Be Optimistic

Personal Story: “Better” from Stevecorn.com

When I was in High School, I worked in the paint department at Sears. Mr Mahoney was an older man (maybe early 70s) who worked across the aisle from me in the sporting goods department. He was always smiling and would be the first employee to jump on the treadmill and start running to demonstrate the product to his customers. I was young, but remember thinking that I wanted to be active like him when I reached his age.

I didn’t work in his department so I had a pretty casual passing-in-the-stockroom-type relationship with him. When I’d see him, I almost always said, “How’s it going?” He always answered, “Better.” I never really gave it much thought, but one day Mr Mahoney didn’t come to work and the word around the store was that he had been admitted to the hospital for some sort of cardiac (heart) treatment. We wondered if he’d ever return, but after a month or so, he did.

He didn’t really run on the treadmill like he had done before, and we all wondered if he’d be able to keep up with the job. As I passed him in the stockroom later that week, I greeted him with my usual “How’s it going?” As soon as it came out, I felt guilty, but his response was still the same. “Better.”

That particular day, we had a little more time and so he went on to explain that every day was better than the one before. Even if things were looking down or not going so well, he knew that he was a stronger man and would grow through whatever circumstances he endured. He knew that each day prepared him for the next and that he was a better man each and every day in spite of his circumstances.

I think I became a better man that day too.

God’s Word:

Philippians 4:12b-13 – I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…… I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Romans 5:3b-4 – ….suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Romans 12:2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Dad’s Word:

Don’t allow garbage thinking to enter your mind. When you watch scary or dirty movies, you invite crazy images and ideas into your mind. When you focus or obsess over things that make you depressed or sad, you will struggle to find hope. Sadness invites “self-absorbed pity-me” thinking which in turn brings more sadness. It’s a vicious cycle that only Christ can break. Think on Him. ‘Cause the opposite is true as well. When we think on Him…when we focus on Him, we see hope in the midst of chaos. We recognize His presence in the craziest of circumstances and we find beauty everywhere we go. He is always working in our midst and when we look for Him, we will find Him. Think on Him. Praise Him when you find Him – cause you will – you will find him – you definitely will.

Famous Words:

Still he (God) seeks the fellowship of his people, and sends them both sorrows and joys in order to detach their love from other things and attach it to himself.” – J.I. Packer

“The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will, I am. Losers on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can’t do.” – Dennis Waitley

“Optimism increases explorative behavior and innovation, which is why so many entrepreneurs are on the optimistic side.” – Tali Sharot

“There’s no such things as ‘idle thoughts;’ every thought reverberates in the body and constructs some reality, for good or ill.” – Leonard Sweet

“Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.” – Winston Churchill

“The shadow proves the sunshine.” – Switchfoot

Song:

Shadow Proves the Sunshine – Switchfoot

 

Primal – A Book Review

PrimalInspired by a trip down a staircase which descended into ancient catacombs, Mark Batterson encourages Christians to be great at the Great Commandment! There, beneath the layers of 2000 years of Christianity and tradition, he imagined the ancient primal form of the Christian faith. In Primal, he takes the reader back in time and reminds him/her of the essentials of the faith. Centering on the Great Commandment (Mk 12:30), Batterson acts as a tour guide exploring the depths of genuine compassion, infinite wonder, insatiable curiosity, and boundless energy – the very ideas that sparked the first-century movement and exploded into the modern Christian faith. Hidden by 2000 years of tradition, Batterson leads the reader to rediscover and reclaim the power within them. Primal uncovers the greatness of the Great Commandment and calls the reader to join the primal force which is revealed by it’s convictions.

Primal is a very interesting read. Batterson has become a great writer and is a master at weaving together personal stories, Scriptural examples, psychological research, and scientific evidence. He also knows how to turn a phrase. Here are some of my favorites:

We’re not great at the Great Commandment.

It’s much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one.

You can give without loving, but you can not love without giving.

The mind is educated with facts, but the soul is educated with beauty and mystery. And the curriculum is creation.

Conclusion: I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reclaiming the Christian faith and pursuing with abandon the Great Commandment. Primal is absolutely the first book you should read in 2010.

More info: www.theprimalmovement.com


PS: Reading Mark Batterson‘s book “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” was truly a life-changing moment for me. Therefore, it’s an incredible joy and honor to have been selected to be a part of his blog tour for this book. I was sent a pre-released copy and asked to post a book review.

