Sunday, January 31, 2010

How to Reach Your Full Potential for God by Charles Stanley

God has a will, plan, and purpose for humankind, and each person has a part.  Everything someone needs to reach his or her God-given potential is within, waiting to be discovered and developed.  Reaching your full potential for God can be achieved by working with His Spirit to develop a clean heart, and clear mind, and a balanced schedule.

When I read this book, it was as if Dr. Stanley could read my mind and heart, saying  “You have settled.  You’re threatened by life’s challenges.  When are you going to have enough faith in God that he really has a plan for an abundant life for you?  When are you going to make the most of opportunities and start moving in the direction of God’s plan?”

This book lays out seven essentials for moving toward the path God has designed for each individual.  It is also peppered with appropriate Scripture references and Biblical examples that illustrate the step-by-step plan Dr. Stanley has outlined for moving from excuses or despair to realizing an abundant, promise-filled life. 

I would definitely recommend the book, especially if you’re feeling directionless or seeking your place in the world.  Be aware, however, you will be challenged in every area of your attitude and daily life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Be a green tree

As a youth leader, I had come to an inescapable conclusion.  Life is full of choices, and your path is determined by your decisions.

This is particularly true with young people, because they are faced with so many decisions in a short amount of time- Do I wear this to school? Do I go to the party?  Do I skip track practice?  Do I ask her out on a date?  Do I apply to colleges now? 

As "old" people, we often get in a rut, because it seems like the life changing decisions are over.  We've met and married our spouse, had kids, settled into a career and a house... nothing left to do but to wait it out until retirement.  Or maybe life is so full of meeting other people's needs that you've forgotten that you matter too.

Bah!  We still have to decide to be the most we can be (at the risk of sounding like a military recruiter), at any time of our life.  We still have choices to make regarding relationships, new opportunities, and health.  The biggest choice is to decide not to be in a rut or settle for status quo.  The biggest choice is to decide to keep on growing, no matter what stage we're in.   

Stretch out your branches and grow!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Life is like Licorice

It's great to have goals and to be able to work steadily toward them.  In my experience, however, only the most die-hard determined people can make a plan and stick to it without fail.  Often, these people are so driven their health and relationships suffer. 

Moving forward is important.  Yet, as we know, life happens.  People get sick; people lose their jobs; people make poor decisions.  When life happens, it's tempting to get frustrated and give up.  "Apparently, it wasn't meant to be."

So, maybe it isn't going to be as easy as you thought.  Maybe it's going to take longer.  Maybe after some long, hard thought, it's not really what you wanted after all.  That's okay.  Just don't give up.  Adjust, be flexible, arrange your time and money around your values.  Think about how your family and health figure into your goals.

Along with being flexible, you have to be resilient.  You can't let little things get you down.  You have to develop a thick skin against the nay-sayers and the critics.  You have to take setbacks and failures in stride.

Like a piece of licorice.  Flexible, but not easily broken. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Strategery

So, it's technically not a word, or it wasn't until 2000, but getting from where you are to where you want to go takes more than a simple strategy.  It takes some serious strategery. 

Strategery is about working backward in time from your goal to your present situation.  The important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter where you are now. 

What matters is you are fully aware of where you are and are prepared to move in a planned direction.  No more treading water, no more procrastinating, no more wishing and hoping, no more fuming and bitterness, no more regret.  The past is the past, and it's unchangeable.  Where you are is unchangeable.  Where you are going is up to you.

It's not enough to have a goal or want it really bad.  You have to strategerize a plan.  Do you want to get a novel published?  Have you started writing it yet?  When do you want to have it completed by?  How many words a day would that be?  Do you have an editor to help you polish it up?  Have you started looking for an agent?

If you wanted to be published by 2015, how much time would you have to spend every day to reach that goal?  Would you have to take a creative writing class?  Would you have to read some novels in your genre to study the plots and characters?  What steps can you take and in what order?  Map it out.  Make annual goals; break down the first year into months; break down the first month into days. 

You make not be able to stick to the exact plan for the next five years.  It's important to be flexible and adjust your stategery and your plan as circumstances change.  Make a plan, and work it baby, work it!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

When it's Time to Sell the Boat

In 1977, John Gage had a dream of sailing around the world, even though he didn't yet know how to sail.  He discovered you can't learn sailing from a book, and took classes to learn navigation and sailing techniques.  For the next 15 years he sailed up and down the Eastern coast of the United States, earning his US Coast Guard Captain's license and running a yacht delivery service. 

