How to Listen to What Others Have to Say

Have you ever seen those talk shows or news programs where the hosts try to best one another with quick-witted banter and sarcastic remarks? Sometimes it feels as if no one is listening. It seems they all to want to make a point regardless of what anyone else says. After a while, it becomes exhausting.

Listening has become a lost art.

In the book of James, it says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1: 19 NIV throughout).

Is it not interesting that anger should play a central role when communication is concerned? In fact, going back to those TV hosts, you would think that if no one heard their point it would be the end of their existence. Yet, although those off-the-cuff comments may have come out in jest, after everything is over, they do tend to bite.

What James is saying is for us to slow things down, listen to what people have to say before we jump to conclusions with our own point of view.

Someone once said, “If your mouth is moving, you are not listening.” In a way, it is true. Carefully paying attention and giving the floor to others provides us with the opportunity to absorb a whole lot more than when we are talking.

It takes a strong will to refrain from speaking.

James also has this to say about the very instrument that will bring us either incredible happiness or absolute misery, “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

And if you think James is done with his assault on the tongue, he makes it even clearer, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).

The odds are against us. No matter what we do, we will not be able to win against the tongue. How many politicians have sparked an international incident because of their unruly tongues? A slip here, a slip there and the world suddenly becomes unrecognizable.

How many times have we heard someone say, “I have misspoken?” What he or she really means is, “I messed up. I put my foot in my mouth, and I should have thought before I said anything.”

If well-known figures with many years of public speaking experience can still get into trouble with their tongue, what is it to say that we, who have very little practice in lesser situations, will do any better?

That is why it is far better to listen than to speak. It is less likely that we would say something we would later regret when we are listening.

How to Forgive and Forget

Given it was a long weekend for many of us, and given I am also one to crave light reading today, I will make this article quick and to the point.

The main theme these past few weeks has been repentance, but what many may not know is that with repentance comes forgiveness.

For God, forgiveness comes easy. As long as we are truly sorry for what we have done, he will forgive us. In God’s mind, it will be as if we have never committed sin.

Then, why is it so difficult for us to do the same?

For us, we carry grudges. “He did this to me. She did that to me. I hate him. I wish he were dead.”

If God used the same measure on us that we use to lay judgment on others, by now, we would all be dead.

But God is incredibly patient, not wanting to lose anyone to that vile enemy, the fallen angel of light. He wants everyone to share in the inheritance of all things.

“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7 NKJV).

With a thought like that, who has time for petty slights, or for that matter, major grievances? No greater possession has God than for him to bestow us all he owns, which also includes granting us eternal life.

Therefore, as children of God, it is time we put away childish things, forgive one another, and look to our inheritance—the universe and everything in it.

3 Tips You Can Use to Avoid Being Unhappy

I have taken it upon myself to conduct an experiment—unofficially, of course, but an experiment, nonetheless. For the past week, I have avoided news sites in an effort to determine how it affects my view of things. Surprisingly, I have found the results quite startling.

Before revealing my findings, I would like to talk a bit about how to avoid being unhappy. I can write about this now because a few years ago I went through days when I had allowed dark clouds to dictate how I felt. It was not after several attempts at learning key coping skills, however, that I am now fully aware of what triggers the moodiness.

With that in mind, here are three tips to help you avoid being unhappy.

1. Stay Clear of Self-Absorbed People

You know the ones of whom I am referring. These folks have nothing but drama in their lives. They cannot seem to look beyond themselves to acknowledge others are living on this planet, too.

I am not talking about people like you and I, who look to do good in spite of the common challenges we face. I am pointing my finger at narcissists, whose only world is their own. They expect others to worship their every grand accomplishment regardless of their rather ordinary existence.

Avoid these people like used serving bowls, which appear clean on the outside, but are filthy from within. They want you to feel sorry for them because their self-esteem is shattered. They want you to be their strength because they cannot muster enough of it themselves.

And if you do not supply them with their needs, they will move on to those who can.

Run away. You will be happier without them in your life.

2. Be Thankful for at Least One Positive Thing Today

Something incredible happens when you become aware of your surroundings. You learn to see the good, and you change for the better.

Since early February, I have resolved to be thankful for at least one positive thing daily.

As silly as it sounds, when I think about how eating a piece of cheese could brighten my day, I appreciate the experience more than anything I could ever imagine doing in this entire world.

Catching the train on time, listening to a favorite song, the weather cooperating during an event, traffic being light during the journey home, and other things, could mean the difference between unhappiness and being grateful to be alive.

Find that one thing to be thankful for today and cherish the moment. It is another step toward remaining in that positive mindset you so desire.

3. Give God the Glory

I was sick for several days this winter, but you would not have known it had I not told you. That is because throughout the entire ordeal I was giving God the glory.

Why is it we cry out to God whenever we need him? Why can we not pray and thank him every day simply for the very breath that flows in our lungs?

I have grown to include God in every aspect of my life—not because I have to, but because I want to. I realize he has made me, and he has sent his only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for all the evil things I have done on this earth since the first drop of blood coursed through my veins.

