How to… Rediscover Enthusiasm, Step 2

Last week, we began to Rediscover Enthusiasm (Review and Revise) with Step 1, and now we’re on to Step 2, Do What Works. Hopefully, you were able to do an honest assessment of your current goals as well as to make any necessary adjustments. Chances are, just completing Step 1 brought back at least some enthusiasm. But if you’re in need of a little more spark to get the fire of enthusiasm going and growing, keep reading.

Step Two: Do What Works

As I thought back through successes I’ve had with achieving goals, I realized there were some tried and true methods that kept me enthused and helped keep me moving forward. I figure that if they worked before, they can work again, and they can work for others too. To that end, the following are 5 tried and true methods for rediscovering enthusiasm.

  1. Go through the motions. Sometimes, often actually, getting started is the most difficult part. But if you can force yourself to just start, you’ll most likely get into what you’re doing very quickly. By the end, you’ll be glad you decided to do it, and the next time starting won’t be quite as difficult. Each time you force yourself to go through the motions, you may find that you are having to force yourself less and less.
  2. Try something new. You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” This certainly holds true when your enthusiasm has decided to stick its head in the sand. So, maybe it’s time to try something new. But what? Read a book or watch a movie that is different than what you usually choose. Try a new recipe or restaurant. Go to a store you’ve never been in. Hang out with someone you don’t usually spend time with. Find some new way to mix up your routine. Trying something new usually refreshes the spirit and often leads to a perspective change.
  3. Surround yourself with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. Find an enthusiastic person and hang out with him/her. We all know people who seem to always be excited. Even on bad days, they seem to tackle life with enthusiasm. These are the people to get around. Another way is to watch a movie that always inspires and encourages you. My husband’s favorite movie is Facing the Giants. He likes to watch it the night before a race (half marathon, 15k or marathon), and he’s known for quoting it during his running group’s Saturday morning training runs. Not only does the movie inspire him, but his yelling “Don’t quit! Don’t quit! Don’t quit!” when others are finishing a long run in freezing temperatures (we live in Michigan) passes enthusiasm on. Look for and remember the sources of enthusiasm in your life and get around them when you need a boost.
  4. Minimize the negative input. Just like we all know enthusiastic people who get us excited about life, we also all know people who gravitate toward the negative. While I’m not saying that we completely dessert the negative influences in our life (although, sometimes we should), I am saying that when an individual struggles with enthusiasm and possibly with figuring out how to Beat the Blahs, minimizing negative input is probably wise. A person cannot be strong and positive for others when his enthusiasm is weak. Get strong again, so you can be enthusiastic for others.
  5. Laugh. Nothing erases negative feelings and helps you refocus like a good laugh. Even a little chuckle can make a big difference. Get around people who make you laugh. Read funny stories or comics. Watch a funny movie or television show. Learn to Laugh Often and work to Develop Your Sense of Humor if it seems to have died off. Laughter seems to bring a new perspective almost immediately.

Enthusiasm is an essential element of motivation and is often driven by our goals as well as by our perspective. When enthusiasm wanes, as it is prone to do, our choices lie with simply pushing forward in the mud of “should” and “need to” and rediscovering enthusiasm. While we won’t always feel enthusiasm and will sometimes have to just keep moving forward no matter how flat we feel, we don’t have to let enthusiasm stay deflated. We can Review and Revise our current state and then use go to habits that reliably help us rediscover enthusiasm.

DISCUSSION: What tried and true methods do you have for rediscovering your enthusiasm? Please share them, so we can learn from each other.

Sunday Reflections – 5 Principles for Focusing on the Now

Many people live in the past. Some long for the glory days while others staunchly resist any change. Other people live planning for the future and focus is on “what ifs” or on maneuvering towards goals. Remembering the past and learning its lessons is healthy just like planning for the future is wise. Yet, dwelling in the past causes stagnation, and being obsessed with the future leads to missed opportunity. A balance must exist, but in many cases the past seems to fade into the future with barely a glimpse at the present.

