Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

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I recently met up with an old friend of mine while traveling. He has six kids and a lot of parenting experience under his belt.  He told me that every time one of his children turns 18, he gives them the following speech:

“You are now an adult. The days of having other people make decisions for you are over.  Starting today, before you is a blank page.  You are solely responsible for what is written on that page.  No one else.  Make sure that you fill that page with good things.”

I love that speech. I wish someone had given me that speech at 18.  Instead, I heard it at 48.

But truthfully, the Blank Page speech doesn’t just apply to 18-year-olds. It applies to each of us, no matter what our age.

Today, before you is the Blank Page. Yes, you may have had disappointments.  Perhaps you had a troubled upbringing.  Or maybe you endured a divorce or the loss of someone close to you.  None of that matters today.  Today, before you is the Blank Page.

I am not ignoring the fact that our past can affect our present. But our past need not control our present.  You are not defined by the job you lost or the marriage that failed.  They are simply events from the past that now are over and done with.  Putting those events on today’s Blank Page makes as much sense as putting your skinned knee from third grade on your Blank Page.

The Blank Page is an exciting concept. From this day forward, we each can write anything that we want on our Blank Page.  As of today, we each can choose to be little kinder and more patient with others (and with ourselves).  We each can choose to pursue that dream that we may have put aside, but that still nags at our hearts every so often.  We can choose to spend our time making our homes and our world a more beautiful place.

But with the Blank Page comes responsibility. If you had crummy parents, a cheating spouse, or other bad breaks in the past, none of that matters now.  Going forward, you are solely responsible for what goes on your Blank Page.  That means that you can’t blame your past or others for what you do (or fail to do) from this point forward.

Today, forget about your history. Those pages of your life have been filled with both joys and sorrows.  If you look back on those pages, you will have some regrets, and some of those “if only” thoughts.  But your past is over and done with.  It cannot be changed.  So, leave your history where it should be – in the past.

Today before you lies the Blank Page. Mark today on a calendar.  Today is the day that you will begin to create on your page a beautiful story, poem or painting.  Visualize what you want your Blank Page to look like 10 years from now.  Then make it happen.  Starting today.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

My new book, The Secrets to Success for the Working Mother, is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.  If you purchase a copy, please consider writing a review.  I would be delighted to hear your feedback!

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I am in England this week, and this morning my husband and I attended church services at a beautiful abbey in the Cotswolds which was built in the 12th century.  It was high church, with lots of incense and fancy robes.  The choir and the organist were top notch, and the entire service was conducted flawlessly.

Surprisingly, all that pomp and circumstance did nothing for me.  The service was interesting to me on an intellectual level, but that was all.  By contrast, my husband loved the service.  He said the atmosphere and liturgy truly made him feel the presence of God.

Where do I feel the presence of God?  At my local Methodist church every Sunday morning.  It is a simple church that was built in the 1800s.  The music is good, but certainly not professional.  We sing traditional hymns and have a basic order of service.  And I love it.  Very often on a Sunday morning, my eyes will well up with tears because I feel so grateful to be worshiping in that church.

Which leads me to this question:  Is there a right way to worship God?  Is there a right church?  Is there a right religion?  I would argue that there isn’t.  How each of us is able to commune with the divine is a deeply personal matter.

For some of us, our most comfortable way to worship may be influenced by our upbringing.  I grew up in the Methodist church, and I had very positive experiences there.  As a result, I feel very comfortable worshiping with the Methodist liturgy and hymns.  They speak to me in a way that the liturgies and hymns of other churches do not.

But if someone has grown up as a Muslim or a Jew, the mosque or temple is likely the place that best puts them in touch with the divine.  That is where they have had their most positive religious experiences.

That is because, notwithstanding theologians and religious scholars, religion is a spiritual and emotional practice.  The intellectual piece is ever so small.

For example, the Bible is an amazing book.  I can study it in the same way that I can study great work of literature, from “Moby Dick” to “War and Peace.”  I can analyze its historical context, symbolism and imagery.  But that is an intellectual exercise.  It is not a spiritual or religious practice.

A spiritual practice is one in which we attempt to connect with the divine.  And for each of us, the way that we are able to connect is very different.  Some of us may need to call the divine “God.”  Others may need to use the term “Allah” or “Yahweh.”  Some of us may need to worship in a church.  For others, the most comfortable place to worship may be in a mosque or temple.

The way in which each of us is able to connect with the divine is deeply personal.  That is why my husband and I could attend the same church service, and he could feel the presence of God, and I could feel nothing.

