Uncertain?

 

I am sure you have seen the comments about the pandemic from the news media, your friends on social media, and probably family members and close friends. People who are experts in one area are now experts on the pandemic too. I believe we will all do well to press into God and listen to His voice, especially during these times of uncertainty.
We don’t know what the future holds; we I know who holds the future. No joke. I also know that even if I knew what the future had in store for me, I cannot do one thing about it except watch and wait. So, I sit at my home, just like you, and wait to see what’s next.

uncertaintyWhile I wait, I pray that my faith stays strong. I pray to shut out all the “experts” who are not experts, and I pray to take things seriously and also not to overreact.
I remind myself when the semi-experts begin to talk that God empowered professionals to study medicine and all kinds of diseases. I will listen to them. Also, I remind myself that everything is not a conspiracy. So when I read where people are spreading innuendo and gossip, I move right pass them. Listen, this is the time to trust God and listen to the scientists and medical experts.
I am no medical expert, nor am I a Biblical scholar. I am, on the other hand, a Believer. Not just a Sunday Believer, but an every day, Bible read and prayer Believer. I know that God has a plan and purpose for each of us. I do trust that His will be done. I also have to trust what the medical experts tell me and take their guidance seriously. So I wash my hands regularly, stay away from crowds, go out to exercise alone, and then I go back to my house and remain unless there is an urgent need.

Like you, I don’t like uncertainty. What keeps me going? Believing what the Word of God tells me. 2 Timothy1:7, “For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-faithoverfearcontrol.” So I try very hard not to fear, but to trust. His Word says in John 14:18, “I will not leave you desolate: I will come unto you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” So, I remind myself the God is here right amid this uncertainty. He said He would be, so I will not fear. The scripture that really speaks to me during these times of uncertainty is found in Psalms 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Feeding my mind with the Word of God rather than people reduces my anxiety.

There is no doubt that uncertainty fuels fear. However, faith can help us to overcome that fear. Recognize that having faith does mean we are void of fear; it means we can look at fear and trust God despite what we see or feel.
I want to encourage you today. If you do not generally read, start reading your Bible each day. Also, stop and say a simple prayer and remember to think about the needs of others. These acts will reduce your anxiety. More importantly, these acts will take the focus off yourself and cause you to care for the needs of your family, friends, and neighbors. These acts are contagious and will have a domino effect that can impact your attitude and the attitudes of those around you.

Brokenness…

I read something recently that said in sum, “when we figure out just how broken an individual may be, it is easier to show them more grace.”  I had to think about that for a minute. However, not too long after reading that post, I had to agree.

Some say “hurt people, hurt people.” Others, like me, understand what is being said, but I have a problem buying it.  Why is it that some hurt people go out of their way to be brokennessbetter? What causes them to recognize their brokenness and say, I will not do that to others? What makes some so different in their approach to their brokenness than others?  Is it that not everyone is able or capable of looking inward? Is it that it’s just hard to see how our actions affect others?

I cannot explain away the actions of others. Brokenness is a variety of things from broken hearts to messy lives and imperfections. For some, it is a way of demanding pity while for others, it is something that has motivated them to change the world.  In the Bible, brokenness means one who is crushed and torn, yet they are at the point of repentance. For example, look at David.  When Nathan confronted David about the horrible things he had done, after Nathan’s long rebuke, David said in 2 Samuel 12, “I have sinned against God.” David is known as a “man after God’s heart.”  He admitted his failure and sins. He didn’t make excuses, he owned what he had done wrong.

Don’t ever forget that we are all broken in some way. The Bible tells us that “we were born in sin and shaped in iniquity.” Therefore, we are capable of horrible things too.  What can help with dealing with brokenness? Who can cause us to exercise self-control when life becomes messy?  The Holy Spirit.  John 14:1 says, “do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in Me (Jesus). Another scripture says, “Come to me, all you who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). He will help with our brokenness.

Do we show more grace when we learn of a person’s brokenness? Maybe. I would like to think I do. Brokenness is no excuse to hurt others. Brokenness doesn’t give another person that right. However, when they do hurt me, I hope I am big enough to forgive them and pray for them more than once even if they never acknowledge, admit, or own up to their actions.

Think on These Things

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Each year many of us take into account what happened during the previous year. We stop and reflect. We also establish goals that we have the sincerest desire to accomplish. I, too, set goals every year. However, this year, I am most interested in one thing—God’s perfect peace and His will for my life.

