Friday, October 29, 2010

Me, me, me, forget you, me

Welcome back to A Good Bible Study: StressLess! Let's pray and continue on de-stressing our lives:

Oh Heavenly Father, I want to start every day showing my gratitude for Your blessings. I know from Your Word that You love to bless us, and love to hear our thankful prayers. Open the storehouses of heaven for each person seeking You today Father, and give us ever more grateful hearts!

As we open Your Word today, let us be glad at what we find. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Today we will continue filling up our spirits and reducing stress. I love knowing much of what I see as stressful is actually under my own control. If that is the case, and it is, then I can do something about it!

Think about it - if everything is outside of our influence, what helpless, hopeless lives we would lead. And that's just not the case.

If you want to change your perspective on the situation you are in, try thinking about its effect on you - less. Get your mind off yourself for a while. We spend far too much time thinking about me, me, me and not enough about what someone else is going through.

Read Matthew 22:36-40

Love others as yourself. Spend some time giving others what you give yourself - time, energy, thoughts and prayers.

You've heard the saying that there is always someone worse off than you? How about the fact that you feel bad about your own problems until you listen to someone else's? Give it a try. Call two or three people today and ask them how they are doing. Just listen and before long you will discover that everyone is going through something.

Sometimes our problems really are catastrophic, but most of the time there is nothing going on that is going to prevent the sun from coming up tomorrow, if you know what I mean.

I say every day I don't bury a child is a good day, because that's the worst thing I've been through. I could just as easily say every day that we don't lose our house and business due to a major shift in the economy is a good day, too. Guess what, no matter what I've experienced in life, the sun keeps coming up and a new day of possibilities arrives, even when I've felt it a major insult for having done so.

Even during that time of wondering and waiting to see if our child would live or die, I couldn't sit around and weep all day. I didn't want to stay wrapped in that pain and sorrow every moment. I couldn't do anything more than pray, or anything more powerful than pray, so I chose to keep living each day during the uncertainty.

I found focusing on my other children's needs to be a real blessing. I appreciated even more their health and presence because of the loss of their brother. And I realized that as terrible as my situation was, there were mothers out there that lost all of their children at once, in a tragic car accident, in a fire, or in a war.

Read Matthew 20:26-27

In a way, this verse is saying "get over yourself." The best way to be great (and I add to feel great) is to focus off of your own situation for a while and go bless someone else. Especially if you can't do one thing about your situation - then stop thinking about it for a while! Find someone that you can help and you will discover by helping them, you helped yourself.

You know, our lives really do feel less awful when we consider our problems in comparison to those of others. Just turn on the international news sometime and get a real eye-opener to the way much of the world lives. You know what I've found? No matter how bad it is, once I'm past the worst of it, things can only get better from then on.

Look, I'm not suggesting you think less of yourself, just think of yourself - less.

Some of the most sinful and destructive behaviors in our human condition stem from thinking too much about how we are not getting what we want, when we want it. It's a sign of our times: the "Me Generation."

Listen to our music, look at what's celebrated on t.v. The most popular shows are on reality t.v. which often just highlights people being as sinful and attention-seeking as possible, so the rest of us will watch.

Read 2 Timothy 3:1-7

What will people be like in the last days? List all the things we will love instead of God:


Sound like anyone you know? Sound like  . . . you?

Lovers of themselves, money and pleasure. Focusing on what we want and how to get it. Having just a form of Godliness, but denying the real power of God in our lives. Always learning and never able to to come to the knowledge of Truth.

The Word tells us to turn away from people like this. Turn away then from ourselves because I don't know anyone, including myself, who doesn't think far too much about themselves, money, and their own pleasure.

Let's pray:

Lord, I am sorry for thinking so much about myself and not enough about the needs of hurting people. I've got pain, and I know you care about what I'm going through. I'm going to start trusting Your good plan for my life and spend more time being a part of Your solution for someone else's problem. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, including getting my mind off of myself. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by John Keith, courtesy of

Thursday, October 28, 2010

True Friendship

Hello! It's great to weclome another day and to see you again in A Good Bible Study: StressLess! Let's talk about true friendship and what that means to our stress level.

As always, we will begin with prayer:

Father, I want to focus on being grateful for what is good right now, and for the good plans You have for each of us. Thank you for the fact that I can study Your Word online with friends I may never meet in person but can share a love for You and a desire to grow in You. Thank you for each friend reading these words with me! Bless them today, Lord. And thank you for everything good You are planning for each of us today. Help us to see every good thing in our lives, today and always. Let our prayer today be "Give me joy - Lord, I want it and I want You!" In the name of Jesus, amen.

Gratitude - it's the quickest way out of anger and pain and into peace.

Read Psalm 136

You know, I really hope you will take the time to look up each bible verse yourself. It's a privilege to have access to bibles in this country and there may come a day when it's not possible to openly read God's Word. Knowing for yourself what God says is powerful. Reading scripture activates that power in yourself. So, give that to yourself and never just take someone's word for what the bible says: look it up yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment to recognize Truth from falsehood.

O.K., well done. Let's move on.

We've talked about the power of gratitude. Another way to quickly change your mood is to quit dwelling on what makes you so frustrated and instead talk it out. "If you share your pain, you cut it in half. If you don't, you double it." By the way, if you know the source of that quote, please let me know.

Now, I'm not saying go tell everyone you know what so and so did to you. I mean get ahold of a trusted friend and share what's making you so upset - with the goal of feeling better afterwards, not justified to keep on being angry.

We women are usually better at this because we like to share what's going on in our lives. That's one reason we tend to live longer than men.

I have to work at this because usually I won't talk to anyone else about what's going on until it's so bad I am ready to explode or throw in the towel. I do talk to God about it, but sometimes it helps to share your situation face to face with a trusted friend. That is key, because if you are thoughtful about who you share with, you are going to be more likely to seek counsel when it's a small dilemma and not a huge issue.

Now, I caution you not to just dump all over someone and leave them feeling blind-sided. Talk to someone with intention, not just to vent for the sake of releasing energy.

Read Proverbs 29:11

Think about who has your best interests at heart and ask if you can confide in them about your situation. Don't share your pain with someone who only listens for their own enjoyment, or who can't wait to tell you what they would do and what you should do.

And please keep it out of work, because either the person is going right into the next cubicle to spread a version of your truth around, or they are going to take your personal life into account the next time a professional decision needs to be made.

Talk to someone who is vested in your success, in helping your marriage, in supporting you as a parent and in your growth as a human being, not someone who is going to encourage you to make some rash, selfish decision. We can have a lot of friends, but they are not always going to give us wise counsel.

Read Proverbs 27:6.

It means a true friend can lovingly tell you the truth, even if it means telling you what you are doing is a mistake.

It's tempting for friends to just put a stamp of approval on whatever emotional decision we want to make. We want to confide in people who will listen, and then when we have been truly heard, help us get back to forgiveness and move forward.

Finally, talk to someone who gets you.

Read Amos 3:3.

Sometimes people just don't understand where you are coming from, or how your experience has shaped you. It's hard for everyone to relate to everyone else, at all times. So, confide in someone who won't get tripped up by their own response to what you have to say, but will still guide you to forgiveness and gratitude.

For example, my husband is one of the best people to talk to when I have a problem, unless he's the problem! It's funny, but true. We're like any other married couple, always learning to communicate.

I've learned though, to not expect him to remember anything I have to say if I am just sharing my day, going through my process of listing what I did, and what I wore, and what I think I'll make for dinner, you know the drill ladies.

I used to get frustrated with him saying back to me, "You never told me that," when I can tell you what time of day it was and what his facial expression was at the time, and how many times the dog barked while I said it. I recently had a little experience in his shoes that changed everything for me.