In the sense of living only for the moment, focusing on the present becomes a dangerous thought pattern. When learning from the past is ignored and planning at least to some extent for the future is neglected for the sake of the moment, a dangerous self-centered pattern of behavior is allowed to grow. But when living in the now involves applying lessons learned from past mistakes along with using possible future destinations (goals) as a tool for guidance and direction, the present becomes an exciting time filled with ministry that “makes the most of every opportunity” presented.

Focusing on the now allows for creating memories that enhance the past and create excitement for the future. We can be motivated by the goal and guided by the past but focus on the moment. When we have a healthy balance among the past, present and future, we become able to live in the now in a way that keeps us prepared for the opportunities that God sends our way for ministry.

We can choose to let the past consume us with fear of change, and we can let the future cloud our vision of the present as we constantly plan and look ahead. We can also choose to live in the now being guided by the past and motivated by the future. The following 5 principles encourage balance to happen in a way that allows us to seize the ministry opportunities presented every day without letting our free will constantly put up obstacles.

  1. Give relationships priority. We shouldn’t push people away because they are inconvenient. The “out of sight, out of mind” approach is not meant for people. We need to love as Jesus would love. The Holy Spirit leads us daily to people who need ministry in some way, and living in the now allows us to see and to act on those opportunities.
  2. Determine not to give up too quickly. In John 14:12, Jesus tells us that we can do “greater things” than He did. So why aren’t we? We often give up too quickly. Be determined to live in the opportunities God gives. Push through, even if that means (as it often does) simply persevering for today – for the now – and not focusing on the difficult road ahead.
  3. Discipline free will. God never permits sin. Deliberate sin always hurts His heart. Yet, while he does not give us permission to sin, He does allow for our free will to make our own choices. Using the past as a guide and the future as motivation, our free-will choices can create a now that is productive and pleasing to God.
  4. Understand that people are afraid. As opportunities to minister arise, we must understand that people can be very afraid when they experience the anointing. Rejection is often a giving in to these consuming fears rather than a rejection of us. For this reason, we need be ready to minister over the long haul. Take the opportunities in the now to minister into lives with the knowledge that a long future of patience likely lies ahead.
  5. Pursue simplicity. Distractions abound to draw our attention from the present. Frustrations and over-commitment steal our focus causing us to fail to enjoy living in the now, and life quickly becomes complicated. Focusing on simplifying life allows for us to feel unencumbered to take the opportunities God sends our way.

As we learn to focus more on now and not what we plan to do or what will be, we begin to realize that compassion and ministry are very tangible. We realize that we can always do more with the gifts God has given us, and that we always have an opportunity to share Him with others. Living in the now allows us to show Christ in us through actions instead of just words. When we live in the now, we see more of the opportunities he gives us for ministry, and we begin to fulfill His will for us as disciples who “go into all the world.” (Mark 16:15)

Pursue Simplicity

We long for simplicity. In the chaos and confusion of an overwhelming and busy life, we instinctively know that this is not what our lives were meant to be like. Our bodies eventually tell us one way or another that they crave simplicity. They long to have simple (whole) foods and activities that keep them strong but also want space and time to rest and recharge. When our muscles tense and our stomachs ache from too much going and doing and being, they are telling us to simplify. When our minds whirl and our heads ache from too much thinking and decision making, that is our clue to slow down and Just Relax.

Unfortunately, most of us push through (in other words, ignore) the signals that our bodies and minds give us telling us our lives are too complicated. Even more unfortunate is the fact that we often fail to simplify until our bodies eventually force us to stop and reevaluate. When the signs are coming, we have the opportunity to simplify on our own terms, or we can choose to wait and be forced to simplify through the terms of a significant physical illness, depression or worse.

Pursuing simplicity means finding the balance that our Creator meant for each one of us. While every person’s balance is unique, we all do have limits and we all do need balance.  Simplicity must exist in every area of life from the physical to the mental to the spiritual. We must deliberately and intentionally choose to not let life become chaotic whenever we find it possible to prevent. Maintaining a lifestyle of simplicity allows for handling and growing through the complications that come with living life this side of Heaven.

