MAY DAY! MAY DAY! Americans may be more connected than ever ... yet loneliness and unhappiness has still risen to epidemic levels! Here's a idea to make sure mom's feel God's love this Mother's Day.
UNHAPPINESS IS A REAL PROBLEM
"You could have people around you throughout the day, be involved with online social media or even be in a lifelong marriage, and still experience a deep, pervasive loneliness," reports Psychology Today. Many attend church regularly, yet remain isolated and 'unfriended'.
The UK Independent reports, "Research has shown loneliness impacts on health in a greater way than smoking or obesity and increases mortality risk by 26%. Loneliness particularly affects the elderly who may be socially isolated due to decreased mobility and loss of friends and partners."
The Daily Times reports, "Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa believed 'the most terrible poverty' is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved....LONELINESS KILLS. That was the conclusion of a recent report from Brigham Young University researchers, who called loneliness the next big public health issue."
"Researchers used to think that the obvious answer to loneliness was simply more social activity - making friends, having hobbies, and getting out more...For years, researchers studied such social activities and couldn't understand why there were so many people who had some of these things in their lives but still reported persistent feelings of isolation," reports the Boston Globe.
DING-DING! Feeling isolated from God and other people is for many a living hell. What better way than to express the love of God in our hurting culture than to reach out to befriend our dramatically rising senior population in nursing homes? This is a golden opportunity for baby boomers seeking to give back to their community.
VISITING MOM'S NEW HOME
Last weekend my daughter Elizabeth and I visited mom's new home at Bridgeview Estates in Twin Falls, Idaho, which offers independent living, assisted living and nursing care on the same campus. It was the first time in 40 years I have been inside a nursing home, so I was all ears and eyes to discern what living conditions are like there.
Over three days of visiting I observed a very friendly and helpful staff, but there was still something missing. That something is regular interaction with believers who are living in the outside world. A few of the residents (like my mom) have interaction with a family member frequently, but a great many are rarely visited.
Elizabeth and I cherished the time we could spend with mom, now in the middle stage of dementia, we talked, played music, rubbed her feet, played cards and told her stories of God's goodness. At lunch we listened to other residents at mom's table share their amazing stories and life lessons. Talk about a captive audience ... these souls are desperately seeking someone willing to listen and talk with them about their faith, hope, love and real life issues - especially as they approach the end of life.
"Imagine the joy of experiencing first-hand a fresh and growing relationship daily with the Creator of the universe, your loving heavenly Father. That is what a new movement called TradingUp.org is committed to inspiring worldwide," I wrote one year ago in this space.
TradingUp.org exists to help millions of Christians from all backgrounds discover the value of 'trading up' from a self-centered life to a God-centered life - by taking small steps daily. It is this interactive expression of intimacy which is a vital missing link in much of modern Christianity.
Rather than envisioning God as a moral policeman, divine employer or theology professor, TradingUp.org encourages believers to embrace God as a perfect, loving "Father" - a term Jesus uses over 200 times in the Scripture. Trading Up free videos and free twice-daily email or text messages serve as a divine interruption by a loving Father reminding us that we matter to Him and we are never alone.
"God always listens carefully...and He will give us what we ask for, or something vastly better... interaction with God is the oxygen of the soul," writes TradingUp founder Doug Sherman in his 2013 book, More Than Ordinary (reviewed below). Stay tuned for exciting news about Doug Sherman's new books set for release this Summer.
So, along with a big box of See's candy, I brought mom a copy of TradingUp's free devotional entitled Letters From God. I had given her a copy last year, but I wanted to make sure it did not get lost in the move. I felt inspired to read a sample Letter From God to underline just how important and special mom is to her Heavenly Father. I know our spirits were in communication as she listened this simple, yet life-giving message from her Creator.
FRIENDING THE ISOLATED
In John 15:15 Jesus said, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you FRIENDS, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." WOW! That's an amazing transformation! As we discover the Father's business plan, we become true friends able to display godly values.
