Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

Whenever my daughter is about to make an obvious bad choice, she’ll say to me, “It’s OK. That is something Future Me will have to deal with.”  It is amusing when she says it, but there is some truth to her approach.  When we make decisions, we should consider what our future selves would think of those decisions.

So, for example, Future You is not going to thank you for eating that second bowl of ice cream. But Future You is going to thank you for giving up caffeine and taking up tennis.  Future You definitely will not thank you for watching two to three hours of television each night.  However, Future You will thank you for taking that night class that allows you to advance in your job.

It is an interesting exercise to wonder what our future selves would want us to do today. It certainly helps to clarify how we want to spend each day.

Another way of looking at it is this: What would you say to Past You? What advice would you give?  Probably the same advice that Future You would give.  I would have a lot of advice for Past Me.  I first would tell Past Me, “Don’t worry so much.  You will have some bumps in the road, but that is the nature of life.  Just keep working hard and doing the right thing.  It will all turn out just fine.”

I also would tell Past Me to judge people by what they do, and not what they say. It has taken me a long time to realize that what people say doesn’t mean much.  It is what they do that tells me what type of person they are.

I would tell Past Me to be more confident. I would tell her, “You are more amazing than you realize.  Ignore the negative comments of others.  Believe in yourself.  You can do anything that you set your mind to do.”  So often, we don’t achieve all that we should because we listen to the wrong voices.  Sadly, it is the negative comments that stick with us rather than the compliments and words of encouragement.

I suspect Future Me would probably give me some of the same words of advice. And she would probably tell me, “Don’t give up!”  “Keep working hard.  You have wonderful years ahead of you.”

This week, take some time to think about Future You. What are you doing today to pave the way for a big “Thank you!” from Future You?  Think of what you can do now to make Future You grateful.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16

What does it mean when Jesus says, “let your light shine before others”? Well, I think the answer is found in the rest of the sentence.  Jesus says that we should shine our light, so that others may see our “good works.”  Notice that Jesus doesn’t tell us to talk.  Talk is cheap.  He calls us to do.  Jesus tells us to show our faith through our good works – by what we do and how we act.

My daughter goes to school with a young lady whose father is a pastor. Out of the blue one day, this young lady said, “I really love Jesus.”  Now on the face of it, that sounds very sweet.  Except this young lady isn’t very nice sometimes.  So my daughter, rightfully, assesses this young lady based on her actions, and not her words.  This young lady may very well love Jesus, but so what?  Unless that love is evidenced in her actions, her words ring hollow to those who hear them.

This issue is exactly why people get annoyed when Christians put fish bumper stickers on their cars and ask everyone to have a “blessed day.” That is all well and good, but no one cares about your words.  What matters are our actions.

We as Christians could take a lesson from my Iranian Muslim neighbors. They could not be more generous.  They often offer us herbs from their garden.  In the summertime, if I or my husband are working in the yard, they always stop to admire our efforts.  If we stop by their house, they automatically offer us tea and cookies – and you can’t say no!  They are such kind and good people.  They are living their faith.  Not just talking about it.

If we want to follow Jesus’ calling to be the light of the world, then we have to shine in how we treat others. We have to be the type of people who are kind to other people, animals and the planet.  We have to be the type of people who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

I work with a gentleman who is a light in the world. He always is available to answer any questions I might have.  On occasion he sends me an email to check in on me and see how I’m doing.  Recently, he told me that he went into semi-retirement.  He now works 3 days per week, and then works for his church the other two days of the week.  I wasn’t in the least bit surprised.  His actions already had made clear to me that he is a Christian.  His good works shine very brightly.

As Christians, we are called to be a light in the world. That doesn’t mean running around telling other people that their religions are wrong.  That doesn’t mean telling everyone within earshot how much you love Jesus.  That mean showing your faith by what you do. If your light shines by your good works, then you will attract others by your goodness.  They will want to know more about you.  They will be curious as to why you are different.  And if they ask, then by all means tell them, “Jesus called me to be a light to the world.  I hope I have been a light for you.”

“For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.”  Proverbs 8:11

Most of us don’t aspire to be wise. We aspire to be wealthy.  We aspire to be successful.  We aspire to be loved.  But attaining wisdom typically isn’t on anyone’s bucket list.

But we should be seeking wisdom. Wisdom gives us the ability to make good choices.  It allows us to interact more successfully with other people.  It gives us a better perspective on our challenges.  Wisdom truly is the key to happiness.

