Journey to Faith

Journey to Faith
Follow your own path

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are Your Rules Ruining Your Life?

Do you feel frequently offended? Do you have a firm idea of how things should be done? Or how people should act?

We all have a set of personal rules that dictate how we interact with and judge others. Our rules also dictate how we view ourselves and how we see the world. We have pet peeves and our perceived concept of how things "should" be. These personal rules are established over time according to our beliefs and values. Some rules are healthy, while others are quite silly or no longer useful. Here's a personal example.

As a long time single, I have had a rule that said "If someone wants to see me over the weekend, he needs to call me by Wednesday" so I can plan. The problem with this rule is most men don't plan. They wing things. If the fancy strikes them, they pick up the phone. Several guys have called me at 4 or 5 pm on a Saturday to see if I was free. I was insulted!

Another word akin to personal rules is expectations. When we expect others to behave in a certain way, we set ourselves up for disappointment. As a woman in the business world, I learned to expect email and phone replies within 2 business days. The problem I encountered with many of my school teacher friends was they didn't abide by this protocol. It took me some time figure this out but when I did, I had much more compassion and much less frustration with them.

Often, we live by personal rules and expectations but we are unaware of how they are impacting our lives and the lives of others. Here are some areas to revisit from time to time:
   - dating rules
   - housecleaning rules
   - relationship rules
   - parenting rules

Are these rules reasonable? How does my rule affect the other person? Is this rule helpful or unnecessary? What may have served us at one time may not be serving us today.

The key to remember is that love is freedom. When we love, we allow the other person to be free and to be themselves. We do not require them to conform to our rules or expectations. No one likes to be controlled or manipulated. I know I don't. If we want more harmony in our lives, we would do well to reevaluate rules that cause disconnection or division.

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please click the +1 icon. Feel free to forward to a friend or leave a comment. If you'd like to stay connected, enter your email in the box provided and I'll send you out this month's free gift.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ignite the Power Within Step 9: What to Do When Life Doesn't Go According to Plan

I'm a planner. Perhaps you are too. I like schedules, order, routines. Ever spend hours and hours planning a special event and then something happens that throws a monkey wrench in the whole works? It's like the Universe is saying "See, you thought you had this all under control, but you don't."

Control is an illusion. Humans like to think we are in control but we're really not. We make all sorts of plans about our futures, our kids, our direction in life. I'd like to know how many people's lives have actually gone according to their plan. Mine didn't that's for sure.

I was raised in a dysfunctional, chaotic, alcoholic home, and as an adult, I needed structure. It gave me a feeling of stability that was lacking in my childhood. In my younger days, one of my favorite phrases was "So here's the plan." Time after time the plan would change and I'd say "Well, now the plan is ...". After several, ok, more than several occurrences, I realized the futility of my planning efforts.

The reality is life doesn't always go according to plan. Stuff happens. We get side-tracked and blind-sided: a job loss, a relationship ends, a health crisis. We are thrown for a loop and we feel out of control and helpless. We can stress-out and take a victim "Woe is me" mentality which will keep us from moving forward, or we can choose a more proactive and positive response.

We can't control the circumstances of life, but there is one thing we can do and that is:

All we have to do is the next right thing. We don't have to stress ourselves out and have it all figured out. There are too many variables that can change. Just take things one step at a time. It takes time to get back on track after a major life event. The good news is we don't have to have a whole new plan we might only have to regroup and reprioritize. Yes, it's good to have a vision and a goal, but we don't always have control over the steps it will take to get us there. 

Here's a short personal anecdote. I made a financial decision this week. After I did it, I realized it was a bit premature. I have been berating myself all week until the financial rep says,
"You can't time the market and when you look at it from the 60,000 foot view, it's not a big deal." 
"Kind of like life," I thought after I got off the phone.

We all make mistakes and the tendency is to beat ourselves up about it, but if we look at things from the bigger picture, the screwup often has a lesson in it and that was the purpose of it happening in the first place. So stop stressing out when you blow it. Take a step back, relax and then go with the flow. 