As old as I am, I never expected that I would be caught up in the same stuff I was caught up in during my early years. Yet, last year, that’s exactly what I found myself doing. I was continually battling; battling trust issues, as well as competition, and other stress-related issues. I am not a worrier at all, but I found myself doing that too. For many years I have written and talked about my belief that fear and faith cannot coexist. However, during the last year, I found myself dealing with worry a great deal of the time. I dealt with ups and downs and constantly questioned my abilities. I questioned my ability to select the right relationships and I even questioned my overall judgment. Throughout the year, I feel, I was battling crazy people and the crazy ideas that were bouncing around in my head.

As I reflect on that time, I recall teaching a class over years titled “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyers. What Joyce talks about in that book is how to win the battle that goes on in our minds. What comes to mind now is that a woman like me, who has taught many people regarding thinking positively and relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit to help, found myself, battling the negative voices in my mind and intentionally trying to think positively in spite of my challenges. I desperately relied on the Holy Spirit to help me. Still, to turn around and find myself feeling doubt, confusion, anger, fear, and many other negative feelings caused me to feel condemned. 

I know the Scripture. I know that “there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1. I also know that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, but does not condemn us. Why then, was I feeling condemned? I was suffering from negative thoughts although I read my Bible daily. I began reading and consuming more of the Bible and other positive faith-based books that would help to edify my mind with positive thoughts.

The Word of God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “ Do not be anxious for anything, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I remember running during the early morning and repeating that scripture to myself. I also read Think on These Things by John Maxwell and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. I was in prayer constantly, asking God to keep me in perfect peace during my most trying times. I reminded God that His Word said that He would keep me in perfect peace if I kept my mind on Him, so I tried to keep my mind on Him. God is so good. What I found was, when my days got too frustrating, too disturbing, and I wanted to throw my hands up and walk away, God would have someone send me a word of encouragement. I would get an invitation to go and speak somewhere, or some small thing would happen that was bigger than what I was experiencing but spoke volumes that it was God. He would reassure me and encourage me. 

I share this to say to you, do not be discouraged; do not be afraid. God knows what is going on with you. He knows the ups and He knows the downs. He cares for you and is willing to step in and help you through it all. Trust Him and when your times get hard, trust Him more. Remember, we are bombarded each day with all kinds of negative thoughts. Don’t let them overtake you. When the voices get loud, let the Word of God get louder. You won’t hear God, though, if you let the negative words saturate your thoughts each day, and you sit idly by and let that happen.

How do you combat those negative voices? The answer is found in Philippians 4:8: “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

A New Year. There Was a Lesson in the Challenge…

When I hear someone try to tell me that a challenge I am facing will help me grow, I challengeswant to say hogwash! However, at my age, I can honestly say that many of my challenges have equipped me for greater things. I know, I know, you might say that I am only saying that because I haven’t faced what you are facing. That may be the case, but you never know what people go through. We don’t really share our deepest troubles on social media. At least I don’t.

Anyway, I would like to share a little about what I have endured over the last year and point out along the way that repeated challenges can get to any of us. Trust me, they have gotten to me. As for me, however, I choose to move beyond them. I learned long ago not to hold onto stuff. If you allow your challenges to get the best of you, you will most assuredly become beaten down, you may get despondent and decide to check out altogether. Counter your challenges. Find joy elsewhere, and I don’ mean in a bottle of drugs either. Find it in a walk, a run, with an animal, at a spa. Just find it.
I find joy in Christmas. The reason I love Christmas so much isn’t because of presents; it is in the people I get to share life with. The hustle and bustle of Christmas can be exhausting, but I always feel joy this time of year. This past year has been one of the most challenging I have experienced in a very long time. Things I thought I was done with years ago, visited me again but in grand design this year. I had not felt the sting of a person trying to demoralize and marginalize me in such a long time, that to experience it at this stage in life really shook me. I had to take stock of my life over and over again. I kept telling myself, “You must be crazy. You don’t need this. Why are you subjecting yourself to this?” I would ask God repeatedly if I was doing the right thing by remaining quiet, ignoring the actions of others, and staying the course. When I was about to throw in the towel, I would get an impression from God that I was supposed to stay the course. What I heard from God was this: “LaSharnda, don’t give up. I didn’t make you that way. Besides, trust me. I am teaching you a lesson. There is always a lesson in the challenge.” So I said, “Ok, Lord.”
At one point during the year, I felt that I was at my wit’s end. I was on my morning run, suddenly, a scripture began to play in my head over again. The scripture was Isaiah 43: 19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Well, of course, I felt God was about to break the cycle I had been experiencing. I waited and waited, and nothing happened. I got discouraged again. Too many things gave me hope throughout the year, only to get my expectations up and dashed back. To this day, I still do not know what God is doing in my life, but what I do know is that I am a different person today than I was a year ago. I know that I have learned some powerful lessons through my challenges.
Challenges can cause flight or fight, and even the strongest among us can get to the point of flight. Don’t feel bad when you finally throw your hands up and walk away, but before you do, I want you to ask yourself, “What lesson am I supposed to learn in this?” Take your time, pray, trust God, and trust yourself. Look at the challenge and determine what brought it on and decide what you can do about it. You always have a choice; you don’t have to put up with anything. However, you may learn to trust God more and rely on yourself less.
If you decide to stay the course, you may find that He is equipping you for something far more significant and even better than what you had before. The skills you develop during the challenges are skills you will take with you to the next level. You may also find that you are stronger, tougher, and brighter than you thought.

