HOW STRESS ROBS YOUR EVENING

Written by Les Dahl on December 7th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

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Great sprinters like Usain Bolt spend hours in training perfecting their starts. They know that a good start propels them into position for a winning finish. A good start to your day empowers you to perform well and finish strong.

Let me ask what may seem a silly question: when does your day start?

When the dawn breaks” or “When I get up in the morning” (which for some of you night owls may be mid-morning!) are typical responses. But I have another answer for you to consider.

For years I puzzled over the creation story in the Bible. The fact that the Creator spoke the vast universe and the world with its many-faceted detail into existence is amazing. Talk about the power of words! That He accomplished this in six days is astounding—unbelievable for many! What caught my attention and bewildered me, however, was the phrase repeated after the completion of each day’s activity: “And there was evening and there was morning, the ….. day.”

Clearly, the Creator’s concept of day is quite different from what we are used to. His day begins with evening, which is followed by morning, the beginning of new activities. The Jews, to whom the Torah was entrusted, structure their days after this pattern.

The concept is significant. It describes how the Almighty thinks and there is intention, purpose and life in His thinking. We do well to align our thinking to His.

More than significant, this concept is transformational. As we begin to understand and apply its implications in our life, we are liberated of a whole lot of stress, we become much more productive at our work, and we derive greater satisfaction from our daily accomplishments.

 

‘Evening’ signals the completion of a day.

 

Evening calls for deliberate intention and action. The day is done. Stop. Close off the day’s activities. Shut down the computer. Pack up your things. Go home. It’s evening.

Most of us never close off our days. We carry the accumulated stress and burden of our work home with us. At home we find the kids are wired from their day at school. Our spouse is strung out and would appreciate a little sympathy, which we can’t give because we are looking for some sympathy ourselves. Interactions with family are strained. What is intended to be a soothing, re-vitalizing refuge of joy and peace, i.e. our family, is threatened. Like a contagious virus, unresolved stress quickly spreads as wholesome, thriving relationships are infected.

Attempts to relax produce minimal results. We are exhausted emotionally and our muscles are tight. Our mind, whether consciously or not, is still weighted down with fallout from the day’s activity.

Sleep does not come easily. When we finally drift off, neither our mind nor our body get the full benefit of sleep. Morning comes too early after a fitful night. We awake to another day of the same old grind.

This never-ending death spiral is broken by evening. It is imperative that we decisively terminate each day. Let it go. Take back our evening.

Family is a wonderful antidote against caustic bosses and negative co-workers. Evening is ours to enjoy our family.

The unfinished work will be there in the morning. After a relaxing evening with family and a good night’s rest we are refreshed, re-energized and ready to tackle what’s on our plate for the day with greater creativity and clarity of mind.

Reorganizing our day to conform to pattern established by our Creator is life-changing.

Question: How would implementing the practice of ‘evening’ transform the quality of your life?

 

Shalom!

(I observe four more ways in which evening transforms us. These I share in my next article. Meanwhile, enjoy evening, a new and empowering dimension to your day.)

Image courtesy David Castillo Dominic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

BLUEPRINT FOR SHALOM (Peace, Health and Prosperity)

Written by Les Dahl on November 30th, 2015. Posted in Health, Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

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Life is not without struggle and we are easily burdened with its pressures. Often we have more than enough on our plate on a daily basis and we are weary from the load we carry. It is precisely to us in our battle-worn condition that Yeshua (Jesus) extends the invitation:

“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest (shalom). Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Shalom—peace, health and prosperity—is a gift of God’s grace. Although we have a part to play in procuring shalom, it is not the product of our will-power nor of our self-help. It is an endowment from our Father in heaven. However, conditions apply and shalom is not obtained in our daily experience until these conditions are met.

Condition #1: “Come to Me…”

We must want shalom.

That is self-evident, you say. Who wouldn’t wish for peace, health and prosperity? I am surprised, however, how many people are quite happy in their misery, sickness and lack (poverty). You very likely know some of these people—probably have to put up with them at work. They complain a lot and prey on your sympathy. No matter what you say or do, they really have no intention to change. They love the attention and pity drawn to them by their doleful condition and whining.