Once I came to the realization God is the only one who will lead me out of illness and into unbound prosperity and health, it is easy to give him the glory for everything that happens in my life.

And if I should so find myself suffering for something he deems me worthy to suffer, then I will not hold back my praise for his awesome kindness toward me. He always has a reason why I should go through the things he puts me through—either to make me better in this life or the next.

God always has a reason.

The Results

Getting back to my little experiment of late—you know, the one about my avoiding news sites this past week?

As strange as it may sound, the longer I lingered on a news site, the more I felt my mood shift from bright and cheery to sullen and downcast.

That is correct. Today’s news is a drag.

Conversely, I also found that when I read about how people had achieved a milestone in their lives—a birth, a graduation, a wedding—my view remained sunny and filled with hope.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But certainly, my experience is something I would not dismiss as trivial. As unscientific as it is, this experiment has taught me to be extra careful with what I feed this puny brain of mine. This pinkish mass in my skull has to last me a lifetime. I cannot play with it in such a way that it would affect my mood, which in turn would affect others who come in contact with me.

Therefore, although this is something I am learning now, I will list this point separately.

Feed your mind with good things and watch your day transform for the better.

How to Appreciate What You Have

Life is more than what we can get from other people. It has to do with love, joy, peace, happiness. It is not taking advantage of a situation because of a weakness or flaw in someone else’s reasoning skills. Not everyone is equal. Everyone is different, and with differences come challenges. That is what life is all about, to meet those challenges head on and to grow into better versions of ourselves.

I did not always feel this way.

If anything, I was one of those people who would swoop into a jammed parking lot, steal the last empty spot from an old lady so that I could finish my own Christmas shopping.

I was the guy who would take advantage of a two-for-one sale, going back to the store several times to make many purchases of the same product, in spite of quantities being limited.

And I was the jerk who did not believe in garbage cans. The city made sidewalks more than for walking. At least that is what I believed.

But, I have grown. I have matured. What seemed so important years ago does not seem so much that now. With a change in heart comes an appreciation for the simple things in life.

The simple things make life special.

I so love the way an ice cream cone twirls at the top when ordering it from a truck in the middle of summer.

I cannot get enough of the clouds dancing along the edge of the sky while playing a game of “Guess What I Am”.

I look forward to sitting at the table with my family, talking about how everyone’s day went, and discovering something I did not know before.

My nightly routine involves reading God’s word as a way to ease my mind of the day’s troubles.

And nothing compares to holding someone I love in my arms. Nothing comes close.

Is that all there is to it?

Well, yes. I look at the little things, and they are the things that make me happy. That is how I am able to appreciate what I have. As long as I keep the little things in mind, life goes a whole lot smoother.

I would not want it any other way.

5 Ways to Break a Bad Habit

We all have them but are too afraid to admit it. They dominate our lives, they control our routines, and they sour our mood.

What are they? They are bad habits. And bad habits is bad news for those wanting to live happy and abundant lives.

Let us take a moment to have a look at five ways we can break bad habits, and the benefits that come from overcoming weaknesses.

1. Confess the Habit

Mildred: “Judy, you may not believe it, but I bite my nails, bad.”

Judy: “I noticed, you have yet to gnaw off your cuticle to the bone.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to beating a bad habit. What better way to admit you have a problem than to confess it to a friend or loved one.

As difficult as it sounds, it really is easy to do. The problem lies with forgetting about your ego so you can grow into a better person.

If you find you cannot tell your bad habits to someone around you, you can take to writing them down on paper. Once you read them to yourself several times, you can either burn or introduce scissors to them.

In my case, I have done both. I have written them down and destroyed them, and I have told Luana about my deepest, darkest secrets as a way to throw away the insecurities caused by my weaknesses.

Yes, you may think that is extreme, but confessing our bad habits to others liberates us from carrying the burden ourselves.

2. Recognize the Triggers

Central to every bad habit rests a trigger. That trigger could be the innocent whiff of a scrumptious cake, the sight of a beautiful woman, or simply the craving for something that will calm the nerves.

Whatever the trigger, it will lead you to where you do not want to go. Therefore, recognize it. Tame it. And move on to bigger and better things.

It is easy to say, but incredibly hard to do. How do you recognize the very thing that causes you to stumble?

Self-reflection is an awesome power that all of us bad-habit harbingers possess. By finding a quiet spot and reflecting on what causes us to fall, we can identify the trigger. It will not happen overnight, but every moment we spend on improving ourselves is a moment spent overcoming a bad habit.

Sometimes, it is a matter of working through mock scenarios in order to determine the origin of the bad habit. Again, it will take time, but do not ever think it is time spent in a useless pursuit.

You will find the trigger. You will overcome your bad habit.

3. Replace the Bad with the Good

What is your bad habit? Is it eating late-night snacks before bed? Are you saddled with debt but cannot help spending more money on that fancy new vacation? Do you drink more than you should, even though you know it will lead to long-term health problems?

