|Former U.S. Marine Anthony McDaniel lost both legs and an arm fighting for our country.|
"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it."
-Lou Holtz, National Championship Winning Football Coach and ESPN College Football Analyst
I know we can all think of a time when we planned a trip to somewhere nice and thought of all the activities that we wanted to take part in when we got there. We began filling up our suitcase with different types of clothes and shoes to fit every occasion. To our surprise, no matter how hard we try to zip it up, it just would not close. Being tempted to give up, we start taking things out to make room. As we start putting things back in place, we realize that the clothes and shoes had been previously thrown in the suitcase with no strategy, taking up more space than necessary. After repositioning our belongings, we found that everything we had packed before was now able to fit in the suitcase after all.
We face these same problems periodically in our minds. As humans, we tend to allow things such as doubt, anger, resentment and pride to cloud our judgement and affect our actions. It's hard, nearly impossible, to make sound decisions when our mind is being infiltrated with so many negative influences. Take the servant with only one talent for example. He let fear keep him from being productive with what he was given. When his master returned he was displeased with his servant's works, or lack thereof, and called him "wicked and slothful" (Matt 25:26). Some of us deal with anger issues. The wisest man to ever walk the Earth, Solomon, spoke on this very issue. He said, "Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools" (Ecc 7:9). Anger can cause us to do things that we will later regret. It can cause us to hurt loved ones or take justice in our own hands, rather than letting God be the judge. I know I have said some things that I wish I could have taken back, but it was too late. Situations are only made more difficult by acting out of anger. The best course of action is to stop, look and listen. We need to STOP whatever is it we are doing, or planning to do, so that we can take another LOOK at the situation after we have had time to cool down. Finally, we should LISTEN to what God has to say about the matter. His wisdom far exceeds anything that we could ever hope to attain. He knows the outcome and possible ramifications of our actions if we continue the course we are on. So, when we feel life bringing us down, we should ask ourselves: "How Am I Carrying My Load?"
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If you have ever been wronged by anyone, especially someone you think highly of, then you know that forgiveness is easier said than done. We sometimes feel the need to make the other person feel the pain that we feel, or at least make sure they know how upset we are. How many of those times have you later realized the situation that you were upset over was simply a misunderstanding? Many friendships have been strained and ended because the two sides did not have a clear understanding. Even when certain things are said or done out of spite, we should learn to let them go. Forgiveness is not just for the other person, it is mainly for us. Often times the person who has done us wrong has gone on with their life while we are still harboring negative energy. It can eventually affect the way we treat other people. I've heard many people say that they cheat on their partners because of how hey were treated in a previous relationship; or, they bring memories of what happened previously and accuse their significant other of doing things they are not. The best thing to do is to JUST GET OVER IT. I have personally let past relationships cause me not to desire entering anymore. I felt that all relationships would end the same. I had to realize that those women were going on enjoying their lives while I was depriving myself of companionship. In essence, I was the only one suffering because of my unwillingness to forgive. We are not supposed to hold grudges against anyone. Jesus told the disciples in Luke 17:4, "If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' 'forgive him." We not only keep ourselves in bad moods by not forgiving others, we also block our blessings. God will not trust us with His "good and perfect" gifts if we do not possess the heart to treat it how He wants. The only way to be in a position to receive His gifts is to, "Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12). Since it is impossible to possess these traits without having a forgiving heart, I guess we are forced to JUST GET OVER IT.
Tell me about a time that you have been wronged by someone you really cared for. How did it affect your relationship with that person? did you ever JUST GET OVER IT and forgive them?
I am proud to say that this blog post marks the 1 year anniversary of Random Thoughts!!!!