Simplifying life does not happen accidentally. A simpler life happens deliberately and intentionally. At first, simplifying seems illusive. Yet, consistent and persistent pursuing of a simpler life will result in victory.

DISCUSSION: What deliberate steps are you going to take today to simplify your life? What steps have you taken than you can offer as advice and suggestion to others?

How to… Rediscover Enthusiasm, Step 1

With two months of 2012 just about gone, I’m sure everyone is still as excited about their New Year’s resolutions as they were when they set them at the beginning of the year, right? Wrong! Maybe you’re still as enthused, but I definitely am not. In fact, my enthusiasm has seriously waned, and I find myself feeling a bit sluggish. So, I decided to take steps to help rediscover enthusiasm. This week we will cover step one, Review and Revise, and next Wednesday we will cover step two, Do What Works.

Step One: Review and Revise

Take a look at the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Do you need to adjust any of them based on what you’ve done or haven’t done? Have you gotten off track with the purpose behind any of the goals? Maybe the goal doesn’t really mean that much to you after all, and it’s time to admit it and nix it altogether. Maybe just some tweaking is necessary.

For example, I recently found myself avoiding reading. For a person who loves to read, this was troubling. When I thought about my reading goals (I have several) and about why I choose to read as much as I do, I discovered the cause of my absent enthusiasm. Somehow, I had gotten myself wrapped up in reading what I thought I should read and reading just to get through the books. I wasn’t enjoying the books I was reading, and I had to force myself to complete them. So, I did something I rarely do. I stopped reading a book halfway through and picked up one I was enthused about. I’ve decided to read only what I want to read, which allows me to read for the joy of it and not out of some self-imposed obligation. This may mean resetting some of the goals I have for this year, but at least my enthusiasm is returning.

Taking time to deliberately and intentionally analyze your goals and objectives can help you decide whether or not you are truly working toward that which is meant for you to accomplish. Take the time this week to review and revise your goals. (Treat yourself to a latte while you’re at it!)

DISCUSSION: What did you discover when you took the time to review and revise your goals? What adjustments did you decide to make?

Sunday Reflections – Be Committed

Ask almost anyone over the age of 60, and he/she will tell of a time when, “Your word was your bond.” In other words, if a person said he would do something, he could be counted on to do it. Sure, there were those who did not follow through, but they were the exception.

Today’s culture is very different. A person’s word is rarely fully trusted even when it is actually fully trustworthy. In a culture where selfishness and greed seem to dominate, a fog of mistrust covers almost every relationship at least to some degree. Unfortunately, not keeping a commitment has become almost acceptable, and excuses for doing so are a dime a dozen.

With that in mind, let us consider three areas where making and keeping commitments can work to build trust in a way that can be a catalyst for change within our culture. Understanding and striving for trustworthy commitment with regard to work, family and especially faith defines a person like no other character quality and can affect change in compounding ways.

Commitment to work certainly includes but definitely goes beyond work as it relates to a job. For children and teens, work means the effort put forth in sports and school. For adults, commitment to work involves a job but also other commitments such as volunteering. Commitment to work, really, is fully giving the effort needed to accomplish a task to the best of one’s ability. Commitment with regard to work involves the following core principles:

  • Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.
  • Do what you know is right. You only control yourself and no one else.
  • Be someone who can be depended upon regardless of whether or not others are reliable.

Commitment to family does not revolve around activity but rather around connection. In fact, over-commitment to activity actually serves in working against connection. Commitment to family involves a letting go of self and enters into a habitual preferring of others not out of obligation but out of love. Commitment to family also involves keeping whole as an individual and bringing the best of you, whatever that might be at any given time, to every situation. On a more detailed level, commitment to family involves placing a spouse above others (yes, even kids), as it is the one earthly relationship that most closely relates to the relationship we are to have with Christ.

Commitment to faith in Christ really surrounds and permeates all other areas of commitment. How a person commits to the call of Christ on his/her life determines how commitment exists in every other area, including family and work. Yet, caution must exist when considering faith as a separate area of commitment. In other words, faith is not yet another commitment to be balanced; instead, faith in Jesus is the scale that balances all other areas. Consider the following when evaluating your commitment to Christ and how your answers reflect your commitment in life as a whole.

