Sunday, February 23, 2014

Creatures of Habit

"The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken." ~ Samuel Johnson

I would say right about now, as we head into week three of 'the game', all of us are beginning to feel the weight of our habits. All of us have habits, both good and bad. A habit is a noun which means; a pattern of behavior acquired through frequent repetition. Obtaining and maintaining habits in our lives is, well, just a part of life. Yet, once again, a habit is one of those two edged swords that can make you or break you. A habit can be one of your greatest servants or one of your worst task masters. "Nothing is stronger than habit." (Ovid) As Samuel Johnson said in the quote above, the smallest of repeated behaviors we do can and will eventually turn into a way of life. Though seemingly minuscule in its beginnings, the behavior grows into a stronghold that is not easily broken. Once a habit is entrenched within our psyche's, our life is framed by those things we habitually do. The famous author, Stephen Covey said, "Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character." The fact of the matter is our habits are a reflection of who we are and the thoughts we have held dear to our souls. When we do something, for the most part, it is not some spontaneous effort or idea, but the way we do react is nothing more than a composite of our habits. As creatures of habits, we can only act according to the those patterns we have consistently adhered to from our youth into adulthood.

Yes, we are but a walking harvest of our habits! Think of the myriad of behaviors we do on a daily basis. How did you first begin this behavior? Why did you begin to do this behavior? Those behaviors just didn't happen. As Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." Somewhere long ago, in response to a situation in life, we began to will ourselves to act in a certain way, and now those acts are entrenched themselves into our way of living. "Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables." (Spanish Proverb) You see, we first make our habits, then in the end our habits make us. Its not that we consciously wish to have bad habits but they sneak up on us, until we become their slaves.

Lets get one thing clear. Most of the time, when habits are discussed, its always discussed within the context of being a bad thing. Habits are a necessary way of getting things done in life. Habits make us predictable and allow a certain stability to operate in our lives. But habits are not neutral, and can only take on the persona we give them within the context of our life's daily routines. Vincent Lombardi said, "Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."

Let me give you a personal for instance of a habit in my life. For years, I was an advocate of eating healthier, and taking supplements to help with our health, but there was a a thing I avoided at all costs when it came to health. This thing is called EXERCISE! Though every time I read books and articles about healthy living, the word, exercise, was a key component to bringing healing to the body. I always had an excuse to why I couldn't exercise. One day, at about the age of 37, I was laying sick in bed. I realized just eating a decent diet and taking supplements, obviously wasn't enough. So began a journey to change a bad habit...no exercising to exercising. From being repulsed and finding every reason in the book to not exercise to changing my life into a habit of routinely exercising was not an easy task. I have always told people they can't just stop a bad habit by doing nothing. There must be a good habit ready to replace a bad habit or at least a desire to acquire a new habit to take the place of the bad one. Desiderius Erasmus said, "A nail is driven out by another nail. Habit is overcome by habit." Deep down, I truly disliked how I felt about myself and where I was going. I did not like my bad habit of non-exercise. (Who really likes their bad habits?) So, I stepped into the odyssey of overcoming the bad with the good. I bought a treadmill! But guess what? Purchasing a treadmill did not break my bad habit of no exercise! Soon my inspired purchase was a very nice coat rack rather than a bad habit buster I had bought it do for me! Yep, that's right, the treadmill didn't do a thing for me... except drain my wallet of a monthly payment. Oh yeah...and every time I walked past my high tech coat rack, I could swear it laughed and taunted me with snide remarks!

Let me just lay it on the line here! The only way to overcome a bad habit is to replace the bad habit with something good, and this takes EFFORT and WORK. I try to tell people if they can do the good for at least three consecutive weeks, then you have a great possibility of breaking the chains of the bad habit. You can pull down the strongholds that keep you from obtaining the desires of your heart. It was a bumpy road to victory for me, but here I sit, writing this article (eight marathons later) trying to inspire you to believe it can be accomplished, IF you put your mind to it! It took me awhile to finally die to live, but when I did die out to my lazy ways, and began exercise on a consistent basis, something great happened. I realized how great I felt. I realized it wasn't as difficult as my imaginations had made exercise out to be. I came to many realizations concerning the power of habits and their control over our lives. I won't lie to you, do I struggle from time to time with my exercise...sure, but it doesn't take me long to remind myself of all the good it does for me and how I feel when I conquer the myriad of voices that call me back to my cave of apathy.

