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When I was a child growing up in Hampton, VA, I didn’t always have the best attitude. I often got into trouble at school and had more physical altercations (okay they were fights) with other kids than I care to remember. Fortunately for me I discovered football at a very young age, and quickly fell in love with the sport. Football proved to be a healthy outlet that enabled me to harness my aggression in a positive way. I started playing little league football when I was 9 years old, and continued playing all the way through high school.
The game of football helped me develop as a person more than I ever imagined, and I’m so thankful I was blessed to play this game. Football, as do many sports, help kids to develop life long habits and skills that transcend the playing field. Team work, preparation, discipline, physical conditioning, sportsmanship, respect and leadership skills were some of the important attributes I learned through the game of football. I was fortunate to play for some great coaches who taught us so much more than just the x’s and o’s of football, but were also interested in seeing us grow and develop into responsible young men.
The demographic breakdown of where I lived also meant that almost all of my teammates on my football team every year were of a different race. I recall some years where there was only one other Caucasian on the team besides me out of thirty kids. This experience brought me many great friendships with kids from all walks of life. I became extremely comfortable early on in life socializing, learning and playing with other kids, regardless of their skin color, or socioeconomic status. I quickly learned as a young boy that it’s not how someone looks on the outside that matters because all of us as human beings have the same core needs in life: the need to be loved and accepted, and having a sense of purpose and belonging.
I would also be remiss if I failed to mention the role faith served as a guiding principle in my youth football playing days. Although my grandmother certainly had the single biggest influence on my Christian faith, all of my little league football teams always prayed together before the start of every game. We recited the Lord’s Prayer, and to this day I can honestly say that the reason I know this prayer by heart is from all the times this white kid kneeled down and held hands with a bunch of black kids in football cleats and shoulder pads every Saturday in September and October.
Yes, another football season has come and gone. The NFL season culminated with a very disappointing finish in a blowout Super Bowl victory for the Seattle Seahawks over the Denver Broncos. The game was seemingly over as soon as it started. Although each year, football only lasts for a season, I’m thankful that the game I love has taught me so many valuable lessons that last a lifetime.
Peace, balance, health and happiness,
Recognizing that change is an inevitable part of our life was part of our last message. Sometimes changes are sudden, and beyond our control. Other times in life we are the ones who need to be proactive in making a change for the better. In order for us to receive God’s best for our lives, and be as positive and productive as possible, we need to be honest with ourselves about some of our behaviors that hinder our time, health, productivity, and personal relationships with others. If you were to evaluate your life right now, what are some changes you could make that would improve your life? Take a few minutes and jot them down. Some of us may have several areas of our lives we feel we need to change. However, I’m sure we can all come up with one behavior that would greatly improve an area of our life if we could commit to making that one change. Healthier eating habits, exercising on a regular basis, or improving a negative relationship with a co-worker can all have a profound impact in how we feel about ourselves and view the world. Once you consider making a change for the better, what are the steps involved to move forward?
The Transtheoretical Model of Change
The Transtheoretical Model of Change, also known as TTM, is a model of intentional change where the decision making of the individual is the impetus for the positive change in behavior. TTM was pioneered in the early 1980s by psychologist James O. Prochaska, PhD, and researcher Dr. Carlo C. DiClemente, who used this model to help treat addiction problems, such as overeating, smoking and alcoholism. Understanding that change is a process, TTM consists of six stages of change:
Stage 1 – Precontemplation
Individuals in the precontemplation stage of change have no intention of taking any action in the foreseeable future. They often don’t view their behavior as a problem in this stage. According to Prochaska, people underestimate the benefits of changing and overestimate the costs or cons in the precontemplation stage. People in this stage have usually been talked to about their behavior by family, friends, or health care workers. For example, maybe your spouse and doctor have both suggested that you lose weight to improve your high blood pressure levels. Dr. DiClemente cites four specific reasons (the Four R’s) that many people are in the precontemplation stage: reluctance, rebellion, resignation and rationalization.
Stage 2 – Contemplation
People in the contemplation stage are now thinking about taking action, but are still on the fence and uncertain as to moving forward with the change. They are open to new information and feedback at this stage, and are considering the pros and cons of their current behavior, as well as the risks and rewards of initiating a change.
