Book Excerpts

Excerpt from: Socially Confident in 60 Seconds  (Released July 1, 2016)

Chapter 1

Wisdom for a Winning Personality

          You could be the most polished or sophisticated person on the planet, however, if people don’t like you, you’ll have fewer and fewer opportunities to interact with them. Some individuals have the kind of personality that brightens up a room while others improve the environment by their departure.

Personality is the visible aspect of your character as it impresses others. Without a pleasing personality, achieving your personal and professional goals will be an uphill battle. This chapter is not about changing who you are or becoming a people pleaser. It is about coming to grips with the fact that whatever you desire in life will be achieved through other people. Consequently, you must be mindful of behaviors and character traits that attract people and those that repel them.

As you read the following tips for a winning personality, consider areas where you need to shore up your interactions with others.

  • Smile.  Keep it genuine; don’t do it just to show off your new cosmetic veneers or caps (however, if you need them, they’ll be a great investment and will boost your confidence). Let your eyes smile also. A smile reflects your mental attitude and can affect the attitude of others.
  • Listen. Be genuinely interested in other people. Limit the number of times you say “I” during your conversations.
  • Respect other people’s opinions. No need to argue about non-eternal matters or those that do not affect the quality of your life.
  •  Don’t be a moocher; always pay your share—and then some.
  • Be humble. Don’t brag about your position, possessions, people you know, or places you’ve traveled. Humility tops the chart as the most admired character trait; pride and arrogance are the most detestable.
  • Don’t succumb to your insecurities. Avoid self-put downs. Know that you are adequate for every task for your sufficiency comes from God (2 Corinthians 3:5). Confidence is a great people magnet.
  • Make every effort to remember names. To him, a person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Always make the other person feel important and valued; do it sincerely and without hidden motives. Booker T. Washington said, “A sure way to lift one’s self up is by helping to lift someone else.”
  • Praise the small and large accomplishments of others, especially your employees and family members.
  • Be flexible and patient when unexpected situations arise. Learning to go with the flow will increase your emotional and spiritual maturity.
  • Be a team player. It will take you farther than being the Lone Ranger. Don’t worry about getting credit; you’ll get what’s yours.
  • Earn the right to give constructive criticism by consistently showing concern for the other person’s well-being. Always give him your input in private and after much prayer.
  • Laugh.  Look for the humor in negative situations. Laughter releases endorphins, the chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Laughter is also contagious.
  • Learn to be “bi-social”. Know when to relax the rules of etiquette according to the situation or environment, lest you appear stuffy and pretentious.

 

 

Excerpt from:  Forgive, Let Go, and Live (released Aug. 1, 2015)

Prologue: Why Forgiving Is So Hard

“Even as a little girl, when kids would cross me in any way, I never let them back into my good graces.”

My mom’s words echoed in my spirit and found rest there for many years of my life. Similarly, my father never forgot a single offense that anybody committed against him. He and my mom argued frequently about things that happened or had been said in the far distant past. They served faithfully and sacrificially inside and outside the walls of the church. Nevertheless, a spirit of unforgiveness plagued them.

Just days before my dad passed away at age 78, I had the privilege of reconciling him and his best friend after a three-year rift. They were fellow members of their church trustee board and had disagreed over a financial transaction. Prior to their split, they had enjoyed rich fellowship and great family fun over their 50-year history. Notwithstanding, Dad believed the church had treated him unfairly (I didn’t agree with him based on the facts he presented) and he was not going to let it go—especially in light of his extreme generosity and long-term service. Through much prayer and long conversations in which I reminded him of the consequences of unforgiveness, he finally relented—or, I should say, repented.

My mom, who passed away four years later at 82, frequently recounted the many instances of my dad’s physical and verbal abuse. After 21 years of marriage, she’d finally mustered the courage to literally escape to another state with five dependent boys in tow (my older brother and I had already left the nest). They remained separated for 40 years but never divorced. I’m convinced it was bitterness that ushered her into her 10-year battle with dementia prior to her death. All of her imaginary conversations had an angry tone and centered on her painful issues with my dad.

My parents’ legacy of holding on to offenses influenced how we, their seven children, dealt with people who offended or crossed us. With such a heritage, I knew unforgiveness was poised to become a stronghold in my life. The pattern had already started to evolve. If people offended me, I never viewed them the same. Depending on the nature of the relationship, I would either keep my emotional distance or make a mental note never to trust, favor, or include them again in my dealings. My most common tactic was to hide behind being “too busy” to interact with them again—ever. They finally got the message: Once you offend Deborah, you are out. No three strikes policy here!