Condition #2: “Learn from Me…”

We must be willing to learn.

Creating shalom is a process that involves learning and comes with a learning curve. It takes time, study and practice to develop of shalom. We apply ourselves to His Word (the Bible). We attune ourselves to the lessons (parables) embedded in Nature. Fueled by our quest to learn, we discover insights otherwise hidden. We pay attention to people around us, particularly our elders, and garner knowledge. We hearken as experience teaches us discretion and wisdom.

If we are willing to learn, our Father rewards us with insights and promises relevant to the shalom (peace, health and prosperity) we need to live well. As a loving, caring father mentors his son and daughter, teaching them the art of living well, our Father in heaven disciples and instructs us.

Condition #3: “Take my yoke…”

We must be willing to change.

One of the great obstacles in our pursuit of shalom is the comfortable and familiar. We just don’t like change. Change requires giving up old habits, thoughts, beliefs. Change demands letting go of hurts, bitterness, anger. Change calls for surrender of our will and way to His. That’s not easy.

Fully aware of our struggle, our Father reassures us with the words, “I am gentle and humble in heart.” Have you ever thought of God as humble? But that’s exactly what our Father is like—rock solid and firm (tough love) but gentle and humble with a big heart of love for us.

So if you accept the conditions which apply, here is a blueprint for shalom that I have discovered in my quest. (In subsequent articles, I will elaborate on each concept. Your feedback is greatly valued.)

THE BLUEPRINT for SHALOM

1. Set your compass
Prepare for the day by properly aligning yourself.

2. Chart your course
Determine your path from here to there.

3. Create your aura
Create the eye of the storm and stay in it.

4. Activate universal laws
Cultivate good seed in good soil and give generously.

5. Engage in active personal development
Make necessary changes to achieve clarity and growth.

6. Expand your power source
Cultivate spiritual growth.

7. Stay in rhythm
Sing your melody, play your instrument in symphony of the universe.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of His Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises. (Romans 15:13)

 

Blessings…

 

Image courtesy of lkunl / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

5 LIFE-TRANSFORMING AFFIRMATIONS ABOUT GOD

Written by Les Dahl on November 24th, 2015. Posted in Health, Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

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Words have power to create and build or to tear down and destroy. Words have the characteristics of seeds. You reap what you sow.

The words we speak determine our atmosphere and our experience. They affect how we respond to circumstances. They regulate the power we have to deal with adversity.

The soil in which our words germinate is our heart. Jesus said that our thoughts and actions proceed from our heart. Our internal conversation (i.e. the words we sow) shapes our thought paradigms, our beliefs (which either limit or liberate us) and our habits (patterns of action).

As with seeds, our words are watered, nourished and nurtured. The good words we sow are watered by positive attitudes and body language (a smile, good posture, a firm handshake). They are nourished by acts of kindness and promises from God’s Word. They are nurtured by hard work and persistence.

Seeds multiply as they reproduce. The mindset of authentic faith anticipates prosperity, i.e. success, increase and multiplication. Would a farmer seed his field if he did not believe an abundant harvest was the reward of his labor?

Affirmations are statements that declare our agreement with the concepts expressed. They are declared into the atmosphere to serve notice to heaven and earth of our expected outcome (harvest). As they are released, our affirmations become active to accomplish their expressed purpose.

The following affirmations about God serve to clarify. If we hope to find shalom, it is important that our thoughts and ideas about God are accurate and firmly rooted. The goal is to live and move and have our being in Him. But true relationship is two-sided. Thus, God’s Spirit is present so He can live and move and have His being in us. The result of this synergy is shalom.

Consider…

1. God is a person.

He is not an idea, a force, a theology nor a religion. As a person, God’s primary objective is to enjoy personal relationship with each of us. As He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden, God invites us to walk with Him, enjoying conversation and communion in His Presence.