You see, I was driving with my husband when he mentioned the car seemed to be pulling to the right. It reminded me that our neighbor said the same thing when he towed the car out of the snow for me a few days before, then drove it to the garage. When I told my husband about it, he asked "Why did he think it was pulling?"

I said, "I don't know. All I heard was pulls to the right, blah, blah, blah, guy stuff about cars." My husband smiled and I had an epiphany right then and there. I said, "Hey, is that why after I tell you about my day and later you swear I didn't say a thing about something, it's because all you heard was "cooking, kids, dinner, blah, blah, blah my ears are bleeding, blah?" He looked at the road ahead and said, "Yup." Ahh, the moments of deep understanding between a man and a woman . . .

Now I let him know when I am just "getting out my words" and when I really need him to pay attention. The point is, not everyone is the best person to talk to about all things. So choose wisely.

Let's pray:

Lord, thank you for giving us friends. Please help us to be good judges of who, and when, to talk to about our problems. Help us come to You at all times, and in all circumstances, and to believe that You are working on it. In the name of Jesus, amen

Love, Karen

Photo by Aliaksandr Zabudzkohoto

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Come on, get happy!

Hello, don't you love that old Partridge Family song? You can't help sing along, "Come on, get happpppyyyyy!" Good stuff makes you smile and makes you happy, you can't help it.

Yesterday in A Good Bible Study: StressLess we talked about the real need to keep choosing good input, especially if we have more than two negative people in our daily lives.

God says to cast all our cares on Him, and I would say that also means casting those hurtful, mean, and critical influences at His feet as well. We can't change anyone, but God can change everyone.

Let Him start with you and me:

Lord, I'm choosing to give you everyone that doesn't understand how to love me. I want to make room in my heart right now, for Your Love. I can't change them, so I want You to change me instead. Make my heart glad, make me see their pain and pray for them, remembering their issues are about them and not about me. Give me joy and gladness in the midst of the storm, because I know if I can learn to be happy when everything seems to be going wrong, there is no limit to my ability to enjoy the good stuff. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Today we are moving into recuperating our spirits. We've got to fill all three tanks: body, mind and spirit. If you leave out one, you will still feel out of balance.

The easiest and quickest way to fill your spirit is to develop a sense of gratitude. Gratitude is the most powerful form of positive thinking. There was an article in Real Simple Magazine that suggested four benefits of expressing gratitude for what you have, instead of focusing on what you don't like in your life. They were
  • giving you a sense of control - take credit for what's going well and you will feel more competent and able to create a better life
  • improving your health - people who keep track of what they are happy about, such as in a journal, exercise more and sleep more than people who don't write down blessings
  • coping better with trauma - reminding yourself of what you are grateful for makes painful memories less intense when they surface, and actually surface less often
  • increasing feelings of self-worth and self-esteem - choosing to concentrate on grateful thoughts leads to feeling better about who you are and what you deserve in life
The most difficult time to feel thankful is when we are angry. Sometimes our minds get so stuck in our emotions, like a gear jammed in the transmission. No matter how hard we try to shove it in gear, it's not moving until you clear the obstruction.

We think other people and situations are the obstruction and until they change, we can't get over our anger. I'm telling you that is wrong and the when you understand this, you will be free from ever feeling angry for one second longer than you choose to.

Try it now. What have you got to lose except your grumpy attitude. Get out some paper and write down everything about your life that you can be grateful about. Start with the the basics: are you alive? Are you breathing and capable of making today better in some way than yesterday? Are your children, or siblings, or friends healthy?

Keep going, you've got it. Don't discount how powerfully this will de-stress your life just because it's simple. That's the beauty of it. Here's something to help you get your head around it: It is impossible to feel two emotions at once.

Choose thoughts that result in anger, or choose thoughts that result in gratitude. Say it out loud and your chemical response cannot help but follow. Thought creates emotion every time. It's not easy at first, but it is simple, and it does work.

Read Colossians 3:12-17 and Read Psalm 118:24
Lord, so much of what You instruct us is so simple it seems too easy to work. Help us to just take one step today to appreciate the good in our lives. Help us appreciate You. Bring to mind our list of gratitude when we are angry or hurt and help us choose to say out loud to You, "Thank you for this Lord." Amaze us with how quickly we can go from mad to glad, if we choose to do one small thing to experience gratitude. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Graur Raz Vanionut, courtesy of

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to not let your past overgrow your future

Hello again! Let's continue on from where we left off yesterday in A Good Bible Study: StressLess.

Heavenly Father, thank you for leading us to spend this time together sharing Your Word and seeking Your Wisdom. Help us to be wise in making friends and in being a friend. We know You want the best for us and from us, so we ask You to give us everything we need today to feel relaxed and willing to live life in the way You planned for each of us: stress-less when at all possible. In the name of Jesus, amen.

We talked yesterday about letting go of people and activities that drag us down. We've all got some "friends" that just drain our energy and enthusiasm for life. Often it's our own family members that are so mired in their own past, they can't allow us a future. It's alright to let go.

Read Titus 3:9-10
We don't have to be mean about it. We don't have to shun all family affairs and stick our noses in the air.

I always tell my kids if you think what you are doing is the right thing, the honorable thing, then you don't have to do it in the dark, or hide it, or avoid talking about it. It's alright to just say it with love.

Read Matthew 7:1-5 We are not going to focus on what others are doing wrong, so much as what you want to do right and good in your own life. We can let others know what we need and they can either contribute, or they can't or won't, and that is alright because that's all they have to give and we've got to press on. It's not about an ultimatum. It's about choosing good input and letting go of negative influences.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:14

That's what you are doing when you open a dialog and let people know you are ready for a change in your relationship. You are giving them the opportunity to grow with you, or find someone they feel more comfortable hanging around. Now, give them a shot, it might take a while for them to stop squirming and accept this is for real. Some will do just that. Some won't. Move on.

There are just some folks who aren't ready to rise up. They would just rather wallow in misery and if you free them up they can find like minded people and leave you alone. You might not have to say anything at all because negative people don't stay around people who smile and change the subject when gossiping and complaining are all that's served. You're just not much fun to them anymore and they might even let you know it.

You've got to decide if you are living to please your critics, or to please your Lord.

Read John 10:10, Romans 12:2 and Colossians 3:23-25

Do you know what a critic is? I don't know who said this (and if you do let me know) but I love this quote: "A critic is a person who goes into the battlefield after the fight is over and shoots the survivors."

These people want to pull you back every time you try to raise yourself up out of your mess. They can't wait to remind you of who you've been and what you've done and all the mistakes you've made.

These are the people who want to tell you you're not ready for something good, that your gifts are of no value, that your purpose is not valid, and your choices in life: career, marriage, or even the color of your hair are wrong.

Now, I can't do one thing about those people except pray for them. I can't get them out of the family. I can't make them quit the job I have to work at with them. I can't get them to stop teaching at my school, or dating my friends, or driving the bus I take every day.

I can only limit my exposure to them and take every chance I have to fill my self up with good stuff so they just don't have a hold on my emotions so much anymore.

As part of The Compassionate Friends, a support group for families who have lost a child, I met a lady who shared with me something her son wrote before he died. I want to share it with you because I thought it was incredibly insightful, especially coming from a young man who passed away about a year after he wrote it. His name was Jeffrey Sanderson and he said, "Don't let your past overgrow you future."

Mark Twain said it like this, "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always try to do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great!"

So keep your mind off your obstacles and away from people who can't see your vision, and focus on your reward.

Henry Ford said, "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal."

We've talked about recuperating our bodies, and now, our minds. Tomorrow we will talk about recuperating your spirit. I'll meet you here, in A Good Bible Study.