How many times have you had things that needed to be done but tried to find every reason not to? Then, we try to justify our procrastination with little EXCUSES that we know are menial. This is typically the case for me when it is time to hit the gym. I think of every reason why I should put it off until tomorrow. "I'm tired from work. It looks like it's going to rain. I need to organize some paperwork. I have things I need to write." But, the truth is, I know that working out will not interfere with the majority of these things, and I probably won't end up doing the other ones anyway. We are definitely not the first people to make up excuses for not wanting to do something. Even Moses tried to use the old "My dog ate my homework" trick when God commanded him to return to Egypt and declare that the Pharaoh release the Hebrews from bondage. "Moses said to the Lord 'O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.' The Lord to said to him, 'Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?'" (Exodus 4:10-11) What we fail to realize is the fact that these are the times that we need to get up and do it anyway! These are the situations that test our will power and determination. It is in these instances that we build mental strength and recognize our true capabilities. My college coach always preached to us about discipline and mental toughness. He said that mental toughness would keep us focused even when we are tired. Being tired doesn't always refer to a physical state; it more often refers to our mental state of being. We can't allow our minds to control us, but instead, control our minds. Our flesh acts like a spoiled brat-- it whines whenever it doesn't get its way. That's why our stomach starts to growl and head starts to hurt whenever we fast. Our body is throwing a temper tantrum and it is the responsibility of our mind to overpower it. I can remember many hot summer days in college during conditioning drills when my body told me to quit. It was over 100 degrees, I was tired, and my lunch felt like it was about to come back up. I had remember that I was working towards something that was more significant than the pain I was feeling at the time. The same was true for Moses. He tried to use his speech as an excuse to stop him from delivering an entire nation! The only way for us to be better than average is to stop making excuses and JUST DO IT!
Have you ever let an excuse stop you from accomplishing something that you later wish you had done?
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men,"
Have you ever had a time where you had to stand your ground on a decision you've made because other people didn't agree? How did that make you feel? How did you deal with it?
*This year's song, GOLDEN EAGLE PRIDE, can be purchased through iTunes, along with GOLDEN EAGLE PRIDE:THE ALBUM, which is a compilation of game day anthems from years past.
How can we begin moving in any direction if we do not first establish where we are going? We are given the right to choose our own path in life but not the conditions of it. We see just far enough ahead to ask ourselves, "IS IT WORTH IT ME?" And, "Is my goal important enough to endure the circumstances it requires?" I am continuously realizing that it takes hating to fail more than wanting to succeed in order to stay focused and determined to reach my destination. There are times that those around me may doubt whether or not I will be able to accomplish everything I set out to, but I do not let that deter me. I can not expect for everyone to see my vision the way that I do because it is MY vision. God gave me a specific purpose just as He did everyone else. At times, doubters even come in the form of friends and family. This is probably why the Lord commanded Abraham to "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, to the land which I will show you" (Gen 12:1). Unfortunately, Abraham brought his nephew, Lot, with him, who only caused problems along the journey. We sometimes face negativity, discouragement, and even sabotage from those we are closest to. But, if we truly believe in our purpose it will not interfere with the journey still become the "Father of many nations" just as Abraham. I am determined to be successful and am driven by my fear of failure. I choose not to live my life wondering "What if?" It is not worth my conscience condemning me for not giving total effort and failing as a result. This has been most evident in my relationship. Even when things get rough and we do not see eye to eye, I know what I am working towards and find ways to resolve the issues. I know that giving up on it is not worth wondering "What if?" There will also be those, outside looking in, offering their opinions about what they feel is best. For them, it may very well be. God gave us all our own lives to live and choices to make, so I do what is best for me. My dad always tells me not to make choices that I will regret because of what he wants for me, but instead, make my own decisions because I am the only one who can truly answer the question, "IS IT WORTH IT TO ME?"
