Great books I’ve read in the last year.

While I have always enjoyed reading, I haven’t always been a big reader.  Reading was always something I did when I had to.  The first book I can remember reading on my own, without anyone making me, was called “King of the Wind”.  It was a book about a horse named Sham, and his mute stable boy named Agba.  I don’t remember much of the story because I read it in third grade, but I remember really liking it.

I became a serious reader when I became a Christian.  I made it a point to read my Bible every night before I would go to sleep.  I also developed a strong appetite for teaching books by Christian authors like Kenneth E. Hagin & Kenneth Copeland.  I read all I could get my hands on.

After several years, I became exposed to other famous authors and famous non fiction books, such as Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people, and John Maxwell’s 21 irrefutable laws of Leadership.  I try to flip through these every year or two to keep fresh on their content.  With few exceptions, I stick mainly to non-fiction.

This year I put forth serious effort to read more, good quality books.  The one’s I talk about here came highly recommended. I would have to say, while I liked some more than others, they were all good and I would recommend all of them to anyone who’s goal is personal growth.  So, without further ado, here’s my list.

The Art of Work – A proven path to discover what you were meant to do.  By Jeff Goins.  Published by Thomas Nelson.

In The Art of Work,  Jeff breaks the book into three main parts, Preparation, Action & Completion.  He examines our purpose, and our journey toward fulfill our calling.  He examines how we look at vocation, career & calling, ultimately leading to the truth “Meaningful work is available to anyone who dares to find it”.

 

 

Launch – Jeff Walker.  Published by Morgan James.     Jeff Walker outlines his secret formula for marketing online.  Jeff started with humble beginnings as a stay at home dad with an interest in the stock market.  His first online business started with a subscription newsletter about the stock market and grew from there.

Jeff points out that there are a lot of online marketers out there, teaching a lot of stuff, but we need to pay attention to the successful ones.  What’s important isn’t necessarily what they are teaching, it’s what they are doing.  The successful ones are usually using Jeff’s formula. Launch outlines how almost anyone can start an online business.

 

Platform – Get noticed in a noisy world. By Michael Hyatt.  Published by Thomas Nelson.

Michael is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  He points out that while there were some tremendous book ideas submitted for publishing over the years, many were refused because no one had ever heard of the author.  Michael outlines why we need a platform and offers step by step guidance in building your own, including building your home base, expanding your reach and handling social media.

 

 

The One Thing, The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results.  By Gary Keller. (Published by Bard Press).
Gary is the Chairman of the board and co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, the largest real estate company in the world.  The One Thing focuses on success and productivity by addressing three major points.
A. The lies we’ve been told about productivity and work, and how they have misled and derailed our success.
B. The simple truth about real productivity.
C. Getting extraordinary results and unlocking your possibilities.
It’s a great book that even comes with a “Do not disturb, I’m working on my one thing” door hanger bound into the back of the book.

 

Living Forward –  a proven plan to stop drifting and get the life you want.  Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy.  (Published by Baker Books).
This book focuses on our desire for a life of meaning and significance, joy and satisfaction.  Michael & Daniel break down life planning into three main parts.  First, understanding the need, second, understanding the mission, and finally, making it happen.  This book is very interactive, and asks you to take a minimum of one full day to stop, and give real real, intentional thought to your life.

They first ask you to write your own eulogy, with a sharp focus on how you want to be remembered.  The authors encourage you to break your life into categories, and then establish a vision in each.  Living Forward helps you to identify and write down the goals for each category, and establish a plan to accomplish them, while continuing to grow in each.  Both Daniel & Michael are Christians and they acknowledge that our plans will change as we come to know and more fully understand God’s direction for our lives.  They have a built in review schedule for you to tweak, update, or fully revise your life plan.  I highly recommend this book.

 

Essentialism – Greg Mckeown.  (Published by Crown Business).    Greg starts off telling the story of Dieter Rams, a lead designer for Braun.  Deiter designed by a principle which in German is stated – Weniger aber besser. The English translation is “Less, but better”.  I now have this statement on the wall in my office at work.