  • Are you willing and ready to arise and be His voice? Whatever and wherever?
  • Has Christ won your heart? If He truly has, are you running after Him and following His lead?
  • Would you lay down your life for Him? What are you willing to sacrifice for Him?
  • Have you committed fully to the Lord? Are you allowing Him to pour you out as He sees fit?
  • How has Christ’s love changed you? Will you go and be where He wants? Do what He wants?
  • Will you follow the path He chooses and leads you down?

Answering these questions not only determines how your commitment plays out in the areas of faith, work and family, but it also determines the character with which your entire life is lived.

We live in a culture where keeping commitments seems optional at times. But while we are in this culture, we don’t have to be people of this culture. John 15:19 says “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”  As we commit more fully to Christ and increasingly give our lives to Him, commitments in other areas of our lives increase as a result. And we soon find that while we may live in a culture where greed and selfishness seem rampant at times, we do not belong to the world but to a Savior who deserves our complete and total commitment.

DISCUSSION: Discuss the impact of the above questions on your current level of commitment.

Memory Loss… What if…

What if the last 5 years were erased from your memory? They still happened and exist in the memories of others, but you don’t remember them. What would be gone? For sure, there would be good and bad memories that are lost, and at first maybe the thought of redoing the last 5 years is somewhat appealing. But when considering all that is really lost, the idea becomes an exercise in appreciation for life, struggles and all.

If the last 5 years of my life were erased from my memory, I would not remember the pain of several surgeries and sports injuries. But I would also not remember the healing process through those circumstances and all that I learned about myself as a result. I would also have to relearn how to change habits such as the way I eat and how I exercise. If I lost the last 5 years of memories, I would not remember the struggle of bringing our youngest son into our home at age 9 and having to discipline and fight with getting him to unlearn bad habits and learn positive ones. I would not remember crying with him as he realizes the consequences he is living as the result of others choices. But, I would also not remember the joy of his silly remarks, the fact that his laughter is so infectious, and the progress he’s made as a person. I would not see the contrast in his life over the past two years that gives me hope to know that God rescues the hurting. Come to think of it, I would have no memory of my son at all.

If my memory of the last 5 years was suddenly gone, I would not remember the struggle of teaching my oldest son to write better or to be a good big brother after being an only child for 11 years or to understand that people are often selfish and that life hurts sometimes. I would also not remember him developing a love of running and of reading as well as what it was like to see him become a terrific older brother. Losing 5 years of memories would erase depression caused by poor nutrition as well as the feelings of distance from my husband because of that depression. But the feelings of reawakening as I came out of that darkness and then fell in love again would also be gone.

Would I think I was five years younger? Would I feel like the memories beyond the five years were current, or would there just be an empty space in my memory? Even though I wouldn’t remember the events that happened in those 5 years, I still would be the person they created, right? Or, would I revert to being the person I was before those 5 years? Would I know God the way I do today if I didn’t have the memories of Him working in my life the way He has during the last 5 years? After all, isn’t my current spiritual maturity the result of the victories He’s brought out of the struggles in my life?

We are a sum total of all the events in our lives, the good as well as the bad. The events over the past 5 years have shaped me into who I am today. The bad memories provide the contrast needed to enjoy the good. The struggles caused me to grow and to become closer to the people in my life. I love my husband and kids the way I do today because of the memories we’ve had together over the past 5 years.

As you go about your day today, think of everything you do in the context of whether or not you would know how to do it if you lost the memory of the past 5 years. Would you understand what a blog is? Would you know how to cook a certain recipe? Would you know how to get to your place of work or to your kids’ school? Would you know your child’s eating habits or favorite toys? Think about the struggles you’ve gone through over the past 5 years and the victories that came out of them. What life lessons that were so hard fought for would simply be lost?

Yes, we are the sum total of all of the events, both good and bad, in our lives. While we certainly sometimes wish that some of the bad would not have happened, we can’t deny that when we have embraced the lessons learned in those events that they become infinitely valuable and not something we want to lose.

