What Matters

There is nothing like facing your own mortality to bring astonishing clarity about what’s important. Bryan was an ordinary guy who died and came back. Below is his story in his own words. By Bryan Wood Three years ago this week, I died. But obviously I and was brought back for a second chance. I had been feeling very sluggish for a couple of years but didn’t know what was happening. I’d been in and out of the doctor’s office many times, but everything always checked out. However, on a particular morning, I felt unusually tired, so I went to the hospital. When I arrived, my heartbeat was very sporadic, averaging 32 beats a minute instead of a normal 70. The technician on duty thought I might have a blockage, so he gave me a nitroglycerin pill to test his diagnosis. The pill made me feel a little bit better, so they gave me the another one. That’s when they realized I did NOT have a blockage. I turned pale and began sweating like crazy. I looked at the doctor and said, “I’m going down!” And then I flat lined. Because I had no blockage, my slow heart rate could not pump enough blood to sustain my life. Then complications (that are still unexplained) caused the electric signal to my heart to just stop! Apparently, the medical team fought for 2 hours and 15 minutes to bring me back and get me stabilized; it only seemed like seconds to me. The next thing I heard was someone telling me I was going to need a pacemaker, to which I responded, “I want one like Iron Man–with the blinking lights.” After the intense effort they’d made to bring me back, they failed to see the...

Live Intentionally

Do you struggle with keeping a healthy perspective? I have made multiple changes in my life in the past couple of years. After traveling extensively to teach and produce videos for non-profits all over the world, I am now focusing on teaching in the U.S. (in addition to blogging and podcasting). A challenge is to keep thinking globally while working locally. It is so easy for us to become myopic (narrow-minded) and me-focused. This plays on a theme my community college studied this week: emotions. It’s so easy for our minds and emotions to go places that are small-minded and self-serving. We have to be intentional to maintain the big picture, remember the goals we have set, and be other-focused. I found the following a timely message for you and myself. “It is often tempting to look at the lives of many great Christian figures and assume that the reason they were able to live their impressive lives was because they were simply better people than you are me. However, as we study these figures, we find that more often than not, the only difference between us and them is the future they saw and were fighting for. Whenever we become short-sighted to the point of only focusing on our bank statements, deadlines, and Netflix queue, we are bound to live uninspired lives.”* Take a moment to reassess, re-grab the larger perspective and live intentionally.   * Quote from Rusty Gates, M.Div. The Cycle of Life: A Lenten Devotional (Sunday before Easter) from Bloom Church in Denver. Royalty-free image by Johan Borg of Sweden; retrieved from: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/406855...

Trapped

The question has been rolling around in my spirit since I read it two weeks ago. It is a question haunting me: “God, where am I trapped and unable to see it?” This most simple questioning prayer seems beyond profound. Is trapped the same as being stuck? If you’ve been around Get Control Of Your Life very long, you know we are all about getting unstuck. We all get stuck in various aspects of our lives: dead-end jobs, life-sucking relationships, routine, habits, and thinking patterns that keep us from moving forward. I’ve worked very hard to get unstuck in the past couple of years. I have a sense that it’s quite possible to get unstuck. If you get your foot “stuck in the mud,” You just get it out. But if you get your car stuck in the mud, it may take considerable effort to get it out. Point is: it seems doable, even if you have to get help. But being trapped. What is that? It reminds me of situations in which I felt stressed with no obvious way out, like not having money to pay a bill, feeling the panic of a dark and tiny enclosed space, or what it must be like to have an elephant on your chest. You know flies get trapped in spider webs; then they become lunch. Maybe you feel trapped because of too much rain or snow, and are “dying” to get out! Or perhaps you have memories of an animal that has somehow become stuck, like a whale on a beach or a dog that has fallen in an icy pond. What about you? Where are you trapped and unable to see it? We’ve talked about the Johari Window before. We must come to terms with...