The best way to throw away a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. Positive reinforcement is better than negative execution. Find the bad and lift away its effects on your life by flooding it with good.

You would love to eat a slew of late-night snacks. I understand that. Try drinking water, it will fill you and act as a cleanser. You have so much debt that you do not know how you will handle it in several months when the creditors start knocking on your door to repossess your home. Forget about that vacation and work at cutting down your spending. After all, you would like to have a future without worrying about who you owe, right? And that cocktail you are thinking about consuming? Consider having a soda, or, better yet, a tea. Always think about the future. Learn how your actions today will shape your tomorrow.

Do you bite your nails? Snack on carrots. Do you have a problem with wandering eyes? Think of the one you love. Are you prone to laziness? Find something to do other than watching television. It may sound harsh, but we are talking about getting rid of the things that hold us back from achieving our true potential.

4. Make New Friends

Every bad habit carries with it baggage. That baggage includes friends who are enablers. And enablers only have one thing on their mind—their own self-gratification.

Surround yourself with people who genuinely love you for who you are.

When you are with enablers, they will tear your down, strip you of your character, and allow you to struggle and fall in a pool of your own misery. What you need to do is identify the enablers and cut them from your life. How far do you go?

Think of them as if they never existed.

You never knew them.

The other side of it is you now have the chance to meet new people who will build you up, carry you forward, and believe in you for the person you are and not the person they think you ought to be.

New friends mean new experiences, which translates to new opportunities for growth.

5. Bring God to the Fight

Everyone may have a concept of what or who God is. For me, God is the creator of all things, the one who sacrificed his only son, Jesus, for the salvation of the many. Without God, I do not know where I would be.

When faced with a destructive pattern, it is good to know that a higher power, such as God, is there to fight on our behalf. We do not have to fight alone. Whatever the frailty, strength is always available. We can tap into it and not worry about the cost.

When our minds focus on eternity, the awful behaviors that plague us now do not seem so unstoppable. We can continue living, knowing there is always someone there to pick us up after a fall.

The trick is to permit that strength to course through our lives. In so doing, breaking a bad habit then becomes possible.

3 Things We Can Do to Stay Positive

No one likes a sourpuss. If you do not know what that is, a quick Google search reveals it is a person who is bad-tempered or habitually sullen. For someone like that, it may take some effort to snap out of the blues. It would have been far better not to fall into a mindset of negativity in the first place.

How can we do that? How can we avoid the vortex of a swirling drain when there is just so much more to gain by living a life filled with hope?

1. Keep Moving

As cliché as it sounds, it is hard to hit a moving target. Isaac Newton put it another way, “A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.”

When we are on the move, we expend energy—energy that we would have otherwise consumed for other things. Sometimes, and this happens more often than we think, those other things are not conducive toward our betterment as human beings.

The solution is to keep moving. Our focus should be on volunteer activities. Community programs are a great way to lift the spirits. The moment we see others suffer is when we become aware of our own blessings.

That is not the end of it, though. The very act of providing for the needs of others changes our attitude and makes us humble. Attitude plays a big part with maintaining a positive outlook. We can own the world, but really, what good would it do if we lose our souls?

2. Enjoy the Music

Music calms the savage beast. Is that not a saying from somewhere?

Have we ever thought how our mood changes when we listen to music? It would be a difficult thing to do to be happy if a sad song is playing in the background of a restaurant. How many times have you heard Mozart’s Requiem while wolfing down a pizza at some bar and grill?

Music plays such a big role when it comes to setting a mood. Music can make us happy. Music can make us sad. That is why it is so important to pay attention to what goes into the ears. All it takes is one song to change our attitude.

Have fun with music. Create mixes that inspire creativity. Listen to music that challenges our very being. If after hearing a song we feel awful, it may be time to forget that song ever existed.

Let us allow music to give life to our bones. The right kind of music will make us grow for the better.

3. Forgive

So much time goes to waste playing the “he said, she said” game. So what if he or she said something bad about us. If we are happy with who we are what difference does it make what others think?

Bringing God into the conversation will help with this point:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat. 5: 43-48 NIV).

As much as it is opposite to how we, mere humans, think, forgiving an enemy releases us from the perils of hatred. Would it not be more beneficial to live a life without enemies than to spend time thinking about how we can do harm to those who have harmed us?

Even more so, forgiving those who are not worthy is more of a testimony on us. For when we forgive, we release ourselves of negativity from our lives. No longer are we captive to the chains of evil, but we are free to do good works inspired by the gifts of grace.

It may be hard to understand at first, and that is fine, however, the blessings that come with forgiving someone go beyond the forgiver to touch the lives of everyone involved.

With That in Mind

Once these techniques become part of our routine, it will be difficult to fall into a dark or glum state. We will find life more fulfilling, more rewarding and rich in positive experiences. No longer will we have to hide behind a fake smile or a performance laugh. We can be ourselves and live a happy, abundant life bursting with joy.

So keep moving, enjoy the music and let things go. After all, it is far better to be a role model than to become a case study.