Stage 3 – Preparation
People in the preparation stage are now committed to making a change, and have a plan of action, such as enlisting the services of a certified personal trainer to aid in their weight loss plan. It is recommended that people in this stage set a specific target date to begin their new change. I always like to use the SMAC formula here, as goal setting can be vital to charting your success. SMAC stands for specific, measurable, achievable and committed. Set a specific goal, such as I will drop 20 pounds in the next 2 ½ months. This goal is also measurable because you are quantifying it with a number that can be calculated over time. The goal needs to be achievable, in the sense that it’s a realistic target to complete within the assigned time, with a consistent effort on your part. Last but not least, you commit your goals to writing on paper. I cannot overemphasize the importance of writing down your goals. The majority of successful people I have met or read about in life constantly write down their goals. Think about your goals, pray and meditate on them, envision yourself being successful and accomplishing every one. As Joyce Meyer likes to often say, “Where the mind goes, the man will follow.” This is true of both unhealthy behavior patterns and positive behavior modifications.
Stage 4 – Action
This may be the most difficult, but most rewarding stage. You are now at the point where you are actively engaged in implementing your action plan. For example, if you’ve been told you have a drinking problem and you’re now in the action stage, you’ve started to attend AA meetings. If you’ve made a vow to save your marriage, you’re now meeting with a marriage counselor or church pastor. This is a break through stage because now you have sought out counsel and services by professionals who have the expertise and education to help you attain your goal and follow through with a healthy behavior change. Be sure to count all the small successes along the way. Your ultimate goal of change is like climbing a ladder, with each rung on the ladder representing one smaller goal of accomplishment, which brings you a little closer to your primary goal each day. As former President Theodore Roosevelt once said “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
Stage 5 – Maintenance
The maintenance stage represents three to six months of continuous new behavior patterns within the action stage. In this stage your new behaviors have now become normal and routine, with the threat lessening that you return to your older behavior patterns. Congratulations are in order, as you are well on your way to making a permanent, life-lasting change. Don’t look back; forge ahead and continue your quest with a quiet humility and confidence. Sustain your efforts through God’s help with daily prayer and meditation. Maximize your efforts in making your change a permanent part of your life. Make some important changes to keep your old behavior away for good. You may need to frequent different establishments, or sever some long-term relationships. For example, if you quit drinking, but still have some friends who want to invite you out to a bar for a drink, then you should probably find some new friends who will help encourage you to stay the course of sobriety.
Stage 6 – Termination
According to Prochaska, only about 15-20 percent of people successfully reach the termination stage. People who reach the termination stage have successfully transitioned to their new behavior change, and the temptation to revert back to their older behavior pattern is completely gone. A couple examples of people successfully reaching the termination stage include the person who lost 60 pounds, and has been able to maintain this weight loss for several years. Another one is a former 2 pack a day smoker who is now going on their fourth year without having a cigarette. The key for long term success upon entering the termination stage is to continue to educate yourself on the behavior, and stay active in helping others with similar challenges that you once faced. No one knows more about the challenge of giving up smoking and the power of nicotine addiction than a former smoker. People who have been able to beat the same temptations are often the best sources of inspiration and encouragement for others who are desperately trying to make the same behavior changes in their own life. We’re all blessed to be a blessing. Now that you’ve reached your goal, help someone else reach their own goal!
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2
Change on many levels is an inevitable part of life, and every one of us will undergo seasons of change at different times throughout our lives. Some changes in life can be anticipated or known well in advance of occurring. Graduating from high school, or the birth of a new child are changes that come with some advanced notice, which allow us to plan and prepare accordingly for this next phase of life. Other changes can come suddenly, without any forewarning. Abrupt changes can sometimes be a joyous blessing, such as a surprise promotion from your employer, or a thoughtful gift from a friend. Other times unexpected changes may cause deep pain and sorrow, such as a failed personal relationship, or the unexpected death of a loved one.
Our attitude plays a large role in how change affects us in moving forward with our life. Some people embrace change as time of new growth, and recognize that this is a normal part of life. Accepting change in a healthy, positive manner will enable us to become better people in all aspects of our lives. Our personal, spiritual and professional growth in life is not limited by the changes that come our way, but rather how we respond to these changes. Choose to accept that changes in life are an absolute certainty, and we can choose to make the most of them in every situation.
