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Archive for July, 2018

Success Is a Journey

 

“Success is a journey, not a destination.”

–Arthur Ashe

 

Too often we think of success as the final, glorious outcome of endeavor. But achieving a goal requires the successful completion of many steps along the way, some of which are slippery, steep, and uneven.  As time passes and difficulties mount, hopelessness can hold us back.

However, history is full of examples of people who persevered in spite of great difficulty, even failure. They didn’t allow tumbles and trip-ups to stop them. They maintained their optimism and effort toward the goal.  Prime examples include:  Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill.

 

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

–Winston Churchill

 

Another prime example is Thomas Edison. You might remember he tested over 6000 materials for the filament of his electric light bulb, and performed 1200 experiments before reaching ultimate success.

Once the invention had been released, a reporter asked Mr. Edison, “How did it feel to fail over a 1000 times?”

The inventor replied, “Young man, I did not fail 1000 times. I simply found 1000 ways how not to create a light bulb.”

Edison had learned to celebrate progress, not just the end result.

We, too, can learn to celebrate the steps toward our God-ordained, individual goals, not just the finish line.

And what are the steps worth celebrating? Here are a few:

 

  1. Making good choices, even in small things (Luke 16:10).

 

Doing little things with a strong desire to please God

makes them really great.”

–St Francis De Sales 

 

  1. Maintaining a positive attitude (Colossians 3:23-24).

 

Feed your hope with positive expectancy.

Instead of wondering, Why isn’t God doing anything?

Ask, I wonder what God will do next?

 

  1. Exercising self-control (Galatians 5:23).

 

“You must do the very thing you think you cannot do.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

 

  1. Applying wisdom (Proverbs 19:8).

 

“Wisdom is the means by which the godly can both

discern and carry out the will of God.”

–Douglas Moo

 

  1. Striving for humility (Proverbs 22:4).

 

“I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility…

Really great men have a curious feeling

that the greatness is not of them, but through them…

And [they] are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”

–John Ruskin 

 

  1. Overcoming disappointment and failure (Psalm 37:23-24).

 

“Discouragement and failure

are two of the surest

stepping-stones to success.”

–Dale Carnegie

 

It’s easy to be sidelined by our failures—even the little ones. We have to remember: success has nothing to do with immunity to failure.

 

“Success is getting up just one more time than you fall.”

–Oliver Goldsmith.

 

So! I’ve devised a little questionnaire, to help us appreciate our steps of success:

 

  • Did we accomplish one task today, leading toward our God-ordained goals, even though we didn’t want to do it?
  • Did we thank God for even one blessing today? Gratitude takes our minds off the way we’d like things to be and refocuses our attention on what God has already provided.
  • Was there at least one small thing we chose not to do, in order to apply our time and energy on the goals set before us?
  • Did we apply a bit of wisdom today that kept us on the path of success?
  • Did we demonstrate genuine interest in someone else without even thinking about ourselves at all? That’s C.S. Lewis’s definition of true humility.
  • Did we encourage ourselves with words or action, in order to press on?

 

Success is found on the path of most persistence.

 

So, let’s celebrate progress–those moments, those steps, that are leading us toward God’s call on each of our lives.

And if progress is slow, let’s not lose heart.  Most progress is slow.  God rarely rushes in with a delivery of instant success.

Let’s all take a deep breath and affirm:  God isn’t finished with us yet. He’s still working, still guiding, still engineering circumstances for the personal goals he has ordained for each of us.

That doesn’t mean we sit back and wait for God to achieve our success for us.  It’s a matter of balance.  We must trust him as if everything depended on him, and work as if everything depended on us (Living Application Bible note, Proverbs 16:3).

(Photo credit:  www.wikimedia.com)

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What steps to success would you add?  And, how do you celebrate the successful steps along the way?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(Reblogged from April 13, 2015.)

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That’s what we can expect when we choose to live God’s way: supreme blessedness.  Jesus made that clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  You’ll remember he began with eight statements of blessing called beatitudes.

One example:

 

 

In other words, profound joy comes to those who humbly depend on God, as they avail themselves of his heavenly kingdom-benefits.

Of course, there are many other attitudes and actions he rewards, in addition to those eight Jesus named.

Below are listed several means to blessedness that have come to my attention over the years. Perhaps you’ve experienced them too:

 

Blessed are the risk-takers, for they shall sail on winds of faith.

 

 

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for” (Grace Murray Hopper).

 

Think of Abraham.

 

“By faith Abraham…obeyed and went,

even though he did not know where he was going.”

–Hebrews 11:8

 

We too have to be willing to travel blind toward undisclosed destinations. Otherwise we’ll never experience the thrill of God’s power taking us to ports we’ve never dreamed of.

The way ahead is always hidden, sometimes causing uncertainty.  But!  We know the One who’s leading. Uncertainty does not have to cancel out confidence.