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Assuming everything will go exactly according to plan, is one of the worst mistakes that we can make. Most of us plan our lives as fairy tales that do not include any effort or inconvenience. It is this type of thinking that leads to disappointments and discouragement. If our dream does not include the adversities that comes along with it, it is merely a fantasy. Fantasies only come true in Disney movies. Life's twists and turns are, as I stated in the previous post, ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. It is important for us to have a plan in order to move in a particular direction, but we should also leave flexibility in our plan to adjust to life's circumstances. Without leaving room to adjust, we are thrown completely off course at the first sign of misdirection. In my experience, life has been more about how I have adjusted to unexpected happenings than anything else. I have gained more knowledge, wisdom, and patience from situations that were unplanned than ones that were premeditated. The birth of my son is the perfect example. Bringing a child into the world was the furthest thought from my mind at the time I found out that he had been conceived. Being a father to him has been a winding road that continues to pave itself each day. I learn more about being a parent with every moment I spend with him. I have learned to be the example of the person I want him grow to be, realized that I have to differentiate when I am playing with him and when I am serious, and understand that he doesn't have a full knowledge of right and wrong and may have to be told some things more than once. Although I had no intentions of having a child when it happened, he has been the biggest blessing I have received from God. It was here that I realized that life's plan was the same as God's will and that God's will is always more important than our own. I honestly believe that He entrusted my son to me at the perfect time in my life. He knew that I was entering into a transitional stage because my last semester of college was nearing a close and I needed direction. Although my son could not give me the direction, he gave me the motivation to seek guidance from God. James 4:15-16 states, "Instead, you ought to say 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil." It is vital that we consult God before planning anything. It reminds me of the old saying "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." My son did not deter from me accomplishing any of my goals or ambitions, but he did make me prioritize and rearrange some things. I have, in fact, taken a notice to certain things that I gave no attention to before-- blessings I almost missed because I was PLANNING LIFE WITHOUT CONSIDERING LIFE'S PLAN FOR ME.
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I have noticed, that at times, I find it difficult finding the silver lining in adverse situations. I sometimes question myself about whether my goals and ambitions are truly MY goals and ambitions and even question God about what He has in store for my life. A couple months ago I went through a 3-day period of depression while dealing with various situations. Those who were around me daily noticed that I was not being my normal self. The joking, smiling, loud and energetic Jonathan was nowhere to be found. (Anyone that knows me well will tell you this is VERY RARE.) About the third day of my depression, I really became discouraged. I called a close friend to talk about it, and he spoke words that changed my entire mindset. He told me that the things I was dealing with were ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY in order for God to mold me into the person He predestined me to be! Some of these situations are premeditated by Him (such as Job) and some are consequences of disobedience (such as Jonah), but they all serve the same purpose -- qualifying us for the position He has for us. When entering the job market, most employers seek those who are certified (hold degrees), but more importantly, those who are qualified (experienced). Life's circumstances are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to give us the qualifications required. They put our attitudes, desires, and passion to the test. Once we start to view our situations in this manner, we begin to see them as being worthwhile, not easier, but worth the effort. As Matthew 22:14 states, "Many are called but few are chosen," or as I translate it, "many are CERTIFIED but few are QUALIFIED." I'm sure everyone knows an athlete that was the hometown hero and had all the potential in the world, but lacked the ambition necessary to capitalize on it. When tests came to "qualify" them, they were not found worthy of being "chosen." There are only a select few that meet all of the criteria to be deemed worthy of accepting the calling God has for us and no one makes it there overnight. It is a process that begins with us understanding that everything is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.
