Shut Up & Listen!

shut up and listenI have been in highly competitive environments all of my adult life. I have been around people who are kind yet ambitious. People who have high confidence and never make others feel less than; and I have been around others who are highly educated and successful, but they don’t talk about what education they have nor boast about how successful they have been. These people are loud, quiet, jolly and reserved, but the one quality that impressed me the most was the emotional intelligence they demonstrated in how to genuinely and authentically connect. I call them selfless people.

Then there are others. They have to make sure you know how popular they are, what they have done, and just how successful they have been in doing whatever it is they have done. They compete too, but they compete with everybody they meet, even if the others are not consciously competing with them.  If they are quiet, it is only to think of how they can impress you with their accomplishments.

Princess DianaI watched a documentary about Princess Diana. I have always had a special place in my heart for her (don’t ask me why; I just do). One of the things that came up from the people who were interviewed for this documentary was how they felt being with her.  These people were not all royals are the “upper class.” They were people in hospitals, on the streets as homeless or those impacted by landmines in Bosnia, all spoke of how she connected with them.  Many of these people were touched by her even after she was no longer the Princess of Wales.  Clearly, she was famous and well-connected, yet, these people felt she cared about them and brought attention to their causes nor her own. She listened.

Then I think of Jesus. What do you think of when you think about Him?  Do you think of someone who was always talking? Probably not. Don’t you see Him as sitting and listening to others? Quietly asking questions and showing an interest in the person He was talking to? I do. I believe He met people where they were and cared about them.  He didn’t find them and rush in to condemn them.  He did not go around telling people who he was and just how vital he was, quite the contrary, he did the opposite. When He restored sight to the blind or healed a man of leprosy, many times we read that He told the person he restored not tell anyone.  He didn’t come for that. He came to do what His Father had sent Him to do.

I can’t help but think of some of the greats throughout history, their stories carry the same storyline, selfless acts rather than acts that pointed to them as an essential person. I also think of the following scripture found in Proverbs 27:2 that says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

I have been in many meetings, conferences, and forums where I have met “important” people.  I usually sit and watch.  Most times I stay quiet because I think when I shut up and listen, I learn a lot about others.

Recently I was at a function with quite a few people present.  As one person began to share a personal struggle with our small group, I just sat and listened along with a couple of others. As the person described their excitement about a new process they were developing, another person in the group hijacked the conversation and begin to talk only about themselves and about all they had accomplished; promptly shutting down the accomplishments of the other person. Throughout the evening, various people had an opportunity to share a little about themselves and right away you could tell the ones who were outward focused and those who were inward focused. Ironically, the ones who said the least about themselves were probably the most successful. Guess what else? They were also the ones who listened to others.

It’s In the Quiet Times…

The_Quiet_Time_-_QT1.jpgLately, I have felt unsettled.  No, I didn’t say that I am not content; I said unsettled. There is a big difference.  For days now I have felt this unsettling in me.  I have been praying for a person for weeks now, so that may be the reason why. I moved last year and just experienced the 1 year anniversary of that, so maybe that’s why. I don’t really know. I just feel that way.

In the rush of everyday life, when we are busy moving here and there, working, socializing, and just living life, the noise of life can be overwhelming. In fact, if we aren’t careful, the sounds can drown out what we should be listening to.

That’s why quiet time is so important. We need to set aside time to contemplate, decompress and live quietly.  At least that’s what I need. I do it each day; usually, early mornings with shorter times. Also, I do a bigger block of time each week just to sit quietly and think. Life can be busy and the important things can be easily missed in our rush to achieve the next thing.  I will admit it, I can’t seem to sit still and be satisfied. If I am not working in my office, I am writing a book or an article or a blog. I do several things at once. I work on several emails to various people while I may be working on establishing some new program or I am setting up some kind of meeting, working some marketing strategy or coordinating some speaking engagement. It’s always something.  I push hard to get things done each day, and I will admit, I don’t have patience with what I perceive as “excuses”  for not doing something. You see, I can’t stop striving.