Much of life is out of our control. We stress ourselves out by trying to control stuff that is uncontrollable like the weather, the stock market, which team wins the game, you get the idea. The only thing we have some modicum of control over is ourselves and even that is limited.

If your life hasn't gone according to plan, I hope this post has helped see your situation from a different perspective. We all make mistakes and the key is to learn from them. Rather than beat ourselves up, be kind and gentle to yourself. We are all doing the best we know how.

If you enjoyed this post click the +1 icon. If you'd like to leave a comment, please do so in the box provided below this post. If you have friend who'd enjoy this, please forward it to them as well. If you'd like to follow my bi-weekly posts, enter your email address in the box provided and I'll send you out this month's free gift.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

The One Question to Ask Yourself at the End of the Day

At the end of the day, when your head hits the pillow, what thoughts or feelings come to you? Do you spend any time at all reflecting on the events and interactions of the day? Or do you drop off to sleep listening to the television, reading a book, or playing a video game?

A neighbor who I tried to befriend a few years ago, said to me recently "Most people are unaware".

At first, I thought, no, people know exactly what they're doing. But the more I consider the actions of others, the more I realize, yes, people are unaware. They are unaware of themselves, their motives, how their words and actions affect other people and how they come across to others.

Here's a personal anecdote I humbly share. A few months ago, I made a short video to send off to a well-known author and public speaker. It was an entry to a contest for a free blog make-over. At the time, I thought is was half decent. I looked presentable and the lighting worked. Understand that I am an amateur at making videos, so I did the best I could at home. I didn't have a whole lot of time to do the thing, so I gave it a good try and sent it off. Well. Just recently I was cleaning up my computer and I came across the video and watched it again. Yikes!

 I was shocked. My tone of voice at the end got very harsh.
"No wonder I didn't win," I thought ruefully.
My intention was to emphasize the importance of my message but it came across all wrong. It's not just what we say, it's how we say it that matters.

Now, we are all in the process of becoming more conscious and aware.  Some people are a step ahead and others are a step behind us. Some of us work at it more than others. We all mess up at times, The key is to be aware of when we mess up and fix it going forward.

So here is the one question to ask ourselves at the end of the day, when our head hits our pillow or in our quiet time of prayer and meditation.

Here are just a few questions to consider.

- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- Was I fully present or was I on auto-pilot?
- Was I kind? Loving? Gentle? Patient?
- What were my motives?
- Did I laugh?
- Did I serve?

Every day is a gift, that is why they call it the present. We are here to grow, to love, and to shine our lights to help others do the same. At the same time, we need to work on removing the darkness in our own selves. This takes courage, time and the grace of God.

If we want to be better tomorrow than we were today, if we want to have more healing, wholeness and harmony in our lives, it starts with igniting the power within. 

If you enjoyed this post, leave a comment or click on the +1 icon. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path" enter your email address in the box provided.

Stay tuned for more practical and spiritual wisdom to help you develop your personal power and live the life of your dreams!

Until next time, keep looking up!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

6 Reasons Why You Should Forgive

Are you holding on to a grudge? Harboring bitterness or resentment towards anyone? Do you suffer from arthritis, cancer or other ongoing physical pain? If so, today's post is on the importance of forgiveness and how it can propel us forward in our relationships and personal lives by freeing us from emotional bondage and improving our physical and mental health.

First, let's talk about the damaging effects of unforgiveness. 
1. Destroys families and relationships
2. Steals our mental focus
3. Saps our energy, joy, and inner peace
4. Keeps us separated from God's blessings
5. Prevents us from moving forward in life
6. Causes physical and mental disease

When we hold on to negative thoughts and feelings, we are doing ourselves much harm. Negative feelings fester until they consume us. They keep us from being the kind and loving people we were created to be. They snare us into making hurtful decisions that further alienate us from others. Why do you think so many people have a sour look on their face? They are harboring unforgiveness and this affects the people around them. This may account for much of the violence we see in the world today.

In addition, holding onto hurts, either real or imagined, is not good for our health. Studies show that unforgiveness affects our health in more ways than one. Of all cancer patients, 61 percent have forgiveness issues. Now that is sobering news. But it doesn't have to be this way.