As He nurtured His relationship with Abraham, God invites us into friendship that grows deeper and stronger as thoughts, feelings and experiences are shared mutually.

Affirmation #1 — God, I acknowledge You as a person. I declare that my relationship with You is characterized by mutual friendship. I welcome Your Presence and listen for Your still, small voice of shalom.

 

2. God is our Father.

As we journey with God, we discover endless nuances of friendship and communion. But the essence of His relationship with us is the love and care of a Father.

The disciples once approached Jesus. “Master, we recognize you have special communication with Almighty God. Teach us how to obtain that kind of access to the power of heaven. Teach us to pray.”

Begin like this,” Jesus answered, “Our Father…”

He then explained, “Everything else in heaven and on earth flows out of that relationship.”

Many of us face a wall of resistance associated with the word “Father”. Our experience with our earthly father was less than perfect. For too many, the experience was rife with abuse and trauma. The wall protects us from being hurt again—by anyone.

Resentment, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness and even hatred seethe within. There is no room in our hearts to think of, let alone feel, the loving, caring embrace of “our Father in heaven.” Deliverance must come; healing must follow.

Affirmation #2 — God, I embrace You as my loving, caring Father. I release all my feelings of resentment, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness and hatred in me because of what my father did to me. I release all my feelings of disappointment and hurt because my father was not there for me when I needed him. I allow Your empathy and compassion to replace those destructive emotions with feelings of safety, security, love and shalom.

 

3. God adopts me into His family, and loves me dearly.

As the Creator contemplated the Universe, He gave attention to our place in His family. This may be difficult to fathom, but it is a fact highlighted in the Scriptures. It strikes at our basic need to belong, to be loved and to matter. It speaks to the feelings of alienation, loneliness and despair.

None of us is an accident and without purpose—your life matters!

None of us is an inconsequential cog in the impersonal machinery of the Universe—you are important!

All of us have Someone who loves us and thinks the world of us—you are loved!

Affirmation #3 — God, I embrace my adoption into Your family. I am no longer an orphan without a family and without a home. I release all my feelings of alienation, loneliness and despair. I declare that I am blessed and highly favored because You love me, I am important to You, my life matters and I belong.

 

4. God takes personal interest in each of us.

Our Father knows us. He knows our likes and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses, our potential and our limitations, our horizons and our boundaries. He knows and cares!

Jesus asked the crowd, “Why do you worry about food or clothing? Your Father in heaven knows you need these things and is happy to provide them for you.”

Paul continues this thread as he writes:

“Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in every circumstance and situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your specific requests known to God. And the shalom of God—that peace which reassures your heart, that peace which transcends all understanding, that peace which stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus—is yours.”

Affirmation #4 — Father in heaven, I acknowledge Your personal interest in me. You care deeply about what I’m going through and what I need. I thank You for Your many blessings and Your faithfulness to provide all that I need. I embrace Your shalom which dispels all worry and anxiety and reassures my heart and my mind of Your loving care and compassion.

 

5. God has a bright future for you.

When God’s people were exiles in Babylon, He gave them a word of hope through the prophet Jeremiah.

“I will come to you in your darkest hour and keep My good promise to you, to bring you through. For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for shalom—peace and well-being and not disaster—to give you a future and a hope. Call on Me, pray, and I will hear your voice and answer you.”

Our journey entails many twists and turns, narrow places and rough patches. But of this we can be sure, our Father is watching over us, leading, guiding and empowering by His Spirit within us—making sure we make it through. He has a personal, vested interest in our success. It is His good promise to us. And He stakes His honor on keeping His promise.

Affirmation #5 — Father, I embrace the hope and the future You have prepared for me. I acknowledge Your vested interest in my success. I put off every negative thought, debilitating emotion, destructive habit and limiting belief that prevents me from being all that You have created me to be. I put on shalom—peace, health and prosperity—like a new garment and I embrace the joy which comes from knowing You. I am free to be who I am in You.