It was Deiter that we can thank for taking the home stereo from being the Oak, or walnut monolith of the past, that took up a large portion of the living room, to being the sleek, streamlined component based stereo that fit in far less space.  Less, but better.  Essentialism is not about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  Peter Drucker said “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”  There are a lot of people who are very busy but not productive.

Essentialism examines the discipline of finding the essential, and eliminating what is not.  It asks and answers the question:  How can we discern the trivial many, from the vital few.

 

The Traveler’s Gift – Seven decisions that determine personal success.  By Andy Andrews.  (Published by Thomas Nelson).
The Traveler’s Gift is a fictional story of a man named David Ponder.  David is a 46 year old man struggling with his life.  On the way home from being fired from his job, David is in a car accident.  His last words before losing consciousness are “God, Why Me?”

David awakens in another time, and in the course of his journey through time, he meets seven people.  Each person gives David a scroll with a message on it.  These messages are nuggets of wisdom that ultimately change David’s life.

 

Decisive, How to make better choices in life and work. By Chip and Dan Heath.  (Published by Crown Business).
I found this book very insightful.  It helped me recognize areas in my decision making that were not very helpful.  The Heath Brothers examine decision making by highlighting the four villains of decision making.  There is good advice and guidance for the person struggling with choices.

They discuss everything from our tendency to only collect research that supports our already held beliefs or desires, to our tendency to only look at our problems through a remarkably narrow frame of vision.

 

Love Does – Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world.   By Bob Goff.  (Published by Thomas Nelson).
Bob is the founder and CEO of Restore International.  A nonprofit organization fighting injustices against children. He also shares leadership in a law firm in Washington state called Goff & Dewalt, which practices in Washington and California.  He also serves as Honorary Consul to the Republic of Uganda.

This book is full of remarkable and interesting stories from Bob’s own life.  Each chapter declares a topic, Bob gives a short sentence about his personal belief, and then tells a story about it.

This book challenges the Christian to move away from the heavy weight of being religious, and just start loving, serving and helping people.

 

Take the Stairs – Seven steps to achieving true success.  By Rory Vaden.  (Published by Pedigree Publishing).

This book examines productivity, procrastination and self discipline.  Rory outlines seven strategies for helping us to live a more disciplined life.

He points out that many people don’t take the stairs because they are too busy looking for the escalator.  Rory points out that there really is no escalator, and that, once you kill the idea that there is an escalator (an easy way), you’ll realize that the fastest way to get what you want is to actually do the work, and make your goals a reality.

 

There you have it.  These were all worth my time to read, and I find myself using nuggets from each of them in my everyday life.

What books have you read that you would recommend?  Please share in the comments.

Until next time,

Art

A short update from Art.

Hello to you!  I want to take a minute and just have a conversation with you, my beloved reader.  I really value our connection and I don’t take it lightly.  Because of that, I think I need to give you an update as to why my posting schedule has been a little erratic.  It’s basically comes down to me needing to take some time, and focus on getting some stuff done.  

Before Christmas I started on an ambitious woodworking project that I’m right in the middle of now.  

Here’s what I’m modeling after,

www.woodsmithplans.com

 

and here’s where my version is today.

Instead of tools, my version is going to be a cosmetics and make-up brush chest with a mirror in the lid.  🙂

We’ve also decided to replace the windows and siding on our house.  The windows were done last week, and we’re right in the middle of the siding part.  We needed this badly.  This house had been foreclosed on, and we purchased it from a bank.  When we took possession of it, there were no doors on, or in the house.  No light fixtures, vanity, water heater or air conditioning.  They had all been stripped by the previous owner.  All of the windows had been caulked closed and only one of them had a screen.    

After spending several intensive months on it, we’ve got a pretty good house. Except for the siding and windows.  But that’s all about to be fixed!  Yaay!

