When life gets hard, our attitude and outlook on life typically take a nose dive. As you look around and see all the pain and suffering, you sometimes lose hope. You don’t have to look far to see the pain in others either.
I’m sure we would all like to be a little more positive. But at times we wonder if it’s possible.
The apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was in jail. And the theme of that letter is joy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think joy would cross my mind.
Joy in a prison cell is not what you would expect. While I do not want to dig into that particular book today, I would like to share a few practical things that have helped me over the years.
These are simple, but it will take discipline to practice them every day until they become a habit.
The 5 Habits
1. Start the day with gratitude. What better way to start the day than being thankful. I don’t care what’s going on, there has to be at least a half dozen positive things you can identify.
2. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. Every day marketers try to make us unhappy and wanting more stuff. Then when you realize you cannot afford what they are selling, you start feeling down.
3. Be generous. Most people think only of monetary giving when it comes to generosity. And that’s important. But you also may have an opportunity, perhaps today, to be generous with your time or your talents.
4. Exercise. You will feel better and be happier.
5. Eat healthier. I am amazed at the shopping carts in the grocery store filled with soda, ice cream, desserts, and frozen processed food. We treat our cars better. Don’t underestimate the impact of a healthy diet on your energy, attitude, and overall sense of well-being.
So what habits are you starting your day with?
Mark is best known for being the writer of the Gospel of Mark. That in itself would put him in the winner’s circle. Can you imagine being one of forty different authors whom God chose to write the Bible? I cannot even imagine. What an honor. What a privilege. What a WIN!
Winning is fun. Winning alleviates a lot of pain. It makes you forget about your losses.
But Mark didn’t start out in the winner’s circle.
Actually he started out in the loser’s circle.
We first meet Mark in Acts 12:12 when the church met in his mother’s home. Mark must have showed some promise because when Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, Mark accompanied them. It didn’t last long, however. For whatever reason Mark left and went home (Acts 13:13).
A few years later when Paul and Barnabas set out on another journey, Barnabas was ready to give Mark another chance. But Paul was not so keen on the idea. Perhaps he thought Mark was lazy, uncommitted, or lacked the necessary skills. He may not have been up to the travel physically. We don’t know.
Although I don’t know how Mark felt, I know to be rejected by Paul had to hurt deeply. Rejection is never easy, but to be rejected by one of your heros multiplies the pain.
A sharp disagreement ensued, and Barnabas wound up leaving Paul and sailing to Cyprus with Mark. Evidently it got pretty heated. “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39 ESV). Paul is vehemently saying, “I don’t want him on my team.” OUCH!
Towards the end of Paul’s life he writes to Timothy and asks him to bring Mark with him. In 2 Timothy 4:11 he says, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”
As you can see, Mark is now considered valuable to the apostle Paul. I’d call that a win.
Clearly there were some hard feelings earlier, but these two men overcame those and were once again a team.
You need to understand Paul’s high estimation of Mark at this point. He is a lonely man since everyone but Luke has left him. To consider Mark very useful at this point says a lot about Mark. This was the guy who bailed earlier. Paul was not afraid of that now. Obviously Mark had grown personally over the years, and Paul noticed. Quite possibly Barnabas, Mark’s older cousin, was a huge inspiration to Mark’s personal development.
What did Mark do? What can we do in order to arrive in the winner’s circle?
1. Never give up on yourself.
There are only 32 NFL head coaches. It’s hard to believe you can actually make it into that elite group and be considered a loser. But some are. That’s how hard life can be.
One reason I love football is that there are so many parallels to life within the sport. For one, attitude plays such a huge role among NFL coaches. They all experience losing. Yet they all act like winners. How? Bob LaMonte, a sports agent who works with NFL coaches, said, “When I talk to a winning coach on Monday morning, I often detect that his mood isn’t much different than that of a losing coach.”
For another, it’s a game of second chances. As I write this the Seattle Seahawks have just won the Super Bowl. The coach is Pete Carroll. Several years ago Pete coached the New York Jets and totally bombed out. He was criticized for his coaching skills. When he returned to the NFL as the Seahawks coach, he was criticized for his drafting skills. In fact, some said the 2012 draft proved he couldn’t coach. Needless to say, it was in that draft that he chose Russell Wilson, the current starting quarterback, along with a few others who were on the roster of the Super Bowl winning team.
Pete Carroll never gave up on himself.
Neither can you.
2. Surround yourself with people who have your back. You need at least one person who is going to hang with you and encourage you. For Mark it was Barnabas. Who is going to be your cheerleader? Who is going to go through the tough spots with you. Oprah once said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
How often do think about the company you keep? How often do you think of the influence they are having in your life? Are the people in your life the ones who will help you get to the winner’s circle?
Some are with you only because it’s convenient.