Dear Father, once again you show us in Your Word that the plans You have for us are good, to help us, and to lead us into a peaceful life. Help us be wise in choosing new friends, as we gently release those who aren't ready for the blessing You have for us now. In Jesus' name, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Dan, courtesy of

Monday, October 25, 2010

Energize me, Scotty

Welcome, it's great to see you in A Good Bible Study: StressLess! We are going to start getting energized this week so let's pray and get started.

Lord, Heavenly Father, the Maker of Heaven and Earth - how meager and small our lives were before we found you! Thank you for offering us peace instead of anger, joy instead of sorrow, and comfort in the midst of grief. Help us to remain open to You even when we are angry and don't understand other people's reactions to us. Help us to be full of You, instead of our own emotions, Lord. Thank you for opportunities to get into Your Word, so we aren't blown about by every mood and every attitude. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Does our prayer give you an idea what we will be discovering in the Word today?

Yesterday we talked about our need to rest, and recuperate, our bodies through sleep and relaxation. I don't know about you, but I know I am not at my best when I am not rested. I don't cope as well with frustration. I don't respond as quickly or easily to situations, or even complete tasks with all the skill and ease that I normally would.

In short, I'm not myself, and can't give my best when I'm overtired. So, obviously rest on a regular basis is one of those "musts" in order to live a less stressful life.

Rest is one way we fill our resources. We've also got to deal with people and situations that empty our resources.

Number one for most of us: energy-draining people. You know who they are - stay away from them. Weed them out of your life, if at all possible.

There are some people that you have to walk on eggshells around. Others just complain your ear off! Some don't have a good thing to say about anyone (and if you think you are the only one they don't talk about, think again.) And others just take pleasure in being mean at your expense (I'm just kidding, can't you take a joke?) - know what I mean?

Mark Victor Hansen (co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series) says, "Your income, the results you create, are dictated by the five people you spend the most time with."

Who are your five?

We can handle about two negative people in our life. If you've got more than that and you just can't limit your time with them, it's more important for you than ever to fill yourself up every day (even all day) with positive people, reading positive material, listening to positive speakers and up-lifting music, and watching funny or inspiring television programming.

Zig Ziglar, one of the most influential speakers of all time, says, "People say motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing, that's why we recommend it daily."

I say that people who don't want to go anywhere, and don't want to do anything, don't want you to go anywhere or do anything with your life, either! It makes them look bad and misery really does love company.

What does God say?

Read Proverbs 12:26
Read Proverbs 13:20
Read Proverbs 14:6-8
Read Proverbs 17:20
Read Proverbs 22:24-25
and finally,
Read 1 Corinthians 15:33

I've found that the best thing I can do for my kids, is to put them in the company of other kids who are being raised with good values, and who are expected to live them out. A group of negative kids are not going to rise up to the one kid trying to do things right. The majority of their influence is going to drag my kids down, not the other way around. As a parent I know this from experience.

I know I can't be the one positive force in a whole bunch of negative, gossiping, lazy, don't want to help themselves or anyone else-friends. It's just going to drag me down to their comfort level.

In the same way, I can't be watching Cheaters, then CSI, followed by the news every night and expect to feel positive and hopeful about my day. Now I am not saying you shouldn't watch your favorite show. But, let's be real.

Let's get intentional about what we are filling up our minds with. What we think about affects the way we feel, it's simply biochemical science. Our thoughts influence our chemical and hormonal response which then affects our moods.

Just try this: Ask yourself who you spend the most time with? Which shows you watch the most? Which music you listen to most of the time? Which activities do you do and are they improving your mood and health, or making it worse?

Now, how's your mood most of the time? How likely are you to try a new activity or be excited about a new project? Are you taking action on the things that you say are important to you? Are you feeling stress-free and positive most of the time?

This is just for you - I don't know your answers and neither does anyone else. This is all about you taking stock of your own life, and your own choices, and seeing if there is any room for change. We either want things to change or we want them to stay the same.

But, we can't keep doing the same things, hanging around the same people, listening to the same negative music and depressing shows, and thinking things are going to be any different.

Make one change this week. Just one. Tell me if you don't feel just a little bit better, now - go on, you can do it!

Lord, we need some help because even thinking about change is scary for a lot of us. Thinking about change is far worse than actually changing. Help us to just be honest. Help us to see any areas we can feel more stress-less, simply by getting out some negative, and putting in more positive. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen

Friday, October 22, 2010

The second key to stressing less

Hello again - I'm so glad you are back in A Good Bible Study! Let's pray and get right into the second key of stressing-less: recuperate.

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us keys in Your Word to living the life You desire for us. Thank You for going first, then pointing the way. Help us to heed Your Wisdom in all things. Help us to enjoy this life, to see the blessings no matter the pain, and to both value hard work, and restorative play. Balance, Lord, is what you offer and what we need. We accept in the name of Jesus, amen.

Key one: Authenticate: be real, genuine, true to your self and to God.
Key two: Recuperate: learn to rest (and rejuvenate) your body, your mind, and your spirit.

I used to think resting, playing, relaxing, taking time off to restore myself was just plain lazy. I grew up in a household in which play was punished and work was valued. I don't think my parents intentionally modeled and enforced these ideas. I think they were not intentionally doing anything except trying to avoid and decrease their own pain. Be that as it may, I've had to learn to value rest as much as I value work, but it took nearly burning out my body, my mind, and my spirit to make the change.

The first key, authenticity enables us to live awake, to choose behavior instead of merely reacting and responding, to celebrate who we are, and who the people we love are. Authenticity is freedom!

The second key is just as important.

Read Genesis 2:1-3

God always goes first. What did He do in those first 6 days? He created, He worked at His intended Purpose, He enjoyed His efforts, He did the right thing, and He did it all right.

What did He do on the 7th day, the last day of Creation? He __________.

That's right. He rested, he looked at everything He made and saw it was good, so He took a day to simply enjoy it.

Was he tired? Of course not. God speaks and what He intends is accomplished. He showed us what is the right and good order of things: Work hard, create, bring forth your ideas into reality and do this for no more than 6 days in a row - then stop creating and enjoy what you have done for an entire day.

Rest your body, rest your mind, and restore your spirit. It's not rocket science.

Speaking of science, I just love how eventually science "discovers" the Bible really is correct in its description of how things work in this universe. For example, we'd all love to drink caffeine all day long and stay up all night and do, do, do. But our bodies are not designed to operate without rest.

Dr. Andrew Hegman says that a deficit of just two hours of sleep in one night is actually sleep deprivation. He says athletes can handle no  more than a 2 hour sleep deficit before their performance suffers. Optimally, we each need a minimum of 6 hours of sleep each night, and preferably 8-9 hours.

When you are sleep deprived (and in our society, who isn't?) your stress level increases dramatically. You can't think, you can't remember things, you can't concentrate. You want the fancy terms? Sleep deprivation, even just a couple of hours a night, results in decreased cognition, short term memory lapses, poor task performance, and lack of concentration.

Staying up all night for even one night, and definitely by the third, alters your personality, and culminates in psychotic and bizarre behavior. Now, you are starting to understand a few people in your life, right?

The simple fact is that just like our cars will eventually break down without regular maintenance, our bodies need rest and recuperation to not only be at our best, our most creative and productive, but also to merely maintain sanity!

Exerst at the National Sleep Foundation say:

"short sleep duration is linked with:
•Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
•Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
•Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
•Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
•Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information

And, "according to researchers Michael H. Bonnet and Donna L. Arand, 'There is strong evidence that sufficient shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness and can result in injury or death. In this light, the most common-sense 'do no injury' medical advice would be to avoid sleep deprivation."

I realized a few years ago that I couldn't keep on working 7 days a week and never planning in recuperation. My body couldn't take it anymore. My mind was suffering from depression and anxiety. My spirit was crying out for some peace. Can anyone relate to what I am saying??