I’ll continue to address change in my next post by covering some key steps necessary to initiate positive changes in our own lives.
Peace, balance, health and happiness,
As millions of people around the world celebrate Christmas, let’s not forget the true meaning of Christmas. Giving gifts is a great way to show our love and appreciation for those who mean the most to us. However, we can’t lose sight of the significance of Christmas, and the birth of Jesus Christ. Christ is the greatest gift of all, and His gift of eternal salvation is freely available to anyone at anytime. No other gift you will ever receive will be this great.
As we venture into 2014, let us make the decision to honor Christ by committing ourselves to being better people in 2014 than we were in 2013. We all have areas we need to improve on, and we must realize that we never have to go at it alone. Christ is there for us always. Here’s to a great 2014!
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – Philippians 4:13
The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Be thankful in all circumstances. This has different meaning to different people. You may ask how on earth can I be thankful with what I’m going through right now? You have no idea how difficult and hard life is for me. It’s true that we often have no idea what someone else is dealing with at any given moment in time. All of us have someone we know who may be dealing with any number of hardships right now. The death of a loved one, sickness, pain, the loss of a job, financial stress…the list goes on and on.
Life is definitely not always easy, and I have wondered many times why God places more burden and stress on some people than others. Only God knows, and I believe that God will never place more on you than you can handle. One striking similarity I always seem to find is that regardless of what circumstance or difficulty someone may be dealing with, is those who are grounded and centered in their faith seem to have a peace and calmness about them. In Philippians 4:7 the Bible describes this as a “peace of God, which transcends all understanding.” No matter the storm that surrounds them, they know that God is still in control. As many like to say, do all you can do and leave the rest up to God.
The opposite is also true in those who don’t rely on God to guide them through the storm. These people seem to always worry, stress out and fear the worst about all the events surrounding their life. This is because they feel they need to control the outcomes of everything in their life. What a helpless position to be in! There is so much that is beyond our control in life, so why worry and stress out over those things? This doesn’t mean that we should not care or do all we can do on our end. Proverbs 14:23 says that in all labor there is profit. This means God rewards those who put forth the effort and work hard to achieve a goal.
Be thankful in all circumstances. This is easier said than done! You may be going through a difficult time in life, and it may be hard to feel very thankful about anything right now. If you are having a hard time feeling thankful this Thanksgiving season, I suggest taking out a pen and pad and writing down all the things your thankful for both in the present and from the past. You might be surprised at how long your list is if you really give it some thought. Your talents, skills, friends, family, being able to watch a sunset and being able to help someone else in need are all great reasons to give thanks to God. I lost my dog of 12 years back on August 31, 2009, but I still often thank God for blessing me with his love and companionship for those 12 years. I feel so lucky to have had such a great dog for so many years! If you find yourself having a hard time thinking of things to be thankful for, above all else, be thankful that no matter where we are in life, God is always there for each one of us. As Pastor Rick Warren wrote in his best seller, the Purpose Driven Life, you;ll never know God is all you need until God is all you got.” Let’s all give thanks for what we have this holiday season, and remember that no matter what hardships you may be facing now,there will be a new day. Life is a journey, and as Joel Osteen likes to say, it’s not over until God says it’s over.
Earlier this week I received a phone call from a customer who told me he had referred me to one of his colleagues for some potential new business, and that I should be expecting to hear from his referral. I immediately thanked my customer for the referral and told him how much I appreciated him thinking about me. His response brought a smile to my face because he used a line I frequently use myself….we’re blessed to be a blessing!
We’re blessed to be a blessing. Oh how true that is for everyone. God gifts each one of us in His own unique way with special skills, talents, abilities and resources. Some of us, like my mother, may be especially talented as an artist. Some people may have the gift of teaching, and helping others learn skills and concepts. There are people who are blessed athletically, and excel on the playing field, while there are others who possess an uncanny ability to fix and repair anything. For some people, their gifts and talents are obvious. Everyone knows a beautiful voice when they hear one. However, I believe there are many more people in the world who don’t fully realize and understand the gifts they possess.