 

Blessed are those who seek God’s desires, for they shall know delight and fulfillment.

Somehow we think the pursuit of our own desires will bring satisfaction.  But haven’t we seen enough of the rich and powerful crash and burn in despair?  “Everything [is] meaningless; a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

How much better off we are to pray along with the psalmist:

 

 

It is in the practice of obedience we learn its precious worth.

 

Blessed are the encouragers for they shall be encouraged.

Such an interesting phenomenon: make the effort to lift someone else’s spirit, and you find your own spirit uplifted.  Actually, wise King Solomon recorded this be-attitude long ago:

 

 

Guaranteed double pleasure.  How’s that for supreme blessing?

 

Blessed are the sifters of thoughts, for they enjoy golden contemplations.

If we’re not careful, our minds can easily gravitate toward dross thoughts–the negative, unwholesome, and ugly.  It takes effort to seek out the gold: the honorable, lovely, and commendable. But true contentment awaits those who do.

 

 

Blessed are the focused for they shall not spread themselves too thin.

Our bodies were made for a rhythm of rest—7 to 8 hours out of every 24. Short-changing sleep actually lowers our productivity and endangers our health (1).

That’s why:

 

 

We just can’t do it all, much as we’d like to. Priorities and parameters must be set. That means, saying no to some good things may be the best choice.  We must give others permission to do the same also.

 

Blessed are those who pay attention to the ordinary, for they discover the extraordinary.

For example:

  • Icicle sentries in winter, clinging to the seat of a deck chair

 

 

  • Wildflowers in springtime, cupping tiny pink and yellow stars

 

 

  • Sunbeams on a summer morning, filtering into the glen

 

 

  • God’s artistry (and penchant for color!) splashed on autumn leaves

 

 

Each eye-catching display is a precious love-gift from our Heavenly Father. And around us are countless more, waiting to be discovered, savored, and praised.

 

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.”

–Psalm 145:3

 

And there you have six more beatitudes–examples of God’s supreme blessedness lavished upon us–when we choose to live by his wise and loving ways.

 

 

What be-attitude would you add?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

1) https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/tired-at-work#1 and https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170209/skimp-on-sleep-and-you-just-may-wind-up-sick#1

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.libreshot.com; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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We’re all familiar with the extraordinary accomplishments of:

 

 

  • Beethoven—composing masterful concertos, symphonies and more while deaf
  • Michelangelo—creating over-sized artworks with awe-inspiring realism
  • Shakespeare—writing dozens of plays and hundreds of sonnets with words that flowed “like a miraculous Celestial Light-ship, woven all of sheet-lightning and sunbeams” (Thomas Carlisle)

Geniuses indeed. But even more important than brilliance was their willingness to exert great effort.

 

 

Beethoven rewrote nearly every bar of his compositions at least a dozen times.

Michelangelo produced more than 2,000 preparatory sketches for “Last Judgment” alone, a painting considered by many as one of the best artworks of all time. It took eight years to complete.

Even Shakespeare must have revised again and again before his words approached the sublime eloquence he is known for.

 

 

The more we know of such masters, the more we realize: their works required enduring patience, tenacious persistence, and sharp focus.

It just so happens that God values those three attributes also. And since he’s working in us to foster all positive traits, we each have the potential to create masterpieces.

Of course, works of genius include much more than symphonies, paintings, and plays.  Are you part of a ministry, community project, or volunteer organization? Are you a parent, grandparent, mentor, or friend? These are just a few ways you and I contribute to the most valuable masterpieces of all—the people around us.

 

 

But there is effort involved. God chooses not to do it alone; he invites us to join with him in the work.  So what might be our part in developing those important qualities of patience, persistence, and focus, necessary for developing our genius?

The following steps may provide a good start.

 

Step #1: Practice waiting.

 

 

It is a fact: most worthwhile endeavors take time. Usually lots of it.

In addition, patience requires stamina to endure delay.

Consider Dr. Albert Sabin, who researched polio and developed the oral vaccine.  His mission required thirty-one years of painstaking effort.

 

 

Step #2: Expect to be stretched by struggle.

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, likens the believer in the hands of God to the bow in the hands of an archer. God stretches us beyond what we think we can bear. And when his purpose is in sight, then he lets fly.

Consider Dr. Jason Fader, son of medical missionaries who now serves as a medical missionary himself in Berundi, Africa–after grueling medical training, intense language school, and challenging fund-raising.  But in 2017 he was chosen as the first recipient of the Gerson L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service ( Jason’s story).

 

Step #3: Persist—with the application of faith, prayer, and hope.

We must be willing to tolerate discomfort, perhaps for an extended period of time.

However, the genius-in-the-making under God’s tutelage does not plod along as he perseveres; he plots. He sets his coordinates for the course ahead by faith, prayer, and hopetrusting in God’s promises, asking for God’s guidance, and embracing the possibilities of tomorrow as well as the challenges of today—because in all of it there is good.

