The Problem with Self-Help (FTF)

Like I said a while back, I read a lot of self-help books. Every major bestselling (or Kindle free) book on time management or habits or productivity, I’ve probably at least scanned the jacket of it. They’re all the same.
1. Define your core values and your priorities.
2. Define what success looks like for you.
3. Set goals for what you want to do, minding your priorities, and break each goal into bite size pieces.
5. Create daily routines and habits that emphasize the good (a bite of your goal, sleep, exercise, warm water with lemon) and discourage the bad (toxic people, time wasters, inefficient goal-chasing).
And voila, a “life by design.”

I devour book after book like this. I play along. I imagine my life in 5 years. I write my priorities. I consider the discord between my priorities and my actions. I try to write SMART goals that ignite my soul and make my heart sing.

But I fail. We all fail. There are so many books because everyone has a solution for getting it to stick this time. If one book actually worked, we wouldn’t need so many verses of the same song and dance. (I’m having a ball mocking all the clich├ęs, can you tell??? Hellooooo 7 am Friday.)

But it occurred to me the other day, why all the books fail, what they all have in common. I have yet to find (please let me know if one exists) a book that mentions prayer in the five steps. What do YOU want to have. What makes YOU happy. What do YOU want to do. What’s that they say about best laid plans?

So I’m proposing five new steps to a more fulfilling life. Your priorities are God, family, friends, and health, in some order, so let’s get that out of the way.
1. Pray for clarity in finding your purpose, your role in His master plan, on Earth.
2. Define goals and habits you want.
3. Reflect and pray about these goals, and pay attention to whether your heart ignites passion or begrudgingly accepts (or even fights) them.
4. Do not pursue goals that don’t resonate with your soul, and don’t ignore what your soul really wants. I believe God gave us free will, but also designed us a brain and an instinct like His to discern this kinda thing.
5. Break the passion goals into bite size pieces like above. Continue as above, plus constant feedback about our spirit and our intent. Is reaching this goal purely for your benefit, or will it improve someone else’s life too? Are we trying to improve our lives to simplify and get back to what matters, or are we chasing the Joneses and their chaos?

At least some of the books have that going for them, they recognize that “having everything” often includes stress and no time to relax, and is not actually most people’s idea of success. But still they suggest goals like number of sales or dollars or something so that you can have the breathing room to live your personal life the way you want.

Stop the cycle. Start on your knees and ask for guidance, ask for vision, ask for strength to carry out whatever He would have you do today. As long as you’re following that and minding your family,  friends, and health, He’ll take care of the rest.

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Happy weekend!

“Steal My Show” tobymac

This song came on the other day on my morning drive. It’s Pledge Week at TheHouse (based in Ponca, but streaming online at thehousefm.com) and they were sharing comments from listener-supporters. Over and over, the listeners talked about how refreshing the positive messages are, in a society that worships people like Chris Brown (abuser) and Beyonce (satanist?) and Lady Gaga (need I say more?) and their music. {Disclaimer: I adore Rihanna’s music, but I’m just as confused by her lyrics and appalled by her videos as the next girl.} But even when songs on Top 40 talk about drinking, sex, cheating, and heartache, you always know there is happy music out there. Some of it talks about God directly, some are respectful love songs that you can sing to your family or spouse, and some are just plain happy songs about life. And then there are songs like this….

So now the crowd is hype, that you showed up tonight
Anticipatin’, cravin’, somethin’ more than smoke and lights
So I’ll step out the way, I’ll give you center stage

I won’t share the whole song with you, it’s easy to search on YouTube and get the real effect, complete with his voice.

This song is a powerful message. While not bossy or condescending, it’s a call to humble ourselves. It’s human nature to be self-centered, but sometimes we’re just tools for “the greater good.” I’ve always said my mom’s accident wasn’t her punishment but a wakeup call to those of us around her to appreciate life and family. So sometimes, no matter what goals we have in mind for our big performance, it might work out better in the long run if it takes a new direction. Maybe that means we write a song that may never be a chart topper, but no man is an island… We cause ripples everywhere.

If you wanna steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch you go
If you got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away
Need you to steal my show, can’t wait to watch you go-o-o-o
So take it away

What I find most powerful about this song is the medium it comes from. The message is great, the tune is catchy, but this song comes from tobymac. For those who may not know (or remember), tobymac was one of a trio from the 90’s known as DC Talk. Jesus Freak, anyone? Point is, he’s been on top of Contemporary Christian radio for years now. He has every opportunity to be proud, arrogant, and self-promoting. But here, he tells us he would replace every word from his mouth with whatever words He puts in his mouth. At risk of his fanbase, his career, his monetary success, he wants to share something he’s passionate about.

It wouldn’t have been the same coming from a debut album, now would it?

