No Other God

“‘Is there any God besides Me?…I know of none.'”…Isaiah 44:8

God declares that He Himself has no equal. There are no other substitutes. No one is worthy of worship except Him…and Him alone. This reality is life changing, if truly embraced. We think, feel and act differently when we acknowledge God as the only true source of meaning.

Life presents each of us with an ongoing menu of ways to live more effectively and happily. When one option is exhausted, we simply move on to another until we die. And sadly enough, our Lord and Savior is put on the menu as just one more possibility. Yet God refuses to be part of a list of potential remedies for the stresses of life. God states that He alone is the only menu, the only resource, the only source of meaning.

Jesus died on the cross because only God could supply the remedy for sin. Jesus rose from the dead as proof that only God can provide an ongoing life that never ceases to be remarkable. And Jesus walks as a risen Lord that…”we too might walk in newness of life.” No wonder God boldly declares Himself to be sovereign, establishing Himself as the only definition of true meaning in life.

Ultimately, we must declare Him to be the only King in our lives. And this is the point of true Christianity, when we surrender our being to the living God in a way that acknowledges one simple truth…He alone exists as the only source of real purpose and dignity in life. When we truly believe that God stands alone as the giver of life, then He gently pulls us so close that we breath His air, feels His pulse and exist in the shade of His precious hands. It is here that we proclaim, “There is no God besides Him- no, not one!”

 

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The Crucible of Marriage – Are You Good For One Another?

Crucible. Reminds you of chemistry class where you get to experiment with all kinds of liquids, stirring them together until you come up with a new solution. A new product. Forming a new whole. Sometimes a combustible whole. All in a small porcelain container that holds stuff together – a repository of your creative juices, talent and innovation.

Life has its crucibles.

I see marriage as a crucible where you, as two lovers, come together to refine, grow, cherish and inspire one another. Where the capacity to move each other to become more than you are now – in so many ways – defines the synergy you create as lovers, partners.

So, in your marriage, are you good for one another? Are you a catalyst to the success, happiness and contentment of your lover? Do you seek out ways to rock each other’s world, to let your partner know their well-being means everything to you? That you hope to be the source of smiles, hope and positivity in their life? To the extent we value and invest in the joy and life of our partner, we show the highest love – a love that seeks to bless our mate and honors their heart and spirit.

How do we become lovers who center our efforts on the person we love, not just our own wants and needs? How can we be strategic in our desire to move our partner’s world to help them grow and reach their potential for joy, success and peace? What makes us a “good for our mate” kind of guy? Here are some thoughts.

Reflect regularly on your lover’s uniqueness and find ways to let her know you see and cherish the novelty of her spirit, personality and mind. Develop an inner spirit of fondness for her individual qualities, even if they are quirky or sometimes rub you the wrong way.

  • Encourage her to cultivate her individuality – perhaps through hobbies, the friends she has or talents she can develop. Join her in events, if possible, that celebrate these experiences or areas of her life.
  • Meditate and pray for your mate often. Ask her how you can pray and support her in her challenges ahead, or successes she finds.
  • Read growthful, life-changing books and spiritual material together. Support your mate in her desire to grow in areas she identifies and try to find out specific ways you can come along side and cheer her forward.
  • Cultivate love and compassion for your lover. Reach out to her with tenderness, support and belief in her worth and unique value.
  • Find all kinds of ways to rock her world with words, touch and praise. May be a simple text message of support or encouragement or a love letter, giant hug or flower and candy you bring her way.
  • Don’t stop in your effort to reach your own potential to be a light in her life. Pray for God’s virtues to so invade your inner being that reaching out becomes a habit and not an exception. Remember, if you grow in your capacity to love and bring compassion into this world, your own momentum and inspiration will leak into your lover’s life.

Love grows when we water the garden where seeds of hope are planted, where flowers dot the landscape, replacing anger and anxiety, and where thoughts of touching your lover’s soul grow on trees reaching into the light of heaven itself. In this world, where riches abound and grow fertile from the Gardner’s hand, you will become truly “good for one another.”

