Turn Your Focus Outward…


With so many people engaged in the pursuit of happiness, there is one principle that is absolutely sure. When your focus is yourself, you end up looking at yourself, dwelling on yourself, evaluating yourself and comparing yourself to others. And, the happiness you so ardently sought slips away imperceptibly, leaving you alone with yourself and miserable. When your focus is for others and what you can do to help them, your own happiness follows like your own shadow sure…

One of the greatest dichotomies in life is that when you seek yourself, your own self loses out. The more you study yourself, evaluate yourself and look within, the more you see your flaws, your imperfections, your foibles and your foolishness. And, in so doing, your confidence in yourself falters. Your focus is wrong. You’ve been tricked into trying to do what you need to do to be happy, not realizing that true happiness is found in what you can do for someone else. This is not to say that you cannot have dreams and goals or that you cannot pay attention to getting your own needs met, but rather, those things cannot be allowed to occupy your entire focus.

God’s grand design of life is very simple. He envisioned that you would rely on Him to supply all of your needs. In so doing and so trusting, you would be free to help your fellow man. The error behind self-focus is that you become the center of your own life and as such have to find out how to meet all of your own needs. You have to foolishly take on the role of being the God of your own life, minus all of the power, ability and love. Add to that not being able to see the future and you’ll find yourself in a precarious position. You want to be happy and Lord knows it has been a major focus in your life, so it behooves you try something new. Turn your focus outward…

Most Christians, and I do mean most Christians, find themselves in this situation, though by very different means. The believer has a heart for God and as such wants to do the things that please Him. However, they fail to recognize their spiritual opponent, also called the accuser, who accuses them night and day. In that accusation, he reminds them of God’s perfection and His perfect Word and then how they aren’t living up to that Word. He boldly and subtly points out their imperfections and where they come up short. And, instead of remembering to live their lives according to the accomplishments of another man (Jesus Christ) they try in vain to measure up on their own. They forget the “finished” work of Jesus Christ and add their own works of righteousness to be righteous before God. And, the harder they try, the more they come up short. They end up living their lives in perpetual condemnation, striving day by day to make their imperfect flesh perfect before Him. They cannot live for even five minutes without thinking about something they did wrong. Unknown to them, their focus is turned inward more and more, day by day, as they grow weaker and more miserable. They painfully recount all of their past moments, dwelling in and living out every failure, every misstep, every fault. Their solution isn’t more striving to be good, but rather to accept their Savior’s work; get out of their own head and help somebody else.

Have you ever noticed that the more you turn your focus inward, the more troubles you find? The longer you focus on something not working right in your body, the more negative things appear to focus on. The more you dwell on yourself, your situation, your life, the more your mind fills with petty worries and injuries and slights. The harder you press to get your own needs met, the more unmet needs you discover. But conversely, the less attention you pay to the so-called ills in your body, the better your body feels. The less you dwell on yourself and what you don’t have in your life or haven’t accomplished or haven’t yet acquired, the more things you have to be thankful for; the more you can accomplish, the more abundance flows in your direction. Life was not intended as a contest for you to get all of your own needs met, but rather an opportunity to help others get all of their needs met, ending in not only your own needs being supplied abundantly, but a sublime sense of happiness that does not go away!

You, my weary friend, must learn how to get the focus off yourself and onto other people. Listen with your heart to what people are saying to you. Understand how they communicate their pain and find ways to alleviate that pain. Ask yourself what you can do to help them or make their life a little easier. Offer them good words and hope and encouragement and love. Give them your whole, undivided self with nothing held in reserve for yourself. Bless them and be willing to make your own needs secondary and see if our great God will not only bless you with abundance, but with a peace and enduring sense of love and joy that never fails. Turn your focus outward and see how quickly things turn around for you…

Just some good thoughts…

Making Your Mind a Friend…


Different emotionsYears ago I wrote a book called, “Making Your Mind a Friend.” It was an amateurish project at best, but at the time I penned it, it helped save me from a world of suffering; suffering mostly self-imposed by wrong thought with a heavy, heavy dose of religious bondage. Somehow, in some imperceptible way, I had morphed (or had been morphed) into everything I hated in life. I became sickly religious and when you get religious enough, everything you do or say or feel will be wrong. It’s wrong because you have set up for yourself an impossible standard. And, before you know it, your worst, most pervasive enemy will be your very own mind. Thus, making your mind a friend isn’t about splitting yourself into two separate entities and having positive dialogue with each part. It’s about learning to extend kindness and forgiveness and friendliness to your own self in the same way you might extend it to your friend.

