Questions that Make You Go, Hmmm… #2

October 29, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Here is our second question that brings up soul answers that get to the bottom of everything:

Are you noticed, valued, and loved?

Our first question was about God–who we really think He is and how that shapes our perception of our relationship to Him.

The second question is both about our God relationship as well as our relationship with ourselves and with others.

I used to go at this question backward, and it created a lot of turmoil for me.  Instead of seeing the question primarily about my relationship with God, I instead saw it in relation to others, then myself, then God.  This created all sorts of havoc in my life.

Let’s face it.  People don’t really and consistently worry about you.  They are too worried about their own bad hair day!

So when you break your neck to get that business proposal in and your boss yawns, it might be because she got no sleep the night before.  However, if you are looking at this question and trying to answer it from how she sees you and the feedback you’re getting from her, you’re in trouble.

I was like this with teachers.  I had a radar for what they wanted and how to give it to them.  That worked for awhile until the drug of their approval stopped working to give me that “high.”  It began to take more and more and more to get that same “I’m okay” feeling.

I looked to everyone in my world to answer this question–parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, friends…

If they made a big deal over me, the answer was good.  If they were busy with their own lives, the answer was bad.

I got a lot of bad answers.  Not because they were bad people and not because they didn’t care.  Because I was not the center of their universe! (I know, shocking… right?)

When I finally flipped this equation and stopped looking at others to answer this question and instead looked to God, things finally began to be peaceable in my soul.

God always notices me.  He is always right here.  I can always look to Him when I’m struggling, and He always has time for me.

And He loved me enough to die on a cross so that I could be with Him forever.

So for me, the answer when I look to God for this question is, “YES!”

What is it for you?  And how do you go about trying to get it answered?

*~*

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Questions That Make You Go Hmmm… #1

October 25, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Every year I think I’m doing great getting finished with the raffle at my son’s school.  I always think, “If I can just get everything done through that date, I’ll be in great shape.”  And every year, that date comes and goes, and life goes on after it… without me.

I don’t know what it is.  Maybe it’s that last frantic week trying to count and sell 4,000 raffle tickets.  Maybe it’s the day of the Carnival and the 9 straight hours of adrenaline-pumping panic.  Or maybe it’s having to get up the next morning and teach Sunday School like I’m awake and functioning.

Whatever it is, I always get to Monday morning and crash!  Then I get up and scramble trying to get bills paid that I’ve put off so our electricity doesn’t get turned off and creditors don’t start calling for my husband’s business.  Long about the time I get those done, I notice that I can’t see the floors nor any cabinets in my house.  And the fact that my kids still think they need fed and have help with homework doesn’t help matters.

This year was particularly challenging because I now have multiple other ventures going as well.

So all that to say, “Sorry.”  I didn’t mean to go MIA on you.  It just happened.  I’ll try to get a bit more organized in the future. :)
Today we’re going to turn our attention to questions.  I’ve been reading a book that delves into symbols and spiritual lessons.  One of the most fascinating things about this book for me are the questions, both that it poses and that strike me as I’m reading.  So we’re going to talk about some of these questions.  Feel free to answer them in comments if you feel so led.

Most of them are not “answerable” like yes, no, true, false, etc.  They are what I would call “soul questions”–questions that when you answer them in your soul, you get a road map to how and why you do what you do in life.  For example, if you’re angry, you may find at the bottom of one of these questions an injustice you suffered that you’ve never gotten past.  If you’re holding onto other people’s approval, you may come to realize through these questions that God holds the key to letting that go and being free.

Here’s our first question.  Read it, and write your answer before you read my take on it:

How is your belief in God and what He is and who He is working for you?

 

As I stumbled on this question, I marveled because I used to see God as a harsh, judgmental employer.  I was the servant, He was the Master, and I’d better get everything done right or else!

I was scared of God, of His power, of His wrath… of what I saw as His capriciousness.  He could wipe out a village with a tsunami or He could spare a farmhouse from a tornado, and we were powerless–aside from begging and performing “well enough” to affect any of His decisions.

My belief this way affected everything.  I felt like I never did enough, and never did enough right.  I was constantly on the lookout for things He might judge me for doing or not doing.  I was on a tightrope that I was destined to fall off of, but that I had to stay on or I was worthless, and worse, worthy of condemnation.

It was a sad, small way to live.

Then, my understanding and belief in God and who He is changed drastically.  Over the course of about two years, I came to know that God wasn’t a capricious, vain employer, but a loving wonderful friend.  He didn’t cause bad things to happen, but He was right here with me when they did.