An ancient proverb says, "Good habits are formed from resisting temptation." You must begin to resist the temptation to stay in the bed of ease LONG ENOUGH to run into through the finish line of successful doing! Quit thinking you can't break the bad habit and step into the power of today! TODAY is the day of salvation! Today is the day you begin to break that bad habit one chain link at a time!
 
Submitted by: Elder David Green

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Man Child

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. ~ Mark 10:13-15

Sometimes, while I am out running or biking, something will 'take me back' to a time in my youth. A certain smell, like fresh cut grass, will bring a flashback to the days of my childhood. The feeling of the summer breeze against my face will remind of the days of summer when all I did was ride my bike and life was contained within this capsule of splendor and awe. What happened? What happened to the 'awe' of life? Where did the splendor and beauty of life disappear to? It seems somewhere between the teenage years and adulthood, the luster of life has faded into this greyness of just living without having really lived. It seems like the laughter is gone. Any silliness has departed into an abyss of everything serious. Playfulness has since been deployed beyond the routine shores of living, while the 'moments of life' soldier along just staying afloat. Maybe its just me...maybe its just my life and what I am feeling, but when was the last time you really stopped and looked beyond the moment and into the beauty of God's creation? I find myself so intent on working to get the bills paid and fulfilling my obligations 'to the man', at times, I can't seem to see the forest for the trees or even the trees for the forest.

The other day, I was watching my three year old daughter play in the backyard. She ran to and fro. She was in her own little world. Everything she came into contact with was a fascination. Flowers, rabbits, trees, and the grass under her feet. At different times she would see a bird and give chase. She would look at the bird and look at me, and say, "Daddy, I am going to catch it!" Then...I caught myself...even as the words came out of my mouth..."You can try, but you never catch that bird"...I caught myself...the all knowing adult squelching the youthful zeal of childhood fantasy. In her mind, she believed she could 'catch' that bird. She would race after it and of course the bird would fly away, and yet again she would try to catch the next bird that landed nearby. Yet, in my regimented life, I found myself extinguishing her childlike fantasy. There in my words, I felt the gap...not the generational gap, but the space between losing my childlike faith and my adulthood mentality of being realistic. You know...the matter of fact, cold hard reality that life is life, and there is no place for chasing your dreams.

As I spoke those dream dashing words, I felt myself cringe. Have we lost touch with the connections? Earth to man and man to creation? Has the same technology we worked so hard to 'free' us, now enslaved us to its demands? Entrapped within its cocoon of 'safety', has the world become an ominous foreboding place that can no longer contain a place for childhood dreams? Walt Streightiff said, "There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million." As a child, I can remember the days being long. From morning to dusk, I would splash through the manifold manifestations of an awesome God. Walking in a mid-summer's downpour was not a bad thing, but an incredible sensation of being alive. Everything was an exciting adventure. From laying and playing on the dirty ground with the ants, to those late summer nights, feeling the dew form on the grass, while staring up in wonderment and awe at the billions of stars in the midnight sky. Life was real. Its beauty was unsearchable and the quest to have it revealed to my childhood investigations was unquenchable.

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." ~ Abraham Lincoln ~ I am not talking about throwing away all responsibility and acting as a child. I am not advocating becoming a dreamer without action. I understand the dangers of folly and foolishness. The Apostle Paul spoke of 'putting away childish things' when he had become a man, so I understand the idea of maturing and growing up. But life it seems, or should I say, living has been lost in this intense pursuit of things and the hectic pace of the 'rat race' has us looking for cheese in all the wrong places. It seems we end up living to work rather than working to live! Zig Ziglar said, "If standard of living is your major objective, quality of life almost never improves, but if quality of life is your number one objective, your standard of living almost always improves." In our pursuit of living we have seemingly forgotten how to live. Consumed with gaining, getting, and gathering...the luster of living has waxed dull. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "It is not length of life, but depth of life." Could it be possible the 'depth' of life is in the way a child views the world? Has our one dimensional pursuit of life suppressed the childlike three dimensional brilliance of the world around us. Think about it. When was the last time you stopped to 'smell the roses'? When was the last time you laid on the dew soaked grass and looked up in wonder at the billions of stars in the sky? When was the last time you rolled down a grassy hill? When was the last time you walked in the down pour of a warm summer's rain? When was the last time you jumped in a mud puddle? After reading these questions, you may think them to be childish and immature, but I wonder. Not because we question the 'maturity' of doing such things, but at the loss of having that childlike spontaneity.

