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Credit Where Credit is Due

It's always troubled me how God gets the blame for all of the bad stuff in the world. In blaming God for the bad, the assumption driving  that belief is that God causes bad things to happen.  The reason this is important to me is because it influences how we think about God and thus impacts, negatively, God's reputation.  I mean, really, who would want to get involved with a God who causes hurt and pain?  Best to avoid that kind of a God.  And so that's what happens... people distance themselves from God because of some really bad PR.

This morning I was reading in James, from the Bible. In the first chapter James addresses the readers who might be facing difficult times.  He encourages them to keep going with chin up during the difficulties and even promises good things to come for those who endure.  And then James says a couple of things that quickly knock this notion out of the water that the bad stuff comes from God.  He says:

1)  If your hard times are caused because you gave into temptation, don't blame that on God.  That's your own doing.  God didn't even cause the temptation.  It's your own desires that cause you to be misled. (v13-16)
2)  Whatever about this life that is good and perfect, that's what comes from God (v. 17).

I don't pretend to completely understand  how God works.  In fact, its funny because when I was younger I thought I had it all pretty much figured out.  As I get older, it seems as though I know less than ever about how God works. But one thing I am rock solid on is that the bad stuff doesn't come from God.  God's part with the bad stuff is to take the painful, ugly and broken things and turn those into something good and beautiful if we allow that.

Anything good in our lives at all, that came from God.

"Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above..."  

10 Vital Habits for Success

Life's seemingly small acts can end up being life's greatest contributions. Especially, when  practiced over a lifetime and combined with a number of other seemingly small acts.  This is true on a personal level, as well as a collective level.

I came up with the following list several years ago to remind me of practices that, while they may seem rather small and insignificant in and of themselves, if carried out over a course of a lifetime would lead to a life of integrity and success. Vincent Van Gogh said, "Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together." 

Integrity is one of those attributes we don't hear much about.  I'm not even going to try to define it, but we all know when we meet a person with integrity.  The world is desperately  in need of people with integrity not only to provide leadership, but to be role models.

So here are 10 habits that if practiced over time would lead to a life of integrity.  Obviously, the list is not exhaustive and I'm sure you could come up with your own set of vital habits.

 Set goals for yourself, even little ones, and then reach them.
       This is being honest with yourself.
If you see something wrong, be a positive part of the solution.
      This is creative problem solving
If you want something to happen, make it happen.
      This is being proactive
Cultivate a genuine interest in others.
     This is being other-centered.
Go the extra mile instead of getting by with the littlest amount of time, energy and resources.
      This is excellence
Be generous and give freely.
     This is love
Always thank others if they have given to you in any way, no matter how small.
      This is gratitude.
Affirm others as you see them stepping out in new areas and taking on new challenges.
      This is encouragement that empowers.
Plan and organize yourself to keep scheduled appointments and commitments.
      This is being reliable.
Be on time.
      This is recognizing that the small stuff matters.

"A life lived with integrity, even if it lacks the trappings of fame and fortune, is a shining star in whose light others may follow in the years to come."  (Denis Waitley, author and speaker)

Lily's Closet: Dreams Do Come True

This is Madison (see picture on right).  She lives down the street from us and our kids have gone to the same school.  Like many teenage girls, Madison loves to shop.  She enjoys hanging out with friends and having a good time.  Madison also is passionate about using her gifts to serve the world and to make a difference in the lives of others.

You Can Only Be What You Can See

You will never become someone, or do something,  that you first can't see or imagine being or doing.  Sometimes I hear people say, about their success or achievement, "I never could have imagined that I would be here!".  Perhaps, but somewhere along the way the path that led to "here" became clear one step at a time in that person's imagination, or their mind's eye. That person began to imagine and see the next step and believed that it could be achieved. If you can't see anything different or more  for your life in the future then it's likely you'll be exactly where you are right now in the future. That's why I think that one of the most important things we can go after in life is seeing the possibilities...  imagining what could be, what should be.

Message in a Bottle

The messages that we long to hear are all around us, more often than we are aware.Often our gaze goes no further than the ground 16 inches in front of our own feet.  Nor do we hear beyond the sound of our own voice talking in our heads. But if we can see farther and listen beyond, there is a whole world to be discovered!   What is it you desire to hear? Is there a question that you are asking?  Is there a message you hope to receive?

Embrace Inconvenience

If you want your life to matter, if you want to make a meaningful contribution, if you want to excel in your work,  or want to become a certain kind of person, prepare to embrace inconvenience.  We're becoming more programmed as a society to make choices based on convenience.  If something is easy, simple and less inter-ruptive, it's better and thus the logical choice.  If something requires more of us,  is costly or time consuming, then that option is less desirable and thus to be avoided.

Make Art Where It Matters

U2 has long been one of my favorite bands.  I appreciate their art and I like what they stand for.  One of my favorite music videos is "Where the Streets Have No Name", from back in the 80's.  They performed this hit song live on top of the Republic Liquor Store in Los Angeles, CA, and made a video of the performance.

Performing Live From a Rooftop in LA
The video captures the scandal this caused with local traffic police, as literally thousands and thousands of people en massed on the corner of 7th and Main Street in LA during rush hour traffic to see the band perform from the rooftop.  The radio talk show hosts, who are narrating the event, refer to the fact that this neighborhood is rough, and note that the location is an unlikely choice for a video shoot.  Be careful, they warn the crowd who might be coming down to the neighborhood.

The Power of Continuums

In one of the courses I teach, the students and I interact around the Illness-Wellness Continuum.  Basically, this model is intended to help someone determine if he or she is moving in the direction of Wellness or in the direction of Pre-Mature Death. The Illness-Wellness Continuum served as a wake up call for me a few years ago.   I have found what I call "Continuum Thinking" to be a very helpful tool in determining if I am moving in the right direction, or not.  A continuum is defined as, "anything that goes through a gradual transition from one condition, to a different condition, without any abrupt changes"

Here's how it can work:  decide what is important to you, and then determine what the opposite might be.  For example, on one end of the continuum you might identify "Financial Freedom" as the end goal.  What is the opposite of that?  "Debt" or "Foreclosure", as examples.  And then map a few indicators out on either side as points of evaluation to help you decide if you are moving towards Financial Freedom, or away from Financial Freedom.  Or, another example might be if you had a dream to  "Publish a Book".  You can ask yourself, "Am I  moving towards fulfilling that dream, or away from it?"  Every day you make choices.  You either move towards the things that matter, or you move away from the things that matter.

Today is my birthday.  It's always a good day for me to reflect and think about the overall trajectory of my life.  A question I am asking myself is: "Am I generally moving towards what's important to me, or away from those things?"

"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses....Oh, that you would choose life...!"  (God in Deut 30:19)