As a result, we have to let go of this idea that there is one right way to worship God.  There isn’t, and the idea that one religion is right and all the rest are wrong has caused a great deal of pain and suffering throughout history.  In fact, this attitude continues to create strife in our world today.

Our focus shouldn’t be on making everyone practice the “right” religion.  Rather, it should be on ensuring that every person has the ability to worship God in the way that is most effective for them.  Only then can we create a world in which the love of God is impacting every individual.

Where does that begin?  Well, it begins with respecting other people’s choices as to how they worship.  For example, I am a traditionalist when it comes to how I worship.  I want to sing traditional hymns, listen to an organ and hear classical music.  A church service with electric guitars, drum sets and sing-a-long screens typically gets an eye roll from me.

But I need to change my attitude.  If a more modern service appeals to others, I shouldn’t be judgmental.  I need to support the ways in which others best commune with the divine.

Likewise, many people take issue with Muslim women who wear a head scarf or hijab.  But if a woman feels that she is wearing it in obedience to God, who are any of us to judge?  The headscarf is simply her way of publicly showing that following God comes first in her life.

Ultimately, this isn’t an issue of religious tolerance.  It isn’t enough for us to tolerate other people’s religions.  Instead it is a matter of desiring that all people have a relationship with God.  And we should want a world in which all people can worship in the way that brings them closer to God.

This week, search your heart.  Do you want to be right?  Do you want to tell everyone that you practice the right religion?  Or do you truly want all people to be able to experience the love of God.  If we are seeking to create a kinder, gentler and more peaceful world, then being right really is not the point.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

My new book, The Secrets to Success for the Working Mother, is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.  If you purchase a copy, please consider writing a review.  I would be delighted to hear your feedback!

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Our world is currently at war. It isn’t a war of vans hitting pedestrians, suicide bombers or knife-wielding lunatics.  Those are just the consequences of this war.  We currently are in a war of ideas.

These ideas range from whether people should be able to freely practice their religion – or not. Or whether women should have the same freedoms and opportunities for education and professional advancement as men – or not.  And whether ideological differences give one human being the right to attack another – or not.

It is a war of good ideas against evil ideas. In this war, then, as Christians it is our job, nay our responsibility, is to spread good ideas.  That is the only meaningful weapon that we have against the evil that currently pervades our world.

The first thing that we can do to spread good ideas is to stop being too shy to express what we believe. Very often, we don’t want to share what we believe because we don’t want to annoy or offend others with our beliefs.  So, we say nothing.

However, we can share our beliefs without being condescending. For instance, I can tell someone that I am a Christian (and that I believe in turning the other cheek and in serving others) without implying that the other person is wrong-headed if they practice another religion.  As Christians, what we want to do is to participate in an exchange of ideas with others.  That means that we aren’t running around trying to “save” people by telling them that their religion is wrong.  That isn’t helpful.

Instead, we need to begin the conversation by telling others what we believe about God and life. We then we need to listen to what they believe about God and life.  And hopefully while talking to one another, we will find areas where we have common ground.  That common ground then will be the basis on which we can work together.

Importantly, if we are going to tell others what we believe, we have to practice what we preach. We can’t talk about Christian love, and then insult Muslim women who wear a head scarf.  We can’t talk about Christian service, and then turn a blind eye to refugees.  We can’t pretend to believe in peace, and then excuse excessive use of force by our police.  And we can’t espouse Christian justice, if we refuse to support gay rights.  When we do, our Christianity is shallow and our ideas are unpersuasive.

Christianity is a religion that, at its heart, is about how we can live more harmoniously together. The New Testament gives us a blueprint for creating a world in which we treat others with kindness, and in which we care for those who struggle.  It is a religion that is all about holding ourselves to the highest standards of ethics and morality.  These are ideas that are worth sharing and spreading.

But the greatest power that Christianity has in this war of ideas is the Christian message of hope.  The Christian message is that no matter how terrible things may appear, we are not alone.  God is with us.  The message is that no matter how many mistakes you have made, God loves you.  And there is no mistake that you can make that is so great that God will not forgive you.

That is the most powerful message that we, as Christians, can send to would-be terrorists, skinheads, white supremacists, and suicide bombers. God loves you.

People who are attracted to groups that promote hate and violence are people who do not know God’s love. They are people who feel left out of society.  They feel unloved, unaccepted and forgotten.  They probably have felt the sting of rejection or the pain of abuse.  So, they are attracted to groups who condone their venting their anger at the world.

