“I will shake heaven and earth…” Haggai 2:6
We had no plans to leave Jamaica. Living in paradise is not always easy, but our roots had grown 31 years deep. So the gnawing sense that Father was asking us to move back to Canada felt uneasy. None of us readily breaks out of our comfort zone.
But change was blowing in the wind, and the words of Haggai were echoing around the world in the mouths of present-day prophets: “I will shake heaven and earth…”
Interesting how we distance ourselves from the “Word.” We’re sure He’s talking to someone else, not us. Little did we realize that we were heading for some shaking and rattling to get us rolling!
One of the first lessons we had to learn was to let go. Not easy, because the response is counter-intuitive. Instinctively, when our status quo is threatened we tighten our grip on the things that give us security.
But when God starts shaking things up, the only safe response is to let it go. We need not fear for He watches over us to catch us if we slip. His intention is to break loose things that impede our moving forward.
One of dangers in life is that we too easily become comfortable and complacent. The demonstration of peace, hope and well-being is displaced by the mundane. The light and joy within dim. We trudge from day to day.
In His mercy, God shakes us out of our death spiral so we can break into abounding life. “I’ve come to ignite you with a spectacular display of life,” Jesus said. (John 10:10)
But we must choose. Either our relationship with God stays in a familiar rut or we pluck up courage to face reality. I chose the latter.
“Who are You? Show me something about You that I’ve not known. Tell me some things You share only with Your closest friends.” I’m desperate.
His answer is immediate and simple, “Okay, but first you’ll have to get rid of some old notions about Me. And we will dialogue differently from what you’re used to—what you call ‘pray.’ Are you up for that?”
“Second, you’ll need to change the way you engage with My Word (the Bible). You can’t just read it casually or even dutifully. You must anticipate as you read, listen for my faint whisper as I speak to you. Focus your full attention or you’ll miss it.”
“Each morning I will give you a sword. With it you can chop through every circumstance you encounter and defeat the enemy waiting on your path to ambush you—that old snake who still hisses in your ear, “Did God really say that? You don’t really believe that, do you?”
“Third, I’m going to assay your faith, or lack of it. I will uncover the cancerous anxiety, doubt and unbelief embedded in you. You believe I exist as Creator and King of the Universe—that’s faith. But I’m bringing you to trust—living with the awareness that I am an intimate part of your life and that every single thing that happens is for your good.”
“My objective is to instill in you what John expressed when he wrote, “We have this confidence toward Him: we know that He hears us when we ask, and therefore we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
“One last thing. This is no quick fix, it’s a process. At times it will feel like open heart surgery. Sometimes it will feel like you’re going through hell. Don’t stop! Even when you feel like it—don’t quit!”
“There is a through…you will make it through, I’ll see to that. And there is an other side…I’m talking here-and-now, in-your-lifetime; and it’s beyond what you can imagine. Are you up for it?”
My choice is clear…
“Resist fear…I am your shield…your reward shall be beyond your expectation…”
Genesis 15:1 (paraphrased)
An alliance of four kings rebelled against an oppressive confederation of five kings. They sacked their cities, gathered the loot and headed home with the prisoners. Abram’s nephew Lot was among them.
Abram mustered his servants—318 trusted Gurkha-like warriors—pursued and conquered the unsuspecting commandos. He returned with ALL the plunder and ALL the prisoners.
Think of it. Three hundred and eighteen servants (not professional soldiers!) out-muscled an allied army of several thousand. That’s sovereign intervention!
On his way home Abram was met by Melchizedek, “king of Salem, priest of God Most High”, who pronounced blessing on him. Abram honored God and acknowledged His servant with a tithe.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, the king of Sodom told Abram, “Just give me the citizens, you keep all the booty.” Instant exorbitant riches—fair compensation for a comprehensive military victory.
But Abram refused. “I’ve made a deal with the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, to not take even a shoelace from anyone—God alone gets credit for my provision and wealth.” That’s a bold statement of faith with a courageous demonstration to back it up.
Profound affirmation after incredible military victory against impossible odds followed by daring proclamation of faith! So why would God tell Abram “Don’t be afraid”?
My guess is that God saw several issues in Abram that stemmed from a root of fear. Interestingly, like Abram, we are most vulnerable to these tentacles of fear immediately after sovereign intervention. They choke the life out of our faith.
Abram probably second-guessed his refusing the king’s offer. That was a lot of plunder, after all, and Abram was as human as you and I.
But weighing even heavier on Abram’s faith was God’s unfulfilled promise. It’d been a long wait with still no sign of a son. Yes, the military victory over the four-king alliance was a miracle, but this was personal.