Everyone needs a few good friends we can trust. The best way to attract the right type of friends is to practice becoming a better friend - both with our God and with those around us. The book of Proverbs reveals the key traits of being a real friend, according to Pastor Brad Baker of Phoenix First Assembly. Brad recently shared 6 TRAITS OF A REAL FRIEND. In a nutshell, real friendship means being; 1. Committed (Prov. 18:24), 2. Considerate (Prov. 17:9), 3. Confidential (Prov. 11:13), 4. Candid (Prov. 24:26), 5. Constructive (Prov. 27:17) and Consistent (Prov. 17:17).
The Scripture reveals that Christians are called to reach out in a special way to the widows and the least among us. So why not begin visiting local nursing homes equipped with these simple, very inclusive Letters From God? Who could refuse an uplifting message from the God that we all will one day meet face to Face. Who could refuse the unconditional love and friendship that Jesus modeled and then asked us to replicate?
Start by downloading and reading TradingUp's Letters From God and see for yourself what can be gained by first hand revelation of God's amazing lovingkindness. Who knows, perhaps others will feel as I do - and plan to find a corporate sponsor to print up copies of Letters From God to distribute freely to hospital chaplains and nursing home residents.
Although 1,600 miles separates me from visiting with my mom daily, nothing is stopping me from reaching out to those lonely souls living in local nursing homes. My daughter Beth felt the same tug on her heart to serve...this could easily become a family affair which brings together children and grand children ... to help end the age of loneliness ... with the love of God!
What better way to celebrate Mother's Day (May 10th) than to reach out to mom's everywhere? Imagine the impact of we could each have by investing just a few hours a week reaching out to the silent majority of widows and elders currently just surviving in assisted living and nursing homes.
"Every living person fits into one of four categories; you have been a caregiver, you are presently caregiving, you will be a caregiver, or you will be cared for by somebody else," said Rosyln Carter. So true.
As I wrote recently... Each of us is born into this world as 100% DEPENDENT upon our earthly family and our Heavenly Father for life, love and growth.
Then as we mature, we progressively seek to become 100% INDEPENDENT - in full control of our future and destiny - in which we often create a world that exalts our 'self' above our family and Creator.
But each of us will one day come to grips with the fact that all mortals, as we approach the end of our lives, most likely will again become 100% DEPENDENT upon the kindness of family, others and our loving Heavenly Father.
This is the 'natural' cycle of life; birth, maturity and death. For most death is a mystery at best and something to fear at worst. The 'super-natural' cycle of life adds the promise of resurrection and eternal life after death. Jesus Christ demonstrated how to live fear-less in both life and death.
4.1.14 - Imagine the joy of experiencing first-hand a fresh and growing relationship daily with the Creator of the universe, your loving heavenly Father. That is what a new movement called TradingUp.org is committed to inspiring worldwide.
Recent headlines from the American Bible Society declare Americans have a major "disconnect between belief and behavior". The result: most people live their life unfulfilled and guilt-ridden.
The Barna Research poll found that most Christians "view reading the Bible as taking your medicine", which is to say less than exciting. The result: Only 13% of Christians read their Bible daily.
TRADING UP with Doug Sherman begins with the premise that we all need a radically bigger view of our heavenly Father if we are to find true meaning in life.
Doug Sherman's life mission and passion has been to elevate people's view of who God is and what life with Him can be like as we experience Him from Sunday morning to Saturday night.
"If we do what you've always done, we'll get what we've always gotten before" is a truism. The antidote is simply to do something in our lives differently.
That something, proclaims TRADING UP founders Doug Sherman and Mark Bankord, involves a fresh revelation of God's handiwork in His Word, in nature and in all circumstances.
"God's lovingkindness is without limits, it is always the same and it is infinately disruptive in our lives. To many this is a surprise," says Sherman.
At a recent TRADING UP teaching series at Paradise Church in Phoenix, Arizona, Leoma Lightner-Bradshaw attended with great expectations, having already read Doug Sherman's newest book More Than Ordinary.
