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.

 

Don’t Downplay Your Blessing!

 

Every-Day-in-Every-WayHave you asked God for a particular thing and He dropped it right into your lap? It just came out of nowhere? Well, that has happened to me on several occasions and there is no doubt that it was God. I love it when I know that it is God who has answered a prayer that no one knew about but me and Him.

One thing that has proven consistent for me has been the Ying and Yang of experiencing a blessing. When I get thrilled and excited about the blessing, something happens; something that tries to affect my joy. I will face some kind of opposition, sometimes passive hostility, from people I thought respected me as much as I respected them.  I don’t know about you, but to me, there is nothing more stressful than to be misunderstood.

I am old enough to know and expect people to talk behind my back, but I abhor finding out what they have said.  Also, I am shocked when the person who said it is someone I respected. Initially, I am really bothered by what I have heard them say; I think about it over and over. Next, I am generally angry but I tend to get over my anger quickly because I refuse to allow anyone to affect my joy. Finally, which should be first actually, I go to my Bible to seek comfort, assurance, guidance, and support.

Recently, I went through this process and when I opened my Bible, I turned to Psalms 2. What jumped out at me was this portion of scripture that read: “You are My Son, Today I have become your Father. Ask Me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”  I kept going back to that one part of the scripture, reading what was prior to it and after, but that portion kept speaking to me.  Isn’t it obvious what God was saying? Maybe not to you, but to me God was saying, “You asked, I gave, now go and be blessed, be happy, be effective. You wanted it, you got it.” I felt a sense of release. I told myself, LaSharnda, you are to continue to thank Him and praise Him, only!  I shouldn’t be getting hung up on what others were thinking or saying.  By doing so, I would be ignoring what God had done for me and would be giving more attention to those who had no joy for me at all.  Their silliness would become a huge distraction.

Am I the only one who experiences this? Do you? Has God blessed you with something and instead of celebrating it, you became distracted by the negativity of others. You focused on what they were saying or doing or not saying or doing. Maybe you downplayed your blessing because of them. Please don’t do that.  God has a plan and purpose for you and you already know that. He may fulfill it as He pleases and others may not understand. They may get mad at you for leaving a job they feel you should stay in for longer periods or they may talk about you and not celebrate with you. That’s okay, always remember, ”

God has a plan and purpose for you and you already know that. He may fulfill it as He pleases and others may not understand. They may get mad at you for leaving a job they feel you should have stayed in for a longer period or they may talk about you and not celebrate with you. That’s okay, always remember, “His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)  His are always greater, better and worth following.  Also remember, if you pray and ask God for something and He gives it to you, whether your friends, family or colleagues like it or not, it’s yours. Don’t be boastful or arrogant; just be thankful, pray for wisdom and if they go low, you take the high road.

When You Are Scared…Trust…

trustI talk so much about how important it is to go for the gold and to never give up. I am especially good at encouraging others to be all that they can be.  I tell you to take your turmoil and turn them into your testimonies of victory. I truly believe in all that I just said to you, but today I want to take a different approach to encouraging you. I want you to just Trust.

Recently, I visited a place near and dear to me. I saw my friends and just loved seeing and interacting with them.  I saw people who make me feel like running the race and never giving up. I saw people who I have known at least 15 years and others I have known less.  One thing that has actually kept me warm inside has been to reflect on these people as I left them behind.  They are still committed to Christ after sicknesses, deaths, hardships and trials; they are still there, serving Him and His people day after day.

What also struck me while I was visiting was the people I met who were going through very difficult struggles in their lives today; struggles with their health and not knowing what to do next. Scared and afraid that life as they had known it would not be the same anymore.  There were those who had family members struggling with personal issues so difficult that it disrupted the entire family structure and there were others who had to juggle several crises at the same time. I can only imagine the desperation they were going through. Losing your good health; being able to move about freely without aid and now you can barely get up from a chair.  Losing a family member, whether to death or to their desire to separate from the family for extended periods;  these are all scary things to deal with.

How can you be positive when you have so much to deal with? How can you stay “up” when everything in you and around you is telling you to stay “down?”  How do you move forward at all when you want to crawl under the covers and never come out? I tell you how, start telling yourself to just take one day at a time and trust God.

I believe the enemy wants you confused about so many things. First, if you are a Believer, he wants you to question God.   When you lose faith and start questioning God, it won’t be long before you start blaming God. Once you begin blaming God, it’s impossible to hold onto your faith, believing that God cares for you (yes, little old you). We begin to think that all the things happening to us, does not matter to God.

Second, we start to pity ourselves and wonder why these things are happening to us.  That too creates negative images in our minds; we are not strong; we are not good enough; we are not smart and the list goes on. There are plenty of voices in this world that will try to tell you that you aren’t good enough, but the voice of God always says that you are loved. When you stop hearing Him and listen to what others say, it is easy to become disillusioned and down.

If you are feeling lost or insignificant in this world, I challenge you to turn to the words of God. He will remind you that you are neither lost nor insignificant. He loves you and cares about all those things that are burdensome to you. You do matter to Him and everything that affects you, matters to God.

“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”                                                                  (Isaiah 41:13)

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.

 

 

You Are Royal….

 

royaltyIf you know me at all, you already know that I am a Born-again follower of Jesus.  I love how that sounds. It sounds passionate about being a Believer!

Unless you have been under a rock or you just have absolutely no interest in the Royals, you know that there was a recent wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.  I don’t know about you, but I love the Royals. I have followed them with curiosity and admiration for years.  I loved Princess Diana, I remember when the little princes were born and watched as they grew into wonderful men. I remember when Prince Andrew got married to Lady Sarah Ferguson and when they had their daughters too.  I watched each wedding with awe and joy and loved every single moment of it.