3. Add value to others. Near the end of his life Paul said Mark was helpful to his ministry. That is, Mark brought something to the table. Not only was Mark valuable to Paul, but Mark also spent time with Peter, another of the apostles (1 Peter 5:13). And we would all admit that the Gospel of Mark has added tremendous value over the years to millions of people.
Think of several ways you can add value to someone: Have a cup of coffee with someone and offer encouragement, spend time with someone, run an errand, etc. You could give someone you know a book on marriage, finances, ….Abraham Lincoln said, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” The list is endless. Start today adding value to others.
Had Mark given up, Paul and Peter would have lost out. The world would have lost out. If you allow failure to define you as a loser, you will never make it to the winner’s circle.
As little kids we were taught, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Wow! Who thought that one up? And who passed that rhyme along? There is absolutely no truth in it, yet it gets repeated continually.
We all know it’s a lie. Words do hurt. We have been hurt by words. Right now you are recalling some hurtful words that were said to you.
Perhaps you are also recalling words that you said. It’s too late to take them back. Yes, you wish you could. But once they come out there is no taking back.
Plus they are rarely forgotten. Sadly, some we take all the way to the grave.
Many are said due to anger. We allow anger to take over and we let the words fly. Later we apologize, but the damage is done.
In 2 Samuel 16:5-14 David has lost the throne and is on his way out of town. One of his enemies, Shimei, berates him. His criticism of David goes over the top. There are some relational issues going on as Shimei was from the tribe of Benjamin just like Saul. Saul is now dead, but Shimei is still loyal to Saul, not David.
Time moves on. In 1 Kings 2:8-10 David comes toward the end of his life and gives his son Solomon some final counsel. Here David recounts the hurtful words Shimei leveled against him years earlier.
Those words still hurt. David had not forgotten them.
He took those hurtful words all the way to the grave. That’s sad. Perhaps even in your own life, perhaps even in your marriage you have said some words that you can’t take back.
We have all said things we wish we hadn’t. It’s time to move on. From here on out you can do a couple of things.
1. Stop. You don’t have to immediately say what has come into your mind.
2. Think. Not everything has to be said. Some things are better left unsaid. That little zinger you want to let fly will add nothing to the relationship.
3. Multiply. Research suggests that one negative can undo twenty positives. Do you realize now the power of hurtful words?
4. Ask. Is it helpful? Will this help the situation or exasperate it? Am I saying this while I am still upset and angry?
5. Proceed. If it is helpful and you have control over your emotions you will do a much better job communicating.
Just remember, if you fail to do these things your words may very well hurt…all the way to the grave!
A little girl starts out having princess birthday parties. She dresses up. She starts looking around and asking Am I pretty enough?
Then she becomes a teenager and asks Am I thin enough? In college she wonders Am I smart enough? When she moves along in her career she asks Am I successful enough? She gets married and her thoughts are Am I good enough? With the first child comes Am I providing enough?
The questions, the doubts, and the scarcity mindset flood our insecure minds. We jump on Facebook and Instagram and count up the number of likes. Do I have enough likes? Probably not. In fact, enough never is quite enough. So we continue to live in shame, insecurity, and self doubt.
What if there was some truth in the idea that we will never measure up? What if that was, in some ways, good news?
One of the more fascinating passages in the Bible is in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Fascinating because this particular passage is right in the middle of several chapters of genealogies. Most skip these. After all they don’t tend to hold our attention very well.
There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request. (NLT)
Just two verses. But notice his attitude. He knew he was lacking and that was a good thing. It was that feeling of not being enough that drove Him to the Lord to ask for God’s blessing on his life. God has enough; actually, He has plenty. When I was a little boy I went to my dad because he had more than I did.
Before we get to Jabez, we have to read through forty-three other names. Why is Jabez given two verses? The writer of the book of Chronicles puts an emphasis on prayer in the book. Could it be that he stopped at Jabez because Jabez put an emphasis on prayer in his own life?
As a believer, one of the healthiest attitudes we can have is one of scarcity, which in turn leads us to an attitude of abundance because we have been driven to God in prayer. God’s abundant grace is available to those who pray. Our focus is taken off of ourselves and put on the Lord. That’s healthy.
Apparently Jabez’s life didn’t start out so well. We are not given the details and it really doesn’t matter. The family may have had very little, or perhaps his mother was a single mom, or maybe his mother died in childbirth.
Just as the writer of Chronicles did not focus on Jabez’ background, so it also doesn’t matter where you find yourself at this particular stage in your life. Perhaps you are living in an era of scarcity. Don’t let that discourage you. Let it drive you to prayer so that God can change your attitude to one of abundance.
That is what happened for Jabez. He began to ask God to bless him, enlarge his territory, and provide protection so that his life would never go back to a point where he was living without God’s help.