 

As seeds take time to germinate, grow and mature before the harvest is ready, so too, these affirmations require time and diligent care to bring them to full manifestation. As the farmer sows in faith, trusting the Almighty for the harvest, be conscientious to declare each affirmation and be patient as our Father in heaven transforms your life from within.

 

Shalom!

Image courtesy africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 LESSONS LEARNED IN THE STORM

Written by Les Dahl on November 16th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Sage's Scroll

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The men nestle into the old wooden fishing boat. The quiet and solitude is welcome respite from the pressing, demanding throngs. Exhaustion quickly succumbs to slumber under the soothing ripples of the water and the gentle rustling of the sail in the chill night breeze.

An uneasy stillness settles over the lake as the darkest hour of night approaches. Suddenly, out of nowhere angry billowing clouds smother the stars. Jagged lightning splits the skies followed by ear-splitting thunder. A blustering gale churns scowling waters with violence that threatens to capsize the boat and snatch the lives of all aboard. Desperate attempts to bail water are no match against the wash of waves filling the boat.

Panic grips these grown men as reality comes into sharp focus. There is no hope of riding out this storm. Adrift in the middle of the lake, not even the best swimmer among them could survive these extreme conditions. Some cannot swim at all.

The men search the hellish darkness for the Master. Hysteria turns to utter disbelief. There, in the stern, huddled in a heavy cloak against the elements, he lies—unperturbed by wind, waves or his disciples’ frenzied commotion!

“Asleep! We’re going down and you’re asleep!”

“We’re in the middle of no-where, in a raging storm, fighting for our lives! Does none of this move you?”

“We’re drowning! Don’t you care that we’re dying? Save us!”

The Master arises. His gaze pierces their fear-stricken souls. “Why are you afraid? I’m right here. Where is your faith?”

The Master turns to face wind and waves. “Enough! Back down! No more!”

Immediately, “a great calm” settles on the lake.

Who is this?” the men mutter amongst themselves. “He commands wind and waves? And they obey? Instantly!”

 

Five powerful lessons emerge from this incident.

 

1. Storms are a part of life. Some are incidental, others are cataclysmic. Some signal their approach on the horizon, others strike without warning.

Calm is found not in the absence of the storm but in the midst of the storm.

 

2. Storms batter us until we face our worst enemy—fear—and our greatest weakness—faith. Faith is not the absence of fear, nor is it blind.

Authentic faith chooses to trust the Father, stand firmly on His Word, and follow His instructions in the face of fear and despair.

 

3. Until we learn how to find calm in the storm, the realities of our situation (i.e. the wind and waves) hold us hostage to fear based on self-imposed limiting beliefs.

The greater reality is that the Master is with us in the boat; He is our power-source of authentic faith that will ride out or quell the storm.

 

4. Calm in the storm is by no means passive—it is not a retreat from reality until the storm passes over. Calm, which comes by faith, is carved out of adverse circumstance by aggressive faith in action.

Calm is a stance from which we activate faith in battle against the forces that impede our progress toward determined destination.

 

5. Calm is not defined by unflinching will-power, mind-over-matter, nor power-of-positive-thinking. Sometimes these are simply not enough! 

Calm in the storm rests on the assurance that when our effort and our faith fall short of subduing the wind and waves that batter us, the Master arises to fight for us—he’s got our back!

 

As we stay close to our Master through the storms, a little of His calm and His power rubs off on us. Eventually, we become like Him—calm and commanding.

Question: How do you find calm in the storm?

 

TAKEAWAY: I find the 5-minute relaxing exercise available free at <www.calm.org> an effective tool to create calm. Try it daily and observe the results.

 

Shalom!

Image courtesy http://www.destinywordoftheday.com/

 

5 STEPS TO MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR LIFE

Written by Les Dahl on July 28th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Sage's Scroll

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Before we awake each morning, our day is already set. The day unfolds like a steeplechase course with hazards and barriers. Circumstances test our wit and our grit. People cross our path. Some encourage or assist and propel us forward in the race. Others impede our progress with distraction or obstruction. As the reality of the day hits, we either struggle to stay afloat or make peace with life. The former results in stress and frustration; the later, in shalom—feelings of satisfaction and significance.