Shortly after I married my wonderful husband, I sternly warned him, “Please try not to do anything where I’ll have to forgive you because unforgiveness runs in my family. We do absolutely no forgiving!” This statement seems hilarious to me today, but I was dead serious at the time I said it.

It was not until I met one of my most beloved spiritual mentors, the late Dr. Juanita Smith, that I began to make headway in conquering this emotional giant. She taught and modeled forgiveness on a level I’d never seen. She frequently proclaimed, “I release everybody who has hurt me.” She didn’t just give lip service to the idea; I watched her walk it out many times.

I finally decided that unforgiveness had wreaked havoc in my life long enough. It had caused me to write off several relatives, friends, coworkers, and others. I spent way too much time in my head rehearsing the wrongs people perpetrated against me and imagining the awful things I could have said or done to retaliate if I weren’t a Christian. I started to realize how counterproductive it is to engage in such thinking. So, as an act of faith and obedience to God, I declared my freedom from unforgiveness. It was and is a giant I could never conquer in my own strength.

You may be asking, “Why is forgiving others such a hard thing for so many to do—even strong Christians?” I believe when we have been damaged, deprived, or disadvantaged by another, we instinctively want to be compensated for our loss. The loss can take any number of forms, including property, affection, freedom, self-esteem, innocence, and physical well-being.

Every offense is an assault on our emotions. The root meaning of emotion is “to move.” When our emotions are attacked, we want to move against the offender. But when the law or our better judgment or other circumstances prevent us from moving to exact revenge, to gain justice, or to be made whole, anger rears its head. Some people choose to bury their anger. In doing so, they develop a root of bitterness that can quickly infiltrate their hearts and minds—stealing their joy and turning them into someone they don’t want to be.

This book will show you a better way to handle the inevitable offenses of life. I hope that as you read the following pages, you’ll look at how you deal with your hurts and make a commitment to walk in forgiveness—no matter what!

In Part 1, we will take a brief walk down Revenge Row and see how retaliation impacted the lives of those who refused to forgive, let go, and move forward.

In Part 2, a number of contributors share their heart-wrenching, as well as heartwarming, stories of deciding to release the perpetrator of their hurtful experiences. I have changed the names and circumstances to protect their privacy except where the facts are disclosed in their published writings or in news reports. I make no attempt to weigh the magnitude of the offenses as they are each so personal. From being a victim of gossip to enduring the horror of rape to financial rip-offs, these forgivers will inspire, challenge, and motivate you to let it go.

In Part 3, faith and practicality converge as we explore and debunk the myths of what forgiveness is and what it is not. I hope the guidelines I present for working through the forgiving process will transform your thinking and move you to a higher quality of life.

In Part 4, we’ll look at the spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, and yes, even financial benefits of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit’s illumination of these truths will challenge you to grow and to go forward as a model and ambassador of forgiveness in a revengeful world.

Finally, the “Forgiveness Prayers” at the back of the book address a variety of hurts and offenses and will guide you in praying to release the person who has harmed you and to stand in faith for your deliverance from unforgiveness. Through these Scripture-based, courageous prayers and faith declarations, God will surely turn your ashes into beauty.

Excerpt from:  30 Days to a Stronger, More Confident You

Day 1:  Introduction: Confront Your Insecurity

Quick Self-Assessment

Before you begin your quest for Supreme confidence, let’s take a quick assessment of your current level of insecurity. Please answer yes or no to the questions below. Be honest. Resist the urge to go into denial. Know that an acknowledged weakness can be your greatest strength and the quickest path to an emotionally balanced and fulfilling life.

Insecurity Quiz

  1.  Do you find yourself resenting or criticizing others who are assertive, confident, or capable in areas in which you feel inadequate?
  2.  Do you become anxious when it appears that someone may take your place of prominence in a certain environment or relationship?
  3.  Do you brag about your possessions, accomplishments, or well-known acquaintances in order to gain the admiration of others?
  4.  Do you become perturbed when someone disagrees with your opinion or rejects your advice?
  5.  Do you fail to pursue certain opportunities for fear of failure or inadequacy for the task?
  6.  When working with a team, do you prefer to “shine alone” rather than having the group share the credit for your ideas?
  7. Do you resist giving or receiving constructive criticism?
  8. Do you find it difficult to say “No” or to express your personal boundaries or preferences in relationships?
  1. Do you feel slighted when someone gives a friend, sibling, coworker, or another person a compliment or an accolade in your presence?
  2. 10. Do you feel inadequate or inferior due to certain unchangeable physical features such as your height, skin color, a physical deformity, a handicap, facial features, or your age?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, you are most likely battling insecurity at some level.  If you answered, “Yes” to five or more, insecurity has a major stronghold on your life.  Do not despair; conquering it is not impossible.  You can break its grip on your life and become an emotionally secure person.  Be patient and understand that this will be a process rather than an event.  There is a popular a riddle that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer is, “One bite at a time!”  And so it is with insecurity.  How do you conquer it?  One fear at a time!  Let’s get started.