How to Overcome Fear

Everyone is afraid of something. You can be afraid of heights (Acrophobia), afraid of open spaces (Agoraphobia), or simply afraid of spiders (Arachnophobia).

In my case, I have always been afraid of public speaking. I recently discovered my fear goes by the name Glossophobia, which is really speech anxiety. I would have thought, though, a fear such as this would have gone by a better name. Something like Heartinmythroatphobia would make more sense. I would even accept KillmenowbeforeIgoonstagephobia.

I have learned, however, that fear avoidance does nothing more than delay the inevitable. Eventually the same challenge will appear and I will have to tackle it one way or another.

Facing My Fears

To overcome my fear of public speaking I do what any normal human being would do. I immerse myself in situations where I cannot avoid public speaking.

I realize it sounds counterintuitive. After all, who does that? Who confronts the very thing that promotes that queasy feeling in the pit of the stomach that renders a person sick as a billy goat?

Well, I do.

Whenever there is an opportunity to make a speech, say a few words on behalf of an event, or have a need to make my opinion known, I am there. I do it because I know that if I choose to stay quiet, I will not grow and be a better individual. I will remain the same.

Sameness makes a person lukewarm.

And a long time ago, I promised myself I would never be lukewarm for something I care about a great deal.

God Fights on My Behalf

The other thing I have yet to mention that gives me the courage to step outside of myself and face my fears is I have God fight my battles for me:

“Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you’” (Isa. 35: 4 NLT).

Imagine your fear being a big bully waiting for you at the end of the street. In the past, you turned the corner and went the other way. But on this occasion, right ahead is God who will ensure your safety. He will fight in your stead. He will vanquish your enemies and turn them into dust.

With a thought like that is it a wonder anyone has any fear at all.

Will Fear Ever Vanish?

Yet, every so often, I still have that queasy feeling whenever all eyes are gazing at me. And I am fine with that because I know as I move forward toward overcoming my insecurity I will be a better version of myself.

In that sense, it is all a matter of facing the challenge head on, and tackling it so that I can control it as opposed to it controlling me.

Add to that God’s help, and I know I have nothing to fear.

7 Keys to Achieve Success

Why do some people succeed with their goals while others fail? Is it because those who succeed have a plan? Or is it that they have the strands of success so ingrained in their DNA that nothing will prevent them from achieving their true potential?

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessI have often wondered this myself. But then again, over the course of three years, I did write a bestselling book trilogy while publishing three articles a week in support of my effort. So, I suppose, I do have some insight in what it takes to be successful.

Below is the template I use whenever I set out to accomplish anything that is beyond what I can accomplish on my own. You can use this template for just about anything. It will encourage you to keep pressing forward, never to surrender.

If one day, because of these seven keys, you become President of the United States, remember me as the guy who put you there. I take cash, bank draft, money order and certified check. However, I think I would be more useful as your Vice President.

1. Create a Mission Statement

Every success story has a beginning, and every beginning sparks from a single thought. You cannot know where you are going if you do not have a destination.

Begin by thinking about what you want to achieve, sit down and write it down. Your goals will not become reality if you do not write them down.

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessWhen you have your goals written down in the form where you can see them, touch them, and read them back to yourself, they become real.

Think of your goals as Mission Statements. Simply writing the words, “Rock Star” on a piece of paper will not make it so. Instead, be specific: “In one year I will lead a rock band, and in five years I will put out my first single.”

The more specific you are with your Mission Statement the more it will become an accomplished goal.

You can do the same thing with life goals: “By this time next year, I will have bought a house, paid my first mortgage installment and looked after my own lawn.”

Seeing your goals detailed on paper will bring your goals to life.

Create your Mission Statement now.

2. Prepare an Action Plan

Writing down your Mission Statement is only the first step to achieve success. You will now need an Action Plan to move you along the journey.

How are you going to get to where you want to go? A good driver will have counted the cost of travel. A good driver will have also planned the route, landmarks to look for and destination. A good driver will know when the journey is complete.

Similarly, if you are thinking about completing your degree in Physics, you will need to create an Action Plan that details the courses you will need, the cost, time and effort you will need to expend to achieve this success.

An Action Plan can be as simple as this:

  • Make $5,000 in tuition working at Mom and Pop’s Grocery for four months
  • Take 2 electives
  • Write my thesis
  • Graduate top of my class within a year of registering

Notice that the Action Plan contains a detailed timeline, cost estimate of the goal and a success benchmark. In this case, the success benchmark is graduating top of the class.

3. Stay Healthy

Once you begin your journey toward success, you will need one vital component to maintain your stamina. That very important component is your health.

Without good health, no matter how strong or positive you think you are, either it will take you longer to achieve success, or you will not achieve it at all.

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessGood health, however, comes with a price tag.

It means sleeping as much as you can so that the body can repair itself. It means eating right—fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and fish. If you can afford organic, buy organic. Organic food contains all the vitamins and minerals intact. A good multi-vitamin supplement will also go a long way toward improving your health.