A couple of weeks ago, my uncle R.G. and his lovely wife, Marie came through and visited with us for a short weekend.  I was really blessed by it.  We broke bread together and stayed up kind of late just remembering funny stuff from the past.  We can’t get together for too long before we start encouraging one another in the Lord. I’m so glad and blessed that we had that time together.  

My uncle and I are pretty tight.  He’s been an active part of my life since I before I started the third grade.  Before that, we lived in different states.

When my parents divorced, I went through some pretty tough times personally.  My uncle took an interest in me and my life.  He loved me.  I say that as a verb.  He taught me, he helped me, he joked with me, he took me fishing, and most of all, he showed me the Love of God.  

He was the first Christian that didn’t make a big deal about my sin and mess ups.  He didn’t judge me. He just stayed steady, and would counsel me when the opportunity arose.  He stepped in when I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to be a man, and spoke to me about things like Honor, Integrity, Humility & Character.  Things that mattered.  

He actually set a good example to me of what these things look like.  The Lord used his example to birth in me a desire to help others this way. Especially young men.  

Anyway, I’ll do better at being more consistent with my posts, but I would like to ask you a favor.  Would you please send me a comment or email and give me three things that you would like me to touch on with this blog.  It would be a tremendous help to me.  I always make the topics a matter of prayer and I’ve been led by the Holy Spirit on much of what I’ve written about in the last three years, but I would like to sharpen my focus on the things that you really need to hear about.  

I sure would appreciate it.  I would like to borrow a comment from my friend, Pastor Bob Keich in closing and just say this – If no one has told you they love you today, let me be the first.  I love you guys.

Art

How To Actually Reach Your Goals!

Why does this matter to people? This breaks accomplishing goals into small incremental steps that help keep them organized and help give them clarity.

There are a great many resources for setting goals available to anyone with internet access. I have included three links at the bottom of this post that I have found very helpful. Each has a lot of useful information about goal setting.

Notes & phone on desk

Peter Drucker in his Management by Objectives philosophy created the mnemonic acronym S.M.A.R.T. for goal setting. It has been so widely used and circulated as a useful goal setting guide that you may already be familiar with it. The acronym is as follows:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Time Related

We could talk about each of these at length but they are thoroughly covered in some of the links to great resources provided below.

One of the best books I read in 2015 is a book called Born To Win by Zig Ziglar. In this book Zig lays out 7 steps for setting goals and I have found them very useful. I don’t know if Zig Ziglar was the first one to write these down but his book is where I found them. I have found them to be very useful and when they are followed closely, they greatly improve the chances that you can reach your goal. Here’s a brief summary.

  1. Identify your goal. It’s important here while you’re identifying your goal to be specific. Your vision and dreams becomes much sharper when you are specific. Let’s say that you want to buy a new car. The car you choose will determine how much money you will need. The brand may be important as we know that some brands have a reputation for being durable while others don’t hold their value very well over time. Also, determining things like color, interior upholstery and number of cup holders may also enhance or limit your enjoyment of the car. It’s important to be specific in order to give yourself clear guidelines for the rest of the process.
  2. List the benefits. This is where you make it personal. How will this make YOUR life better. Continuing with the illustration of the car; If your old car has proven to be pretty unreliable and has left you stranded more than once, you know what it feels like. Imagine the comfort that will come from having a car you can depend on. Also, think of taking those trips in your new car and using the new bluetooth, syncing your favorite playlists on your phone to your new car stereo & not having to keep finding stations or changing cds. Listing the benefits will keep you energized to push through when things get tough.
  3. List the obstacles to be overcome. Some serious thought here can pay off big time. While you can’t always anticipate every obstacle, list each one you can think of. Once you have developed this list, you can then work toward solutions for each obstacle.
  4. List the skills & knowledge required. These are things that depending on your goal, you can either develop on your own or buy the skill by hiring someone.
  5. Identify the people or groups to work with. This can include potential mentors and also trade groups & clubs. In the illustration of the car, this may be choosing a credit union over a bank or investigating which finance company to use.
  6. Develop a plan of action. Very often we are held back because we don’t understand the inner workings of our problems and obstacles. This is the time to come up with an executable plan that will guide you toward your goal.
  7. Set a deadline for achievement. A deadline will help you to stay motivated. It will also help you to break down your action plan into organized steps that you can create a schedule around. This will help you stay organized and on track.