I learned I could rely on Him in the little things and the too-much-to-carry things.  I learned He really does love me–when I’m doing His Will and even when I mess up.  He’s right there to pick me up, dust me off, forgive me, and help me to forgive myself and move on.

The transformation in my life has been huge.  The way I used to see God was not working for me at all.  This way works wonderfully, sometimes mind-blowingly well.  I can finally relax and enjoy life–rather than rushing around trying to prove something.  I can be excited about opportunities rather than desperate about them.  It’s a cool way to live.

So if you’d like, please share what thoughts struck you with this question.  I’ll be back next time with another one!

*~*

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Jonathon Danforth has a plan.  Take the class his sister signed him up for.  Attend a couple classes and then quit as soon as possible.

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Life As Rocket Science: Part 10, More than One Dead Animal

October 11, 2012

By:  Staci Stallings

Last time I related the story of Scout and the dead possums and how my friend with the persistently negative thoughts was like that dog who would take those dead things out and play with them rather than leave them buried.

A few days after this revelation, my friend wrote back to say that she had been doing very well and had thought the dead possum was buried.  Then she went to this thing and this situation happened, and all of a sudden THERE was a very similar dead possum.  “What’s the deal?  I thought I was doing so good.  I thought I had buried that!”

Ah.  Yes.

In life it is very frustrating when this happens because what’s the point if that dead possum just won’t stay buried.

But I told her that maybe there wasn’t just ONE dead possum in her “yard.”  Maybe there were also dead hamsters and dead cats and all kinds of dead critters.

Now seriously, what would you do if you came home and found your yard littered with dead animals (I know, bad thought!  Work with me here!)  What would you do?

My first thought would be to call my husband and tell him to get out the shovel!

I certainly would not leave them in the backyard.  They are stinky and gross.  Plus they lead to disease and are not safe.

Same with your negative thoughts.

Maybe, like my friend, you have one persistent line of negative thinking, but it crops up in many different forms.  Like let’s say that you feel less than.  So in school you compared your grades with Peggy’s and there was a dead possum.  You didn’t realize that though so you just left it lay there.  Then when you went to college, you should have been happy, but Yvonne went to a better school–and another dead possum showed up.  When you got out, you got a good job, but Kathy made more money than you, Suzy married well, Jane too and then had a child… Suddenly here are all these dead things all over your yard.

Now, let’s say years later, you get the concept of burying your feelings that you aren’t good enough, and you’re doing a good job.  Then one day at the grocery store, you run into Kathy and her son is going to a great college.  Yours is already struggling in high school.

Do you see how quickly those dead things that you never buried can suddenly be front-and-center again?

It happens so quickly, and you’re left with this feeling like you’re even a failure at trying not to be a failure!

Once again, stop it.  Don’t moan and groan and complain because you found something else dead.  Bury it and go on.  Give it to God.  Bless the lessons you’ve learned about being who you are and not comparing yourself to everyone and MOVE ON!

Really.  Seriously.  It’s time.

*~*

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Interview with Jim and Karen Baney

October 8, 2012

Welcome, Jim & Karen.  Can you tell us what Christian eBooks Today.com is all about?

Jim:  Christian eBooks Today.com is a website that is for fans of Christian fiction and nonfiction.  It is a safe place to browse and learn more about great Christian eBooks without worrying about coming across any racy or explicit content.

Why did you start Christian eBooks Today.com?

Karen:  I’ve been an avid reader of Christian fiction since I was a young girl.  But, over the past few years as I started publishing books, I noticed that it was getting harder and harder to browse for Christian eBooks online without coming across some pretty embarrassing and racy covers.  I just wanted to find a good clean Christian romance book and find new authors.

In August, Jim joined the ranks of the unemployed, so I asked him what he thought about helping me launch a site for Christian readers.  It took some convincing, but he finally agreed to do it.

Jim:  Hey!  It didn’t really take much convincing.  I like the idea of being self-employed.

On your Vision and Mission page on the website, you mention edgy Christian fiction.  Can you tell us more about this?

Karen:  Sure.  Over the past few years or even a decade, the Christian fiction market is changing.  Authors are writing more true-to-life characters that get thrown into some pretty tough circumstances, such as rape, abuse, abandonment, etc.  In fact, some of my novels fall into that category.

Anyway, there is a bit of a divide in readership.  Some readers don’t like the trend, while others prefer it.  We wanted to mention that we accept those types of books on our site so readers are not surprised if they come across something like that.