Below are six things that wise people do. Consider how you could apply these approaches to your life:

  1. Wise people continually strive to improve their lives, but they also are happy where they are today. That sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? But wise people understand that life is a journey. If you are only happy once when you’ve achieved your goals, you’ll spend most of your time being unhappy. You have to enjoy the whole experience of life – envisioning your goals, working toward them, and seeing them come to fruition.
  2. Wise people balance doing for others with doing for themselves. People who only do things for themselves lead very unhappy lives. That is because you can’t live selfishly and have good relationships with other people. But by the same token, you cannot be happy if you sacrifice every bit of your time to others. We all need to take time to replenish our mental and physical energy. Otherwise, we become frustrated with the very people we are trying to serve. So it is important to attain a balance between meeting the needs of others and meeting our own needs.
  3. Wise people always do their best, even when no one is looking. Our true character isn’t based on what we do in public. That is only part of who we are. Who we are is based equally on what we do when no one is looking. So if I want to be an individual of high ethics, I need to do the right thing no matter what, even if there is no reward, recognition or accolade. Wise people hold themselves to a standard of excellence all the time.
  4. Wise people take responsibility for their own happiness. There a lot of people who go through life unhappy. They are unhappy with their jobs or their spouses. They are unhappy with where they live or their career. The problem is that once we become adults, we are responsible for our own happiness. So if you don’t like your job, look for a new one. Take online classes so that you can get a better job, or so that you can move into a different field. Or figure out what you need to do to improve your current job. The same holds true for your marriage. If your marriage is unhappy, do what you can to transform it into a satisfying relationship for both you and your spouse. If your spouse isn’t willing to do his or her part, then end the marriage. Don’t stay and be miserable. Marriage is a two-way street. If two people aren’t both doing what it takes to make it work, then it isn’t a marriage, except on paper. Bottom line: Take responsibility for your own happiness.   Don’t blame anyone else if you are unhappy.
  5. Wise people pay attention to what is good about others, and ignore the bad. In every relationship there is good and bad. It is important to pay attention to the good things other people do. We do that by expressing our gratitude to others. We also do that by complimenting others when they do something well, or for their good qualities. However, paying attention to the bad behavior of others is a waste of time. The best thing you can do when someone is behaving badly is to ignore them and carry on. Pretty soon they’ll figure out that if they want your attention, they need to act properly.
  6. Wise people speak and act with compassion instead of judgment. It is easy to judge other people. As human beings, we are all so imperfect. Identifying the flaws of others doesn’t take brains. What takes intellect and maturity is to look at the mistakes and bad behavior of others through the lens of compassion.  And we need to remember our own imperfection.  As Jesus said, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3.

This week, consider bringing more wisdom to how you approach your life. Remember that a wise approach to your relationships, habits and work is the most effective route to a life of happiness.

There are lots of things in life we can’t choose. We don’t get to choose our parents or our siblings.  We don’t get to choose what schools we go to or where we grow up.  We can’t choose our height or our hair color.  But outside of that, we have a lot of choices in life.  We can choose how hard we work each day.  We can choose how we treat others.  We can choose how we spend our free time.  There are so many choices that we make each day.  And each of us is exactly where we are today because of those choices.

School is a great example. In one classroom, every kid will receive the same books and have the same teacher.  But some kids in the class will work their tails off and get As or Bs, while others will decide not to try and get Cs.  You’ll see the same situation in the workplace.  Two people will have the same position.  One person will work hard, have a good attitude and be promoted.  The other will come to work late, will inform people what is and isn’t in their job description, and will stagnate in the same position or get fired.  Both individuals have the same opportunities but achieve different results.

It is important to take ownership of where you are in your life. It is valuable to take a long hard look at the choices you’ve made, and see how those choices have brought you to where you are today.  Admittedly this is not a comfortable exercise.  For example, in my life, I’ve made the choice to put motherhood and marriage ahead of my career.  As a result, my career has suffered.  I don’t know if that has been a good choice or a bad one.  However, I do know that my choice has brought me to where I am professionally.

When you understand that you’ve created your life as it is today, it is a revelation. It is then that you see how much power you have in each day.  You learn that what you do today truly affects your tomorrow.  And those things that you do on a daily basis profoundly affect your future.

So if you work hard today, that will result in opportunities in the future. And if you spend your time surfing the Internet and give your job a half-hearted effort, you simply won’t get ahead.  Similarly, if today you are patient and kind toward your family members and friends, you will lay the foundation for positive relationships in the future.  However, if you are snotty and impatient with others, you will reap the consequences in your relationships down the road.

The key is to take each day as a gift from God and use it to lay the foundation for the life you wish to have. This doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor.  Quite honestly, you would be amazed at where you would be in a year from now if you consistently did two things: work hard and be kind.  Believe it or not, that is a tried and true recipe for creating an amazing life.

This week take some time to take stock of where you are in life. Figure out how you got here.  And then make a commitment to use each day to do those things that will propel you toward the future of your dreams.

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