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The Power of an Integrated Life – 5 Leadership Skills that Transform Work and Home

Too often we think of creating success in leadership and success in the home as separate skill sets. Leaders arrive at home with the intent of changing their mindset and somehow defining themselves differently with their wives and family. As if one’s personal life doesn’t mesh with all the talents needed to run a business or achieve a corporate vision. Yet success in leadership depends on integrating a skill set and style that can actually produce solid results in all areas of life. Here are five, vital leadership talents that provide business leaders with a seamless way to transform work and home.

 

  1. Construct a leadership vision. Before creating a corporate or team vision, decide on a personal one that guides you forward, keeps you accountable and drives your personal growth. Apply these to all the roles you play in life.
  2. Think integration – not balance. Balance means we try to somehow duplicate, in time and energy, all the roles we play out. Integration means we strive to be a whole person in all the roles we play out – with the same strengths and skills applied to each one.
  3. Know your defining strengths. Those that bring influence and change into work. Imagine living these out at home and work. Think strategically.
  4. Develop an authentic style. Your interpersonal style, built around true genuineness, moves mountains in all areas of life.
  5. Cultivate a mindful approach. Decide how to focus on the right things in each moment. Let those drive results.

 

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Marriage or a Life – Can You Have Both?

Have you grown up? Have you achieved a level of individuality where you inhabit your strengths, celebrate your uniqueness and take pride in your personality?

One of the most important themes in all our lives centers on whether or not­ we have developed a whole, complete identity. Look at your own journey and ask yourself, “Have I changed over time and stepped into a place of maturity and confidence where I honor and celebrate my own uniqueness?” If not, what gets in the way?

Could be lack of self-confidence from childhood or struggles with depression or anxiety you haven’t solved. Or any issue you haven’t mastered that compromises personal development and lasting self-worth. Unfortunately, it could be the result of merging your life with your partner’s in marriage. Yes, your marriage.

Although marriage creates a wonderful union of soul and heart, it challenges us to keep and sustain our individuality in the face of a gravitational pull that draws us toward oneness and unity. Like the tide in the ocean, we feel the momentum of rushing toward and merging into the shores of interpersonal connection with our mate while trying to make sense of the departing current that longs to flow toward horizons yet experienced in the unknown distance.

So one of the most painful themes in marriage comes when either partner feels boxed in. Like they can’t breathe and grow, surrounded by walls that don’t let in the light or energy and that move us toward personal freedom and growth. Sometimes this comes in extremes. One we call co-dependency. You often see where addiction persists in the home – where the spouse focuses on keeping the addict sober at the expense of developing a life for themselves. No one wins.

The more common development comes from the nature of marriage itself. Being in love with someone means sacrificing and surrendering our lives to someone we deeply love. Unfortunately for some, this feels like a loss of individuality when you give to your lover of your emotions, life direction and time. Some begin to lose sight of what it means to make individual choices, to experience the freedom to explore alternative directions in life and may begin to blame the marriage for the problem. More importantly, blame their life partner.

How does loving and giving of self in marriage promote sacrificial love while enhancing worth, identity and uniqueness of each life partner? Is it even possible? Is this too much to ask? Don’t think so. Marriage has the power to do both. To create both a space of loving and belonging while enhancing the personal worth, freedom and individuality of each partner. But it needs two lovers with distinct characteristics that make it possible to facilitate and celebrate each other’s individuality while simultaneously asking for closeness and togetherness.

Let’s explore some traits of two partners who make marriage really work and honor individuality while creating closeness and unity.

