Generating Good

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Generosity is a brilliant word and a powerful concept. Kahlil Gibran states , “Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” That is worthy of pondering for a bit.

From this word we understand other things better, like, generate, generator, generative.

Generosity generates something…
It creates something…
From nothing, generosity breathes life and regenerates something beautiful.

However, generosity is not simply about money and wealth. It is a lifestyle that is always humming with creative goodness that brings light to dark places, food to starving spaces and beauty to desolate places.

Steve Goodier sums up the scope well:

“Money is not the only commodity that is fun to give. We can give time, we can give our expertise, we can give our love or simply give a smile. What does that cost? The point is, none of us can ever run out of something worthwhile to give.”

Generosity also has the power to free us from a myopic life of self-everthing. Self-service, selfishness, self-reliance, self-worship. The worship of self has run across the borders of narcissism in our culture, and generosity has the ability to heal us of this most pernicious disease. The Buddha noted:

“Conquer the angry one by not getting angry; conquer the wicked by goodness; conquer the stingy by generosity, and the liar by speaking the truth.”

The following video is a commercial from Thailand…it reveals the power that a little generosity has to make the lives of others better, and when you do that you cannot escape the personal benefit generosity re-infuses into your own life.

That video causes an unsolicited smile to form on my lips…

Being generous feels good and the scientific stats reveal that generous people are healthier, happy and live longer lives that are worth living.

The Bible has scads of passages about generosity, here are a few to help you pray and invite a spirit of generosity into your life:

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Proverbs 11:25

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Luke 6:38 

Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice. Psalm 112:5

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.  2 Corinthians 8:12

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Luke 6:30

May you realize just how rich you really are and find yourself coming alive as you become a generous soul that gives especially when there is no chance of repayment.

He Who Laughs…

Laughter can lift the crushed soul and help dissipate the darkness of sadness. Laughter is a powerful prayer, because it defies the thought that pain and sadness always win. Some of my deepest laughs have found birth in the dark night of the soul, which was both a surprise and a blessing. But for too long, Christianity has been the “laugh-less” religion. Jesus has been seen as a “serious,” deity with furrowed brows etching caverns of displeasure across His face. Or perhaps He has been viewed as a “humorless,” deity that tut-tuts the lighter side of life and has no time for levity. Look at all the early paintings and images of Christ and He does not look like He is enjoying life. Unfortunately, this has seeped into the DNA of a movement and needs to come to light in order to unleash the joy that Jesus died for. But in truth, the converse is reality…Jesus was full of life, love, levity and laughter.

Can you imagine the creative agency that fashioned the earth and imagined the platypus never cracked a smile?

Can you imagine that Jesus’ cultural tattoo of “a friend of sinners and a glutton” could have been earned by someone who did not engage in the fun of the people he was branded with?

Can you sense the hilarity behind the translation when Jesus said, “Hey before you judge other people, consider their sin as a sliver you are trying to remove while at the same time admitting the sin in your own life is like a log in your eye!”

It has been stated many times that Jesus’ humor gets lost in translation, and this is true. The Hebraisms and the out right funny sayings of Jesus lose their edge when we translate from Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew to English. I am thankful for translators that unearth His linguistically sharp humor, and allow Jesus to show some of His hilarity.

In Genesis, when Abraham and Sarah find out that they are going to have a baby in their advanced years, Sarah laughs…and then the baby is named Isaac which means “he laughs.”

Have you ever noticed that when you smile, you have a bio-chemical reaction that changes the way you feel? Try it right now, no one is looking…take a full, deep breath and smile from your liver to the creases in your eyes.

We need to laugh more…

We need to smile from our soul…

We need to breathe in the pleasure, beauty and grace of God while we exhale anything that robs us of the joy and freedom Christ offers.

Here are some great quotes I have on laughing, or laughter…read them, smile and find something to laugh at, you’ll live longer and find more beauty in the midst of a biting reality.