In 2003 he purchased the boat that would take him around the world, the Dream Catcher.  He set sail in December of that year to pursue his dream.  In May of 2007, three-and-a-half years later, John arrived back at his home marina, completing his journey around the world.  He kept a captain's log that details his trip around the world.

What tickled my funny bone was his landing page, which states: "Welcome to Dream Catcher web site. My name is John Gage and this site describes my plans and progress of sailing my boat, Dream Catcher, around the world. It is also about having dreams and not giving up on pursuing those dreams."  Directly below is a photo of a magnificent sailboat, and a large caption:  "Dream Catcher for Sale."

John did not give up on his dreams.  He made them a reality.  Then, apparently, he moved on to other dreams.

Sometimes, your dreams may evolve and change, and that's okay.  At the age of 16, I felt called to full-time ministry.  When I actually started working in ministry, I discovered that I wasn't cut out for unrealistic expectations or a fishbowl lifestyle.  I still feel God wants to do great things through me, but perhaps behind the scenes, encouraging others through the written word.

Sometimes, it's time to sell the boat, and move on.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feed your Brain

Although your brain is not a muscle, it helps to think of it as a separate entity that requires both food and exercise to make maximum use of its potential.
The exercise would include problem solving and activities which require thought and analysis.  Food is information you take in, whether its through TV, radio, books, blogs, magazines, newspapers, or classes.

I've heard many people say that they hated school and have no desire to return to a classroom or write a paper again.  Even so, in order to grow and to strive for your goals, you have to be continuously learning.  Even someone in a "secure" position has to keep abreast of new developments in their area of expertise.  Would you want a doctor who isn't aware of the latest treatments?  Would you want a financial advisor who is clueless about market trends? 

I am a practical person.  My favorite book is a "how to" or self improvement.  However, as a writer, I've learned that just reading other books helps develop my vocabulary and my voice.  Your tool for learning may not be obvious.  Classes and degrees are great and may be necessary for promotion or a career change.  However, there are seminars, books, e-reports, and a host of other tools.

What do you want to be when you grow up?  What is it going to take to get there?  How can you find out?  Sites like Career Builder and Monster can give you information.  People who work in those fields are usually glad to share their story.  Do some research and make a plan.  You can achieve your dreams.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Looking Ahead

It was a leadership retreat.  It had been an amazing day- gourmet food, a ropes course, getting to know the others in the group.  I had stayed up late chatting by the fire with some of the guys, and made my way back to the women's cabins alone, about a half mile back through the woods in the pitch dark.

I had my flashlight, and I used it to stay out of the small puddles that lined the path.  I also made sure I didn't run into any trees on the way, and that I made it to the right cabin.

This was the image I had as I was reading Charles Stanley's new book, "How to Reach your Full Potential for God", where he draws a mental picture of using your flashlight or lantern to get through the woods in the middle of the night.  He makes these points:
  • You need the light to see in the distance, to be able to know your goal and the direction you are headed.
  • You need the light to see either side of the path, to make sure you are not wandering into the underbrush, or even worse, off the edge of a ravine.  
  • You also need to be able to see directly in front of you, to see immediate hazards and challenges.  
The obvious omission is that you don't need to shine your light behind you.  In order to move forward, you have to focus on where you are and where you are going.  Outside of forgiving and forgiving, you can't change what's in your past. 

The flashlight in Stanley's illustration?  Psalm 119:105 (NIV) "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Get Help or Go Home

To me, it was an epiphany.  "No one expects you to do this alone."

"Really?" I thought.  I had always thought I was expected to just handle everything that came my way.  Even when I felt overwhelmed to the point of tears, or completely alone in my struggle, I just didn't know that it was okay to share the load. 

What a relief!  I wasn't a failure.  I wasn't inadequate.  I was human.  In fact, my counselor went on to elaborate, God actually puts people in our lives to love, support, encourage, and challenge us. 

In order to build relationships, I had to take down a formidable foe.  Pride.  I had to take off the smiley mask that tried to communicate well-being and self-reliance.  I had to admit I wasn't as strong or independent as I thought I was.  I had to admit I actually needed other people in my life.