What I appreciate about these goal setting tools is that when thoroughly thought through and followed, they remove so much of the guess work in reaching our goals.

What goals have you set for the coming year? Join the conversation & share your number one goal for 2016 in the comments.

Additional resources:

https://michaelhyatt.com/goal-setting.html

https://www.mindtools.com/page6.html

http://qz.com/160701/the-complete-guide-to-setting-goals/

Three Tools That Have Helped Me In Reaching My Goals.

Many want their lives to change for the better, but they don’t know how to move forward. Their future may look murky and undefined. Because of this, many NEVER take even the first step toward making their goals come true. Templates, workflow & scheduling help to create predictable results, streamline the processes & keep things on track.

If you are like me, you have big dreams. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself in the pursuit of my dreams because I seem to be easily distracted. I absolutely do not like suddenly realizing that I have wasted time on trivial things and without realizing it, have traded what I want most for something that doesn’t really matter to me. That’s why I’ve been talking about goals & reaching for what you really want. The things I’m sharing today are things that since I’ve found out about them, they have helped me to reach further and get more done. Today I want to share with you how templates, workflow & scheduling have really helped me get important stuff done. I want to share them so you can get the same traction in the things you want to get done.

So, are you ready to dig in? Let’s start with templates first.

A template is a pattern or a gauge, used as a guide to make something accurately. Templates are used in woodworking and are often referred to as “Jigs”. They are also used in Foundry work and are called “Patterns”. Foundry patterns are usually made of wood and sand molds are made with them.

When faux painting & texturing walls became popular back in the 1990’s, my wife bought several thin plastic templates. They had various shapes cut out of them. They allowed her to paint specific patterns on the wall. In some cases she would use these to create a complete border around the top of the wall. They worked out very well and they gave her predictable results.

Today, very often I will use a template to begin the construction of a blog post. In the case of the blog post, I think of it kind of like a skeleton. It gives the post the general form or shape. When I write, I first create the outline. I then just “flesh out” the skeleton. This helps me to create a post that is coherent and doesn’t seem like a bunch of rambling thoughts. This works a lot like the anatomy of a speech with a headline or title, a lead paragraph, a transitional sentence & so on.

Workflow on the other hand, is a sequence of actions used to actually create the work. Workflow is the part that you can optimize, document, master and once all that is done, you can delegate.

Every morning I go to the gym. I usually do a cardio workout for about 30 to 35 minutes with a 10 minute cool down. I shower at the gym and go straight to work from there. Because I actually get ready for work at the gym, I have to prepare myself for success in advance. Trust me, finding out too late that you forgot your socks can be a morning spoiler. How do I avoid that?

My workflow starts the minute I get home the day before. The first thing I do is get my workout close from that morning into the laundry. I then pack my lunch for the following day. Next I get my workout clothes & shoes for the following morning ready and set them in the bathroom. Then comes the packing of my gym bag with the clothes & shoes I will wear to work the next day. I take a minute at this point to get dressed in my head. This helps me to keep from forgetting things like a belt, my wallet, (or my socks). I then put my packed gym bag by the front door. By running through this daily workflow, I have made it so that I go from being awakened to going out the front door in 10 minutes and I do not forget anything. I have optimized the process. The rest happens at the gym.  If for some reason, I didn’t have time to do this for myself, I could document this, train someone else to do it and delegate it to them. This is how workflow works.