If we want to stop these individuals from going down the wrong path, we need to share with them the love of God. We need to be ambassadors of God’s love on earth by treating every person that we encounter with kindness and respect.  And maybe, if they feel that love of God from us, groups like ISIS, the KKK and others won’t seem so attractive anymore.  Maybe then we, as Christians, can truly rid our world of hatred and establish heaven on earth.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

My new book, The Secrets to Success for the Working Mother, is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats.  If you purchase a copy, consider writing a review.  I would be delighted to hear your feedback!

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As parents of girls, we want to raise our daughters to grow up and become confident, successful young women. That is not an easy task in a world in which women are harshly judged for their appearance, and smart, ambitious women are viewed with suspicion.

Because of the unique challenges faced by young women, it is so important that we pay special attention to how we raise our girls. We can’t let our daughters grow like weeds, untended, and hope that they turn out OK.  That is a very dangerous gamble.

Instead, when raising girls, we need to do everything that we can to build up their confidence. When they ultimately leave home, we want them to go into the world knowing that they are beautiful, smart and capable.  We want them to be secure enough to withstand the judgment and criticism that they invariably will face on occasion.

If, like me, you are raising a daughter, consider some of the parenting tips below. Our daughters are precious, indeed.  As a result, we need to make every effort to ensure that our girls grow up to be strong, confident and successful young women.

Encourage: You cannot encourage girls enough. Not only do girls have to deal with society’s sometimes antiquated ideas about what girls can and cannot do, but they also have to contend with the media’s very narrow idea of what it means to be attractive.

So, at every opportunity, we need to encourage our girls. We need to regularly tell our daughters that they are smart and beautiful.  We need to tell them that they can do anything that they set their minds to.  And we need to send this message so often that it permeates every fiber of their being.  Only then can our daughters go out into the world with their heads held high, in spite of the negative feedback that they may receive.

Don’t Make Marriage a Goal: Marriage is a lovely institution – when it works. When it doesn’t work, it is a complete nightmare.  A bad marriage can ruin your self-esteem and derail your career.  So, it isn’t something that girls should dream of doing.  Instead, marriage is a choice that a woman can make if she happens to fall in love with someone who is marriage material (meaning the guy is responsible and inclined toward family life).

Marriage should not be a goal that we foist upon our daughters. If we do, they’ll feel obligated to marry the first guy that comes along.  We should convey that success has nothing to do with whether or not you are married.  Rather, it has to do with becoming financially independent, being kind and generous, and serving society in some way.

Help Her Find Her Passion:  The best thing that you can do for your daughter is to help her find an activity that she is passionate about.  Then you need to help her figure out how to translate that activity into a career.

So often, women sell themselves short, professionally. They will choose a career which accommodates their family’s schedule, even if they don’t find that career personally rewarding.  Instead, help your daughter pursue a career that she loves.

With a career that she loves, your daughter will be less likely to enter into a bad marriage in order to feel personally successful. And a good career will provide her with the financial independence and confidence that comes from a job well done.

Helping your daughter find her passion requires you to pay close attention to her. What does she do well?  What activity does she lose track of time while doing?  Look for clues and encourage her.  Then, think of careers that might fit her interests. Encourage her by saying, “You would be a great teacher/scientist/business owner.”  Plant the seeds to inspire your daughter to do something wonderful with her life.

Tell Her to Dream Big: In a well-meaning way, we sometimes can discourage our girls.  We might say things like, “That profession is very hard for women to break into.”  Or, “Very few people make it in that field.”  So what if something is hard?  Your daughter might be the first U.S. President.  She might become a CEO or a professional fisherwoman.  But she will never do anything great if you tell her that what she is trying to do is just too hard.

As the Norman Vincent Peale saying goes, if you let her shoot for the moon, she may miss it, but she’ll land among the stars.

Disourage Catty Behavior: As parents, one of the best things that we can do is to discourage catty, mean behavior in our girls. Girls can be very cruel.  The unkind comments I hear some girls make is shocking to me.  Good parents aggressively nip that behavior in the bud.

I have zero tolerance for meanness, and when I observe it in other people’s children, it speaks volumes to me about the parents. In fact, you often will see mean behavior run in families.  Invariably, the parents will chock it up to “sibling banter.”  What it is, is bad manners and poor ethics training.

Girls need to be taught at home to be supportive and encouraging toward others. Kindness is the quality that should be promoted above all.  And the bitchiness that too often can be part of girls’ behavior should be swiftly shut down.

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Raising girls is an awesome responsibility. The challenges faced by parents who want to raise successful, decent young ladies are many.  However, if you work hard, your reward will be a daughter who is smart, successful and a blessing in this world.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

My new book, The Secrets to Success for the Working Mother, is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats.  If you purchase a copy, consider writing a review.  I would be delighted to hear your feedback!