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“Laughter is America’s most important export.”  ~ Walt Disney Company

“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”  ~Robert Frost

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”  ~Maya Angelou

“The earth laughs in flowers.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”  ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”  ~ Mark Twain

“If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know a man, don’t bother analyzing his ways of being silent, of talking, of weeping, of seeing how much he is moved by noble ideas; you will get better results if you just watch him laugh. If he laughs well, he’s a good man.”  ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.”  ~ Anne Lamott

“A strange thing happened to me in my dream. I was rapt into the Seventh Heaven. There sat all the gods assembled. As a special dispensation I was granted the favor to have one wish. “Do you wish for youth,” said Mercury, “or for beauty, or power, or a long life; or do you wish for the most beautiful woman, or any other of the many fine things we have in our treasure trove? Choose, but only one thing!” For a moment I was at a loss. Then I addressed the gods in this wise: “Most honorable contemporaries, I choose one thing — that I may always have the laughs on my side.” Not one god made answer, but all began to laugh. From this I concluded that my wish had been granted and thought that the gods knew how to express themselves with good taste: for it would surely have been inappropriate to answer gravely: your wish has been granted.”  ~Søren Kierkegaard

“As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.”  ~ Jewish Proverb

“He that is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” ~ Proverbs 15:15

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”  ~ Victor Hugo

“Laughter is the foundation of reconciliation.” ~ St. Francis de Sales

“Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.” ~ John Cleese

“On average, an infant laughs nearly two hundred times a day; an adult, only twelve. Maybe they are laughing so much because they are looking at us. To be able to preserve joyousness of heart and yet to be concerned in thought: in this way we can determine good fortune and misfortune on earth, and bring to perfection everything on earth.” ~ I Ching

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”  ~Robert Fulghum

“Laughter is an instant vacation.”  ~Milton Berle

“Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.”  ~Bob Newhart

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Laughter has health benefits too, for example: (from help-guide)

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
  • Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
  • Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Authors Melinda Smith M.A and Jeanne Segal Ph.D note the following tips to help bring more laughter to your daily life:

  • Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like laughter, it’s contagious. Pioneers in “laugh therapy,” find it’s possible to laugh without even experiencing a funny event. The same holds for smiling. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling.
  • Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier to humor and laughter. When you’re in a state of sadness, you have further to travel to get to humor and laughter.
  • When you hear laughter, move toward it. Sometimes humor and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group, but usually not. More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
  • Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious.
  • Bring humor into conversations. Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”

So, laugh until your belly hurts and then just a little bit more!

The Lord Is My Pace-setter

Stress.words_

We are a stressed-out nation. Very often, we wear our stressed-out, over busy, crazy lifestyles like a badge of honor, all the while knowing that we are losing something very important in the chronic insanity of our culture…our sanity and soul.

There are many reasons that stress is so prevalent, but according to the American Psychological Association, the following are the key issues at hand:

* Money, work and the economy continue to be the most
frequently cited causes of stress for Americans, as they
have every year for the past 5 years. In addition, a growing
number of Americans are citing personal health and their
family’s health as a source of stress.

* Significant sources of stress include money (75 percent),
work (70 percent), the economy (67 percent), relationships
(58 percent), family responsibilities (57 percent), family
health problems (53 percent), personal health concerns
(53 percent), job stability (49 percent), housing costs
(49 percent) and personal safety (32 percent).

* The percentage of adults reporting that family health
problems are causing them stress (53 percent) increased
in 2011 compared to the last 2 years (47 percent for both
2009 and 2010).

An unhealthy pace of life has become an addiction in our country, and is something we desperately need to address if we are to regain our soul, and most importantly, listen to the voice of God. When our lives and minds are drenched in over-stimulation, over-communication, and excessive busyness, the voice of God becomes a distant memory, and we begin to justify why God is no longer speaking. No matter the theological gymnastics and/or other reasons we create to comfort our unease concerning the seeming silence of God, the truth is that He is still speaking, all around us, all the time, but our minds are too full to discern His still small voice in the storm of noise.

I love how Toki Miyashina re-wrote the 23rd Psalm and reminds us that the Lord needs to be our pace-setter:

The Lord is my Pace Setter, I shall not rush,
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals,
He provides me with images of stillness,
Which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
through calmness of mind; and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity,
by anointing my head with his oils of tranquility,
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of my hours,
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord,
and dwell in his house for ever.