The schedule for me has been a real difference maker. It has helped me to capture and efficiently use my time. Time may be the most valuable thing we all have. It’s also a non-renewable resource. In order to be effective, we need to bring order to our time by creating a schedule. I use my calendar to make sure important things get done. That includes time to write. Michael Hyatt says it this way. “You’ve got to be able to make appointments with yourself, then keep those commitments.” This is hard sometimes because there are bucket loads of urgent but trivial things also fighting for your attention. Having a well planned schedule will help keep you focused on your goal, and keep you on track.

I wanted to share with you how templates, workflow & scheduling have helped me get important stuff done. I want to share them with you to help you get the same traction in the things you want to get done. Through using templates you can get repeatable results. Through workflow you can streamline process and maybe even delegate them. Through scheduling you can stay organized and continually remind yourself of what’s important.

Even using one of these tips can save a lot of time but imagine if you could get all three going? So here’s my challenge for you in the coming year. Spend some real time putting these to work for you. By using these things in your approach, you really can reach your goals. I can’t wait to see your results.

Share with me one area you plan to tackle in your 2016 goal setting by leaving a comment. I’ll be gutsy & go first. Check the comments for mine & then join the conversation.

Art

Motivation. The off-road tire for the muddy road of life.

In the last post I talked about getting stuck. Getting stuck is no fun. We’ve probably all been there. For some reason, we are unable to move forward creatively. Often we identify this as being stuck in a rut. We are doing the same things again and again and it seems that the song of our life only has one note. When you are stuck and unable for whatever reason to move forward, it often creates pressure. Self-imposed pressure to perform, or outside pressure to meet a deadline. Either way, if not dealt with, pressure can lead to anxiety.

I wrote that, at least for me, there were two main areas where I have been continually challenged. I have to take intentional action in these areas or I will find myself standing still instead of moving forward to pursue my goals. The first one is time. Ever since I decided to do important things with my life and be all of the influence I can be, I have also had difficulty with time management. I wrote last week about steps that I’ve taken to better manage my time.

Female hiker on mountain

Image courtesy of StockSnap.io

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.   –Thomas A. Edison

The second area I mentioned was my struggle to stay motivated. What I was facing with motivation was simple. I was having difficulty mentally disengaging from all of the other demanding things in my life in order to engage in the things I am passionate about. Because of this, when I would have some time to work on blog posts or website content, I would sit down and just stare at the computer. Emotionally I would be like a flat glass of soda. Absolutely no fizz. I am very passionate about what the Lord has put on my heart to do with this blog and website. I can see a little bit of what the Lord intends for it. When I spend time thinking about this, I get pretty stoked. When I’m in that frame of mind, I have no trouble coming up with things I want to do and what to write about. But because of the daily distractions, I would sit down to write and be mentally disengaged and emotionally cold. I couldn’t flip the switch & quickly turn on the passion. The weekend would come and I would spend a lot of time thinking about the things that are important to me. I would then start getting fired up again. Often though, it seemed that I wasted a lot of time stirring myself up that I could have been using to create quality content. More self-imposed pressure.

Motivation is defined as The act or process of providing a reason to do something. I would put my own emphasis on the words DO something. Motivation is what causes motion. It’s the why that causes us to act. Motivation is the off-road tire for the muddy road of life.  When we start to feel high drag and heavy resistance trying to climb out of a rut and move forward, it’s the motivation that gives us the traction to keep moving. People would announce to Zig Ziglar that they didn’t believe in that “motivation stuff” and would complain that motivation didn’t work because it didn’t last. It faded, and over time people would lose their zeal. Zig would respond with the statement that Bathing doesn’t last forever either but we didn’t give up on that. That’s why he recommended both motivation and bathing daily.