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Lately, I have been dealing with a situation that was caused by me failing to identify the underlying cause of my actions. I have let this same insecurity cause me to hurt people in the past, but it recently caused me to hurt someone I care for dearly. I have been neglecting the real source, the PROBLEM, and only focusing on the SYMPTOMS. I have found that this is not uncommon at all. Everyone has insecurities in one area of our life or another, but if we do not wish for these insecurities to control us and affect our relationships with others, it is of the utmost importance that we identify the source and deal with it. The initial step of the process is realizing that an insecurity is present. I never realized that being unsatisfied with a certain aspect of my life was caused by an insecurity. I was confusing it with striving for self improvement. Whether the aspect that we see the need to change is something for the better or if it is something that we should learn to accept, it is still an insecurity until we find a way to deal with it. In order to begin addressing the PROBLEM, we must be able to differentiate the PROBLEM from the SYMPTOMS. SYMPTOMS can masquerade as multiple issues when they are actually the collective results of one PROBLEM. It is easier for us to take medicine to alleviate a cough, runny nose, or sneezing rather than consulting a doctor to identify the cause. Attending to the PROBLEM tends to require more effort and admitting vulnerability; two things that are not typically enjoyable to us, so we settle for placing a band aid on the SYMPTOMS. But, these very SYMPTOMS control not only our actions, ambitions and desires, but also, our relationships with others. Insecurity breeds a lack of confidence in ourselves causing us to abandon the cultivation process. In turn, we deprive others of the opportunity to gain encouragement from our testimony. As I explained in WHAT IS FEAR?, God wants better for us than we want for ourselves, but if we continue to let our insecurity prohibit us from acting, we will never receive it. As in my case, insecurity has affected others as well. Not being totally satisfied with who I am has, at times, caused me to seek validation from outside sources. On more than one occasion, what I felt was necessary to fill my void was out of bounds in respect to the relationships I was in. The people I was involved with were caused emotional pain simply because I chose not to treat the PROBLEM, but instead patch up the SYMPTOMS. The PROBLEM was not so clear to me at first but became evident during a trip to the mall with a friend. After expressing my feeling of being overdressed, he told me, "Never feel out of place (while being yourself)." I realized at that moment that my SYMPTOMS were results of me never truly being satisfied with who I am. So now that I have come to terms with my PROBLEM, I have addressed it. I no longer try to band aid or patch the SYMPTOMS because diagnosing and treating the PROBLEM cures them. I encourage everyone to look within yourself to diagnose and TREAT THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SYMPTOMS.
In most adverse situations we face in life, we tend to blame others rather than realizing that WE are our OWN biggest enemy. We are our OWN biggest hinderance. It seems as if we do not realize that we have the ability to overcome any situation we face, even if the "situation" is ourself. One of the biggest roadblocks that we encounter is our failure to plan. Too many times we tend to just "play it by ear" or "see what happens" rather than putting forth the effort to develop a strategy. King Solomon states in Proverbs 28:19, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." As I stated in a previous post, TRAVELING THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, 'Creating a vision of the end result allows us to mark our progress along the way.' We also tend to allow our fear of failure to keep us from stepping out on faith and beginning our journey to success. This can only be overcome by changing our mindset about failure. Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, "I haven't failed. I've found 10,000 ways that don't work." We should see failure as a learning tool that carries us one step closer to success. What if Thomas Edison had given up on inventing the light bulb on the 9,999th try? We would still be finding our way through the dark by candlelight. Fear of the "unknown" is another contributor to our lack of progress. In a world filled with uncertainty, it is ludicrous to expect to have all of our questions answered before we ever begin. It is also this fear of the "unknown" that causes us to take on the fear of others. We tend to become fearful of the things those whom we seek guidance from are fearful of. Many of our fears are not truly our own. They are those of our parents, mentors, friends, and loved ones. What may not be right for one person, may be perfect for another. We get stuck in traditions and stereotypes that cause us to fail in evolving to truly fulfill our full potential. It prevents us from stepping outside of the box and experiencing new things. It is often the things that we shun that we learn the most from. Choosing to not always be orthodox gives us the chance to grow and become well rounded. Even when we are able to overcome these fears, we still face the task of putting the plan into action. Many times we put things off to a later date that ultimately never comes. Procrastination hinders our progress more than anything else because it is totally internal. It is the one thing that we truly control. There are no external factors involved with taking action right now! All that is required is for us to GET OUT OF OUR OWN WAY.
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Proverbs 16:32 "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."
