy with what he has, to genuinely appreciate life, and to avoid dwelling on unsatisfactory circumstances.
Effectively applied strategies and decisions can yield long-term wealth, health, and happiness if we are poor, sick, or unhappy. Contrarily, if we are simply gifted wealth through a lottery, health through a detoxification program, or happiness through a pill, and we fail to modify our previously unsuccessful wealth, health, and happiness maintenance strategies, then we will return to our unsatisfactory circumstances when the gifts expire. Just as with any other type of gift, the gifts of wealth, health, and happiness serve us value only if we know how to use them. To better illustrate, take the examples of a computer, car, piano, or a book. The gift of a computer can only serve value if you know how to navigate through the applications. The gift of a car can only serve value if you know how to drive. The gift of a piano can only serve value if you know how to play. The gift of a book can only serve value if you know how to read.
If you wish for greater levels of wealth, health, or happiness, wish for the skills that will help you achieve and maintain your desired levels rather than wishing for the outcomes themselves. As you acquire skills to maintain the desired outcomes, then you can realize long-term contentment. Only wishing for the outcomes is like wishing for a gift that you don’t know how to use, and the happiness of receiving the gift will consequently fade.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
By seeing the forest as a barrier, we become overridden with fear and doubt, believing that the effort to walk through the woods will not be worth fulfilling the wonder of what may exist in the land beyond. This mindset prohibits us from satisfying our desire to see what follows the forest because we lack the ability to confidently face challenges, prompting us to consequently suffer the ongoing burden of wonder.
Though choosing not to approach the woods, we remain fascinated about what may be in the woods and on the other side so we continue to think “what if I would have attempted to go through?” “Would things be different if made it through or if I at least tried to make it through?” This burden of wonder frequently outweighs the burden of confronting challenges as they arise, prolonging undue discomfort in our lives. This undue discomfort can be avoided by choosing to attempt the journey to the other side. Upon making this choice to confront a challenge that, from a distance, may appear impossible to overcome, we begin walking toward the forest.
As we approach the forest, we begin to see small gaps between the trees. As we move closer yet, the gaps become wider. We see areas that allow access into what was earlier perceived as an impossible barrier to penetrate. We step into the forest and realize that we can take a few more steps and as we take those steps we realize that we can take a few more. Although we are unable to see other side, we become enlightened by the realization that we can still move forward.
Through this venture, we will encounter wildlife, low hanging branches, thorns, holes, and many other small obstacles, but we quickly learn that we can easily adapt to these obstructions by slightly modifying our path, and we can still move forward. Because of our size, strength, flexibility, and other physical variances, each of our paths through the forest will be unique to our individual selves. For example, some of us may be small enough to squeeze through tight spaces, others may have enough strength to move large branches, and others yet may have the flexibility to stretch across wide holes. This highlights the reality that we are all built differently so each one of us must inevitably take a different path to reach the other side.
By attempting to follow another person’s exact path, we will encounter barriers that we are unable to overcome because, whether it’s slightly or significantly, our individual design varies from that of another. As we continue to progress, we eventually see wider paths that ultimately lead to the other side of the forest. We soon can take our last step out of the woods and reap the rewards for confidently facing the challenge of walking through.
The present discomfort of stepping into the unknown yields us future pleasure by making it through. We are rewarded with the elimination of the burden of wonder, the enhancement of our physical, mental, and spiritual strength, and the appreciation of that which awaited us on the other side.
We encounter many figurative forests throughout life. We are intrigued by some, but not by others. These forests can include new jobs, habitats, relationships, educational agendas, and countless other new opportunities that enter our lives. When we meet those opportunities that intrigue us, we face the decision to either walk through and endure the immediate struggle or walk away and suffer the endless burden of wonder. To enhance ourselves and realize contented living, we must walk through these forests
Our passion may very well represent the most appealing forest in our sight, but many of us fear the unknown obstacles that we will face during the journey. Therefore, we choose to walk through forests that don’t appeal quite as much because we see other people walking through them. We must allow ourselves to walk toward the forest that aligns with our passion. As we move closer, we will realize that a path to enter the most beautiful forest exists, and with continued effort, we will make it through and reap the enhanced rewards of choosing to follow our passion, of choosing to journey through the woods that appeal to us the most.
Interrupting the pastor can certainly be regarded as impolite and inappropriate. The interruption may cause the pastor to lose focus, which can consequently limit the impact of his intended message. However, I truly believe that all things happen for a reason. Opportunities exist in all seemingly negative events.
The Lord possibly conveyed His word through the member’s interruption; or He may have a deeper meaning behind the behavior of this situation. For example, the Lord might have prompted the congregational member to speak out during the pastor’s message, not necessarily for the congregation to hear the words emitted from the man’s mouth, but for the congregation to witness a lesson in diplomatic attendance to unexpected, undesired circumstances. With this type of occurrence, the pastor has an opportunity to address the congregational member in such a way that he can bestow valuable behavior management lessons to the rest of the congregation and also clearly reiterate boundaries that exist while delivering his message. This challenge may have been injected into the church body as a growth opportunity for the pastor, select congregational members, or the church as a whole.