Get rid of the junk food. Most junk food contains vast amounts of sugar, salt and fat that cause all sorts of ugly things to happen in the body. That goes for processed foods as well. If you grow a third arm, do not say I did not say so.

Most of all, exercise. Keep your blood flowing throughout all parts of your body. The more you exercise, the more you will feel energetic to tackle bigger and better tasks.

4. Schedule Downtime

Every week I take one day to unplug from social media. That is, I take one day to avoid logging into my site, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and all other forms of online activity.

You might think that is crazy. In a sense, it is crazy.

Doing so, though, allows me to take stock of my life without the distraction of pings, whistles, bings, dings and dongs. Rather, I will sit quietly reading and meditating on my achievements from the past week.

Scheduling downtime is an art. I nearly fell off my chair recently when I had read that some European companies offer their employees unlimited vacation time. Can you imagine having two months off from work lying on a beach in Italy eating healthy meals while North Americans slave away late into the evening just to make a buck?

As humans, we need time away in order to recharge and stay sane.

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessTime away or downtime does not mean unproductive time, though.

I get my best ideas when I am waking up or doing absolutely nothing. I cannot say how many times a good idea has raced through my mind while shaving.

Downtime presents you with a great opportunity to look at your Action Plan to ensure you are meeting your milestones based on your Mission Statement.

5. Leave Room for Incidentals

Things happen in life. Sometimes life throws you circumstances that will make it seem as if there is no way you will achieve what you have set out to do.

And that is okay. That is life. You will need to leave room for incidentals.

If you have given yourself a timeline, it may be that you will need to extend the timeline as a means to accommodate surprises.

Again, life events play into this, too. The only thing you can do is ride it out and once it is all over, do your best to get back on track.

In other words, accept it and move on.

6. Never Give Up

If I could stress anything more than anything, it would be for you never to give up.

Always look to the goal. Always keep your Mission Statement at the tip of your tongue. Repeat it several times as a reminder of what you committed to when you wrote it. Review your Action Plan to see where you are. Every time you feel the urge to give up, shake it off. Go for a walk. Go for a run.

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessPush those insecurities from your mind. You have counted the cost. You knew it was not going to be easy. Yet, you went ahead with your Action Plan anyway. You did it because you knew it was what you wanted to do.

Forget about what people may think of you. Let them think what they will. Your job is to continue on that journey to success. Nothing will stop you from that.

Nothing will prevent you from achieving your dreams.

7. Keep God in the Picture

This last point may be different for everyone. For me it means all the difference between success and failure.

God is my center, as I know Jesus is his son. I involve God in everything I do. Whenever I create a Mission Statement and write an Action Plan, God is there with me to put it all together.

God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 are always on my mind, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (NIV).

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessEveryone needs someone great to believe in. For me it is God.

He has my back.

One More Thing

After achieving success several times with this plan, you will ask yourself this question: What more is there?

The best answer I have is this: Share this knowledge with everyone you know so that others may have the opportunity to make their dreams come true.

Knowledge shared is knowledge earned.

How to Give Without Expecting Anything Back

Firefighters have a tough job. They rush into burning buildings to save us from fires. They work odd hours. Their sleep patterns may be non-existent.

One thing is certain: the amount of time and dedication a firefighter devotes to the job does not compare to the appreciation shown to them in the form of compensation.

We owe them our lives.

Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

How to Give Without Expecting Anything BackThat act of giving is not an easy thing to master. It takes a certain mindset to turn around and say, “Here, this belongs to me, but I want you to have it because it is the right thing to do.”

With firefighters, it is simply a case of walking in another person’s shoes. They have counted the cost and they know that if no one steps in to do anything, nothing will ever get done. They want to make a difference.

Giving of our abundance, whether it is time, money or health, means seeing things from the other person’s perspective. Mental and/or physical health issues may prevent someone from accomplishing anything of value, in which case, others may need to step in to help.

And that is okay. Aiding those less fortunate would lend to a spirit of humility that would inspire others to participate as well.

Giving Is Not a Zero-Sum Game

When was the last time we have heard someone say, “You rub my back, I rub yours,” or, “If you do this for me, I will do that for you,” or how about, “I owe you one.”

Sadly, all of these statements have a condition attached to them.

How to Give Without Expecting Anything BackWhy can we not give without it being a transaction? There is nothing wrong with the word reciprocation, however, when it becomes the sole reason for giving, it is nothing more than politics.

Giving from the heart means just that, giving without expecting anything in return.

Now some may consider this philosophy a zero-sum game, in that someone else’s loss is someone else’s gain—but giving without strings is really a win-win game. In fact, bestowing on others all the joys and privileges we ourselves possess, encourages others to share in those same joys and privileges.

Imagine if everyone did that. There would be no need for the social safety nets our governments have established to help with the poor and the downtrodden.

We would all share in the abundance of the harvest our great lands produce.

Giving to Give

Therefore, let us not think of what we can get for what we can give. Instead, let us provide shelter for those who do not have homes. Let us cook food for those who are hungry. Let us bring clothing to those who cannot afford to buy it themselves.