No one expects you to reach your goals alone. You need people in your life who will encourage you and believe in you.  You have to risk that you may fail, and know that those people will still be around, regardless, to pick you up and help you start again.

Who can you tell your dreams to?  Who can help you reach your goals today?

Monday, January 11, 2010

The topic of conversation in Sunday School class was "loyalty."  It was based on a Dick Van Dyke episode: Dick Van Dyke Show: A Man's Teeth Are Not His Own and the question is, "what is loyalty?"

We decided loyalty includes the words spoken in front of someone, as well as the words spoken when they aren't around.  Loyalty includes faithfulness in actions also, as anyone who's witnessed a break-up due to an affair can attest to.  Loyalty involves choosing a person or principle to stand by, and not backing down.

Sometimes loyalties clash.  If your best friend does something wrong and asks you to cover, do you remain loyal to your friend or your beliefs?

Believe it or not, people take note of how loyal you are.  Your employer expects loyalty, and will probably not tolerate negative comments or doing non-work activities on the clock.  Your friends and co-workers secretly worry when you gossip about a third party if you talk about them behind their back.

Practicing reasonable loyalty (ahem... sports fans) can be a key to building strong relationships and a good reputation. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Acknowledgement

Okay, acknowledgement is not really a value.  It's more of an action, but it has everything to do with the way you view the world and your relationship with other people. 

My pastor used an illustration in his sermon today... you wouldn't walk into a dinner at the White House (assuming you were invited) and not acknowledge the President.  He would be the reason you were at the White House, and the person who happens to live there. 

Even though the people we come into contact on a daily basis may not have as much clout as the President of the United States, they still matter. 

I work in a nursing home.  I am deeply aware that just taking the time to nod or smile or say hello to residents I pass in the hallway is vitally important.  Many of these people already feel discarded by their families, hopeless about their health, and live day to day going from medications to therapy to meals, and not much else. 

If you want to make a difference in the lives of other people, start by making them feel like they matter.  Listen to your spouse.  Pay attention to your children.  Say hello to someone you pass by on the street or in the hall. 

Who can you make feel important today?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Some people are thinkers, and some are feelers.  The ways people process the world and make decisions  generally fall into one of these two categories.

I am an analytical feeler.  I am very tuned into how I feel, but I want my decisions to be logical as well.  I know something is not right in my world when it doesn't "feel" right.  I struggle to find that balance, that sense of peace that I am doing all the things I should be doing and am capable of doing, and am doing it efficiently without sacrificing any of the fun or wonder that makes life worth living. 

It comes down to values.  In order to feel peace with the way I live my life, I have to decide what is important to me.  My faith is important to me.  My family is important to me.  Integrity and responsibility are important to me.  Humor and fun are also important.  I value creativity and knowledge as well.  That is why I am pursuing a career that allows me to share my knowledge with people in fun, creative ways. 

What do you value?  What are you doing today to better align the life you're living with what matters to you most?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

School Projects

I didn’t hate school.  I didn’t always enjoy attending, but I’ve always loved to learn.  I like to read, and I like to participate in discussions.  I do not like projects.

I do not like oral reports, demonstrations, anything involving a diorama or posterboard or a costume… I’d rather just write an essay. 

I thought after graduating high school, I was done with projects.  Granted, I still had a few oral reports, particularly in Speech 101, but no more glue and scissors and rulers.

Then, I had children.  And they grew.  They grew so much they were old enough to do their own projects.  I encouraged them to be involved.  I let them take advanced classes.  And now I have projects.

Science Fair 2010.  The projects have to be turned in on  the first day back from Christmas break.  Do you know what that means? 

It means the last two weeks have had this project hanging over my head.  Oh they’re my kids’ projects, but they didn’t care.  I had to drag them to the library, needle them until they made a decision on what they wanted to do, and force-feed the reading material. 

So the last two days have been full of “read that, type that, glue that, cut that, get back here and work on your project!”  I’ve had to learn stuff so that I can explain it to my children.  I’ve had to mess with word processing and data entry and printers that don’t want to cooperate.  We ran out of rubber cement and had to beg from the neighbor for enough glue to finish.  All this in a lake effect snow storm that kept us more or less confined to home.

But I, I mean we, finished the projects a day ahead of schedule, and the kids really did a nice job.  I certainly hope I, I mean they, get nice blue ribbons to show for it.  Projects.  Bah!