God spoke to the heart of Abram”s problem. “Shift your focus, Abram. I AM your shield—your protection against fear that cripples your faith and steals your reward.”
Look at the protection God offers:
- physical: “I will remove or disarm people and structures that stand in the way of your forward movement and answered prayers.”
- material: “I will take you and keep you out of lack and poverty.”
- emotional: “I will replace all those feelings that rob you of confidence and hope.”
- spiritual: “I will empower you against doubt and unbelief.”
With an Iron Dome shield like that, we can hold steady as we move step by step toward promised destiny.
Without hesitation, I certify that this Scripture is true—the Almighty, our Father, is a trustworthy shield against all fear. From our experience, I can testify that the reward of obedient faith is exceedingly great. Resist fear, embrace the Father as your shield, and then let Him surprise you with His faithfulness.
After an intensive 2-month study, Professor Paul Rankin of Ohio State University reported that 70% of the waking day involved interpersonal communication.
Of that chunk of time,
- 45% was spent listening
- 30% involved speaking
- 16% was engaged in writing
- 9% was occupied reading.
That was 1939 and those were college students. Has much changed since then?
Despite the explosion of technology and information, human nature and the basic human needs have changed very little, if at all. Communication is still a major part of our life and listening remains the cornerstone.
The often-touted benefits of listening are:
- builds relationships
- reduces mistakes and misunderstandings
- resolves conflicts
- less wasted time
- saves money.
Those are plausible results, but consider these “surprising” benefits.
1. Good listening habits earn respect
A sure way to gain respect is to be a good listener. By listening attentively, genuinely and consistently, you show you value people. In return, they will respect you, pay attention when you have something to say, welcome your ideas and look for your feedback.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
(Bryant H. McGill)
2. With good listening habits you understand
“Faking attention” as one of the worst and most frequently deployed listening habits. Sometimes it is intentional—we’re simply bored. At other times, our mind ‘plays tricks’.
Researchers say our brains are capable of processing 500 words per minute. We can communicate at 250 words per minute. (The average is between 150-200 words.)
Imagine this scenario.
You are in a conversation with a friend. You’re excited about the topic and talking at full speed—250 wpm (words per minute).
They seem to be listening, but something does’t feel right.
Reality check. Your friend’s mind is racing at somewhere between 400 – 500 wpm. You’re speaking at 250 wpm. What do you suppose their mind is doing with the ‘empty mental space’?
That’s right. It’s wandering into daydreams or wrestling with worries lurking in the shadow of their mental landscape. How much do they actually hear? and understand?
Hearing is easy, listening is hard work. Few people refine their listening skills to not only hear but actually understand what is being said. This select few are successful.
The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.
(Dr. Ralph Nichols)
3. With good listening habits you learn
(a) You learn things about people.
Knowing about human nature and behavior helps you navigate around hidden shoals—weaknesses, character flaws, personality quirks—that can shipwreck friendship. You learn where open channels of communication flow and move relationships forward. You learn where and how to ‘dock’ your ideas—say what you really want to say without being misunderstood.
Armed with this knowledge, you communicate with greater success. You don’t take everything personally. You hear people out. You even learn how to agree to disagree.
A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.
(Kenneth A. Wells)
(b) You learn how the people think.
As you listen, you learn how your friend thinks. It’s like discovering their operating system—Windows 10 or MacAir.
Once you know how their mind is programmed, you can ‘synchronize’ your interaction, make necessary adjustments and communicate in a ‘compatible format’. The results are positive and rewarding.
Listening well and answering well is one of the greatest perfections that can be obtained in conversation.
(Francois De La Rochefoucauld)
(c) You gain knowledge you didn’t have before.
Useful bits of information and nuggets of wisdom are gained with keen listening. Sometimes these gems are hidden in people you least expect. Never underestimate anyone. The janitor or the waitress may have a “piece of information” you need.
Every person I work with knows something better than me. My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it.
Without well-honed listening skills, personal achievement and success are confined to the commonplace. Only when good listening becomes a habit will anyone become extraordinary.
Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.
“Listening: Can Ability be Improved”, Journal of Applied Business Research, Vol.6 No.1
“Listening Myths and Misconceptions”, Skills You Need
“Barriers to Effective Listening”, Skills You Need
“Lines of Communication”, Manufacturing Leadership Certificate Program
“Book of Famous Quotes”, < http://www.famous-quotes.com/topic.php?tid=712 >
Image by Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Happened upon an interesting question this week.
“If you could give one piece of advice to a very smart but lazy guy, what would it be?”
Graeme Austin’s answer piqued my curiosity.
“If you truly want to go from lazy to motivated in all aspects of your life, you should do one thing, and one thing only: Exercise.”