Learn from the past and look to the future.  God is about to do a new thing. Can’t you see it?

 

Determine to Live Positive

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Topic: Be Determined to Live Positive
Recently, I’ve watched the most positive people go from 100 % to zero in a short time. I have observed how joy has left them. I have even watched people slip into a state of worry and despair. I have seen people who are generally upbeat, happy, and joyful destroyed by the words and actions of others. Words that anyone would understand as being belittling, denigrating, and disrespectful. I have been left wondering what has happened in a person’s life that causes them to treat people so horribly.
As I have watched these kinds of situations, I have also watched my reactions to bad behavior. What have I learned? To be careful about who I vent and share my deepest feelings. The betrayed becomes the betrayer. Those you think you have something in common with, may not be the ones you can trust. Don’t think for a minute because you are having the same issues as another person that you can share with that person. If you do, be careful. You might end up in a deep dark well trying to crawl your way back up. It is so easy to fall into talking and talking because it seems like you are getting the frustration off your chest.
The positivity you generally feel gets lost in those conversations, and before long, you begin to talk negatively—defeatism sets in—and you will begin to act negatively; no longer experiencing joy and happiness. So, what is the solution? I think I found it in Romans 12:21.
“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” This scripture is easier to read than it is to do. I think what I can offer is something I learned from another author who said, “be the best where you are. God is preparing you.” This hit me like a ton of bricks because as a Believer, this should be my daily mantra. Honestly, you can tell if people are out for your best interests. If you pull away from the drama and refuse to allow yourself to get caught up talking and talking, watch how those you confided in react. Don’t get caught up. If you have (I have before) decide to pull away and don’t engage anymore.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…”
Instead of seeking conversations that will keep you depressed, and questioning who you are, seek God’s guidance. Call on Him, go to Him, and pray. His Word says He will listen to you. Who better to talk to than the most excellent Counselor?

Consider it Pure Joy…

Hand lettering Count it all Joy, James 1:2. Biblical background. Text from the Bible Old Testament. Christian verse, Vector illustration isolated on white background

I was sitting in the early morning hours reading my Bible. I do this every day no matter what.  Anyhow, I was beginning to read, yet again, the Book of James.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have read my Bible in its entirety, and as many times as I have read the Bible, I am certain I have read James much more. This time I got stuck reflecting on the first couple of verses—

  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of 

                    many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces 

                    perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature

                    and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should

                    ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given

                    to you.”

As I was reading these verses, I had an epiphany and I thought to myself, the reason some people do not succeed in life is because they have not learned how to look at their challenges as learning and growing experiences. They allow their circumstances to define whether they will live joyful and victorious lives. God wants us to be joyful and content regardless of our circumstances because there will always be a lesson we can learn from them.

Let me explain what I mean.  Every time I have faced something in my personal or professional life, in hindsight, I can see where God was maturing me.  Not only did I learn how to cope with a person or situation, I learned how to rely on Him more and less on myself. When I learned to trust Him and not turn to others (who will only gossip or cause you to doubt yourself) He provided me with the insight I needed to not only survive, but to thrive.  Also, when I turned to Him, He allowed me to see that I was growing in some skillset that I would later leverage in my personal or professional life.

“Consider it pure joy…” means not to worry or get stressed over a situation that you cannot control. It means to rest in the Lord and to be still and allow His work to be done in and through you. It means to trust Him and do so with a joyful heart. If you trust Him, you will probably be a lot more positive and relaxed.

During those times when you become frustrated, short with others, and impatient with the situation, know you won’t remain in that condition for long. Why? The Holy Spirit will remind you that faith tested builds perseverance and perseverance causes you to completely mature in all that you do.  If you don’t know how to face your challenges with joy, ask God. He will give you the answers you need.