 

 

Excerpt from:

Choose Your Attitude, Change Your Life 

Day 18: Choosing Flexibility

“A flexible person is a happy person,” my husband said, mimicking the expression I always use to adjust my attitude when my precious plans go awry. This was his way is letting me know that something had just gone wrong but that he was putting forth an effort to “go with the flow”. While I haven’t “arrived”, I have made great strides in overcoming my rigid attitude. I used to put my plans in cement, and woe unto anybody who changed them. I would mostly likely strike their names off my list for any future interaction. Thank God for deliverance. Over twenty years ago, the wife of a long time friend of mine joined him on one of his revival trips to Los Angeles. When her flight arrived, she learned that her luggage had been lost. The revival service would start shortly. I’m sure she had planned to wear a special outfit and all eyes would be on her as the speaker’s wife; however, she showed no frustration or disappointment with the course of events. Her flexibility and peacefulness affected me in a profound way. I decided then that I would make every effort to become a flexible person. In fact, I renew my commitment each time I observe someone at the height of frustration simply because he refuses to be flexible. Ray is a typical example. His job as a city maintenance worker requires him to share a truck with another man whom I’ll call Jack. Jack tends to get extremely hot and requires the windows in the vehicle to remain down–even when it’s quite chilly outside. Ray often finds the discomfort unbearable and infuriating. He has confronted Jack several times about the issue; company management refuses to get involved. When I counseled him recently, I simply asked, “Why don’t you just take a heavier jacket to work since it’s easier to peel off layers of clothes? Jack obviously has a medical condition that causes his problem and there is a limit to the level of clothing he can peel off.”At first, Ray was stuck on the fact that it just “should not be so”. When I pointed out that it was he–typical of inflexible people–who seemed to be experiencing the most emotional turmoil, he realized that he could continue to live in “Shouldville” where everything happens at it “should”, or he could simply make the necessary changes. Someone once said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Such was the case with Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, who was afflicted with leprosy. His wife’s maid, a Jewish captive, suggested that he visit the prophet Elisha to seek healing. He had envisioned the healing scenario before he left home. However, when he arrived, Elisha didn’t even bother to come out and greet him.

But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy. But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage”(2 Kings 5:10-12 NLT).

Even in his needy condition, Naaman clung to his rigid attitude. Had it not been for the wise intervention his servants who encouraged him to at least try what the prophet had said, he would not have received his healing. Fortunately, he adjusted his attitude and after his seventh dip in the dirty Jordan River, his leprosy disappeared.

Do you resist change and insist on your expectations? If so, find a quiet place and reflect on the following questions:

  • What are the unknowns that I fear about this change or deviation on plans?
  • If none of the things I fear could happen, how could this change improve the quality of my life spiritually, relationally, emotionally, financially, or physically?
  • Am I willing to risk God’s perfect will by resisting a change he is orchestrating? (Know that your inflexibility is an attempt to control an outcome. Many miss God’s best because, like Naaman, they have put him in a box and are only looking inside the box for their answer. Force yourself to look “outside the box”by being flexible.)
  • Am I being lazy or complacent and not wanting to invest the necessary time and effort into the change?
  • Start to embrace a different way of doing something–even simple things–each day (e.g., go a different way to work, sit in a different section at church, interact with a person you don’t know, etc.) Also, try meditating on these quotes from great men regarding change:
  • “Every human has four endowments: self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom – the power to choose, to respond, to change” (Steven Covey).
  • “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”(John Fitzgerald Kennedy).
  • “The world hates change yet it is the only thing that has brought progress” (Charles Franklin Kettering).
  • One cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it (Peter F. Drucker).

 

Prayer
Lord, help me to acknowledge you in all my ways so you can direct my path. Give me the emotional and spiritual strength to embrace every change that you have destined for me to achieve your purpose. In the name of Jesus, I pray Amen.


Excerpt from:

30 Days to Taming Your Anger

Day 9: Disappointed

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. Proverbs 19:21 NLT

Lisa and her husband, Dean, were the loving parents of three teen daughters. They were a model Christian family that faithfully attended weekly church services. As godly parents, Lisa and Dean held high expectations for their daughters and envisioned an ideal future for them as college grads and happily married wives and mothers. However, their middle daughter, Christy, an honor student, dashed their hopes when she was in her sophomore year of high school. She and her boyfriend, Ted, made the heartbreaking announcement that Christy was pregnant. Lisa was devastated. Dean was in shock.