I remember years ago when my brother had agreed to watch our boys. When we picked them up he explained incredulously, that one of them was throwing rocks in the road and when he told him to stop, he threw another one! He couldn’t understand how that could happen. Of course, he didn’t have his own children yet. He now knows that disobedience happens but it is the parent’s job to correct it. So here’s a thought. Disobedience happens with adults also. But, just like when you correct a child, no matter how satisfying the chastisement feels, all a parent is really after is an acknowledgement from the child that they did something wrong. There’s rarely much to say after the apology occurs.

How many of you have spent years and years chastising yourself for some event that has long since expired? It’s gone from life and is in the books. It only shows up again when you re-read the book. Stop re-reading the book! The things you do wrong and have done wrong were committed to the history book just as quickly as they happened. They are no longer a part of your life unless you allow them to be. The egregious errors, the scarring hurts, the bruising slights all have vanished from the present reality. You make your mind a friend by not subjecting your friend to the same old, tired story. Like your friend who might tell you it’s time to get over it, it’s time to get over it. You don’t magically transform bad behaviors by punishing yourself, you know that! You transform yourself the same way your child transforms, by receiving your forgiveness. And don’t you think for a second that God is bringing it up. God forgave you the FIRST time you were sorry. You have to “accept” His forgiveness also. Beyond that it’s all a bunch of egotism and you can take that to the bank!

Once I heard a father say how dumb his kid was and that he didn’t think his elevator went all the way to the top. How sad is that? To think that a father would say that about his own flesh and blood, astounded me. All I could think was, he’s your own kid! What the eff is the matter with you? Your child will be about as smart and talented and good as you can teach him he can be. You, horrible father, are outrageously defining his limit. Now as bad as I guess that made you feel, how about the things you say to yourself? Would you so easily tell your good friend that he was an idiot? Would you be so quick to focus on and point out his every weakness and fault? Oh sure you would see both, but out of love you wouldn’t bring them up, would you? Do you know anyone on earth that gets better at something after repeatedly being told he sucks at it? Weakness is never overcome by focusing on the weakness. You win at life by focusing on your strengths; what you can do the best! Strength is built from strength! All you accomplish by acquiescing to an endless stream of negative chatter about yourself is to weaken and severely limit your true capabilities. And, the worst part? You are saying those things to yourself! You aren’t just being honest! You are treating yourself like an enemy and not a friend. If you don’t love you, who does? Well, God does and He disagrees with your estimation of yourself. Again, beyond that, it’s all just a bunch of egotism…and your insistence on self harm.

Making your mind a friend is about choosing what you will and will not think about and choosing what you will and will not say to yourself. Your mind is your mind and you may use it in whatever fashion you see fit. You may say, “I can’t stop thinking about it!” But, oh yes you can! Like a lifelong smoker, the longer you’ve been engaged in the habit, the harder it is going to be to stop. The new non-smoker has to say ‘no’ to himself one hundred times a day at first, but the next day may only require seventy-five. Eventually the thought comes up ever so rarely. The same with negative talk and condemnation, once you break the habit, it happens less and less. And like the smoker that quit, you brighten your prospects for a long, happy, successful life.

At the end of the day, you my dear friend, are the only you, you’ve got! And, like your heart would seek in earnest to console your sad, defeated child, you must learn to be good to yourself. You aren’t serving God by behaving that way, no matter what some preacher may have told you, you are serving your enemy by your refusal to believe what God has already said. You aren’t the evil one, but you just may have been listening to him. Be kind with yourself. Be forgiving with yourself. Learn to accept your imperfections and just be. It’s okay. God knows all about you and loves you anyway!