So, your site includes Christian nonfiction too?

Jim:  Yes.  We include a variety of nonfiction genres, too.  Bible studies, devotionals, self-help, Christian living and much more.  We really want the site to be a place where readers can find any type of Christian eBooks.

Who runs the site, I mean really?

[Karen glances at Jim and giggles.]

Jim:  We joke around.  I’m the chief operations officer and Karen is the CEO.  She has the vision and then I do all the hard work to make it happen.

Karen:  [elbows Jim]  I do some of the hard work, like marketing and writing content.

Jim:  Okay, okay.  I’ll give you that.

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?

Karen:  Yes.  We have a feature on our website under the “For Readers” menu called “Reader’s Choice”.  This is where readers can fill out a form telling us about great Christian eBooks that they’ve read.  Each week, we will select one submission to appear on our website.  Then, once a month we will randomly choose a winner from all of the submissions (even if they don’t get featured).  The winner receives a $25 gift card from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Readers can submit as many eBooks as they want.

Wow, that sounds great!  So, where can we see this new website?

Jim:  Visit ChristianEBooksToday.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@cebtoday), Facebook, or Google+.  Check our site daily for our list of free fiction and free nonfiction ebooks.

Karen:  Remember to sign up for our newsletter too.  Just click on the envelope icon in the upper right corner of our site.  Each week we email readers a summary of our key weekly features including: guest blog posts, great reads, author of the week, and the reader’s choice selection for the week.

Thank you so much for hosting us!

http://www.christianebookstoday.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cebtoday

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/ChristianEBooksToday

Google+: https://plus.google.com/111493938878400897607/posts


Life As Rocket Science: Part 9, Burying Your Dead Possums

October 4, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

It’s amazing to work with real people who have real problems.  It’s fascinating to watch God at work on their hearts and how they are learning lessons they don’t even know they are learning.  I love being just objective enough to “see” what they are missing and help them see it too.

My friend, the one of the horse-training thoughts (see the Oct. 1 post) was the inspiration for this one as well.  You see, there are some thought patterns in her life that are so persistently negative that they have practically taken over her life.  She has learned through our conversations that those thought patterns have to go if she is to find and live in joy and peace.  The problem is, WHAT do you do with them?

She wrote one day to say that once again that same old, tired, depressing thought pattern had cropped up again, and it was getting old that it just wouldn’t go away.  That reminded me of a true story from my recent life… the story of our dog Scout and the dead possums.

Now Scout is only a year old, very active, medium-sized, outdoor dog.  She is also our only dog, so unless she plays with the cats, she’s on her own most of the day.  So she runs and plays with our swings in the morning and can be seen running the perimeter of our large backyard.  She can’t get out of the backyard, but she has the run of that area.

One day my kids went out there to play and came running back in the house in horror.  Scout had KILLED two possums!  And she wanted to “give them” to my children!

Needless to say this was worse than that knitted sweater with three sleeves that Grandma wants to give you at Christmas.

They did not WANT this “gift.”

But oh, was Scout proud of those dead possums.  She would play with them and drag them around, and paw at them and drag them around.

Finally we buried them, and what did she do?  Dug them up of course!

She played with them so long, they were in pieces.  So we gathered the pieces and buried them in the FRONT yard where she couldn’t get to them anymore!

I told my friend this story and then said, “That’s what you’re doing with these negative thoughts.  You’ve got all these dead possums–depressingly bad thoughts–strewn about your “yard,” and you take them and play with them and pull them apart and put them together and think about them and mull them over.

That is NOT helping!  You’ve got to BURY them, by giving them to God… and then leave them buried!

How many dead possums do you have in your “backyard”?  How many tired old times have you let your thoughts tell you the same old depressing things?

Well, stop it.

Bury that thought.  Give it to God, and move on!

Seriously.  It’s time.

*~*

Two Best Sellers!

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Life As Rocket Science: Part 8, Training Your Horse

October 1, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

A friend and I have recently been talking about turning your thoughts from negative to positive.  So many of us fall into the trap of thinking whatever happens to come into our head. And most often these “random” thoughts are in one of two categories:  busyness thoughts or negative thoughts.
Busyness Thoughts sound like this:  “Oh, I have to get to work by 7:30 this morning…. I can’t forget that file.  Where did I put that file?  Wonder what they are serving for lunch today. Maybe I should bring my lunch.  No.  I’ll just swing by McDonalds on my way to pay that bill that’s due by 5…”  And the commentary just goes on and on, usually revving up to a pace that would make a Nascar driver fear for his life.