Stress: Distress or Eustress?

stress2-smStress is something we’ve all experienced: that feeling right before taking a test (especially if you haven’t studied) or the feelings you get when there are too many things to get done and not enough hours in the day. Maybe it’s the tension in the air when certain people are around. Stress causes us to behave differently, to not think clearly, and in some cases it can cause physical illness or even heart conditions. It can also lead to anxiety or depression. In our “normal” use of the word, stress is not a good thing.

Recently, I heard about a distinction that some are making. They describe two kinds of stress. The first and most commonly used understanding – “distress,” and the second is called “eustress.” Eustress is a positive form of stress – a “good” stress. You know this one too, but probably never considered it stress. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve got a good workout going and your adrenaline is rushing through your veins. It’s the feelings you get when you’re riding a roller coaster or that hopeful concern right before your wedding ceremony. These are all forms of stress too. They cause us to behave differently, to think differently, and can cause physical reactions too, but we place this stress in a different category – for that matter, we don’t even call it “stress,” but use words like excited, nervous, or apprehensive to describe it. Another interesting phenomenon is when both collide. This is seen before childbirth. The physical might be considered distress, while the emotional feelings are typically experienced as eustress.

Interestingly enough, the body cannot discern the difference between distress and eustress. Both are equally draining. It’s important to keep a healthy balance of down time to combat these effects.

Here’s why I went into all this: What if we could trick ourselves? What if we could look at our “distress” situations as “eustress?” Could we take threats and think of them in terms of challenging opportunities? These kinds of ideas really bring me back to the Scripture in Gen 50:20 where Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Can we follow Joseph’s example and see the distress of our lives as something that God can use? Opportunities for Him to show up? Situations where He can be glorified? Areas where we can learn to trust Him more?


Prayer: Lord, You know my stress. I don’t know what the future holds. I won’t have a job in a couple of months or any way to support my family. I feel stressed – distressed. Help me to think differently – to see things as You see them. Help me to understand that this stress is simply another way that You’re at work our lives. Help me to trust You with the situation. Help me to bring You glory and feel exhilarated and excited rather than anxious and depressed. I know You are close to me, but I still feel alone sometimes. Touch me. Comfort me. Allow me to walk in Your Shalom. AMEN.


Boredom

benI just read a post called “Can Do” by Maira Kalman (by the way, it’s a very artistic and beautiful post from the NY Times) and another one by the Jollyblogger called “I Refuse to be Bored.” I thought it was worth posting some of the same ideas here. Here’s a quote about Benjamin Franklin from Kalman’s post:

I don’t think he was ever bored. He saw a dirty street and created a sanitation department. He saw a house on fire and created a fire department. He saw sick people and founded a hospital. He started our first lending library. He saw people needing an education and founded a university. He started the American Philosophical Society where men and women shared developments in science. And then, by the way, he helped create and run the country. He was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

He was never bored??? What?? Is that possible?? I mean think about it – Benjamin Franklin, one of the greatest minds in the world. Isn’t it smart people who get bored?? Aren’t they the ones who understand everything so easily that nothing really intrigues them??

A couple other quotes from the Jollyblogger post:

Boredom is a decision we make, not something [that] happens to us.

The experience of “boredom” says far more about the one claiming to be bored than about the speaker, the event or whatever the alleged cause of the boredom.

If boredom is a choice, we make why do we make that choice? I mean, in all honesty, I get bored pretty easily. I confess that I love to be entertained – to have something to do that engages my mind and body. (Maybe that’s why I like blogging so much.) Can I choose to not be bored? to learn and grow and engage my mind in everything? even in the mundane? Can I choose to do something about the things I think about? It sounds to me like that’s what Benjamin Franklin did. When he saw the dirty street, he didn’t stop with his thoughts, but they motivated him to do something. Action. . . yeah, that’s what keeps us from being bored – action.

As I kid I remember my mom saying, “If you’re bored, you’re boring.” I guess that reflects the Jollyblogger’s idea that boredom says more about the person bored than the speaker or event. Maybe that’s the real problem – I’m boring. Maybe this is a wakeup call – I need to get to work. Start acting on my thoughts and the things that intrigue me.

What action do you need to take today? Maybe it’s something small, but . . .well, if it moves you in the right direction, it’s a good step to take. Maybe a bunch of little steps in the right direction will not only keep us from being bored, but also guide us to an amazing future. And if you’re still bored taking the little step, then take a bigger one. Challenge yourself. Push yourself. Just keep moving forward.