Whether you’re a chart topper or a LLG in the corporate world, you can touch someone today. Be nice to the moron in the minivan. Help the little old lady at the grocery store. Spend some time just chatting with your significant other. Count to ten before you go postal. What’s it gonna hurt if you’re not the most important person on the planet today? And who might it help?

Happy Thursday, everyone!!

When You arrive, we come to life
Our hearts collide, they’re beating in the same time
You’re comin’ through, all eyes on You
Our hearts collide they’re beating in the same time,
Beating in the same time
No matter who we are, no matter what we do
Every day we can chose to say…

(Chorus)

Christian Musings

I’m up early for once, and since I don’t want to get to work *too* early…

I’m a follower of Christ. You may not recognize it from my blog, or even in me in person, which is a terrible disservice to my Lord and Savior. Religion is one those things, though, that I believe is a personal choice. And I don’t think, at least in Oklahoma, that a person hasn’t CHOSEN a life of sin. Maybe in inner big cities, the idea, the tenets, the Bible, haven’t infiltrated to every man, woman, and child, but I’m pretty sure everyone around here has heard the Good News once or twice. Thus, having seen the ‘sign up sheet’, a life without Christ is a choice. And I’m all for choice. I also believe in Perfect Timing and Divine Intervention. You may tell me now that today is the perfect day to talk to someone, that God has allowed them to endure the world as it is so that I may gospel to them and learn and be a leader… Yeah yeah. If I feel so compelled, I may. But I’m also perfectly content to lead by example.

But see, to lead by example, I have to be identified as a leader. In order to say ‘be a Christian like this’ you have to say I’m a Christian. And that’s where my silence has meaning. If I live like a Christian but do not publicly label myself, I’m seen as a good person who has a bad day now and then (just ask my husband). But if I emphasize my religion, and live like a Christian, I could be seen as boastful, and if I have a bad day, I could be labeled as a hypocrite – neither of which serve His Purpose.

Is it not better, then, that I serve him anonymously? Until I get my feet under me, I mean. My religious upbringing was so erratic and bipolar, I have a taste of most popular sentiments (I adored Josh Harris’ no dating book! It’s a powerful idea, even if you don’t give up dating entirely!) but I don’t have firm habits. I feel His touch often – in sunsets, in newborn calves, in my husband’s embrace – but I don’t feel Him personally talking to me… Maybe that’s more fear of failure. But it’s also possible we just have a God who is waiting for the right moment ro make an impact. Or maybe I’m so stubborn, He’s taking a subtle route, switching my radio to The House and getting Lecrae stuck in my head,a waking me up early, causing a line from yesterday to speak so firmly to me that I feel moved to spend my half hour of free time telling you about it…

‘Cause if I do this by myself, I’m scared that I’ll succeed
And no longer trust in you, ’cause I only trust in me
– ‘Background’

Isn’t that so human? In bad times, we beg for help, but in good times, we pat ourselves on the back. A couple of people doing that to me just a couple of times would annoy the fire out of me and make me stop. Luckily, we have a benevolent God who believes in second chances. And third. And fourth. In seventy times seven chances, but who’s counting?

I’m not sure how to end this. This isn’t a vow to become fearless enough to publicly embrace ny faith, but more of a plan to try harder at the same thing? Feel free to give some input, share your stories if you feel moved, to show me some Scripture where I may be wrong or need some extra encouragement. I will not debate the aspects of my beliefs.

(But if you throw Timothy at me and tell me to jump around with the Holy Spirit, I’m going to politely decline. Fair warning.)

Happy Friday!!

Him and Food

I have this thing in my life. It’s not quite deja vu, but similar – themes in my life repeat themselves. Someone will mention a brand new band, and then it pops up on my Facebook that they’re coming to my town. A random topic of conversation with one friend will come up the next day with someone else. An obscure reference made on the news or morning radio will come up again in a matter of hours. It’s creepy, but I also feel a little less alone when all the pieces of my world are interconnected.

It happened again this morning. The sermon this morning was about building a relationship with God, everyday, constantly striving to put away the thrills of yesterday, of the old man, and to focus on the Prize and on His words and wishes and promises. And in this, the preacher said to put away your old habits, and once you get into the habit of living for Him, you’ll no longer be interested in those old temptations.

And it hit me suddenly that I had this same conversation Friday with my best guy friend. It’s been busy at work and I haven’t been grocery shopping and it was 5:30 and I was starving. There’s no quick food on my route from downtown, so I was strolling through the grocery store looking for inspiration for supper. I know that’s normally a bad thing to do, because everything will look amazing, and you’re unlikely to make a satisfying choice.

I didn’t have this problem Friday. I’ve been so absorbed lately in learning about nutrition and fitness and the right sources of fiber and protein and carbs… About avoiding fat and grease and empty calories that EVERYTHING in the store repulsed me. The frozen food. The skillet in a bags. The hamburger helper. I knew that the food in those containers would not satisfy, wouls not sustain me, would not give me the energy and strength I need to get through my days. I finally decided on whole wheat mac and cheese and extralean beef. But even the macaroni casserole that had been on my mind all day didn’t make my mouth water. I cooked supper and went to bed without eating, without being hungry.