Just some good thoughts…

 

The Secret to a Good Relationship…


Relationships come in all shapes and sizes (yes, clichés are my life!).  Relationships represent one of, if not the greatest,  component of our lives. You can’t really function as a human without some sort of relationship.  Oh, you can try, but you aren’t going to be very happy. But when it comes to relationships between men and women, we as collective group, have developed some rather odd expectations.  How many times have you heard of someone looking for their soul-mate or for Mr. Right?  The idea behind those notions is somewhat unrealistic.  First, that whole soul-mate thing presumes that there is that one person “out there” who is predestined to be your other half.  You, apparently, have little or no choice in the matter and have to get busy finding them.  (And there are how many people in the world?)  Then, funnily enough, when you find them they only lived about 20 minutes from you (smile).  Amazing!  And then there is Mr. Right.  Mr. Right is again that one fella who is just right for you.  You can tell when you have found him because he will be just right (haha).  Those of us that have been married for any length of time know that our Mrs. Right or Mr. Right is far from always being just right (Just ask my wife!).  Add to this, can you even imagine living in a culture where your folks choose your mate?  No thanks Mom and Pops!

So what exactly then is a relationship supposed to be?  I think we are smart enough to recognize that any two people can make something work, if they are committed to it.  But what is the secret to a good relationship?  Is there a secret?  To answer that question we have to go back to the origin of man.  Before there were Adam and Eve, God was.  God being all-knowing and all-powerful came up with the grand idea of people.  But there is another aspect of God we must consider as well.  God is love.  God isn’t just the act of loving or One that maintains a loving nature.  God actually is love.  Whatever love is, is God and whatever God is, is love.  They are inseparable.   Interestingly, the one thing the whole world seeks is love.  Mankind is born with a God-hunger on the inside, which can also be called a hunger for love.  In light of that, we have been looking for love in all the wrong places…(singing)…I digress sorta.  Now back to Adam and Eve.  (Hey maybe Eve was Adam’s soul-mate?  Okay only choice?  I guess Adam was Mr. Right as well as Mr. Only…again I digress.)  When God made Adam, He made him body, soul and spirit.  Adam’s spirit was his connection to God, or if you will, his connection to love.  Eve came in similar fashion and was connected to God’s love as well.  They started out connected to and filled with love; God’s love.  There wasn’t much competition so they formed a relationship together (smile).  We can assume as the prototype that they were both pretty “hot” and attracted to each other.  Though they started out perfect, they soon proved by their own free-will that they weren’t perfect.  (You know the story…)  Now if you can take a brief pause from your uncontrollable laughter, the secret to a good, if not great, relationship is in that story.  Relationships between men and women were “supposed” to be based upon a strong, wonderful love from God and a mutual love and devotion to God.  With that firmly in place, the rest was easy!  Sure there was still forgiveness.  Sure there was a willingness to let the past be forgotten.  But in reality, those wonderful qualities are all a part of God’s love anyway.

Accordingly, the problem with relationships now-a-days is that we are looking to fill that void with our mate.  We foolishly think, “if this person would just do what I want; look how I desire and treat me the way I deserve to be treated, I will feel loved.”  Then, when they fall short, as they invariably will, we wrongly conclude that love is lost and that they weren’t really our soul-mate after all.  In reality that approach is very selfish.  Your mate’s job is not be everything you think they should be.  Their job is to be everything they want to be with you being there to support them and love them and encourage them (and vice versa).  Marriage is not two people living one same life.  Marriage is two people living “separate” lives together.  And the only way for that to work out most effectively is for both of the parties involved receiving and sharing God’s love with one another.   Folks ask how Connie and I have stayed together for so long and the answer isn’t, as Connie jokingly says, “that we never wanted to get divorced at the same time.”  The truth is that when things got real crappy, we both loved God enough to persevere.  Without God we would have never made it this far.

So don’t spend all your time and energy looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right.  Spend your energy learning how to receive and give the love that God wants to give to you.  Get good and full of that love and you will suddenly discover there’s a whole lot of soul-mates out there waiting for you!

Just some good thoughts…