How do you determine what gifts and special talents you have if your not certain what they are? That’s a great question. Start with the causes, hobbies or interests you’re passionate and enthusiastic about the most. Do you like to tinker with cars or computers? Do you enjoy cooking new and creative dishes in the kitchen? Do you have a special fondness and love for animals? God wired each one of us with our own set of skills, desires and abilities. It’s up to us to sometimes figure out what they are, and then utilize those talents to help others. Our talents, skills, abilities and financial resources can be admired and respected by others, but the greatest sense of purpose and meaning in life comes from sharing our blessings with others.
Yes, we are blessed to be a blessing. I believe the more we bless others in our lives, the more blessings God will in turn send our way. The key is to always give with sincerity, and let God’s love shine through you.
By Eric Schmidt of Faith and Fitness Magazine, www.faithandfitness.net
Church leaders of every kind are experiencing heightened levels of stress in the hectic, technologically saturated world we live in. Compelled by their devotion to their ministry, they take care of almost everyone, except for themselves. Church leaders aren’t superhuman. They’re just as susceptible to the hazards of excessive mileage and lack of maintenance as any of us. A recent study found that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month due to exhaustion and burn out. 26% of clergy are taking anti-depressants, 60% report frequently feeling empathy fatigue or burnout, and 72% are at immediate risk for heart disease or stroke. If a politician had the health risks that the leaders of our church face, we would likely be concerned with their fitness to serve in office and potential inability to cope with the intense rigor of governing. Wrongly, we assume that it is standard practice for church leaders to selflessly give of their time and physical capacity without limit or thoughtful care.
In response to these alarming statistics, Florida Hospital hosts a conference,Called to Flourish, to address and combat these very concerns. The initial conference is on September 20, 2013 in Orlando, Florida and is an initiative ofFlorida Hospital’s Healthy 100 Health Ministry Movement. Max Lucado, along with five other health and wellness experts, will explore ways for church leaders to empower themselves and ways that their congregation can lift their leaders up. The sole purpose of the event is to extend theHealing Ministry of Christ by empowering church leaders to lead their congregations into wholeness, which will permeate throughout their communities.
As implied by the title, Florida Hospital envisions church leaders flourishing. There are many different meanings people attribute to the word “flourish”. Each of the members of the Called to Flourishspeakers’ lineup showcase a unique facet of the concept. Max Lucado will share insight on how to deal with the trials of life and times of turmoil. He’ll explore the Biblical Joseph’s pathway to survival from slave to savior of the world. Dr. Dick Tibbits will show the bleakconsequences of holding onto unresolved anger and how forgiveness can literally save your life. Dr. Herdley Paolini shows how you can actually see, like an X-Ray or MRI, the impact of daily choices that contribute to or detract from our mental health and overall wellbeing. Dr. Sandy Shugart will offer his perspective on how the hectic demands of leading a congregation can often work against the leader’s humility, which stifles the ideal practice of servant leadership.
One of the ideas illustrated by “flourishing” is the embodiment of the principles of whole person health, while being an active member of the ministry. Living healthy in this “holistic” manner encompasses spiritual and mental wellbeing. However, an often overlooked part of Biblical wellbeing is the body component. We are told that our bodies are temples of God, but somehow we find this aspect of health secondary. In order to be flourishing, church leaders must be spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy. Called to Flourish speaker Steve Reynolds efficiently states: “Our bodies were made by God and for God.” Steve, along with Dr. Des Cummings, will showcase an inventive set of ways for Church Leaders to flourish “holistically.”
Flourishing doesn’t just refer to the end product of a garden, full of trees ripe with fruit. Rather, flourishing is a process. A seedling is flourishing as soon as sunlight shines down on it and begins to grow. Visit the website for more information about Called to Flourish or to register. Make a difference and make this conference your church and pastor’s priority. It is a great way to see your health budding, your congregation thriving, and your community flourishing.
Every Sunday morning I receive a weekly devotional email from LIFE Today. I eagerly anticipate these weekly devotionals, as they often offer profound words of wisdom and encouragement, or stories from those who have faced adversity that I can learn from and apply in my own life. This week’s devotional from Dr. Don Colbert on the power our thoughts can have on our health was so profound that I wanted to share it. Always remember to do your best to stay positive even in the most difficult of times. As Dr. Charles Stanley likes to say “Trust God and leave ALL the consequences to Him.”
