My Suggestion For A Different Kind of “Year End Gift”

Act of Kindness Quote

(photo: www.myloveforwords.com)

This time of year, we all seem to get more mail, more e-mail, and more solicitations from charities asking for our “year end gift”. It’s the time of year that charities know that many of us are looking to donate to our favorite cause, so that we can get a little tax benefit from Uncle Sam. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this kind of giving. I applaud it. I encourage it. But, let me suggest a different kind of “year end gift”.

Author and speaker Jon Acuff tweeted out before Christmas:

It inspired at least one guy to do the same:

And then there’s the story of how one church in Ohio got together to bless the staff working hard at a local Waffle House with a huge tip of well over $3,500. All five women behind the counter embraced each other and cried.

I think this “random acts of kindness thing” is really catching on. Now granted, there’s a certain “specialness” about giving to folks working around the Christmas holidays, but this same principle can be applied before the end of this year.

You just have to take the time to look for the opportunity. Discuss it with your spouse. Talk about it with your family.  Talk about it with your closest friends. There’s just something about giving an unexpected blessing to total strangers who had no idea it was coming.

Go ahead and plan it. Do it before the end of the year, and make it a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR for someone who might need it more than you know.

Act of Kindness 2

(photo: www.ipinimg.com)

4 Ways to Be Intentional With Your Life

Intentional-Quote

As we look forward to 2018, and many of us start to make resolutions on how we can “be a better me”, one thing is key: being intentional.

What does it mean to live intentionally? I like what Career Coach Chrysta Bairre says:

It means you are purposeful in word and action. It means you live a life that is meaningful and fulfilling to you. It means you make thoughtful choices in your life.
Being intentional means you actively interact and engage with your life. You wake up every day and ask yourself, “how am I going to make this day great?”
You respond instead of react. You love instead of fear. You embrace instead of expect. You accept instead of resist.**

To be more specific, you have to ask yourself every day: what I am going to accomplish today? Whose life can I impact positively today? How can I leave this world better at the end of today?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, how about those posed by Robert D. Smith in his book “20,000 Days and Counting”:

What is important to you right now? What is next for you? What is one immediate need I can fill for someone I know? What is a huge dream I have? How can I make it bigger?

In a general sense we all want to be the kind of people that other people want to be around, right? Impacting others is the key to a more fulfilling life, right? So, how do we do that?

Smile more. You’d be surprised at how few people smile. Make a habit of smiling. Practice smiling? A good, full toothy smile. Your smile may be the only smile somebody sees today.

Give of yourself more. Not out of obligation, but out of genuine love and concern. Give an encouraging word. Give a hug. Give a listening ear. You can’t imagine how many people crave that stuff.

Make smaller, attainable goals for yourself each day. Research shows that people give up on resolutions because they can’t measure up to the high standards they set for themselves. You’d rather accomplish 30% of a goal than 0%, right? So make that big goal, and then chop it up a bit into more attainable goals.

Journal your everyday progress. One key thing to do while you do this is to take stock of what you’re grateful for each day. Once you do that, you will be able to look more positively at what you did accomplish each day.

Be passionate. Be purposeful. Be intentional. You will be glad you did, as will everyone else around you!

12-quotes-to-inspire-you-to-be-intentional

**From the blog post “Be Intentional in All You Do” at  www.liveandlovework.com

The Awesome Power of Words

Words 1

(photo: www.iliketoquote.com)

Whoever came up with the saying “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” didn’t have a clue about the true power of words. Since I’ve been blessed with the “gift of gab”, I’ve learned first hand on more than one occasion that words are a powerful tool. You can use them for good, or you can use them for evil. Words rightly spoken, at the right time, in the right way can infuse light and love into even the darkest moment. On the other hand, words spoken with malice can leave a massive wake of destruction in their path.

There are so many times in my life that I’ve caused deep hurt with harmful words. I wish I could take them back, but once they are out there, you simply cannot take them back. All you can do is ask for forgiveness, and pray that the person you harmed will find it in their heart to forgive you.

The point is, we are not promised tomorrow. That is to say that you don’t know if today will be your last day on this planet. Likewise, you don’t know if today is the last day for the recipient of harsh words you might spew.

If it’s one lesson in life I keep having to learn the hard way, it’s that “God gave you two ears and 1 mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk”. That’s me over and over in my life. So, take it from me, don’t just open your mouth to switch feet. Choose your words wisely.

Proverbs 18:23 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Those who love it will eat its fruits”.

I can’t add another word to that.