Let’s break this passage into three parts, which will lead to three action items–three things you need to do.
Oh, that you would bless me…
1. Pray every day for God’s abundance. It may be that you need more patience. Maybe it’s more kindness. We could all use a little more self control. I don’t know what you need to pray for, but when God invades your life and abundance is noticed, God is glorified.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:8 (ESV)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a (NLT)
God is able to produce abundance in your life. So ask for it.
…expand my territory!
2. Get ready for more. If you are praying for ten more clients, are you ready to service ten more clients? Maybe you aren’t ready, so God hasn’t answered your prayer yet.
Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!
3. Stay dependent. Once God blesses you, there will be the temptation to believe you did it through your personality, your talents, your giftedness, or your training. Don’t fall into that trap.
Listen to Zechariah 4:6 (ESV) Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
Let go of your scarcity attitude and replace it with an attitude of abundance.
Is there a cure for the common cold? Well, not exactly. But we all wish there was. And there are some things you can do to prevent from getting one. If you don’t do those things, you are likely to get a cold. When do colds tend to hit you? At the worst possible time.
While Carol and I were in Rome, just before we were to come home, I came down with the dreaded common cold. Thankfully it was not as bad as it could have been and did not interfere with the things we wanted to do. However, I still wanted to be prepared in case it got bad, so I went to a local pharmacy and picked up some nasal spray. Fortunately, they had one bottle written in English so I knew what I was getting.
When I’m at home, my game plan for curing the common cold is to not get one in the first place.
Not long ago my son Gabe came down with a cold. Now, everyone in our house knows I get paranoid when someone gets a cold. Actually, they would say that paranoid is an understatement.
After all, I have to speak every Sunday and I want to be at my best. Plus, I just don’t like colds.
So in my typical fanatical fashion, I questioned everyone to check up on how often they were washing their hands. And I monitored what they were touching. I don’t even touch door knobs when this kind of thing hits our house!
To top it off, Gabe was banned from using my iPad. Yes, I go a little over the top. But, hey, I don’t get very many colds.
Sadly, most of us are not very fanatical about things that contaminate our marriages, our health, or our finances.
We could sit down and come up with a long list of things that destroy us and our relationships or our physical health.
Things like sugar, but who wants to cut down on sugar? And no one is touting it as a great food source.
I can’t believe how many marriages have been affected by an unhealthy overdose of sports. For many, sports is contaminating their relationships.
My spiritual walk with God can be contaminated by busyness, overcommitment, bad attitudes, and irresponsibility.
We could go on, but you get the point. Go radical on contamination. We allow way too many things into our lives that should not be allowed.
And don’t forget that even good things can contaminate. It could be a person, a food group, or a thing.
The bottom line is this: Are you taking contamination seriously?
For me my dad was my role model when it comes to work. Granted, he could be called a workaholic with total justification. And he did go overboard. Perhaps it had something to do with his childhood. He never finished the 8th grade, and his family was very poor with little indoor plumbing, if you know what I mean. Let’s just say that if you had to go to the bathroom in the winter time you made it quick!
However, he taught me some things that will always be a part of me.
Another person who I have admired from a distance is Jack Welch, the well known former CEO of GE. Once he was asked about the secret to success.
Without hesitating he unequivocally said, “Find out what your boss wants and then over-deliver.”
My dad personified that.
Here were a few of his work rules. I use the word rules because in my dad’s way of thinking this is simply the way it is. Any other approach was simply unacceptable.
1. Show up ten minutes early. Hit the ground running. Walk around and make sure everyone has what they need to start the day. We all know how easy it is to waste the first ten minutes of a work day.
2. Stay late. Walk around the job site and start planning for the next day. Even today successful business people suggest that one of their secrets to success is planning the next day the day before.
3. Know what your boss wants done. For those of us working for dad this was easy. He was more than very clear as to what he expected.
4. Then exceed those expectations. Here is how it played out for my dad. He was a crane operator in the steel erection business. While the guys were eating lunch my dad would wipe down the crane and keep it spotless. Put an emphasis on “spotless” and you get an idea of what I am talking about. That would exceed anyone’s expectations. And no one would ever expect you to do it during lunch!
5. Never lower the bar. My dad never did.
And one day someone noticed. Outside the company. When this particular person was looking for a business partner for his company, he thought of my dad. And my dad was offered an opportunity that changed his life.
My dad never set out to run and own his own business. It was the furthest thing from his mind. He didn’t set out to be different. He never set out to WOW others.
He just did those five things and he stood out at work. And it paid off in a big way. Anyone can do these five things. This week you can stand out at work.
Will you? It’s your choice.
On the other hand, we also want our bosses at work to trust us to get the job done.
