It’s In Your Hands!

The story is told of some young foolish boys who were always trying to fool a wise old man who lived in their village. It had become somewhat of an obsession with the young boys, because every time they went to the old man with what they thought was an enigma, the old man would come up with an answer!

So one day, one of the little boys came up with what he thought was the perfect plan to stump the old man! He told his friends that he would go to the old man with a live bird within his closed fists and ask the old man if the bird was alive or dead. If the old man said the bird was alive, he would close his fists tighter and kill the bird! If the old man said the bird was dead, he would open his fists and the bird would fly away!

Completely satisfied that the plan would work, the boys took off to go see the old man, almost unable to contain their excitement at the thought of finally fooling the wise old man. When they arrived at the wise old man’s house, they eagerly presented him with their fool-proof riddle. They said: “Old man, Johnny has a bird in his hands! Tell us, is it alive or dead?” The old man sat silent for a moment, intently looking at their mischievous little faces. Then, the old man simply said, “The answer is in your hands!”

Well, that’s the way life is! Although many think it is in the hands of the governments, family, friends, circumstances, or situations, the ultimate success or failure in your life is in your hands! You can live life with open hands to give and receive, or you can live life with closed fists, attempting to hold on to what you have, not realizing that while a closed-fist secures what you have, it also prevents you from receiving more!

But not only is it in your hands, it is also in your head! Much of life is not ‘what it is,’ it is ‘what you think it is!’ The Bible says: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he!”  The poet, Walter D. Wintle wrote:

If you think you are beaten, you are;

If you think you dare not, you don’t;

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,

It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,

For out in the word we find

Success begins with a fellow’s will,

It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outcasted, you are;

You’ve got to think high to rise.

You’ve got to be sure of yourself before

You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man;

But soon or late the man who wins

Is the man who thinks he can.

Several years ago, I read Zig Ziglar’s book: See You At The Top, Ziglar wrote: “How you think determines what you become. . . The mind is a dutiful servant and will follow the instructions we give it. . . I am convinced your business is never either good or bad – out there. Your business is either good of bad between your ears. . . . You are what you are and where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind. . . Realistically, most locked doors are in your mind.” In his famed work: Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz writes: “A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment. This is a basic and fundamental law of the mind. It is the way we are built. . . .You act, and feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds of what they are like. You have certain mental images of yourself, your world, and the people around you, and you behave as though these images were the truth, the reality, rather than the things they represent.”

Yes! But not only is it in your hands and in your head, it is also in your feet! Some weeks ago, I rode a bike for the first time in many years and I found out that it’s true what they say; if you ever learn how to ride a bike, you will never forget! Riding a bicycle teaches several fundamental lessons of life: The only way to remain upright and balanced is to keep moving forward at certain rate of speed! As long as the bike is moving forward; you’re making progress toward a destination and you are balanced. It’s alright to stop peddling for a while and coast, but if you wait too long before you start peddling again, it will be almost as hard to regain your momentum as it was when you first started! And if you keep coasting and never start peddling again, you will eventually stop; progress will no longer occur, you will lose your balance and you will fall, if you don’t stick your leg out! Yes! In many ways, life is like riding a bike; to make progress, to reach your goals, to maintain balance, you must keep moving forward at a certain rate of speed!

My bike-riding experience also reminded me of another truth! I noticed as I was riding that I had to constantly adjust my direction! Nothing major, just constant minor shifts! The same thing happens in driving a car! Even on a straight road, you have to make slight and minute shifts and adjustments. That’s the way life is! It is never perfectly straight! But, to get to where you want to go, you must first of all, have somewhere to go! We are designed to have goals and to work progressively toward them! In Psycho-Cybernetics, Maltz talks about the fact that human have a built-in success mechanism that must have a goal or a target. It’s in your feet because you will only find fulfilment in life as you walk or peddle your way toward your goals, making slight adjustments and sometimes major turns along the way!