If we want to live long, healthy, and joyful lives and move forward in our personal goals, it is critical that we learn to forgive. Some of the benefits of practicing forgiveness are:

1.  Frees us from emotional bondage
2.  Energizes and strengthens us
3.  Promotes a positive and peaceful outlook on life.
4.  Allows us to focus on our dreams, goals, and aspirations.
5. Opens the path for good things to flow into our lives.
6. Heals damaged relationships.

Like most things good for us, forgiveness is a practice, just like exercise. It is tough at first, but over time it becomes easier and easier. Before we know it, it becomes part of who we are. Soon, we won't be able to tolerate discord in our relationships and we will know we need to forgive.

The difficulty we must overcome is that forgiveness goes against our ego and our pride.  This is why we need God's help. We can only truly forgive someone who has hurt us deeply by the grace of God. When I think of all God has forgiven me for, who am I to hold something against anyone else? And if you think you've never done anything wrong in the eyes of God, think again. We have all sinned and we all need to be forgiven by God.

In the end, it is a personal choice. We can either wallow in our misery and victim-mentality, stewing on past hurts or we can choose to let go and move forward into a freer and healthier life.

If the post has encouraged you, please leave a comment or click the +1 icon. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path" enter your email in the box provided.

Until next time, search your heart and make sure you are not holding any negative feelings towards anyone. If you are, give it to God and be free and remember - keep looking up!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ignite the Power Within Step 8: Take Personal Responsibility

Life has a way of putting us through tough situations. The reality is much of the drama, stress and angst in our lives we bring on ourselves. It is a hard pill to swallow, but if we really stop and analyze our problems, in many cases, we will see that our actions and our thoughts cause us to suffer.

So let's look at a few examples.

We complain we are fat but do then we eat a whole bag of chips or an entire pizza.

We complain we are out of shape but then we spend the night glued in front of the boob tube.

We complain about our spouse neglecting our needs but are we meeting his/her needs?

We complain about our ex and the breakup, but do we take time to look inside and see what role we played in the relationship?

We complain about how messy the house is but do we prioritize our time to clean it?

We moan about our upbringing and what a poor job our parents did so we stay stuck in our emotional ruts for years.

It's easier to place blame or look for an excuse like:
 - "I don't have time to exercise"
 - "I don't have time to cook healthy"
 - "I don't have time to clean"
 - "I've fallen out of love with my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend"
 - "I act this way because of how I was raised"

You get the idea. All of these statements are putting the responsibility on someone else's shoulders when it should be on our own. It is much easier to lay the blame elsewhere but guess what? This keeps us stuck. We won't grow. We won't learn and we won't move forward in our lives.

If we want to develop our personal power, we need to ask ourselves this question: "What did I do to make this happen?" and then, "What do I need to do to change this?" These two questions are empowering. In any given situation, there is always something we can do to suffer less. 

As a woman who was raised in an alcoholic home, endured an abusive marriage and a painful divorce, followed by several very painful relationships, I have done a lot of self-reflection. I have become aware of behavior patterns and thought patterns and worked on changing them one by one. I've learned to say "No" when before I would have said "yes". I've learned to take better care of myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I've learned that I am responsible for my well-being and self-care. If I don't take care of myself, I will pay the price.

Here are some of the ways I learned:
- by running and working out at 5:30 in the morning
- by getting divorced.
- by hurting myself in yoga class.
- by experiencing the debilitating effects of migraine.
- by raising two sons as a single parent.

Experiences that cause us pain have a message and a lesson in the pain. It is up to us to take the time to figure out what that message is. This is our personal responsibility. No one else's. And this is how we will grow.

When we learn to take responsibility for our actions, our words and our thoughts, we increase our personal power. We no longer have to play the blame game or the victim role. We can take back parts of our lives slowly but surely. In my next post, I will discuss the importance of forgiveness in taking back our lives so stay tuned. 

If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", enter your email address in the box provided.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ignite the Power Within Step 7: Learn to Listen

Contrary to common practice, if we want to increase our personal power, we don't need to do more talking. Everyone wants to be heard and understood but if everyone is doing all the talking, who is going to do the listening?

