It’s been over 14 years since I read the book by Marcus Buckingham about developing strengths. Rather than using that 14 years to fine tune my strengths and develop them with a plan an purpose, I have haphazardly done a little here and a little there working on some strengths but no documentation of what worked and didn’t work.

This blog is going to be about what I am doing to purposefully develop my strengths. It doesn’t matter (to you) what my strengths are but what I do want to pass along is what is working and not working so it may be helpful to you and encourage you to discover your strengths and develop them.

Why am I doing this? Because I want to live a life that is fulfilling knowing at the end of my time on earth I have used the skills and talents God gave me to add value and help others.

Why am I sharing this? Because I want to reach out to others to encourage them to follow along, ask questions and join me in this journey of self-improvement. For now it is about developing what we are already good at and enjoy doing.

Let’s work together and make a difference!

First Steps:

Write down what you believe are your strengths and what you are good at.

Find an article on why strengths are important to our development and our purpose in life.

List one thing to do to develop your strength.

 

It’s hard to imagine but even before we were born, there was evil in the world. There were bad business deals. There were crooked politicians. There were even false prophets trying to sway people away from God. Even though we think things have changed a lot with people treating others wrong, things really haven’t changed much at all. Sin is in the world now as much as it was thousands of years ago. However, how we deal with it and react to it is what is important. Because in the end, we will be standing before God and will be accountable for all we do.

Ephesians 5:15-16 “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (NLT)

Dear Lord, we know these days are evil. We can’t go a day without hearing of a bad business deal, a lying politician or an angry mob. We don’t understand why there has to be so much evil except for the fact that Satan is really playing so many people and getting them to stir things up. We pray today You will give us peace in the midst of all this evil doing. We pray You will help us to be wise. We pray You will help us to make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

There has been sin in this world sin Adam and Eve. How we react to it is important.

Satan wants us to keep things stirred up in this world so people will continue to hate. Let’s not Satan win.

We will all be accountable for our actions when we stand before God on Judgment Day.

We are called to make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

We are called to let our good deeds shine for all to see so we can give God all the glory.

Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (NLT)

Focus: Despite the evil in this world, God tells us we can make the most of every opportunity to share His word.

The other day I woke up in pain. It is extremely rare for me to hurt. Until my 50s I rarely had any health problems. However, lately I have been finding myself at the doctor or hospital for various reasons. My finances are not in the best shape either. My relationship could use some work. My job is getting mundane even though I enjoy it, I am thinking about a change. If we were honest with ourselves, we would find many thing to be down about. Sometimes how we feel about a person or a situation can really bring us down.

Enjoying life isn’t always easy for many reasons. There are tough times which bring us down. There are people who hurt us. There is negativity in the news, online and sometimes in our own homes. It has been said we can’t help how we feel but we can help how we think. We can change the patterns of our thoughts by replacing bad thoughts with good ones. Of course there will sometimes be extremely sad times and it is certainly okay to grieve, but we need to move past it at some point. Here are some thoughts on how to change our thinking.

EXAMINE THE REASON

Many times we feel bad but we don’t know why. We feel blah or unhappy. We feel unmotivated to get anything done. Those dang feelings get in the way of us doing what we should be doing. The best way to remedy this is to do something small. It may to go have a positive conversation with a friend…a positive friend. It may be to do a small simple task and finish it. That completion will give us satisfaction and desire to do more. When we look at the reason we are upset and can’t find one, we need to do something – anything – to move forward and get out of our slump.

REPLACE NEGATIVE WITH POSITIVE

One good way to change our thinking is by replacing the bad thoughts with good ones. Sometimes we just don’t feel like doing this so this is something we have to plan ahead for. If we think about what usually brings us down and put it on paper, then we can come up with some alternative solutions about our thinking. An example would be when we are broke. Rather than feeling sad that we have no money, we can look around at what we do have and be grateful for what we have. When we replace the negative thoughts with positive ones, we will soon find life more satisfying.