Yes! It’s in your hands, it’s in your head, it’s in your feet, and it is also in your mouth! In your mouth, there is either a miracle or a mess! We used to say as kids: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” Well, I found out that is not necessarily true! Not only can words hurt; words can kill! Jesus said: “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-37 CSB17) The bad words other people say to you ‘may’ or ‘may not’ hurt you, but the bad words you say to yourself ‘will’ hurt you! When I say ‘bad words,’ I don’t mean profanity, I mean the put-down-words, the negative conversations we sometimes have with our selves! If others say we can’t do it, we can use that as motivation to prove them wrong! But if we say to our selves that we can’t do it; we’re doom to fail, because who can successfully argue with themselves and win?

Lastly, not only is it in your hands, in your head, in your feet, and in your mouth; it is also in your heart! Your heart is your uttermost desire! Your heart is what you want most in life! The commercial asks: “What’s in your wallet?” But an even more important question is: “What’s in your heart?” Jesus said: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matt. 12:34-35 NKJ) Your heart contains the will and the fortitude necessary to get and achieve what you really want in life! You heart contains the treasure or the trash that motivates everything you do!

Yes! It’s in your hands! It’s not up to the government! It’s not up to the economy! It’s not up to your spouse or your children! It’s not even up to God! Ultimately, you must accept full responsibility for your life and say: “If it is to be, it is up to me!” Whatever you make out of your life, it is in your hands!

I Second That Emotion!

emotive chartHave you ever thought about how much we are influenced by our emotions? Now, we (particularly men) would like to think that we live our lives in a logical or orderly way based on good sound reasoning, but often that is not the case. Most of the time, we live our lives, governed and controlled by our emotions. For instance, let’s think about how we buy automobiles. Most of the time, the dominant factor in the automotive buying decision is an emotional one. Now, we would like to think it is the price or some other practical aspect, but most of the time it is not! It’s not the price because even when the asking price might be a bit more than we would like, our emotions overrule our logic to justify the purchase. And what emotion is that?  In the final analysis, we purchase the automobile because of how it makes us “feel,” whether that feeling be a sense of pride in ownership, experiencing the thrill of a new car, or the feeling of having arrive at the status level the automobile symbolizes. That is why some people buy certain automotive brands. When the small-talk at the dinner party is about what automobile people drive, there is a different emotion projected and felt when people say they drive a Mercedes or a BMW as opposed to them saying they drive a Hyundai or a Mazda. I’ve heard it said that people will: “Buy what they cannot afford, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t even like!” Why would they do such a foolish thing? It is a vain attempt to satisfy the emotions fostered by pride and showmanship!

Why do most people who drink alcoholic beverages or take drugs do it? They indulge in such behavior because of the way these substances make them “feel.” They want to feel a buzz or a high or maybe they just want to forget about how their problems make them feel. But when or if they become addicted, they are caught in a vicious cycle within which the feeling is no longer a want, but rather a need!  It’s all about the emotive sensation! I even read a news story recently in which the suspect admitted to killing someone because of the excitement they wanted to feel in committing a murder! Can you image that? They killed somebody to satisfy an emotional feeling! Now, most murders are not committed because of the excitement, but emotions still play a major role! People get angry, jealous, resentful, feel disrespected, frighten or afraid. All of these emotions have played major roles in justifying murder or a killing in the minds of the ones who committed the act.

But it’s not only negative things that are driven by emotions, positive things are driven by emotions also! Why, after all these years, did you decide to go back to school and earn that degree?  Because you wanted feel the pride that comes from a sense of accomplishment! At least that’s the answer I got from a 68-year-old grandmother who sat next to me in a college class several years ago! Why are you so nice to help people you don’t even know when they need help? Because it’s just the right thing to do and you feel good, knowing that you are making a difference in someone else’s life!

We are  all motivated by our emotions much more than we realize or are willing to admit. The key is to be aware of the role emotions play in our lives and then work to make sure our emotions are serving us as opposed to us being slaves and serving our emotions.

How To Have A “New” Year!