Reframing your thoughts can have a very real effect on your body, beginning with your heart. The heart, unlike your other major organs, has an extensive communications system with the brain and exerts a unique and far-reaching influence on your emotions and body. The heart is much more than a pump; it also functions as a hormonal gland, a sensory organ, and an information-encoding and -processing center. The heart also contains approximately forty thousand neurons or nerve cells. With every beat, the heart transmits complex patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure, and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body that play a major part in determining your emotions or how you feel.
Your heartbeat is not monotonously regular, but it varies from moment to moment. Heart rate variability is the measure of the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate as the heart speeds up and slows down in different patterns. These changes are especially influenced by a person’s emotions and attitudes. When you experience stress and negative emotions such as anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety, your heart rate variability pattern becomes more erratic and disordered, and it sends chaotic signals to the brain. This causes your system to get “out of sync.” The result is excessive stress with toxic emotions, energy drain, and added wear and tear on your mind and body. In contrast, sustained positive emotions such as appreciation, love, joy, and compassion, are associated with highly ordered patterns on the heart rate variability tracing and a significant reduction of stress.
In other words, toxic emotions such as anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, grief, and depression create excessive stress, whereas positive emotions such as gratitude, joy, love, and peace actually relieve stress. This can now be measured by an instrument called “heart rate variability.”
The heart has a magnetic field that is approximately five thousand times stronger than the brain and an electrical field that is forty to sixty times stronger than the brain. To illustrate this point, consider this story.
Christian Huygens was a seventeenth-century clockmaker who invented the pendulum clock. One night, while lying in bed admiring his clock collection, he noticed that all his pendulum clocks were swinging in unison with one another. He knew he didn’t set them that way, so he got out of bed and reset all the pendulums so that they were all out of sync with one another. However, after a short period of time all the pendulum clocks were back swinging in unison with one another. He never understood why. Years later it was discovered that the large clock with the strongest rhythm was able to pull all other nearby pendulums in sync with itself. This is called entrainment.
The largest clock pendulum with the strongest rhythm pulls all the nearby pendulums in sync with itself. The heart, by practicing gratitude and thanksgiving, is able, with its powerful magnetic field five thousand times stronger than the brain, to hijack the very thoughts of the brain and bring them into the pendulum motion of gratitude instead of the brain’s programmed emotions of fear, worry, anger, bitterness, grief, depression, and so on. That is why Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to keep our heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life. If we keep gratitude, peace, joy, and love in our heart, then it is able to control the brain, and gratitude, peace, joy, and love will flow out of our mouths.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Don Colbert’s book “The 7 Pillars of Health.”
I awoke early Saturday morning, the first of June, to eat my usual breakfast of oatmeal, blue berries and whey protein. After my quick breakfast I head to the gym to get in my morning workout. Just before getting ready to leave, I turned on the TV to CNN to get a quick look at the news. Like so many others around the globe, I was shocked and saddened to find out that once again tornadoes had struck central Oklahoma, and hammered the Oklahoma city area. How can this be? How could this happen again? How can one area continue to endure so much devastation, hardship and loss of life? I have all these questions running through my mind.
We all know that life isn’t fair, and each one of us will have to endure some difficult times throughout our lifetime. However, why is it that some people seem to have more than their fair share of tragedies? Natural disasters, the loss of a child, cancer. What are we to do when we are utterly helpless, and have no answers and no understanding of our current circumstances? I have only one answer – Give it to God.
What else can we do, but turn to God for peace and comfort, especially in such difficult and tragic times that we can barely go on? There is power in prayer, as anyone who has ever witnessed this power firsthand can attest. Pray for the victims, pray for those who have lost loved ones, pray for those who have lost their homes and businesses. Beyond prayer, financial contributions are also needed. Make a donation through Red Cross, or another charity that is helping the tornado victims. Let each of us reach out to help our fellow Americans, in the same manner and spirit that we would want someone to help us in a time of need.
Above all else, remember that God is in control. He always has been, and He always will be. We’ll never know all the reasons tragic things happen in this world, but knowing that God is always in control helps make it much more easier to handle those difficult times when they do come our way.
Pray today for someone you personally know, and for someone you’ve never met before.