I have to give myself a break though. I know for a fact, God made me this way. He made me passionate, resilient, persistent and strong. As much as I appreciate the woman God has made me, I also know that I can turn my strengths into weaknesses. The same is true for you too. If you are always working, pushing, striving and achieving, do you have time to stop and enjoy the accomplishment? Do you stop and savor the moment in quiet solitude before you jump to begin again?  These are a couple of the questions I have had to ask myself lately. You see if you have always been the kind of person who believed that doing proves your self-worth, you need to rethink that. You know who proves you are worth something?  God. However, you won’t know it, if you never sit down and take the time to hear from Him.

quiet-the-mind-soul-will-speak-life-quotes-sayings-picturesTurn off the music, turn off the television, put away your computer, put down your phone, sit quietly in His presence and open your heart and your ears. Stop thinking about what you have to do next and be fully present to hear why He has you where you are now.  For the unbeliever, this is foolishness the Bible says, but to you who believe, you know what I am talking about.  1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters].”

God needs your attention and your time. Not after you are exhausted but He needs to talk to you when you are alert and ready to hear. He may have been trying to get your attention for a while now. Has He?

Encourager or Discourager?

EncourageI love being the person who makes another person feel good about themselves. I like speaking words of encouragement to them and then watching them come alive.  I know, probably more than most, just how powerful words can be.

The good thing about a person who likes to encourage is that they do it whether the other person needs it or not. They know how important it is to be sensitive to those with whom they interact.

I am sure I have mentioned before that I people watch. By people watching, I can tell immediately who the Encouragers are and who the Discouragers are.  I want you to think about this. You know just as I do, the value that Encouragers bring. We know the traits they demonstrate; generally, they are happy, optimistic and positive people. We also know the Discouragers; they are just the opposite.  Although they can be negative, pessimistic and unhappy, many times they display more subtle traits than that.  In fact, you may not be able to really point to anything specific; you just feel it.

Discouragers may not ever say one discouraging or disparaging word, but what they can do is not acknowledge any good thing about you.  They may be ones who withhold praise or stay quiet when someone else has something good to say about you. They don’t do or say anything to support you, although they claim to be your friend.

Encourage-1thessaloniansWhich are you? Are you an Encourager or a Discourager?  You may not be comfortable with giving compliments, but you can still encourage others.

I believe one form of encouragement is seen in actions.  We can “love” the way Jesus told us to do when He said to “love one another.” Life is hard and people are facing challenges every day.  People we meet or those we interact with each day are facing things that we know nothing about.  People are facing loss, whether in the form of a divorce or a loss through death. Others are going through the loss of a job, while others may be dealing with grave illnesses, addictions, family problems, work problems, foreclosures, or jail.  These are real life issues and some will share while others will not. You may be the difference in whether they keep going or give up, in whether they succeed or fail.  You don’t have to show sympathy–that’s not encouragement. What you should do is inspire another person with the courage they need to keep on going. No, you may not be comfortable speaking words of affirmation to others, but you can do other things to encourage those around you.

Be careful and watch the words you use with your children and grandchildren no matter how frustrated you might get with them.  If you are upset, always tell them that you love them and then tell them why you may be disappointed.  If you are frustrated with your spouse, do the same.  If you have an obnoxious friend that might drive you nuts, pray for yourself and be intentional in praying for them.  If you have a friend who seems to always achieve & get what they want, to include compliments, don’t begrudge them, encourage them to keep on achieving and thank God for their achievements and blessings.  All of the good that you do in speaking well of and to others, will come back to you.  In the end, God commands us to encourage one another. You want to obey Him, don’t you?

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

 

 

 

Do You Remember?

memorylaneEach morning I rise around 4 am, actually it’s more like 340, to go to my quiet corner of the house to read my Bible, to pray and journal.  Some mornings I feel half asleep and half awake, I pray “Lord, give me the strength” and I crawl out of bed and head to that place, turn on the table lamp and begin my daily ritual. I know, the word ritual, just doesn’t seem right when I write it either. That’s what some would say I do, a ritual. However, I’d like to call it a part of my daily discipline. I want the time I spend with God each day to be a natural part of what I do; you know? Like some just get out of bed and head straight to the coffee pot, I want to head straight to meet Jesus.