5 Life-Changing Experiences – Education

Romans 12:2 says that it’s the renewing of our minds that leads to transformation. That means education has the potential to be a transforming influence – and for me, it truly has been.

I might, however, define education a little differently than most. True education doesn’t happen in a classroom. Transformational education isn’t necessarily formal. As a matter of fact, to our knowledge, Jesus never taught the disciples in a classroom. He taught them wherever they were using their surroundings and situations as springboards to teach lessons which were easily applicable to their circumstances. He taught them by showing them. As a model for them, he didn’t seek to have them ascend to some greater knowledge or understanding but to have them actually become like Him – to apply the things he taught and live them out – he was interested in their transformation, not mere knowledge.

Me and Mike @ the Dead Sea
Me and Mike @ the Dead Sea

The education I’m speaking of (that which has been life-changing and transformational) has come in many forms in my life. Mike Mathews (my father-in-law and ex-boss/Pastor) discipled me and led me to go deeper in my spiritual life. He challenged my status quo by showing me that there was more. He sent me all over the country (and overseas twice) to go to conferences where I could see new ministry methods, and gain valuable insight into culture. These conferences enlarged my thinking, but when I’d return, it was Mike who came alongside me to encourage new efforts – this is where true transformation happened – in the daily grind of ministry – in working to live out the things I’d been learning.

My time at CBS (College of Biblical Studies) has also been transformational. Dr. Loken, Dr. Shockley, and Dr. Ayers have each stretched my brain capacity, but it has been the experience of working on staff in full-time church ministry which has guided me to transformation. The ideas and concepts which they taught have played out over and over in different circumstances within the church. Through their teachings, I’ve been able to “know what to look for” in order to recognize the real issues going on within the church. My growth has come as I have sought to “be like Christ” in every circumstance. Watching God work in these situations and feeling my way through/learning my role is what has been transformational.

True education (not just knowledge) changes us. The things we learn inform our decisions and affect our behaviors. I have been changed by the education God has granted me – and I’m grateful to Him. I hope to continue to be a student – to continue to be changed/transformed throughout my life.

I’ll close with a quote from Leonard Sweet from his book “Soul Tsunami.”
“In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. . . . Skin replaces itself every month; the stomach lining, every five days; the liver, every six weeks; the skeleton, every three months; cheek cells, three times a day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced every year – your whole body every five years (men) or seven years (women).”

If “education” = “change/transformation” and “no change” = death, then it only makes sense that we should all be concerned about our continued education/transformation. 

Three Translations and my thoughts

I read a post from Mark Batterson’s blog the other day that really stuck out to me. Here’s what he wrote:


Three Translations

Had a thought during one of the sessions today.

There are three ways to translate the Bible.  You can translate it with 1) your mind 2) your heart and 3) your life.

I think a lot of us settle for the mental translation.  But the end result is information.  And what happens is this: we learn more, do less, and think we’re growing spiritually. But not if that’s the only translation.

The second translation is emotional.  And the emotional translation may seem more subjective than intellectual translation.  But that is when our hearts break for the things that break the heart of God.  It’s not just information.  It’s transformation.  For the record, I think one person with one deeply held conviction will make more of a difference than someone with a hundred good ideas.

Finally, there is the life translation.  That is when we become a “living epistle.”  That is when the noun turns into a verb.  And that is how we change the world. At the end of the day, Jesus isn’t going to say, “Well thought good and faithful servant.” He’s going to say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Imagine a church filled with people who are translating the Bible with their lives!


Anyway, I thought it was a great idea. The only way that the Bible makes a difference, is when it’s made a difference in our lives. If it’s only intellectual or emotional, there’s been no real change. The whole thing also reminded me of the old school praise and worship song “Holiness.” The chorus says, “Take my heart and form it. Take my mind transform it. Take my will conform it to yours, to yours, oh Lord.” Mind, heart, and will – sounds a lot like intellect, emotions, and life to me. Anyway, if Mark were gonna preach this idea, that’d be a great commitment song.

I’m also reminded of the old illustration of marriage. A young man may know (mind) a girl and have feelings (heart) for her, but she will not be his until he commits his life to her by saying, “I do.” Maybe we could restate it this way – A man may know the Bible and have a fond appreciation for it, but until he commits to living by it, he goes unchanged.

Prayer: Lord, help me to live by Your Word and not just to know it and appreciate it. AMEN.