Honing in on our ability to focus and block out DISTRACTIONS is one of the most difficult things to do, yet, when accomplished can break down all barriers that stand in our way. I'm sure we can all think of certain DISTRACTIONS that we face in our lives everyday but some are not so evident. Anything that prohibits us from placing our total focus on the task at hand is a DISTRACTION. Procrastination, or putting things off until a tomorrow that is not promised, is the worst form of DISTRACTION because it takes place within ourselves. We must strive daily to claim victory in what Joyce Meyer calls the "Battlefield of the Mind." When we learn to control our own minds we gain the ability to overcome all external factors. DISTRACTIONS can take the form of a phone that conveniently rings during our time of meditation, our favorite show that just so happens to come on when we are attempting to focus, or worrying about our circumstances rather than trusting in God to provide. He attempts to speak encouragement into our lives but, we are often too DISTRACTED to hear Him. It seems that the discouraging words spoken by those with the intent of DISTRACTING us tend to resonate louder than the soft spoken words of encouragement offered by loved ones. Today's society is one of the biggest DISTRACTIONS that we face on a day-to-day basis. When we find ourselves trying to fit the stereotypes that are portrayed in the media we are actually being DISTRACTED from being the "peculiar people" that God called us to be. Just as I stated in a previous blog post TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE "WE are better at being OURSELVES than 'trying' to be anyone else." It seems that during times of adversity it is most difficult to remain focused when it is, in fact, most necessary. Our circumstances cannot be allowed to DISTRACT us and cause us to become discouraged before our breakthrough. My dad always tells me that, "the closer I get to the city, the heavier the traffic." In this he means when situations seem to become unbearable our breakthrough is just around the corner. Our state of mind must allow us to realize that God uses adversity to strengthen our faith, confidence, and the bond between us. Once we conquer the DISTRACTIONS we must still be careful not to allow pride to set in. We must remember that God gives us our strength. Therefore, we must control our minds and keep them free from the DISTRACTIONS such as the "PRIDE (that) COMETH BEFORE THE FALL."
"PRIDE goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). One of the many lessons that my parents instilled in me from childhood was to remain humble. I was always taught that nothing I had done or accomplished was by my own merit. It was the favor of God on my life that presented me with these opportunities and God-given talent that allowed me to take advantage of them. I have been blessed to earn a Bachelor's degree (University of Southern Mississippi) without paying a dime, travel the country, meet celebrities, attend of the most prestigious universities in the nation (Vanderbilt University), and have my name known by people in places I have never been because of talents that God entrusted me with. Through it all I remain humble. I have encountered situations that remind me that my accomplishments are not of my own doing. There have been occasions where I have planned things out to the "T" and everything still fell apart. In contrast, there have also been times when I could see no reasonable solution to my problem but "just in the nick of time" one presented itself. St Augustine defines pride as "the love of one's own excellence." A perfect example of this is Sadaam Hussein. He spent much of his lifetime building Iraq and accumulating a fortune through his is own efforts, greed and PRIDE. His palace was one of the most beautiful and lavish throughout the world. He lived a dream. The same PRIDE also led to his eventual demise. When inspectors from the United Nations requested to search for weapons of mass destruction his PRIDE caused him to show resistance. In just a few days he had lost everything he had spent his entire life working for and was eventually sentenced to death. The worst part of it all was the fact that there were no weapons found. It was truly his PRIDE that caused him to act in such an arrogant and boastful manner. PRIDE will also keep us from receiving our blessing. We can at times feel that was is required of us is "beneath us." The story of Naaman in the Bible illustrates the point of almost missing a blessing because of PRIDE. Naaman was the most highly touted general in the army of King Aram and had command over the Syrian Army. But, he also had a problem- he suffered from leprosy. God touched the prophet Elisha's heart and led him to call for Naaman to visit him. When Naaman arrived Elisha only sent a messenger outside to instruct Naaman to "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you and you shall be clean" (II Kings 5:10). At this point Naaman allowed his PRIDE to take control and was furious that Elisha had not even shown him enough respect to come out to meet him personally. He felt that a man of his rank should have been given a dignified greeting so he became furious and left. Not to mention the fact that the Jordan River was not the clear, blue, see-through stream that comes to mind. It was muddy and disgusting. PRIDEFUL arrogance almost caused him to give up on being healed until, "his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, my father, [if] the prophet had bid thee [do some] great thing, wouldest thou not have done [it]?....." (II Kings 5:13). It took his servants' love and concern to allow him to realize that he was about to forfeit his healing because of his PRIDE. We shouldn't let PRIDE and arrogance cause us to miss out on what God has in store for us. We only hinder ourselves. We must learn to thank God for our blessings and stand by his word because PRIDE cometh before the fall.