A similar situation may occur in a school classroom when a misbehaved child interrupts the lesson because he feels compelled to speak. Although serving as an interruption to the intended lesson, such an occurrence provides the teacher with an opportunity to exhibit diplomatic behavior management strategies and clearly reiterate classroom boundaries. Whether in the classroom, in a church, or in another setting, such an undesired event can promote strength and growth opportunities when approached from an appropriate perspective.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
.........However, I believe that challenges are injected into our lives for productive purposes. I believe that such challenges are actually compliments from God. This challenge has been given to you because God believes that you can satisfy the requirements to overcome the challenge. God has identified you as a man that has the patience and strength to effectively face this decision.
If we attempt to reap the fruits of a relationship before the relationship is fully grown, we face the risk of eating unripe fruit. The unripe fruit may satisfy our immediate desires, but ultimately won’t be as pleasing as it would be if the relationship had been fully developed. Following ingestion of the unripe fruit, we may realize that we ate the fruit too soon. Upon this realization, we can be plagued with the guilt and shame of allowing our immediate desires to triumph over our core values.
In many instances, when we allow our present desires to take precedence over our true selves, the present pleasure that we attain can often yield prolonged future discomfort. Contrarily, if we endure the discomfort of abstaining from the present desire for unripe fruit, we are blessed with the opportunity to realize the enhanced pleasure of ripened fruit. We are also blessed with the contentment of aligning our actions with our core values. Happiness exists when our behaviors are in alignment with our true selves.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Just as beauty exists in the eye of the beholder, an agenda exists in the eye of the perceiver. If we believe that we see an agenda in another person, then an agenda consequently exists, at least within our mind. If we believe that a person can come to this Earth with an agenda, then yes, this will be true to our perception. We will do whatever it takes to make it true if this is what we believe. This reinforces the power of the mind. We can create many things in our minds if we give our minds the control to do so. Agendas, deceitfulness, manipulation, etc. exist only if we allow them to exist. In truth, our perception of an agenda only serves as a barrier between our higher self and the higher self of the person who we think is holding the agenda.
All people on this earth are inherently good. Some, however, out of fear, mask their goodness with self-serving purposes. An agenda, a form of self-serving purpose, is a temporary mask that covers the inherent goodness existing at the person's core being. If we choose to buy-in to (or dwell on) the agenda, our perception materializes that agenda whether we express our buy-in orally or via an alternate means or communication.
People are eager to show us that which we identify in them. As a result, the person whom we believe holds the agenda will more readily show us his/her attributes that lead us to believe that he/she has an agenda. When we identify the good in them, they show us their good attributes. When we dwell on the negative that masks their inherent good, they will show us the negative because that is what we are paying attention to. They will show us their agenda.
Take the example of a child dressing up in a scary costume. In this scenario, the scary costume represents the ill-intentioned agenda of another person. If we pay most of our attention to the child when he is in a scary costume, the child will continue to wear the costume around us because he knows that we pay more attention to him when he is covering up his true self. The same child may not dress up in the costume around other individuals because they pay attention to him as his natural self. As we continue to see the child in costume, our perception leads us to believe that the costume is an actual part of the child; we forget what the child's true self looks like because we have chosen to pay attention to the child only when he is in costume. We know that the child was not born wearing the costume; he simply made it part of himself while in our presence because we only pay attention to him when he is wearing it. In time, when we become aware of how our attention has prompted the child to continuously wear a costume around us, we can choose to focus our attention on the child's true self; consequently, the child will remove the costume and show us his good, natural self because we are now paying attention to his genuine attributes. When we pay our attention to the God-given attributes of others, the scary costumes, the agendas, will be removed.
On a personal level, in previous years, I had seen many more agendas than I currently see. This is not because the people have changed, but because my perception of the people has changed. A person only knows that which he/she pays attention to. As such, a conscious effort can be made to pay attention to that which is beautiful: the genuine God-sent attributes of each individual. Routine identification of God-sent attributes will eventually remove the mask that was put on to attract our attention. The agenda will eventually dissolve.
Friday, November 21, 2008
The masseuse who performs the massage possesses an ability to positively impact the well-being of the massage recipient. He realizes the benefits of offering the service and knows that such benefits rarely include a returned massage from the person to whom he provided the massage. He conducted the massage and, for the reward, he doesn’t receive a massage himself, but instead is compensated with stronger hands and the satisfaction that the tension of another person’s life was eased through his efforts.
In life, much like rewards for a masseuse, rewards for our actions and good deeds do not always align perfectly with the “I massage your back, you massage mine” philosophy. We don’t always massage the kinks out of another person’s life with the expectation that she is going to immediately do the same thing for us. Holding onto such expectations is only setting us up for disappointment when the expectations are not met.