  1. Two life partners who bring their own wholeness into the marriage grow a kind of mutuality that fosters togetherness without sacrificing separateness. When you have grown up, whether from past wounds or other reasons that keep you from loving fully, you sustain a personal confidence that doesn’t get threatened when it is time to surrender or sacrifice time and energy for the love of your mate. Too often one or both spouses who haven’t grown up begin to blame the other for holding them back, rather than embracing their own need to become whole in and of themselves.
  2. Two lovers, who take full responsibility for their own growth and their own experience of individuality, fail to be threatened by the wants and needs their lover brings to the table. They give from a full well and know that others can’t diminish their self-esteem or sense of personal worth. So loving never gets equated with loss.   Only gain. This leads to the next point.
  3. Giving and surrender don’t have to mean loss and disempowerment. Loving another – deeply loving another – grows energy and brings light into the relationship. Doesn’t diminish self. So sacrifice, reaching out and caring deeply provide opportunities to express power and individuality. Perhaps the greatest pinnacle of personal growth happens when giving is experienced as receiving. Light and power reside within and when given to another, the well of love replenishes from the act itself.
  4. Finally, when two lovers commit to building a marriage that deeply supports one another’s individual growth, a kind of powerful energy inhabits the relationship. When your thoughts and actions say, “I see you as an amazing and unique human being and I’m going to support and encourage you to become all you can be as my way of loving you,” then love grows tall – like giant redwoods that stand out in a dense forest of mutual care and adoration. Confidence and appreciation for each other reaches new heights.

Love, true love, happens between lovers who see each other as a marvel of creation. And they have learned how to say “I love you and want you to soar.” “You are profoundly different than I am in so many ways and I love you for this.” A love like this feeds the soul. Honors the stunning uniqueness that every person possesses and waits with anticipation for time together – where two souls merge together without ever losing the drumbeat that makes them different and exceptional.

Creating an exceptional marriage, an amazing marriage – together yet apart.

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Talking to God

But when you pray, go into your inner room…
                Matthew 6:6

The wonder of prayer is that God wants us to talk to Him at all. Yet His desire to fellowship with us “in secret” reveals God’s desire for an intimate walk with His children. All He asks is for time alone, where His presence meets us in the sweet communion of fellowship.

This “inner room” can only be found in a place of our choosing. It has little to do with geography- but everything to do with the location of our heart and mind. Have you found a place of such intimacy, where the presence of Almighty God is a peaceful fountain to your soul – a place where you can hear Him whisper, where the world around you pales next to the His shining light?

Many long for the day when our Savior will appear and take us to be His own. The thought of standing in God’s presence is almost incomprehensible. Yet the experience of God’s nearness is not just a future event. It is meant to be a present experience.

Imagine the eternal, infinite God delighting in finite moments with His children. All He asks is for us to arrange the meeting times and He will be there. And the wonderful promise is that “your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

He repays us with the blessedness of his presence, the immediate experience of His love and grace and His divine attention to our every word. The experience of God is an ever present blessing for each of His children who take time to draw near. It’s indeed a wonder that we don’t spend more precious moments rushing into the presence of our wonderful Savior… “In Thy presence is fullness of joy.”

 

 

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The Heart Of Our Savior

“Come to Me, all who are weary”… Matthew 11:28, 29

Nothing touches the human heart more profoundly than the invitations of God. He calls on us, hoping we will hear him. And what is most remarkable is that He extends the invitations at all! The Christian life could be summarized as an ongoing response to the beckoning voice of our Savior. God is always speaking to us, hoping we will listen, hoping we will respond.

Perhaps few blessings present such a rich testimony to God’s love as this call… “come to Me.” The Eternal God of the Universe, Creator and Sustainer of all things, continually requests our presence before Him. And why does He beckon? Why does He call? – “Come to Me…and I will give you rest.”

God wants us to rest before Him. To rest means to constantly abide in His presence…”Abide in Me, and I in you.” It represents a place where the believer lives- every moment of every day. Rest usually implies the equivalent of sleep, of ceasing all activity and retreating from the events of the day. But God’s rest implies the beginning of real living, where the thirty soul finds joy and meaning.

All He asks of us is that we draw near. Rest is God’s provision for the weary soul. We are not called to rest, but simply to come near. We must always see in our weariness, the blessed privilege of drawing near our Savior. And it is only when we draw near His…”throne of grace,” not our self-made thrones, that our wonderful Savior meets us with the joy and peace of knowing Him.