Chasing Rainbows

We have several sayings in English that all mean basically the same thing. “Chasing rainbows”. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” “It’s never enough.” They all have to do with a mentality that happiness and success are just around the corner. “If I could only get to the next big thing!” implies that I don’t have it now, and unless I buy into this one “thing,” I will miss out on finding it. Some people think happiness will come by winning the lottery. It rarely does. In fact, almost 100% of lottery winners end up worse off in the end. They experience divorce and other broken relationships, and have less money than before they bought that magic ticket. I once had a friend who was always chasing the next big thing. He was a magnet for “no-lose” financial opportunities that almost always had a cost. Some were sure-fire business opportunities, some were magic systems to build wealth, and some were connections to really spiritual people who seemed to offer something elusive. But the promised sure-fire success or “pot of gold” only seemed to help the company promoting “the next biggest thing,” and not my friend. In fact, my friend seemed to always end up the loser. He was always chasing the rainbow, never trusting that he really had the knowledge to accomplish his goals already. Instead, he seemed to have a chronic addiction to the thing he didn’t have. There was always one more “no-lose” opportunity, one bit of “special knowledge,” or “deal you can’t pass up!” It truly did seem like an addiction to the elusive. Life is hard. But the solutions are not that mysterious. There is no magic bullet or fix-all pill that will help you...

Attitude of Gratitude...

I grew up in a very privileged family. Our house was the biggest house in town and we were the richest. We had servants that did work both inside and outside, including nannies that cared for us when we were young. I grew up traveling the world and attended a private school. Yes, indeed I lived the life of the rich and famous. That is until…. Our family returned to the U.S. from central Africa where my parents were missionaries. Suddenly, by comparison, we were the po’ folk. My parents went from church to church ‘begging’ for money, we lived in rented homes, we moved often, being the new kids in town, and we received donated used clothing. We never quite fit in. Now, again I live a very privileged life. I have in a beautiful home in a new neighborhood. My husband and I enjoy 24/7 electricity and all the accompanying gadgets, making household servants unnecessary.  I work part-time, and yes, still enjoy traveling the world. With a private vehicle, I can move about the city at my pleasure in air-conditioned comfort. As I reflect on my life, I think I have lived a very privileged life. I’ve never gone hungry, have financial reserves for emergencies and retirement, enjoy a wide network of friends, and still have a loving family who are always there for me. And I have a profession that is meaningful and contributes to God’s purposes, as I understand them. But I don’t feel entitled to any of it. Yes, I’ve worked hard and made some wise choices (and a few foolish ones) over the years that have resulted in my privileged life. But others have also made wise choices but suffered tragedies that wiped out all advantage. I live...

Jelly Beans pt 2

Only read this if you’ve already read Jelly Beans pt 1.  The is pt 2 of an article by guest writer, Karissa Wenner. According to research done by Bonnie Ware, the most common regrets of dying people are: 5. I wish I had let myself be happier. 4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends 3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings. 2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Wow: I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Let’s break this down. The first part is much easier said than done: “I wish I had the courage…” Courage is something that can’t be taught, but is found within. It’s scary to break your comfort zone, but if you find a big enough reason to do so, you will also find the courage to overcome your fears. The next part is also tricky: “…to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” In order to accomplish this, you must truly know yourself and know the life you want for yourself. Too often I see students studying something they don’t care about and people working jobs they hate simply because they are following the norm and doing what society deems ‘acceptable’. I challenge you to think for yourself and figure out what truly makes you happy. It’s that warm fuzzy feeling that you should be chasing no matter how unrealistic it may seem or how your peers might react. Stop worrying about other people’s opinions! Everybody is guilty of it whether...

Jelly Beans Pt.1

The following is an article written by Karissa Wenner. As a student of mine, she presented the following in a speech. I encouraged her to turn it into an post to share with you. The idea that ‘life is short’ has become somewhat of a cliché in today’s society; however, it is an important concept to internalize. Here’s a quick 3-minute video that uses jelly beans to show how you’re spenging your life.* I’m sure I’m not alone in re-evaluating my life after seeing this video! It’s amazing to see how much time we spend on simple daily activities and how little spare time we have left to do the things we actually enjoy. It’s impossible to know how many jelly beans we have left, and like he said in the video, “What if you just had one more day? What are you going to do today?” If you’re like me, you wouldn’t spend your last day sleeping or at work, you would spend it living your dreams! Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to know what to do with your time when you don’t know how much of it you have left. We’re all scrambling to try to find the balance between enjoying the present and building for the future, so that when all is said and done, we don’t regret the way we spent our jelly beans. I’m not afraid of many things, but I am afraid of regret. My biggest fear is to be laying on my deathbed regretting the things I did, and didn’t do, with my time. A woman named Bronnie Ware did a study of Hospice patients where she asked them what their top regrets in life were.** These were the results: 5. I wish I had let myself be happier....