Are you in dire need of some rest? Does your spirit crave a day just to look at the blessings of your hard work and enjoy them?

When is the last time you let the housework, or yardwork, just be messy and undone for one day while you laid around by the lake, or the pool, or the river with your family? When is the last time you spent a Saturday taking your family out to lunch, and then to a matinee? Would everyone in your life reject you if you took a day simply to enjoy everything, and everyone, you are working so hard for?

For me, it became about self-preservation. I was becoming overwhelmed with stress. It was affecting my mental health. It was creating disease in my body as I moved into pre-diabetes. It was destroying my spirit because I had no peace, no control over my life, no joy of laughter and play.

God didn't tell us to say yes to all the people who have no problem putting one more thing on our plates to make their own lives easier. He said do the right thing, and do things right, and do it in the right time, then stop. He said create for 6 days, and then recuperate on the 7th and enjoy what you have made.

Enjoy the home you have made. Enjoy the spouse, enjoy the children, or enjoy the friends, enjoy the family, enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Your body needs rest in order to repair injury, in order to put you into dreaming so it can process information and re-boot systems, in order to keep your personality and sanity intact. It also needs rest to keep your metabolism in proper working order otherwise, we gain weight or have difficulty losing it.

Your mind needs rest in order to de-stress and process the fight-flight-fright chemicals and hormones that have been surging through your body and brain all week. You want to be really productive and creative? You want to have a surge of inspiration? You want to see answers where you only saw problems a few minutes ago? Rest your mind and let it play.

I get all my best ideas when I switch my mind to something else, something restorative. In fact, I carry around a micro-recorder so when I get a great idea during my Sabbath, my Saturday day off, I can keep track of it and not be tempted to go back to work during my free time. I wouldn't give up that 7th rest day for anything now, and now that my family sees how much it improves my mood and sense of humor, they wouldn't ask me to give it up either.

Oh by the way, your friends and family just might resent, ridicule, and actively try to undermine your determination to take a day off and rest. They'll get over it, but you won't if you keep on pushing yourself 7 days a week. We were created in His image, remember. He took the seventh day off. Maybe being God and all, He knows a thing or two.

Read Matthew 11:28-30 and fill in the following blanks

"Come to me all you who ________ and are heavy laden, and I will give you _______. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am _______ and lowly in heart, and you will find ______ for your souls. For my yoke is ______ and my burden is ________. "

When I first began this study, you might remember I posted every day. I wanted to honor God with my faithful study and sharing of His Word. I realized it was becoming difficult to plan family time away from home, rest time, because I thought I needed to have at that computer every day and write.

But, God reminded me He values mercy over sacrifice (Hosea 6:6 and reinforced by Jesus in Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7 - look it up.)

He reminded me that disobeying His command to rest one day a week in order to honor Him, even to write a bible study, didn't make sense. Even though this isn't work, I don't get paid do it, I'm not obligated by someone to do it, and this really is something I need and enjoy, I still need to put it down at least one day a week and do something else, something just for me, something requiring nothing of me but enjoyment.

I now post 5 days a week, spending Saturday at rest, at home, relaxed and rejuvenated. Sundays are not a rest day. I spend that day worshiping and enjoying being around other believers, which is also a good and necessary thing, but it doesn't replace my need to have a complete down day once a week. I need a pajama-all-day day, or a sit in the garden and watch my kids and dogs play - day.

I need it because it was designed into me, and into you!

Let's pray:

Father, help us to see how valuable, important and necessary a day of rest and recuperation is to our minds, bodies and spirits. Help us to see we cannot be at our best, our most creative and productive without rest and relaxation. Help us demand it of ourselves, just as fervently as we demand performance the other 6 days. Help us to see that we are not only modeling what is right for those who follow us, such as our children and our employees, but we are obeying Your Word. Thank you for showing us the Way, thank you for answering our call to enable us to obey. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Paul Ribeiro, courtesy of

The difference between religion and spirituality

Welcome, again, to A Good Bible Study: StressLess. Do you ever wonder what the difference is between religion and spirituality?

No, I'm not talking about some new age concept. I mean the elements of man-made religion, and the essence of a spiritual relationship with our Father, through Jesus Christ. Hmm, this could get interesting. Let's pray:

Father, we want a real relationship with you, one filled with Your Spirit, and ours. Show us how to live authentically in Your Presence, in Your Love, in Your Will. Help us discover more today in this study, about being spiritual and not just religious. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Let's be honest. I love my church, and I love the fact that I have a regular, central place to go to meet with other believers and praise God in song together, hear a meaningful sermon, and just be allowed to say any ol' Christian thing I want. But, let's be honest. Church is filled with people.

People are fallible. People have issues. People are not perfect. Some people, actually use church as a means to have access to children. Just like great things happen in church, for some of us, church has been a source of pain because of some particular people that also were involved in that church.

May be you feel God has let you down. May be some people who claim to know God have let you down. I am so sorry for you, about that.

Let me empathize with you, because I know church is full of people looking for answers, looking for salvation, looking for improvement, and some of us are struggling with some real demons trying to keep us from having any peace and joy in church, or out of it. But, yes, you know me well enough now to know a "but" was coming.

But, getting to live a life of joy and peace means letting go of those things, and people, that have hurt us in the past, so they don't get to keep on hurting us in the present. It means realizing that people are not God. People are just people, whether they are running to God, or away from Him, we are still just people and still making mistakes.

Some of my worst mistake have been made because I was reacting against people who hurt me in the past, or against my own image of God.

We can get so caught up in the man-made rules, or doctrines, of religion that don't necessarily have anything to do with salvation, the real nitty-gritty of are you "saved," going to heaven, know Christ, have a real relationship with God, or in essence "spirituality."

Now, don't give me that tired old line,"I don't go to church but I am spiritual." The truth is that if you are spiritual in the sense that you have a Holy Spirit-filled and -fueled relationship with God, you are active in that faith, not just blowing it off and saying you are "spiritual." You might as well say you are lazy, you are doing what you know is wrong and don't want to be around anyone who is going to call it like it is, or you are serving some other "god" and just want to call it a lesser name like spirituality, instead of idolatry.

I'm just saying . . . I'm just keeping it real . . . right? Ouch.

There is however, a difference between religion and spirituality and here is my opinion on what it is.

Religion (rules having little to do with God's Love and His Will) is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality (an emotion-filled, dedicated, can't live without you God because the alternative is unthinkable!) is for those who have been there.

Religion is for those afraid of going to hell; spirituality is for those who have been there.

I've been to hell. How about you?

Have you loved a child who rejected all you offer? Have you buried another? What's your hell?

Is it addiction? Is it abuse? Is it a past that won't let you go? Is it family? Is it your health? Is it fear? Is it pain? What's your hell, because I bet you have a story.

I grew up with religion, but once I'd been in hell a while, I found spirituality.

No matter what church I attend, no matter how great, or limited, the Pastor, no matter the quality or lack of the music, no matter how entertaining the Sunday school, my relationship with God, my spirituality, remains dependent on my being willing to be real, to be authentic, to be genuine with God.

He already knows my heart. It's no secret to Him what my issues are, what my problems are, what my strengths and gifts are. He doesn't need me to be real for Him, He wants me to be real for me. It's for my benefit to know myself, so I know where my strength is. It's so even when religion, people, pastors and priests, fail me, I know already that He doesn't.

You know that song that says, "He knows my name?" Listen to it sometime. It played while I buried my son, Matthew. It reminded me that spirituality is about my relationship with not just any spirit that wants to deceive me, but with His Spirit, His Holy Spirit in me and with me and for me.