Leoma writes "The words and teachings that I became aware of from this past weekend session was to humble myself and rediscover God and his nature from the ground up."
This message resonates with the response from thousands who have personally met or been touched by Doug's books and new teaching and coaching content.
According to Mr. Sherman, "The trajectory of our whole life is determined by one thing, the image of God we live our lives by. Rethinking your image of God from the ground up will lead to a vastly better life and dramatically shift how you see everything. That is a Trade Up."
Doug is a popular speaker and a published author of several books, his most popular being Your Work Matters to God which has been revolutionary for Christ followers in the marketplace for decades now. He has spent his career engaging God both in the marketplace and ministry which gives him the unique experience to understand and speak into both worlds.
Over the years Doug has deployed his leadership and visionary gifts as Founder and President of Career Impact Ministries, Founder of DSG Consulting, Co-founder and CEO of Aspen Heights Student Housing, LLC and currently CEO of Innovative Real Estate Companies LLC.
He is the Founder of Ignite Your Walk Ministries, which is now Trading Up. Trading Up is a 501(c)3 ministry committed to help Christ-followers take small steps throughout the week that result in BIG change in the trajectory of their view of God and their entire life. Doug graduated from the Air Force Academy, served in the Air Force as a fighter pilot trainer, then earned a Master of Theology from Dallas Seminary.
Visit TradingUp.org for a short video introduction, free sign up for twice daily email/text messages of Scripture translated into first person, free downloadable leaders guides and his 42-day devotional "Letters From God" and new weekly Trading Up experience.
Challenge: Read Doug's 'Letters From God' short daily devotional at the family dinner table each night for a month to elevate the discussion while also getting inspired to recognize and proclaim your own amazing "God-stories". (A review of Doug's newest book, "More Than Ordinary" is posted below)
"You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You."
-St. Augustine, 397 A.D.
"It is not length of life, but depth of life."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The longest journey a man must take in his lifetime is the 18 inches between his head and his heart."
More Than Ordinary by author and businessman Doug Sherman is an extra-ordinary book on Christian living. It could easily be titled "Your Intimacy with God Matters to Him" - the sequel to his groundbreaking bestseller, "Your Work Matters to God", written over 20 years ago during his "first season" of life.
I had the pleasure of meeting Doug and his wife Jan at Paradise Church in Phoenix this summer as he introduced his upcoming "Trading Up" teaching series set to kick off in September 2013 as part of a new outreach to Phoenicians in their "Third Quarter" of life (ages 50-75).
My first impression of Doug reminded me of the simplicity and spiritual countenance I imagined of the 17th century monk Brother Lawrence, author of "The Practice of the Presence of God" who also experienced the power and presence of God in such a dynamic way that it changed his life forever - and the lives of millions of Christians ever since.
Doug first experienced his epiphany at age 14, but this revelation took another four decades to fully incarnate before reaching maturity. Doug freely shares his life struggles, surviving an abusive natural father, which set the stage for a super-natural encounter with his Heavenly Father, who he discovered loved him as-is and desired an ongoing, intimate relationship with him.
I was familiar with Doug having read his first outstanding book published in 1990, "Your Work Matters to God" which helped me and countless Christians gain a better grasp of the truth that ALL work should be viewed as a holy calling by God. At first this message was considered somewhat of a threat to Christian leaders, but a generation later it is more fully embraced as exactly what the Reformation established and what Scriptures teach.
Doug wrote this new book so that all Christians could rediscover and explore God "as if for the first time." His deepest conviction is that Father God yearns for a closer relationship with all of His children, much as earthly fathers cherish the time their children choose to invest with them.
"God intended us to enjoy Him right in the middle of the lives we already live," says Sherman. "What would my life be like if I constantly and continually recognized that I am in the Lord's presence and invited Him into my life as an honored guest?"