MEDITATION

Many people like to clear their minds and get things off their minds in order to remove the negative thoughts. Some people sit and meditate. Others kneel and pray. Taking a break from reality and clearing our heads helps us to get those negative thoughts out of our minds. It takes practice and discipline to do this on a regular basis but it is extremely helpful to move past the negativity.

Whatever the reason for our negative thoughts, we need to remember it is possible to control what we think. We can look for ways to replace our negative those with positive ones. We can look at the reasons and step out and do something to move past the negative thought. We can meditate or pray to clear our minds so we can change our thinking. It is possible. And, when we are thinking more clearly and positive again, we will find a solution to whatever bothered us in the first place.

Many people misuse the word friend. They are our friends because we are friends with someone else they like. They are our friends because they need something we have. They are our friends because they have no other friends. When we put ourselves first in any friendship, it is for the wrong reasons. Friendship is about a relationship. It is about understanding and getting to know the other person. It is about what we can do for them. Not what they can do for us.

I have had many friends over the years. Some who lasted for a few months. Others who lasted for a few years. And some for a lifetime. Friendship isn’t easy. The reason some friendships don’t last is because one person gives up. Either because they get busy with other things or they just don’t care to make it work. Either way losing that person as a friend hurts. Being shunned or mistreated by those who were your friends may seem childish but it happens even as we get older. When we are shunned by those who we thought were our friends, here are some things to do.

PRAY

We are so blessed we have a friend in God. Despite what we do He doesn’t hold grudges. He loves us unconditionally and will always be ready to listen to us when we cry out to Him. He is the type of friend we need and the type of friend we should be to others. We can pray to Him to ask us to not have a hard heart toward those who mistreat us but to continue to show love to them.

LOVE

Despite how the other person treats us we should continue to show love. We don’t know what they may be going through. We don’t know what has caused them to shun us. We don’t know why they continue to act the way they do. But we can ask God to help us show them love and ask Him what we can to do to help them.

FORGIVE

Even when the other person may not believe he or she has done anything to hurt us but we feel hurt, we should forgive them. We don’t have to say it verbally to them but we do need to forgive them in our hearts. We can move on once we forgive. When we realize the devil probably has a hold on them to treat us the way they do, it will be easier to forgive them. It will be easier to let go and let God handle things.

We have possibly all had a friend who has done something to hurt us. Intentionally or unintentionally, it still hurts. Rather than let it build up inside us and take over our lives, we need to let it go. We can’t make people like us. We can’t make people treat us like they treat their real friends. However, we can be the friend to others we want to see in them and not worry about the rest. The Golden Rule works. When we live by it, God will take care of the rest.

 

Throughout my marriage I spent my time trying to please my spouse. I did whatever he asked. I went wherever he wanted to go. I cooked what he wanted. But sometimes that just wasn’t enough. I was making myself miserable by only being happy when I was able to please him. Looking back I now see the problem. It wasn’t him. It was me. I was trying to be who he wanted me to be rather than who God wanted me to be. When we try to please others, we will never be happy. However, when we live to please God, we will always be content and have joy.

If you are living a life where you are trying to please man, or woman, and you are finding you just can’t do it, know it’s time for a change. Whether it be at work, at home, with a friend, etc. Know that it’s time to change and focus on pleasing God by living in obedience to Him. When you decide to make that change, you will find many rewards. Here’s how:

GOODBYE OLD

It’s time to clean house. This doesn’t necessary mean the things where you live but the things in your mind. What old thoughts keep bringing you back to where you feel bad about yourself? What old ways do you need to turn from? Remember God is all about helping and renewing us but we have to be willing to get rid of the old. Ask God to help you change your thoughts.

HELLO NEW

Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to the things of the world but to let God transform us into new people by changing the way we think. Then we will know God’s perfect will for us. Only God can give us the right things to think and do. His will is perfect and He will help us by transforming us into the people He created us to be. Go to Him and submit your life to Him.