When our awareness is keen and the timing is right for the kinks to be worked out of our lives, a masseuse will emerge to loosen our tension. A willing masseuse may already be in our lives, or we may need to expend some effort to find the right one. If not immediately, we will eventually find he who is eager to help; or maybe he will first find us. Just as we realized the benefits of strengthening our hands and our character by massaging the tensions out of another, someone else will realize the benefits of massaging the tensions out of us.
Throughout our existence, we continuously face opportunities to play the masseuse, opportunities to help work out the kinks and knots of people’s lives and enhance their overall well-being. Metaphorically, the masseuse role can exist through a diverse array of mediums, including examples such as helping a neighbor mow his lawn, talking to a child about issues at school, assisting a family member with a project at her house, explaining a homework assignment to a fellow classmate, or giving an unexpected gift to a friend. Each example depicts a different way that we can help ease tension in others’ lives just as a masseuse eases tension in the one who is being massaged.
Although only a few are listed, countless opportunities to assume this role continuously surface. Depending upon our awareness and expectations of the role, we will approach such opportunities differently. Some of us are aware of these opportunities and act upon them, while to others the opportunities are less apparent. Some of us, although able to see the opportunities, fail to act upon them because we expect something in return that we don’t think we’ll receive.
To illustrate, while shopping we may identify an item that would help brighten a saddened friend’s day so we purchase the item and offer it as a gift in hopes that it will lighten her mood. With this mindset, we do not expect a gift in return. We understand that our reward will not be in the form of a tangible gift, but in the form of strengthened character and the satisfaction of helping to improve a friend’s well-being. Some of us, however, are unable to identify the item because we lack awareness of the positive impact that it could have on our friend. Furthermore, some of us may easily identify the item but choose not to purchase it because we don’t believe that we will receive a tangible gift in return.
We must understand that our good deeds unto others will yield us positive rewards even if the rewards do not grace us in the same shape of the deeds that we provide. We simply need to be aware of the countless forms of positive rewards that result from our doings and appreciate them as they bless our lives. As we dissolve our expectations about the rewards for our good deeds, we enhance our ability to maximize contentedness within our selves. We can gracefully play the role of the masseuse, realizing contentment without expecting an immediate massage in return.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
When reviewing who we are and what we’ve become, we can view each of these variables as ingredients that have ultimately created the end product of our selves. Just as each ingredient in a bread recipe adds value to the overall quality of the loaf, each variable, or ingredient, in our life recipe adds value to the overall quality of our lives. We must reflect upon ourselves and determine whether or not we are satisfied with our current product, or our lives as they currently exist.
If we are satisfied with what we’ve become, we should continue to follow the recipe as is. However, if we lack satisfaction with our current product, we must modify our recipe. If unsatisfied, we review all of the ingredients within our recipe and then add to, remove from, or modify quantities currently on the list. We continue to research variables through trial and error in effort to develop the perfect recipe for our lives just as the baker tries different ingredients in the bread recipe until she discovers the perfect recipe. She continues to follow the perfect recipe from the point of discovery just as we will continue to follow the perfect recipe for our lives as soon as it is discovered.
Once discovered, although each ingredient in the bread recipe is crucial to produce the perfect loaf, the small amount of yeast included in the recipe is the element that allows the loaf to rise to its optimum size. Without the yeast, the loaf would still exist, but at a lesser potential. Too much yeast would yield a product that is fragile and full of holes.
What ingredient in our lives expands our potential to the same extent that yeast expands the bread? The answer is...Passion. We must identify our passion and, if we have not done so already, add that passion to our life recipe. Without passion, we still exist, but just as the loaf, we exist at a lesser potential. By integrating that passion into our recipe, we have the ability to rise to our optimum potential.
Finding our passion and interlacing it with the ingredients in our lives, such as our careers and families, will significantly enhance our potential. Find your passion, that which you love and that which excites you, that which strikes your deepest interests; and work that passion into your life.
Some of us are searching for our passion while some of us are well aware of our passion. Unfortunately, although some of us have already identified our passion, we fail to add it to the other ingredients in our lives. Omitting our identified passion from our recipe can be compared to a baker who omits the yeast from the bread recipe even though the ingredient sits on the counter waiting to be used.
Be cautious to regulate the amount of passion added to your life. Just as an excessive yeast ratio can yield a fragile loaf of bread, an excessive passion ratio can yield a fragile life. Too much passion can begin to negatively impact other ingredients within your life such as your career and family life, resulting in a weaker overall well-being.
When we identify the right recipe for our lives and add passion to the blend, we then face the opportunity to reach our full potential.
Monday, October 27, 2008
When I think, I try to think productively. And, when I don't think productively, I simply try not to think.