I don’t know why, but when I was reflecting on the recent wedding, I found myself thinking about life for the new married couple and I kept reliving the pageantry of the event. How beautiful Meghan looked and how happy they both seemed.  Yet, I can’t help it, but I turn many things into a God moment. The scripture found in 1 Peter 2:9 came to mind, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.“

The beauty of being Born-again for me personally is that at times a particular scripture will just jump up and grab me. I may not have read it in a while, but the Holy Spirit will bring the scripture back to me to speak directly to me for that particular moment. As I thought about that scripture, I could not help but think about the power of my faith.  That faith encourages me to be all that I can be.  I think about the possibilities for my life and I recall all that I have overcome in my life to get where I am now.

1Peter 2-9I am of the royal priesthood and so are you! If you can see yourself as royalty, I know you will approach your goals very differently. On the same note, if you see yourself as mediocre, that’s how you will approach life. When I use the word, mediocre, it is hard to hear because none of us would ever come out and say that we are mediocre; yet we act like that’s what we think of ourselves.  Mediocre means of only moderate quality; not very good.  Whereas Royalmeans fine, excellent, magnificent, stately, appropriate or befitting of sovereignty.  Maybe those words scare you, because they may seem to imply that you think you are better than others, or maybe they make you feel like you are being arrogant or prideful. I get it, but don’t let the word, royal,scare you.

God formed you for Himself and He knows all about you. Pride is a no-no for a Believer, but being proud of whom God made is not sinful.  Know who you are in Christ Jesus, then your entire world will change because your attitude will change for the better.

You still have no interest in Royalty? Are you sure?

 

 

 

Set Healthy Boundaries…

healthy boundaries After watching three specific incidents over the last several months, I decided it was time to write about healthy, personal boundaries. Certain situations started to really bother me, so I talked about what I was experiencing with close confidants and even a professional in the area of psychology.  I thought I would share my observations and offer suggestions that may help you understand how important it is to set boundaries.

I read an article recently and the author stated,  “I used to keep adjusting my boundaries to fit each relationship. Now I understand that boundaries are about your relationship with yourself and your own values, and that they shouldn’t be so fluid.” 

There have been times when my own husband suggested that I was being too closed off and maybe I should let people in. I should just be more friendly.   Also, I have dealt with pressure from others who seemed to pull at me and insert themselves all the time. Their boundaries were clearly opposite mine and I felt pressured to always be available.

I began to experience an internal struggle.  I found myself, asking myself, “What’s wrong with me? or Is it just me?  Am I suppose to adjust to everyone when I don’t want to? Am I being a snob?  If I have to adjust to everyone, and I don’t want to, am I selfish? Well, I was made to feel that I was. I wanted to know if I was just wired wrong.  Maybe I am or maybe I expect others to understand personal boundaries.

You know what I have come to conclude? Some people do not understand boundaries. You know what else I have found? If you do not establish them upfront, it will be hard to establish them later.  Eventually, however, you will have to create them. At first, you may suffer silently, but the more someone steps beyond your boundaries and you stay quiet on the matter, you will become irritated, frustrated and even resentful. If you allow others to push your boundaries and you say nothing, eventually you will fight or go into flight mode.

                             “In work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to                                       resentment, anger, and burnout” (Nelson, 2016).

Boundaries-2-2I get why we don’t say anything; why we let things go—we let things go because we think people will just figure it out somehow.  We think they will know when they are being too pushy, too needy, or too dependent. They don’t see that the constant need for you to be the one to fill all of their needs is emotionally draining.  So they go on  doing what is natural them and in the process they are killing you. It’s hard setting healthy, personal boundaries because people think you are being “mean.” Setting boundaries do not make you “mean,” it helps you stay healthy mentally and emotionally.

Do you know anyone who constantly forces themselves beyond your boundaries?  How do you handle them without hurting them? I am going to share some ways that you can establish boundaries, but I cannot promise you that you won’t hurt their feelings:

  1. Examine the boundaries that already exist (or are lacking) in your life. If you have them, enforce them from the beginning. If you don’t have them established, think about what you will accept, write them down, talk to a therapist if you need to, and live with them. Tell people what you will accept and what you will not accept. (Matthew 18:15-20)
  2. Say “No” simply but firmly to something you do not want to do. Do not feel that you need to explain” (Kairns, 1992). Not over-explaining is a crucial aspect of setting boundaries, as everyone has the right to determine what they do and do not want to do.  (Matthew 5:7)
  3. Keep the focus on oneself (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program). Instead of setting a boundary by saying something like “you have to stop bothering me after work”, one can say “I need some time to myself when I get back from work”.
  4. Set consequences (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program). This means that when setting boundaries, it is important to explicitly state why they are important. For example, someone in an unhealthy relationship might declare that their partner needs to start respecting their career goals more unless they want the relationship to end. It is also crucial to only declare consequences that one is willing to follow through on, or else the boundaries will not be effective.

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me.  A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins. Although I talked to several friends and confidants, I always go to the Bible to check my thoughts against the Word of God. I have noted scriptures above to help you see that it is good to set boundaries, but read that I read from Bible.org below:

The concept of boundaries is rooted in the nature of God Himself. God defines Himself as a distinct, separate being, and He is responsible for Himself. He defines and takes responsibility for His personality by telling us what He thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes and dislikes.” (Bible.org)

 

Dr. LaSharnda Beckwith

 

Works cited:

  1. Positive Psychology program
  2. Bible.org