For with every good deed we do to those who cannot do it for themselves, a greater reward awaits us with the joy we gain from giving.

3 Things We Can Do to Show Others Gratitude

The other day I was thinking how awesome it would be if we showed people more gratitude. I am not talking about the superficial thank-you we dish out as a means to acknowledge participation in a mutual conversation. I am talking about acts of kindness that would replace the quick two words we throw around to get on with our day.

3 Things We Can Do to Show Others GratitudeOf Course, I am not saying we should drop everything so that we can daily show appreciation to the ticket agent on the train or the security guard at the mall, otherwise we would never get anything done. However, there is nothing wrong with going back the next day to give them both a coffee.

Doing something like that will cause them to remember us, and who knows, maybe one day we will become a story to their friends and family.

Without spending any more time on introductions, let us have a look at three things we can do to show others gratitude.

1. Drop a Note

Every so often, Luana will drop me a note to tell me that she loves and appreciates me.

I am not recommending that you should give a stranger a note to tell them you love them. That would be awkward. What you can do, though, is compose a quick handwritten message to let them know how much you value them.

Sincere words have a way of making people feel good about what they are doing, especially if those people are working in jobs where gratitude comes less often than expected.

Even if not a stranger, words of thanks in the form of note will make any friend or family member feel appreciated.

So go out there and drop those notes of kindness. You will never know what effect it will have on others.

2. Give a Gift

No matter how small or how large the sentiment, everyone loves receiving a gift.

A token of appreciation goes a long way. It does not have to be pricey, weighty, or extravagant. As long as the gift comes from the heart, it will be special.

I once gave two bottles of wine—red and white—to a friend of mine to thank him for all the support he had given me throughout one year when things were not going so well with me. It took him aback. Since then, I can always count on him for an open and honest opinion.

Now before going on, I want to make one point clear: Giving a gift is not bribery. It is a heartfelt gesture to express our gratitude for a relationship. There is nothing wrong with giving and not expecting anything in return.

Otherwise, that would be bribery.

Therefore, have fun with this. Give a gift of gratitude that will mean everything to the recipient.

3. Perform a Random Act of Kindness

3 Things We Can Do to Show Others GratitudeSometimes a note or a gift just will not do it. Sometimes the situation calls for something more—something beyond the regular conventions of selflessness.

A random act of kindness dictates that there is no reciprocation involved. The entire act is a one-way street, outflowing and selfless.

The gesture could be as simple as helping our neighbor with the groceries, or giving our time at the local food bank, or even more so, providing financial aid to those in need.

It is up to us what that random act of kindness will be.

We can accomplish incredible things in another person’s life by simply giving without strings attached. Our actions can change someone’s life, especially when we are showing gratitude for the blessings God has given us.

For this reason, let us take this opportunity to show our appreciation to those who make our lives better.

How to Find Gladness in God

I will make this a short post, as I know everyone is busy, and time is limited to a few sound bites and perhaps several interesting quotes to carry us through the day.

Think about this for a minute: The universe is 13.7 billion years old. A light-year is the distance light travels in a single year, which is 6 trillion miles (9.5 trillion kilometers). This translates to a speed of 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) a second. The universe is 93 billion light-years in diameter and always expanding.

We live on Earth, third planet from a star called the Sun, in the Orion Arm, one of the spirals in the Milky Way galaxy. There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy, each of which may have planets of their own.

About 3 trillion galaxies populate the universe.

Each of us is one of 7 billion people who live here on this tiny planet.

How to Find Gladness in GodNow I ask you this: Is it possible we are wrong to think God, the one who created the heavens and the earth, made a mistake when he sent Jesus to die for our sins?

After all, who are we who live on this insignificant planet called Earth, among the 100 billion planets in our galaxy, among the 3 trillion galaxies in the universe, that God should so love us in such a way as to sacrifice his only son so that we could share in the inheritance of all things?

It sounds crazy!

And yet, that is exactly what God has planned for every person who believes Jesus is his son. He wants us to inherit the universe and everything in it, just as it says in Romans 8:32“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (KJV)

So today, as we make our way through the events that shape our lives, let us consider God’s view on this: We may be one of 7 billion who live here, but his plan is to give us all things according to his promises and his love for us.

If that is not something that brings gladness to your heart, then look toward the night sky for your inheritance.

3 Steps to Being Happy with What You Have

What is happiness? Is happiness attainable? Is it something I can give to someone else? In other words, can I make someone else happy? Or, do I need something—whatever it is—to make me happy?

These questions I will try to answer with this short article about being happy with what you have.

1. Throw Away Envy and Ambition

Remember how you felt when you received that shiny new phone for Christmas? You had resolved that nothing in the world could ever take away your happiness.

That is, until you saw someone else using the upgraded version. Now, you want one, too.

Envy and jealousy are like poison to happiness. No matter what, someone will always have it better.