Productive thinking is a choice that we can either embrace or reject. It is no more or no less than just the right thought at just the right time. The Holy Spirit, the Source of all productive thought, gently places such thoughts into our minds to promote the greater good; to stimulate growth, progression, innovation, and success within our lives and the lives of others. Think productively by being aware of these thoughts and choosing to use them for growth opportunities. Through productive thought, you can establish and achieve productive goals. You can substantially grow your levels of emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
Destructive thought, which is forcefully driven into the mind by the ego, exists as a barrier to productive thought. Such thought, which is also a choice, fosters negativity, stress, regression, and failure within our lives. Thinking destructively restricts us from achieving our goals. Train yourself to think productively. When your mind thinks productively, continue thinking. When your mind thinks destructively, choose to cease your thinking. Simply be aware...be still.
Think in moderation; caution yourself to not think excessively. Excessive thought can prompt monotonous thought, which ultimately yields destructive thought. What once was productive thought can turn into destructive thought in an instant. This Truth may be better understood by comparing the mental exercise of thinking to physical exercise. Exercising in excess can be detrimental not only to the body, but also to the mind. When you exercise physically, you rest your muscles to allow them an opportunity to grow. If you engage in a productive exercise routine, to maximize the effect you will allow yourself an exercise free moment to grow your muscles. You do not immediately go through subsequent routines without rest.
The same is true with your mind. You must rest your thought to grow your mind. You may be thinking the same thoughts as you were in the productive process, but excessive repetition will slow and eventually halt growth. When you rest your productive thought, allow yourself to be thoughtless. Simply be aware. Relax your mind without thought the same as you relax your body without movement. Thoughtless moments are just as powerful for the mind as exercise free moments are for the body. Allow yourself the opportunity to grow. Choose productive thought. Then, choose to be still.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Following the explanation of her dream, my coworker again expressed bewilderment about its content. I was also plagued with confusion: I have been married for 8 years, I don’t have a red car, and we had not previously discussed the topics presented in her dream.
As I pondered for a moment and expanded my awareness of the dream’s content, I began to identify deeper meaning. I shared with her that I consider myself a rather simple person, and I believe that this world is congested with an abundance of material amenities that are not required for our well being. I continued by suggesting that her sharing of the dream may be a message to me that I must accept what "is" and not dwell on the unnecessary material luxuries that surround us every day. If they are given to me, I must accept them and use them for their intended purposes. Although they are not necessary, if I reject the material amenities that are given to me, I may cause more harm than good. This, I believed to be a valuable lesson in the acceptance of what "is", even if I think what "is" is more than what I want.
Following this interpretation, my awareness of the dream’s content deepened even further. I began to see even more meaning in the message, a meaning that extends far beyond the realm of tangible amenities. Though the material interpretation yielded an acceptable explanation, the following intangible interpretation speaks to a greater truth.
I was unable to identify the marriage component in the material interpretation, but now recognize the marriage as a symbol of the strengthened relationship between God and me. I feel closer to God than I have in the past. As a consequence of the strengthened relationship, I have become more aware of the gifts, the intangible amenities, that God has given to me. My awareness of personal talents and purposes for those talents has recently improved.
Though I believe that I am more aware of these gifts, the conveyance of this dream might be a message to me that I am rejecting these gifts by not using them to their full potential or for their intended purpose. I have identified some of these newfound gifts (options) and, just as with the car, know that many more exist. However, I may be expressing a lack of appreciation by not fully accepting them and using them as God has planned. Not using them is comparable to demanding that the auto dealership strip the amenities from the car so it can return to a perceived simpler condition.
By not using the gifts that God has given to us, we are demanding that he change us into another being. Just as with the car example, detriment to our being will result: We will substantially limit our physical, mental, and most importantly, spiritual potential. The addition of more amenities increases levels of responsibility, such as requirements for more knowledge of amenity functionality and more accountability for amenity preservation. With material things, we may determine that we don’t want an abundance of amenities because we don’t want the responsibilities that accompany them. The same truth can exist with our intangible amenities, our personalized gifts and talents from God. By becoming aware of our gifts, our talents, our strengths, we are granted increased levels of responsibility relative to knowledge of how to use our gifts and accountability to ourselves and God for preserving and developing our gifts.
When we want fewer responsibilities, we sometimes reject the gifts that are available for us, inaccurately perceiving that life will be easier. We must accept the gifts we are given and use them for their intended purposes. You can appreciate the red luxury sedan when it is given to you. Accept the options and use them. They were given to you for a reason. Simple living results not from a reduction in the quantity of amenities, but through acceptance and intended utilization of the amenities that we are given. Simply stated, the simple life can be had even if we have it all.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
- We can become aggressive and force our way through the line in hopes of reducing the time it takes to arrive at our destination.
- We can step out of the line and walk away.
- We can stand still or sit down and let others bypass our position.
- Or, we can simply maintain our position and progress peacefully with the pace of the line.
The first option reflects the possibility that we will reach the front of the line in a timelier fashion. However, several risks accompany this decision. Forcing our way to the front causes us to push people and step on their toes. These actions may prompt others to develop sour feelings toward us and result in our redirection to the back of the line where we must begin the process again. A possibility in the grander scope suggests that people may resist our movements and become aggressive toward us and others. The feelings prompted by our actions could disperse to vaster segments of the line and perhaps invoke mass chaos throughout the entire line. The potential havoc is a direct result of our selfish effort to progress more quickly than our intended advancement pace.