Note: This blog was inspired by seeing the movie “The Vow.” While it is certainly a love story, there’s more to it than that. I recommend it for anyone wanting a perspective check.

How to… Develop a Sense of Humor – Part III

7 Laugh Lessons

In January, my quest to develop a sense of humor began. Starting this journey led me to ask, What kind of humor do I have?, and the answer helped me realize that humor is shaped by personality, and Introverted Melancholy Humor expresses my personal discoveries coming from that realization.

My journey, detailed in Laugh Often, produced 7 lessons about humor that are helping me to enjoy life more. My prayer is that these 7 lessons can help those who find life less humorous these days understand how to reclaim humor (along with all of its relatives including joy, joking, cheer, gladness and delight) in their lives.

  1. Relationships are breeding grounds for healthy humor. Ever been near people who are laughing and clearly enjoying themselves while you stand nearby not laughing? You don’t know them, but you feel out of place. If laughter is truly contagious, why aren’t you laughing too? Because there’s one essential element that’s missing: relationship. Relationship is a key to enjoying humor in life. If you aren’t connected to the person who is laughing, the humor just won’t be there for you. As Speaking Tips said so well, “humor and laughter are like ‘social glue’ to help create trust, familiarity and relationship.”
  2. Avoid taking yourself too seriously. People aren’t fun to be around if they can’t laugh at themselves. A person who can’t laugh at himself makes others uncomfortable, and eventually people start avoiding him. Find humor in silly mistakes or in weaknesses (like math for me). Laughing at yourself in a healthy way gives joy to others and strengthens relationships.
  3. Like what you like. As long as humor is not hurtful or inappropriate (is not sexual humor for example) and does not offend God, feel free to laugh at what seems funny regardless of what others think.
  4. Avoid over-thinking. Practicality can kill joy. Be impractical once in a while.
  5. Humor that is uncomfortable usually isn’t really humor. Humor that is uncomfortable is usually an attempt to not be uncomfortable. But if we’re never uncomfortable, how will we grow? Avoid using humor as a mask or shield.
  6. Smiling is the first step. Yes, this means “fake it until you can make it.” Some days I need to put a smile on my face (or at least not frown) and go through the motions. When I do this, I usually end up truly smiling. Others are invited into your world by your smiles.
  7. Humor is available in abundance. In my quest to develop a healthy sense of humor, I found a lot of pictures and quotes that expressed my personal sense of humor. (Check out DHD!) Humor is present almost anywhere if we take the time to look for it. (Want another example of what I find funny? Check out my Pinterest board What I Find Funny.)

As my official journey to develop my sense of humor now ends, I am encouraged because a fresh perspective has opened up to me that will keep the growth going. Life can be so heavy sometimes, and without humor (or one of its relations) being active, that heaviness can seem all-consuming. I believe God gave us the gift of laughter for this reason. And, like every gift He’s given, we need to open it to enjoy it.

DISCUSSION: When was the last time you laughed? Do you experience joy, joking, cheer, gladness and delight regularly? If not, what can you do to bring more humor into your life?

Sunday Reflections – Harmonious Submission

Marriage is sometimes used in the Bible to describe what our relationship with Christ will be like in Heaven (Revelation 19:7 is one example). Matthew 22:30 indicates that there will be no marriage in Heaven, and the implication in Scripture is that all of our needs will be fully met by Christ. In making this connection, God creates a framework for earthly marriages that reflect how our relationship will one day be with Him.

This framework is found in Ephesians 5:21-22, which says for spouses to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In other words, out of respect for Christ and His submission to the will of the Father, we submit ourselves to our spouses within our marriages. Unfortunately, our flesh often bucks up when we hear the word submission because we think it means a sort of dominant/submissive type of relationship. But that’s not what God intended.

For the wife, submission means following her husband’s leadership in Christ. This includes deciding to be committed completely and without reservation to the relationship, cheering him on instead of trying to fix and change him (that’s God’s job anyway), and determining to build him up whenever possible. On an individual level, a godly wife can focus on developing her inner beauty as encouraged in 1 Peter 3:3-4, which says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” Note that the scripture doesn’t say to NOT pay attention to one’s appearance; it just says to not give that the greater focus.