MAKE IT STICK

Changing our thought patterns is not a one-time process. To make a change that sticks, we have to be committed to that change. Commitment comes with new habits, new thoughts and new ways. To live a life pleasing to God and not man we need to get into God’s word, read it daily and talk to Him all day long. He is our new best friend. He wants us to live by His commands because they are good for us. To make our new ways stick, we need God every day.

Thinking back on my marriage, there were a lot of things I could have done differently that would have made it a better marriage. However, through my mistakes I learned much. Because I failed at so many things, I succeed now. If you struggle with something in life, don’t look at it as a failure. Look at it as a learning opportunity and thank God for what He is teaching you.

Growing up I was always quiet and shy. I had a hard time making friends. I think it was because I moved around a lot since my dad was in the service. So when we finally settled in one place after he retired, I had to learn the skill of friendship around age 12. It was rough. Kids were mean. I was shy. Every day someone poked fun at me or ignored me. That went on through high school as well which didn’t help my self-esteem at all. I decided I would watch what I said to others because I didn’t want anyone to feel like I had felt growing up.

Many times we don’t even realize when we are treating someone wrong. We may not intentionally ignore someone. We may just be focused on what we are doing or thinking. We may not realize the look we have on our face that is serious or sour. But those around us do see it. What they see is an unhappy person. What they see is someone who doesn’t seem to care about them. That is why we need to be sure when we are with others, we are thinking about them and showing them we care. Here are some ways to do that:

BE AWARE

So many times we are wrapped up in our own world. We are thinking about what we have to do. We are looking ahead at tomorrow and what all is going on. We aren’t focusing at all on the moment we are in right now. We can change though. We can be in the moment. We can notice our family is in the room with us and put the phone down. We can observe someone who is standing next to us in line at the store and speak and smile at them. We can think about someone who is going through a hard time and give them a call or visit them. When we are more aware of the needs of others and take action, they will know we care.

LISTEN

We are people who tend to talk more than listen. Usually when the other person is talking we are thinking about what we are going to say next. Listening is a skill. It requires effort. Listening to others means to take the focus off of us and put it on them. When we listen to someone, we can get to know them, their needs and determine how we can help. When others are talking, let them finish. Then ask questions that help them open up so we can determine what they really need.

PRAY

I have recently learned that if I want to remember people’s names and make friends, I need to pray for them. This helps me focus more on them and their needs and helps me show a more caring attitude toward them. Praying for others is something we can do that doesn’t take long but pays out big dividends. When we pray for someone, we are showing God we care about them and want to help them.

There are people in need everywhere we go. When we are more aware of those around us, when we listen to them and when we pray for them, God is going to help us know how to best help them. We should make a list of people who we know and begin to pray for a better relationship with them trusting God to answer and show us what we need to do next.

I often find myself comparing what others have to what I have. Their house seems nicer. Their clothes look better. They aren’t as heavy as I am. The list goes on and on. As a writer and speaker, I am always looking for ways I can learn from other writers and speakers. Which leads me to comparing myself again. It seems to be a habit that we can easily get stuck in. So I did a little research and have come up with some ways to stop comparing and start learning to be content with who I am and what I have.

Be Grateful

This is probably the biggest way to stop coveting what others have. When we stop and show gratitude for what we have, we will realize we have way more than we need. We will realize we are very blessed. When we are grateful for who God made us to be, we can focus on our own strengths and talents and strive to use them for His glory.

Understand Differences

No one is the same. Everyone has something a little different about their background, experience, relationships, etc. Just as snowflakes all have differences, so do we. We can’t have exactly what others have because God did not intend it to be that way. And there are some things that we surely don’t want that others have.

Take Inventory

We have so much. Just looking around my office I see things I never use, I don’t need and I need to get rid of. How could I want more when I don’t even use what I have. Same with our talents and skills. God gives us unique abilities to use and sometimes we just leave them lying dormant inside us without developing them into what He intended us to use them for.