Today is the last post about the first key to living StressLess. Authenticity. Keeping it real. Let's pray:

Father, if I am reading this, keep me real. Keep me genuine. Keep me authentic. Make me solid, so people don't rock my boat. Help me remember that church is a community of believers in You, in Your plan, not our own, and we are all just humans looking for answers. Help us stay focused on the Truth, and not on the minor differences between us. Help us to be spiritual, and not just religious. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, who died for my sins, and rose again to show me the way to You, Father, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Gina Smith, courtesy of

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Who do you work for?

Hello and welcome again, to A Good Bible Study: StressLess. We are asking "who do you work for?" it might not be who you think.

One of the ways I get stressed, is when I focus more on the results of my efforts, instead of the pleasure of doing what I can, when I can, while giving the best I can. I start working for fleeting rewards, instead of something that lasts day to day.

Before we get into that, let's pray:

Lord, we know the thoughts you have toward us: plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a future and a hope. Help us to rest in that, trust in that, to do the best we can with what we can each day, and then to believe you will turn our little into a big bunch of a lot! Take this little bit of time we spend together in Your presence, and create a big change in our hearts, today. We thank You, and praise You, in the name of Jesus, amen.

Do you ever get discouraged in your job or daily tasks? When you are discouraged, who is the one person you wish would walk in and complement your efforts? _________________________ What happens when they don't?

We all want to be rewarded, don't we? Either we want our efforts to result in more money, or we want the gratitude of those for whom we are sacrificing and working so hard, or we just want someone to notice how hard we are trying or even just praise our finished product at the end of the day.

The problem with working for the approval of people, or for a certain reward, is that our inner peace and joy becomes dependent upon getting that feedback we want so much.

I don't know about you, but the people in my life don't always notice how much I do for them; and some days I get a new blogging follower, and other days I don't; or some days I get a new speaking event or a client for one of my other businesses, and other days people are flat out rude; and some days my kids make me look good in public, and some days not so much . . . you get my point?

People, money, results, outcomes, etc., are all good benchmarks to check our progress, but they can't be the source of our self-worth or sense of peace or joy. These are all temporary, changeable, fleeting rewards that often have more to do with other people's moods than our value anyway.

Do I want to base the worth of my day's hard work on someone's current mood? I don't think so. I want something solid to judge my efforts by, because some days the money comes easy, and other days it's an exercise in patience and stick-to-it-iveness. There has got to be something higher I can work for, something to keep me motivated to do my best, something or someone unchanging and unaffected by the economy or which side of the bed they got out on.

Let's read some of God's thoughts on work and reward:

Read the following verses and write down what each means to your personal situation:

Deuteronomy 30:8-10 _____________________________________________

Proverbs14:23 ___________________________________________________

Matthew 5:37 ____________________________________________________


John 6:27 _______________________________________________________

1 Corinthians 10:31 _______________________________________________

Colossians 3:23!!

As I read each of these verses, I realized that if we seek God's approval in all that we do, work for His pleasure in the way we handle our business, He will bless and prosper us, regardless of the fleeting opinion of anyone in authority over our paychecks.

I realized that we often spend too much time talking about why we can't succeed or prosper, or complete a project much less get started on one, and how different people are standing in our way, but if all we do is talk about why we can't, we will never, ever get up and do what it is that we can.

At the end of the day, we can either do something asked of us, or we can't. It's yes or no. We create so much stress by being unwilling to let be it what it is, to let our yes be yes, and our no be no.

If I know I don't have the time or energy to do something well, then I need to say no. If I know I do have time, and could be a blessing, but just don't want to be inconvenienced, sometimes I do need to step out and say yes. Then I do it and don't call back later and back out! I am learning to tell the difference, and find I am always blessed when I do the thing I could do, but just don't want to do well.

Satan is always looking for ways to steal my blessing. One way he has found me to be vulnerable, is to convince me to do the minimum, instead of my best; to commit to a project, then find ways to get out of my responsibilities.

He knows if I am faithful to my word, I will get the joy of seeing my work be fruitful, and others be helped, and nearly every time, I find the one who received the most from my honoring my commitment, was me.

Too often we see work, projects, volunteer missions, and other tasks as a means to get "things;" things which don't last and have to be replaced. Sure, we need to eat, have clothing, housing, and transportation. But if our focus is on working for things, we will never be satisfied.

If our work is focused on pleasing God with our attitude of integrity, with our work ethic, and with our sensitivity to solving problems for people, then we can easily achieve our main goals each day and get the praise of the Holy Spirit while we simultaneously do what needs to be done to provide for our physical needs. Does that make sense?

Don't you think if you do whatever you do with the purpose of glorifying and honoring your relationship with God, and seek to show Him love by doing things His way, that these will also be things that please your spouse, employer, supervisor, clients, etc.? The difference is trusting God to reward you, instead of hoping fallible, moody humans notice you.

Kirstie Alley tells the story of growing up with little money. Her best friend's mom put Kirstie to work cleaning houses, and taught her to take pride in her effort, not in her paycheck. When Kirstie complained that all of her friends got money from their parents and enjoyed spending it at the mall, her friend's mom told her those girls were getting the only reward they ever would: spending someone else's money and having nothing once it was gone.

She was showing Kirstie that her effort might not seem like a great deal now, but it was all going to pay off in the end. She told Kirstie to clean every home like it was her own, because while those girls were doing noting, Kirstie was learning to care for nice things, and appreciate the effort it takes to build up the money to buy those nice things. Her friend's mom told her that she wanted her to clean like it was hers, because one day it would be her living in the nice house, and enjoying the fruit of knowing how to work for a higher purpose than just going to the mall.

You've got to work for a higher purpose!

Are you going to work hard for someone with a bad attitude? You will if you are working from your own good attitude - for a higher purpose.

Are you going to stick it out when the pay isn't what you want, yet? You will if you are trusting God to prosper you - for a higher purpose.

Are you going to keep giving to those teens when all they seem to do is discount your wisdom and bend your rules? You will if you are working to show them stability of character, and unconditional love, and keeping your eye on the finished product and not where they are right now. You will if you have a higher purpose than gratitude and appreciation.

A higher purpose gives you energy when you are out of energy. A higher purpose gives you strength when everything around you is trying to drain you dry.

Let me finish with a story about a high school boy who only wanted one thing: for his dad to see him play one great game. I read this on the One Month to Live website and am paraphrasing the following:

A high school line-backer played second string, meaning hardly ever in the game, but he wanted to play so badly one night, he convinced his coach to let him in. You see, his father came to every game, and although he was blind, the dad wanted to be there for his son. Usually, he wasn't missing much because his son wasn't very good.

On this particular night, the coach put the boy in. The opposing teams' fullback got the ball and bam - that kid put him down. In the next play, the quarterback set up to pass, and this young player blitzed in and sacked the quarterback. In every play he ran as hard as he could and left everything he had on that field. After winning the game, the coach grabbed the boy by his helmet and yelled at him, "That's one of the greatest games I've ever seen a high school linebacker play! What got into you?"

The boy said, "You know my dad? He's blind but he comes to every game."
"Yeah," the coach answered.
"Well," the boy continued," My dad died last night, and this was going to be the first game he ever saw, so I wanted to do my best. That's why I had to play. I was playing for him. I was playing for him and it made all the difference."

Who are you playing for? Are you playing for toys? Are you playing for money? Are you playing for possessions? Are you playing for pats on the back? Are you playing for complements, for a good reputation, for a leg-up in your business?

Or, are you playing for the One who can actually make a difference in your life, in your levels of stress, in your ability to be a real force for change, or growth, or blessing?

Let's pray:

Father, it is so easy to get caught up in trying to get things done, trying to hurry up and succeed, trying to finally get the approval we desire from people, trying to prove what we are capable of, trying to work our agenda. Forgive us! We want Your approval. We want Your influence. We want the rewards that only You can offer. We want a heavenly paycheck.