3 Steps to Being Happy with What You HaveThe best way to fight the urge to compare oneself with another is to take life one day at a time. Satisfaction comes from realizing today’s problems and successes are for today. As the cliché goes, tomorrow is another day—another day to fail, another day to succeed.

As I believe Jesus is the son of God, I also look to the bible for wisdom. James 3:16 says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” NIV.

There is nothing wrong with planning. Wise stewards plan. But if planning leads to wanting to be better than others, then there will be no happiness.

Throw away envy and ambition and allow happiness to flood your heart and your mind.

2. Stop Humanizing God

There was a time in my life that I used to think God did not know what he was doing. I saw all the misery around the world, the pain people suffered and I did not believe God could ever fix this mess.

It was too great, even for him.

Thinking that way led me to invalidate God and ask that if he could not fix the world, how could he fix me? In a sense, I humanized God.

Making God equal with me made the thought of his inaction bearable.

I was wrong. Once I began to know God and to learn why he did the things he did, by reading his word, praying, going to church, I learned about real happiness.

I learned God does things in his own time. He allows things to happen because it suits his plan. I may not understand it all, but I know his decisions will make sense to me eventually.

Having the faith that God will work things for the best is my reassurance he loves me and is greater than me or anyone else. I may be a sinner, I may stumble and fall, but he will never leave me. He has never left me, nor will he ever.

That reassurance is another layer to my happiness.

3. Be Grateful

Have you ever exercised and found yourself exhausted to the point that you would give anything for a glass of water? Think about how it felt when you finally took that first gulp.

Satisfying. Thirst-quenching. Happiness.

For a single moment in time, nothing else really mattered. The neighbors could have been bickering, your car payment could have been late and your dog could have suddenly developed a case of worms.

But, for that moment—you were grateful.

Imagine carrying that grateful feeling throughout the day—all the time.

You would not complain about the noisy passenger on the train next to you. You would give food to the homeless sitting at the street corner. You would forgive those who had done you wrong.

Your life, as you know it, would change all because you were grateful with what you had.

You would not worry about money. You would not worry about peace. You would not worry about anything, really

When you are grateful, everything else falls into place.

When you are grateful—there is no reason to be unhappy.

How to Love Unconditionally

What does unconditional love mean? How does it apply to those people who have harmed us? We could easily dismiss them and move forward. That is a realistic choice.

But how different would that make us from everyone else?

Would it not be more constructive to love our enemies in spite of their hatred toward us.

The high road is a far better road on which to travel.

Of course, we could never reach this decision without some help.

Love God

I recently read in the bible a reminder of what it means to love unconditionally.

Matthew 22:37-39 says, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (NIV).

To love God—to really love God—means to do his will. His will is for us to worship him with joy and gladness in our heart.

And why not?

How to Love UnconditionallyHe sustains all things, great and small. His power infuses life in the largest of galaxies to the tiniest of particles. He set laws in motion for us to experience the wildest of sunsets to the most incredible of sunrises. His hand glides over the oceans imbuing his strength to the deep, so as we may marvel at his glorious handiwork.

When I kneel before him, I give him praise for his wonderful majesty over my life.

I would not be breathing, if it were not for him.

I learned unconditional love by his love for me. I did not ask God to love me. He does it because that is who he is.

God is love.

Once I learned that, loving others came easy.

Love Others

Oh, what a world it would be if there were no more wars. Oh, what a life it would be if we could only resolve hatred in our hearts instead of on the battlefield.

When we reach that point in our lives that it makes more sense to allow God to work in us than to take matters into our own hands, that is when we finally allow love to work his will in our relationships.

God is love.

If God lives in us, it is easy to let a slight pass. It is easy to say to those emboldened to offend us, “I forgive you.” It is easy to see the other person’s point of view. It is easy to understand their actions. It is easy to fall asleep at night and not hold on to things for the next day. It is easy to make amends with those who do not want to make amends.

It is easy because unconditional love does not hurt, destroy, ridicule, hate, put down, torment, or devastate.

Unconditional love is just that.

Love.

There Is Hope

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about something that has been a weight on my heart for quite some time. Many of you may want to skim through this post to get to the point, but I know that if you read every word and listen to what I have to say, God will truly bless you.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalms 34:18 ESV)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 ESV)

This year has been good to me. I found God again, I returned to church, and I have a whole new set of people of whom I now count as my friends. I have learned all about forgiveness, love and joy beyond that which is superficial. I am also able to worship God with arms spread wide toward the heavens, much as I have read David had done countless occasions when he praised God.

Consequently, I have also made changes in my life that I could not have made had I not received the Holy Spirit earlier this fall to help me with my daily walk with the most high God.

Now, it may seem obvious that I would want to talk about how God has changed my life, given how I used to write about horror and all its variations, however, at this time, I do not feel God is leading me to do that. I am sure there will be a period in my life when I will have the opportunity to talk all about my change from being self-centered to thinking about others. I just feel now is not that time.

Therefore, if I am not going to talk about what is on everyone’s mind, why even write this post at all?