So, the next time you feel an overwhelming desire to speak harshly, ask yourself these three questions:

Words 1

(photo: www.policyviz.com)

1 Story of How A Little Kindness Can Go a Long Way

Kindness 1

(photo: rd.com)

So I saw a neat story on TV yesterday morning about the benefits of kindness. They interviewed a David R. Hamilton Jr. who wrote a book entitled “The Five Side Effects of Kindness”. We all know (or should anyway) that kindness benefits the person being kind as much or more than it does the one receiving the kindness, right? Now, thanks to Mr. Hamilton’s book, we have proof. He outlines all five “side effects” here, but suffice it to say there are physical and physiological benefits to kindness. Not to mention that kindness is free. Yep, it doesn’t cost a thing. We can be plenty kind without spending a dime.

Sometimes, however, when we do take the time and effort to express our kindness with monetary means, it can have those same benefits, and a few unexpected ones too.

I read on Facebook today about a woman I know who had the opportunity to help a local family in need. Seems the mom couldn’t provide Christmas gifts for her kids and even though she knew it was Christmas Eve and it was a long shot at best, the need was made known on social media. My friend was on her way home from visiting family when she saw the need, and she said “something made me stop and help. I’m so glad I did”.

So, they stopped at the only local store that was open and purchased a few gifts for the child. Then they made a beeline to the address of the home. When they got there, she and her husband were able to hand the gifts to the mom in need. The mom expressed her deep gratitude and both moms were at the point of tears.

Turns out my friend had alot in common with the mom in need and that “something” that told her to help this family knew that too. See, whenever we go through difficult times, God uses those times to prepare us to help others in our path going through similar difficulties.

Thanks to social media, opportunities abound to share a little kindness. Maybe you could make that a real resolution for 2018. Do something kind for someone every single day while expecting nothing in return. If you do, you are guaranteed to receive plenty.

Kindness 3

(photo: brainyquote.com)

The Greatest Gift

Jesus

(photo: www.4.bp.blogspot.com)

Merry Christmas! Hopefully you are enjoying some precious time with your closest family and reaping all the blessings that this special day brings.

I also hope you take the time today to really meditate on what we are really celebrating. Take a look at the key verses in Luke 2:

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.***

When you take the time to reflect on the story, we see several key things. First of all, Jesus was certainly NOT about commercialism on this first Christmas. He was born in a manger. Do you know what a manger is? It’s a trough for horses or cattle to eat from. Jesus, who spoke the entire universe into existence, came down from heaven’s throne room as our “Emmanuel” (God with Us)  to be born in a trough. Nothing flashy or “keeping up with the Joneses” here, right? The king of kings was a model of humility from the start.

Second, we see the heavenly HOST praising God. This isn’t one or two or 10 angels praising God. This is an entire ARMY of angels praising God. No wonder the shepherds were afraid. This teaches us that we should ALL be praising God for this the greatest gift ever given, the chosen Messiah, who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the centerpiece of God’s perfect plan for all of mankind. I’d say that calls for a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.

Then, we see the shepherds sharing the “good news of great joy”. Imagine having a front row seat  to the most incredible, most significant event in human history. How could you NOT tell everyone you know? In this case, like in every other, “sharing is caring”. And they had to come back to “get their praise on”. Again, how could you not?

Finally, look at Mary who “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart”. She was such a great example of faithful service to the Lord. How many of us would give our OK to have our entire lives turned upside down the way Mary did. What a sweet, sweet servant of God she was.

So, just like these key figures, we too should respond to the Christmas story by:

1/Praising and thanking God!

2/Sharing the “good news of great joy”!

3/Ponder the wonder of it all!

Once you’ve done all that, no amount of gifts under the tree could even hope to compare.

Merry Christmas!!

***www.BibleGateway.com

1 Of THE Best Blessings To Give & Get

the-beauty-of-life-does-not-depend-on-how-happy-you-are

(photo: www.blog.zerodean.com)

This time of year, I’m always reminded of the need to visit the homebound. The elderly homebound are one of the most forgotten segments of the population. Many sit at home day after day with little or no interaction with the outside world.

What a blessing, what a treat it is for them when someone stops by to check on them. To chat with them. To see how they are doing. To see if they need anything. Just a simple little courtesy call that might not seem like much to you now, but to them it means the world. So many of our homebound elderly quietly suffer loneliness day after day, month after month, year after year. A simple visit from someone like you will brighten their day  in a way they probably won’t even be able to convey.

Whether you believe in reaping what you sow, karma, or whatever, the fact remains: most of you will get old someday and you may just live alone. Do you want to live like that? There’s an old saying that goes “You need three things in life to be happy: someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to”. By visiting and caring for the homebound elderly, you can take care of two of those three, and maybe when the time comes for you to be in their shoes, someone will visit and care for you.