Help us to remember that You see it all. You know our hearts, and You also know our needs. We get so focused on wants, on getting people to notice our efforts and forget that like us, other people do things based on their own needs and desires, not necessarily to benefit you and me.

Help us to seek You first, trusting You to notice, to approve, to reward, and as You say, everything else will follow. Help us to work hard, and do our best, knowing at the end of the day we don't have to be worried about the outcome, because we gave it our all, left it all on the field, and can be proud our ourselves. In Jesus' holy name, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Leticia Wilson, courtesy of

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to get what you want by giving what they need

Welcome back to A Good Bible Study: StressLess! Today we are talking about getting what we want, by giving what they need.

Let's not go any further without inviting the Holy Spirit to lead our time together:

Lord, our Father, the Maker of All Things, Creator, Lord of Heaven and Earth, Redeemer . . . I can go on and on praising your glorious name. We are so grateful that our time on earth can be meaningful, instead of empty and useless. Today of all days, I am filled with a sense of Your purpose for each one of us, and I pray that you touch every eye on this page and anoint them with an incredible impression of Your plan for their lives!

Let today be one of awe and eye-opening insight to the lives we are touching, the fates we are affecting, the impact we are making in Your Kingdom. Show us how we are serving Your Purpose and let us praise you with shouts, and dancing, and joyful weeping! In the name of Jesus, Your Son, amen.

Yesterday we spoke of living with passion, and how it is intricately tied to living in integrity. Many years ago I was out of work and looking hard. I was living with friends, still a teen, and my only possessions were clothes, makeup, and a little, blue pickup.

I had applied at Thom McAn Shoes in the Merced (CA) Mall and was turned down over and over. I found out later my reputation had preceded me. For quite a few months earlier I worked at Hickory Farms, in the same mall. For most of the day, the other girls and I "sampled" cheeses and sausages to the customers . . . and to ourselves. In fact, I probably gained a good 15 lbs. working at H.F.!

My girlfriends and I didn't have any problem helping ourselves to those little packages H.F. puts out for Christmas gifts, either - you know the ones. Wooden boxes filled with packing straw and a couple of sausages and cheese. Let's just say honesty and integrity weren't my strong suits. Not surprisingly, it wasn't long before my name stopped showing up on the work schedule.

So hungry, bored, seeing my options dwindling, I made it a mission to get hired at Thom McAn. Every day I got dressed up - did the hair, the makeup, the works, and marched down to T.M. to flirt with, goad, plead, and pressure the manager to hire me. After weeks of putting me off, he finally offered me a part-time job. Now, this was really part-time, like a couple of hours a week.

Soon after, the manager let me know why he hadn't hired me before. My former boss had black-listed me in the mall, telling everyone not to hire me. Well, this was like putting a red cape in front of a bull. I decided I was going to be the most successful employee Thom McAn ever saw, and make that former employer eat his words.

Well, I probably wasn't the most successful employee ever, but for the next two years I did very well, winning Top Sales of the Month repeatedly and rapidly advancing in rank.  I really enjoyed sales, and if there is a promotional carrot in front of me, I can't wait to achieve it, that's just part of my competitive make-up.

Within a half a year, I was promoted to Assistant Manager of my store. Within another few months I was transferred to a larger store for more training towards management. Since I continued to excel in sales, I began to train other employees and I found I had a passion for teaching and for helping others. As they improved and began to succeed, I felt successful, as well. 

Despite being told repeatedly that Thom McAn upper management didn't promote women (this was in mid 80's), within two years of being hired, I became manager of my own store. Soon after was promoted to Area Manager, overseeing three stores that were struggling, and helping to bring them up in sales and productivity.

I'm told I was the first woman to receive the coveted "Rookie of the Year" award, on top of numerous Top Store Sales and Top Individual Sales awards to boot. From the age of 19 to 21, I went from being unemployable to earning more money than I had dreamed possible for my age.

Now, I am not telling you this to toot my own horn. Nor did I never have another job challenge, or go on to live a life of perfect integrity and instant success wherever I went. But, this is a great example of what a huge difference a change in attitude and integrity can make in your circumstances.

What made the difference for me? At first it was sheer determination. But, that drive could only take me so far. The real difference was that I learned I had a gift, and a desire, to help others. The more I helped, the more I acheived, the more I got excited and passionate about my job!

People entered my store with  problem. I listened to what their problem was, and helped them solve it. I made their needs more important than my own for that time being, and as I helped them, my own desire for making sales was fulfilled in the process. In addition, I took "ownership" in my stores and in my employees. I saw their success as my own.

Now, I am not trying to turn my sales job into a lofty mission, but to make a point. I stopped trying to see what I could get from my job, and discovered I could succeed, by giving to it, instead.

There is a saying that the only you take to your grave is your character. I would add, that you can only get away with a lack of integrity for so long before you are found out.

God says it many ways. Read Proverbs 10:9

"He who walks with _________ walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become ________."

Let's pray:

Father, you know our hearts and our weaknesses. Protect us from ourselves, Lord! Help us to value a clean conscience above all. Give us a passion for our jobs, our friendships, our marriages, and our missions.

Help us to feel Your pleasure when we choose to honor You with our behavior, with our words, and with our treatment of others in our path. I thank you for giving us a means to judge right from wrong. And I thank you for the joy we feel when we help someone else, and see that their success is our own. In Your holy name, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Graur Razvan Ionut, courtesy of

Monday, October 18, 2010

Keeping it real

Hello again! Welcome back to A Good Bible Study: StressLess in which we are talking about keeping it real.

You have heard that phrase many times. Unfortunately, in our society it tends to mean keeping it selfish and self-centered, not real. It means being callous and uncaring about the feelings of others. It means doing what I want, when I want, no matter how it affects anyone else, and calling it being "real."

We are going to talk about God's version of keeping it real. There is a difference that means real love, real joy, and real peace instead of just real obnoxious! Let's pray first:

Father, You are the epitome of realness. You are the gold standard of authenticity, joy, peace, love and passion. I am thankful we have You in comparison to the empty promises of this life. Lord, today we ask you to help us see the real "us." Help us be willing to show ourselves, and accept what is good, and allow You to work in what is just a defense, and not a good one. Help us to let go of what keeps us separate from You, and from the wonderful creation we were intended to be. Thank You for again, guiding this study, guiding me as I write, and guiding the hearts of all who read these words. In the name of Jesus, amen.

So, we all agree that living authentically is easier. After all, if we tell the truth, we don't have to remember what we said. And living with integrity is also easier. Doing things right, and doing the right thing makes all that grey area just clear right up. So, who is the judge of what is right and what it wrong?

Read Deuteronomy 5:1-22

It's pretty clear. To make it even easier to know how to respond in any situation, read Jesus' words in Matthew 22:36-40.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?'

Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

If you truly love God, and you truly get His sacrifice of sending His only Son, Jesus, to pay the price for your sin, then You will judge all of your choices on pleasing Him. Is what you are about to do showing love for Your God, and is it showing love to His children which includes everyone on earth including yourself?

Yes . . .  No. Those are our choices.

What's in it for me? That seems to be the hot topic in our society. OK. Here is what's in it for me, and for you:

1. Self-respect. A sense of satisfaction, pride and honor. The respect of others and a good night's sleep.
2. Passion. The key to passion is integrity. Stop doing the loving things, the unselfish things because you don't feel like it and watch your passion drain away. You want to lose passion in your career? You want to lose  passion in your calling. How about in your marriage? Lose your integrity, and passion follows. Increase integrity, and passion soars!

Kerry Shook, co-author of One Month to Live says that "nothing frustrates us more than saying we believe in something, saying we value something, then failing to live it out in our lives. Saying you love your spouse, then doing things you know will hurt them makes you lose passion. Saying you love to help others, you love making a difference, then avoiding the people who need you the most, those difficult clients, starts pulling you down inside, destroying your integrity, and making you lose your passion."