 

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Surgery of the Heart – Reflections on the Life I’ve Been Given

What a year. Last year, this time, I nearly died – or at least, was about to.

As I reflect on my recent heart surgery, here at Christmas time a year ago, I am struck by so many thoughts and feelings that I don’t know where to begin.

What stands out most, perhaps, centers on perspective – that life doesn’t seem as lengthy or predictable as I once thought. And if so brief, what have I yet to accomplish, who have I yet to impact and even why has God kept me around?

After near death and experiencing the extreme vulnerability of life, you begin to wonder. Not like pondering or day dreaming. We all do that. I mean gut wrenching, soul shaking stuff – the kind you can’t just let go of, that wakes you up in the middle of the night and stirs your heart in ways you aren’t used to! Keeps you awake!

Wondering and wondering.

And so I wonder and wonder:

What would have happened had I died a year ago! What would everyone’s life have been like? Would I have been truly missed?

  • Where all the love came from! So many reached out to me in prayer, in thought and in spirit. My own wife touched my very being with her love and care. My oldest son gave me a gift I’ll never forget – himself, his time, his prayers, his delight in my recovery, his pain at seeing me almost slip away.
  • Why I’m here! Are there causes and dreams to pursue I can now see more clearly? The dawn of a new day often finds itself radiating fresh desire, to love more consistently, to give more freely and to let others know you love them deeply. I want to hang onto the glow of this burgeoning motivation – hold on with all the life I have left and will be blessed to see unfold!
  • If I’ll even see another Christmas. I am growing more mindful of the meaningless trivialities of life and clearer about what’s important. At least I think I am. I want to believe that I have, at my soul’s fingertips, a renewed sense of drive – toward eternal, life-giving principles. Not just making the mortgage or getting a day off!
  • How I can touch your life. I feel driven to give of myself in ways more tangible, consistent than before, more effectively. Let me know how I can do this. Really!
  • What God is doing with me? Why He gave me another day. What He hopes I will realize in all this. What He wants me to let go of. What He wants me to seek, as I truly let go of those things that rot and vanish with time.
  • What to now define as awesome – truly awesome? I look at the surgeons, their skill in mending my heart and am in awe. Yet with all their skill and wisdom, the strands of life woven together December 21st, 2010, came from intricacies more extraordinary than a scalpel’s touch could forge. My new life and path came from some other light, from glory of another, from the Master’s touch that suggested this earthly tent I live in needed a few more days or years – or however long I’ve been given.
  • If I’m supposed to give up wondering and just live the day I’ve been given. If I need to let each moment sprout and emerge as a testimony to my desire to cling loosely, to give enormously, to reach out conspicuously! To realize how much I don’t know but focus on only those gems that He wants me to realize – such as the enormous power of love and affection a human being can give another.

You all gave me this love. You know who you are. It starts with my wife, my boys, my daughter-in-law, my mother, sister, mother-in-law and father-in-law and all those usual suspects you might guess reached out to me. But it extends to a body of lovers who reached out with tears, food and thoughtfulness and a raging belief I would make it and have another day to live, give and celebrate.

If I’ve learned nothing else, it must be thankfulness. For the gift of life, for breath, for love and for family. That someone thought I was worth keeping around and He arranged my universe to include another day of sunshine, purpose and service to His cause and Kingdom.

As I watched my family open their presents this year, I couldn’t help see the greatest gift of all, surrounding me with flaming brilliance, light and hope. His birth and death define me. They are not wrapped in paper with pretty bows, but sit invisible, with arms wide open and a silent sound that echoes for those who will listen!

And so I wonder how I would have ever really lived without the crisis of impending death. I want to shout, at the roof-top to those listening, that your life counts – make it truly count. Live as if you’ve been given another day! Emerge from your own surgery and perhaps even slumber.

Believe me, there is nothing quite like the surgery of the heart!

 

Doug Gustafson, 2011

 

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