I’d like to call it a part of my daily discipline. I want the time I spend with God each day to be a natural part of what I do; you know? Like some just get out of bed and head straight to the coffee pot, I want to head straight to meet Jesus. I won’t lie, some days I read the scriptures and tell God, “I got absolutely nothing out of that” and on other days, like this one, I can’t seem to put my Bible down.

This morning I was continuing my read of Isaiah when I came across a scripture that hit me like a ton of bricks.  It hit me because it was a scripture I had memorized at a young age. The minute I began reading Isaiah 54:6, “We are, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us to our own way, and the Lord has laid upon Him the sins of us all.”  I immediately remembered the scripture and stopped to think about it. Instead of dissecting it, I found myself going back looking for scriptures I learned years ago and seemingly never used them anymore. I went searching and writing them down as I found them. By the time I had finished with this little exercise, I had written down eight scriptures. I found myself mulling over each scripture and saying them to myself, affirming each scripture as I spoke them.

You may say, “so what?” I know, right? I have no idea why I became obsessed with doing that this morning. As I sat to write this blog, I did hear myself say, “do you remember?” Do I remember what? Is the question really, do I remember where God has brought me from? Yes! Do you?  Do you ever sit back and think about where you are right now and where you were five years ago, ten years ago, 20 years ago or even longer than that? I sure do.  I think about how blessed I am today.  When I look back five years, I was recovering from an illness that made life look bleak. When I remember ten years ago, I had just evolved from a work situation that had me questioning my competence and my potential. When I recall 20 years ago, I had gone back to school to complete an MBA.

Do you ever sit back and think about where you are right now and where you were 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago or even longer than that? I sure do.  I think about how blessed I am today.  When I look back 5 years, I was recovering from an illness that made life look bleak. When I remember 10 years ago, I had just evolved from a work situation that had me questioning my competence and my potential. When I recall 20 years ago, I had gone back to school to complete an MBA. Yes, I was shocked to realize that one too!

There is one thing that remained constant over the years, my faith. Through the ups and downs; through the joys and pain; and through the accomplishments and disappointments, the discipline of reading my Bible, remembering scripture, and drawing on it in times of happiness and in times of sadness, has sustained me. The joy of the Lord has truly been my strength.

Today, I have a wonderful life. In fact, when I think of my life in general, I have had a wonderfully blessed and abundant life.  God has been good. I would have never imagined some of the things I have accomplished and lived. Not for a girl like me; that little girl from New York, whose mom died so young.  The girl who was raised by Pentecostal grandparents in Georgia. Or the one who was not at all popular back in the day.  The one who was not counted out, just never considered by anyone other than the people in the little church in Georgia.  Her? Who would have thought this would be my life?

Anyway, don’t let anyone talk you out of living your dreams or doing what God has placed inside of you. That includes you not talking yourself out of it either. Also, you should think about starting the discipline of Bible reading and prayer each day too. I bet you will one day look back, remember, and be glad you did.

I will close with Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing, as it springs up, can you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Someone Needs You…

someone needs youA friend in India sent me a note and asked if I would do an inspirational video.  She wanted it so that she could play it for the women in her company during Women’s month.  I was so impressed with this young lady when I met her this year as I conducted a Business seminar.  She is a Human Resources Manager and this young woman knows where she is going and has a clear plan in place to get there.  Plus, she is so positive and enthusiastic!

I have been under a time crunch so I didn’t know if I would get it done or not.  So much happened in February. Anyway,  at my age, I automatically thought I needed to schedule some time in the studio and get it done for her. She is a millennial! I love them!  She said, “can you just do a video on your iPhone and send it to me to play?”  I loved it. After doing about 4 videos, I decided on one. The title was: Someone needs you. After doing the video, I began thinking about people like you and decided this would be my blog for this week.