I don’t remember exactly when it happened for me. While working for my dad in steel erection it was not unusual for him to pop up on the job site at random times. Actually he tended to show up like some type of stealth bomber. No one ever saw him drive up, but then all of a sudden there he was!
And if there was a loose bolt on the job he noticed it. Yes, even if there were 2,368 bolts. If there was just one loose he saw it. He simply had that type of uncanny ability.
To be fair dad often showed up just to show up. He would chat with the guys for a little bit and then off he went.
Then one day I noticed. A month went by and dad never showed up even one time.
While dad never questioned my work or my ability to get the job done, he was not much on verbal affirmation.
His actions however, spoke volumes.
Before, I knew he trusted me, now I KNEW he trusted me.
It reminds me of a verse in Genesis. While Joseph was in prison “the chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge…”
He was trustworthy at work.
Can the same be said about you? What can you do today to become even more trustworthy?
In my last two posts I talked about the NFL Playoffs regarding your passion and personal discipline.
Today let’s move to your workplace.
What do the following have in common?
Lack of motivation.
Answer: Poor attitude. We can spot it from a distance. We despise it in others, yet we tolerate it in ourselves.
Attitude, the third and final part of your personal PDA, is all important.
Yet all of us are susceptible to a bad attitude. Actually it can happen in an instant.
Life has a way of doing that to us. Our car breaks down or we get a cold right as we are beginning a vacation. Yes, things like this can happen at the worst possible time.
Our attitude affects us, those around us, our view of the future, our assessment of the present, and how determined we will be in facing new challenges.
Our attitude is one of our greatest assets. You know that already. If you could choose between two people with whom to work, little skill/great attitude, or highly skilled/bad attitude, my guess is you are going with the great attitude.
Skills can be taught. Attitudes not so much.
Your attitude is either helping you or hindering you.
The good news is you can choose your attitude.
Choose wisely and live at a higher level. You will be happier and so will those around you!
Before you get the idea that I am a little out of date, I am not talking about digital technology. Plus most of us have converted to using our phones as our PDAs.
I want to address three huge issues in all of our lives. As you know I often draw life lessons from the sports world, and while watching this past weekend these three stood out and were difference makers.
If one of these three is missing you may wind up beating yourself.
Let me illustrate.
P is for Passion. Even sports fans have little desire to watch games that lack passion. It’s not unusual for NBA fans to skip most of the regular season and only tune in for the playoffs. I confess, I fit into that category.
During the San Francisco/Carolina game Steve Smith brought the passion in the first half. However, after he got banged up he showed less passion. As his passion subsided so did the teams.
It’s not unusual for one person on a team to fuel the passion for the rest of the team. During the second half as Carolina’s passion weakened the game eventually got away from them.
A high level of passion would have made a difference in the second half and perhaps changed the outcome of the game.
Passion alone can sometimes make all the difference.
So when you head out the door take passion with you. Take it to work. Take it to your next meeting. Take it to your next conversation.
Passion; How is the first trait of your personal PDA?
Following the interview, guess what? He had to wait. Waiting turned into anxiety and worrying.
Now his question:
All I’m doing is sitting around worrying. What do I do about that?
No doubt we all have our questions, our unanswerable questions.
What if I don’t get the job?
Will my kids ever get on track?
Can my marriage survive?
Now let me be candid. I would love to have the answers at my fingertips. But if I did, I would most likely simply be blowing smoke.
I’m not sure why Moses had to herd sheep for forty years.
Why did God allow Daniel to be thrown into the lion’s den because he faithfully prayed three times a day?
Life is filled with uncertainty and we don’t always get the phone call we wanted. Wouldn’t we all like to have everything work out all the time?
Here is what we can do. This comes from one of Jesus’ talks on worry. Actually it seems like He is having a case of ADD. In Matthew 6 verse 25 Jesus essentially tells us that we must trust in the providence of God.
And in the middle of His talk, He says, “Look at the birds…” Sounds like something we would say when we get distracted. But Jesus was not distracted. He simply wants us to realize that if God is concerned about these small creatures how much more does He love and care for us.
The birds don’t just fly around and expect food to magically appear in their nests. They do their part. But they are not worrying about their sustenance.
So how do we overcome our anxiety? Simple, but not easy.
Accept that you have done all you can do. You have gone through the interview. You have prayed about the situation. You took the necessary steps.
Believe that God has your best interests in mind. Our desires are not always the best.
Commit it all to the Lord.
With that said, does that mean the anxiety will leave? Sometimes no, because we allow uncertainty to make us anxious.
Perhaps the best way to sum it up is like Jesus did. “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) Devotion to God is a prerequisite for the peace that we long for in the midst of uncertainty.
Put God first and you will have no reason to worry.
Why worry when you can trust God?