In the Book of Revelations the Lord talks of a man child. There is a place for the child to still reside within the man. A place where faith in the impossible overrides the reality of the logical man. I believe, still trapped within us all, is that little child who still feels he can 'catch that bird', no matter how many times you may fail in your attempts. This is the place where all things are possible because creation clearly reveals the invisible hand of the One who holds the strings to the substance of life and the only thing that can seemingly cancel our ability to 'see' impossible possibilities is our logically inclined minds.

I wonder...I just wonder...if part of losing weight and playing 'the game' has been lost in all our logic and reasoning. What if we opened up the closet door and let the 'child' within begin to run again? What would happen if we allowed that childlike fascination to trample through the corridors of our minds again? What would your world turn into? Would you go lay on the grass and feel its prickling texture? Would you go for a ride on your bike? Would you sit next to a delicate flower and behold its beauty? Would you play hop scotch, draw on the sidewalk, have a water fight, or just stare up at the clouds and point out imaginary shapes and images? Personally, I don't think its a question of whether or not the world would become a different place, but the real question is...can you even let the child out of the closet?

 
Submitted by: Elder David Green

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Multi-Tasked and Over Stimulated

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. ~ Proverbs 27:20


Have we lost our ability to remain focused? I don't remember a time in my life where the minds of so many people are so scattered. It seems to be very difficult for people to remain intent on one thing. To get people to bear down and focus on a dilemma or a project is a difficult task these days. Within and without, people seem to have no sense of direction. Better yet...they have no sense of purpose, and yet I find that these two thoughts...focus and purpose are connected. How can one maintain a pursuit upon a 'purpose' when their mind cannot remain focused? How can you ever find a purpose in life if you cannot discipline the mind? When one slows down for a moment (if you can), its not difficult to see how upside our society has become. Earl Nightingale said, "You become what you think about." and if this is true, well then, what are we?

We have become a society of multi-tasked and over stimulated people. We cannot seem to live unless our lives are inundated with some type of stimulation. Look around, what do you see? The next generation, and even our own are caught up in this technological vacuum. Cell phone in one ear, iPod in the other, eyes fixed on the computer screen, or the Ipad, doing homework with one hand while text-messaging someone with the other, and don't forget the television is blaring in the background.


In the documentary, Digital Nation, they researched this 'new' phenomenon that has overtaken our nation, and in fact, the entire world. I found it interesting how they studied students who were considered multi-taskers. Within themselves, these multi-taskers felt like they were very focused and well able to maintain the myriad of objectives in their lives. Yet, after being put through some test, it was quite clear these students actually lost their ability to remain focus, even though they 'thought' they were very focused and able.


You see...multi-tasking overloads and burdens our system. Everything in the media, every television program, every movie, every music CD, every computer program, every phone app, every video game is designed to give us higher and higher levels of stimulating responses. None of these exciting things are necessarily bad. What is bad is that they are unrelenting. It is a constant bombardment of the mind. A continual 'harassing' of the brain. There is no downtime.


It is a no win situation, a catch 22 if you will. The eyes of men are NEVER satisfied. The more we overload the pleasure center, the higher the barrier goes. So we seek greater and more pleasurable activities to get over that barrier to the pleasure center. We become hedonistic in our pursuit of pleasure. Our happiness is defined by the level of excitement in our lives. Then pleasure itself becomes unpleasurable. Overstimulated minds reach a place called anhedonia, which is an inability to experience pleasure. The truth is excitement is not happiness and true happiness cannot be found in excitement. In fact, excitement is the ultimate drug. It is excitement that people are seeking after when engaging in any destructive or addictive behavior.


I have always felt we were entering another dark age. Where once again, the human mind is unable to perceive the world around them, but not because the information is not available, but because there is too much information available. During the 'dark ages' people were unable to think for themselves because knowledge was locked up. The Bible was not accessible to the common man. The invention of the printing press changed, for the better, the mind of the world. From that point on events have snowballed right back to where they once were...darkened from the truth about living and life. The irony of it all is we have access to a plethora of information, yet we are living within the dregs of a dumbing down of the human mind.

