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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stress Relief

My grandfather used to say “You can’t control everything, but you can pray about everything. Do what you can with the challenges of today and for tomorrow…trust God.

Would you like to relieve some of the stress in your life? Well, pay careful attention to the wisdom in these words and I am confident that, if applied, it will enable you to avoid some of the worry that constantly aims to rob you of your peace. You see, it is not merely the inherent stress associated with life that causes us mental and physical strain, but the pressures created by our own perceptions, conclusions and misunderstandings that lead to the unnecessary and avoidable stress that inhibits our ability to truly enjoy life to its fullest.

A survey conducted by the APA (American Psychological Association) revealed that 1 in every 3 adults experience extreme stress with 15% reaching their “stress high” for up to 15 days out of the month. It goes on to reveal that 48% experience health related issues due to stress and 43% either overeat or eat unhealthy foods due to stress. Those who smoke and drink alcohol - 47% and 17% experienced an increase in their consumption during periods of high stress, respectively.* Here is something that I have come to understand, everyone’s stress is different and affects them in different ways, but a key “first step” to reducing and dealing with your stress more effectively is realizing where your stress comes from and how much of it you can avoid.

It was one of those moments where I was stressing over a few different things when my grandfather offered this life line of wisdom, and as usual, the lesson has helped me to evade unnecessary stress in my life over the years when I apply it in the face of potential pressure. The opportunities to worry are endless; a money issue, work pressures, family and relationship challenges, the list goes on and on. The real question is how much of it can you really control? In the book of Matthew (verses 25 – 34), Jesus personally reminds us that basically, you can’t change a thing by worrying about it. We can only see life in the moment we are in, God sees what has happened, what is happening, and more importantly, what will happen. So the better question is do you trust God with your future?

What my grandfather wanted to convey with this quote was the need for me to understand that God is in control, whether I believe it or not, in fact he would often shorten the quote to just two words…”Trust God”. Much like my post “Dance Lessons” sometimes God allows challenges in our life to bring us closer to him. My post “The Ratio of Life“, reminds us that life is only 10% what happens but 90% what you do about it. The stresses and storms are inevitable, but it is how you handle them that will determine how heavy and how long you experience them. Head over to the archives and check them out, it may only take you five minutes. My prayer for you is that you begin to grasp tightly to this life line of wisdom when the tide of life’s pressure rises. Put your worries and trust in God’s hands, so that after the storm has passed you see that you still stand on a rock of hope in Him. No one said it would be easy, but I can attest that it works. Be Blessed.

*Resource - Hitti, M. (2007, October) Web MD: "1 in 3 Adults Feel Extreme Stress" Retrieved from

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Secret to Success

My grandfather used to say “The hardest part of being the best_________, is your own self control.”

This statement has the potential to change the way you view everything that matters in life. It remains one of the greatest “Ah-ha” moments I have experienced and I try to apply it's wisdom on a daily basis. I believe that to understand this statement is to unlock and open the door that leads to the realization of your goals and dreams and as I have found, it is the greatest gift of advice you can give to those you want to succeed.

What is it that you want to be? I am not only speaking of the “superstar” level wishes, but the most basic of goals that you have for yourself. For me, it’s to be the best dad and husband I can be, sometimes, I want to be a great at a sport or an eloquent writer, and other times I just want to be a good listener or simply a good example to the people around me. What I find is my greatest challenge to achieving these everyday goals on a regular basis is…well…me. Like most everyone, I am always on my mind; what I want, I need or think that I deserve – my rights or my opinion; we all have an open ended ticket for the “me” train. The truth at the core of my grandfather’s statement is simply this: to achieve what you want it takes hard work, and often times that hard work is controlling yourself.

The biographies of millionaires, pro athletes, business gurus and people who have changed their world tend to have a consistent theme; hard work and sacrifice. It is a great thing to have dreams, passions and faith, but as James 2:20 states “…faith without works is dead.” But even work, if not directed toward a goal can become wasted energy, like raking leaves in a hurricane. If hard work is the door you have to go through to get to your dreams, then discipline is the door knob and sacrifices are the hinges that allow that door to open.

In my grandfather’s statement that begins this post, there is a blank behind the word “best”, it is there for you to fill in what it is you want to be. As you fill in that blank with the thing you want to become, ponder this; what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it? How dedicated are you to becoming what you yearn to be? Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort, your pleasures, even your freedoms (as described in my post ‘Your Master Called Freedom’) to be the best? My prayer is that you embrace the sacrifices, the hard work and moreover the discipline and self control it takes to achieve your dreams. Take the time to apply them on a daily basis to be the best “you” that you can be. Remember that discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments and hard work is the road that leads to success. Be Blessed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Your Master Called Freedom

My grandfather used to say “Be careful that your freedoms don’t become your master.”

In this July 4th holiday season, I wanted to bring to light a quote that has everything to do with your freedoms. This country enjoys freedoms that are the distant envy of other countries and some freedoms that others pray never embeds itself within their borders or their home. I was fourteen years old when I heard this ironic yet enlightening anvil of wisdom and unfortunately saw the tragic consequences of not heeding such poignant advice. It was an eye opening statement that helped me reconsider my youthful definition of freedom.

Let me illustrate this with a story of a friend of mine, for the sake of anonymity, we will call him ‘Willy”. Willy had just turned 21 and he was spending the summer at his relative’s home which was near my grandfather’s house where I spent my childhood summers. Willy was one of the most natural basketball talents that you would ever witness. Dunking effortlessly, shooting 3-pointers like they were lay-ups and moves as smooth as silk dribbling the ball; he was truly the Lebron James our little home town. Willy was working with my grandfather this particular summer during his college break and at lunch we were discussing our plans for the evening. Willy was excited that now he was free to drink alcohol, legally, and he was going to go out with some friends to celebrate his birthday and his new found…freedom. My grandfather offered this quote to him and explained that although he was “free” to drink alcohol because of his age, he should reconsider whether it was something he really wanted to engage in with so much promise in his future.

Willy politely dismissed the warning and cited various people that we all knew, including his own dad, who drank and his hopes that it would help usher in his manhood and redefine his peer group. My grandfather further elaborated on his quote highlighting factually that each of the people that Willy mentioned had been unable to stop their drinking thus far. Careful not to spread stories of anyone’s detriment, my grandfather encouraged Willy to ask each of his mentioned “idols” one question; 'what was the worst thing that they had done, because of their drinking?' He insisted that Willy should ask before he began drinking. I am not sure if Willy ever asked or what happened that night, because Willy never showed up for work again, but what I do know is that he was eventually kicked off of the basketball team and out of college due to issues that were rooted…in his drinking problem.

Here is what my grandfather knew, just because you can do something, doesn’t make it a good thing to do especially in the absence of moderation. So many people defend their ability to get involved with an activity or a vise (usually addictive ones) as a freedom, not understanding that once you are engaged in it, you become bound to do what you felt so “free” to do, but now can’t get “free” from it. What about you, is there something in your life that has you bound? Is there something that you should exercise your freedom to say “no” to, versus your freedom to indulge? My prayer is that you do, as I do when I apply my grandfather’s quote introspectively. Question the things you do, if one seems to be a challenge, try to stop doing it for 30 days straight. If you can great, maybe there is no issue, but if not, maybe you should seek help from experienced counsel, considering the wisdom in John 8:32, so you can become free from it. Also remember that God is never so far that He cannot save and He is closer than you think…waiting for you to call on Him. Happy 4th of July, may God bless those who have sacrificed so that we as a nation can be free. Be truly free and be blessed!