The second option suggests that we would rather be anywhere other than our position within the near-stagnant pace of the line. We lack the patience to move slowly and desire a faster motion regardless of our destination. Consequently, we willingly remove ourselves from our position although we lack an awareness of subsequent steps. Following our exiting step, we realize that we lost focus of our destination and begin yearning for that which awaits us at the front of the line. We lost our former place, however, so we must start over at the back of the line. We again gain sight of the destination and dedicate ourselves to practicing more patience as we slowly progress toward the front.
The third option suggests that we become frustrated with the progression of the line and quit moving because we simply don’t like the line. Selecting this option causes us to serve as a barrier to others. Others need to modify their progression in reaction to our halting behavior. This may cause them to bump us and step on our toes. We are trampled on and bypassed because we chose not to progress with the line and stand up for ourselves.
The fourth option, which can be the most difficult option during the present moment, represents patience, awareness, and the desire to reach our destination regardless of the wait. We realize that the line moves forward, although not at the pace we always prefer. We know that it progresses and we understand that we will eventually end up where we want to be if we employ patience and continue to advance at the line’s pace. When the timing is right, we will arrive.
The "standing in a crowded line" metaphor applies to many areas of our lives. Identified areas include, but are not limited to, our careers, education, physical fitness, families, and spirituality. The following narrative discusses how this metaphor relates to our career path. Our careers represent progression through the career line until we reach our destined career. We have the same choices as those presented above.
We can become overly aggressive and attempt to surpass the capacity of our position in hopes of pushing our way to the front of the career line. We may try to move faster by seeking duties without permission that do not fit within our role, but instead fit the roles of those who are ahead of us in the line or at a superior level on the hierarchy. We are trying to get ahead by taking steps that we are not yet meant to take. This may prompt our coworkers to develop disgusted feelings toward us because we are not working within our role. They may become aggressive or bond together and implement a plan to ensure that we don’t make it to the front of the line quicker than our intended pace. They may even take action to have us removed from our current role.
We could choose the second option and quit our job if we are unsatisfied, but would then have to start over at the back of the line. Selecting the third option suggests that we become frustrated with our career progression, choosing to continue what we’re doing and not emitting effort to pursue promotions or advance our careers through other venues.
The fourth option is to remain patient and understand that we cannot immediately realize our destined career. We need to know our role and continue to work within the realm of our responsibilities. It is utterly important to know our roles within our positions and to complete the work that is expected of those roles. As we successfully complete the responsibilities that are presented to us, we are then given the opportunity to assume more. As additional responsibilities are offered, we must step forward to assume our new duties. The time between the completion of existing duties and the presentation of additional duties can be brief, but it may also be extensive. Therefore, we must be prepared to practice patience and stand still in the career line if it comes to halt. We must understand that the line will resume motion so we must be prepared to proceed even if we have experienced a lingering standstill.
We must follow the necessary steps and when the timing is right we will arrive.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Although it crosses countless realms, it is not always clear that this truth exists. Fortunately, however, in certain areas, which will be addressed in the following narrative, this truth is easier for our perceptions to realize. And, when we identify this truth within contexts in which it is more easily understood, we encounter an opportunity to develop a deeper knowing of its existence within contexts in which it is sometimes less easy to understand.
In the context of talents, for example, when you give, or use, your talents, you receive more of those talents by strengthening them through practice. In the context of physical fitness, when you give, or use, your muscles to exercise or for a laborious task, you receive more muscles because your activity makes them stronger. In the context of gestures, giving positive gestures, such as a friendly smile or a compliment, to others often results in a smile or compliment returned to you.
In the context of knowledge, if you give, or use, your knowledge to teach others or to study, you will receive more knowledge as you learn new lessons and facts through your efforts and experience. In the context of spirituality, when we give our own presence to an environment occupied by others, we receive more presence in the moment, as those around us will become more present themselves.
Through these examples, the truth is clear. God ensures that we will receive more of what we give so that we can continue to contribute our gifts to the greater good of the world. Though this truth may be less easy to comprehend in other contexts, such as those of financial and material wealth, we do receive more money and material assets when we give them to other entities or purposes as a means to enhance the greater good. God ensures that all gifts we offer, intangible or tangible, are returned to us, often in greater supply than the original amount offered.
Strengthen yourself and your impact on the world…offer what you can…give what you are able.
Friday, October 10, 2008
These times may prompt our nation to once again realize that competing with one another to have the most money, the finest things, and the highest status does not necessarily cultivate a recipe for long-term success. The intense competition amongst individuals, families, friends, businesses, races, religions, political parties, countries, etc., is perceptually strengthening the tangible assets of some while simultaneously breaking down our society’s entire realm of intangible assets, the very assets that exist at the core of our being and make all good things possible.