Five principles form an empowering framework to meet each hurdle confidently. They help us to keep our focus, undeterred by anything or anyone along our course. The freedom derived from these 5 concepts enable us to run strong and finish well. With these principles firmly embedded in heart and mind, we quickly recover when we stumble. By them, we make peace with life. 

 

1.  Nothing in life happens by chance nor by accident, but by design and with intention.

 

We may not understand the greater purpose or design, but that in no way alters the fact that everything happens for a reason. We are told that just as any artistic masterpiece reflects the genius, character and personality of its creator, so the entire universe reflects the glory of its Creator.

At each phase of the creative process, the Almighty stepped back, as it were, to consider his handiwork. Each time He declared, “This is good!” A master craftsman knows intuitively when his physical creation perfectly expresses the idea his mind conceived. There is nothing random nor haphazard about the universe. Trust the Almighty with the design and intention.

 

2.  God is good—everything He creates is designed for a good outcome.

 

Two attributes describe the Almighty— God is Light…God is Love. Light generates life, love nurtures life. All that the Almighty created and continues to create day by day is designed to generate and nurture life. As we negotiate the barriers and hazards on our course, we come through better, stronger, wiser, happier and more enduring.

What about disasters and calamities? In 1988, we experienced Hurricane Gilbert, one of the worst in Jamaica’s history. The devastation was massive and recovery took months. Two observations emerged.

Farmers and environmentalists noted that the affect of the hurricane was similar to a giant broom sweeping across the island leaving a clean floor on which healthy new growth sprang forth. Second, local and international journalists noted the overwhelming response from relief agencies and governments of various nations to the ensuing desperate need. The same occurred after the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal and the tsunami in Japan. These ‘silver linings’ do not compensate for the horrible loss of life, but they do give hope that human compassion is not yet extinct.

 

3.  Each day is filled with assignments and tasks—some are endurance training and some are preparation, each will be repeated or rewarded.

 

Every incident we encounter is an opportunity to test our mettle and to exercise our skills. The purpose of some situations is to equip us for a later assignment. We must pay close attention and learn the lessons well. Otherwise, we may have to repeat the experience until we get it. Assignments that are completed well are rewarded with greater responsibilities and more demanding assignments from the Almighty.

We must learn to connect with people we meet. Many remain friendly acquaintances, but some connections become important relationships. Their value is not only the benefit they bring to us, but also the blessing that is ours as we bring benefit to them. Some may play a significant part in an assignment down the road.

 

4.  Some assignments are bigger than us—they require skill, knowledge and power beyond what we have.

 

Our tendency is to look at circumstances (and life) in a natural way only. Some situations we encounter in a day, however, are more than we can handle naturally. These remind us that there are times we need supernatural help. The impossible circumstances provide opportunity to cultivate authentic faith for living in the real world. We learn how to invoke the Holy Spirit’s power and experience the assistance of angels. The Almighty does not intend for us to run the race in our own strength.

 

5.  “Why” is this happening is not as important as “what” will I do with what I’m facing.

 

Our ultimate purpose in life is to be the carriers of God’s glory (i.e. the attributes of the Almighty) into every situation we encounter. It is not an impossible task; it is a process.

  • We choose to trust the Almighty with our life and with each new day that dawns. He accepts, and promises to walk us through our day.
  • We invite the Spirit of the Almighty to infuse us with Light and Love. He does, and the supernatural dimension in us is activated.
  • We practice listening for His instructions—sometimes called intuition, gut feeling, listening to our heart. As we practice, our mind and heart become skillful at distinguishing the voice of the Almighty from every other voice. We may make mistakes initially, but we learn quickly.
  • We embrace the partnership—our best effort and Holy Spirit’s supernatural empowering. As the partnership matures, the results will amaze and delight us.

We either struggle to stay afloat or we make peace with our life. Our day is filled with stress and frustration or with shalom. Transformation is activated by our choice.