Start

It’s the new year, so you have likely been thinking about (and hearing about) resetting aspects of your life. There is a sense in January that one can start over. Newsflash: It’s still January! But starting can be the hardest part. Starting is step 1. But often we get bogged down by steps 4 and 5 and so on. What if I don’t follow through? How much will it cost? What will happen if…? Change is intimidating for many of us because it involves uncertainty. But it’s a vicious cycle; and sometimes our deepest desires get bogged down. We experience paralysis by analysis! What is the one thing that is really on your mind these days? Spending more time with people you love? Stopping something? Getting a new job? Enjoying every moment a little more? Cleaning out that closet? Starting that retirement fund? Being present wherever you are? Just being content? Today you can do step 1. Just start. You’ve done it many times. You learned to walk by taking that first step! You learned to count by starting with 1. You learned the alphabet by starting with the 1st letter. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Be courageous. Be curious. Be confident. Go ahead; take the first bite. Just start. As Rob Bell said in an interview for oprah.com, “When you say yes to step 1, you cross over from one realm to another.”*   *http://www.oprah.com/connectembraceown/Life-Stories-That-Inspire-with-Rob-Bell Royalty-free image by Colin Brough in the United Kingdom. Retrieved from...

Where’s Your Treasure?...

“The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” This is an awesome principle from a little verse in the book of Matthew in the Bible.* And how true it is. We can talk all day about resolutions and goals. But in the end, we put our time and resources into the things we care most about. And in some sort of cyclical pattern those investments of time and resources set our priorities, define who we are, and reveal our desired destination. Which comes first? Yes. Time, resources, priorities, identity, destination; each affects the other. What you invest in reveals much about what is really important to you. And that is key—knowing what is important to you—because you can’t do everything! As Rob Bell said in his first Robcast,** “You have to say yes before you can say no.” It means you know what to say yes to. Then that gives you permission not only to say YES to what you’re passionate about, but NO to what you’re not! How cool is that? But oh how we struggle to say no! The priorities you set are both reflective of and determining of who you are. And who you are decides what you give yourself to (and not to). And your destination is both a reflection of your desires and a result of who you are and what you give yourself to. It may sound complex, but it’s actualy quite simple (and freeing)! Consider this circle as you contemplate how you will live your life this year.   * Matthew 6:21 The Message translation ** The Robcast (Rob Bell podcast), Episode 1, January 11, 2015. Check out here:...

Hope for 2015!

Hope. There is something hopeful about new things. New babies seem to represent the promise of a bright future. Springtime brings new life from the death and dormancy of autumn and winter. And a new year brings a fresh reminder that we can always escape the trappings, failures and disappointments of the past and get a lease on life. Just like forgiveness releases us from the past, so does a new year. Hope can be defined as a feeling of desire of excitement about a thing about to happen. It’s also an expectation for great things to happen! What are your hopes for 2015? What are the desires of your heart? Do you have a renewed sense of excitement, expectation and desire for the new year? I figure there are two main ways to view the world. One is to feel hopeless and a victim of things that are outside your control. I sometimes refer to it as the Doris Day philosophy. Que sera sera; whatever will be will be. The other is to view yourself as an architect of your destiny, a deep belief in your ability to alter the world and cause things to be. I sometimes refer to this as the Sly Stone philosophy, based on the song, You can make it if you try, made popular by the funk musician in the late 1960s. While some things are out of our control, it’s good to be reminded there is a great deal we can control! Our destiny is to a large extent in our hands. Consider the Sly Stone philosophy as you think about the new year. You can make it if you try! You can accomplish things you never knew possible. And you can be the bright light shining in your...