So think about it. Are there some elderly folks in your neighborhood that live alone? How about in your surrounding neighborhoods? Make a point to go visit them. Check on them. Show them they are loved. It may be the greatest Christmas present you can give this holiday season!

79359f83309748ca5972ce2276d1a239

Why It’s So Important to Step OUT of Your Comfort Zone

n-COMFORT-ZONE-628x314

(photo credit: Huffington Post)

As a parent of three teens (ages 16, 14, and 12), I’m long past the days of diapers and terrible twos (and threes), so it’s pretty crazy to hear about how some of the newer moms and dads are raising their kids. Like, I just read an article about a British singer named Stacey Solomon who JUST slept the first night in NINE years without one of her children in her bed. (She also still takes baths with them, but that’s another story altogether.) Let’s stick with the bedtime routine here. Btw, the story is RIGHT HERE if you’re interested.

Point is, this mom has had her oldest sleeping in the bed with her for nine years. Now, that may not seem like alot to you, but to me, it is. And what’s worse, that’s NINE YEARS that this little boy has been kept in his little warm and cozy comfort zone. Admittedly, one of the hardest things to do as a parent is to take our children out of their comfort zone, and let them make mistakes, learn, and grow. But isn’t that the point? Don’t we ALL need to have the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow? I know I do. Some of THE most rewarding times in my life were times when I stepped out of my comfort zone.

How about the first time I spoke to a crowd using my own material (and not a script). Or the time, I was asked to teach a group of prisoners in Belize while on a mission trip? Those were exhilarating experiences! And that just two examples from the top of my bald head. Each one of those times (and every time I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone), I’ve grown in confidence, ability, and readiness to step out of my comfort zone the NEXT time. I firmly believe that each new and different experience or challenge in life sets us up for the next new experience or challenge. So, if we don’t ever learn to step out of our comfort zones, we never learn to take on new experiences. That leaves us with a life that’s not NEARLY as fulfilling as if we HAD embraced those new, uncomfortable experiences.

I know you don’t want that kind of life for yourself, or for your children. I know I don’t.

comfort zone

(photo credit: www.smartactors.com)

3 Ways To Be A Better Husband

HappyWIfe

My wife and I lead a marriage class at our church. It’s not a class for troubled marriages. It’s a marriage class for couples who believe in marriage, and for those who want to make their marriage the best it can be. I’ve seen and read ALOT of material on how to improve you marriage, but since I’m a guy, I can best speak to what hits home with me as a man and a husband of better than 19years.

So, here are THREE common things I’ve found all husbands can do to strengthen the bond with our wives:

1/LOVE HER. LOVE HER. LOVE HER. What your wife wants more than anything else in the world is to feel loved and appreciated. Remember when you were dating, and you took advantage of every opportunity to surprise her, appreciate her, and make her feel special? Guess what? She STILL wants that. That’s probably one of the big reasons she fell in love with you, so send her a card, even a text to tell her you are the luckiest guy in the world to have her. Then look for opportunities everyday to make her feel appreciated  and valued.

2/LISTEN. LISTEN. LISTEN. Admittedly, this is one I have the hardest time with. Most men aren’t the best listeners in my experience. When we talk with our male friends, we talk over each other, we argue, we crack jokes. This is NOT how your wife enjoys talking to you. Just like I said above, she wants to feel valued. You can do that with your ears! Yes, God gave you two ears and just one mouth. So, ask her how her day was and be prepared to listen, listen, and listen some more. Don’t try to fix or remedy the situation. Just listen, understand, and empathize. Do this each and every day and watch how much closer you get.

3/SPEND TIME. SPEND TIME. SPEND TIME with her. It’s not about quality time. It’s about QUANTITY time. Yes, the AMOUNT of time you spend with your wife is SO important. When you put her above the game on TV, you show her that she’s the most important thing in your life. Try this discipline each day. Sit down with her for 20-30 minutes each day and hear her heart. Connect with her. Find out what’s going on in her world. Do that, and you’ll enrich yours.

BONUS: Do you know what your spouse’s “Love Language” is? Do you know yours? Take THIS SHORT QUIZ and have your spouse do the same and you can learn to love them the way that they really feel it!

Blend500

How To Understand The Importance of Persistence

seek

I read a really cool story recently about a 78 year old woman in nearby Valparaiso, Florida who has finally found her biological brother after 60, yes, sixty years of searching! Read all about it HERE. Now granted, searching for a long  lost family member is much easier now with all the internet offers in that regard. However, you have to remember that this search started some 60 years ago when the internet and Al Gore had not yet met.