“How could this happen to our family?” Lisa sobbed to her husband.

“How could God let us down?” Dean said.

They struggled to come to grips with the reality they had been dealt. They were angry with Christy, Ted, and even God for allowing her to conceive.

However, underneath their anger lay the real emotion: disappointment. After much prayer and soul-searching, Lisa and Dean realized that their disappointment could take them down one of two roads. One led to disgust, anger, and fractured relationships; the other—the one God commands His children to take—led to grace and forgiveness.

In their hearts, they knew that only God could initiate a life; abortion was out of the question. After all, no one knows the destiny God has for every precious life He allows to come into the world. Imagine if the parents of Stanley Ann Dunham, an eighteen-year-old white college freshman, had forced her to abort her child when she found herself pregnant by her African boyfriend. Who knew that she had conceived Barack Obama, the forty-fourth and first African-American president of the United States?

King David understood disappointment. After many frustrating years of running from King Saul, who made numerous attempts on his life, David had finally become king over all of Israel. One of his top priorities was to relocate the ark of the covenant to the capital city. The ark was the most sacred and revered object among the Israelites. It contained the original tablets of stone God gave to Moses at Mount Sinai. It represented the very presence of God Himself. Over thirty thousand choice men accompanied David to celebrate the momentous transport. However, things did not go as planned.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God. David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah” (2 Samuel 6:6-8 NLT).

Times of disappointment present the perfect opportunity to reevaluate our goals and expectations, where we place our trust, and how we respond when things do not go our way. Below are five strategies David modeled in his response to the disappointing ark fiasco. You too can do this:

  1. Acknowledge your disappointment—to God, yourself, a supportive friend—or even the perpetrator if the Spirit leads you to do so. We must not allow our ego, pride, or fear to cause us to deny that we’re feeling displeasure because our expectation has been dashed. I was recently disappointed and angered when a family member yelled at me and used profanity to boot. I never thought a blood relative would speak to me that way.King David was deeply disappointed that his efforts had yielded such disastrous results. We sense his frustration with God for such a harsh judgment for an apparently innocent act. “David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, ‘How can the ark of the Lord come to me?’” (2 Samuel 6:9).
  2. Place a time limit on how long you will languish on the bed of disappointment. Yes, it’s human to feel disappointed, but we cannot allow this emotion to set up permanent residence in our soul. To do so says to God, “I don’t like what You have allowed. I still want my way.” This can lead to disillusionment and bitterness.Depending upon the nature of the disappointment, I’ll often say to myself, Okay, Deborah, you get X number of minutes/hours to grieve the death of your plan or expectation. You will not keep wishing it were different; you will move on. God has spoken.Caution: When you are disappointed because you are certain the outcome is contrary to God’s will, keep standing in faith for the desired result. David didn’t allow misfortune to kill his dream of bringing the ark to the capital city; he simply took time to regroup. “So David would not move the ark of the Lord with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household” (2 Samuel 6:10-11).
  3. Acknowledge any mistakes, miscommunication, or disobedience on your part that may have contributed to the disappointment. In analyzing the ark debacle, David realized he had not obeyed God’s original instructions to Moses on how to transport the ark. They had made a gross error in placing the ark on an oxcart; it was to be carried only by poles on the shoulders of certain Levites (Numbers 4:1-6,15-20). Further, no one was to actually touch it except the qualifying priests. Thus, we learn that Uzza’s innocent reflex action in steadying the cart was an act of desecration.
  4. Ask God, “What now?” Maintaining a forward focus keeps you from getting stuck in frustration or anger over what could have been if only this or that had happened. Seek God for new instructions. Stay optimistic about a better outcome in the future. Before his next attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem, David told the qualifying priests,

               “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves…that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. For because you did                    not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.” So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the  ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord  1 Chron. 15:12-15). The ark finally arrived in Jerusalem amidst great rejoicing (1 Chronicles 16). Mission accomplished!

      5. Accept every disappointment as “His-Appointment.” Although God may not have initiated the disappointing circumstance, He can surely turn it into something good. Therefore, look beyond the situation and believe that all things are working together for your good because you love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Also, remember that God may not be        canceling your plans but rather postponing them for a divinely ordered time.We will all experience disappointments. Overcoming them requires a mindset that is humble enough to submit to          God’s plan, flexible enough to extend His grace to others, and faithful enough to stay focused on the future.

Faith Declaration

“I had plans and expectations, but God’s purpose has prevailed. May He be glorified.”