Shalom!

Image courtesy puttsk / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

HOW DO YOU FILL THE EMPTY SPACES?

Written by Les Dahl on July 20th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Sage's Scroll

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What do YOU do with the empty spaces in your life? The less-than-satisfying relationships, unfulfilled dreams, disappointments, lost hope, despair.

Left empty, these spaces create a quagmire of alienation and depression. Filled with the wrong “stuff”, they become the seedbed of frustration, stress and various forms of self-destruction. 

 

Three actions in life create empty spaces.

 

1. Moving forward…

 

The initial step of our journey of faith and friendship

with God leads into a vast empty space.

 

For Abraham and for Jesus’ disciples, the initial step of their journey of faith and friendship with God created a huge empty space. They left everything—family, houses, and lands—to answer the call to follow.

They had no idea what lay ahead. All they had to go on was an invitation that resonated deep within their spirit and a promise that sparked hope. Yet, it was enough to germinate a seedling of trust in the One they followed.

Their step of faith was a monumental risk which created a vast empty space.

It was almost 4 years before the disciples saw their empty space filled by the One who promised to fill it beyond what they could image. Abraham waited faithfully (but not always patiently—he was, after all, human like us) 25 years before his promised son was born, the beginning of a numberless nation.

 

2. Passing through a wilderness…

 

Everyone who is led INTO the wilderness is led OUT,

their empty space brimming to overflowing!

 

All who are intentional about pursuing their journey of faith and friendship with God are led (by God) into a wilderness. The wilderness is that dry, barren space where nothing seems to go our way and everything is tested to the breaking point.

Immediately after their miraculous deliverance from slavery, where did God take His people?

God told Moses, “These people are not ready to have the empty space created by their freedom filled with the Promised Land. They have not met Me in a personal encounter to know who I really am. They don’t know my Word by personal revelation and so they don’t have the faith required for the intense battle ahead. They have been delivered from physical slavery, but their minds and hearts are not yet emancipated. I must put them through the refiner’s fire.”

He led His people into the wilderness.

In the wilderness, we encounter God in ‘burning bush’ experiences. As they did Moses, these encounters fuel our faith and our confidence in God.

The wilderness strips us of the extraneous religious trappings we so readily cling to and presses us into an authentic faith that is based on personal revelation of His Word. Then, when confronted by the enemy of our soul, the devil, we can answer his accusations and temptations with authority as Jesus did, “It is written…”

The wilderness exposes the residue of Egypt still in us, the traces of our old self and our old life hidden beneath our carefully crafted image. These habits and attitudes form a maze of landmines waiting to detonate. In the wilderness they are uncovered so they can be de-fused.

Although the wilderness is not a pleasant space—in fact, it is often a painful place—it is of great benefit. 

 

3. Took a wrong turn…

 

Wrong choices made with bad judgement

create empty spaces,

but none of them turn aside God’s love toward us.

 

Our personal journey of faith and friendship with God is a winding path with many crossroads and forks in the road.

Like Christian in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, it is easy to take a wrong turn, get waylaid, or fall into the sticky ‘Slough of Despond’.

With brutal honesty, the Gospels record the disciples’ blunders.

The Torah does not hide Abraham’s gross errors of judgement. One, begetting Ishmael by Hagar, is the root of the Middle East crisis that threatens to explode at any time.

Although our wrong choices made with bad judgement result in empty spaces that only God can fill, none of them turn aside God’s love toward us.

His mercy triumphs over judgement—i.e. God is far more concerned about finding a way to redeem and restore us than He is to judge and punish us as we deserve.

Neither Christian’s detours, nor the disciples’ blunders, nor Abraham’s error of judgement kept them from experiencing their empty spaces filled with God’s promise.

Christian reached the Celestial City, the disciples became the apostles who turned the world upside-down with the Gospel, and Abraham became the father of nations.

 

Empty spaces make us stronger, move us forward and

establish shalom as we embrace the process.

 

Shalom!

Image courtesy prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net