Positive Faith?

The early morning hours, I got up before dawn like I usually do, and just sat and reflected on Thanksgiving.  As is my habit, I got up to read my Bible and began to write in my prayer journal.  “What would I write today?  Don’t I thank God every day for my family, friends, and colleagues? Don’t I take the time each day and thank Him for protecting them? I always thank Him for so many things in my life.”  Yes, I do these things each day, but this time, I sat in deep thought, reflecting on my life.  I thought about the article I write each month for my column, The Power of Positive Faith, and asked myself “what does that mean?”

Many times people who write aren’t writing to sell books or to become popular. They write to share stories that they feel might make some kind of positive impact on the lives of others. At least, that’s what I do and believe others do the same.  When I share my thoughts about the Power of Positive Faith, I try to think of the things that I feel makes my life better because I choose to embrace the attitude of being positive in just about every situation that might frustrate or anger me.  I am not naive, and I recognize that it is hard to do and I think some people may think that when I write about being positive, I am not being realistic.

I have heard comments such as “you can’t always be positive” or “it’s not practical to think that you can maintain a positive attitude in all situations.” That may be true, but that may not be true also. Many people face difficult challenges and great hardships and, yet, are able to force themselves to look for the light in the dark tunnel.  They seek out hope, and they don’t readily give in to disaster.  Some people maintain the faith of Noah; even when they have to face huge uncertainties, they remain steadfast and sure.

What is faith if it isn’t positive? Faith in God is positive. Faith in humanity is positive. Confidence in yourself is positive also.  So, I see faith as being a positive characteristic.  If I look at faith through my religious belief, I also see it as having a positive connotation attached to it.  To me, faith means to hope, to be assured, to trust, and to have confidence. These words trigger positive images for me.  In a more personal context, my Bible relates faith as being positive. For example, a favorite scripture is found in Hebrews 11:1 which states, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Thanksgiving, gratitude, assurances, trust, and hope all come from a place of positivity. There is power in maintaining an attitude that helps us turn our darkest moments into moments of faith that today, tomorrow or next week will be better. For those who do that, tomorrow is better.

The Art of the Dance…

blackdancersOver the years of working in government and then in higher education, as well as the years I have lived on this earth, I believe I know of one sure thing that keeps people from being successful, not only at work but in life.  That’s their inability to get along with others. Like it or not, people skills are just as important, if not more important, than technical skills. In fact, you may not need any other skill when dealing with others than to skill of understanding how to get along with people. It amazes me when I see very smart people who find themselves isolated and wondering why. I have had such folks explain how they are feeling at work; they say no one includes them or they feel left out.  When I move away all the peripheral, it becomes clear that the reasons they may feel the waythey do are because they haven’t learned the art of the dance.

That Art of the Dance is a slogan I came up with after watching a few people at work who  said they felt isolated.

There was a person who was highly competent but he could not seem to gain the buy-in of his peers.  It wasn’t that he didn’t get along with one person, he didn’t get along withany of them!  I watched and determined that he did not set out to alienate them, but he did not have the emotional intelligence developed enough to figure out how to get them to accept him.  He was very professional, highly intelligent, very candid, and easily took prisoners as he entered into his counterparts’ areas.  It was his job to check on things; but he was checking on things in his peers’ areas.  He had a job to do and he did it and did it well.  What he neglected to think about was not what he had to do, but how he should go about doing it. Thus, he alienated himself from the entire leadership team.

Look, you may read this and think of someone you know who may have done the exact same thing this person had done.  I found myself doing the same. One day he stopped in my office and asked me how did he had done in a particular meeting.  It dawned on me that he valued input from someone he thought he could get friendly, yet candid, feedback from.  I thought about every response because he was seeking help. I talked to him for an hour and gave him plenty of feedback. Finally,  at one point,  I looked at him and said, “You haven’t learned how to dance with your partners.”  He looked at me and understood right away what I meant.

This is what I meant.  We all come to the party (organization) with different skills, abilities, and knowledge. I think we all come wanting to do a good job and yes, we even want to be recognized for our contributions.  The things we tend to rely on are those skills and abilities, sometimes never considering our delivery; never thinking about the benefits of having high emotional intelligence and most often never watching to see what steps our partners may be taking as we both dance around issues that need to be worked on together.

I don’t care how big we become; I don’t care how much we know, if people don’t think we care, we can ruin our ability to make an impact on them. If you haven’t figured out how to let others get pass your hard core that may come through in the way you speak, the way your act or the way you refuse to interact, they may walk off the dance floor and never return.