A Calling from God

With the Holy Spirit leading me, I believe God has a plan for each person reading this post today. He has never been shy to reveal to me what his intentions are concerning my life. Somehow, I believe, some of you need to hear these words. Perhaps he is also revealing to you through me your calling to reach out to him for comfort.

I know life is hard. Life is tough—especially now. For some of you, Christmas is a dark time of year. The lights mask the loneliness you feel when everyone is telling you that you ought to be joyful. Yet, how can you feel joy if nothing exists in your heart but emptiness? Yes, the gifts are aplenty, the food is delicious, and the company you entertain during the holidays may make it seem as if you lead a fulfilling life. Still, the emptiness remains.

Conversely, some of you may not even have enough money to purchase the simple necessities, let alone a gift for someone. Your families may also be broken, which makes getting together a chore, rather than a delight.

I am here to tell you there is hope (Eph. 1:11-12).

God Comforts the Brokenhearted

God is love (1 John 4:16). He is here for those who are looking for comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4). He is here to heal the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18). He is here never to let you go. He really, really does love you, in spite of it all. You may feel that you have done the worst thing in the world, but if you come before God and sincerely confess your wrongs, he will forgive you (Acts 2:38). He always does. All he wants is to have a relationship with you.

Forget about not feeling worthy. Forget about the guilt. Allow God to give you wings so that you can fly (Isa. 40:31). Allow his light to flood the darkness and provide you the freedom to escape your troubles (John 8:12).

There is no other God than he (Deut. 4:35). He created the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 42:5). He set the earth on its foundations (Job 38:4-6) and separated the day from the night (Gen. 1:5). He made everything under the sun (Isaiah 44:24) and breathed life into our lungs (Gen. 2:7). He is the awesome God. And his life lives in every one of us who believes (John 3:16). His mercy is just and his righteousness endures forever (Ps. 111:2-3).

In the good and the bad, all glory goes to God.

Somehow, and you know who you are, you needed to hear this.

Miracles

Do you believe in miracles? I never did. In fact, there was a time I thought those who experienced a healing actually fell under some kind of self-hypnosis. I dismissed it as nothing more than an ol’ fashioned parlor trick found in a fantasy like The Wizard of Oz.

It goes that way until it happens to you. You never think it will happen to you. And sometimes, the little miracles in life convicts one into believing in the very thing he or she discredited in the first place.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 ESV)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 ESV)

Little Miracle #1

Some time ago, in celebration of my birthday, Luana and the kids treated me to lunch at one of the hotspots here in town. The food was great, the company I kept was satisfying, and the service was beyond exceptional. Shortly after the main course, the server came by our table and asked me if I had decided what dessert I wanted, given Luana had mentioned why we were there in the first place. I said I had not decided and we agreed the server would surprise me. Several minutes later, I was regretting my decision, but it had nothing to do with receiving the dessert. The server had not brought it yet. I was thinking, since the treat would be free, I imagined I would be receiving a simple scoop of ice cream, or one of those sweet cookies instead. Then I thought, I should have ordered my favorite—cheesecake. I imagined it dished with no topping except for strawberries and syrup on the side. I really had it in mind of what it would look like and mentioned it to my family.

What happened next left me in awe. The server had brought me a plate of cheesecake, strawberries and syrup on the side, and a big sparkler in the center.

Obviously, I was praising God all the way home.

Little Miracle #2

Recently, I took a vacation. The first two days were nothing short of awful. I fell ill with aches, chills, a fever, and a nasty headache. Two days later, I felt much better, except for the headache. It just would not go away. That same evening, I had fallen on my knees asking God for relief. I asked him to remove whatever was causing the pain so as I may not only feel better, but serve him in the way he wanted me to serve him.

It did not help. That is when I decided to bring in the big guns.

I immediately went to Luana. She knew what to do. She laid her hands on my neck and the back of my head, where I told her the headache rested, and prayed aloud. She proclaimed God’s promise of healing asking for the removal of not only the pain but the condition that was causing the pain. I believed with my whole heart that through her intercession my faith would heal me.

At the end of the prayer, after she had called on Jesus’ name, I soon headed back to bed. I did not even make it into the bedroom. The headache was gone. No pain. No weird sensations. Gone.

Other things have happened to me that I would classify as miracles. Rather than list those events, however, I am going to do something altogether different.

Jesus’ Miracles

Below are Jesus’ miracles listed in the gospel of Mark:

Missing is Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13), his prediction Peter would deny him three times (Mark 14:26-31), and many others. Mind you, I have listed these miracles from the gospel of Mark only. It goes without saying there are other miracles Jesus performed that I have not mentioned, detailed in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, such as Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).

Reading about all the miracles Jesus performed while he was here on earth inspires me to appreciate how God intervenes in people’s lives, even if it is surprising me with a slice of cheesecake with a side of strawberry sauce for my birthday, or healing me suddenly of a headache. God knows the needs of his children. He goes out of his way to make his children happy. And if God chooses to bless his children with a small or large miracle, it is entirely up to him.

A miracle is a miracle. It still shows how much God loves his children.

%d bloggers like this: