Monthly Archives: May 2012

Monday Motivator – May 28

I watched a health report about the influence of “worrying” on people. There are a lot of us who actually worry ourselves into all sorts of health problems. One health professional said we spend much of our thought-life on ourselves. We want things to turn out right for us (and our family and our friends). Yet we’re obsessed with how we’ll be affected by decisions, events, and circumstances. Some people literally talk themselves into trouble and sickness.

It is one thing to be genuinely concerned about important stuff – getting good enough grades to maintain your scholarship, graduating from school, healing emotionally over a broken relationship, dealing with chronic illness in your family, or finding a good job. But it is another matter to be filled with anxiety about things that may cause inconvenience, delay, or discomfort.

If we are not careful, we can gradually become overwhelmed by lots of stuff that we probably can’t change anyway. The doctor in the news report I saw said, “We take care of ourselves as if we were our only child.” We worry, worry, worry, and it is all about us.

Think about how much time you spend narrowly focused on yourself. If you are thinking about how you look, the project you struggled to complete and turn in on time, what people may think about you, your choice of clothes, the conversation with a colleague, being habitually late for appointments, and second-guessing yourself – all the time – you could make yourself sick with worry. Doesn’t God promise us some sort of security about who we are?

Read Psalm 55:16-23.

I remember when I met Barbara in graduate school and became interested in her. After a few months of hanging out after church, I invited her out for a meal. We enjoyed spending time together. I asked about our friendship going to the next level and she said she was busy with school, had a boyfriend back home, and was not interested in anything but she and I being grad buddies. I reluctantly said okay. A month later I found myself fretting about our upcoming graduation and the fact I may never see Barbara again. I was losing sleep, wrestling with my feelings of infatuation and love for this young lady. Normally I am an even-keeled kind of person, but I found my stomach tied into knots and my mind filled with anxiety. Why did I feel this way about her if I could do nothing about it? Finally one night, I cried out to the Lord, “You promised me peace that passes understanding, and I want that more than the worry and stress I have about this woman.” From that moment on, the Lord helped me get some focus back in my life and I was no longer anxious about what may or may happen between Barbara and me.

The apostle Paul said, “Do not worry yourself sick about things…pray about it and trust in the Lord who cares for you” (my loose rendering of Philippians 4:6-7).  I had not been doing that about my interest in Barbara and it was literally sapping my strength and health. The Psalmist said, “Cast your care(s) on the Lord” (Psalm 55:22). It sure beats worrying.

Paul wrote Philippians from prison. Did you notice how much worry he expresses in his letter? Hint – none. How much joy and rejoicing does Paul model? Hint – lots. Are you anxious about things all the time? What does Philippians 4:6-7 tell you to do about it? Will you live that way?

Walk wisely. Worry and fretting rusts our trust in Him who is our anchor.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 21

How generous are you with your words?

I can’t recall if I saw it on the Golf Channel or in a golf magazine in the dentist’s office, but I remember an inspirational story about professional golfer Graeme McDowell. The year was 2006, the month was July, and the tournament was the British Open, one of golf’s four major championships. McDowell was not playing well and he was having trouble figuring out how to correct his poor and inconsistent play in preparation for one of the year’s toughest tests.

One night before the start of the four-day tournament, McDowell received an unexpected surprise. He was out for dinner and a stranger who happened to be a golf fan recognized him. The man struck up a conversation and suggested that he noticed a flaw in Graeme’s golf swing. Imagine you are a professional and someone offers you advice in improving your performance. How would you respond? Graeme was gracious to the person and went on his way.

When he got to the practice range the next morning, McDowell tested the advice. He was stunned when he realized that the fan had been absolutely right in his diagnosis and recommendation. He immediately saw results when the swing correction was applied. He decided to implement the swing change and finished the first day of the British Open in first place! Who would have figured the advice of a stranger in a pub would have mattered?

Read Ephesians 4:17-32…and zero in on verse 29.

I have learned that words are like that. They are powerful instruments for good or bad. You remember the children’s rhyme that “sticks and stones may hurt my bones,” but words can hurt too. We can use words to build up, inspire, encourage, or chastise, demean, and tear down. I remember a student who was told by her dad that she would never amount to anything, and certainly not like her older brother. I recall a professor ridiculing a student in class for their Christian beliefs and attempting to humiliate them in front of the class. In both cases, the students overcame the potential destruction of the words hurled at them by realizing who they were in Christ. They did not cave in to the possible hurt, or allow themselves to be defined in a negative way by a person in power over them at the time. They found victory in and through Jesus and His Word. They learned to turn negative words into proactive action.