30 Days to Taming Your Emotions

Day 1 : Building a Firm Foundation: Fighting Prayerlessness

Men always ought to pray and not lose heart.

LUKE 18:1 NKJV

The remora fish is a great role model of the importance of staying connected to a source bigger and more powerful than ourselves. This fish has an oval sucking disk on the top of its head that allows it to attach itself to the underside of other large fish or sea vessels. The shark is its favorite host. Once it attaches to the shark, the remora does not have to concern itself with daily issues such as food, transportation, or safety. It feeds on the food that falls from the shark’s mouth as it devours its prey. Of course, the remora has the option of swimming on its own, but when it decides to connect to the shark, it goes where the shark goes. It does not attempt to go in an opposite direction. Protection? It is a nonissue for one who is connected to such a powerful and fearless creature. Inadequacy? No way! The remora knows the shark can carry it to places it could never go alone.Hmmm, doesn’t this sound like the relationship God desires to have with His children? He wants us to feed on the Word that comes out of His mouth. He wants us to follow Him where He leads and not to take off on independent excursions, assuming He will tag along. He wants us to live with the assurance that He will protect not only our lives, but also our relationships and all that pertains to us. Oh, that we would emulate the remora. We would then find ourselves securing our attachment to God on a daily basis through prayer. He is waiting to carry us to places we fear to go alone.Prayer connects us to this inexhaustible Source that supplies our every need. Unfortunately, too many people wait until a crisis forces them to make the connection. The prophet Isaiah admonished the Jewish leaders to “pray to the LORD day and night for the fulfillment of his promises. Take no rest, all you who pray. Give the LORD no rest” (Isaiah 62:6-7 NLT). It is so easy to slip into the habit of giving God too much rest. Being a schedule-driven person, I find that I tend to be more consistent in prayer when I use the prayer guidelines that I established using the word “pray” as an acronym:

Pause. I stop all activity and focus completely on God. Worship is total preoccupation; we can only be preoccupied with one thing at a time. I understand many people pray while they exercise or drive to work. However, the greatest honor and respect we can give to anyone is our undivided attention. I slow my pace when I come into His presence. I breathe deeply and slowly. With each breath I absorb His holiness and His power. I have my prayer journal and a pen ready to record His thoughts to me throughout the time of prayer.

Reverence. I express my admiration for all His attributes. I hallow (make sacred; bless) His name. At this point, distractions start to pop up like dandelions. I will notice a dead leaf on a houseplant or something out of place in the room, or I will suddenly remember a task I need to put on my to-do list. I have learned to jot down the task in my journal and ignore the other issues for what they are—mere distractions that can be dealt with later. I have also learned that praying audibly helps to minimize wandering thoughts.

I come into His presence singing songs that exalt Him. I thank Him for all He has done and will do. I express several things I am particularly grateful for that day. I read and meditate on a passage of Scripture. I recommend that beginners read a chapter in the life of Jesus from one of the four Gospels, or a chapter from the book of Proverbs that corresponds with the date of the month (there are 31 chapters). Further reading options may include a chapter from the book of Acts, noting the power of the early church, or a chapter from the book of Psalms. I personally enjoy studying particular subject matters, such as faith, forgiveness, pride, and so forth.

Ask. I ask for forgiveness of my sins, making every effort to be specific. I pray for the power to live a Christian life and ask God to give me a passion for His Word and for prayer. I ask for His will to be done in every aspect of my life: spiritually, physically, financially, relationally, vocationally, and emotionally. I pray for each one separately.

Using a prepared list, I ask for God’s will to be done in the lives of my family members; friends; coworkers; neighbors; pastor/church; national, state and local government; and others. Rather than launching into a “let it be…” mode, I ask the Holy Spirit to make intercession for me according to the will of God.

Yield. I must subordinate my requests to God’s sovereign will, trusting that He knows what is best. I strive to maintain a “nevertheless” attitude. Therefore, I am careful to conclude my prayer by saying, “Nevertheless, not my will, Lord, but Yours be done.” I leave the prayer room knowing I have made the connection and have been refueled. Why? God is always listening to the prayers of His children.

The old adage that it is not what you know but whom you know that gives you the advantage in a situation is true—especially from a spiritual perspective. When we have a relationship with God, we come to understand that He is sufficient to handle any demand placed upon us. That kind of confidence comes from knowing we are connected to omnipotence.

To develop good prayer habits, start with a 15-minute commitment to prayer for five days per week. Further, take mini-praise breaks throughout each day and make faith building declarations such as:
“Lord, I thank You that You are with me.”
“Father, You are awesome. Nothing is too hard for you.”
“Thank You for life, health, strength, wisdom, and a sound mind.”