“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

– Matthew 4:23

A LIFE-AFFIRMING ELIXIR

We sometimes spend too much time in our inner castles. Many times in my counseling work, I will confront despair. A client will say, “Why don’t they want me?” or “I had a bad week.” When I probe why people feel this way, I often detect that they have spent most of the week by themselves, reflecting or doing self-analysis. It is hard to be alone, and sometimes we are alone even when we are with people. My clients will confess that they didn’t get much done on their “to do” list, which drove them further into themselves, over analyzing and being overly self-critical.

Jesus would sometimes go off to silent places to pray and meditate. Away from everyone. However, he preferred to be among the people. His ministry was dining with other people, walking to distant towns, curing the sick, or helping an individual with insight. It is moments like these moments that remind us most of Jesus. His ministry was an outward expression to others.

“When we walk among people, we receive an elixir.”

When we walk among people, we receive an elixir. An affirmation of ourselves. When we look someone in the eye and ask “How is your day?” we are affirming that person. An inner moment of joy occurs that tells the person he or she is good and worthy. When we ask and then listen, we hear stories about life. We get to know other people. They can share their dreams and worries with us. They are affirmed because we listened. For a moment they have a voice. We gave them a voice. And the sense of our own joy increases also. Our outward interest in other people provides us energy for our own tasks. When we are with others and listen, we receive.

“God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another.”

People like people who like people. I often say this in my sessions. At first it may appear to be self-serving. But if we are sincere about it, we can create a mutual bond. When Jesus walked among humankind, he knew his mission. To heal, and proclaim the good news, but also simply to be with humankind. Our inner castles are good places to rest and pray, but we can only stay for a while. God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another. Through outward expressions we find healing. Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanAre we sincere when we say good morning?

Do we ask or do we state?

What is the value of questions?

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

– Luke 11:9

ASKING WITH FAITH

I remember sitting at my desk waiting for an answer. A few hours earlier, our chief accounting officer had told us that we were just hundreds of thousands of dollars from breaking our debt agreements. In effect, our $8 billion company was on the precipice of financial disaster. Six months earlier, I had been made the CFO of Foot Locker, inheriting responsibility for a company that was deeply in debt. Earlier in the day, I had called all our staff in for a meeting and asked if they could stay late that day, until we found a way to keep our company afloat. Not finding the means to do so would put the company into a cataclysmic spiral that would cost thousands their jobs and potentially result in a bankruptcy. We agreed that no one would go home until we came up with a solution.

It took hours, but finally, at 8:30 p.m. that night, our assistant treasurer and the chief accounting officer walked into my office, looking visibly relieved.

“We don’t know what you were so worried about,” they joked weakly. “We found some money in a long-forgotten utility deposit account.”

It was just enough to buy us another ninety days. But that was enough time to avoid the crisis, and we managed to use it to turn the company around. Two years later, we were praised in a Forbes magazine article for managing to make such a tremendous save.

JESUS AND ASKING

Jesus says all we have to do is ask. But there is more to it than just asking. We need to consider, Is what we are asking for the right thing? Are we willing to be patient and wait for God? Are we willing to put in the effort to search for the solution with Jesus? Jesus wants our participation. Once we ask, Jesus wants us to participate in searching for the answer, to take an active role in finding what we seek.

Often, we pray and ask for an answer. Many times, the answer doesn’t arrive on the timeline we’d like it to. Many times, the answer is different—but also better—than what we’d originally hoped for. Each time we ask for God’s help, we must be willing to work toward finding a solution by working with Jesus. This is God’s way. I remember sitting at my desk alone that evening at Foot Locker, calmly considering every possible solution. For hours, I could find no viable option. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a solution materialized.

“Each time we ask for God’s help, we must be willing to work toward finding a solution by working with Jesus.”

At times, the answer to our prayers comes through people or circumstances, but it can also come simply from a Bible verse. So, after we ask, we need to become aware of our surroundings. We need to search alongside Jesus for the answers we seek. But we also must be patient. Once we ask for God’s help, we must be willing to wait for the answer on God’s time. If our hearts are pure and we take an active role in seeking what we want or need of God, we will receive what we’ve asked for.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanCan we be patient in prayer?

Do we worry or stay calm after prayer?

How has God responded in the past?

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seeds fell on the ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

– Mark 4:3-8

WHICH SEEDS ARE WE

Those of us who work in the marketplace often have annual performance reviews, during which our superiors tell us how we did. Some years we do very well, and others, not so well. Some review recommendations we listen to; others we don’t. In the parable of the sower, Jesus gives us a performance review template to help us assess where we are with our faith. The seed that fell on the path is one that never really gave faith a chance. The seed on the rock is one that wants faith, but does little to nurture its faith. The one in the thorns, while faithful, allows the worries of the day to strangle its faith. The seed in the good soil nurtures and is patient with its faith, and allows worries to disappear.

“Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.”

But are we just one of these seeds, or a mixture of all of these types of seeds? We are all affected by our circumstances and by situations we encounter. Our reactions to these circumstances affect our faith. Bad financial situations may cause us to worry. Our experiences with difficult people may cause us to give up our Christian values. When we reach a mental state where we feel we are in the good soil, situations inevitably arise that test our faith.

We all want to be the seed in the good soil, but in tough times we worry, become angered, or otherwise lose our composure. In doing so, we end up on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns. Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.

Donna, a successful business owner I know, told me once that she was prone to anger when confronted with a difficult person or situation. Over time, she learned to identify the triggers that affected her mood and her spirit. When this happened, she would mentally distance herself from the situation and tell herself to simply observe her surroundings, to take in information passively, while letting time and distance quiet her impulsive reactivity.

Peter, a former colleague, would pull me aside during difficult, high-stress situations and suggest the two of us go for a walk. We would head out to grab a snack while we talked about football. This was our way of creating space to prevent us from becoming reactive, which would ultimately move us farther from our goals.

We all want to be in the good soil, and we become frustrated that we aren’t there all the time. Learning to identify and deal with our triggers helps us stay on course. None of us is just one “seed” all the time, and when we find ourselves on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns, Jesus can help us find our way back to the good soil.Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanWhat situations move us from good soil?

How do we react to life’s difficult circumstances?