Father, make us passionate! Give us a sense of integrity, and a desire to live it out every day. Let our greatest joy come from pleasing You. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Jorge Casais, courtesy of

Friday, October 15, 2010

When we don't understand the "whys" and "whens"

Welcome back to A Good Bible Study.

This week, many of us are going through circumstances that make us question the "whys" and the "whens."

For me, yesterday in particular, was both a sad day and a celebration, as our friend Pastor Todd MacDonell left those who love him, and was joyfully welcomed home where he will live forever in the presence of God, in the presence of complete love, grace, and joy!

It's what we all want, what we all crave without even knowing it, and for his sake, we are excited that Todd's time was now. For our own sake, we are saddened that his time was now.

Please continue to keep his family in your prayers, as they adjust to life on earth without his presence, guidance, tender touch, and voice. I know from losing our child 6 years ago, that the joy of knowing the one you love is safe, is happy, estatic even, and is waiting for your eventual arrival, doesn't make it suck less that they are gone. (Sorry if you hate the word "suck" sometimes it just fits.)

I was thankful for the incredible peace God gave my husband and I during the months of praying for both a healing, and realizing at the end, that Matthew's time was now. His life, however brief, was a blessing to everyone who walked with us during that time. Our faith was both strengthened and stretched.

When I was at my weakest, God was at His strongest. When I gave way to anger, He allowed my moments of rage and literally held me in His love and comfort. He brought me to mountaintops of praising Him when I should have been in the valley of despair. Through it all, His peace was constant.

I knew that no matter what, we all have a time to live and a time to die. I knew no matter what, Jesus paid the price for Matthew, and my child would be whole, healthy, and happy in heaven, waiting for me to join him.

I knew, and I know, that one day, my earthly life will end and others will miss me just as I miss Matthew, and I will take my own place alongside my son, and my grandparents, who are all believers, and we will not be separated ever again.

God makes that possible. Jesus' sacrifice makes that possible.

There is no illness in heaven, no pain, no disease or injury. There is love, peace, joy, praise, majesty, power, and when we face His honor and glory, we will know not just in our reason, but in our entire being, that His will is Good.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (New Living Translation)
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever."

Let's pray:

Father, thank you for being with us when we don't understand the "whys or whens." Help us live in the balance between belief in miracles, and acceptance of Your timing. Help us see the good that You always bring out of any pain, any suffering, any disappointment.

Love, Karen

Photo by Dan, courtesy of

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A friend has left us, and has been welcomed in heaven. Pastor Todd MacDonell

Dear friends,

Today I would just like to honor our friend, Pastor Todd MacDonell who is face to face with Jesus even as we speak. Please say a prayer for his family, who rejoice that Todd is free of pain and full of joy, but will have many changes to face in the coming months. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wisdom and understanding

 Hello again and welcome to Stress Less, a bible study about God's love for us and His desire that we live in joy and enthusiasm (God within, remember?)! Did you know wisdom and understanding lead to stressing less?

Let's begin as always, with prayer:

Father, we praise You today and every day. We can't wait to see all the ways You are going to reveal Yourself to us in this study. Thank You for always rewarding our time with You with a new revelation of Your love for us, in us, and through us. Help us to come together each time with a pure intention to seek You, and find You. Prepare us even now, for Your Word. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, amen.

We are nearing completion of the 1st key of living stress less: to authenticate. How are you feeling today, in your royal, authentic self? It might take a while to get used to yourself, as you are meant to be, but I encourage you to keep opening your heart to God, and allowing Him to peel away all the layers that are not you.

Learning to be yourself takes practice. If you have developed a habit of always deferring to the needs and wants of everyone else, it might even be fun to start discovering what you like, and how you feel, before you censor yourself automatically.

I'd like you to start pausing before you answer any questions, so you have the time to allow your feelings and desires to come to the surface. We don't need to selfishly demand our way at all times, but it doesn't hurt to be aware of how you feel about your options, before you make a conscious choice.

Turn to Proverbs 4:6-7

"He also taught me, and said to me:
Let your _______ retain my words; keep my commands, and ________.
Get __________! Get ___________!
Do not forget or turn away from the ____________ of my mouth.
Do not forsake her (wisdom) and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you." New King James Version

What are the key words of this passage? Why did God tell us to let our hearts retain the words?

Read Luke 6:45

Our actions reflect the intentions of our hearts. If we keep wisdom in our hearts, it will predict how we will behave, and the consequences of our actions. God says we need to seek wisdom and understanding, and if we do, it will bring us life. It might be just as accurate to say it will bring us to life, when we have been living as a hollow shell of our true selves.

Living authentically, with integrity or wholeness, allows us to act consciously, with thought and reason, instead of reacting unconsciously to our situation, and to the way others behave. Do you ever just react as if someone pushed a button and you just jumped, may be in anger, may be in fear, may be in some big, dramatic manner, and you are not even sure afterwards why?

Learning to know, love, accept and then choose will enable you to no longer automatically react when your buttons get pushed. In fact, over time, your buttons won't even exist. Can you imagine how much more stress free your life can be, when you are choosing to act, instead of robotically re-acting the same old scene over and over?

So, we are going to learn to live with integrity: scrupulous, or strict, honesty. Ouch. Can we handle this? Can the people in our lives handle this?? Is this a license to be mean, like, "Hey, I'm just keeping it real?"

Integrity and honesty don't include mean-spirited, tactless, or brutal remarks and comments. It means being upfront about your intentions and expectations. It means doing things right, and doing the right things.

Try it on by making this your new motto:

I am upfront about my intentions and expectations with others.
I do things right, and I do the right things.

Let's meet up tomorrow and talk about how it feels to give yourself permission to be honest with yourself first, then with others, about what you want, think, and feel. Remember, you are responsible to make your intentions known, but you can't control anyone else's response, approval, automatic re-action, or agreement.

Let's pray:

Father, I know You have made me wonderfully and fearfully good. You say it's so. I haven't always known that about myself, and often I have chosen to be around people who don't know it either. I'm thankful you are helping me become authentic and develop integrity. My life is getting better and better. Help me to be aware when I am being dishonest with myself, and with others. Help me to be wise. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen

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I love to hear your comments and know that God is touching your heart through our time together. Please keep sharing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who are you? You are a child of the one true King

Welcome back to "Stress less," child of the one true King!

What? You didn't know you were royalty? Well, sit back and let me tell you a tale, a tale of - wait a minute, I think that's from a t.v. show. Pull up a chair anyway because the story is just getting good. Let's pray:

Father, we are going to share some family history today. We want You to show us just what we need to know about who we are. Help us to be receptive to Your truth, today especially. This is going to be such a revelation for someone today! Someone who didn't know how important they are is going to find out right now. You know who they are, Lord. I pray today is the day we start to live in the excitement and joy of our true heritage! In the name of Jesus, amen.

Have you been playing the "To Tell the Truth" game with everyone you know? It's a good one. Try it on your kids and they'll think not only do you have eyes in the back of your head, but you can read their minds, too!

Are you starting to get enthusiastic about who you are, yet? What gifts and talents have you been putting on the back burner, that now are pounding to get out? I can't wait to hear what new ideas you have, what you are going to try, or how you are going to touch someone's life in a way only you can!

You know, the word enthusiasm comes from the Greek words en theos which means God Within! To be enthusiastic is to show God is within you. That doesn't mean you are a god, it means the evidence of God's majesty is in your very DNA.

Do you remember the movie, The Lion King? At one point, Simba (the King's son) is accused of his father's murder, and he runs away in shame and fear. After quite some time he has managed to create a new life, with new friends who know nothing of Simba's past, and he is just coasting along in life without any direction or challenges.