Before pushing your way forward, stop and observe.  Watch your partner’s steps and learn how to dance well together.

 

Attitude Changes Everything…

positiveattitudechangeseverythingYou ever watch people and wonder why some are successful and others are not? Lately, that’s exactly what I have done.  I am not talking about success only in terms of financial wealth or status. I am talking about how people deal with life, their jobs, families, relationships, or their personal goals.

I have met people who could find one job after another with no problem and others who were always out of work and when they finally landed a good job, they were immediately in conflict with their bosses and let go.  I have known leaders in organizations who were confident and candid, thought of as rude, yet quite successful and other leaders who were thin-skinned and passive-aggressive, who were thought of as nice, yet stuck in place. I have seen strong and independent types as well as weak and co-dependent types.  I think about the people who were genuine and those who were phony. When I think about different people, especially the ones that were not happy or joyful; the ones who were anxiety-ridden and those who were highly insecure, I believe I have found the reasons some people thrive in life and others do not–it’s their Attitude!

First, I believe there are physical and psychological problems people deal with every day. I do not deny that people have real physiological and mental problems. However, I also know that many times success in life has very little to do with a medical issue, it has everything to do with how people see their world.

positiveattitudesmileyfaceHow do you see the world? How is your their attitude towards whatever it is you are dealing with? Do you see the glass half-empty or half-full? Do you see your part in making sure your relationships work or do you rely on others to do all the heavy lifting? What kind of attitude do you have?

Quite frankly, if you are a Believer, I have never understood a “Believer” with a negative attitude.  I just don’t.  A positive attitude is foundational to a Believer. How? Because you have faith in Christ.  That faith translates to trust—you trust that “All things work together for good” or you trust that “If He is for you, who can be against you?” Faith and Trust = Optimism. Optimism is positive. Your positive attitude will not allow you to continue to embrace anger, bitterness, jealousy, anxiety, worry, or pride; which are all negative!  These traits will not allow you to live a successful life. What will help you live a successful life?  Being intentional, understanding that changing from negativity to positivity takes time, and by asking God for help. In Philippians 4:6 we are told: “Do not be anxious for anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  We are also told in Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 

You want to be successful? Stop being the victim, stop blaming others for what’s happened to you, stop making excuses for not changing your life.  Remember, It’s Your Life, Own It.  It does not matter what has happened in your past, what matters is God can help you change your negative responses to situations to positive ones.  My question is, Do you want Him to help you?

What If…?

what-if-300x152What if people would really try to listen to one another?  What if we would truly seek to understand another person’s point of view rather than always trying to push our own? What if we would speak less and listen more? What if we would forgive more? What if each person would live their own life to the fullest and try to enjoy each moment of each day? What if….?

At times recently, I have sat back and wondered why there is so much negativity in the world today? It’s not just on social media and it’s not just with a certain group, it’s all around.  I have considered this a lot lately especially when I see things happening around me that seem to go awry without any real reason behind it going awry. It seems the smallest thing is blown into something big and it didn’t have to be that way if only each person would have simply listened to each other.

I have also thought about the things that make me feel good and behave in a positive manner and those things that make me shake my head and retreat. You see, if I didn’t retreat, I would get entangled in the same arguments I see others entangled in. I would be in the midst of conflict and confrontation which in no way would create a sense of peace. Just think about it for a minute; positive actions most times create positive reactions and negative actions cause, in so many cases, negative reactions.

When we don’t listen to each other, we have decided within ourselves to be passively combative.  Combativeness creates friction, which can come in the form of angry words, nasty actions and ultimately un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness kills us slowly. Un-forgiveness feeds negativity.  The Bible warns against unforgiveness and tells Believers to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).  When I read all the scriptures that tell us to forgive and also to not gloat over our enemies, (see Proverbs 24:17), I wonder if we have forgotten that God has called us to a different standard.   I am convinced that when we are so focused on others and proving them wrong, we lose sight of ourselves.  I don’t think that’s loving and it sure isn’t positive.

When we are focused on living our lives to the fullest; we experience exhilaration and joy; all positive feelings.  Judge Judy says that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason; to listen more than we speak. I agree. If we are to get over negativity, we need to change the “what if” to “what would” as in “What would Jesus do?”  Don’t let that be just something to say, let it be a time of true reflection when you are faced with interpersonal communications and actions.  Jesus can help you change those negative, destructive behaviors to positive attitudes and actions that will change the world.  How do you start: Look at yourself, model a positive outlook, strengthen and share your faith, and pray always. If you want to make a change, I guarantee, He won’t let you down.