Consider George Muller of Bristol, England, whose five orphanages housed over 2,000 children at any one time.  Muller not only wanted to care for these children but demonstrate that God would meet “all their needs as a result of prayer and faith, without any one being asked or approached” (www.mullers.org).  His story includes miracle after miracle.

 

 

Step #4: Remain focused on the task at hand.

A genius does not allow distraction or discouragement to sidetrack him. He takes delight in the present moment while: composing one bar of sublime, symphonic fusion, getting the light just right in one small area of the canvas, or choosing specific, rhythmic words for one line of imagery.

But even more important for the believer, she is inspired and directed by God himself. His plan may include an exceptional piece of music, art, or writing. Or, perhaps even more importantly, it may include exceptional input into the lives of others–through kindness, encouragement, and integrity.

 

 

It is God who is the Supreme Genius, masterfully weaving a tapestry of circumstances and relationships among his people. The full beauty of this masterpiece will not be revealed until we all arrive in heaven.

Then we’ll see the results of the God-given genius in each of us, our patience, perseverance, and focus, woven into God’s perfect design.

And what a celebration will ensue.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.com (2); http://www.ramstein.af.mil; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.vi.wikipedia.com; http://www.georgemuller.org; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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Recently I read about a woman named Rachel, persevering through very difficult circumstances. She knew that praising God was a smart strategy to implement.  Praise invites his presence, and it is in God’s presence we can experience absolute joy (Psalm 16:11)—even in the midst of trouble.

But putting praise into practice proved challenging. Her situation wanted front and center attention; her mind kept returning to the worry and what-ifs.

Rachel decided to make her morning swim a time of praise. For each letter of the alphabet, she tried to name a descriptor of God’s goodness while she lapped the pool.

Her tactic worked. Focusing on praise first thing in the morning helped to establish a positive frame of mind, easing stress and worry for the rest of the day (1).

 

 

The author did not include Rachel’s list. I had to wonder: Could I name twenty-six facets of God’s goodness, each beginning with a different letter and affirmed by scripture?

The effort turned out to be a delightful, uplifting exercise.  Below is my alphabet of praise.

Our God is:

A – Attentive to every need of every person in his realm (Matthew 6:25-33)

B – Benevolent beyond our dreams (Ephesians 3:20-21)

C – Compassionate toward those who are hurting (Psalm 86:15)

D – Dependable to support, sustain, and keep us secure (Psalm 55:22)

 

 

E – Eager for all to know and understand truth, to receive his gift of eternal life (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

F – Faithful through all generations, as enduring as the earth he created (Psalm 119:90)

G – Gentle in his guidance and care for his children (Isaiah 40:11)

H – Honoring us (!) with all needful favor in this life and admittance to glory in the world to come (Psalm 84:11 and Barnes Commentary)

I – Impartial to all who come to him, no matter our circumstance or appearance (Romans 2:11; Psalm 145:8-9)

 

 

J – Just in all his ways, choosing what is exactly right (Isaiah 5:16)

K – Kind, considerate, and helpful as he continually demonstrates his caring nature (Jeremiah 9:24)

L – Loving to the extreme; sending his Son to the cross as the supreme sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10)

M – Merciful beyond belief, exchanging our shame for his glory when we turn to him (Ephesians 2:4-7)

N – Never-failing to accomplish his purposes (Isaiah 46:10)

 

 

O – Omnipotent over every event, every circumstance (Psalm 103:19)

P – Patient to refine us, day by day, into the best version of ourselves (Philippians 1:6)

Q – Qualified to rectify or redeem any situation (Matthew 19:26)

R – Righteous and perfect in all his ways (Psalm 145:17)

 

 

S – Sheltering us under his powerful, protective wings (Psalm 57:1)

T – Tender yet practical in his continual thoughts of each of us (Psalm 139:17-18, 32:8)

U – Understanding of our foibles and weaknesses (Psalm 103:14)

V – Victorious over all sorrow, crying, pain—even death—when Jesus returns (Revelation 21:4)

 

 

W – Wise beyond human understanding (Romans 11:33-36)

X – X-pert at all he does (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Y – Yearning for all his children to come home to him (2 Peter 3:9)

Z – Zealous to fill us with hope, joy, and peace (Romans 15:13)

 

 

And this is just a sampling of who our God is!

Think of it: ALL that we need is found in ALL that he is.

 

“With the goodness of God

to desire our highest welfare,

the wisdom of God to plan it,

and the power of God to achieve it,

what do we lack?”

—A. W. Tozer

 

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Help me, O God, to soar on wings of praise, even in the storms of life. May I keep my eyes on you, my sovereign and powerful Heavenly Father, in whom I can wholly trust. Hallelujah!

 

(1) ______, God’s Little Lessons on Life, Honor Books, 2001.

 

What facets of God’s goodness would you add to the list?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.peterson.af.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.)

 

 

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