Doug cordially invites readers to "trade up" from a self-centered life to a God-centered lifestyle, then proceeds to unpack how this process has unfolded in his own life despite the same setbacks and distractions we all face daily.
He describes two pivotal points in our Christian lives as; 1) Moving from a life governed by rules, to a life focused on relationship and intimacy, and 2) Removing false images of God based on lies, then rebuilding a true vision of God based on truth. Doug feels strongly that every truth of God has a corresponding lie (or multiple lies) and every problem in life is based on believing a lie.
For example, many Christians adhere to popular lies such as; "I will live life on my own terms," or, "What really counts is success in the world's eyes," or, "If it's to be, it's up to me!". This daily battle for our mind and will rages within each of us for a lifetime - until we surrender our heart and mind to the truth of God, that His will is my treasure and His vast Kingdom is greater than my little kingdom of Self.
While reading Doug's book I stumbled on an old thesis paper I wrote nearly 40 years ago, while attending Melodyland School of Theology, entitled: The Kingdom of God vs. The kingdom of Self. As a young Christian I discovered early that spiritual wickedness in high places seeks to manipulates our mind on a subconscious level to derail the purposes of God.
I wrote, "The foundation for the 'kingdom of Self' is laid from from our first day of existence as we cry for service, mother (and often father) rushes to 'His Majesty, The Baby'. It's important to note that if/when the Kingdom of God is established in a human heart, it is hardly noticed at first; because we allow God only the smallest control over our wills...'King Self' surrenders by degrees."
Another encouraging and central theme of Doug's book is that we grow in our intimacy with God in little, incremental steps - by making small daily choices to turn our hearts toward Him, rather than our Self. And over time these choices create a new habit and lifestyle to fulfill our destiny!
More Than Ordinary is both inspiring and practical, giving readers tangible steps to draw closer to God in our everyday life - without turning his suggestions into some kind of secret spiritual formula. "God's grace can operate through us in ways that enable us to reveal God to others," says Sherman.
Doug feels the best witness we can offer the world is telling stories about how God is working in our lives day to day, in what he calls "God-stories". This intimacy with God is very often the missing link that holds believers back from sharing their faith with others.
More Than Ordinary is divided into two parts: 1) Encountering God, and 2) Enjoying God. Part one explains Doug's journey from seeing God as a distant spiritual force to experiencing God as a real person - complete with thoughts, feelings and personality.
Our walk with God is designed to be an adventure, not a boring life life of rigid rules and don'ts. "God changes us from the inside-out, while religion seeks to change us from the outside-in," he writes.
Doug expresses his thankfulness that from an early age he became grounded in knowing who God is and what life with Him is like before entering "the modern religious establishment" which protected him from "low expectations."
In Chapter Two Doug laments the reality that most Christians respond to God more as a distant King rather than a close friend. Despite his early experience of God's presence he warns of the tendency to shift God from the center of life to a "life accessory."
Relating with the Psalmist David, Doug brings the reader into a fresh understanding of God's desire and pleasure to share His life and joy with all His children. As a father of three, Doug recounts the joy of coaching his children in sports to "discover the secrets of how to win that no one else would tell them."
Doug views this interactive expression of intimacy as the vital missing link in modern Christianity. Rather than seeing God as a moral policeman, divine employer or theology professor, he encourages readers to embrace God as a perfect, loving "Father" - a term Jesus uses over 200 times in the Scripture.
The greatest sins believers commit are not lust, envy, drunkenness or anger, but rather "indifference and independence" from God. "Jesus allowed himself to be nailed upon a wooden cross for the reward of seeing us experience the same Father-child relationship He enjoys," he writes.
The heart of his message is that most Christians are very clear about what Jesus has saved us FROM, but are very unclear about what He exactly has saved us TO enjoy. We may readily grasp the duration of eternal life, but remain "foggy" about the quality of life, both in heaven and on earth. "This results in a distorted view of God and life and many self-inflicted injuries."
THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME
I like Doug's correlation between our walk with God and the drama and adventure of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He tells of his journey with his son Matt to retrace some of the route of this amazing, historic expedition which profoundly affected U.S. history by opening up a new pathway to the West.
Doug writes, "Progress was slow, and Lewis and Clark made many mistakes. They didn't comprehend the dangers...or how to interact peacefully with Native Americans...every day they woke up not knowing what would happen to them, but they pushed on. Much of the drama the explorers faced revolved around whether they would follow their guide (Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman) or trust their own instincts, putting them in peril."
Doug likens this sense of the adventure and sacrifice of Lewis and Clark with our pathway to intimacy with God. "To walk with God in the wilderness of this fallen world is the noblest thing any man or woman can do ... whether in budget meetings, making sales calls, reading bedtime stories or doing laundry... choosing Him in daily moments fundamentally affects others for generations to come." AMEN!
"We were born to live the highest existence on earth. We are called to far more than the ordinary life that so many settle for," reflects Sherman. He views "our walk with God NOT as primarily reading the Bible, not doing bad things or going to church, but rather seeing God clearly and then responding to Him accordingly."
"Walking with God is the hardest thing you will ever do, but life is much simpler when only ONE THING really matters to you." Quoting C.S. Lewis's "The Weight of Glory"... "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us."
Doug reminds us in this classic book that it is only as we abide in the Vine (John 15:5) that we can be fruitful. "The connection of a branch to a vine is not occasional; it is continual." Thankfully, abiding in Christ does NOT require giving up family, home or job to become a monk, as Brother Lawrence did 300 years ago.
Perhaps most encouraging is Doug's conviction that we should never underestimate the value of slow progress. This book was written to help Christians begin slowly and then gradually build momentum in our walk with God. As Brother Lawrence taught, we must practice the presence of God daily, which is a goal worthy of our greatest passion!
Part Two of More Than Ordinary offers readers a clear pathway and experienced steps to Enjoying God, responding to His majesty and a growing conversational relationship. This involves making new choices - to include God in the details of our decision-making and learning to "press the pause button" before launching off into meetings, projects or events. With our expectations "reset" that a loving God is in full control of the outcome, then "we can relax and thank Him ahead of time for the whatever outcome He desires."
Doug says there are two conversations he can't imagine living without daily; one is with his wife (of 38 years) at the end of the day - and the other is with his God (of 48 years) throughout the day. These conversations serve to rekindle affection, align hearts and partner in everything. "God always listens carefully...and He will give us what we ask for or something vastly better...interaction with God is the oxygen of the soul."
In Chapter 8 "Trading Up" Doug shares that the assurance of the perfection of God's will means every step he takes to follow His leadership is a monumental trade up. "His leadership is not a little better but MUCH better. And the consequences of going my own direction are far worse than I usually imagine."
He writes, "We're born believing a lie, and unless something interrupts the status quo, we'll persist in our self-led lives. But thank God, He is a wonderful disruptor of that kind of life, reflecting the same sentiment as Richard Rohr's book "Falling Upward".
"But there is another motive that should propel us to trade our ways for His: Pleasing God." He challenges readers; "Who wouldn't want to please a Friend so wonderful, powerful, good, generous and captivating?"
Doug concludes his clarion call - to a moment-by-moment relationship with God - with a deep concern for our generation and the next. I is time we stop allowing the Evil One to rob us of the extraordinary life God has planned for us. It is high time we model the kind of spirituality that God intends for all His children.
His hope is that More than Ordinary" leads to a greater interaction with your spiritual family and local church, because "no none walks with God alone for long." Doug encourages meeting one-on-one with other Christians or in a small group to begin sharing the important questions you are asking God, and recording your expectations of God throughout the week. "Tell your God-stories - about hearing His voice, seeing His hand, representing Him or seeing Him fulfill a particular promise.
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough for every Christian who yearns for
a truly extra-ordinary life - on earth, as it will be in heaven. Here is a 2-minute video
by Doug Sherman that will inspire you to get and read this important book today!