Paul warned of perilous times in the last days. Men would be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Jesus said...in the last days the love of many shall wax cold. Love requires focus. If what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 is true, and I believe it is, then love believes all things, hopes all things, bears all things, and endures all things, and you can't love like this without focus. You can't have a focus like this without a love for the Word of God and without a love for the Word of God, you will never find your calling or true purpose. No wonder there is such an intent in this world to keep us unfocused and continually caught up in its pleasures.


As we enter the sixth week of this 'game', I hope you can 'see' there is more than a game being played here. As a marathon runner and having to learn how to remain focused and keep to a training plan for eighteen weeks, I knew there would be a handful of people who could not keep focused to the end. (I tried to warn everyone!) I knew eighteen weeks of trying to remain steadfast toward a goal would prove difficult for some and overwhelming for a few. Many are having trouble remaining focused. I see many caught within this crucible of pleasure and focus. In this instant gratification pleasure oriented society, we want it all. Not only do we want it all NOW, but we want it all, served our way and in our time. But this is not a true picture of life. If the truth be known, we have lost some precious things in this overstimulated culture. The things of meaning have become mundane. Books are boring. To read their words takes focus and concentration of mind. The outside world has become a threatening place. No longer can the soft breeze of a summer wind stimulate a person enough to be a pleasurable event. To get someone to take a walk in the rain is next to impossible these days. Hobbies of the hands and mind have given way to video games that rob the brain of imagination. Individual creativity is falling to the wayside as we lose touch with the world around us.


Its bigger than just a game!!! This is your life. This is my life. Within our grasps could very well be our eternal life! I hope and pray, in the weeks ahead, as you and I are tossed to and fro in this epic battle to find our purpose. We can 'see' the power we give up when we remain connected to this need for stimulation and so disconnected from reality. When you feel the crux of all this over stimulation fall upon your mind, THAT is the time to step outside its power. Go for a walk. Ride your bike. Sit in the sun and read a good book. Let your God given mind be stimulated by His Word once again! Though it would be nice to win the game, the truth is...in the long run, if you break these chains...you my friend have already won!

 
Submitted by: Elder David Green

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Victim or Victor?

"God gave us two ends - one to sit on and one to think with. Success depends on which one you use. Heads you win, tails you lose." ~ Unknown Author

Sometimes it takes people to become sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Many people are definitely tired and many people are sick, but most of them have not come to the place of being sick and tired or they just don't see the connection between the two. It seems that sickness has become this idea that it just hits you. Like some invading enemy from out of the blue, sickness invades your body and pow! you are sick. Whether it is cancer or the common cold, most seem convinced or just accept the idea that it just happens. These things are just a part of life and when they happen you just deal with as best you can. We learn to cope with our sickness, both natural and spiritual, rather than overcome and conquer them!

It blows my mind how most people don't see or are blind to the understanding of the simple cliche I was taught in my youth. "Garbage IN, Garbage OUT!" The principle is simple, whatever you put into your body will produce a similar effect. It is the idea there is a cause and then an effect that was created by the cause. Like a rock or a stone thrown upon a pond, its energy is catapulted into many layered effects. The ripples from the stone surge outward in a surrounding radius of waves and depending on the size of the stone will also impact on the size of the effect. Then there is the unseen side of the rock hitting the surface of the pond and what happens under the surface of the pond. The rock hits the surface and we see the surface effects, but what happens after it leaves our sight, is and could be a whole different story. Maybe it hits a fish or some other organism. Maybe it crushes a home of one of the organisms. Maybe the rock or the stone had some micro organism on it that causes the nearby water it hits to be contaminated. The overall effects are unknown, but they will eventually reveal themselves in the harvest somewhere down the road.

To think the average person today eats over processed foods and dead foods and actually expects or doesn't believe they will face repercussions down the road is a tell tale sign of a very manipulated society, or dumb downed as some have termed it. Maybe its just human nature just to be irresponsible. It seems to be a prevalent mindset through out our culture to NOT have or desire to take any responsibility for what happens in one's life. This victim hood mentality has enveloped our society and woven itself into the fabric of the mental make-up of our way of life. It is far easier to blame something outside of yourself for where you are than to have to 'eat crow' and take responsibility for your condition. Whether it be a spiritual issue or a physical one, the blame game shares equal footing for both. Sophocles said, "It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it."