The Plan

So here’s the plan. When I feel as if I need something someone else has, I am first going to look around at what I have and be grateful. Then I will understand there are things others have I don’t really need. Finally, I will take inventory of my things and my abilities and ask God to show me what to do with these blessings from Him so that I can help others.

Taking the focus off of me and putting it on helping others will definitely help me to be more content with what I have and give me the opportunity to share God’s blessings with others.

I woke up laughing. Never can I recall a morning that I woke up 30 minutes before the alarm and laughing! That was this morning. Although I had stayed up past my bedtime last night watching an instructional video. Although I made a large purchase for what they were selling when I am in extreme debt. Although I had a crazy dream that should have woke me up screaming, I slept through it and dreamt on. Although I have had anxiety attacks for the past 3 months and usually wake up scared with my heart racing, this morning I woke up laughing. Only God knows the true reasons why, but here is what I think happened…

GAMING OFF

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t play computer games before going to bed. I guess since the first computers came out 20 years ago I have been play some form of solitaire, blocks, Farmville, Candy Crush, Bejeweled Blitz or another type of game. I would spend endless hours trying to get a high score with nothing really to show for it but fireworks for completing the games, blinking lights or moving up to the next level. So I decided to limit my game time to 20 minutes last night.

LEARNING ON

For about two hours before going to bed I watched or listened to successful women and men talking about how they were able to market products, advertise, stop being distracted, etc. I made notes. I set some goals and I even took action, yes at 9:00 p.m. at night, on one of those goals by doing something new I had never done before…I got brave and did something new and different and uncomfortable.

WATCHING OFF

Television. What a joke. I will say there are inspirational things on it at times but during prime time hours the new shows are just not worth my time. Too much drama or sex or profanity. Many shows are just vulgar. So how do I waste my time watching television? Reruns. I watch shows that are good and clean and I could probably quote every word so I decided to mute the TV so I could focus on putting new and good information into my brain.

READING ON

Before going to bed, I read some of a devotional book that ended with a prayer. This book is about prayer and how to have a conversation with God in all we do. It’s about how to pray in all areas of our lives. This devotion is only two pages long and offers much information about various prayers and how to pray. Reading just a bit and letting it sink in every night will make some positive changes for the future.

AHA MOMENT

You see, when we continue to do the same things expecting different results, we will be what the dictionary calls crazy or insane. I was doing that every night. I was playing computer games, watching reruns or (even worse) lifetime movies and then going to bed. But for the last few nights, I decided to read something motivational, watch an inspirational video, set some goals, think about life, read God’s word and pray. Yes, that is why I believe is the reason that this morning I woke up laughing.

THE DREAM

I was in my home with a lot of other people. We were doing a Q&A about a Bible story. I had given them parts to read about the story and asking questions. It was fun and interactive. There was a part in the dream where I went outside to walk along the beach (guess I had a beach home) and I saw walrus and some sea creatures. After walking a while I realized I was waist deep in the water. I immediately begin to panic that the sea creatures were going to get me so I thought about my relaxing techniques and the next thing I knew I was back in my home with my friends. As they would answer the questions correctly, I would say “you got it!” and we would move on to the next question. After they had all left, I saw myself lying in bed dreaming again about what could have happened to me in the water and my phone rang. I said “hello” and I heard a familiar voice on the other end who said, “you got it!” and a laugh I will never forget. It was my youngest daughter. I had dreamed she was calling me even though she wasn’t but she literally woke me up laughing.

I can remember growing up and wanting to fit in. I never really gave my opinion about anything because I was afraid of controversy. I never really expressed my feelings because I wanted to agree with everyone else. That led me to start smoking, drinking and cussing. That led me to doing the things of the world rather than of God. I was raised in the church; however, I wanted to fit in with the world.

As I grew up, I continued to attempt to please others. It was hard. When I would please one person, another person would be hurt. When I would try to please them, another person would disagree. The more I strived to please others, the less good I felt about me.