Listening is a skill that is critical to develop if we want to understand and connect with others. It shows we have a real interest and value for the other person. Sadly, good listening is rapidly becoming a lost art. Many people are so intent on getting their point across, proving themselves right, or thinking what they are going to say next, they totally tune out the other person and miss the message that is being communicated. They also miss the opportunity to really connect with the other party.

It's been said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we would listen twice as much as we speak. I think that is wise advice, yet listening is more of a skill than talking. We all know people who can talk your ear off while we sit there nodding our heads and wondering whether or not to interrupt.

Listening takes discipline and self-control. The urge to respond, rebut, justify, or defend ourselves is great. It takes self-control to resist interrupting and jumping in to finish the other person's thought. Listening is a way to show respect and honor to the other person. 

Now I have struggled in this area as well, but I am getting better. In fact, I've been told I have the gift of listening by several people. Perhaps it's because I also know how frustrating it can be to try to be heard. Here's a personal story.

When I was married years ago,  I would come home from teaching my aerobics class. I'd be so excited I wanted to tell hubby about my evening.
     "I'm listening," he'd say, but the newspaper he was holding blocked my view.
     "Would you please put down the newspaper?"
After a couple of times repeating my request for his attention, I'd walk away, head and spirit down.

Tip:  Part of good listening is eye contact.

If I have to ask someone to listen or if I'm not sure they're paying much attention, I just say "Never mind" and move on. They usually get the message. These days, I'm not going to waste my energy begging someone to listen.

Here's an article  describing the 10 principles of good listening.

When we learn to listen well, we will communicate better with others and better communication leads to more personal power, connection, and influence. I'd like to hear what tips you have on listening well, so please leave a comment here or on Facebook.

If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path",  enter your email address in the box provided.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by and keep looking up!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ignite the Power Within Step 6: How to Activate the Power of God in Your Life

No matter how well we develop our personal power, there will always be situations that are out of our control that we simply cannot handle on our own. Not to fret, though, because there is a supernatural power available to us if we choose to tap into it. I'm talking about the power of Prayer and it is the third component of disciplining our unruly minds.

Perhaps, like me, you were raised in a family where there was a lot of angst. Worry, anxiety, and fear permeated our home life and I learned to fret about everything. As my desire to grow closer to God increased, I began to pray. Today, prayer plays an integral part of my daily life. During much of the day, instead of ruminating on my problems, I pray. I lift every issue, every concern, every decision up to God. This is what Thomas a Kempis and Brother Lawrence refer to as "practicing the presence of God". It means an ongoing dialogue with the Lord. It helps keep me focused, centered, and at peace.

When we have problems without solutions - pray.
When we are afraid, worried, or discouraged - pray.
When the trials of life overwhelm us - pray.
When the joys of today please us - pray.

Prayer activates the power of God. Never think that God is too busy to listen to your prayers or that He isn't interested. He always has time to listen and his line is never busy. Just as a parent loves to give good things to her children, so it is with God. He is delighted to answer our prayers. However, there is one thing that stays the hand of God. 

When we willfully persist in sin or have unconfessed sins in the heart.  Put another way, when we refuse to walk in obedience to the word of God, He cannot bless us. Deliberate disobedience prevents our prayers from being answered. Until we deal with the issue at hand, we will remain in a "holding pattern" of sorts. God is more interested in our character than our comfort. Like a good parent, He wants to grow us up and mature us. For more on the hindrances to our prayers, read this article.

If your prayers are not being answered, go to God and ask him to reveal to you if there is any issue in your life that needs to be addressed. He will make it very clear. The problem for me is I usually have to have it spelled out in multiple areas of my life before I get the message and then it's like the light bulb goes on and I say "Aha, I think I see a pattern here." As we get more in tune with God, it will become easier to hear what He is saying to us so stay tuned for my next post in this series on learning to listen. 

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment so I know you did. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path",  enter your email in the box provided.

Until next time, practice your praying and keep looking up!