This is an opportunity for us to seek deep within ourselves to identify our true strengths and integrate them with the strengths of others. Combining and employing our individual strengths to serve the greater good of our society, rather than striving to serve our own selfish desires, will help our culture shift from a focus on tangible successes to a focus on intangible successes such as contentment and happiness, successes that rank infinitely higher on the scale of true value. We have the opportunity to replenish the intangible void that was prompted by the desire to generate an abundance of easily measured, tangible assets. Now is the time, not to panic, but to work together, to return to our true selves.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
A rainy day at the lake is better than a sunny day in town. This is true not only in the literal, physical context for me, but also as a metaphor for all that is valued in life.
So what exactly does this mean? This message is essentially conveying that the worst moment of doing something that we love is better than the best moment of doing something that we don’t love. The worst day of doing something that aligns with our passion is better than the best day of doing something that we are not passionate about. This truth can be applied to virtually all areas of life.
For example, you can be highly successful in a particular career, but if that career doesn’t align with your passion, you lack fulfillment. You feel better doing that which you are passionate about, even if you are not as successful as perceived through the eyes of others or yourself.
In the context of your career, your true passion may be best realized by expressing yourself through music, but you are employed full time as a lawyer. Or, your passion may be best realized by expressing yourself as a writer, but you work full time as an accountant. No matter how successful you are as a lawyer or an account, if your true passion is best realized through music or writing, and you do not have a respective outlet to express yourself, then you will lack fulfillment.
On its deepest, most meaningful level, this truth exists in the spiritual context. A perceived bad day in the conscious presence of God, in the awareness of the present moment, is better than the best day of continuous thoughts racing through your head. Regardless of the physical or mental state you may be in, a moment connected to God is better than even the happiest moment of incessant thoughts occupying your mind.
Physically, we are not able to spend ever day at the lake, so we must allow ourselves to be at ease while in town. Fortunately, however, in the spiritual realm we can be at the lake whenever we choose to be there. We can connect to God’s presence at any moment in time to leave the town of external distractions and incessant thought patterns. We can be at ease by connecting with the present moment.
As spiritual beings, we are graced with the ability to return to the spiritual lake without even a moment’s notice. God is always there. The lake is always available and accessible. If we are ever at a place, physically or mentally, that does not align with our passion, we can choose to connect to God’s presence and instantly be where we want to be.
Getting ahead is attainable when you clearly identify that which makes you happy. Keeping up with others is tedious and often leads you along a path that is not meant for you, yielding undue discomfort and stress. Rather than trying to keep up with others, look to them for guidance and lessons, but refrain from meticulously modeling your approach, and your life, after theirs because factors for success vary for everyone. Success variables differ dramatically from those of even your closest friend, family member or colleague. You may desire the success of a well know business mogul, celebrity, or athlete and therefore expend all of your energy and resources on obtaining a similar level of success. However, to maximize success you must first understand your individual definition of success.
Defined success exists in many different forms and combinations of forms, including wealth, fame, education, and acceptance, etc, etc, etc. Ultimately, success is defined by a combination of variables that promotes ongoing contentedness in life. Being truly satisfied with your life symbolizes the purest form of success. Just because someone else is wealthy and happy doesn't mean that wealth will make you happy. It could contribute to your happiness, but doesn't serve as the sole definitive factor. Just because someone else is well educated and happy doesn't mean that education will make you happy. Again, it may contribute, but doesn't define it. Fame makes some people happy, but that doesn't mean that fame will make you happy.
From an alternate perspective, you may encounter a person that is poor and happy, but that doesn't mean being poor will make you happy. Or, you may encounter a person who is disabled and happy, but that doesn't mean a disability will make you happy. Maybe being poor and disabled would enhance your level of happiness, but people typically do not positively correlate these variables with one another. It's also possible to be wealthy, accepted, educated, and famous, yet lack contentment. This illustrates the idea that you cannot mimic the success of others simply by trying to keep up with their levels of wealth, education, fame, etc. Get ahead in your life by designing and following your exclusive recipe of factors for personal success. When you are happy, everything falls into place as it should. You will take the lead on the most important path, the path that was meant for you
This concept can be applied to countless circumstances throughout our lives. For example, when working on a homework project, a student may be exhausted and uncomfortable, emotionally and physically drained from his efforts of the day. The thought of completing the project induces a state of emotional distress. In comparison to the tired baby, the end result is that the project will be completed just as the end result for the baby is that she will fall asleep. The student can choose to stress about completing the assignment and although he may not physically kick or scream, he experiences internal turmoil symbolic of the baby’s physical expressions. This turmoil inhibits his ability to comfortably complete the assignment just as the kicking and screaming inhibits the baby from falling asleep comfortably.