So, I did some research to see if Graeme’s answer has merit.
After wading through substantial evidence, I came up with 4 convincing reasons to support the claim that
Exercise is the simplest and most empowering habit
that transforms anyone’s life.
1. The Health Benefits
Of the many studies done to determine health benefits of exercise, I found these three intriguing.
It reduces your risk of the common cold.
A brisk, 40-minute walk 4 days a week, can reduce the number of colds you experience by 25 to 50 percent and can shorten the colds you catch by half.
It helps prevent and treat Osteoporosis.
The impact of your feet hitting the ground as you walk stimulates cells in the bones of your legs, hips, and spine to strengthen and build new bones. Activities such as dancing, hiking, jogging, jumping rope, climbing stairs, or playing tennis stimulate bone growth even more and maintain bone density.
It battles chronic fatigue syndrome.
A group of chronic fatigue syndrome patients in Britain engaged in 30 minutes of walking or aerobic exercise 5 days a week. After 3 months, these patients found their symptoms improved, but within a year, three-quarters resumed normal daily activities, and some returned to work.
2. The Emotional Benefits
Studies show exercise has significant benefit to emotional well-being also.
- It battles depression without drugs.
- In a study of patients suffering from depression, one group walked briskly or jogged, a second group took the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft), and the third group took the drug plus exercised. After 4 months, all three groups showed similar improvement. At 6 months, however, those who kept up the exercise, had the lowest rates of remission.
- It reduces stress
- Working up a sweat with a brisk walk or a workout in the gym increases the release of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps the brain respond positively to stress.
- It creates feelings of happiness.
- Exercise releases endorphins, the ‘happy chemicals’ that make us feel euphoria. As little as 10 minutes 3 times per day or 30 minutes 3 days per week will give you a ‘happy buzz’ and help keep you in a positive mood.
3. The Convenience Factor
The term exercise is sufficiently broad so that anyone can do it. Exercise for some may be a rigid program of strenuous physical training under the guidance of a personal trainer, but for others it may be a recreational sport like tennis or just a brisk 20-minute walk 3 times a week.
I call this the convenience factor. It can easily be incorporated in daily routine by anyone. What other “prescription” costs so little, yet promises so much?
Not only is exercise of notable physical and emotional value,
it is convenient.
Look for opportunities to walk. Instead of parking as close to the mall entrance as possible, find a space that allows you to walk—it doesn’t have to be the farthest corner, just enough to give you a nice ‘feel good’ walk. It’s a healthy mindset and a healthy habit you are creating.
So you like dancing? Enroll in a dance class.
Gardening? Swimming? Yoga? Rock climbing? The options are endless.
Even at work you can reap the benefits of exercise. A study at Florida State University found that elite performers sustained peak performance by working no more than 90 minutes per session.
Exercise is any physical activity that gets you up and moving (breaking a sweat, if possible and appropriate), gets your heart pumping a little faster and your lungs breathing a little deeper.
When you commit to exercising with regularity,
you’re on your way to creating a healthy habit
that will transform your life.
4. The Ripple Effect
The health benefits, the emotional value and the convenience factor are convincing arguments to the question. The clincher, however, is the ripple effect.
Exercise is a keystone habit. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg identifies certain habits that initiate a chain effect of other good habits. The end result is positive transformation.
Of exercise Duhigg writes,
“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why …‘Exercise spills over,’ said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. ‘There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.'”
Are you convinced yet?
I am, and I’m renewing my commitment to exercise. I can think of several enjoyable ways to get up and get moving toward a healthy, well-balanced life.
How about you?
ps. Here’s Ida Keeling, one more very convincing study.
Her story adds depth and credibility.
Image courtesy by Madrolli / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
F-E-A-R has two meanings:
‘Forget Everything And Run’
‘Face Everything And Rise.’
The choice is yours.”
The desire to be powerful—to overcome fear—is embedded deep in the human soul. Made in our Creator’s image, we are gifted with power—the capacity to responsibly manage the earth and to creatively resolve personal issues.
Personal empowerment is like a flame. The embers of its fire must be fanned and kept ablaze. Like a seed, it must be nurtured if we would taste its satisfying fruit.
3 Turbo-Charging Actions That Empower
1. Tweak – “improve by making fine adjustments”
Personal empowerment rests on health, work-life balance and relationships. Without proper attention to these, our power to deal effectively with situations and people is compromised. The capacity to make transforming choices is not achieved by overhauling but by tweaking.
Small steps made consistently form new habits,
and new habits change old outcomes.
Instead of a crash diet to improve health, replace just one bad eating habit. A healthy lifestyle is exactly that, a style of living that is cultivated over time.