For the husband, submission means laying aside his own interests in order to care for his wife. In doing so, a husband will seek to understand and protect her and will strive to be gentle and tender with her. In addition, his leadership will be godly and without superiority. By submitting in this way, the husband is “giving honor to [his] wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together in the grace of life, so that [his] prayer may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7) What 1 Peter is saying is that a good marriage benefits a husband’s spiritual life. Logically, the opposite is also true.

As husbands and wives submit to one anotherin the fear of God,” they show their trust in God. Doing so indicates a willingness to let go of self, which is the enemy to submission. They are deliberately and intentionally choosing to prefer one another. In essence, they are indicating that they are choosing to love one another in the way God designed a marriage to exist.

Within this choice is the idea of emotional harmony. The definition of emotion indicates a constant moving or agitation of strong feelings while the definition of harmony indicates a more stable fitting together of parts to form a whole. Emotions seem to exist as an individual experience, meaning a person can only feel his/her own emotions completely and no one else’s. In contrast, harmony exists only when separate wholes come together in an agreeable way to make a new whole. Harmony, then, is a shared experience. In a godly marriage, each spouse makes a choice to experience his/her own gamut of emotions and to still continually work to tune the voice he/she brings to the marriage so that harmony can prevail.  This tuning is done through biblical submission within a godly marriage.

DISCUSSION: How can each individual experience his/her own emotions and at the same time manage those emotions in a way that benefits the relationship and not the individual? Can two so very different individuals bring the whole of who they are to create a better whole? Can that harmony be maintained over the long term within the framework of godly submission?

Note: This post is inspired by the sermon “Harmony in the Home” given by Pastor Steve Miller at New Hope Assembly of God on February 12, 2011.

Stain Free

The other day while doing laundry, I pulled some clothes out of the washer and along with them came an ink pen. For some stupid reason, I pulled the cap off the pen. Sure enough, some ink dripped on to my jeans… my favorite pair of jeans. I would love to say that one of my kids or my husband is the culprit, but I would be lying. It was a Sharpie pen, and I’m the only one who uses them in our house. In fact, everyone is instructed to not use them because they are my writing pens.

So, with 10 minutes before needing to leave, I hurriedly take off my jeans and work to get the ink out. Any woman who has a favorite pair of jeans knows how potentially devastating this incident could have been. I put a towel inside the jeans behind the ink stain, take a wet cloth with some dish soap, and start scrubbing. I was praying too. I mean, they seriously are my favorite jeans. I wish I would have bought 5 pair of them. Thankfully, the stains came out. Actually, the ink soaked into the towel I had put inside the jeans. If I hadn’t put that towel there, the back of the jeans would have absorbed the stain.

This whole incident reminds me of my salvation for several reasons.

First, my mistakes caused the stain. I couldn’t blame anyone else. So often, we want to look for somewhere else to place blame. We try to avoid admitting we did anything wrong. This is pride. Clearly, the stain on my jeans was my fault, just like I cannot blame anyone else for any of the sin in my life.

Second, without Jesus absorbing my stains, I would just experience them in another part of my life. Had I not put the towel in the pant leg, I would either have had to scrub the other side of my jeans or given them up as lost. But the towel took on the stain and removed it from my jeans. Jesus does the same for us. He did it on the cross at Calvary. When we admit our sins and ask for forgiveness, he absorbs those sins, and we no longer have to bear their stain on our lives. Sure, there are consequences, but we certainly do not become useless. He washes us clean and makes us presentable again.

Third, acting quickly made all the difference. If I hadn’t taken the time to get the stain out right away, the ink would have dried, and my favorite jeans would have become my work-around-the-house jeans. This equates to keeping short accounts in my spiritual life. When we allow sin to remain in our lives, it becomes a permanent stain. Sure, Jesus will remove it whenever we ask him too, but a stain’s imprint (the consequences) becomes more prominent the longer we allow it to remain in our lives. The quicker we ask for forgiveness, the longer we are able to live without that stain and the less the consequences of our sin are allowed to wreak havoc. Doesn’t mean we won’t have to live with any consequences, but certainly the impact is lessened the sooner we repent.