The student can alternatively choose to accept the moment, see with clarity that the assignment will ultimately be completed, and relax. If struggling with the assignment, the student can utilize his teacher as a resource to help him comfortably complete the assignment just as the child can utilize her parent as a resource to comfortably rock her to sleep. When the student elects not to consult the teacher for guidance about the assignment, this is symbolic of the baby choosing not to consult her parent for the guidance exhibited through rocking her to sleep. Consequently, the turmoil intensifies. Yes, babies can fall asleep without being rocked, and yes, students can complete homework without consulting their teachers. However, moments exist when babies need to be rocked and students need to be guided, especially when they are exhausted and their clarity is clouded. These moments, if timely identified, can be tolerated with relative ease by avoiding turmoil when the end result is definite – the baby will fall asleep, the student will complete the assignment.
As spiritual beings, we are all students, and God is our teacher. We must be aware of His guidance to avoid resistance and turmoil that result from lack of clarity. We must listen to His word to ensure that we complete the homework that has been assigned to us. Applying His instruction will allow us to work on our assignment in the comfort of His arms, just as the baby can fall asleep in the comfort of her parent's arms if she is aware and accepting of the offered guidance and support.Accept your assignment.
Live, in comfort, the life that you were designed to live.
When getting ready to leave the house in the morning, the parent knows that he should put a jacket on his daughter to ensure her warmth. Although the daughter knows that it is time to leave, she is unwilling to put on the jacket and consequently chooses to run away from her parent. The parent follows her with the jacket, around corners and through various rooms of the house until the child backs herself into a corner and has nowhere left to go. She cooperates and puts on the jacket. Following multiple occasions of backing herself into a corner, the child cooperates in the beginning because she realizes that, ultimately, her parent will put the coat on her. She realizes that running away from her parent results in the expense of unnecessary effort.
In life, we often find ourselves playing the role of the parent and the child. At times, when we know that we are capable of completing a task, we act as the parent acted in this scenario and persevere until the task is completed, until the jacket is put on. In other scenarios, however, we play the role of the child and try to avoid certain inevitable circumstances, and no matter which way we turn or how fast we go, the circumstance that is meant to happen to us will happen, as we will eventually back ourselves in a corner. We can choose to avoid or reject the inevitable when we are in the corner, but that only results in undue effort expended towards an entity or a force that will eventually prevail. In moments like these, we must accept the inevitable and utilize our energies toward efforts that contribute to the greater good. Too often, we find ourselves contesting circumstances that we are unable to control. When we focus our efforts on controlling the uncontrollable, we curb progression and may even prompt regression.
We must have the confidence to persevere through challenges that may appear unattainable on the surface, but also have the ability to identify circumstances that we cannot control and, in those instances, choose to expend our efforts on more productive tasks.
The items you place on your plate represent the responsibilities that you undertake in life. Carefully choose the responsibilities to ensure that you live a well balanced life just as you carefully select the items for your plate to ensure that you eat a well balanced meal. Our eyes sometimes deceive us to believe that we can eat more than we are actually hungry for just as our perceptions sometimes mislead us into believing that we can take on more responsibilities than we can handle. Time, accompanied by trial and error, strengthens our ability to accurately identify the amount of food we can eat and also our ability to accurately identify the level of responsibility that we can handle.
Fill your plate slowly. Take what you know you can eat, and if you’re still hungry go back for more rather than overfilling it in the beginning and finding yourself unable to finish every bite. Overfilling your plate can prompt some items to spill off the side which could, in turn, cause the entire plate to spill, resulting in the loss of all items. In the context of life, assume responsibilities that you know you can manage and as you satisfactorily carry out those responsibilities then add more. Exceeding your capacity for responsibility can result in poor execution of some responsibilities and may ultimately yield the loss of all responsibilities.
Another consequence that may exist when the plate of food becomes too full is that some or all of the items might merge together to create a new flavor. The flavor of the newly discovered food combinations may appeal to certain individuals, while others may be turned off by the taste. The new flavor represents the result of a merger of various responsibilities that are added to the plate of life. And, just like the plate that is loaded with overlapping items, the overlapping responsibilities may appeal to some people, while others dislike the newfound combination.
People have individual taste buds for food, and also for responsibilities. The flavors and responsibilities that induce pleasure in one person can vary slightly or dramatically from the next person. It’s important to identify others with similarities to you and analyze and/or sample some of their combinations to determine if they align with your taste. But, caution yourself to avoid commitment to the new combinations until you know that they are a good fit for you, until you know that they will fit well with the other items on your plate. If you fill your plate too quickly with food based solely on another’s recommendation, you risk the chance that you will dislike the flavor, yet lack room for alternate choices. Similarly, if you rapidly assume responsibilities based solely on another’s recommendation, you risk the chance that you will dislike the outcome, yet lack the time required to undertake responsibilities that are designed for you.
Cedar emanates endless beauty throughout time. Painting the fence represents putting up a front. The paint, or front, may flaunt beauty for a time, but the paint eventually begins to crack and fade and lose its appeal. The fence must then be repainted to recreate the fronted beauty.