You know, It is so true.  Someone needs you too. I believe that something magical happens when you share yourself with others. When you share your hopes and dreams, you move others to think about theirs.  I started thinking deeply about what I just said and thought to myself that You—not just me—but You are so very special. You can be very impactful to and for others if you want to be. You can either believe that you were designed by God to share love, forgiveness, acceptance, and encouragement with others or not.  If you believe it, you know automatically that all of these positive traits flow from a heart of love that God has given to you . It’s people like you who generate warmth and affection that lift others up to higher heights. You nurture lasting bonds of friendship because God designed you to do so. It’s because of you, others dream dreams and seek to achieve their goals and believe in themselves. Yes, that’s you. Or at least some of you. If you are positive, you know it’s true. someone needs you 2

I know that some of you have been designed to be bold and assertive. It’s easier for you to go after your dreams. I also know that others are a little more passive, somewhat apprehensive, and you kind of know what to do and you will get there eventually. Then there are those of you who are shy and careful and maybe  a little fearful because you don’t know where to start in going after that which God has placed in your heart. That’s okay too.  Each of us brings value to this beautiful tapestry of life.  Although we may be different in our approaches to life, still we have much to add.

We have each been given a special gift from God. Each designed to add value to not only our lives but to the lives of others. Did I say that someone needs you? Well they do.  They need your boldness. They need your passivity. They need your vulnerabilities and your love, affection, forgiveness, acceptance and encouragement. Don’t you agree that if you touch the life of one person; If you can help someone believe in themselves; If they are moved to do more and be more because of you, your job on earth would have been achieved? I think so.

I am going to tell you a secret. Ready? You can either add value to others or you can distract from others.  You can choose to see the best or default to the worst. You can live in envy and jealousy or you can choose to share who you are with others; hoping that what you share is enough because it is.  If we can get it in our heads that we really are special and that we are on this earth to make a huge difference in someone’s life, everything will change.

Are you positive and optimistic? Are you a person who speaks life into others? If you are, I bet you already know the impact you have on others.  I like people like you. Thanks for being available for someone who needs you.

The Value of Openness

I am amazed at how much I love the people of India!  About 3 years ago, a friend asked me if we could go to India as we were preparing Christian business students to use their business skills to serve in underdeveloped cultures.  I mean, really, we could have gone to a hundred, if not a thousand, other places. We ended up in India.

After visiting India for the third time, someone said to me, “you seem to just fit in.”  I didn’t really give much thought to the comment until someone said: “when you speak, you connect with the people so easily and in such a short period of time.” At first, I didn’t think much of what was said, but later, I was reflecting and that comment came to mind.  Later in the evening, I started thinking about the comment again and as the night rolled around, and I couldn’t sleep due to all the party noise outside the hotel window, so I began to write this blog.open-arms

Have you ever met someone who says they value others but their actions tell a different story?  I think, like little babies, some people can sense if you are an authentic person or not. In fact, I think many of us can tell right away; it is something in our gut that tells us about another person. The reason we get fooled is because we allow ourselves to be fooled; we override the feelings we have about that person. I believe we have conditioned ourselves to “give the person a chance” when signals are flashing in front of us. Some people refuse to be authentic. I didn’t say they cannot be authentic, they choose not to be.

The concept of authenticity and openness are very different. Some people will say what they think others want to hear, but they don’t have the heart (openness) to learn from others. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we are just people. Regardless of our status in life, we are people.

I was thinking with all my credentials and some popularity, it can be so easy to become so full of myself that I will not “hear” the heart of others. How about you? Do you guard yourself against that too? Have you had to do like me and remind yourself that you are not all that?  I didn’t say that you had to belittle yourself, simply have you stopped yourself from being or acting as the superior one in the midst of others and become the humble one?  Have you learned that regardless of what levels we reach in life, at the end of the day, we are all just people trying (I hope) to do better?