Looking back on the inky jeans incident, I realize that the stain resulted from my failure to think first. For some reason, I just pulled off the cap. So often, sin happens because we don’t stop and think before acting. It also happened because I failed to take care of the pen in the first place. When we intentionally avoid situations that can lead to sin, more of our lives will remain stain-free.

Also, I am thankful that the pen fell out of the washer onto the floor and didn’t make its way into the dryer. Otherwise, a whole load of clothing may have gotten permanently stained. With situations in life, God either gives us a way to bear it or a “way out.” (I Corinthians 10:13) It’s a matter of whether or not we take that way out when it’s presented to us. If we don’t, sin often is the result.

Everyday situations present us with opportunities to hear from God. Even an ink stain can teach or remind us about His truths. When we are open to hearing from Him at any time in our day, we find that He will work in the smallest details of life in some very powerful ways. And the small changes that He makes in our lives will always add up to make a huge difference over time.

How to… Put Your Behind in the Past

No, the words aren’t mixed up. This is a quote from one of the best-selling Disney movies of all time. In this scene of The Lion King, Simba is finally confronting his past and choosing to put it behind him.

Pumbaa: It’s times like this my buddy Timon here says: you got to put your behind in your past.
Timon: No, no, no. Amateur. Lie down before you hurt yourself. It’s “You got to put your past behind you.”

In this scene, Simba is finally able to move forward. He attempted to forget his past and refuse to move forward but realizes that this is not only impossible but it’s also denying who he really is, which not only affects him but so many others as well. Anyone who has suppressed who they truly are knows the danger in doing so. Refusing to move forward is allowing the past to define who you are.

Our youngest son came to us when he was 9 years old. He brought with him a rough start to life filled with more disappointments, struggles and hurts than most people face in half their lives and even many in their whole lives. In the 2 years since he’s been our son, we’ve had to work at undoing the damage and catching him up academically, mentally, socially and spiritually.

One prevailing principle in his progress is the idea of learning from the past and then moving on. We deliberately talk often about how he can choose to overcome his past or continue to let it define him and shape his future. With every struggle we encounter, we talk in detail about the choices he made in that particular situation.

We also talk about how he can better handle life’s situations without reacting to them with emotion. Finding more positive choices has helped immensely with his growth and healing process. During our discussions, we ask these 5 questions regularly to help him learn from his mistakes and struggles.

  1. Did you ask for forgiveness? We make sure he understands that granting forgiveness is not in his control and not really his concern. He needs to do the asking and then be released from it if he is truly sorry. On a related note, we also make sure that he forgives too. He’s very familiar with Ephesians 4:32.
  2. What can you control? The answer is always “myself.” This gets him to understand that he can and should control his own attitude, actions and words.
  3. What can’t you control? The answer to this is always “others.” We talk about how you can only control yourself. You cannot control what others do or do not do.
  4. What could you have done differently? Of course, this is related to the specific situation, but generally it’s a process that helps him understand that while he may not have meant for something to happen, his actions or reactions set the stage for something to happen or somehow made a situation worse. It’s the idea of a ripple effect that we are trying to get him to understand.
  5. What can you do to control your anger/frustration in the future? We then spend a few minutes talking about ideas, which usually include praying, taking a deep breath, walking away, asking for a break, writing it down and saying scripture in his head. We are trying to give him tools he can use when struggles happen again in the future.

These discussions always include talking about self-control and its importance in addition to going through the above questions. This part centers on building trust, being obedient to authority, and treating others with respect. We then end the discussion with a prayer and “hugging it out.” Our son’s demeanor and attitude almost always change after these discussions (especially if I manage not to lecture too much during them).

If these 5 questions can work for a young boy now nearing his teen years, they can work for you too. Try them the next time you want to “put your behind in the past.” Be intentional about dealing with what happens in life before it becomes a wall that keeps you from moving forward.

DISCUSSION: What techniques have you found effective for teaching your kids to handle struggles? What have you found effective for yourself?