In the meantime, waiting on my better half to come home and enjoy the supper I prepared for him, I was in the middle of my evening chat with my best guy friend. I told him about the grocery store, about having zero interest in filling my belly with that which used to call my name from grocery store aisles.

So today it came full circle. As Pastor Jimmy was talking about no longer wanting to lie, to cheat, to steal, to deceive, I thought about the parallel. If food fills your belly and keeps you alive, then your day to day choices and Walk fill your spiritual gas tank and keep you Alive. And in the same way that learning about nutrition opened my eyes to the junk that I used to feed myself, learning more about His Word will show you the healthier way to be. Then your old friends, your old dreams, your old jokes, your old attitudes won’t hold thr same appeal. It still sounds crazy-difficult to me…but so did giving up junk, until I tried it. Until the first 5K. Until the first 10K. It’s all about perspective, commitment, and support.

And then one day you realize what you used to eat won’t get you to your goal weight.

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Every once in a while, you can indulge… If you can handle the consequences.

‘Don’t be ‘on the fence.’ The fence is where you find the temptation that drags you away from where you wanna be.’
-Pastor Jimmy

My Sunday morning

I’m a bit of a wayward Believer. My Facebook even says so – back in the days when you could fill in the blanks, instead of being put into the “Other” category for having anything more creative than “traditional orthodox Judaism”, my self-description was “(currently) non-practicing Believer” and I felt that fit me. Hence why I put it there… but I’ll save my rant on Facebook for another day.

I grew up in a Christian home. My dad is Catholic, my mom Protestant. Dad was more traditional in his beliefs, Mom more active. And more temperamental. We changed Christian churches several times, on the days Dad didn’t get me out of bed for 8 am Mass in Billings, or load us all up for 11 am Mass in Tonkawa with Grandma and my aunt, plus my uncle and his family most Sundays. I started attending a Wednesday night youth group in Blackwell at a small, non-denominational, very action-driven church that dissolved about a year after I started attending. Needless to say, my religious upbringing was not consistent. I grew up with an understanding of the Bible, a fear of God (until I was like 15, I was terrified to cuss in my internal monologues, for fear God would strike me down where I stood. Dunno where I got that idea.), and a genuine desire to do the right things.

My other half mirrors me in this — he has a bad taste in his mouth for organized religion and those infamous “Sunday Christians” and would much rather live his life the right way, doing good by people and following the Golden Rule, love your neighbors but lock your door style, without worrying if he’s following every Law in the Bible exactly right. A lukewarm approach to religion, perhaps, but a dang sight better than a lot of people you see.

I know a great number of Godly people, and I don’t mean to offend anyone by choosing a less-than-devout approach. I’m just framing our attitudes toward religion – being in church makes you no more a Christian than being in a garage makes you a car; religion is a personal relationship with our Creator, and at the end of the day, you answer to Him.

With that belief in mind, but still considering my upbringing, I still feel compelled to go to a church and fellowship with people. It just seems like the thing to do, to not rely 100% on my own understanding and interpretation of the Bible to be my moral compass. My other half does not feel this same compulsion, so pending projects in the shop take precedence over his soul on Sunday mornings. Last week, he told me, “it’s a cowboy church, it’s hay season, no one will mind if you show up without your husband.” But I couldn’t bring myself to do it… I’m not sure why. I went to a church by myself once in Indianapolis. One church, one weekend. But I still proved to myself that I’m not afraid to do things alone. Maybe I just feel like it’s something I should share with my other half. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to start a diet or a business without your spouse’s involvement and support – why embark on a serious attitude adjustment without him?

Obviously, the chicken in me won out again this week.

I found a blog, The Inspired Room, last night, and spent a few frustrating minutes on my smart phone eagerly devouring her home decor pics and inspiration before I gave up and resumed browsing on my PC this morning. After oohing and ahhing and setting my own brainstorm a’brewin, I noticed a link on the sidebar for another blog, Time Out, which is a blog of devotionals from a SAHM who shares her day to day adventures of being a mother, a wife, and a Godly individual. I read a couple really touching posts, and then ran across Queen of the Castle – the answer to my unspoken prayer. She reminded me of my favorite chapter – Proverbs 31 – and my guidelines for wife and mother and woman. Truly inspirational.

A flurry of motivation to scratch this blog of my own out for you (my… 3? devoted followers.) and I’m going to re-read my destiny, and get my butt into gear on taking care of the house. I’ve been feeling a bit purpose-less and in the way lately… maybe some devotional time is all it’ll take to get my optimism back on track.

Reading inspirational blogs, rediscovering beloved Scripture, and making a happy, cheerful, clean home for my loving husband. Sounds like a rewarding Sunday morning to me!