Similarly, just one “fine adjustment” to priorities at work (or at home) can dispel unnecessary stress.
Something as simple as smiling, listening attentively, or saying “thank you” can transform relationships.
2. Retool – “adapt or alter to make more useful or suitable”
The measure of personal empowerment is affected by character and personality.
Character is your personal brand. It is who you are and what you stand for defined by your values.
Personality is how you market yourself. It is how you represent yourself as you interact with others, the image you create by which you are identified.
When failure erodes self-confidence,
step back, identify the defect, and retool.
A flaw or a quirk can sabotage your success, undermine your resolve, jeopardize your command of situations and tarnish your relationships. Continual failure erodes self-confidence.
3. Re-calibrate – “adjust points of reference to take external factors into account”
To maintain optimum power, goals, perspective and attitude must be re-evaluated regularly and re-calibrated as necessary. The standard by which progress is measured and the points of reference by which our course is charted must come under the scrutiny.
- Does my standard truly reflect who I am becoming?
- Do my points of reference keep me on track?
Circumstances are designed to produce two outcomes.
(1) Experience which makes us wiser and stronger. Wiser—we don’t keep making the same mistakes because we learn from them. Stronger because we’ve been there, done that, so let’s move on to the next level.
(2) Clarity to see things as they really are. With distractions removed, we can see where we are heading and make the necessary adjustments to get there.
Jamaican reggae icon Jimmy Cliff says it well.
“I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright , bright sunshiny day.”
Under the pressures of work and of personal responsibilities we easily lose sight of the bigger picture. At work, our engaging tasks demand intense focus while at home, children and spouse demand consuming attention.
Exhausted and frustrated, we blame our family for our less-than-satisfactory performance at work, and we blame our job for the hopelessly dysfunctional performance at home.
The discontent brewing within will destroy us if we don’t take external factors into account, and make some necessary adjustments in perspective. Empowerment comes with a broad, positive perspective of work and home.
“Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.”
Sometimes when we’re going through hell, the ONLY thing we can control is our attitude—the way we think or feel about the situation.
When conditions are dark and overwhelming is not the time to think about goals. In that state, positive perspective is overshadowed by the encroaching storm. And I can tell you, there will be times when the storm is a Category 5 Hurricane.
Our experience of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, left us with a sober regard for one the most devastating forces of nature. There is absolutely nothing you can do but wait it out and pray!
We have since gone through personal situations that rank Category 5. It has taken several years to recover from one such devastation. (I still have mental, emotional and spiritual scars from it!)
You might be saying at this point, “Wow. I’m not so sure I can do all that personal empowerment stuff. If only there was an app.”
Well, there’s something even simpler and better than an app, and it’s already embedded in you.
That’s right…simpler and better than an app…Your tongue!
The simplest, quickest and most effective way to tweak, retool and re-calibrate your life into turbocharge mode is to
(1) Speak positively about yourself as you acknowledge your strengths and weakness (which will in time also transform into strengths). Research shows that a person’s self-image is affected by the words used to talk about themselves.
(2) Use active words, especially about the future. Replace “I’m gonna try my best…” with “I will complete this task and I will do my best!”
(3) Most importantly, define your own space and your own identity with your own power words.
Failing in this, you relinquish personal power to others. They will clip your wings and confine you to a box, their box.
I urge you, don’t scratch in the dirt with the chickens. You were born to rise above the ordinary. Soar in the skies with the eagles. No limits!
What is the world’s rarest and most expensive coffee?
Black Ivory Coffee
What makes it rare?
- only 150 kg in total were produced in 2015 (i.e. very limited production)
- sold primarily to five-star hotels in Thailand, Maldives (i.e. very selective market)
- available in only one retail store in the world—The Elephant Store in Comfort, Texas
What makes it expensive?
- 33 kg of beans (10,000 beans) are required to make 1 kg of roasted beans
- the entire operation, from picking, selecting and roasting the beans is done by hand
- the coffee is brewed by a special machine—the design dates back to 1840 France
- an unusual presentation of an extraordinary coffee creates a unique experience for the adventurous connoisseur
What is unusual about the coffee?
- the beans that make Black Ivory Coffee are processed through the digestive system of Asian elephants (i.e. beans are fed to elephants before drying and roasting)
- the digested beans are ‘recovered’ from the elephant droppings for further processing
- all the elephants used have been rescued kept in an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand operated by the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation
The bottom line?
- $50 to $70 per cup ($1200 per kg) of this exotic coffee experience
Read and see more (you’ll enjoy the NPR and ABC news reports)
p.s. Try the Organo Gold experience—a healthy coffee with a rich taste but not anywhere near as expensive as Black Ivory Coffee.