When you meet with people, don’t focus on making yourself look good, but look for ways to build them up. Before you meet with someone, think about something encouraging you can say: It could be something they have done for you or a friend; an accomplishment or achievement to celebrate; a character quality you admire, or an example of how they live out their values.

Regardless, start today to add value to the people you meet by the words you use. I believe this is the idea Solomon had when he wrote in Proverbs 15:23, “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in season, how good it is.”

Live communally. In a society where words can be used cheaply (even abbreviated in social media usage), or used and wielded as weapons (not just in political campaigns), we should use our words as tools to build up the hearts and courage of others. Good and gentle words are more powerful than bad and angry ones. Who can you give a timely word of help to this week?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 14

What is the major consideration (or process) that guides you in making most of your decisions? Merely financial? Christian community? Advice of parents? Scripture?

I read about actor Michael J. Fox leaving his acting career because of the impact of learning he had Parkinson’s disease. He said that every day on the set took time away from his wife and kids, and he felt that time could be better spent with them, as well as serving as a spokesperson for Parkinson’s research. He even said continuing in acting would be somewhat “trivial” in light of what he and his family were now facing.

My assessment was that Fox made a good decision, because as he said in the book I read, he had tons of money and fame, and was well-positioned to care for himself and his family. Why not use the next season of life for being with his family and for more charitable purposes? Both of those reasons made sense in light of his circumstances.

Every decision you and I make is always “in light of” some sort of circumstance – small or large. Sometimes circumstances dictate or determine our direction. You may leave college for a time in order to go to work and help with a family emergency. Sometimes our choices reflect our priorities, or sometimes our priorities are determined solely by our choices. I hope our deepest convictions about what is important will guide our journey through life. I have seen many people whose poor choices, not often thought through, end up forcing them down a path they could have easily avoided.

Read John 6:25-40.

Jesus often said that everything He did was determined by a single purpose in life – He was devoted to doing His Father’s will. When his disciples, who always seemed worried about their next meal, could not figure out why Jesus was not hungry when they were, Jesus replied, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me…and to finish His work” (John 4:32,34). Once the crowds that followed Jesus ate a meals miraculously provided by Him and their response was to make Jesus their King. He told them, “I have come down from heaven not to do My will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).

As Jesus faced the agony of bearing the sin of the world on the cross, He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet, not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

How important is doing God’s will to you? High, medium, low? How can you begin to understand how to establish the kind of priorities you really want in life?

In a world with so many content to “just go with the flow” and do “whatever,” there is no substitute for developing convictions that separate the “trivial” from the important. A determination to do the will of the Father in heaven is the gateway to joy and fulfillment.

Think theologically. Your decision to serve Christ affects all the other decisions of life.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 7

I find that as I grow older, it is not as easy to remember stuff. I used to have a mind that could easily recall batting averages for major league players, large sections of books and articles I read, and phone numbers of friends and family. I can still recall family information such as birthdays and anniversaries, but I also use helpful tools like iCal and my iPhone to have more information more easily accessible and retrievable. But someone asked me last week where my daughter went to college, and I could not remember the name of her school. It came to me hours later, and that sort of incident seems to happen with a little more frequency these days.

It’s one reason why I enjoy old TV shows like Bonanza, M*A*S*H, and Home Improvement (HI). I find that a certain episode strikes a chord with me about a period of my life and the impact it had. Often the rerun makes me nostalgic, but it also reminds me of how I was shaped by the ideas in the show. Often the memories are pleasant, but some are hard to feel bubbling up to the surface because it reminds me of a difficult season, like when I got into a fight with my wife and I slept on the couch that night…like Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor once did (HI).

Memory is a gift from God, regardless of whether it recalls success or failure, pain or hardship. Instead of being haunted by the past, God wants all of our experiences to point us to Him.

Read Deuteronomy 8:1-8.

Throughout the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, the key word used was “remember.” With the people of Israel poised on the border of the Promised Land, God commanded them to recall His faithfulness as well as their own mistakes during the past 40 years of wilderness wanderings.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these past forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands” (8:2).

“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands” (8:11).

“Never forget how you provoked the Lord your God to anger in the desert” (9:7).

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you” (15:15).

One of my favorite devotional exercises has been using Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. The December 31 reading includes Chambers saying, “God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them in order to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual culture (a source of hope, nourishment, possibility, and growth) for the future.”

How able are you to recall past failures without being strangled by guilt? What can you do to cultivate your memory of God’s faithfulness to you? As we remember God’s faithfulness and our failures, the memory of both should encourage us to follow Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4)…never forget who He is, what He has done…and will do.

Grow devotionally. As you read Scripture, keep a list of the ways God shows His love and grace to you. Remember His past redemptive acts. To remain faithful, be sure to remember God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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