The painting and scraping and repainting is time consuming and unnecessary. Why then do we choose to paint the natural beauty of our fence, of our true selves? The reason to paint is to impress a certain audience. The audience could be a group of peers, a coworker, a parent, or one’s self. You may not like the way you naturally exist because you fear the perception of others. Others' perceptions, however, are often inaccurately perceived by one’s self. Be confident in yourself and who you really are and you will be beautiful.
If you paint yourself, even one time, you must undergo the necessary steps to scrape away the front and reclaim your natural beauty. The fronting process strips you from valuable opportunities to bestow your beauty to the world. You take the time to research, prep, paint, and scrape the front before returning to your natural beauty. Some people stay painted their entire lives and never have the chance to share their true beauty with the world.
Fronting is not uncommon. Most people front when searching for their true selves. They try different colors and textures to see if their fronted images match their true selves. They are unable to identify the beauty that naturally exists. They think that beauty needs to be fabricated. And, as many fronting exhibits prove, fronts can be beautiful to some eyes for certain periods of time. However, they lose their appeal with time and need to be modified or replaced.
At certain moments, people will realize that fronting requires significant work and maintenance and they choose to return to their natural beauty. The timing of this identification varies for each person. Some may realize the detriment to fronting after only a few colors, while others will paint several fronts.
Removing fronts can be challenging and may be increasingly difficult for those who have painted many coats. The more coats, the more difficult the process to recover natural beauty. The beauty of this all, however, is that your genuine beauty is not impossible to retrieve. The paint can be removed and the front can be forgotten with time.
Allow yourself to be naturally beautiful. Save your fronting energy for productive functions and you will be even more beautiful and appealing to others. Consume your energy with fronting experiments and, although your beauty may emulate for a moment, it will fade and lose appeal with time. Time has the power to enhance natural beauty and fade fronted beauty. To be truly and timelessly beautiful, maintain your natural finish.
Just as a promotion at work is received as a compliment from your boss, so should a struggle in life be received as a compliment from God. Your boss offers you a promotion because he identifies that you are successful in your current position; he has confidence in your abilities to take on additional responsibilities and challenges. As such, God has confidence in you to persevere through the struggles that he injects into your life. “Only the strong survive” & “God doesn’t give you mountains that you can’t climb” are quoted examples that clarify the truth of this concept.
The death of a loved one, the loss of a house, addiction, divorce, unplanned pregnancy, and job loss are all examples of struggles placed in your life because God believes that you can overcome the challenges. View each and every challenge as a compliment just as you would view a promotion at work. Rather than envy, or express jealousy towards, individuals who do not face similar struggles, thank God for the opportunity to show Him that you possess the strength and faith to persevere through the challenges that He presents to you. Pride yourself on the fact that He gave you the promotion to assume added responsibility. Determination and endurance lead to success through overcoming struggles and ultimately yield enhanced strength, well being, and preparedness for future endeavors.
By making negative choices, we will cause detriment to others and ourselves. Our negative choices, however, will still contribute to the greater good of this world because people will learn by our example that unhealthy choices cause pain and suffering to themselves and others. Seeing the detriment that we have inflicted upon ourselves and others will motivate those learning through us to make choices that will yield them more appealing outcomes. They will, as a result, be better equipped to serve as a positive example to others. By making positive choices, we glorify others and ourselves. Our positive choices will, therefore, also contribute to the greater good of this world. Seeing the glory that we have bestowed upon others and ourselves will inspire those learning through our example to make choices that will allow them to realize glorified living, as well.
Making positive choices fosters a win-win scenario. We win because we glorify ourselves through the choices we make. Others win because we grant goodness upon them, and they learn the value of positive living. In contrast, making negative choices fosters a lose-win scenario. We lose because we cause harm to certain others and ourselves. However, specific individuals win through our negative decisions because they gain the wisdom of how not to live.
Just as we are placed in environments with others who need to learn lessons from us, we are placed in environments with others who will fulfill our learning needs. We may also be placed in environments where we teach ourselves through our own positive and negative examples. This is a form of trial and error that we employ to learn what types of choices do or do not align with our current and/or desired lifestyles. When we need to learn lessons, we will encounter the appropriate circumstances that will cultivate the necessary learning. To maximize the value of the lesson, however, we must pay close attention to the lesson to be learned and absorb the knowledge and wisdom that accompany the moment.
Much education exists without intentions of the teacher to teach or the student to learn. We must, consequently, make a conscious effort to be aware of the infinite lessons around us and teach others through our positive, rather than negative, ways. Adopting a lifestyle of healthy choices will help us ensure that we are displaying the right example during unsuspected educational opportunities. We will inevitably be placed in environments where we do not intend to teach so we need to choose whether we want to be placed in environments in which we teach through negative example or environments in which we teach through positive example. Would we prefer to inflict harm upon others and ourselves, and teach to others through our negative ways; or would we prefer to bestow goodness upon others and ourselves through our positive ways?