Napoleon Hill said, "If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self." Just because we may choose not be accountable for our actions does not omit the fact that we responsible. Though we may live by the motto, "Out of sight, out of mind" does not mean we don't reap what we sow! Abraham Lincoln put it this way, "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." Its one thing to be ignorant, its a whole different thing to be 'willingly' ignorant. Denis Waitley said, "A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make." The blame game only works for so long. After awhile finger pointing must be fixed to the real culprit! YOU! "Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you." (Brian Tracy)
This pervasive trend of playing the victim is easy to 'fall' into and latch onto, especially in a culture seemingly centered around the superficial and lacking the depth of discussion which is truly needed for honest growth. For true growth to take place in our lives, we must be willing to take responsibility for our choices. We have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout that have occurred during our lifetime. "Within each of us lies the power of our consent to health and sickness, to riches and poverty, to freedom and to slavery. It is we who control these, and not another." (Richard Bach) On a daily basis, we give consent by the choices we make. I know it may seem like sickness just appears, but you cannot evade the consequences of eating fast food and junk food plays havoc on the immune system.

But in spite of all this 'eating crow' it must be made known to you, that God allows U-turns. The beauty of coming 'clean' with yourself is this fact...YOU can change. You can turn your ship around and sail to a different port. Only when the finger pointing and blame game stops, can true maturity and growth begin to take place. "The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses." (Napoleon Hill) You may not be able to change the circumstances, the wind, or the seasons, but there is one thing you can change...YOURSELF. Today, you can step up to the plate like never before and take charge of yourself! No more excuses. There are no more if's, and's, or sitting on your butt's about it anymore! Today you are going to hold yourself to a higher standard than the masses. Today, by taking responsibility of your all your decisions, past and present, you are going to refuse playing the victim and begin a determined pursuit toward becoming the victor!

 
Submitted by: Elder David Green

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beyond Trivial Pursuit

"Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out - it's the grain of sand in your shoe." - Robert Service


How many times have we heard it said that we lose sight of the forest for the trees. It seems so easy in this image conscious world to lose sight of what is really important. We are constantly inundated with the superficial and the shallow, and if we are not careful, life ends up becoming less about purpose and more of a pursuit of the trivial. Somewhere along the way we must obtain the ‘purpose’ or sense of direction of our lives. We must forge out the answer to the question ‘what are we here for’? Yet, it seems, we are so easily distracted by little nuances and the mirages life’s petty lures. In the ‘to and fro’ of our swaying, we lose track of the true intent of life itself and fall under the manipulating barrage of societies impulses and tendencies. We turn mole hills into mountains and mountains into mole hills. We major in minors and minor in majors. Life is consumed with the he said and the she said's and valuable time slips away into eternity never to be had again.


Think about it. Before we are hardly out of bed and have awakened from a peaceful sleep, we are pounced upon by outside forces. Each force vying for our attention. Each entity telling us what is important and what is not important. The shout from the outside immediately steps into our morning stretch and demands our full attention. From the weather to apparel, food to money, buy here and go there, the voices cry out for our touch. If we are not careful the multitude of distractions can easily beguile us into losing our sense of direction. The scripture says in Proverbs that a man who is given to appetite might as well put a knife to his throat. Why? Because when our appetites rule us they lead us to places we never intended to go. When we are given to appetite we are more easily manipulated into doing things we would never do if we were more assured of our purpose. In the end we become enslaved by the very things we sought to possess!


In our haste to ‘find’ happiness we give over to momentary indulgences only to be left even more empty than before we caved in to the justification of it all. Our life is far more than appetites and true liberty comes with this understanding. We must be honest with ourselves! How many times, after the chase, do we have to end up with empty hands and hurting hearts? How many distractions do we have to fall for before we wake up and see the whimsical ways of our appetites? How many times do we have to get off the beaten path of true purpose and die the death of many regrets? How many times must we be lied to before we are finally compelled to restrain our own appetites of deception? How many times do we have to empty our shoes before we truly climb with a sense of purpose?


Then again, maybe here in lies the real problem. Without meaning in life, life has no meaning! Seneca said, “Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” So now begs the question. What harbor are you sailing for? What is or are your goals? What IS important to you? When you are healed, in body and mind, what is YOUR purpose? Today, stop the noise from without and seek some answers from within. Silence the critics and voices of manipulation with a firm resolve to empty your shoes and turn aside for a higher look up the mountain, you may be surprise what you see up there!

 
Submitted by: Elder David Green