There was even a point in my life when someone asked me if I ever had an opinion. They asked if I ever stood for anything. I was shocked that they even dared to ask. Because I did stand for something. I stood for the opinion of whoever was with me at the time. I agreed with them. I supported them. I did want they wanted us to do. Doesn’t that count for anything? I was hurt and then mad at myself for not standing for anything.

I think I had really decided that I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything enough to stand for it. I wanted to be easy-going. I wanted to go with the flow. You can’t go with the flow and stand for something because that would stir things up. I was not a stirrer-upper. So all through my life, for over 40 years, I did what others thought was best.

I quit college and went to work. I got married because I was supposed to have children and a family. I got a job that I didn’t like. Everyone had so many plans for me I just stayed busy for them. I had forgotten about God. Well, not completely, but enough to push Him in the background of my life because I was so busy trying to do what I could to fit in and be liked. But what I was really doing was blending in so much that I wasn’t making a difference at all to anyone. Especially not to God.

Then a few years ago something changed. After trying to please so many people, I found myself alone with many messes that I had created along the way. I had financial troubles. I had relationship issues. I had problems in just about every part of my life. Everyone else had found someone who they wanted to be around more than me. I didn’t have friends. Only people who wanted things from me. I had made so many mistakes and done things I never dreamed I would ever do.

One morning I woke up like I always do. I woke up worried. Worried about life. Worried about family. Worried about money. That is the day I got on my knees and prayed. I asked God what I had done wrong. I asked Him how I could get back on track. I asked Him what He wanted me to do. And He answered. He told me to get back into His word. And I did. I began reading His word every morning and praying. I began writing.

Since then, I now stand for something. Since then, I now know what God wants me to do and am no longer concerned with what others think. I no longer am obsessed with the things of the world. I read His word every morning. We have conversations and He helps me write. He helps me share His word. He gives me direction. And no matter what anyone else may think, I am standing for Him now. My opinions are based on His word. My actions are based on His direction. My help comes from Him.

And when others tell me I need to leave His word out of my writings, I just keep doing as He tells me to do. And when others tell me to stop being so nice and good to others, I just keep doing as He tells me to do. And when others tell me to get involved in their worldly actions, I just keep doing as He tells me to do. I now stand for Him and my opinions are based on His word. And I am so thankful and grateful that He waited on me all these years to draw me close to Him again.

And He is waiting for you. Won’t you call on Him to draw you close to Him again?

“Draw Me Close To You”
Donnie McClurkin

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I’m Your friend

You are my desire
And no one else will do
‘Cause nothing else can take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace

Help me find a way
Bring me back to You
Bring me back, oh Jesus.

Want a closer relationship with God? Go to Him today and ask Him to draw you closer to Him. And He will.

UDT-Waiting_roomEver sat for a while in a doctor’s office or been waiting too long on something but you find yourself getting to know those around you while you wait? Sometimes you start up conversations, find you have things in common and enjoy the time even though you are being delayed in your day because you are waiting.

Our relationship with God is a lot that way. We wait for answers from Him about issues we have in our relationships, in our finances, in our careers or health. But while we are waiting, we have the opportunity to talk with Him and get to know Him better. If we choose to take advantage of our time while we are waiting to draw closer to Him, we will find that our waiting helped us to become stronger and we grew as a believer.

Next time we are waiting on an answer from God, let’s use that time as growth time where we did into God’s word, journal about our blessings, praise His name, do good for others and share His word. That will keep us busy while we are in the waiting room of life.

Write down three things you can do today to better know God, serve others and share His word with them.

Use today as a way to do something nice for someone who usually gets on your nerves.

Know that God is with you all day today and be open to hearing His voice.

Read and repeat a Bible verse all day and ask God to reveal His meaning to you.

Pick up an extra gift for someone who is in your life that you normally overlook and thank them for what they do.

Write down ten small things you can do this month that will make a big difference to someone else.

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