So how do we stay motivated? How can we keep the switch turned on? I found that I need to expose myself to the right things – constantly!  I need to be seeing, reading & hearing the right things in order to keep my focus. In the Bible, God told the prophet Habakkuk to “write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that reads it”.  (Habakkuk 2:2).  To stay motivated, I need to keep the vision ever before my eyes.  I find a lot of help in not only who but what I listen to.  I like to listen to people who exhibit the kind of character that helps keep me stirred up.  I don’t listen to just anyone.  There are certain things I am looking for.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
― Lou Holtz

  1. Look for Enthusiasm. One of the things I have noticed about me is that I like being around enthusiastic people. I often find my own level of enthusiasm rising when I’m around others who have high enthusiasm. This is one important thing I’ve learned over the years. Seek out peers & friends that have enthusiasm in what they are doing. I like hanging around & growing with people who are going somewhere to do something. They are focused and goal oriented. They are looking for a place to “Happen”. Galatians 4:18 says that it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.
  2. Look for a Positive Outlook. Henry Ford was quoted as saying “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Recently I heard someone say that we all fail, so what we need to do is to fail fast so that we can get it out of the -way. Then start again and use the lessons of our failure. This is healthy thinking. Philippians 4:8-9 tell us that whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of a good report, virtuous or praise worthy, we are to think on these things.
  3. Look for Determination. Negative people look for the failure and use it as an excuse to quit. Many years ago I was driving east on interstate 74 Champagne, IL. Suddenly all traffic came to a near stop as the Illinois State troopers diverted everyone off of the interstate. It turned out that there was a overturned semi tractor & trailer laying all the way across east bound 74 and it was literally impassable. The state troopers ran us through a detour that put us on State highway 150 for a little while and then we went back onto 74 and away we went. I tell that story because too many times, people will allow difficulty and setbacks tell them that they are on the wrong path. Sometimes these people will cast away their vision and abandon their goals. They say things like “What’s the use?” We shouldn’t let difficulty and failure determine whether or not we accomplish our goals. What if I had hit that traffic detour and threw up my hands, turned the car around and went back home? I wouldn’t have arrived at my intended destination. I wouldn’t have accomplished my goal and I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my mother in law’s cooking. Failure and difficulty may force us to change our path to get there, but they should never keep us from going. Don’t quit!

You may not know too many people who possess these traits but don’t let that hinder you. I get a lot of my insight and encouragement from podcasts. There are some really good podcast out there and they help me stay stirred up. If you have an iphone, you can use itunes to get your podcasts.  There is a free app in the Google Playstore called Stitcher that works similar to Itunes for android phones. This is what I use to get my podcasts. I look for people who are enthusiastic, positive and determined. People with a “can do” attitude who are making things happen. Here are a few podcasts that I listen to regularly. You can also access them on the web by clicking the links.

This is your life – Michael Hyatt

Eventual millionaire – Jaime tardy

The Portfolio Life – Jeff Goins

The EntreLeadership podcast – Ramsey Solutions, hosted by Ken Coleman.

You can go to https://www.stitcher.com/ to learn more about Stitcher.

How do you stay motivated to reach your goals?  I would love to hear from you.  Please share by leaving a comment.

What Key Unlocks Your Future?

Think back in your memory.  I want you to remember a time in your life where everything changed.  Something happened.  It may have been good or it may have been painful but it was the catalyst that pushed you forward toward a decision that fundamentally changed you.  I can think of several.  I call these defining moments.  Moments that altered the way I think and see myself.  These defining moments still shape the decisions that I make.  They are moments when I discovered important things about myself and they are also times when I made concrete decisions about how I would think, say & do from now on.  Defining moments shape us.

 

Often, at least for me, my defining moments put me on a path to a whole different set of choices and decisions, some of which were in themselves defining.  For example, October 1985 I committed my life to Christ.  I made Him my Lord and it immediately began to effect my choices and actions.  It later played a huge role in who I chose to date and later marry.  I would have never went to Bible school had I not made that decision back in 1985.

What defining moments have you had that have shaped you?  I encourage you to join the conversation & leave a comment.

Where Have I Been?