When we see the other person who may not look like us, talk like us or behave in the same manner that we are accustomed to behaving, do we look and say “I love that” and really mean it? Or do we look at that and judge that how they look, speak and behave must conform to how we see the world? Shouldn’t each of us look at others with the eyes of learning something different, yet wonderful? I think that is what openness is about. I didn’t say that one culture is superior to another. I am saying that when we embrace an “openness” attitude, we grow a little more, we accept a lot more and we love a great deal more.

Get Back At It!

no-blame-no-excuses So here we are in another year.  I did a pretty good job accomplishing my goals of 2016 and I intend to work hard to do the same this year too.  I realize that I can’t do everything and that’s why I establish priorities.  That’s what I want to share with you as January starts to fade and the year takes off.

The month of January is when we set our sights on what we want to accomplish in the year. Many cynics show up during this time too and tell us not to waste our time writing goals.  I shake my head and wonder who will we listen to; the cynic or our hearts.

As for me, I don’t listen to cynics. I hope you won’t either. However, I would like to remind you of a couple of things.  First, if you don’t set smart goals, you will end up anywhere and then you can’t complain when the things you felt you should have accomplished never got done. Second, always remember at the end of the day, you control your destiny. “It’s Your Life; Own It” is one of my mottos. Third, you can either determine the path you will take in life and get at it, or you can let someone else determine it for you. In the end, whatever happens, if you decided along the way not to be an active participant in your destiny, it’s all on you.

It’s Your Life; Own It is one of my favorite statements because every day I hear someone say something or see someone post something on social media about how someone “messed” with them.  I have listened to the comments about how they didn’t get the job or the promotion. I have read the same type of comments about how they wished this person would leave or be removed from a position of power because that person will never give them a chance. I have listened to those who can’t seem to stop saying what they “can’t do.” Or they refuse to self-assess and make changes. I have accepted invitations to mentor some and coach others. I can tell right away those who only want to complain about their situation or they want to brag about what they are doing or want to do, and those who are serious about getting “at it” to make a positive impact on their everyday lives.

The questions I have for you as we “get back at it” this year are these: Are you serious about doing something more?  Are you truly interested in achieving something you have dreamed about? Do you really want that position? That promotion? Do you really want to finish school? Do you really want to open your own business? Do you really want to write a book? Do you really want to exercise more? Pray more? Study your Bible more? Do you really want to start a Bible study group? Do you really want to travel? Do you really want to be a better parent, spouse, or friend? What do you really want to do? You see, we can always dream and imagine, but do we “really want”  what we play at wanting? Because, when I “really want” something, I do something about it.

be-relentlessI learned long ago when I wanted a promotion where I worked, I went for it. When I didn’t get it, I tried other ways. When I still didn’t get it, I tried other companies.  When I wanted to travel to Asia or Europe, when I couldn’t fly business class, I flew coach or discounted airlines and stayed in cheaper hotels until I got to the place and status in life where I could stay in better ones. When I decided to write my book and couldn’t get a publisher, I self-published. You see, there is always a way. Let me share a true story:

I always dreamed of running outside. I never did. I would work out every day doing step aerobics or some form of exercise, but I desired to run like others did. I would stop myself by saying to myself that I hated running (knowing full well that was not true). I then would say, “I couldn’t run.” After I got sick in 2012, I could do very little exercise for almost a year. The only thing I could do was walk. I began to walk every day until I was walking 5 miles. I remember when I was out walking, I would talk to God about my fears of my illness. That time turned into a spiritual time.  In 2013, somehow I emerged from my illness. I continued walking but found myself jogging a little also. I began telling myself “if you could do 3 classes of step aerobics, one right after the other, and they were advanced, why don’t you think you can run?” It was like a lightbulb came on. I began running. Today, I can run 10 miles in two hours. Every day of the week, excluding weekends, I run no less than 7 or 8 miles each morning.

Look, there will always be some excuse or blame as to why I didn’t accomplish something; I just don’t want the excuse to be me. Do you? Set your sights high. Work to make your dreams a reality. Brush off naysayers and push aside negative thoughts. Stop telling yourself what you can’t accomplish and start affirming yourself daily, hourly or even by the minute. Just don’t stop….