Suddenly, the clouds form the image of his father, the King (played by James Earl Jones, so imagine that voice coming from the clouds.)

Simba is awe-struck as he sees this image, and hears his father call his name, "Siimmmmbbbaaaaaa. You have forgotten meeeeee."

Simba is confused and asks, "Father, how could I forget you?"  His father stares deeply into Simba's eyes and says," You have forgotten who you are, and therefore you have forgotten me."

The great lion continues," You are my child. The child of the King."

Simba begins to weep as he realizes he has been wrong. He ran away from his destiny as the son of the King. He was being less than he was meant to be, created to be, destined to be, because he let a jealous, vengeful lion tell him he wasn't good enough, and that everyone would hate him for who he was.

Now, I am telling you: You have forgotten who you are. You are the child of the King!

You are the child of the King!

How much time have you lost letting people tell you lies about who you are? How much have you lost pretending to be less in the hopes that others will love you more?

In the movie Walk the Line, Johnny Cash and his little band are auditioning for a record producer and they are just tanking. They are singing an old gospel song and it's not bad, but it's not great either. So, the producer stops them and asks, "If you were laying dying in the street, and you had time to sing one last song, are you telling me that's the song you would sing? That's the song that defines you, right there? "

So, Johnny sees this is a make it or break it moment. And he starts singing a song he wrote himself. It's a heartbreaking song about being so lonely he just wanted to die. His band mates pick it up and play along and as Johnny sings, you see him change from an insecure, so-so singer, to a powerful, intense, passionate man who draws in the producer and the audience with such a force, you can see that he is going to be a star. No, he is a star!

The difference was Johnny stopped singing in the way he thought the producer wanted him to sing, or expected him to sing, and instead began singing in his own voice, from his heart, from his truth!

So, what's your truth? What hill would you die on? What song would you sing?

Try this out: Write your own obituary. Write it once using adjectives that describe the sum of your life so far. Now, write it again explaining what you want people to know about you by the time you are dead (and if you know Christ, in heaven!)

Then, for heaven's sake, start living up to yourself!

Start living up to yourself!

At the end of the day, it all boils down to Dr. Seuss, right? Remember what he said?

"Go ahead and be yourself. Those who mind, don't matter. And those who matter, don't mind."

Tune in tomorrow as we finish up this 1st Key in Stressing Less! Now go out there and live like a child of the King!

Father, thank You for creating me in Your image. Thank You for making me Your own child. I am royalty. I am the child of the King. Help me to see myself in this new role, the role I was born to live. I will hold my head up higher, I will walk with my back a little straighter, I will be gracious to those under my influence, because, I am the child of the one, true King and I will never forget it again! In Jesus' name, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Graham Tomlin, courtesy of

Monday, October 11, 2010

To tell the truth

Hello! Welcome back to A Good Bible Study.

We are studying "Stress Less," which began as a talk to help professionals learn to de-stress their lives and improve their workplace experience while growing in Christ. But then I realized this is universal, and we can all live a more joyful and stress-less life using these same concepts.

So let's get started, and begin in prayer:

Lord, I thank you for showing us the way to peace, Your peace. You left us this peace, saying it was not as the world offers, but a new peace that begins with the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Forgive us for thinking we have all the answers and that You are unnecessary in our lives. We need you more than ever, Lord. We accept Your peace. You told us to not let our hearts be troubled, or afraid. You told us to stay with You, abide with You, stay connected to You and that is what we will do. Thank You for peace. Help us to receive it beginning today, beginning now. In the name of Jesus, amen.

I told you I would share a little technique I like to call "To tell the truth." You'll like it. I'll get to it in just a minute.

As we continue our exploration of the power of being authentic, I want to open today's lesson with some verses that really demonstrate the value God places on authenticity, or being genuine. Let's look them up together. I will give the New Living Translation, and you compare it to your own Bible's message:

John 1:47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”

Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

2 Corinthians 8:8 I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.

Philippians 2:20 and 22 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare . . . But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News.

1 Timothy 1:5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Do you see how each use of the word genuine is followed by an example of behavior? God says that it is by our works that our faith is known to others. Likewise, the way we treat ourselves, and others, is evidence of how we esteem ourselves.

According to the verses above, God values genuineness, or authenticity, and so should we.

Did you know you are at your strongest spiritually, emotionally, mentally, energetically and even physically when you are operating in your authentic self?

So often we try to work against our truth, the source of our strength, by trying to be what we think others want us to be. Common advice is to improve our weaknesses, and build up what we lack, would you agree?

I'm going to suggest the absolute opposite, but hear me out and hear me in the spirit intended. I will never tell you to allow yourself to accept weaknesses in character, such as mistreating people, or refusing to learn decent manners.

I do mean we all have areas that we are naturally great at, and areas we wish we were better at, but just aren't a true giftedness. We call them weaknesses and we all seem to think our weaknesses are the most important aspects of who we are.

Personally, I love to sing. I've enjoyed singing in church, and I love singing in the car, but I have a limited range that I sound really good in, and that's been frustrating for me. I always wanted to be able to sing anything, and sing beautifully, and go up and down the notes without even trying, but it's just not my strength. If it was my calling, it would be easy, and it ain't.

I also love to play sports and as long as I keep it fun and don't get myself in a state of feeling pressured to perform, I'm actually pretty good. Not great, but good enough to play really well in comparison to the average Joe. Gifted? Sadly . . . no.

I may not be truly gifted at singing, and won't be drafted by any major (or minor) sports teams, but boy can I talk. And I can write. And I can encourage people, and I can pray for people with insight and passion, and I can teach my kids how to love to learn. Those are my strengths.

I figured out that I needed to stop ignoring what I'm great at in order to become just good at something else. Guess what? Someone else is good at that so let them have it!

Don't ignore what you are great at merely to be good at something else.

God gave me strengths and gifts. He gave some to you, also. Why?
I want to know why you think these gifts are given?

Did you answer: to ignore; to discount; to put down; to pooh-pooh; or to de-value?

But is that what you have been doing? Why was I wasting time trying to be something I wasn't created to be? I don't need to sing for everyone else. I need to sing for God and enjoy that.

What we need to get is get excited about the gifts and strengths we have been given, and focus on those. Stop living down to your weaknesses and start living up to your strengths!

Stop living down to your weaknesses and start living up to your strengths!

What are your strengths? What are your gifts and talents? What comes easily to you? What gives you energy? What do you feel most like yourself when you do it?

Write it down NOW.

These are things God created in you and for you. Stop telling God He was wrong! Stop stealing someone else's thunder. Stop defining yourself by what you aren't and start defining yourself by what you are! 

I'm going to prove to you that you are the strongest you will ever be when you are operating from the truth of who you are.

Get a buddy and hold out your arm in front of you, straight. Have your friend ask you a question that you can answer truthfully to, like what is your name. As you answer, have them push down on your arm and try to make you lower it. You will be strong.

Now, have them ask you another question to which you will answer dishonestly, like "Were you born at the bottom of the ocean?" Say "yes." As you answer have them press again on your arm to try and make you lower it. See the difference?

Cool, right? Go ahead and trade places and do it again. It works every time.

Let's pray:

Lord, we are strong when we are operating in our truth. We are so sorry for having de-valued your gifts, instead looking to see only the things we see as weaknesses to be improved. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and from now on we are going to celebrate that fact! I don't need to be good at everything. I can let someone else have their gifts. I can enjoy what they are good at, because now I see I am good at something, too. If I have never considered myself good at anything then open my eyes to the wonderful traits you have placed in my DNA. Thank you Lord for helping me to see my strengths and help me to focus on them from now on. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Dinostock, courtesy of