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Web panel - abraham lincoln mother quote

artmills.org

Dear Mom,

I will never know what you’ve been through.  Your life goes back quite a bit further than mine.  I do know that the part I was there to see was not always easy.  I remember good times, but I also remember the times that we struggled.  I just want you to know that you are my hero.  You stayed when no one else did. You were always there even though many of the tears you cried were because of me and my rebellion.  I want you to know that I am sorry for all of the times I didn’t honor you.  All of the times I brought shame instead.  My heart, hope and prayer is that from now on, in all I think, say and do, you will be honored.  I love you!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Art

Me & Mom

Mom & Me

 

 

Here’s One Big Reason Why I’ve Made It This Far.

Joe: “Bill, why did they bury your mother in law so deep? 10 feet is a little much don’t you think?”

Bill: “Well, deep down she’s a pretty good lady”.

A lot of people do not like their mother in law. While searching the Internet for information and statistics about this subject, it became pretty clear that many people struggle with the In-Law relationship. The mother in law has become the brunt of a lot of jokes. By far, the majority of the information indicates that the daughter in law / mother in law relationship is the more contentious relationship in comparison to the son in law / mother in law relationship.

My Mother in Law is Awesome and a Half!

My mother in law’s name is Mary. I just want to say right away that I love Mary very much. She’s awesome and a half!

Mary has been a constant source of support and encouragement for as long as I’ve known her. When you meet her, it becomes evident early on that she puts high value on people and relationships. She has a big heart that’s full of compassion for people in need.

I’ve seen her bring people into her home and make them feel like they were part of the family again and again. She’s quick to invite people to dinner who are new in town and don’t know anyone, inviting some to spend the holidays with our family and even buying them gifts so that they will have something to open when we all open gifts.

Mary has a heart for God. Her heart’s desire is to please Him and be used by Him. She is committed to personal study and prayer. She’s always ready with an encouraging word and publishes her own inspirational blog. I encourage you to check it out. Just click this ridiculously huge blue button.

Huge blue button

https://maryruwe.wordpress.com

 

On more than one occasion Mary has put an arm around me and just said “We’re glad you’re a part of our family”. She has helped me build my faith through some of our long phone conversations, and she’s helped me build my library over the years with many faith building books and tapes. She has also been an enthusiastic supporter as I have stepped out to fulfill my calling.

The book of Ruth in the Old Testament is a small book. It’s only four chapters long and it tells us about a woman named Naomi and her daughter in law Ruth. Naomi’s family moved to the land of Moab for better opportunity. While there the two sons married two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. As time went by, Naomi’s husband died and then a while later both sons also died. Naomi determined to go back to her home town and told the daughters in law to return to their father’s house because there was no benefit for them to stay. While Orpah was sad, she kissed her mother in law and then returned to her father’s house. Ruth however, would not leave Naomi’s side. Because of that relationship, they both were ultimately blessed and Ruth turned out to be King David’s great grandmother. None of that would have happened without that powerful relationship between Ruth and her mother in law.

This relationship does not have to be a rocky one. It can instead be a relationship that God can use to make a difference in the lives of all it touches.

Mary, you have been a source of strength, support and encouragement to all of us. I am glad to be a part of your family.

Mary celebrated a birthday last week and I intended to publish this post then. Stuff got in the way. Don’t forget to check out Mary’s inspirational blog for yourself.  Just Click Here – https://maryruwe.wordpress.com/

Hard Knocks University. What’s Your Major?

“The school of hard knocks”.  We’ve all heard that phrase.  I’ve been hearing it most of my life.  I might have even said it.  Usually when we hear it, someone is referring to the lessons that they have learned by suffering through negative situations in their life.  It often occurs when you ignor sound advice and life gives you a good spanking.  I think I can safely say that we’ve all experienced THAT!

“The school of hard knocks” is a phrase coined by Elbert Hubbard.  According to a verified statement on Wikipedia, He used the phrase 1st in an article he wrote about himself in 1902.

“So that is how I got my education, such as it is. I am a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks, and I’ve taken several postgraduate courses.”  Elbert Hubbard.