CalendarAs I sat down to write this post, I intended to write about: “How to Have a Happy New Year!” But then, I thought about it: We would be happy or happier only if next year was indeed really “new.” Let me show you what I am talking about! This time of year (the days after Christmas), people normally think about plans for the New Year. However, no matter what or how many new resolutions are made, most of the time, the New Year eventually ends up being a replica or a repeat performance of the old year! The reason is because, in most cases, nothing is truly new except the year! It’s a new year; but it’s the same old person! It’s a new year; but we do the same old things! It’s a new year but we think the same old thoughts! I preached a sermon once and I think repeating the title would be appropriate for the thought I am trying to convey. The title of the sermon was: “I Don’t Need a New Year: I Need a New Me!”

The point of the sermon and the point of this post is that we can’t expect next year to be a “new” year if we don’t do anything to make it new! The year will not be new if we don’t change! Next year will be just like this year, which was just like last year, which was just like the years before, unless and until we make a change! Well, what changes can we make to truly make next year a “New Year?” First of all, we can change our thinking! We can change the way we think and change what we think! Everything that happens in our lives is produced by what and how we think; our thoughts and thought patterns! Change your thinking and you change your life! Now some might think this is “new age” thinking, but it is not “new age” nor is it really new! The Biblical author wrote centuries ago: “As a man thinketh in his heart; so is he!” John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth both preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” What many modern Christians fail to comprehend is that the Greek word that is translated as “repent” in the statements of John and Jesus means; “to change the way you think, or to change your thoughts.” What Jesus and John were saying was that God’s Kingdom is not a just a place and future event at the end of time, but rather it is also a present reality! And the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it was not Heaven in the sky, when we die, bye and bye, but rather the present reality of the rule and authority of God in our lives! So in order to have a “new” year, we must also repent! We must change what we think and change how we think!

What thinking and thought-patterns do we need to change in order to have a new year? Well there are several, but I’m only going to touch on a few. First of all, we must quit thinking of life as happening “to us” and realize that life is really what “we” make it! Everything that has happened in your life up to this point; you caused it to happen! You caused it either by what you did or what you didn’t do! You caused it by your actions, in-actions or thoughts! So, if next year is really going to be new, then you must accept personal responsibility for the circumstances and conditions in your life! You must also quit the blame game! I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that somebody “made” them mad! But the truth of the matter is this: No one can “make” you angry! Your anger is an emotional response that is controlled by your thoughts or your thinking. Since no one can control your thoughts but you and your thoughts control your emotions, then if you got angry, it was not because that person “made” you angry, but rather it was because you chose to respond with anger! Your emotional response of anger was a choice you made! You could have chosen to respond differently! Quit the blame game! Losers fix the blame: winners fix the problem!

That’s another thing you’ve got to quit if you want to have a new year! You’ve got to give up the idea that you have no choice! You always have a choice! I’ve heard people say that they go to work because they don’t have a choice! But they do! They could choose “not” to go to work! It’s really not a matter that they have no choice; it’s really a matter of not liking the consequences of the alternative choice! By the way, if you are working a job only because you feel you have no choice, you really need to choose to do something else!

If you want to have a new year, then you must also quit complaining and grumbling about the circumstances of your life. Whatever your circumstances; you directly or indirectly created them! So, if you don’t like the circumstances of your life, accept personal responsibility for the fact that you created or caused them, and then change them! Whatever situation you’re in, accept the fact that you were the major cause, and then understand that you have a choice! You can change it or you can accept it! But by all means, don’t constantly complain and grumble about it! Constantly complaining and grumbling does nothing to help the situation, in fact it makes it worse! The more you complain and grumble; the more you’ll have to complain and grumble about!

The bottom line is this: If you really want next year to be a new year, then you’ve got to be “new” next year! You’ve got to do differently! You’ve got to think differently! You’ve got to respond differently! Things will not change unless and until you change! You can’t have a “new” year with the same “old” you!

Disclaimer: I realize that there are and have been circumstances and situations in which a person may have not been a contributor and/or had/have no control such as conditions of slavery or poverty. This post is directed toward those of us who have a fair amount of freedom in our lives. But, to any person who may be suffering because of the actions of others (such as an oppressive government) this post is not an attempt to blame those who are truly victims.