Negative Thoughts go something like:  “I don’t know WHY Jenny can’t pick up her shoes when she comes in the door.  Every time I have to pick up her shoes.  What am I, the maid? I’m late again.  Well, what’s new?  Always late for something.  And look at this mess.  I am so sick of this mess, I’m about to scream.  I’m tired, and now I’m left here, trying to do the laundry and cook supper.  This is so old!  When did I sign up for this…”
You get the picture.

Now if you’ve been following my writing–especially the nonfiction stuff–you know that I was raised on positive thinking.  My parents had every Zig Ziglar tape out there, and I knew most of them by heart.

What I have learned since really beginning my relationship with God when I was 34 is that without God at the center of it, positive thinking doesn’t work all that great because it’s simply YOU trying to battle the busyness thoughts and the negative thoughts on your own consistently and permanently!

Anyone as tired as I am when I say that?!

Well, as my friend and I were talking, I said that your thoughts are like riding a horse.  Stay with me here, this is good.  Your thoughts are the horse.  You are the rider.

Now if you know ANYTHING about riding a horse, you know that without good instruction, you could wind up about anywhere if you just let the horse go where it so chooses.

In fact, my sister when she was about 10, had a horse that threw its bit.  The bit is the part of the bridle that fits in the horse’s mouth.  When you pull the bridle right or left, the bit puts pressure on the horse’s mouth and the horse will turn the way you want to go to make the uncomfortable feeling go away.  It’s a very simple system really.  Except that she had a bullheaded horse that had learned to throw the bit.

The second the bit was out of its mouth, she lost control and went for the ride of her life–holding on because she couldn’t control it!

Now, just for a second, I want to share something else that’s going to sound like it’s out of left field, but it’s really not.

The other day I heard about a fascinating study they have done on the brain.  The scientists were able to pinpoint the area of the brain that carries out decisions.  However, there is no part of the brain that “lights up” in any of the scans to show them what part MAKES the decisions.

In the New Age/meditation realm, the first chakra is actually pictured ABOVE the head, meaning that it is not the brain that is doing the “thinking” at all.  It’s “something else.”

To me, this is our soul, our “higher self,” the part of us that lives on even when the body dies.

So it is THAT part that is making the decisions, and it is our brain that is the “horse” which is carrying out those decisions.

But here’s the fascinating part.  Most of us let our brain, our “horse” do whatever it wants to do!  We don’t “guide” it.  We don’t “direct” it.  We just follow along with whatever it happens to come up with, and then we wonder why our lives are a mess.

Here’s a new thing to try:  Start being the one guiding and directing your thoughts!  “Take every thought captive.”  “As a man thinketh, so does he live.”  That’s what these mean!

Think of your thoughts not as random or out of your control.  Rather, think of them as a horse that YOU put the bit in its mouth, and YOU (and God) guide.

When you start hearing busyness thoughts, take a moment to breathe, slow your thoughts down.  This is not a track race to see whose thoughts can go the fastest.  Spiraling or zooming thoughts is a sign that the horse is controlling YOU, not the other way around.

When you start hearing negative thoughts, realize that you have the ability to stop those, to pull them up short, and to turn them to something more productive.  So if your horse starts, “I’m such a failure. I never get anything right…”  Pull that up and say, “I’m not perfect, but that’s okay.  God didn’t make me to be perfect.  He made me to love me.  NOW, what in this situation can I do to make it a LITTLE better?”

Learn to ask good questions like:  What is God wanting me to learn here?  How can I make this a little better?  What CAN I do?

And most of all, give all the negative thoughts and the busyness thoughts to God.  “God, I need help to quiet my thoughts and breathe.  Please help me.”

The other fascinating thing is that my friend had recently read something by the Reverend Billy Graham, who after all of these years being with Christ and preaching the Good News, STILL has to consciously guide his thoughts away from fear into faith, away from selfishness into love, away from freak-out into control.

Further, this is a personal thing.  No one else can do it for you.  In fact, reading the stories of both Billy Graham’s daughter and Zig Ziglar’s daughter, you realize that just because their parents had learned to be successful and positive, didn’t mean they naturally were.  It wasn’t until they got their own horse under control and learned to do this for themselves that life became more peaceful and doable.

So practice training your horse.  If it’s too fast, slow it down.  If it turns a direction you don’t want to go, learn to guide it in a better direction.  Most of all… God will help!  Let Him!

*~*

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–Debra, Amazon Reviewer

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