Monday, December 29, 2008

Handling Criticism

Let's make 2009 a year that shines! One of the ways we can do that is to let criticism bounce off us and not to take it personally if we receive it. Another way is to make sure we are not the one doing the criticizing. There is never any value in comparing ourselves to others. When we do that, we are being unloving to ourselves and setting the other person up as our enemy. We can admire their abilities and set them up as a role model, but at the same time, we must be careful about drawing comparisons or judging ourselves or the other person. God gave us all unique abilities and we need support others in their abilities as well as appreciate and enhance our own. I want to be inspired by other people's success instead of being jealous. Since God did something marvelous for them, He can surely do it for me too. In the Old Testament people who criticized others were called "slingers" because when an enemy would attack a city, the first thing they did is to sling stones into the city well to clog it up so the people would have to leave the safety of their city walls. Joel Osteen says that we have a well inside us of joy, peace, and victory, and we must not let the slingers clog up our wells. He writes, "Perhaps somebody speaks derogatorily about you, but instead of letting it go, you dwell on it, growing more and more upset." He goes on to say that before long, we think about getting even and paying them back. He says that instead of dwelling on the criticism, we need to make it a priority to keep our well pure. We must not sink to the level of retaliation or defensiveness. In order to defeat a slinger, we need to shake it off and keep moving forward. Keep our eyes on God. Matthew 10:14 says, "When you go into a town, whoever will not receive and welcome your message, when you leave that place, shake the dust off of your feet." We won't let anyone steal our joy if we stay on the high road and let God vindicate us. We don't need to be a people pleaser. It's important to accept the fact that not everyone is going to like us, and we certainly cannot make everyone happy. There is tremendous freedom in releasing ourselves as the warden of the imprisoning thought that we must make everyone happy. Instead, this new year let's put our energy into running our own race. We can be tough on the outside but stay tender on the inside. Remember that Psalms 139:14 says, "I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Your works are wonderful. I know that full well." When God endorses us with those kinds of words, what need have we of any other endorsement? Joel says, "Don't let unwarranted criticism create stress in your life. Stay focused on what God has in store for you."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Develop a Habit of Happiness

This Christmas the greatest gifts we could give to others and our own selves are the gifts of love and joy. Why? There are a couple of reasons to give these gifts. The first is that they make us happy, and the second is that they don't cost us a dime!! The only way we can give happiness away is have it ourselves. How do we attain this wonderful gift? We have to develop it. Our habits are learned responses. In one of my facebook groups today, I received this messages, "Our experiences color everything. The events of the past can have a profound effect on how we see our lives now and what we choose to believe about our world. Our past experiences can also influence our emotional reactions and responses to present events. Each of us reacts to stimulus based on what we have learned in life. There is no right or wrong to it; it is simply the result of past experience. Later, when our strong feelings have passed, we may be surprised at our reactions. Yet when we face a similar situation, again our reactions may be the same. When we understand those experiences, we can come that much closer to understanding our reactions and consciously change them." Joel Osteen says that the good news is that we can 'reprogram' our own 'computer'. We can develop a habit of happiness. The bible says in I Thessalonians 5:16, "Rejoice in the Lord always." No matter what comes our way, we can develop the habit of happiness and smile our way through it. We do not have to wait till the crisis has passed to be happy. This is the only moment there is. If we choose peace of mind as our only goal and give our unconditional love, we can have a Merry Christmas. Acts 2:28 says, "You have made known to me the ways of life. You will make me full of gladness with Your presence." Make a decision right now to have a Merry Christmas and stay happy the rest of this year, and make 2009 a year that shines.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Feed Your Good Habits

I read a story about two wolves in a couple of places the facebook group "Positive People" and then again in Joel Osteen's book BECOME A BETTER YOU so I'm starting to think that the Lord really wants to use this story to teach me something. The story goes like this: "An old Cherokee said to his grandson, 'Son, on the inside of every person a battle is raging between two wolves. One wolf is evil. It's angry, jealous, unforgiving, proud, and lazy. The other wolf is good. It's filled with love, kindness, humility, and self-control. These wolves are constantly fighting.' The little boy thought about it, and said, 'Grandfather, which wolf is going to win?' The grandfather smiled and said, 'Whichever one you feed.'" I love this story because it tells me that in order to cultivate peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in my life, I will need to feed these character traits. In less than three weeks we will be starting a new year. What a great time to start developing and feeding good habits! I want to start setting my goal now to eat properly and exercise. I am going to drink plenty of water. Joel Osteen says, "Bad habits are easy to acquire but hard to live with......good habits are difficult to develop.....but...easy to live with." Every time I make a good choice, it will get easier. The bible says to run from temptation. That is the key to success. "There is no temptation that will come to you that you can't overcome. God will always make a way of escape." (I Corinthians 10:13) Instead of running to the kitchen every time I'm stressed, I need to find someplace else to go or something else to do. I can relieve tension by taking a brisk walk, breathing deeply, meditating and praying, or reading the bible or other inspirational material. Even staying busy online or scrap booking helps me stay out of the kitchen. God wants me to be happy, healthy, and whole. The bible says, "He is a very present help in the time of trouble....Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.....I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Like the second wolf, I already have self-control, discipline, kindness, forgiveness, patience, etc. inside me. I just need to feed these virtues. I'm going to relax this holiday season, go with the flow, and stay in peace. At the same time, I'm going to be aware of how I'm treating my body. I have respect for what God gave me, and I'm going to love myself because I am a daughter of the Almighty. I don't have to wait for the new year to start treating my body with respect. I'm going to feed my good wolf this holiday season, and 2009 is going to be fine! Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Being Good to People

Christmas is coming, and generosity is in the air! Despite the economic crisis, we really feel more benevolent toward people this time of year. At least that is my perception. We can express our love for others with our mouths, but until we express it with our actions, it doesn't feel very authentic. When we have an opportunity to do good by being a courteous driver or a good listener, we are sowing seeds of kindness into the lives of others. When we do something good anonymously, that is even better. Every day we can look for some way to be kind to someone....not just at Christmas! Galatians 6:10 says, "Every opportunity we have we should do good to people." Matthew 25:40 says, "When you do it to the least of one of these, it's like you're doing it unto Me." Every year as a teacher, there is always a campaign sponsored by the NEA with the phrase, "I make a difference." I love that saying.....whenever I give, I gain so much of God's favor. Even if nothing noticeable happens, the good feeling in my heart is worth it. Joel Osteen says, "Remember, true love is always backed up with actions."