It’s okay to live with balance…

It’s okay to have moments in your week that are not crammed with rushing around…

It’s okay to still, slow, and even stop in order to breathe more deeply and practice divine awareness…

It’s okay to say “no” to the requests that don’t align with your purpose in life, for if you don’t, you will miss your purpose in life…

It’s okay to be healthy and unable to “one-up” your friends who are trying to impress you with their busy schedules…

It’s okay to have joy in your soul, hope in your heart and serenity in your mind because you choose to allow God to determine your pace, and not the culture or the people around you.

May you have a life that responds to God’s grace with energy, His voice with delight, and His love with service.

Maintaining Leadership Passion in 2012

As we launch into another new year, I have noticed there seems to be at least two types of leaders. One leader looks at the opportunity a new year brings to hit the reset button…to try something new…to experience the energy that comes from stepping out by faith into the unknown realm of potentiality.

Another leader takes a deep breath and with a massive sigh breathes out a quiet prayer hoping that the next year will be better than the previous year, or perhaps maybe this year I should change jobs and get off of the leadership treadmill.

Leadership is hard work. It requires a high level of self awareness and the courage to allow God to do some work in the soul to bring about an increasing level of integrity and honesty.

Yet most leaders are so busy they seldom take the necessary time to pause, slow down and listen to their soul and to what God is saying in the quiet spaces. It is easy to justify why there is no time to deal with these things, after all, we are important, we have things to get done, people to lead, objectives to accomplish for the common good and corporate vision right?

One key trait that I have observed in the lives of great leaders that last is that they take the time to engage in healthy self-examination. I’m not talking about becoming a comatose navel-gazer, but rather becoming a person that is self-aware and deals with the shadow side of their personality in order to grow in a holistic fashion (body-soul-spirit). This also grows the organizations that they lead.

Take a moment and read through Gordon MacDonald’s piece on what he calls “The Seven Deadly Siphons.” While he wrote this for pastors specifically, I think you will easily be able to make the connections to whatever area of leadership you are in.  Evaluate where you need to invest some energy this year so that you lead well with integrity and continue to finish strong!

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The Seven Deadly Siphons

Loss of Spiritual passion seems to be the inevitable result of:

1. Words without action. We are tempted to think that saying something actualizes it. We have a momentary feeling of spirituality when we talk about wanting to pray more or “have more time in the Word.”

2. Busyness without purpose. Ministry produces activities, programs, conversations. If our choices of time-use are not disciplined by call and purpose, our energies become like a lazy, shallow river.

3. Calendars without a Sabbath. A datebook filled with appointments but absent of significant hours (days) of quiet and reflection-written in first-is an abomination (an old and harsh word) to the God of the Bible, who said, “Six days you shall labor…the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.”

4. Relationships without mutual nourishment. Pastors tend to be acquainted with too many people but know too few people. The spiritual masters have told us for centuries that without soul-friends, we won’t gain spiritual momentum.

5. Pastoral personality without self-examination. Too much ministry is built on unresolved anger, unhealthy needs for approval, and the instinct to control. Failing to explore our soul for un-wholeness ultimately takes it toll.

6. Natural giftedness without spiritual power. A pastor can go a considerable distance in ministry with catchy words, people skills, political savvy, and a facility for organizational dynamics. But kingdom work demands qualities that only a filled-up soul can offer.

7. An enormous theology without an adequate spirituality. A pastor cannot represent a view of reality that includes Creation, evil, reconciliation and conversion, sacrificial service, and eternity-a mind-boggling expanse of conviction-and have a spiritual-exercise regimen that is pea-sized in contrast. A great theology demands a great spirituality.

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These are some powerful areas to consider, ruminate upon and take action. The power of your public ministry will only be as great as your private world. If you are not investing in the private world of your soul you are choosing to cap your level of leadership and growth. Each of the areas that MacDonald mentions are worthy of spending some time unpacking, and I would encourage you to do exactly that.

Make it a great year!

Monty