I can not count the times in my own life, especially as a teen, you know, back when I knew everything, that I broke the rules, ignored sound advice, maybe even a law or two and ended up suffering for it.  Maybe even bleeding a little in the process.  I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but there was a time in my life that, even though I knew things were wrong, I wanted to test the water for myself.  I wanted to see how far I could take it.  This may happen with teenage boys more than anyone.  As a dad, this is where I get a lot of my sage advice.  I have real life experience as to why some things are stupid and shouldn’t be messed with.  Unfortunately, we as parents don’t want to tell our kids WHY we know what we know.  That would put the “But you did it!?!” argument in play.

Sunflower Mom told you quote

Anyone who has been on planet Earth for any length of time at all has had life take a swing at them. Suffering doesn’t always mean you made a bad decision. Often we will be the victims of the fallout of someone else’s bad judgment.  Difficulties come though, and we will all have to contend with tragedy, suffering, crazy people and the results of our own bad ideas.   The important thing is that there will be a lesson in each one of them.  The wise will learn the lesson and be better for it. When the same thing starts to happen in the future, the wise will see it coming and be able to navigate appropriately.  The fool on the other hand will not see it coming because they didn’t learn the lesson. They will get kicked again and wonder why their life is so hard.

The entire 4th chapter of the book of Proverbs is about inclining your ear to wisdom.  I encourage you to read it in many different translations.  It will help you.  The part that stands out the most to me begins is verse 20.

Pro 4:20 My son, give attention to my words; let your ear be turned to my sayings. 21 Let them not go from your eyes; keep them deep in your heart. 22 For they are life to him who gets them, and strength to all his flesh. 23 And keep watch over your heart with all care; so you will have life. 24 Put away from you an evil tongue, and let false lips be far from you.  25 Keep your eyes on what is in front of you, looking straight before you.  26 Keep a watch on your behaviour; let all your ways be rightly ordered.  27 Let there be no turning to the right or to the left, keep your feet from evil. (BBE version)

Recently I read a comment that nailed it concerning this.  It was essentially this: A wise man learns from his mistakes.  The wisest of men learn from the mistakes of others.  When it comes to the school of hard knocks:

  • Learn from your mistakes.  In each situation there’s a lesson.  The wise will search it out and learn it.
  • Apply it.  I’ve heard wisdom defined as the “Skillful application of knowledge”.  I like that.  Wisdom is knowledge applied.  You can’t be wise in an area where you have no understanding. Once you’ve got the lesson though, use it!
  • Learn from the mistakes of others.  This is excellent advice.  When you apply your heart to find wisdom, you can see the lessons all around you.  There’s no rule that says YOU have to be the one to take the beating.  You can let fools do that and you can learn from their mistake.
  • Help others when they ask for it.  Notice I didn’t say when they need it.  The truth is that even if someone needs your advice, if they don’t want it, they will not receive it.  You have to make certain that YOU have the position in their life to speak to them about certain things.  There are people in my life that probably see things in me that they may have deeper understanding about, but they are not close enough to me and don’t have the position to speak to me about them.  The wise understand this and don’t force things.  Sometimes all you can do is stand at the ready and pray for people.  Maybe God will open an opportunity for you to advise them.  If not, then just keep your pearls to yourself.  Do you realize that even God is limited by what we will receive?  He can not help us based on what we need.  He has the power and the desire to fix our stuff but He’s completely limited by our own faith.  He can only help us as we have the faith to receive His help.  He will not force anything on us.  In like manner, you shouldn’t force your stuff on others.
To make no mistake is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future. Plutarch

Sadly, the only real diploma from the University of Hard Knocks is a death certificate.  If your faith is in Jesus Christ, then that will be a time of great joy.  If it’s not, CLICK HERE.  The little you’ve been faithful over will then be turned into much.  Just remember, in the school of hard knock you can learn without taking the beatings for yourself.  Apply your heart to wisdom and your life will be better and your suffering will be less.

What’s one lesson you learned from the school of Hard Knocks?  The floor is yours.  Please leave a comment and share your wisdom.  If this is helpful to you, feel free to share.