Point is, thanks to her dogged persistence, she tracked down a member of her immediate family that didn’t know she existed.  Her brother, Fred Vanderwoude is so happy that he’s moving his entire family to Florida to be closer to his long lost sister.

There is something to be said here for that dogged persistence. Author Andy Andrews broke through in the publishing world with a best selling book called “The Traveler’s Gift” which tells the story of man who has lost just about everything traveling through history learning key principles for life success from key historical figures. The last of the 7 principles is “I Will Persist Without Exception”.  “I will persist without exception. I will continue despite exhaustion. I acknowledge the fact that most people quit when exhaustion sets in. I am not “most people.” **

Dogged persistence is evident in just about every success story you can research. Take Andy Andrews himself. After being turned down over 50 times by various publishers, he persisted. After a ten or twenty rejections, most people would give up and move on. Not Andy. He was scheduled to attended a certain dinner, seated at the table of ONE of the publishers who had rejected his book. Andy knew if there was one person MORE influential than a publisher, it had to be the publisher’s wife. Andy waited for the wife to ask him what he’d been working on, and he was ready to pitch his book, and what’s more, he was ready with a copy for her to read. She did just that. She read the book to her husband, the publisher, who sat with rapt attention, and proceeded to publish Andy’s first novel.

That chapter in “The Traveler’s Gift” concludes with this: “I will continue despite exhaustion. I focus on results. I am a person of great faith.”**

Speaking of faith, we are all familiar with the scripture from Matthew 7:7  that reads “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

I will never forget a grade I received on a monologue as a freshman drama major in college. My professor, a serious actor himself, gave me a C, with a comment at the top of the page next to the grade, in red marker, that I will always remember. He said: “Logan, there are almost 5 billion people on this planet. No one will notice if you don’t try your hardest”.

Keep on seeking. Persist without exception. Try your hardest, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

Fred Vanderwoude sure was.

**Excerpts taken from “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews. 2002. Published in Nashville, Tennessee by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc

andy-andrews.jpg

How to “See The Good”

16a7bc7706e6f04fe85028cc3beb6791--optimism-quotes-positive-thoughts-quotes-on-positivity

Remember when your parents (or maybe your grandparents) said “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” How many of us have used that same line countless times on our children? I know I have.

There really is so much wisdom in that simple little order, isn’t there? I mean, think of all the verbal and written trash we’re exposed to everyday, both in real life, and in virtual life via social media. The current political landscape just throws gallons of gas on that dumpster fire, right? But, when it comes down to it, if we could all just remember what our parents told us when we were kids, the world would be such a happier place.

Really, what it boils down to is taking the time to see the good. See the good in others. See  the good in a given situation. I’m in the process of reading through the 10 scrolls in Og Mandino’s famous book “The Greatest Salesman in the World”. Each scroll, which contains wisdom for the ages, is to be read 3 times per day for 30 days. Two times quietly at breakfast and lunch, and one time aloud before retiring at night. This discipline allows for the formation of permanent habits.

I’ve been reading and re-reading scroll # 2 entitled “I will greet this day with love in my heart”. After numerous readings, what sticks out to me about the formation of a continually loving heart is this: We need to see the good.

Quoting from Scroll #2: “Henceforth, will I look on all things with love. I will love the sun for it warms my bones, yet, I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit. I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars. I will welcome happiness for it opens my soul. I will acknowledge rewards for they are my due, yet I will welcome obstacles for they are my challenge.”

See how the writer encourages us to look for the good? The sun may be scorching hot, but we love it for it warms our bones. The rain may drench us, but it can also cleanse our spirit. The darkness may scare us, but it shows us the stars. Even obstacles are not hindrances, but mere challenges. It’s all a matter of perspective, right? We all know that we can’t control things like the weather or our circumstances, but we can certainly control how we think about them. And when we get into the habit of looking for the GOOD in things, we, and the world are much richer for it.

Later on in the scroll, we read: “I will love all manners of men for each has qualities to be admired even though they be hidden. I will love the ambitious for they can inspire me. I will love the failures for they can teach me. I will love the meek for they are divine. I will love the rich for they are yet lonely. I will love the poor for they are so many. I will love the young for the faith they old. I will love the old for the wisdom they share.”

There is good to be found in everyone, even the failures and the poor. We just have to stop and think,  and we’ll find them. Instead of reacting with our mouths, we should react with our minds. Just take the few moments to empathize with people. Everyone has a story, right? Just take the time to stop, think, and see the good. There IS good in everyone. There IS good in everything.

We just have to take the time to see it.

**Excerpts taken from “The Greatest Salesman in the World” Copyright 1968 by Og Mandino 2012. Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada by Bantam Books, New York, New York

“>the-greatest-salesman-in-the-world-by-og-mandino